Saturday, June 30, 2007

Slice Making

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has always kept a range of slices cut up in the freezer, ready to pull out at a moments notice when guests arrive or for taking to "bring a plate" type functions.

Her lemon slice is a favourite amongst all her family members and she's quite well known for it amongst friends as well. It always seems to be the first to disappear on a plate of mixed slice. :-)

I've never been a slice maker myself. Not 100% sure why. I bake cakes and muffins and biscuits, but rarely slice. I think I've always considered them a little more on the complicated side (one of the reasons I *really* like baking muffins is that I don't have to ice them LOL). And often they have fruit and/or nuts in them which makes them that little bit more expensive and my children won't eat dried fruit (and aren't allowed to eat nuts until they're 7).

I was planning to make a couple of slice recipes up today. We need to take a plate of dessert for our family service at church tomorrow and I needed to find something I could make with ingredients in the cupboard. I knew I'd spotted a chocolate weetbix slice on a thread on the Simple Savings forum and thought I'd try that. We were also given some lemons last week and free lemons always makes me think of making Grandma's Lemon Slice.

For some reason the urge to bake hit me at about 5pm last night. That would have worked out okay except for the fact that I couldn't get the lid off my new food processor and had to wait until DH got home to pull it off for me. Not to be perturbed I went ahead and started my baking while DH finished tea off. Talk about a circus in the kitchen. Kids everywhere (some days I'm SURE we have more than 3 LOL) and benchtops covered in cut up salad (I'd already started preparing the hamburgers for tea before DH got home), an electric frypan, food processor and numerous baking ingredients. I got the lemon slice made and in the fridge before tea, then made the chocolate slice between main course and dessert (while the kids were still eating). That cooked while we had dessert and then after tea I iced both slices. Absolute madness!!!! My excuse was that I could reuse most of the dishes for both slices and cut down on the number of dishes piling up with the tea dishes. In reality, when I get an idea in my head - I find it hard to change course. Full bore ahead! LOL.

I have just sampled both slices and they are waaaayyyyy too more-ish. Maybe that's the reason I don't regularly make slices? :-) Here are the recipes if you want to try this at home:


1/2 tin condensed milk
4 oz margarine or butter
1/2 pound crushed biscuits
1 cup coconut
rind of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon (use the other half in the icing)

Melt condensed milk and butter together. Crush biscuits and mix with coconut and lemon rind. Mix together all ingredients including juice of 1/2 lemon. Spread in a slice tray and refrigerate until set.

Make up lemon icing using juice of other half lemon and ice when set. Sprinkle top with extra coconut.

If you'd like to make this recipe even cheaper or you find you don't have any condensed milk on hand - you can make your own! Here is the recipe (thanks to Hillbilly Housewife):


1 cup dry milk powder
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
3 Tbsp margarine

Milk until smooth. Makes the equivalent of 1 can of condensed milk. Remember the above recipe only uses half - I just halved the ingredients as I made this so I had the right quantity for my lemon slice. Alternatively you can make a double batch of the lemon slice but I didn't have 2 packets of biscuits to do that with.

3 crushed weetbix
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup SR flour
1 cup coconut
4 tsp cocoa
4 oz butter

Melt butter and add to other ingredients. Press into tin. Cook in moderate overn for 15 minutes. Ice while warm with chocolate icing.

This is GREAT if you get a craving for chocolate and don't have any on hand. Mind you, as I was typing the recipe I realised that I read the cocoa as Tbsp not tsp so mine is probably a little more chocolatey than the actual recipe. LOL. Lucky you can never have too much chocolate eh?

And don't do what I did and try to ice it straight out of the oven. It's very soft when it first comes out of the oven. Let it cool a little like you would biscuits before trying to ice the top.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Shopaholics Anonymous

I've decided that shopping is a habit. I will confess, I looooovvvveee shopping. Actually, I used to love shopping. When we moved from Melbourne to a regional town in South Australia I felt a bit lost. I'd spent many of my recreational hours as a teenager just wandering large shopping complexes, drinking in the atmosphere and ocassionally snagging a bargain. It was a great way to unwind. To find myself in a town of 10,000 or so people after the many many choices of shopping complexes was a bit bewildering at first. As things turned out it was a preparatory step to finishing up on a farm where there are NO shops for miles around. LOL.

What's a farm-bound shopaholic to do? For a while I would find myself salivating whenever we went to Adelaide - shops! Hundreds of shops!!! Let me at them! LOL. The great thing then was that because I didn't get to shop as often, I NEEDED to buy things. I got very proficient at spending large amounts of money in short spaces of time (after all what choice did I have?). Gone were the days of spending a mere $5 during a whole days shopping excursion. Instead, it became the norm for my dockets to be well in excess of $100. I gradually became somewhat desensitised to large totals at the checkout.

Over time though I noticed something changing. Instead of feeling energised and excited upon entering large shopping complexes, I started to feel overwhelmed and slightly panicked. I was no longer desensitised to all the stimulation these centres provide and my system just couldn't cope. Add to that dragging around a toddler and a baby (and a reluctant husband) and shopping started to lose its attractive shine. Have you noticed how stores like Target are NOT made for people pushing prams? They have stuff everywhere - especially during Toy Sales (okay, overwhelmed or not, I still can't resist a good toy sale).

I discovered that the less I shopped, the less I felt like shopping. And of course, with a house overflowing with stuff (a result of too many "buy as much as you can" shopping trips), really the need for shopping was gradually diminishing.

That's a good thing right? Less shopping, less money spent, less stuff. Everyone is happy. Mmmm. That worked for a while until some very sneaky little temptations snuck into my life..... Catalogue shopping, party plan shopping (combining my love of socialising with my love of shopping) and INTERNET shopping.

I've discovered the same thing with these types of shopping. The less time you spend shopping (and/or browsing), the less tempting these things are. But once you start.... oh oh.

I think that's what has happened to me this month. Sure, I've done well with the grocery spending. Not so well on the rest of my spending though. The shopaholic bug hit me square in the hip pocket. Sure, I can justify my purchases.... but it's still money that's gone from my bank account to someone else's.

It all started with a Tupperware party that my MIL had. I didn't go but have been wanting a few extra bits for my pantry. Then I discovered they had a set on sale for 20% off. Seemed like a reasonable purchase. Tupperware doesn't come on sale all that often and who knows how much longer I'll have before my choice of lid colour gets taken out of the range. And it does keep food fresh for so much longer so potentially less wastage of food happening. So, $130 later.... more Tupperware.

What was next? Well, my counsellor has been encouraging me to find some kind of hobby. Something I enjoy doing. Not something that's easy to find time for with 3 young children. But kind of important to my recovery. I'd been eye-ing off a few things in the Fox Collection catalogue so decided to bite the bullet and go ahead and order a few things. While I'm ordering and paying the freight, might as well get a few extra things and make it worthwhile. So, $120 later.....

Then I was invited to a Stampin Up party. A fundraiser for our local hospital. Pretty worthy cause I thought. I haven't been doing much socialising lately and the person putting on the party was a friend.... Went along, had a good time. Could definitely see this as part of my recovery. many nice things I could buy to add to my hobby. Plus I want to start scrapbooking and could really see a use for these things with doing that. So, another $130 later.....

Simple Savings is a great place for me to learn new ways of saving money. I love reading the forums and joining in there. One of the posts mentioned a really good deal on a food processor from dstore. And only $1 freight as well. I've been putting off replacing my food processor that died. We've been grating our cheese by hand and I had made enough breadcrumbs in the old one that we're only just now running out. With the extra cooking I've been doing from scratch I could really use an appliance like that and it was such a good deal.... another $65.95 later....

