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.