30 May 2021

Gathering the Fragments 30 May 2021

Well here we are in lock down again.

I'm frustrated and upset, mainly because we are due to go on our trip to Tasmania in a few weeks and it's looking like this won't happen - again!

Anyway, there's no point in sooking or whining, or even feeling sorry for myself, apart from this, it has been a great week.

We had a little rain. Not enough to really break the drought, but enough to water the garden for a couple of days. I love saving water!

When it was announced that we might be going into lockdown again, I did a quick inventory to see what we needed - milk. So I quickly donned a mask and bought fresh milk. We're right for everything else, a benefit of keeping the pantry full.

I made focaccia for lunches. I used a half a red onion that was in the fridge, a couple of tomatoes that needed using, a couple of cloves of garlic from the garden and rosemary from the garden. It was delicious.

The weather cooled down towards the end of the week, so a big pot of soup was made. I used a soup pack from the freezer. These are so handy to have. I buy a bunch of celery, a bag of carrots, a couple of parsnips, pick a couple of turnips from the garden and two or three, depending on size, onions. Chop them all up and bag in 3 cup portions for soups. Sometimes I'll leave them in chunks, for meat soups; sometimes I chop them up smaller for chicken or vegetable soup. But being able to just pull one from the freezer on a whim, along with some stock, and make soup in a few minutes is such a blessing on a busy day. And homemade soup with homemade English muffins is quick, cheap and easy for unexpected visitors too.

I challenged everyone over on Cheapskates Chatter to keep busy during lockdown. My plan was to make cards, so that's what I did. The nursing home is asking for some and it's time to replenish the CWA stocks too. 

I also finished off some dishcloths.

We kept the fire going, even on the warm days, to keep the house warm. When we do this we don't need to use the ducted heating at all, and that's a huge cost saving on gas.

I noticed the price of petrol was coming down. Well of course it is, no one can go anywhere! My car was just under 3/4 full so I hunted down a discount voucher and went and filled it up. The price difference was 30c a litre, a saving of $4.50 that I moved to our holiday fund.

With everyone back working at home, they were looking for something more substantial for breakfasts. English muffins are easy to make (and they freeze), so are hot cakes (and they freeze). There was some sausage mince in the freezer so I used Gardenpat's recipe for breakfast sausage seasoning to make patties and made sausage and cheese muffins; then I fried some eggs (no oil - I love my new frypan) and made egg and cheese muffins; made a double batch of Mum's Secret Hot Cakes. I wrapped them in meal sizes and put them in the freezer. Then the kids just nuked whatever they wanted for breakfast. They feel like they're getting something special and it's so much cheaper than them ordering, which they had talked about doing! Bless their little cotton socks, that would cost them about $50 a week each - a ridiculous amount of money.

Lunches were toasted sandwiches. They made their own, they all have different lunchtimes. Easy.

I've been craving coffee and trying really hard to not drink too much so I made a decaf batch of Joy's Iced Coffee Syrup and I've been adding it to milk and heating it in the microwave - yum!

Drying the washing by the fire.

Saving the shower warm-up water.

Only doing full loads of laundry and dishes.

Writing any leftovers on the whiteboard so they are used up.

Fed egg shells and veggie peels to the worms.

Added some bones and meat scraps to the bokashi bucket.

Made sure to close the blinds and curtains by 4.45pm to keep the warm in and the cold out, and pushed the draught stoppers against the outside doors.

Made sure to just use a lamp in the loungeroom if the TV was on. That's plenty of light to knit by and my Kindle and Wayne's tablet give off enough light to read.

Gratefully accepted some brand new collapsible canisters from my Aunty. These will be great in the camper for flour, sugar, rice, cereal etc. and when they're empty they'll collapse down so they won't take up a lot of space.

Goodness, I need to jot things down as I do them. I'm sure there's more, but I can't think off the top of my head.

How did you gather the fragments this week?

28 May 2021

Make a Dusting Spray

Friday is cleaning day in my schedule - or one of them. You can find my housekeeping routines here.

Today I need to polish the furniture. It's usually done once a month, and that keeps it in good condition, but this month has flown by and with everything we've had going on, polishing the timber furniture just slipped off the to-do list and it will be June before I know it.