On the topic of the forums, I read another post about some websites that are a bit like clearance places where you can get some really good deals. The deal of that particular day was basically a mystery box for $20. Sounded like a bit of fun. They send you 6 items and you have no idea what they'll be but they guarantee the retail value will be around $100. What the heck, I was having a spending month so another $20 wasn't going to be very noticable. Surely there'd be something in there I could use for a gift or donate when we're asked for something for a raffle basket. Kind of an adult lucky dip I thought. Heck, just the fun and suspense of it all was sure to be worth the $20. Add on a bit of postage.... nearly $30 later.... Hmmm, wasn't simple savings supposed to be helping me save the moment it's sure helping me spend it. LOL.

Off to the dentist and can't get within 20 minutes of shops without going shopping can I? Into Kmart.... some new jeans for DS (well that really was a necessary purchase), a few more things for my new scrapbooking venture, need some wool to try out the knifty knitter I bought from fox collection, who knows what else I bought. Another $130 later....

By this time my knifty knitter has arrived and I've tried it out and quite liked it. During 2 TV shows I've made myself a new scarf for the grand total of $2.50. Wow....this is very exciting and could be a great hobby that will actually *save* us money (over time of course). BUT....need some more wool. It's not too easy to find around here. Simple Savings to the rescue - several sites recommended that I could buy wool online from. Another $100 later...... It's going to take some real knifty knitting to recoup that spending.... :-)

LOL. I guess you get the picture. I'm not really saying I regret any of my purchases (I just justified them all didn't I?). But what I did notice as the month wore on, the more money I spent, the easier it became to spend and justify purchases. I've just added those amounts up and we're talking just over $700 of non-necessity based purchases in the space of a month!!! I have actually omitted from mentioning a few "necessary" purchases that were also made. So much for having a low spending year! I guess my next challenge will be to put some of these things to use so that we at least get some value for money from my spending spree.

And I'll have to work my way back to getting more used to NOT spending money so that spending seems more foreign again. That way it becomes harder to SPEND money rather than harder NOT to spend money.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Stretching the Beef

I tried something today that I've not tried before (at least I don't think I have - not sure how reliable my memory is at the moment). On Tuesday I cooked Roast Beef in the Slow Cooker. It's one of our more "decadent" meals - costing a little more than some of our other meals. That's not the bit that I haven't tried before. :-) Read on....

I left the juices in the slow cooker overnight to set and yesterday scraped off the fat from the top, added a kettle full of water, turned the slow cooker back on and .... ended up with beef stock. Don't laugh. It might sound obvious to some of you but it's something new for me (you'll have to humour me here). I added some soup mix last night and cooked that for a while. Then this morning I added some chopped carrot, celery, onion, potato and sweet potato (basically put in what I had on hand). I did add a single serve sachet of hearty beef soup that was in the cupboard (what I bought it for I have no idea so using it up seemed like a good idea) and a spoonful of minced garlic for extra flavour.

Then today when I was chopping up the leftover meat to make into a shepherd's pie, I threw in a few bits of the meat as well. Mmmmm.... I've just had some and it's very nice (even if I do say so myself lol).

I'm feeling pretty happy about the outcome of this experiment (which is an improvement on the outcome of some of my other experiments of late). Out of one piece of roast beef I usually try to get 2 meals (3 if it's a bigger piece). With the soup, I now have 3 meals plus some lunches. Plus 2 feeds of scraps for the cat.

Finding ways to stretch meat that little bit further and make use of as much as possible (minimising waste) is one of the most effective ways I've found to cut our food budget down.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Final Grocery shop for June

Well I spent $18.77 on groceries today. Wasn't in need of much after a stock up last week (plus some free pumpkin we were kindly given on Sunday). That brings my total spend for the month of June to $399.46. How's that for just scraping in under $400! :-) My average spend so far this year is now $99.93 per week.

What will July bring? Dunno yet. Only 4 Wednesdays again in July so if I want to continue my challenge I need to keep spending under $400 again. School Holidays may be a challenge as the kids often eat more during the holidays than they do at school. I don't mind a challenge though so we'll see how we go.

Little Miss Forgetful

I was about to write a blog post and got sidetracked with some emails and responding to some comments from yesterdays posts and now I can't remember what I was going to post about. LOL. Not sure if that's a sign of old age. I know they say you lose some of your memory having children (plus the complications they bring to life and the number of things you have to remember). I've also found the depression has affected my memory (and brain capacity in general) - although things are slowly improving as I recover. I've always had a good memory and relied on it so it's thrown me a bit the fact that I now forget things so easily.

On the topic of forgetting things - yesterday my children had school photo's. I diligently wrote it on the calendar and ordered new school jumpers for them to wear for the photo's (ours fade very quickly and look terrible). Then promptly forgot all about it. DD was home sick yesterday so she completely missed out. Fortunately DS happened to be wearing his better school uniform so that's something. Oh well, what's done is done.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On the Subject of Giving

Ooh...2 posts from me today. :-)

My beautiful 6 year old daughter has just written a song that I wanted to share.


I Love You
I Love You
Oh I do
I Love You Mum
I Love You Dad

I Love You
I Love You
Oh I do
I Love You Mum
I Love You Dad

I Love You
I Love You
Oh I do

Isn't that beautiful? And she just sang it to me. Kids are so willing when it comes to giving and receiving aren't they. :-)

I Love Surprises!!!

Last night my counsellor arrived bearing gifts. That took me by surprise. A lovely gift basket with some nice pampering type things in it. Some kind person had donated some money to her organisation for people on the land doing it tough at the moment. It was a lovely gift basket full of the kinds of things you perhaps wouldn't buy when money is tight (shower gel, hand cream and all kinds of things). It felt like my birthday had come a week early. :-) A complete stranger (well I'm making the assumption it's a stranger) gave something of theirs (money) without any consideration of thanks or praise (anonymously) to someone they know nothing about (other than that they're on the farm and farming hasn't been real great these past few years). It's kind of mind blowing really. At least to me it is.

It got me thinking about giving and receiving. I'm not very good at receiving at times. Often I feel undeserving for one reason or another. I wouldn't want anyone else to miss out on my account. And yet in order to give people the blessing that comes from giving, someone has to receive. I've decided I need to work on being able to receive graciously.

Then comes the giving side of a coin. How amazing is it when we receive something that we don't deserve - or something completely unexpected. It brings with it a really special feeling of warmth and caring. So this week I'm going to consider what I can do to give to someone else "just because". Not necessarily anything big or expensive but something to let them know I'm thinking of them and want to bring a smile to their face. Will have to think some more on this one as to who and what.

Wouldn't the world be a wonderful place if we all took the attitude of giving to one another out of love rather than out of obligation? And if we were more willing to accept things graciously (without the - what's in this for them type suspicion we sometimes have).

I would love to begin each day with the thought - what can I do today to bring a smile to someone's face?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Kids in the Kitchen

My 9 year old DS has been asking for chocolate crackles for a few weeks now. This past week I finally bought some copha and suggested to him that he could make them. He was stoked at that idea (quite enjoys being handy in the kitchen - must train him up a bit more, might make my life a little easier :-)).

Of course the younger 2 wanted to get in on the action too. Ordinarily I let them help me when I cook but since this was DS's project, they had to be content with just watching.

DD has a Barbie cooking book and was asking to make something from that. We found a really simple but effective idea that all the kids could get involved in (I wasn't keen to start any project that involved too much effort - Sunday afternoon's are usually a quiet time in this household).


