09 December 2020

Happiness Homemade: Almost Free Marmalade

I've called this post almost free marmalade because it was almost free. 

The fruit is off our orange, lime and lemon trees, and they've well and truly been paid for with a few years of good crops. But I did have to use sugar from the pantry, 3 kilos all up, so the cost is $2.84 - not bad for all these lovely jars of marmalade to add to the pantry.

Marmalade is a favourite of mine on hot toast, but there are so many other uses for it too.

Use it in bread'n'butter puddings instead of jam - makes a humble pudding something spectacular.

Use it as a marinade for meat - just melt it with a very little water, perhaps a tablespoon per good dollop of marmalade, and brush over a roast for the most amazing flavour. It goes well with chicken, beef and ham.

Add a teaspoon to each muffin cup before baking for a surprise centre.

Make stuffed French toast with it and serve with a dollop of cream or ice-cream for a delicious, different dessert. Just make a marmalade sandwich, dip in egg wash and fry in a hot buttered pan like you do for regular french toast.

Mis it with pan jucies to make a falvourful gravy.

Give it away! Have you seen the price of homemade marmalade? If you can get a jar for under $8 you've found a bargain. 

I use the microwave marmalad recipe, from the Jam Recipe File on the Cheapskates Club website. It's quick, easy and a small enough batch to be able to do one or two at a time and not get overwhelmed.

Author: Cath Armstrong

Microwave Orange Marmalade


  • 275g oranges
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 500g white sugar, warmed


  1. Cut the oranges into quarters, and remove pips. Put pips and lemon shells onto muslin square and tie with string to make a bag. Finely slice oranges and put in a 3-litre microwave safe bowl (or bigger if possible to prevent splashes) with the bag, lemon juice and 300 ml boiling water. Cover and soak for 1 hour. Add 200ml boiling water. Microwave on high for 20 minutes, stirring after 10, until peel is tender. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Microwave on high for 25 minutes until setting point is reached, stirring every 5 minutes. Be careful as the mixture can get very hot. Stand for 15 minutes, then stir and ladle into hot, sterilised jars and seal while still hot.

Don't Stop Stockpiling! Be Prepared!

I'm watching the people around me, especially now that the hard lockdown has been lifted here, and I am shaking my head in confusion.

People have become complacent. In just a couple of weeks, they’ve forgotten the need to build pantries and keep them stocked; to keep on learning and practicing self-reliance; to build their skills (homemaking, gardening, cleaning, cooking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, preserving, budgeting, even basic mechanical skills (can you check your radiator? Steering fluid? Change a tyre?) and home maintenance skills.

Don't be complacent. Don't stop watching the world around you. Don't stop building your pantries. 2020 is almost over, but the effects of this year will linger for a long, long time. Unemployment is still high; there are still food shortages (yes, there are - next time you're at the supermarket pay close attention to what is and isn't available).

I don’t know what the coming winter will hold, but if we are prepared, if we've been wise enough to build our pantries, then it won't matter. Lockdowns can happen, we'll be able to eat. We'll have the meds we need. We'll be able to keep our homes clean. The garden will be OK because we've prepared with extra seeds (great to use but also handy to barter).  Complacency wasn't our problem; we are preparers.

Take this summer season to build your pantry. To restock. To get ahead! Summer is the perfect time to do this. Fruit and vegetables are plentiful and cheap; you can often find them free if you keep your eyes open. Be prepared to barter - offer a jar or two of lemon butter for a bucket of lemons. Or a jar of pickles for a bag of zucchini and capsicums. Perhaps a jar of jam for a bowl of peaches or nectarines or plums. Watch markets for very cheap produce, then preserve it.

When you get 500g of fruit, turn it into a small batch of jam or marmalade. Or puree it and dehydrate it for a fruit leather. Preserving doesn't mean you need to have kilos and kilos of produce and spend hours and hours working in a hot kitchen.

I'll often do a small batch of jam while I'm cooking dinner. It takes about the same time.

When I get a tray or two of tomatoes or carrots or a couple of bunches of celery, I'll slice them and put them in the dehydrator.

Working in small batches is easier than trying to find a whole day to dedicate to jam making or dehydrating or canning. And preserving small batches stops waste too; you're less inclined to have the zucchini in the fridge go soft while you wait for the rest on the plant if you make a single batch of pickles to use them up.

But don't forget the things you need to buy too. Are there gaps in your pantry? Do you have enough yeast? If not, add it to your shopping list and buy it now. Put it in the freezer if you're worried you won't use it in the next few months. If your dried fruits are running low, now is the time to replenish them. Aldi still have 1 kilo packs of mixed dried fruit for $4.99 - this is a great price. I like to keep at least 12 packs on the shelf at a time. That's enough for me to make one fruit cake a month during the year. If I have the spare cash, I'll add more for puddings too.

What about tinned soups? I keep tomato and cream of chicken/celery/mushroom in the pantry. On my yearly shopping list I have 8 trays of tomato soup and 12 trays of chicken (they come in trays of 6). That's enough for a year.

This year, due to the weird shortages, lockdown, and a dozen other things thrown at us, I've been restocking as we use things from the pantry. I won't be doing a big yearly shop between Christmas and New Year. Oh, I'll still be stocking up, and filling the gaps, but my focus will be on getting things that we use that will run out fast in a crisis.

You may well be feeling normal, or almost normal. You might think that life is almost back to what it was like in January 2020. That's great. Just don't become complacent.

We have seen empty supermarket shelves. We've seen the limits on medical supplies and the restrictions on OTC and prescription meds (and in some areas these are still in place). We have seen the empty butcher stores, and paid the high prices for basic cuts of meat.

Right now, life in Australia is good. That doesn't mean it can't all change in the blink of an eye. Don't be scared, be prepared.

Take the opportunities that come your way to build your pantries, and secure your  food supply. Then you can be assured that if another lockdown happens, or some other emergency (sudden unemployment, illness, a flood or cyclone or whatever), you'll be able to feed your family and keep your home clean.

Whatever you do, don’t become complacent.

Be prepared!

06 December 2020

Gathering the Fragments 6/12/2020

Oh boy has this week been busy! But good busy. You know, the busy where you go, go, go and at the end of the day are exhausted, but can see lots of progress and many accomplishments.

Each day has started out early in the morning with watering. We had a few drizzles of rain, not enough to really water the garden properly. So, even though the mornings have been chilly, I've been out there as the sun is just peeing over the mountain, enjoying the cacophony of bird sounds, in the peace and stillness that is dawn. And the garden is thriving.

Lots of flowers on the tomatoes, teeny tiny zucchini that will need watching because they'll become giant zucchini in no time, flowers on the egg plants, little mandarins and oranges and even very cute little apples on the fruit trees. The beans have gone crazy and are climbing - I keep expecting Jack to appear to climb up them!

In the kitchen we have been doing a little each day to finish it off. I've been chipping away at tiles; Wayne has been painting and cutting cornice and sealing gaps. It is coming together beautifully.

The ovens have been well and truly tried and tested. Christmas cakes. Shortbread. Biscuits. MOO wedges. Pizza.

In quiet moments I've picked up my crocheting, adding trim to some tea towels, and making a couple of hanging hand towels in Christmas patterns. While I sit and do this, I put my ear buds in and listen to my favourite You Tube shows.

Milk bottles have been rinsed out over the tomatoes before getting squished and put into the recycle bin.

Presents have been wrapped. The Christmas stockings are out and I've been filling them, ready for Christmas Eve.

What couldn't I get this week? Baked beans! It seams the humble baked bean has gone AWOL. Well at least at the three Aldi stores I went to trying to find them. I may have been able to get them at Coles or Woolworths but 65 cents a can compared to over $2 a can for the brand name, well I can make them from scratch if we really want them.