Our timber furniture is a mix of new, old, and antique, and it all takes a bit of work to care for it. I use this spray. It's a MOO, from way back in March 2018 MOO Month, and I've used it ever since. It is amazing!

I wipe the furniture over with a barely damp cloth, then I spray directly onto a clean polishing rag and wipe it all over the furniture. Spraying onto the rag makes it easier to get into the nooks and crannies and corners and carving on the furniture.

Then I let it sit for about 5 minutes, grab another soft cloth and polish until it gleams. It sounds like hard work, but it's not. If it was hard work I wouldn't be doing it!

It's really easy to make, and you will have all the ingredients in your cupboards so no need to buy anything.

I use a recycled spray bottle.
Pour in about 1 cup water.
Add 1/4 cup white vinegar and 2 teaspoons olive oil and up to 20 drops of lemon or lavender or orange essential oil.
Put the lid on and shake, shake, shake to mix the vinegar, olive oil and essential oil.  Do this before you add any water and you'll have less chance of separation. Once you add water, give it another good shake and shake it up before you use it.

You can spray this directly onto timber furniture, or onto the polishing rag - whichever suits you best.

Buff it off with a clean, soft cloth and your furniture will gleam.

This is a great in-between polish, I give all the timber furniture a proper oil polish just once a year.  I followed this program and it works:

Step 1. Polish your wooden furniture every day for a week.
Step 2. Polish your wooden furniture every week for one month.
Step 3. Polish your wooden furniture every month for one year.
Step 4. Polish your wooden furniture once a year.

In-between I use the dusting spray once a month. Our furniture isn't flash or fancy. It is what we like - solid and comfortable and well a lot of it is old. But it looks nice (well we like it!), because we take care of it.

This system will revitalise wooden furniture, and rejuvenate and protect it. Yes, it takes a while to get through but it will be worth the effort. Your furniture will always look great and stay in good condition and really - once a year isn't that hard to do is it?

24 May 2021

Gathering the Fragments 23 May 2021

What we did to save money, time and energy last week, and to use up what we have:

Went to card day and came home having learned a new card layout, and with a big tub of margarine (thank you Maureen and Joy).

Cooked corned beef from the freezer and used the leftovers to make Corned Beef Pie. It was a small piece, so not enough left for another meal of corned beef, putting it into a pie stretched it to another dinner and two lunch serves.

Cooked fish cakes to use up the soft potatoes in the pantry. One large tin of tuna, a large onion, a good pinch of herbs and an egg combined with six mashed potatoes made 15 large fish cakes.  Total cost: $4.70 To buy the same would have cost $42.00 from a local deli!

Made a big pot of chicken soup using up veggies from the fridge, MOO chicken stock and a half a small chicken fillet. This was lunches for four days, with toast.

Made choc coated peanut butter fat bombs and brownies for afternoon teas.

A yarn order arrived so I've been restocking the basket in the kitchen and the shop with dish cloths.

Used an app to find the cheapest fuel in our area. I used to top up once the needle hit the half-way mark, these days I'm topping up when it drops under 3/4 tank. Now that may seem like I'm always at the servo, but I don't drive very far or a lot, so it can take a few weeks for me to use that quarter of a tank of petrol.

Made a batch of Lunchbox Cookies using margarine a friend gave me and MOO condensed milk. That brought the cost for the whole batch down to $3.05 for the batch. I baked half the dough and froze the other half for later.

Made vegetable soup using up carrots, zucchini, pumpkin, potatoes, onions, spring onion, celery and beans from the crisper and a jar of tomatoes. I didn't have any stock in the freezer so I added two good tablespoons of Vegeta stock powder. It was delicious, and even though the days were a little warmer this week, it was still cool enough for soup for lunch.

Hannah and I shared a take-away meal on Thursday night. The boys were having pizza, and we don't like pizza, so we always have something they don't like. This week I was tired and achy and frazzled so we ordered a pasta dish from a local pizza shop and she went and picked it up. The serves are enormous, we both ate our fill and there was enough left for her lunch on Friday. So $14.95 made three meals. $5 for a take-away meal isn't too bad and it was a treat (and really, really nice pumpkin gnocchi).