Cut apple into 8 sections. Remove the core from each section. Cut triangle shapes from any block cheese (we used matured cheddar as that's what was in the fridge). Then you use a toothpick to attach the cheese "sail" to your apple "boat".

They looked quite effective, the kids had fun putting the pieces together (and counting that they had 8 of each item). At the end they had a nice healthy snack to munch on.

I'll have to remember that for during the school holidays when they just need a bit of a distraction. :-)

And I still had enough energy (just) to make some sausage rolls for tea. I've been meaning to make them for a while now and it kept getting put off. I think resting yesterday has probably paid off in the energy stakes. I can smell them now - must be about ready to come out of the oven. Mmmmmm....gotta love homemade sausage rolls.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I'm so excited....

I did it! I did it! I did it! Okay, I should probably not get *too* excited just yet as I do have 1 more shopping day left before the end of the month.

Yesterday I spent a grand total of $133.85 which leaves me $19.31 to spend next week. I should only need apples and a couple of loaves of bread so we'll see what happens. AND I bought everything on my list except for glad wrap (not sure how I missed that one but it wasn't urgent - just replacing my spare one). I also managed to get a few extras that weren't on my list.

I was really pleased with the amount of fruit and veg I was able to buy. Sometimes I do well at the fruit and veg place down there and sometimes the specials are not so good. I spent $23.75 and got 5kg carrots, 5kg potatoes, 2 kg apples, a whole butternut pumpkin, 2 sweet potatoes and just over 1kg bananas. That's pretty good going for what we usually pay.

I think I have enough powdered milk now to last me until the end of the year. I usually only use it in cooking. Last month I bought 4 packets because Coles had a Bi-Lo brand for $1 cheaper than the Coles brand and I figured they were just using up Bi-Lo stock and wouldn't always have it. This time when I went it was on a clearance sale and only $3.99 (Coles brand is $5.99) so I bought the last 4 packets on the shelf. We're going through it quicker now that I'm using it to make up Easiyo yoghurt so the savings will be very nice. I had to make some up in a jug this week as we ran out of milk the day I went to town (none left for my breakfast!). I've decided I don't really mind using it on my breakfast. I don't have a huge amount of milk anyway as I have hot water as well. Because I prefer a little lower fat milk, I made it up a little weaker than recommended so got an extra little saving there (more litres per packet). I may even continue to use powdered milk for myself. We'll see.

On the topic of milk, I noticed that Coles UHT milk has increased in price. Their fresh milk worked out cheaper per litre than the UHT milk. This is the first time I've seen this so I bought 6 Litres of fresh milk as well as a carton of UHT milk. Only thing is, I'm hoping having fresh for a week doesn't put the kids off the UHT milk. Time will tell I guess.

Within that total I was able to get 18 rolls of toilet paper. We usually use Kleenex Cottonelle (we're fussy about our toilet paper) but about 12 months ago I found an Autralian brand recycled paper that we didn't mind and was quite cheaply priced. Haven't seen it since though. I found a packet in Kmart that's not the same (but is recycled and Australian) and figured it was worth giving a go - and it was on sale for nearly half price ($4.00 for 18 rolls).

I was also pleased to be able to get a Carpet Cleaner I saw advertised on TV the other day which I wanted to try. DH said he needed some anti-dandruff shampoo this shop and I thought that might have made things a bit tight (his bottles of shampoo are usually around $8-$10). He's been using up various natural shampoos I've bought to try on my own hair but needs an anti-dandruff one every now and then. Fortunately he likes to switch around the brands he uses so this time I bought him a new brand to try (which was a little cheaper). If he doesn't like it - no problems, I'll buy the more expensive one next time. At least he's the type of person that's willing to give things a go. I also bought new toothbrushes for the kids (only needed 2 as I had 1 spare one in the cupboard) and toothpaste.

Probably the thing that *saved* my budget was a lack of meat on special. I did buy a roll of fritz but that was the only meat I bought. It wasn't urgent as I've been able to get some meat throughout this month and our local specials can often be as cheap as I can get meat elsewhere (other than chancing upon super specials).

I think DH has a sheep that he wants to get killed in the next month or so which will boost our meat supply somewhat. It's been over a year since I've had a sheep. We don't tend to eat it all that often (think it's on June's menu once) because it does seem to have a higher fat content than other meats. It costs me less than $30 (butchering fees) to get a sheep so that does help with the budget a little. I had someone ask me recently if my $100 a week spending includes meat. Well it comes pretty close. We do get the occasional sheep for a discounted price but then some people have access to regular fruit and vegetable bargains or eat regularly at their parents place (I know my SIL and her family go to her inlaws every Sunday for instance). So I figure the bonus we get with the sheep is not really much different.

One thing I'm finding with Coles is that I need to be very alert when I'm shopping. They now have 2 ranges of generic brands and it's not consistent which of the two are going to be the cheapest. I have to keep checking and comparing prices which is annoying and draining. I have learnt though to send DH off car shopping or whatever he feels like doing. When he comes shopping with me he likes to be *helpful* and then I can't concentrate on what I'm doing. He still gets to be helpful though - by packing it all in the car!!! :-) When I've done a big shop on my own I've really noticed the difference with having to pack it all away in the car myself. Now that we don't have the dual cab ute I have to be more careful with how things are packed in the back of the car (we now have a Pajero) to get them to fit. Some of my big shops have been one of those double trolleys full as well as a single trolley overflowing. So we're talking BIG shop. The joys of living in a rural area. :-) With my regular dental treatment and having to take DS to an orthodontist, we've been finding lately that we're in a regional centre more often so I haven't had to do a *massive* shop for a while.

Anyway, all in all I'm really happy with how the grocery spending is going. This month I have bought 4 litres ice cream, 2 packets of corn chips, 4 packets of Tim Tams (um ah, no wonder I'm not losing weight at the moment) and some donuts so we're not going without our treats either. :-)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Challenge to my Grocery Challenge

The arrival of the cold weather seems to have increased all the appetites around here. So my $100 a week (on average) Grocery Challenge is coming under some strain. With only 4 Wednesdays in June, I need to keep my spending under $400 in order to maintain my spending goal.

So far this month I have spent $246.84, leaving me $153.16 until the end of the month. Ordinarily that would be plenty but tomorrow I have the opportunity to shop at Coles which is cheaper than the local supermarket. It makes sense to take advantage of the lower prices as long term this will save us money. It's still hard to compromise my current goals to do so though. :-)

I'm still reasonably well stocked from last months pantry stock up shop so it is possible with my smallish list that I *might* come under this months goal. At the very least I guess it'll give me an incentive not to give in and buy too many impulse purchases. :-)

My original goal was to maintain this level of spending until the end of June. Basically because I can easily keep our grocery spending down for a month or two due to the stockpile of food we keep on hand. But I didn't think that would give me a true picture of what we truly consumed in dollar value per week. I was figuring an average over 6 months would give me a better chance of a true spending figure.

I haven't decided yet whether to continue my challenge past the end of June. Rising dairy and fruit and vegetable prices are increasing the challenge of the challenge. Plus of course the rising appetites mentioned at the beginning of this post. That's okay though. I always said that I would only continue the challenge all the time that I found it fun. If it came to the point where it was too much of a struggle and just not fun any more, well I'd know it was time to stop. :-)

I will see how my shop goes tomorrow and how things travel in the first few weeks of July and then make a decision.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Here Comes the Aeroplane

I can remember my grandmother playing that game with my brothers when they were still in the highchair. Trying to entice them to eat their dinner so that they were allowed to have dessert. :-) She's a sweetie my grandma.