I picked up a bowl of lemons from the side of the road. A neighbour had put them out, so I stopped and took some on my way out. On my way home they were still there so I figured you snooze, you lose, and stopped and picked up the rest. I'll take them down a jar of lemon butter as a thank you.

There is always something to do. Something to cook. Something to clean. Something to plant or weed or water. Something to sew or knit or crochet or yes, even mend, life as I gather the fragments and add them to our home is never boring.

29 November 2020

Gathering the Fragments 29/11/2020

Life has been busy.

The kitchen has gone in. We are still putting the finishing touches on it - the new cornice, the tiling, deciding where everything will go. As we're being real Cheapskaters and reusing the existing tile, I've been chipping away at what was removed for the new cabinets, a little each day. It's almost impossible to match what we have (c'mon, they're 35 years old and even though they've aged well and are back in style, new tiles really do stick out). Little by little I'm getting there. We only need 33 to do the job, so it's gloves on and chiselly thing chipping away to clean up the old tiles so they can be reused. Doing a little each day, around the other things we need to do, is getting it done.

This week the fridge had lots of bits: some corn kernels, a couple of boiled eggs, a bit of potato salad, half a cucumber, one lonely barbecued sausage, that needed to be used up. These became my lunch for two days, and it was delicious.

For the first time in months we were able to meet face-to-face for our card making day. It was a beautiful day! And productive! Using what I had, by the end of the day there were 12 cards to add to the box for the nursing home. Fragments of paper and cardstock were used up to make the cards.

Each time a milk bottle was emptied, it was filled with water and poured over the tomato plants in the garden. Not only were they watered, but the little bit of calcium in the rinse water is good for them, it helps stop blossom end rot. It cost nothing and only took a minute to do, saving having to buy a specific fertiliser.

I was hoping to get some bread crusts to make crumbs, but it seems they're a popular snack this week. Oh well, maybe next week.

Priceline had an online sale over the weekend, so I took advantage and saved 50% on my make-up, Wayne's shaving gel that he especially likes, some toiletries for stocking stuffers and my moisturiser (when it's half price it's cheaper than the Aldi alternative and as Aldi doesn't do sales, I stock up). And to make it even better, I put it through Hannah's order, received another 10% off and free delivery! That's the bathroom stocked for the next twelve months.

 We really want it finished this weekend coming.

Another fragment that was gathered this week - jars! Lots and lots of lovely jars of all sizes and shapes, courtesy of my friend Joy. Now I have plenty for the summer pickles/relishes/jams/mustards and for the Christmas hampers.

15 November 2020

Gathering the Fragments 15/11/2020

I've just realised I skipped 6 weeks of blog posts.

I've been busy folks, and even the hour it takes to put a blog post together and get it uploaded has been an hour I haven't really had to spare.

But just because I don't post, doesn't mean I have stopped living the Cheapskates way. I've been busy gathering the fragments and building our pantry, creating a bigger veggie garden to feed us longer and for less, and gathering the fragments.

What did I gather this past week (I can't remember back for six weeks, after a while this lifestyle becomes habit and just happens)?

Silverbeet from the garden, to dehydrate.

A single serve of spag bol sauce to add to a tin of tomato soup to make tortellini for dinner. The tortellini was a half price mark down from the freezer. Wayne likes tortellini and ravioli as a change, and it was a quick and easy use it up meal.

Scraps of cardstock to make bookmarks.

The hard end of cheese that was grated into a white sauce to make cheese sauce. Don't throw the hard ends out, even if they look ugly and dried out and yellow - they are still good to use in cooking. I keep them in the freezer ready to grate into a sauce.

A jar of Decaf that was looking a little sad became the base of a bottle of Iced Coffee Syrup. Delicious and with the weather warming up, its nice to have a cold coffee in the afternoons.

Parsley that was starting to go to seed has been harvested and is hanging in the sunny kitchen window to dry.

Lavender from the garden is hanging in bunches to dry. The lavender was gorgeous this year, the first year it has really bloomed since it was planted. These are lavender plants I grew from strikes I took from my mother-in-laws garden three years ago and planted out. This year has been good for them, they have tripled in size and just looking at the side garden makes me smile.

It's been so long since I bought petrol or did a big grocery shop that I didn't have a discount voucher, but petrol was down to 112.9c, the cheapest it's been around here I think this year, so I filled all three cars (mine, Wayne's and Hannah's) up over a couple of days.  Not so much gathering the fragments as saving around $18 on my car alone, so well worth the effort.

All this adds up. Don't ever think that that one thing you do really isn't worth the effort. Saving lavender from the garden for instance means I don't need to buy it to use in the house. Picking parsley from the garden when it's plentiful and drying it (I just hang it in bunches in a sunny window) means I don't need to buy it. Taking five minutes to make a batch of washing powder and then another five minutes to make a batch of Miracle Spray saves over $100 a year! For 10 minutes of my time!

When you add up all the little savings you make each day, then each week, then each month, at the end of the year you have kept a lot of money in your bank account.

If you're not convinced, keep a record of the fragments you gather and how much money they keep in your bank account, and see just how valuable those little savings really are.

20 September 2020

Gathering Up The Fragments 20 September 2020

I've been saving the empty toilet rolls, filling them with seed raising mix and planting seeds in them. One of the things that keeps our garden going for months is succession planting, so having seedlings ready to plant regularly throughout spring and summer means we don’t have blank spots. Raising seeds in paper pots,  they can go straight into the garden when they're ready. This stops any shock to the tiny plants, and I think they grow faster and stronger without having their roots disturbed.

There were some almost empty bottles of shampoo in the kids' bathroom, so they were upended and drained into one bottle. Yes, it will be a Heinz variety shampoo  so if they won't use it on their hair, it will be handy in the laundry for treating stains.

Bread bags were saved to use as rubbish bags.

The boys finished a box of cereal so the liner was carefully opened up, washed, dried and put in the drawer to use freezer film.

Two small parcels were delivered, in very sturdy boxes. Normally boxes are cut down and put in the recycle bin, but these are strong so I've kept them to post the nursing home and CWA cards. They won't be damaged in these boxes, and with the "if it fits, it posts" policy for the prepaid post satchels, it won't cost any extra to post them either. Until the borders open and lock downs are lifted posting is the only way I can get the cards delivered.

I think that's about it for last week. Being conscious of how much and what and when and where things are being used is making a huge difference to the "bits" that are left. With a little more planning, in time maybe there won't be any fragments left to gather, and no money wasted!

A really good thing is happening since I started this gathering and using up of the fragments in our household - there are fewer fragments!

I'm thinking this is because I am really conscious of quantity. Of how much I prepare for each meal, of the amount of preserved food I open to use in a recipe, of making sure to use just what I need for a project so there are no leftovers or scraps.

This past week I used a little leftover sour cream in the mashed potatoes instead of milk and butter. They were so good Wayne commented on how nice they were. I'll remember to do that more often when we have sour cream.

I made a stack of greeting cards using just scraps. Really - just strips of paper and cardstock no more than 6mm wide, arranged on some cards. I think they look nice and bright.

16 September 2020

A 2020 Christmas - Same, Same but Different

Not to put to fine a point on it, but if you aren't already preparing for Christmas, and you expect it to be the same, you're in for a big disappointment.

This is 2020 - the year of chaos. We've had bush fires that devastated a huge portion of our country, then came the rain and the floods; a pandemic that's caused huge unemployment; lockdowns that have kept us in our homes; stock shortages; food shortages. Our world and our lives have been turned upside down and inside out.

So this Christmas won't be the same. It will be a little different. But guess what? Every Christmas is different, even if it's the same. 