A friend shared the instructions to make pot protectors, so I've been crocheting a set for Hannah, and a set for me. I'm going to use them in my Pyrex bowls and to separate my good serving bowls so they don't scratch or stick (as glass and Pyrex does occasionally when it is stacked).

We still caught shower warm up water.

We still ran the dishwasher only when it was full.

Laundry was done when the washing machine was full.

Washing was dried inside by the fire.

We kept the fire lit and the ducted heating off.

On sunny days I made sure the blinds were wide open to warm up the house, and closed them around 4pm when it started to get cool.

All our meals except for Thursday were made from scratch, using our food storage. All our breakfasts (pancakes, oats, muesli, McMums), all our lunches (toasted sandwiches, soup, ruebens, eggs on toast) and 6 of our 7 dinners. I kept a thermos of boiling water next to the kettle for tea and used iced coffee syrup to make coffee in the afternoon.

Lastly, I had a brilliant idea on Thursday, of course all my ideas are brilliant! I suddenly realised it was almost the end of May and for whatever reason I started to panic that the present box was empty. Off I went and dragged it out of our wardrobe and tipped it out onto the floor. It wasn't empty! Little piles of things started to appear. You know, like with like. Dishcloths, tea towels, hand towels, soaps, pot holders, jar openers, pens and notebooks, socks, hankies and all sorts of things. The piles had me thinking I needed to streamline my gift book so I could see at a glance (a shorter glance than I had been using) what I had for who for which occasion.  So I'll fess up and say that was a tad more complicated than I thought, or rather, than it needed to be. But I'll soldier on. And in the meantime I'll keep adding to the present box, and Christmas, birthdays and the expected new babies will be well and truly covered for the next year at least.

19 May 2021

Gathering the Fragments Catch Up

It's been a while since I posted here. Not that nothing has happened, but life gets busy and I have other commitments that absorb all, or most all, of my time.

But that doesn't mean I stop Cheapskating. It's when life gets crazy hectic and frantic that I need to stay focused and on track. It is so easy to "just this once" order takeaway for dinner or zip through a drive-through or buy new jeans instead of mending the ones I already have, I'm sure you get the idea.

It's times of crisis that I tend to become even stricter with our spending.

So since I last posted we've had a few trips to Sydney for family. Sadly, Wayne's mother passed away in March. Thankfully we were able to get to see her just a few days before she went to sleep.

Wayne and I finally managed to get a few days away. The only cost for this trip was the petrol, and it's a part of budget. Food came from home, and we free camped in our camper. We did spend a little in Bright for coffees and I had some fun in the op shops in Bright and Myrtleford, but that money came from our mad money, not our household budget.

The summer garden is finished. The last of the capsicums and eggplant are about ready to harvest. Tomatoes didn't do too well this year, but the beans were amazing and so plentiful there were more than enough to dry for seed next spring. 

The orange tree is loaded with fruit and it is starting to turn orange. Marmalade on toast is one of my loves, I can't wait to make more (last year's batch is gone already).

Looking to the future I've been hunting for canning jars, lids and rings. When I see them in op shops or on market place I snap them up. A home preserver can never have too many jars, lids or rings! I found lids and rings at Spotlight, a brand I'm not familiar with so I only bought one box to try. That may have been a mistake, when I go back there may not be any left. It's a risk but better than being stuck with things I can't use.

Hannah has bought a house, so we've been hunting for furniture. We have had fun shopping for furniture and all the other things she will need. Her best find so far has been an almost new Dyson upright vacuum cleaner for $50, and two tallboys and two sets of bedside tables, brand new, for $100.

The preserves shelf is full of jams. I've made raspberry, blackberry, mixed berry and strawberry with either homegrown berries or frozen bought on sale. I've sold 7 jars, that money went into the slush fund. There were enough zucchini to make a double batch of zucchini pickle, so 11 x 500g jars are now on the shelf.

I've dehydrated celery and zucchini, and peas/corn/carrots mix and carrots.