I'm not sure I resorted to it much when my children were younger. I was of the "if they're really hungry they'll eat" brigade. Tough mum hey? I guess grandmothers get the chance to do a bit more spoiling than mothers do anyway. I remember my MIL feeding my 7 year old one day. My eyes nearly fell out of my head. LOL. Granny can get away with it though.

Anyway, I was reminded of this little eating game, watching my 3 year old at tea tonight. He's concocted his own little version. The fork is a front end loader and various vegetables become things to be lifted (like hay, sheep etc). He's so good at making realistic sounds too. So cute to watch. :-) One of those moments you'd dearly love to capture on video and preserve for all time but you know if you leave the room to get the camera you'll miss the moment for all time.

One of those moments that reminds me why I love being a mum. :-)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cooking in Bulk

The thought of Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) is kind of terrifying to me. It just seems like hard work. But I don't mind the idea of doing mini cook-ups. It's nice to have some meals in the freezer that have been at least partially cooked and give me an easy meal when I'm busy or not feeling great. It saves on buying take away or prepackaged type meals as well.

Last week our local supermarket had roast beef on sale for $5.99 a kg. I'm always on the lookout for beef priced under $6 a kg so I grabbed 2 big ones. One of these I'll cook in the slow cooker as a roast. The other I've diced up and cooked in the slow cooker with some of the cream of mushroom soup I made. Boy did the house smell good yesterday while it was cooking! Usually when I do something like this I have in mind to have some for tea the same night and then freeze the rest when it's cooled. I knew it wouldn't be ready in time for tea last night though so we had to put up with the smell without even getting to eat some of it. LOL.

This morning I divided it up into meal size portions. One of the benefits of cooking up a bulk lot of meat is the way I tend to get a "free" meal of meat from it. I usually work on around 500g of meat (without a bone) feeding us for a meal. I cooked up 2kg of beef and made enough for 5 meals instead of 4. I'm not inclined to put aside 100g per meal of meat but when I cook it up in bulk like that it just seems to stretch to the extra meal. This works out to around $2.50 (including the cost of the mushroom soup ingredients) per meal for our meat portion. Bargain!

Sometimes I add some beans to the meat to stretch it even further. I decided against that this time as I've been adding them to so many things lately and it's nice to have a change every once and a while. They are cheap and very healthy though. And go quite nicely with the steak and gravy.

I tend to use this precooked meat in either a shepherd's pie (with mashed potato on top) or in a pie plate with a single sheet of puff pastry on top. I think I'll also make some individual pies as well. I'm sure they'll go down well as a warm weekend treat.

I remembered something about cornflour as I was making this too. It doesn't like being cooked twice. Next time I make cream of mushroom soup I think I'll cook and freeze the mushrooms and just make up the cream of anything soup either at the time or as a dry mix in advance. It didn't really turn out to be a problem as I usually need to add cornflour when I'm using the tinned variety anyway. It just didn't stay thick once it had been cooking for a while. Not cooking the actual cream of anything soup in advance will actually turn out to be less effort for me anyway.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Reduce the Trash and Keep the Cash - Update

Well I've been doing more observing the trash than reducing it in the last 2 weeks. I've come to one simple conclusion - we have a LOT of rubbish!!! Okay, I already knew that but it's worse when you're actually paying attention to how fast the bin fills up.

Here's a few of my ideas on ways we can reduce our trash:

1. Buy a cow. Milk cartons appear to be a very large part of our rubbish!!!

2. Get rid of the business - the amount of mail we get is ridiculous. According to our local post office, farmers get more mail than any of the business houses in town.

3. Pull the kids out of school - have you seen the amount of STUFF the kids bring home from school these days????? Aaaarhhhhh!!!!

4. Better yet - sell the kids!!! That would save on huge amounts of trash and cash. LOL.

5. Stop eating - food packaging makes up a HUGE portion of our rubbish. That would yield quite well in terms of saving cash as well. :-)

Okay, I'm not really serious about these ideas (especially the selling the kids one - I do adore my children and would be lost without them). So I guess if I can't solve our rubbish problem in those ways, I'll have to come up with some more realistic plans.

1. Cooking from scratch helps. The cream of mushroom soup I made is saving 10 cans from the rubbish as they've been frozen in reusable containers. 1 tick for me. :-) Making bread at home helps as I can store it in reusable containers and cut back on plastic bread bags. Same with home made baking (although we do use glad wrap to wrap portions for the kids lunch boxes).

2. Keep an eye out for packaging (like cereal boxes) that I can use parts of in my crafting.

3. Grow more in our garden. Babysteps, babysteps but I will get there. I'm also trying to learn how to use more of fruits and vegetables. I've been cutting up celery and broccoli stalks and freezing for when I make soup. Today I've started collecting pumpkin seeds and when I have enough I'll attempt to roast them and retrieve the pepita from the middle (we'll see - that'll be somewhat experimental). I'm really hoping we can grow lots and lots of tomatoes come summer time as tinned tomatoes is another product I seem to go through quite a lot of.

4. Buy a shredder. Shredded paper composts down fairly quickly. I was also reading the other day that you can shred your own quilling paper - another crafty use for our rubbish.

5. Work out ways to cut down on packaging with personal care products. We seem to be fairly well with cleaning products. Using old face washers and hand towels for cleaning cloths and using concentrated products, vinegar and sometimes water. I have been using vinegar for conditioner so that has cut down on some packaging. Recently I bought some nice handmade soaps from and they're replacing my liquid body wash (last longer than a bottle with only a tiny bit of plastic wrapping). At the moment I'm experimenting with washing my hair with them too so we'll see how that goes - would cut down on shampoo packaging.

6. I have discovered (thanks to a hint from forum) a website that sells green tea leaves for about half the price it costs me to buy them made up as teabags from the supermarket. We have very limited range of shops nearby so online sources can be quite handy. I have just bought myself a new box though so it'll take a while before I need more but when I do I'm going to try the straight leaves (using a pot I already have). That'll cut down on quite a bit of packaging there too (and works out about half the cost!). If anyone is interested the website is They do require a $50 minimum order though. If anyone knows of any other online sources for these kinds of things bought in bulk (with less packaging) please let me know.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Confessions of a Stationery and Craft Supplies Addict

Just in case you get the impression that I'm always frugal - I'm not! :-) Today I went to my very first Stampin' Up party. I was like a kid in a lolly shop. LOL. You see, I'm a Stationery and Craft supplies addict. I'd like to say it's a great hobby to have. The problem is that most of the time I buy the stuff and don't get around to USING it!!!! Of course, today I decided that all that is going to change so of course it was a good investment to spend $130. In actual fact there was around $500 of stuff I would have *liked* to buy so I could even say I was frugal and SAVED $370!!! LOLOL.

I have discovered a new use for my children too. If I overbuy on craft supplies and don't use them - I can always let the kids loose on them and feel like I still got my money's worth. :-)

Now I'm sitting here at the computer sorting through about 20 back issues of a craft magazine I subscribed to about a year ago. The magazines come apart and need to be sorted into the folder they send you so that you have all the categories nicely collated together in sections. Every 4 weeks 2 new magazines arrive and get shoved into the cupboard, still in their plastic packet. A couple of months ago a new folder arrived!!! I couldn't work that out - I hadn't filled the first folder yet. Well I didn't realise quite how many unopened packets of the magazine I had sitting in the cupboard. LOL. To make the deal even sweeter, you get sent FREE stuff if you subscribe. Plus of course the *free* craft supplies included with each issue. :-) And all for a grand total of $13.90 a month (well 4 weeks actually but close enough). Which I actually think isn't too bad really. I now have $166.80 worth of unopened magazines sitting in my cupboard. BARGAIN!!! LOL.