Our families change. Kids grow up. We welcome new family members. Our tastes change. So while things are the same, they are different.

This year is no exception. 

But with all the talk of shortages - and not just from me but from the boss of Woolworths and the Farmer's Federation and even our PM - if you want Christmas to be the same but different, you need to start now. 

Start making your shopping list. Start buying the shelf-stable foods you need, or the foods that will freeze. Get them when you see them because there's no guarantee that they'll be available in December.

If you are stuck in lockdown, you'll need to shop creatively. Try online. But look to your local community too. There are lots of wonderful small businesses within 5km of most Melbournians, and most Australians. Look in obscure places for gifts. Try newsagents and pharmacies. Look in the local florist and see what gift ideas they have. Even your local supermarket will have some gift ideas.

Think about making your gifts. 

Jams, relishes, pickles, caramelised onions, preserved lemons, MOO vanilla extract, MOO mustard are all easy to make, and can be made in bulk. They don't cost a lot to make, they don't need any special equipment but they are always well received and will save you a fortune. Have you checked the prices of gourmet jams lately?

Then there are spice mixes. Taco seasoning, Greek lamb rubs, spice mixes can all be made and jarred very cheaply.

If you have oranges, lemons or limes (or all three) you can make and bottle cordials. 

Popcorn - plain, flavoured or caramel corn. Or go really Aussie and make a big batch of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs. Package in cellophane bags for a fun gift or stocking stuffer. 

If you knit you're limited only by your imagination. Dish cloths, fingerless gloves, knee rugs, beanies (yes I know it's summer but winter will be here before you know it). 

Crocheted items make lovely gifts too. I've been working on doyleys and coasters and table runners. Crochet the trim for tea towels, hand towels, face washers, pillow slips or even a t-shirt. 

 Sewing gives you so many options. This year jar openers are in the present box, along with pot holders, hot pads, aprons and tea towels. Pillowslip dresses are easy to make and so cute on little girls. A Christmas pillowslip could become a Christmas Day dress. Then there are bags, purses, backpacks, pouches and pencil cases. Again, you're limited only by your imagination.

Don't put it off, thinking you have plenty of time. The time may be there, but the items you need may ot be. 

We usually start our Christmas countdown in October, and we will be doing it again, with the aim to be completely finished with Christmas preparations by 30th November. 

15 September 2020

Filling the Pantry One Thing At A Time To Stay Ahead Of Food Shortages

This week our pantry was boosted by five boxes of tea bags (Twinings Extra Strong English Breakfast - two mugs from one tea bag if you let it brew properly). 

I am fussy about tea (and coffee), so when the brand I like comes on half-price sale I use the slush fund to stock up. 

My tea was on half-price last week, so five boxes were added to the pantry. With everyone working from home, we are going through more tea than usual, and tea is one thing I wouldn't want to be short of. Even in hard times you need to have something you enjoy, one of those things for me is a nice cup of tea.

Back in March, when this pandemic/crisis/lockdown started Wayne and I had a talk and decided that we'd restock the pantry as we use things, rather than wait until the end of the year. 

Its working well to keep the pantry stocked, especially when quite a few of the ingredients we use are in short supply or still rationed. 

About three weeks ago I spoke of food shortages on You Tube, and there were plenty of people who can see what I see; but there were lots who questioned whether I was just scaremongering, or trying to boost ratings for the show or even trying to gain more business for The Cheapskates Club. Some went so far as to email me (shame both were using fake email addresses - my replies bounced back, making me think that it was just one person) and tell me in no uncertain, foul-mouthed terms that I was stupid, nasty, and a horrible person for spreading fear and telling lies. Hmmmmm.

Last night on 7 News, a main story was about the rice shortage (something I spoke about 3 weeks ago, and about 12 months ago) and how it will impact supermarket supplies. 

I don't tell lies. And I will never tell you something just to scare you. I speak from what I know, what I've experienced. I say it as I see it. I'll never tell you to rush out and spend thousands of dollars buying groceries. I will tell you to plan your shopping so your money buys more. I will tell you that it is just plain good stewardship and commonsense to have a stocked pantry to fall back on. 

And I will tell you that what you fill your pantry with, and how full you keep it, is up to you. All households are different. We all eat different things, use different toiletries and cleaning supplies. Some have pets. Some have children, some don't. Some are single person households, some are couples, some are families. Some live in the city, some in the suburbs, some are rural and some are remote. Some have special diets. Some can grow a garden. We are all different.

What is the same though, is that the steps to building a pantry are the same for everyone. And that's what I'll tell you. 

Fill your pantry one thing at a time, as you can afford it. If something on your list is on half-price, buy two. If something is on sale, buy one and put the difference towards something else to stock the pantry. 

Before you know it, you'll have your pantry stocked to suit you, and you'll be secure in the knowledge you will be able to eat and care for your family and home if money is tight.


13 September 2020

Gathering Up The Fragments 13th September 2020

I forgot to keep that list again this week, but looking around, there aren't too many fragments. That means hardly any "bits" in the fridge, and that means less in the garbage.

This week has been more about dehydrating as much as I could get through to have more shelf-stable food coming into summer. The aim is to be less reliant on the freezer for long-term food storage. 

More peas/corn/carrot mix was dehydrated, vac sealed in jars and stored in the pantry.

Stale bread was turned into garlic croutons and sprinkled on top of macaroni instead of breadcrumbs - it was really good and the bread wasn't wasted. I could have made breadcrumbs, but the jar is still almost full.

I grated some soap slivers and added them to the washing powder.

Little scraps of quilting fabric were cut into squares and made into jar openers.

A stray skein of cotton yarn was crocheted into a doyley for Hannah.

Homemade potting soil (a mixture of garden soil, compost and rotted manure) was used to fill pots for summer seedlings. 

The first potato salad of the season was made and devoured. Leftovers, about half a cup, were put into the fridge and eaten for lunch the next day.

Eggshells were rinsed and dried, then ground to make more calcium powder for the veggie garden. I saw on a You Tube video that you can dig eggs straight into the garden and plant on top of them. If I ever end up with rotten eggs that's what I'll be doing. Tomatoes especially love and need calcium, it stops blossom end rot, giving more fruit per bush.

How did you go with gathering the fragments this week?


06 September 2020

Gathering Up The Fragments 6 September 2020

Some of the fragments gathered and put to use this week:

Broken crackers, dried stale bread and plain cereal crumbs were whizzed in the food processor to fill the breadcrumb jar. 

Not fragments, but four kilos of mixed frozen veggies were dehydrated and then vacuum sealed. Having shelf stable food is more my focus on pantry building at the moment, especially after last week's storm that took the power out for five days in some suburbs. We have friends who lost close to $700 worth of meat, fruit and vegetables in their two freezers; I would still be crying it if had happened to us.

There was a little leftover rice and half a block of cream cheese, so they became cream cheese patties that Hannah and I enjoyed for lunch. 

Dinner for Father's Day was roast lamb. Boy was it good! Enough for another roast lamb dinner is in gravy in the freezer. There is one leg of lamb left in the freezer - perhaps for our wedding anniversary dinner. 

We are getting better at not having little bits of anything leftover and that's a real money saver; every cent I can not spend is better in my purse than the bin.

01 September 2020

Gathering Up The Fragments 30th August 2020


Yes, I know this post is two days late. That may give you a hint of what's been happening around here. I've been busy.

Busy gathering up the fragments so nothing is wasted.

Busy planting seeds that will grow into plants that will feed us over the summer and into next winter. 

Busy adding more fruit trees to our tiny backyard orchard.

Busy making masks and sending them out for orders. 