I've been restocking the pantry as things are used, instead of waiting for my yearly shop. I feel the need to keep the pantry stocked, so as we use something it is replaced. If I find something we use on sale, I buy as many as I can. 2020 was a hard year; I believe that 2021 and the years onwards are going to be harder and I like to be prepared.

I found the cotton yarn I use for the dishcloths online. Even buying from overseas, and the exchange rate and paying for delivery, it was $106AUD cheaper than buying it here, without delivery. Sadly, in this instance the cheaper option won.

A local discount store had lots of lovely colours of 4ply crochet cotton for $2, so I used some of the leftover craft budget from last year and stocked up. This is the cotton I use on tea towels, face washers, hand towels to trim them and $2 is a bargain - about a 75% saving over buying it from a wool shop.

Op shopping has been fruitful too. A Corningware baking dish for $3. A bunch of original Moccona jars and doyleys for $11. Large Tupperware lettuce container for $2. A crochet table topper for $3.

For the house I used cushion covers I had in the cupboard to make new seat covers for the kitchen chairs. There was some fabric leftover so I made a couple of new pot holders. Waste not, want not. I bought the cushion covers for $4 a while back, so I think that's a pretty budget friendly reupholstering project.

I've been making bread rolls for lunches. Cheaper than buying them and making them fresh each day keeps everyone happy. This is an old recipe, and uses mashed potato, but the rolls are so light and fluffy and delicious - no complaints about heavy bread with this recipe.

Made a loaf of raisin bread. Wayne likes raisin bread for a snack but a loaf is rather expensive from the bakery. I add extra spices and use mixed dried fruit and a diced apple (when we have apples - they're too expensive at the moment).

Zested and juiced 3kg limes from a neighbour. We like lime juice and zest in the rice for burritos and I use it to make lime butter (same as lemon butter to my taste, just a little paler in colour).

Found some card bases I use for the nursing home cards so we cleared the shelf. They have been out of stock for months and I was down to the last packet, so I'm very happy we could get more. Two packets for a friend and six for the nursing home.

We still catch the shower warm up water.

We still wait till the dishwasher is full before running it.

We still wait till there is a full load of laundry.

We still line dry or use the clotheshorses.

We still prefer to use the slow combustion fire for heating rather than run the ducted heating. Why not use the heat source that is paid for rather than have to pay again?

We still cook from scratch for most meals.

I have been craving roast lamb. Lamb legs are so expensive, way out of our budget, but I splurged for Mother's Day and bought one. It was hard - $44! At least we'll get a few meals from it. We'll get two roast dinners from it, either a shepherd's pie or sweet lamb curry (or both) and soup.

Our local Coles has a clearance section in the dairy cabinet and we always check it. We picked up three chubs of salami and 11 packets of bacon for $1 each - and all have plenty of time before they're out of date. The boys will use the salami on their pizzas, and most of the bacon has gone into the freezer for Muffin Surprise or quiche or pies.

I have started more lavender strikes. Some will be for the garden, some will be to sell in the spring. Lavender plants are around $8 each from the nursery so I'm keeping a lot of money in the garden budget and potentially making some too.

We still wait for cheap petrol day to fill up. Right now I'm keeping all the cars full, not letting them get under 3/4 full unless petrol is ridiculously expensive - I noticed yesterday it has gone up again to $159.9/litre here - ouch! Using the app I was able to find ULP for $129.9, so I filled my car.

I gave in and coloured my hair! I know, it took years to grow out, but I think the last 15 months muddled my brain and I went nuts one day and coloured my hair. Mind you the colour was $1 on the throw out trolley at Coles, so it was a bargain (of sorts!).

I have been wanting more mesh sheets for the dehydrator, but the mesh has been out of stock or too expensive. Last week I finally gave in and looked it up - Spotlight had them and a 30% off sale so off I went. So glad I did - yes, they had the sheets I originally saw, but they also had other sheets, same size mesh but 2-1/2 times the size on clearance for 50 cents each. You can bet I cleared the shelf. When I went to pay for them the lovely lady told me that as they were on clearance they were half marked price so my 10 sheets of mesh cost $2.50. Now there is plenty for the dehydrators and for the craft drawers.

Wow, when I look at the list, it's quite a bit. How have you been gathering the fragments to save money, time and energy?