In my defense, I haven't been all that well. So I am hoping that I will get around to making use of my investment before too much longer. At least today I got inspired to at least open the packets and start sorting out what I do have. So there you have it - my secret is out. I'm a Stationery and Craft Supplies Addict!!!

I will just add that I don't really think that being frugal means spending as little money as possible. In fact, it's what I love so much about the whole idea of frugality - it's about not wasting money so that you have some left over for the fun stuff. And if I actually get around to making some cards and gifts - think of all the money I'll *save*!!!! LOL.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In the Garden

These past couple of months we have been making our first attempt at vegie gardening. Actually it's technically not our first attempt. We did try to grow some tomatoes and herbs at our last place with very limited success. This is however, our first attempt here and our first attempt at "serious" vegie gardening.

It took him a little while but in April DH finally built and filled in a small vegie patch area for me. He's built a frame for the second area but our soil here isn't real good and so we plan to buy in some compost to fill the second plot. We do have our own compost heap but I think it might take me a decade to make enough compost. LOL. With chooks the compost is only growing very slowly - especially at this time of year when growth of lawn and weeds has slowed down considerably. I have started to fill in the bottom of the plot though. Started with some cardboard boxes (recycling) and have shifted a pile of grass clippings and some partly decomposed hay that I found around the place (outside of our house yard). When it's done I actually want to try square foot gardening in that plot (rather than planting in rows).

I would love one day to be able to grow most of our own fruit and veg. That has to be a long term goal as we only have one struggling to survive orange tree at the moment. Babysteps, babysteps. No point in buying any more fruit trees until DH has the chance to dig up some of our clay and add gypsum or whatever he plans to do to give the soil better drainage. I also like the idea of using the chooks to help compost and fertilise sections of the garden. That will require some more building by DH though so I guess it'll be a while before we get that happening.

So far I have discovered that I can grow lettuce!!! Well, it's a start but we can't exist on lettuce alone. LOL. We've been using on the lettuce for about a month now and it's been lots of fun to actually eat something from the garden. I changed the menu plan tonight to have Tacos while we can still eat the lettuce from the garden. It was quite funny to have DH pop out in the middle of dinner to pick a bit more lettuce as we'd eaten all he picked before tea. Mmmm...freshly picked organic lettuce. Don't think we can get much healthier than that. It's so great the way you pick some leaves of lettuce and the plant just grows more. I've heard you can only do that a certain number of times before the leaves start to get bitter but so far so good. As soon as the frosts set in though I think that will be the end of the lettuces until the end of frost season. My lettuce seeds cost me a whole $1.10 to buy and so far we've saved ourselves buying at least 3 heads of lettuce at $3.50 each. So at least we're well ahead there.

Unfortunately lettuce is the only thing we've managed to successfully grow so far. There's no problem with getting the seeds to pop out of the ground. In fact, I've had a lot of satisfaction seeing those tiny seedlings emerge from the soil. I never imagined that gardening could provide such a buzz!!! But we are fighting a losing battle with BUGS - they keep eating my seedlings! :-( I have found some organic methods for deterring bugs (and shhh - did use a bit of poison stuff we had on hand - so much for my organic gardening) but with all the drizzly weather it's hard to keep up. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to keep fighting or give up for now. I know my grandmother (who was an avid gardener) used to say she couldn't be bothered with winter vegies because of the amount of bugs around.

Our peas started off well and they haven't been consumed by creepy crawly things. But they have developed some kind of disease that's affecting them from the ground up and so they are growing very slowly. Some of them are flowering so *maybe* we'll get a few peas yet. Whether we'll get enough to make it worth our while remains to be seen.

Well, I'm not giving up yet. We're new to this and we're still learning. Gotta expect a few hiccups along the way. I must admit it's been a lot more fun (despite our setbacks) than I ever thought it would be. :-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One of Those Days

Ever had one of those days where you know you have heaps that needs doing but you spin in circles not knowing where to start? The kind of day where you wish you could just crawl back into bed and the shine of being a stay at home mum and repeating the same tasks over and over has well and truly worn off. I think I'm having one of those days.

I think I'm just a bit weary from the long weekend. Having the kids home 3 days straight (4 days if you count DD being home sick today), visiting extended family (which included travelling 150km each way) and then having other extended family visit us on the Monday. It was all wonderful but quite tiring. And for anyone who doesn't know I'm recovering from a nervous breakdown I had just over 12 months ago so being around people wears me out even more so than normal. I have one of those personalities that loses energy around people rather than gaining energy - apparently about 20% of the population is like that. So it's not overly common and yet a lot more common than I ever thought.

Even the thought of pottering today was more than my mind could cope with. Instead I've just been deciding on the 2 most important things that need doing (so started with putting tea on and a load of washing). Once that was done and I'd had a break I'd decide on the next 2 most important things that needed doing. Somehow that seems to have broken my day up into teeny tiny little babysteps and I've managed to get enough things done that I can finally breathe a little easier.

I really hate days like this where it feels like my rib cage is squeezing the life out of me and no matter how much I try to do - I'm never satisfied. I think it's my perfectionism coming to the fore. And it's always worse when I'm tired.

I decided I wanted to find a picture to go with this blog post to make it a little more interesting. When I searched "tired housewife" in google images one of the images it came up with was this one. Now instead of feeling grumpy about my day I'm feeling thankful that I have an electric washing machine - along with all the other mod cons that make life at home that little bit easier. :-) I know our lives are different now - not better or worse or easier or harder, just different. But I'm still glad I don't have to do the washing by hand!!! :-)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cooking Up A Storm

And I don't mean the kind that NSW has just suffered through!!! How awful!

I'm talking about my big day in the kitchen on Saturday. Once upon a time I used to do a bit of a baking session once a fortnight and try to make enough to last the fortnight (that's getting more of a challenge as the kids get older). But recently I've discovered the enjoyment of just doing one thing at a time and I've tended to extend that to my cooking. A big baking session often involved having several projects on the go at once and trying to co-ordinate all of that. Just making one thing (whether it be a cake or a batch of biscuits or whatever) seems so much more peaceful and pleasurable in comparison.

But for some reason Saturday I decided I was going to make a number of things. Back to my busy, multiple projects type session. Actually, it wasn't too bad. Mostly I just worked on 1 thing at a time (other than the bread rolls which take a lot longer).


My aim was to have this ready for lunch on Saturday but I slept in so things were a little crunchy still by lunchtime. LOL. Not to worry, it was mainly for lunches for this week. Had my first taste test today (we were out all day yesterday - Sunday) and mmmmm....yummo! I have never been a fan of homemade vegetable soup before. But using a tomato base for the "stock" seems to suit my tastes well. I never use a recipe so my soups never taste the same from one time to the next.

Here's a rough outline of how I made it:

* put jar of passata into crockpot then fill jar with water, shake and add that to crockpot. Add beans (already soaked - I use about half a packet) and a couple handfuls of soup mix. I add whatever I tend to have in the way of pulses to the soup whether it be dried or tinned, beans, peas or lentils (or a combination of). Chuck in some diced onion and crushed garlic (I think I used about 1/4 onion and a healthy teaspoon of crushed garlic). You can add whatever seasonings you like really. We're fairly basic eaters when it comes to seasonings. I usually let that cook for a little while to get the beans etc going. You wouldn't need to do that if you were using canned (which are a little more expensive) or if you've precooked the beans/peas.