Busy keeping my family sane and happy when they can't live their usual very active social lives. Even me, who loves being home, is finding the enforced staying at home a tad dreary now. The end of lockdown and easing of restrictions can't come too soon, for our personal health and happiness, and our state's. 

Throw in a little fall down the back steps,  a crazy wind storm, needing to boil water for three days and by Sunday night I was zonked. Completely exhausted. Over-tired to the point of wanting to hide in my bedroom and never. come. out.

All the while feeling guilty because I started this challenge to post about gathering and using up little bits, and within a couple of weeks ignored it. 

But all is well now. We don't need to boil water anymore. To everyone who questioned why we'd need water purification tablets when we live in a modern, civilised, western, capital city all I can say is they came in handy and what we used has been ordered to restock the first aid pantry.

So, back to fragments. 

I made two huge lasagnes and had leftover bechamel sauce. Half was added to cooked macaroni and chopped parsley and made into mock fish. The other half I thinned with a little stock and used as a sauce over the veggies for dinner one night.

Two English muffins lurking in the freezer became cheesy garlic muffins to go with dinner. 

A mayo bottle was swished with a little milk to dress coleslaw made with leftover cabbage and carrot.

Bread bags were turned inside out, wiped over and put on the sink to dry. Same thing to the two bags the TVP order came in. When they were dry they were folded up and put in the drawer.

The cereal liner from the Sultana Bran was carefully opened, wiped over and then cut in half. These bigger pieces make great liners for the no bake slice trays. Best thing is they can be washed and reused.

Empty toilet rolls were filled with seed raising mix and lettuce seeds were planted. 

The used coffee pods were opened and the coffee grounds added to the compost pile. 

Egg shells were rinsed and dried, then ground into powder. This is amazing for tomatoes - the calcium from the ground eggshells makes for very healthy, happy tomato plants and helps stop blossom end rot.

The stalks and smaller leaves from the broccoli plants have been sliced and frozen. These are so good in stir-fry dishes, or casseroles or soups. Or whizz them and add to pasta sauce. Or dry, powder and add to smoothies or gravy.

I didn't keep that list I mentioned - I really need to do that. I'm sure there are other little bits that have been used up during the week that I've forgotten about. 

Putting Winter Away, Welcome Spring!

Welcome Spring!

Winter is over at last!

No matter where in Australia you are I am sure you are welcoming the change of seasons.

The promise of spring is warmth, sunshine, fresh air, flowers, birds, green grass and blue skies.

And after the last eight months, spring is very, very welcome.

I finished the spring cleaning last week and this week as I've walked through the house, I've had a smile on my face. I can't help it, everything is so spic'n'span and sparkly clean and organised and well just plain pretty.

Winter has been put away. The dreariness, tiredness, clutter of a winter on lockdown is gone.

In it's place, spring, with the promise of new hope and new life abounds.

How can you put winter away, and welcome spring, without spending any money?

Wash the windows, inside and out. There's that old saying that the windows are the eyes of the home. Make them sparkle.

Wash the flimsy curtains. Do them window by window, and get rid of the winter dust. While the curtain is washing, you can be washing the window! I use a scoop of laundry soaker to wash the curtains. As soon as the wash cycle has finished, take them out and rehang them straight away. It's OK to hang them wet, the weight will pull any creases out and being flimsies they'll dry in no time. And straight away the room will look and smell better.

Dust and wash the skirting boards. I use a soft broom or the upholstery brush on the vacuum to dust, and a damp microfibre cloth to wash.

Dust and polish timber furniture. If it's been a while, a good polish will make the timber shine and condition it at the same time.

Get out those doyleys and tablecloths and coasters and use them. Swap out the dusty ones for fresh linens. And get creative - just because a linen isn't a doyley doesn't mean it can't be used as one. I use tray cloths on our lamp tables to protect them, and small lace doyleys as coasters. Soak the dirty linens before sun-drying and putting them away.

Dust and wash the front door! External doors get so dusty. And sweep the front porch. If there's room, add a pot of petunias or violets or pansies - something bright and cheerful and welcoming. And shake that doormat!

Put away the heavy mugs, and bring out your fine china. No point having it if you don't use it, and fine china is light, just like spring.

Make a butter cake and sugar some violets to decorate the top.

Plant sweet peas near a window so you can see them and get the beautiful perfume.

Have a Devonshire tea. Make some lemonade scones, whip some cream, open a jar of jam and serve it all on your best china.

Make a birth bath and put it out for the birds.

Cut some lavender and hang it in bunches through the house to dry. The fragrance will be amazing and you'll end up with lots of beautiful lavender to use in winter.

Clean off the barbecue and start cooking outdoors.

Get out your essential oils and make some spring and summer scented soaps and lotions.

Use your essential oils to make room scents. In our main bathroom at the moment we have watermelon (Hannah's choice) and it really does smell nice. In our bathroom I have lemon scented reeds, and a little crystal dish of scented wax beads. The whole room smells fresh and spring-like. I'm using lemon oil in a switched up mini batch of Miracle Spray to clean at the moment. When that's used up, I'll make up another fragrance.

Change over vases and fill them with new flowers (some silk, some fresh, some dried - whatever you have).

Use what you have, rotate those special linens and good dishes. If you have something you love that makes you smile, bring it out and use it.

Putting winter away and welcoming spring doesn't need to cost a cent, use what you have to chase the winter dullness away and welcome spring freshness to your home.

23 August 2020

Gathering Up the Fragments 23 August 2020

What fragments have I gathered this week?

I should have been keeping a running list!

This week I found some small bottles of body wash from gift packs. I tipped them into the big bottle in our shower. It took all day - I wanted to make sure every drip transferred.  Next day I swished the bottles with water, poured it onto the sponge and used it to clean the bathrooms. They smelled beautiful all day.

In the kitchen there were a couple of just spoonful's of things left. One was just a spoonful of burrito mix. I added a spoon of cooked rice, heated it up and it was lunch.

The boys emptied two boxes of cereal this week. I tipped the crumbs from both packets into the crumb jar (I save the cereal crumbs, cracker crumbs, toast crumbs etc. and use them to make Shake'n'Bake), then carefully opened the liners, washed them and put them to dry. When they were dry they were folded and put away to use instead of freezer film or tracing paper. It may only keep a few cents in my purse, but they add up over time and that money is much better in my purse than the supermarkets.

Not so much gathering the fragments, but I put the last batch of soap I made away. It's been sitting on the racks in the laundry to dry. Truthfully, it's been ready for a couple of weeks, but wasn't high on my radar. Once the soap is dry and cured, I put it in the linen cupboard on the shelves under the sheets, in my wardrobe on the shelves under the jumpers, in  desk drawers etc. I have sheets of scented paper (well they're old, so not so scented any more but they were once) on top of them so they don't mark the linen or clothes because my homemade soap is quite high in fats and over time they can stain fabric. They stay there until they get used. The longer they are on the shelf, the harder they get, and the harder they are the longer they last in the bathrooms or kitchen or laundry. Well that's the theory I learned from Mum. If all the linen and clothes shelves and drawers are full of soap I've been known to put them on the bookshelves behind the books. They keep the books from getting musty and keep moths and silverfish away too.

There were more oranges to pick. This time they were juiced, so the peels are soaking in a bucket of vinegar to make orange scented vinegar that I'll use for cleaning.

I made a triple recipe of Miracle Spray - love this stuff! I noticed on TV today that 9Honey was talking about it and giving the recipe. It wouldn't bother me so much except they don't give Joy the credit for the recipe and they give the wrong quantities of ingredients!

With our roast chicken tonight I used up the sad veggies - one sweet potato, a couple of about to get hairy carrots, an onion that looked a little soft, and some potatoes that had started to sprout. I par-boiled them, then tossed them in olive oil and crushed garlic and browned them in the electric frying pan. They were so good and now the sad veggies have been used.

