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.