* chop up whatever vegies you happen to have - this time I used carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes plus cut up the smaller stems of the celery and the stems of the broccoli (sometimes I'll chop and freeze celery and broccoli stems and throw in next time I'm making soup - it's a good way to use up the bits most of the family don't usually eat). I also added a couple of generous dollops of tomato paste and topped up with a bit more water. Then leave to simmer away for however long.

I love the way soup is so cheap to make, healthy to eat and hard to go wrong with. It's such a yummy and comforting food to eat on cold wintery days (just like today!).


You know, I didn't even know it was possible to make your own crumpets until a couple of weeks ago. DH and the kids love crumpets (I'm not such a fan but will eat them). I tend to buy them occasionally as a treat when they're on special. I find they work out a fairly expensive way to feed the family so we don't have them all that often. So when I saw this recipe for crumpets posted on the simple savings forum by Paula (the legend) I thought it was well worth the try. I couldn't believe how easy and cheap it was. They were a hit with the family (although I'm still experimenting to work out how to make them with holes like the bought ones). Even without holes, they still definitely taste like crumpets (in my opinion they're nicer than bought crumpets). The most time consuming part of the recipe is cooking them but DH is going to try and make me some rings (by cutting up a fruit tin) so that I can cook more at once which will make things progress quicker.

Here's the recipe:

Dissolve 1 Tbsp yeast into 3 cups warm water. Stir.

Combine: 4 cups plain flour, 2 Tbsp baking powder, 1.5 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp sugar in a bowl.

Add yeast mixture to dry ingredients and beat to a smooth batter.

Cook in greased egg rings in frypan (3/4 fill each one). Egg rings make them slightly smaller than regular round crumpets. I think the cut up tin will make a better size. If you're not worried about having them perfectly round you can just add dollops of mixture to frypan.

The original recipe I have suggests cooking slowly for 10 minutes, adding the lid of the frypan for the last 2 minutes (which just finishes them cooking on top). I found using setting 5 on my electric frypan gave me the best number of holes in the top. I'm still experimenting with this so I'll let you know how I go next time I give them a try.

This made enough for our family for 2 meals (about 24 crumpets in total) served with soup.

* Just a note - you still need to toast these, just as you would with bought crumpets.


Well I'm sure you don't really need a recipe for these. The kids did have a great time scooping them into the patty pans. For some reason my kids will eat a cupcake whereas they won't eat a slice of regular cake. So they make a great lunchbox filler (if any make it until tomorrow to go in the lunchboxes). I can't believe how cheap they are to make - between 5 and 10c each. There aren't too many things I can find (except popcorn) that work out quite this cheap as a lunchbox treat.


I use my breadmaker to make the kids bread rolls for school. They give them a nice break from sandwiches and work out quite a bit cheaper than 2 slices of bread. One lot of dough in the breadmaker gives me 12 rolls which works out to around 10c each (might be a little higher now that everything seems to have gone up). The cheapest loaf of bread I can buy here works out to around 30c per sandwich (just under).


My DS has decided that these are the best thing since sliced bread! They're pretty easy to make and don't work out all that expensive. I buy the pita bread when it's on sale for $1.99. I know in the city it's sometimes possible to pick up a pack for as little as 99c which would make this recipe even cheaper to make! The main thing I like about it is that it's a lot healthier for the kids to crunch on than chips. You just cut the pita bread up into pieces (whatever size and shape you like) then separate each slice in half and place on an oven tray with the cooked side down. Spray the whole tray with some cooking spray and then sprinkle on seasoning of choice (I use a chicken seasoning). Cook in the oven until crisp. One packet of pita bread makes quite a large container full.


Well I wore myself out completely on Saturday so project 6 had to wait until today. DH has been picking quite a few mushrooms from the paddock. Just recently I'd seen a recipe for "Cream of Anything Soup" (thanks to the same Paula who provided the crumpet recipe). With free mushrooms (and DH had already eaten some so I knew they were safe) I decided to try my hand at making cream of mushroom soup. I use the tinned variety when cooking steak in the crockpot as a kind of gravy and it comes out yummy, yummy. Again I couldn't believe how quick and easy this recipe turned out to be. I now have what I'd estimate to be 10 tins of cream of mushroom soup (which I will freeze when it has cooled) for the cost of around 2 cans (on special).

4 cups powdered milk
1.5 cups cornflour
0.5 cups chicken stock
4 tsp onion flakes
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp pepper

Mix together and store in an airtight jar. To make up soup use 1/3 cup of mixture in 1 mug hot water.

As I tend to do with recipes I just adapted the above idea to suit what I had on hand and what I wanted to do. I used 1/4 fresh onion chopped up since I bought some cheap recently (and it didn't matter as I didn't need the recipe to stay dry as is the intention with this recipe). Then I shook in some mixed herbs as that's what I happened to have in the cupboard. I added 12 cups water and chopped up some mushrooms and threw them in. Then cooked on the stovetop until it thickened. I'll freeze it in margarine containers ready to be thrown in the crockpot whenever I need it. With not having to pay anything for the mushrooms, I'm estimating that each "tin" of this soup has cost me around 25-30c to make.

Thus endeth my big cook up. After having DH's grandfather and 2 aunties visit this morning (which was lovely I might add) and being out all day yesterday, I'm a bit on the tired side. So this afternoon is "take it easy" time. :-)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Mum's Salon

I have another item to add to my list of "101 things I thought I'd never do". Cutting hair. I blame it all on DH really. He decided to buy himself a set of those hair clippers and then wanted ME to use them. I remember the first time I used them. I was literally shaking, wondering what kind of disaster I was going to make of his hair. LOL. Fortunately clippers are fairly foolproof. The biggest problem is making sure I don't pull the hair.

What a buzz it gave me to look at his hair and know that I had done that! LOL. I was quite proud of myself. Then came the time in between cuts where just a little trimming was required around the ears and at the back of the head. I was amazed at myself when Í didn't make a total hash of that either. :-)

So I figured if I could trim DH's hair okay, perhaps I'd try giving DD a trim. Worst case scenario I'd have to ship her off to the hairdresser to fix it up a bit. That didn't turn out too badly either.

Next I decided that if I gave DS a little trim in between his hairdresser visits, I could save a few dollars by stretching out the time between visits. He likes his hair as short as possible so other than some straggly bits around the ears and back, his hair didn't need cutting quite as often. When he got a little older, he decided he liked dad's idea of a very short cut (then I won't have to brush it mum). Fine with me - meant he didn't need to go the hairdresser at all.

The great thing about DS liking his hair but with the clippers meant I had a guinea pig to practise on. With his permission I did an experimental cut on his hair which ended up turning out quite well. So I went ahead and used the same style to cut the younger DS's hair.

Yesterday I gave my 9 year old DS the choice of me cutting his hair or going to the hairdresser. He decided he wanted me to do it. With school photo's coming up I didn't really want to clipper his hair (I prefer it a bit longer for school photo's). I usually prefer to take the kids to the hairdresser if we have some kind of event coming up (like Christmas, school photo's, a wedding etc) so I was a bit nervous about cutting his hair in case I made a mistake. Fortunately there's still a few weeks until photo's so I knew it would have time to grow between now and then (his hair grows pretty fast). I was still relieved when it turned out okay though.

My latest project is my own hair. I've read an idea where you can put your hair up in a ponytail on top of your head and give it a trim that way. You end up with a layered effect (my hair is already layered so that was fine with me). I gave it a bit of a try yesterday and it seems to have turned out okay. I wasn't game to trim too much off though so some lengths haven't been trimmed. If I get game I'll give it another go but we'll see.