During the week I swished a mayo jar with a little milk to get it all out, and then swished the Vegemite jar with a little warm water and added it to the gravy for the meat pie. I think it's really important to make sure bottles and jars are completely empty before we put them in the recycle bin. There is often enough left for another sandwich or to season another recipe. When we don't scrape or swish those containers we are putting money in the bin. It's not being mean or stingy, it's just making sure you use up every little bit of what you have.

I noticed after washing up tonight that my hand cream had stopped pumping. Time to cut the bottom off and scrape it out too. I buy it on half-price, but it's still around $8 a bottle, so I need to use it all up. There's usually enough for at least another two weeks clinging to the sides and bottom of the bottle, so it's worth the two minutes it takes to do this.

As I said, I should have kept a running list, I can't think of anything else. So much of gathering up the fragments is done on autopilot, I tend to not even realise I'm doing it.  I'll try to keep a list going this week.

What fragments did you gather up this week?

19 August 2020

Is There Going to be a Food Shortage?

Yes. There is. And that's not me being sensationalist, or trying to scare you. It is simply commonsense to realise that with all that has hit Australia this year alone, food supplies will be short.

We've had bush fires.
We've had floods.
We've had a pandemic that has closed our borders.
Then there is the ongoing drought.
Avian bird flu has reappeared.
We were in recession.
Then our Prime Minister announced it was a depression, not a recession.
Unemployment is soaring.
All these things affect our ability as a nation to feed ourselves.

While both state and federal governments are telling us not to worry, there will be plenty, I'll 'fess up and say I don't trust them. Of course they're going to say there is plenty to go around - for a government to say anything else would be irresponsible and cause major panic, and we've seen what panic buying causes without a threat of food shortages.

Then last week local and national ABC news started reporting on crops being ploughed back into the ground - not because the harvest is so great, but because there are no pickers.

Then the closure of the largest meat processing plant in Australia at Dinmore was announced, supposedly for two weeks, but reports are coming through that it may be permanent. 

JBS, the parent company of the Dinmore plant, also closed it's Brooklyn, Vic, plant at the same time for an indefinite time.

What happens if the largest meat processing plant in Australia closes? Meat could be in short supply until another plant picks up. How long will that take? Who knows.

Now the avian flu has caused the shutdown of a poultry farm near Geelong, and yet another near Bairnsdale

This is just a few of the things that affect our food supply.

And quite frankly, all these things could be happening all the time, not just in 2020.

So, while Australia ranks 12th in the world for food security, we as individuals, need to ensure our own personal food security.

And the time to start is now.

I don't know how much more I can stress just how important it is to be able to feed yourself and your family in a crisis. Trust me, I know what it is like to have nothing but Weetbix and milk to feed your children. And we only had milk because we had friends on a dairy who kept us in milk free. You don't ever want to be in that position, and I will never, ever be in that position again.

Having enough food to give you three healthy meals a day for a week, without having to shop, is a start. Last time we talked about this I suggested keeping enough to last one pay period without shopping.

Now, with Stage 4 restrictions here in Melbourne, lasting for at least six weeks, I'd say every home should be able to last six weeks without shopping. Yes, we can go shopping. And yes, there is always delivery.

But those things don't ensure that the food is available when you want it.

I listened, almost in disbelief, as Daniel Andrews, the current Premier of Victoria, asked people not to panic buy. He said there was plenty of food, no need to rush out and buy, buy, buy. You might see some shortages, and you might not be able to get what you need or what you want, but there will be something for you to buy. 


If you can't get what you need or what you want - that's a shortage. Saying you'll be able to buy something won't fix the fact that you can't get what you need or want.

Start building your pantry now. Canned fruit and veg are shelf stable for years. Dehydrated fruit and veg are shelf stable for years. Adding a tin of veggies and a tin of fruit to the shopping each week won't break the budget, but they could keep you fed when there's nothing on the supermarket shelves.

A warning though: only buy what you eat. If you don't eat pears, don't buy tinned pears. Buy peaches or apples or plums or apricots instead.  Same for the veggies. If you don’t eat green beans, don’t buy them. If you don't bake, then 50kg of flour won't help you. Buy what you eat.

 I have been filling the gaps in the pantry over the last few months with tinned fruit, tinned veggies, some tinned soups (I only use tomato and cream of chicken as a rule) and tuna and salmon. I've been replacing the pasta and rice as it's used, and stocking up on a few instant noodle type packet meals. Not normally on my shopping list, but they are shelf stable and while not the healthiest if you eat them all the time, every now and then they work to stretch a meal.

Things like refried beans, black beans and coconut milk have also been replaced. I'm aiming to keep the pantry stable for now, instead of letting it run down like I normally do.

Since frozen veggies have been available again, I've been buying them and dehydrating them to make them shelf stable. Packets of peas/corn/carrots, green beans and corn kernels dehydrate and rehydrate very well, and we eat all these regularly.

Why am I focusing on dehydrating? It's easy to keep enough on the pantry shelf without taking up too much space, where packets of frozen veggies fill the freezer.

Another way we can guarantee our own food security is to grow it. Again, it's easy. Anyone can grow at least some of the food they eat, even if you live in an apartment in the city or a homestead in the desert. Honestly, when people tell me they can't grow anything I want to tell them they can't because they don't really want too.

This week on Landline it was reported that the price for fresh fruit and veg will rise by 60%. That's a huge increase folks. A sixty percent increase puts the cost of that $2/kg bunch of carrots at $3.20/kg.

Don't get me wrong, growing food is hard work. Farmers make a career out of it, so why anyone would think they don't need to put any effort into it astounds me.

You need to water, weed and fertilise. You need to keep an eye on the weather and watch the wind or hail or frost. You need to be able to keep pests at bay. You need to put some time and effort in to do these things, but if you do them regularly, then they only take a few minutes. In summer I spend around 15 minutes a day in the garden, in winter perhaps 15 minutes every second day. Its enough to keep the gardens producing and us fed.

 I try to grow from seed. And I try to get heirloom varieties of seed. Heirloom varieties mean I can save seed from some of each crop to replant, and the plants will grow. Personally I like Diggers Club, Eden Seeds and Garden Harvest for my seeds. Just saying.

Oh, and when it comes to growing your own food, grow what you eat. Anything else is a waste of seed, water, time, and growing space.

We are looking to expand our veggie gardens this spring and summer. The less we need to rely on supermarkets, the better off we are, so growing as much as we can just makes sense. It boosts our food security.

A big garden isn't a problem for us. What we don't eat, we preserve, and plant accordingly so nothing is wasted.  My message here is: don't overplant - again it's a waste of seed, water, garden space, money and time. Plant what you can eat and preserve. If you believe you'll be able to barter or trade, then plant a little more.

Money - that five letter word! I am not, and would not, ever suggest you race out and buy up everything you need for the next week/fortnight/month/year. For starters, that's bordering on panic buying and that's when you make mistakes. It would also do some severe damage to most budgets.

Build up slowly, one or two things at a time. Look for specials, especially half-price sales, on the things you use. Try adding just one or two extra items a shop to build the pantry. But do it. Don't think you have plenty of time - you don't.

The time to act to ensure your own food security is now!

I think the next few years are going to be challenging for Australians. That's me being diplomatic - I really believe they are going to be hard; harder than anything I've lived through in my lifetime.

We've been living the good life for so long, there are generations of Australians who really don't understand true hardship. Even the GFC in 2007 - 2008 wasn't a crisis for us - we sailed through it compared to the rest of the world.

But this? No, this is going to bring us to our knees. It will be years before our country resembles anything close to what it did in March this year.

I'm not trying to scare you. I am trying to warn you. I am trying to encourage you, and motivate you to take responsibility for your own food security. 

I'm sure you've all heard the joke about it not raining when Noah built the ark.

Right now, where you are, food may be plentiful. You may still have an income, so price increases, while they hurt, aren't crippling you like they are the tens of thousands who are out of work. It may even be affordable. 

But building your ark, in the form of a pantry, can't hurt.

17 August 2020

Filling the Pantry One Thing At A Time

For the last few weeks I've been working on filling the gaps in our pantry. Dehydrating carrots here. Making chocolate sauce another day. Picking parsley and garlic chives from the garden and drying them near the fire. Using the older onions to make caramelised onions another day. Limes from the fruit bowl and oranges off the tree for marmalade and lime butter. Turning powdered milk that needs using into condensed milk and caramel sauce for the pantry.

It sounds like a lot of work, and if you were to do it all at once it would be. But I spread it out. A little each day, and the gaps filled up quickly. 

A singe batch of marmalade  takes about an hour and half from start to finish - but most of that time is when it is cooking in the microwave. I'm not standing in the kitchen all that time.

Slicing a bunch of celery and getting it into the dehydrator only takes about 5 minutes, but it fills a gap in the pantry for very little effort.
Picking the parsley and chives and laying them on a cake rack on the top of the fire took just a few minutes and refilled the spice jars in the cupboard. 

Little by little,  just one or two things a day, will fill the pantry. You don't need to spend hours in the kitchen, working up a sweat and having a heap of washing up to do.

If there are things you can't make, adding one or two a week to your shopping list, or deliberately searching for them on half price, will fill the gaps quickly, with little effort and little, if any, affect to your grocery budget. 

Right now fill the gaps as you find them. Don't wait. Supermarket shelves are emptying. They may look full, but have a good look. Things are spread out. They are in different areas to fill the gaps (see, even supermarkets are trying to fill the gaps, although that's an attempt to pull the wool about shortages over our eyes). 

Keep a list of what you have and what you need to fill the gaps. Put it in your handbag or on your phone. Use it. 

Do this for all your pantries: food, laundry, bathroom, cleaning, garden, first aid, gifts. Look to see what you need. 

You may well be wondering why, when I'm a dedicated once-a-year shopper, that I'm filling the gaps now.

Well, just in case you missed it, we are smack bang in the middle of a pandemic. This pandemic has brought my city of Melbourne, Australia, to a halt. 

We are on what are called Stage 4 Lockdown. That means just one person per household can leave the house for food shopping for just one hour a day, and cannot go further than 5km from home. There are other restrictions too, but this is the one that I'd like to focus on.

One person per household per day for no more than one hour a day may sound reasonable. And to the average Melbournian, for food shopping it probably is. 

But folks, there are empty shelves. There is a shortage of meat and poultry and fish. Not everything I like to have is available, although our Premier has done his best to assure us that we won't go hungry.
Yes, our State Government warned us of the shortages (and this past week, our state and national news sources have been reporting on current and coming food shortages). 

Along with these shortages there is predicted to be a 60% increase in the cost of fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish. Can your grocery budget stand a 60% increase? I know mine can't. 

So I am filling the gaps, little by little, every day. 

This isn't panicking. This is being wise, a good steward, taking care of your family and your home so that you won't go without, and you won't need to pay the inflated prices just to survive. 

16 August 2020

Gathering Up The Fragments 16 August 2020

How many fragments were you able to gather this week?

When you stop and count them up, there are often more than you think.

This week soap "scraps" were gathered and grated and put into the washing powder tin. 

I used a little water to rinse a tomato sauce bottle into the pasta sauce. No one complained, it used up all the sauce and I think it made the pasta sauce a little richer for this week's lasagne. The bottle went into the dishwasher to be cleaned and used again for more sauce next summer. 

Another thing I do without even thinking about it is to save the tea bags to use as firelighters. In winter we use the fire non-stop, but of course sometimes in the mornings it needs a little help to get going again. Tea bag firelighters work like a charm and they're free. There is a jar next to the heater that I put the no-longer-fit-to-be-used cooking oil in, and when we've finished with a tea bag, it gets dropped into the jar. When we need a firelighter, an oil soaked tea bag works better than a Redheads firelighter, has cost us nothing and doesn't stink up the house while it's burning. 

We get no-longer-fit-to-be-used cooking oil because when I do use oil, after cooking, it is strained and the put into a jar that sits near the stove. If the oil has been used to fry eggs or vegetables, it gets reused. I don't reuse oil that's been used to cook fish, the flavour goes through the oil and we just don't like it. That oil goes straight to the fire lighter jar. Oil is expensive; re-using it makes sense. I buy 4 litres of EVOO a year and 4 litres of vegetable oil. It helps that we don't eat a lot of fried foods, but when we do, the oil is saved and re-used. And then saved and re-used. Keeping it clean is the secret - make sure you strain it to get every little crumb out before storing it. 

The last of the onions needed to be used up. Buying onions in 10 kilo bags is a great money saver, and grating and slicing some for the freezer is a huge time saver. I keep some out to use fresh, but occasionally they start to soften before they're used. This week I made caramalised onions, using up the last of the fresh onions and some MOO brown sugar and the last of the balsamic vinegar. 

There was a about a ladle of mashed potato left after Monday night's dinner. It became fish cakes for Hannah and I for lunch on Tuesday. I added a small tin of tuna (90c from Coles), a sprinkle of herbs, and the half diced onion from Sunday lunch. Nothing was wasted and they were really tasty and it made just enough for us to share with some lettuce on sandwiches.

On Monday I swapped the meal plan around again. I felt like chow mien for dinner, so went to the freezer to look for mince. I found a packet, then realised I needed mince later in the week. No problem. One cup of TVP was set to rehydrate while the meat browned with a couple of diced onions. Once it was nicely browned, I spooned half into a container to use later in the week. There wasn't really enough mince to do one meal, let alone two. By adding TVP and stretching what I had, two dinners are covered, and no waste. As it turned out, there was a single serve of chow mien left, and about 3/4 cup of mashed potato. 

I added a packet of 2 minute noodles to the chow mien and Hannah and I enjoyed it for lunch on Tuesday. 

On Thursday I added some onion flakes, parsley and a little grated cheese to the mash, beat in an egg, and made croquettes for our tea, Wayne and the boys had their MOO pizzas. They were delicious with some salad and nothing was wasted. 

What fragments were you able to gather up and use this week? How much money didn't go into the bin?

09 August 2020

Gathering Up the Fragments

I read this early this morning, gathering up the fragments, and it really made my heart sing.

That's what I do. It's how I care for my family and our home. It's how we live a rather luxurious lifestyle on a very modest income. It's how and why we live debt free, cashed up and laughing.

One of the things a frugal home does is use everything. Nothing goes to waste. Even the tiniest fragment of leftovers is used.

Sometimes we forget that little bits of anything can be used up. We look at that spoonful of potato, or strip of fabric or sliver of soap and think it has finished it's use, there's nothing more to be done with it, and so we throw it away.

When we do that we are putting our money in the bin. Now I don't know anyone who would voluntarily put a $1 or $5 or more in the bin. In fact just about everyone I know would go through that bin to find that $1 or $5, and definitely would if it were more. 

So we need to be aware of the value of what we throw away. Not just the dollar value, but the usefulness. 