So there you have it. From the odd clipper cut and trim to cutting the whole family's hair. Definitely something I thought I would never do!

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Simple Things

DH tells me that this morning when he packed the kids off to school they were most excited about their lunchboxes. It's funny isn't it how at times we can go to a lot of cost or effort in wanting to keep our children happy. Some days it feels like it doesn't matter what you do, you can't keep them happy. Well this morning my kids were happy. What were they so happy about? Popcorn in their lunchbox!!!! LOL.

Popcorn is one of those things that has a cycle in this house. I make it for a while then stop and forget all about it. It's not like it's all that hard to make. I have a popcorn maker that DH bought me for my birthday many years ago. It's not like it's all that expensive either. Quite the opposite in fact. I can feed all 3 kids a snack for around 20c. It's just something I don't always think about.

My 9 year old DS had complained a couple of weeks ago that the youngest was getting popcorn while they were at school and "how come we never get any". I think it might have something to do with the fact that the 3 year will ask for popcorn whereas with my 9 year old it can very much be out of sight, out of mind. My memory is about the same at the moment. So with the popcorn maker and popping corn tucked away in the cupboard - it doesn't always get thought about.

So finally yesterday, when the 3 year old asked for popcorn, I made a full batch with a sprinkle of icing sugar on it and then when it was cool I packed up half a dozen snap lock bags (which we do reuse in this house - further to my rubbish challenge) for the kids lunch boxes.

Their reaction this morning just goes to show me that often it really is the simple things in life that are the best! LOL.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Reduce the Trash and Keep the Cash!

Now there's a line that might sound a little familiar to some of you. That's cos I've pinched it from Cindy ( She sends out some really inspiration emails if you join her email group (it's free). This month she's issued a challenge for us to all take a fresh look at what we're disposing of and see if we can cut down on buying things just to use them once and throw them away.

For some time now I've been trying to cut down on the amount of waste we add to landfill. It's so much more obvious, when you don't have a weekly garbage service, just how quickly garbage accumulates. I have to admit, at times I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle with "stuff" and in particular with how much we throw away but I figure the real loss is only if I stop fighting and trying to improve in this area.

So for June I want to look at our garbage with fresh eyes and make an extra effort to cut back on how much simply goes to landfill. Not spending money unnecessarily is one benefit of not buying too many disposable items. Considering the environmental impact of all our waste (wasted resources as well as our landfill problems) is just as important if not more important than any dollars we save. Isn't it wonderful how many of these things go hand in hand? What's good for us and our pockets is often good for the world we live in as well.

I've recently taken one small step with my deodorant usage. Up until the end of May I've been using a Rexona spray can. I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a crystal stick that I've heard others talk about. It prevents body odour by inhibiting bacteria growth. So far I've found it wonderful. It's possible that come summer I may have to reassess what works and what doesn't as it doesn't stop you perspiring. But I figure even if I only use it for half the year it's got to be better than never at all. There are so many benefits on many levels from this change. For an outlay of $7 I have a product that's expected to last me at least a year. I have cut back on the nasty chemicals I'm placing on my skin (which tend to get absorbed into the body) and there is a LOT less packaging ending up in landfill as a result (1 small plastic container over the course of the year instead of numerous spray cans).

Another small change I made yesterday was to not use fruit and veg bags in the grocery store for things that really didn't need it (like the single large sweet potato I bought and the 2 fresh corn on the cobs). I do actually resuse these bags in my toilet bins but generally we only need 2 a week (1 for each toilet) and most weeks I accumulate more than 2. Just a small habit change really (I tend to reach for a bag out of habit more than anything) and not one that will save me any money. But a small step toward reducing our rubbish all the same.

Throughout the month I'll try and blog more about my progress in this area of "reduce the trash". If you feel like sharing what you're doing in the comments section that would be great - we all love to read new ideas and be inspired by what others are doing!

As a side note - Cindy now has the menu plan form up on her website for the month of June. It's very easy to print off and use if you're interested in menu planning - click on Treasures in the Kitchen and ít'll take you to a page which includes a link to the current month's menu plan. I've just printed off a copy and filled it in with my new pink pen (my DH bought me a set of coloured pens as one of my Mother's Day treats - he knows me well, I'm a big stationery fan. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE having lots of coloured pens to choose from - and they're soooo nice to write with as well).

Monday, June 4, 2007

Menu Plan for June

I've just finalised our menu plan for June and thought I would post it here. I like to use the monthly menu planning sheet from although she has yet to upload June's planner to her website.

To be honest I don't really like menu planning. In fact, I don't really like having to decide what to make for dinner. The good thing about menu planning is I can get the "pain" all over and done with in one hit. LOL. And most people who menu plan claim it saves them money on their grocery bill.

Now my menu plan is likely to change a few times within the month. It's not something I adhere to strictly and most months I end the month with a couple of meals that haven't been used for one reason or another.

Anyway, here it is. Most of the time I just plan the meat portion and we usually have 4-5 in season steamed vegetables with it.

1st Hamburgers
2nd Homemade Pumpkin soup with homemade Soy & Linseed bread
3rd Leftover pumpkin soup and homemade chicken & vegetable pies
4th Tuna Patties
5th Corned Beef
6th Leftover Corned Beef in white sauce
7th Fried Rice
8th Hot Dogs
9th Chops
10th Pancakes
11th Garfish
12th Spaghetti Bolognese
13th Mince & Lentil Loaf (going to try a variation on the lentil loaf I tried a while back)
14th Macaroni Cheese
15th Homemade Pizza
16th Sausages in Gravy
17th Quiche
18th Tuna Mornay
19th Lasagne
20th Leftover lasagne
21st Soup
22nd Southern Fried Chicken
23rd Sausage Rolls
24th Toasties
25th Red Snapper
26th Roast Beef
27th Diced Beef in gravy (using leftovers from roast)
28th Pasta Bake
29th Hamburgers
30th Turkey Patties

The best thing is that I have all of this on hand at the moment. The only thing I actually need to buy is a packet of hamburger rolls. Plus fresh vegies of course. Any meats that are on special in the next 4 weeks I'll buy to use for next months menu plan.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Okay, I admit it, I'm a toy-aholic. All those brightly coloured plastic creations that adorn the shelves of department stores and toy shops, dressed up in flash boxes that are 3 times the size they need to be in order to house the toy within. My DH thinks that he should buy me a toy store one day so I can legitimately drool over toys all day. LOL. I think secretly he likes the idea of me selling toys that will clutter up *other* people's homes. :-) Hand me a toy catalogue and I am in heaven! Hand me a toy SALE catalogue and watch out credit card!!! There's only one thing more exciting than buying a new toy and that's buying a new toy at a greatly reduced price!

My oldest child is 9 and I'm already thinking about the fun I'm going to get to have when we have grandkids. LOL. I know, that's probably a bit too much forward planning.

I will admit that I am improving over time. Our house reached toy saturation point about 2 or 3 years ago and I had to come to the sad realisation that any new toy that came in meant an old favourite really needed to leave. What a choice to be faced with!!!

So, where am I heading with all this? This afternoon my 6 year old DD has been very busily playing at the dining room table. She drew herself a picture of a camera and cut it out then proceeded to take photo's of all kinds of things around the room. After each photo - she drew a picture of what she had taken (that being then becoming a print out of the photo she took). It was very interesting to watch.

Not that long ago my 3 year old spent quite some time creating conversations between 2 of my pegs which in his mind were people.

Most nights at tea both the 6 year old and the 3 year old make birthday cakes using mashed potato as the cake and carrots as the candles. LOL.