This week I've dehydrated three bunches of celery. All the celery, except for the very last 2cm of each bunch. The stems were sliced and dried. I pulled the leaves off the skinny stems and they were dried. Then the skinny stems were sliced and dried too. I'm aware of the trend to try and regrow celery from the base, but honestly, celery takes far too long to grow and takes up a lot of garden space and needs lots of water, so growing celery for me, right now, isn't worth it. If celery ever becomes outrageously expensive or hard to get, then I will rethink. This week the bokashi bucket was fed three celery bases. 
This is what the leaves from two bunces of celery look like after they've been dehydrated.
Nothing from those bunches of celery was wasted. It was all used. The $5 those three bunches of celery cost will be realised in full. No money in the bin.

The peanut butter jar looked empty, and so Wayne put it aside to be scraped. That jar wasn't near empty, there was at least another two tablespoons of peanut butter stuck around the sides, on the bum on the bottom of the jar and under the rim. Out came my trusty silicone spatula and it was scraped clean, with the scrapings going into the new jar. Peanut butter isn't overly expensive, but it's not the cheapest of spreads either, so there's no way I'm going to be putting it in the bin. 

That's just two examples of gathering the fragments this week.

Another was when I repaired the blanket off our bed. This blanket is about 40 years old, but it is so warm and cosy, and we just love it. Unfortunately the satin blanket binding was frayed and torn, so I took it off, and accidentally tore the blanket. Yikes!

I don't keep satin blanket binding in m fabric stash, so I had to get creative. First I repaired the rip, by carefully overlapping the ends and then working a buttonhole stitch over it. 

Next I had to look for something to use as binding. In the linen cupboard I have a pile of pillowslips that don't match sheets anymore. A lightbulb went off - one pillowslip would be enough to make binding for the blanket. 

It only took a few minutes to unpick the seams and press the fabric flat. Then I cut it into strips, joined them and stitched them across the top of the blanket. Cost: absolutely nothing. No waste, the blanket is good for another 40 years (I hope!) and one pillowslip has been repurposed into something still useful. 

Another example of gathering the fragments is my card making. I use lots of cardstock and patterned papers, cutting shapes for the embellishments. But nothing goes to waste. If I cut into a sheet of card or piece of patterned paper, I use it all. Once the card is made, there is often enough left to make a matching bookmark and gift tag to go with it, or to be used separately. If there's anything left then out come the punches and I'll punch out flowers or leaves or hearts or stars or whatever to be used on other cards. All the fragments are gathered up and used. 

Yesterday was an extra special COVID-19 card day. We were supposed to be in Tasmania, with Carol, but because of the crisis and the extra restrictions for we Melbournians, we couldn't go. So we had our card day online. During the day I was able to make lots of cards, most of them using up scraps and leftovers.  These Christmas cards were made using up strips of card that were left from other projects. I love them, and nothing was wasted. None of my craft budget went into the bin.
Circles punched from scraps of cardstock
I found this gorgeous vintage Christmas paper in the scrap bag, but there were only 4 sheets - just enough for a mini junk journal
This was made from scraps of DSP in the scrap bag too - nothing goes to waste!
Some people see scraping the peanut butter jar or punching shapes from tiny bits of cardstock as being mean and scrooge-like.  They see repairing a 40-year-old blanket with a repurposed pillowslip as something shameful, that I'm to be pitied that I had to do that. Don't, I didn't have to, I could easily have gone online and spent $300 on a new blanket. But why would I when half an hour had our blanket we love as good as new?

I see it as not putting the money we work hard for into the bin. 

Everyday I gather the fragments and make sure everything is used up. How much does it save us? Honestly, to the exact dollar I don't know. But it does mean that we live a much better lifestyle on a very modest income because we gather the fragments and don't waste anything. 

07 August 2020

Living Off the Stockpile (Again)

Today starts another round of Stage Three lockdown restrictions for us. When I heard the news on Tuesday afternoon I was concerned for a few minutes. What did we need? Was there anything we were running out of? Had I filled all the gaps in our pantry?

Oh my goodness, it was an odd feeling. Odd because quite frankly, if you know me, you know we don't need anything, especially in the way of food or toiletries or cleaning supplies. Honestly, for those few minutes I think I was shocked, not that we were back in lockdown, that was a given to happen, but that it was for six weeks this time. Six weeks!

It did occur to me that I was being silly. I shop once a year, so why would this bother me? Why should it bother me? I'm not sure why I was bothered, other than after last time, and the enormous outpouring of anger that I was talking about pantries and preparedness and making scones when people couldn't get toilet paper, I was, and am, a little nervous. Honestly, it shouldn't bother me.

I've encouraged you all to build your pantry for years, long before there was a pandemic or even a hint of a pandemic. It's not something I just started. Panic buying and hoarding are not what I teach or encourage.

When I went to get some fresh veggies on Monday morning, the produce section was almost bare. No apples. No oranges. In fact the only fruits were strawberries and bananas - nothing else. Not even a kiwi or lemon.

No lettuce. No cucumbers. No loose onions, carrots or potatoes. No cauliflowers. No sweet potatoes. Tomatoes were $8.99/kg (ouch!).

The meat cabinets were still full, but each item was limited to two per shopper. And boy was it expensive, although I'm thinking the budget friendly cuts were probably sold out.

No fresh bread. Not sure why, perhaps I was too early.

Only small bottles of milk. I was able to buy two litres.

No toilet paper, again.

As I was doing my quick walk around, trying to avoid other shoppers who seemed to have forgotten about social distancing, I was thanking God for the urge to not keep a stocked pantry, but to restock it as we have used it this year.

The pantry has the flour, sugar, yeast, tinned tomatoes, tomato soup, baked beans, oats, pasta, dried and canned beans, rice, TVP, herbs and spices, dried fruits, jams, honey, peanut butter and oil we use all the time.

The freezer has the mince, whole chickens, chicken fillets, sausages, corned beef, frozen veggies and fruits, pastry and breads that we eat the most.

The fridge has the butter, eggs and fresh veggies we use every day.

They are ingredients.

When you have ingredients you have options.

If you have flour and yeast you can make bread. You can make pizza bases. You can make scrolls.

If you have pasta, tomato soup or tinned tomatoes, herbs and cheese you can make pasta bake.

If you have beans (dried or tinned), carrot, celery, onion and tinned tomatoes you can make bean and veggie soup. Add some macaroni for minestrone.

If you have tuna, rice, frozen peas, curry, flour, milk powder you can make a curried tuna mornay.

If you have rice, peanut butter, Vegemite, onion and a little oil you can make  Quick Rice Patties

Flour, milk, grated cheese, corn kernels, eggs and you can make Savoury Impossible Pie

Stewed fruit, oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and you can make a fruit crumble.

Flour, sugar, milk, eggs, butter, vanilla and you can make a plain cake. Add cocoa for chocolate cake or instant coffee for coffee cake.

Flour, cold tea, dried fruit and you can make Fruity Tea Cake 

I've listed more recipes in the Bare Bones Groceries ebook. They all use basic pantry ingredients, take only a few minutes to put together and are cheap.

I fill our pantry with ingredients so I can make what we need, when we need it. I don't cook or bake anything complicated or fancy. I use the tools I have to keep meal prep simple and easy. I use plain, old-fashioned recipes and adapt them to suit our tastes, our budget and the ingredients in our pantry.

Going to a Four Day Week

When Wayne came home tonight, he was grinning from ear to ear. 

"Pack your bags, is the food ready?" Hmm. I was a little confused. 

"I have Monday off". He was laughing at the look on my face. 

Yes, due to the current round of restrictions on essential workers, he was asked this morning if he'd be prepared to go to a four day week. Oh yeah! What an answer to prayer.

I've been praying almost non-stop that he'd be asked to cut back on work, or be offered holidays or long service leave or even time without pay - any of those would make us happy. I hate that he has to go into hot zones and work where there are people who just don't care about obeying the restrictions, their health or the health of the people who have to help them. 