My 9 year olds favourite game involves hitting a balloon around while he's watching the football. In fact, he's doing that right now as I type! I recognise the thumping sounds. LOL.

Yes, my children, by the very nature of their play, are constantly reminding me that toys really are marketted to adults. They love their toys of course - but they don't really *need* them in order to be happy. Something I need reminding of occasionally.

I am proud of myself though. Here it is June - almost the middle of the year, and I have not bought 1 thing to put away for them for Christmas. I think that might be a record for me!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Disasters in the Kitchen

Feels like I've had a few of those recently - disasters in the kitchen that is. :-)

I've been trying for 3 weeks now to adapt a recipe for chocolate custard (yogo style). The first week I made it is was too thick. The second week it was too thin (now we're starting to sound like Goldilocks and the 3 bears lol). This past Friday I managed to spill it all over the microwave. I then gave up on using the microwave and tipped it into a saucepan to finish cooking. Then it ended up with lumps in it. The consistency was closer to what I was aiming for though. LOL. One of these days I'll get it right. In the meantime we're going through quite a lot of cocoa.

Today I tried to make some chocolate fudge brownies to take to church tomorrow. It's been a while since I've made this recipe. My poor tray that is just the right size for this recipe must be on it's last legs. It warped in the oven and I ended up with one corner that was well and truly cooked (to crispy) while the middle was still doughy (have to admit the doughy bit tastes yummo though!). Then I pulled it out of the oven and left it to set for just a bit too long and it stuck in the tin (yes I did grease it first). LOL. Thankfully I have managed to salvage enough pieces to make a plateful for tomorrow. :-) The rest of the odd bits I'm sure the family will happily consume without complaint.

And just in case anyone would like the recipe, here it is. I originally found this recipe on the Hillbilly Housewife website when I was searching for frugal recipes. Not sure I actually consider it one of my more frugal recipes (especially if you need to buy the egss) but it certainly tastes delish! (warning: best to make when you want something to share as it is very moreish and eating the whole tray isn't recommended for anyone watching their waistline! :-) ).


1 cup melted butter (or margarine if you prefer)
2 cups sugar
4 medium eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups plain flour

Melt butter. Whisk in sugar. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Add salt, cocoa and vanilla. Still well. Add flour and stir.

Bake in greased 9x13 inch pan (approx 20x30cm) at 180C for 25-30 minutes. Tip out of tin (before it gets stuck lol) and when cool cut into whatever size pieces you desire. Dust with icing sugar or leave plain.

* You can also add walnuts as a variation. I must try that sometime as I've read recently how good walnuts are considered for your brain (and mine needs plenty of help at the moment lol).

Friday, June 1, 2007

Weight Loss Milestones

I'm a classic yo-yo dieter. I think I've spent my whole life either trying to lose weight or wishing I could lose weight or regaining weight that I've previously lost (with a little bit of interest of course). Sound familiar? *sigh* A couple of years ago I read an article that was saying that people who were continually on the weight loss / weight gain cycle had higher rates of early morbidity than people who were overweight. That was a real wake up call for me. After all, what was the purpose of spending so much of my life miserable if it was still going to shorten my lifespan?

From that day on I decided that my bigger focus needed to be on my health rather than my weight. And that I wasn't going to make any changes that I wasn't prepared to maintain on a permanent basis. So, no more dieting for me. The simple word "diet" to me implies a temporary, short term change to reach a goal. That method simply wasn't working for me. And I'd rather be healthy and overweight than unhealthy and the correct weight. Of course, the best of both worlds would be to be living a healthy lifestyle AND have a weight within my healthy weight range.

It was hard to begin with because for the first month or so I continued to gain weight. I worked on 1 change at a time (around 1 per month) until it became a habit. Things like drinking more water, increasing fruit intake during the day, increasing how many vegetables I cooked with tea, introducing beans and lentils to my diet, cutting back on butter and margarine. Just small little changes at a time that are finally adding up to an overall healthier me.

Exercise I tackled in the same way. When I first started it was an effort to walk for 10 minutes or ride the exercise bike on 1 for 10 minutes. By slowly building on that I can now run 5+ km at a time and ride the exercise bike for an hour using settings 3-8. It didn't happen overnight but it is happening! :-)

Just like with all things there have been ups and downs. My first Christmas/January on this plan (which was about 6 months after I started) I gained 4kg and lost some of my momentum and drive. Things plateaued for a while. In the lead up to my nervous breakdown I wasn't sleeping well and exercise started to fall by the wayside as I was simply exhausted. Then some of my medications interfered and throughout the worst parts of my illness my weight fluctuated up and down quite a bit.

So far this year things have been going better. I don't regularly blog about my weight loss efforts as I like to deny the fact that I'm overweight. I'm certainly not one to publicise how heavy I was, although the ticker at the bottom of my blog now gives that away. Now that I'm finally seeing some success I decided to "out" myself when it comes to my starting and current weights. :-)

This week I've reached a couple of milestones and wanted to share them. I've managed to lose 10kg for the year. That works out to just under 0.5kg a week. Nice and slow which I think is the healthiest way to lose weight. Also gives my skin the best chance to keep up with my weight loss. I've also finally gotten my waist measurement under 88cm. My goal is to get it under 80cm as there is diabetes in our family and they recommend keeping your waist measurements below 80cm to reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Unfortunately I'm one of those people who carries weight around my middle which is the unhealthiest place to carry it. A waist above 88cm increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease even further so this was my interim goal with my waist measurements. I also started wearing some size 10 clothing this week which was quite exciting. Naturally it depends on brand, fabric and cut as to what size I am, but it still feels quite good.

So why am I blogging about this now? Partly to share my success and partly to encourage anyone that might read this post that it can be done and it doesn't have to mean a lifetime of deprivation. No foods are banned or restricted in my life. I do aim to eat healthy foods at least 80% of the time and I have found that my desire and enjoyment of some unhealthy foods has reduced as my diet has increased in healthy foods. One thing I have been VERY aware of is not reducing my food intake too much. The last thing I need is to slow my metabolism down. You read about people who've lost a heap of weight and what they survive on in terms of food seems so miniscule. Hey, I want to live and I LOVE my food. My theory (which is yet to be fully tested) is that if I can lose the weight while eating regular amounts of foods, then I should be able to maintain that loss and still enjoy a reasonable amount of food as well. I prefer to eat smaller amounts often to keep my metabolism up and the hunger bugs at bay (eating before I'm starving and will eat everything I can lay my hands on ). If I feel like eating chocolate, I do. What I do try to avoid is eating chocolate mindlessly. But if I want it, I eat it - after all, I'm not on a diet! If I feel like dessert (which we don't often have anyway), I have it - I can because I'm not on a diet! But I have to really feel like it. It's been very freeing and I'm sure it helps with the "forbidden fruit" type temptations (ie. wanting it more because it's not "allowed").

I never EVER thought I'd be one to jog 5km but by taking very small babysteps and building up your fitness gradually - it can be done. I haven't actually been exercising in order to lose weight. I've been exercising to boost my serotonin levels and improve my overall health. It's hard getting started but it really does make a difference. It's a good feeling even to make new achievements with fitness. I have days where I don't feel like exercising - mostly I do it anyway and feel better for it. Occasionally I give it a miss for a day. If it becomes a chore, I'm more likely to stop completely and that's not what I want to happen. My intention is to continue exercise and building my fitness slowly for as long as my body allows me to be active. Time will tell if I manage that I guess. :-)

So there you have it. There's a bit of my own story and what I have and haven't achieved so far. If you want to follow my progress weight wise - there's a ticker at the bottom of my blog. :-)