They were told a few weeks ago that they can say no to jobs in hot zones if they choose to, and I know he has said no to some jobs. But my husband has a soft heart and he won't let anyone suffer (unlike me, I would!). 
And now he's working a four day week, something I've been trying to talk him into for two years, to get him ready for retirement. Our goal is early retirement and this is the first step!

05 July 2020

Happiness Homemade: Re-Stocking Before Another Lockdown

Living in Melbourne, being put into lockdown again is more a defnite that possibility. Having enough to see us through up to a month in lockdown is important to me. I need to be able to care for my family, to feed them,  keep them healthy, keep our home clean, keep the garden going, keep everyone busy and entertained. That's my security blanket - knowing I can care for my family and our home.

And, doing the bulk of our shopping just once a year, we are getting low on some things (we're more than half-way through the year and we use our stockpile). There were some gaps needing to be filled, that would normally wait until December, but I feel pressed to fill those gaps now.

When I get that feeling, that urge that something must be done now, I've learned to listen and take action. And I've had that feeling for a few weeks now.

I was able to get a great deal on yeast (from Hindustan Imports) by buying in bulk. It halved the price compared to supermarkets, so I asked around and was able to share it amongst some friends so I don't have 20 packets of yeast in the pantry.

Aldi had bulk bags of Gem of the West plain and SR flour on a special buy a few weeks ago. I passed at the time as it wasn't any cheaper than their regular flour or what I could get at Costco. By waiting a few weeks I was able to get the 12.5kg bags marked down to $10.99 each - under $1/kilo and cheaper than their regular price (and cheaper than Costco's price for the same flour). Now making bread, pizza bases and regular baking is covered for another 12 months.

During the last lockdown frozen veggies were hard to get, so as I've opened a packet I've replaced it. That means that the freezer could be almost full of frozen veg, but instead I've been dehydrating them. A 1 kilo packet of frozen peas/corn/carrots or beans fits into a 500g preserving jar and it's shelf stable. And it frees up a whole lot of room in the freezer.

Seeds are back in plentiful supply so the garden journal came out and the spring and summer gardens have been planned, and the seeds ordered for them. Our winter garden is doing OK, but not all the parsnips took, and one lot of broccoli didn't even form heads, just bolted straight to seed. There are still plenty of caulis, cabbages, beetroot, silverbeet, peas and beans growing. I've been picking something each day to either preserve or add to our dinner.

My favourite fruit and veg supplier has been sold and the new owners have changed it a lot, including upping prices. Finding a new greengrocer is going to be a challenge. I tried one two suburbs away this morning and only bought bananas ($1.99/kg - and not that nice looking) and two bags of potatos $3.99/5kg). I'll keep one bag to use fresh, and the other bag is to be canned.

A couple of weeks ago Hannah and I went through the bathrooms and then the medicine cupboard to see what needed replenishing. Then we went to Chemist Warehouse to try and get what we needed. Oh boy! They still had limits of 1 on so many of the things on my list. I did argue with the woman on the till that I could just come back later in the day, or the next day and buy more and she agreed. She also said most people don't bother doing that. It seems a tad silly to not be able to get enough of what is needed for a month in one go, especially for families. Oh well - the new normal isn't quite to my taste.

Right now I'm looking for moisturiser and hand cream on sale. I missed the half-price Aveeno at Coles a couple of weeks ago, and with all the handwashing and sanitising even the boys are needing cream or lotion for their hands and wrists.

The butcher didn't have anything special today. I only bought chicken fillets. The cheapest mince was $10.99/kg and the cheapest roast was $15.99/kg. Both way over my budget limits.

This week I'm planning on adding eucalyptus oil to the shopping list. It's versatile - a main ingredient in Miracle Spray, a good disinfectant and works in the vaporiser.

I'm also on the lookout for socks for Wayne and myself. Kmart has been out of my favourite socks for months, so I need to find a new favourite.

And on a very happy note, our favourite craft store re-opens this week. Hannah is already doing a happy dance at the thougth of being able to actually shop in the store instead of online. She has a lot of spending money burning a hole in her purse because she's not been shopping for months. I used mine to buy some things online so I'll get my craft fix by watching her shop :).

And if there is another lockdown, or the predicted second wave comes, we'll be prepared because being prepared will make it a whole lot easier.

And if it doesn't, it just means my huge, big, once-a-year shop in December won't be quite so huge and big.

30 April 2020

Preparing for the Lean Times

Do you remember the story of Joseph, of coat of many colours fame? How he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery in Egypt, worked his way up to be a ruler, directly under the pharaoh?

Do you remember the pharaoh's dreams of the fat cows and ears of corn and the skinny cows and ears of corn? Do you remember Joseph's interpretation of the dream and what he told Pharaoh to do?

The fat cows and corn represented seven good years, where crops would thrive and harvests plentiful. The skinny cows represented seven years of famine, where nothing would grow and the crops and harvest failed.

What do we learn from this dream? Well I've learned that when times are good we put aside to enable us to live when times are tough.

The last three months have been dreadful, for the whole world. A pandemic has caused unheard of suffering, the likes of which the modern world has never seen or experienced.

Right here in Australia, suddenly people were out of work; people who thought they had job security  found themselves lining up for hours outside Centrelink offices.

Supermarkets ran out of basics. All of a sudden toilet paper became almost as valuable as gold. There was no flour, or yeast. No rice. The cleaning aisle was almost empty. Freezers were empty - there wasn't  a bag of frozen vegetables or a packet of frozen chips to be had. Nappies and wipes were as hard to get as formula.

Then seeds and seedlings disappeared. Even online seed stores shut down because they'd run out of seeds.

And most people were scared. They were looking at what they had in their pantry, their "store", and found lots of holes that they couldn't fill

I looked at our pantry, and sat down and forgot about it. There were no holes. We had enough to keep us for a long time, well past the expected duration of this crisis.

I was able to be so relaxed because during the good times I had faithfully been building our pantry, to ensure that we would be OK during lean times.
If yours was one of the households running out of things during this crisis, you might like to  think about what you need to survive without shopping for a week, a fortnight, a month, three months, six months even a year.

Then look at your pantry. What do you have ? How long will it last you? Where are the holes? If the shops were to close overnight, what would you need?

Unless you are very wealthy and money really isn't an issue, building a pantry to last any length of time takes just that: time. And patience and planning, but we'll cover those over the next few posts. Right now you just need to get started.

Start now to fill the gaps. Perhaps aim for a month's worth of groceries and work towards getting your pantry built up.

Even now, in lockdown, with lots of blank spots still on supermarket shelves, you can build your pantry. There aren't many specials around at the moment, although there are still bargains to be had. When you head out to the supermarket or greengrocer or butcher make it worth the effort. Take your list. Know what you need and what you'd like to get. Don’t forget to social distancing rules and shop with a purpose: in, get the list done, get out. Don't hang around and browse.

If money is really tight, or the shelves are still bare, perhaps you can trade for some things. You won't know if you don't ask around. If you have seeds you may be able to swap them for a bag of flour or yeast or sugar to build your pantry. Or perhaps you have some jams made, that you can trade for shampoo or dried beans. Let friends, family, neighbours, the post office lady, the chemist - everyone you come in contact with- that you are prepared to trade and see what happens.

As you get the additions to your pantry, don't forget to cross them off your list.

You don't need to get everything at once. Little by little, item by item, you can build your pantry. Even having just one spare of whatever is open is a start that you can build on.

Because being prepared is wise. It does save you money. It does save you time. It does give you options when it comes to cooking and baking. And it means that in an emergency, whatever it may be, you don't need to worry about shopping.