"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - April 2009
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: The Big Clean Up
- May is Time to Get Organised!
- Best of the Vault: Transform Your Life
- Best of the Forum: Restoring Order
- Sophie Gray: Daily Bread
- Penny's Blog: Mr Home Brand
- Homeopathy Corner: Asthma
- From Last Month: Inspiring Side Dishes
- This Month's Help Request: Looking the Part
- Savings Story: Living Well on Less
How are you doing? This month is pretty exciting. We are going to find you some free time, get rid of your stress and find some extra money by getting organised. It is one of those wonderful scenarios where ten minutes of effort can save you untold time and stress. My best example is a continual daily problem we eradicated this month using a simple list that only took me ten minutes to write once I thought of doing it.
The problem was getting our seven-year-old, Sam, ready for school in the mornings. I don't know if you have this problem, but it was driving me bonkers. It was taking him two hours to get ready when it should only have taken 30 minutes. I had to keep nagging him and the moment I stopped, he would wander off and play. Then one morning, after a cup of tea I worked it out. He was using me as his Memory Trigger. It was a light bulb moment. I sat down and made him his own Memory Trigger, a Morning List for the fridge. Here it is...
Sam's Morning List:
- Go to kitchen
- Make breakfast
- Eat breakfast
- Get dressed
- Wash face and hands
- Clean teeth
- Brush hair
- Make lunch
- Put lunch in bag
- Find something to read in the car
- Put reading material and bag by back door
- Find clean socks
- Put your shoes on
- Where is your hat?
- PLAY/READ and ENJOY spare time
It only took me ten minutes but you would not believe the changes. Now he does everything himself! Whenever he forgets what he is supposed to be doing he goes back to the list, reads the next task and gets on with it. This morning it only took him 20 minutes to get ready. He was ready a WHOLE HOUR before he had to leave for school and I didn't have to say a word. BLISS! Heaven! Hopefully, this month we can help you save time and reduce the stress in your life, as easily as the way this little list has helped us.
A great way to start is to spend a few minutes making a menu plan each week to save money on groceries. These members are setting a great example of how much we can achieve when we get organised!
"A BIG thank you to the Simple Savings team. This year I returned to work three days per week. For my own sanity I knew I needed to streamline things at home and buy back some time. After scouring the Savings Vault I have been able to incorporate heaps of great ideas. I started with a four-week meal plan, grocery shopping once a month and baking on the weekends for unprocessed lunch box treats. I bought myself a yoghurt maker and have just invested in a chest freezer, all in the name of saving time and money. I am astounded at how the changes I have implemented have improved the quality of our lives. Ultimately I feel I have taken back control of household expenditure, which alone is invaluable. Whist on a roll, I set up a budget on my laptop and now track our daily expenditure. I thought being so particular would be suffocating but it actually has been a very liberating experience. I feel confident we can continue with these changes and feel good that we are showing our children how to better manage their lives, in the future." (Nerida Williams)
"I'm usually one of the quiet ones around here, but I needed to mark the occasion and Simple Savers understand where I'm coming from. As of today's pay, I am debt free! I wanted to pay the car off in less than three years and I've made it with three months to spare. My savings account for a rainy day already equals one month's wages, so now I'm heading for two!
"In the beginning, you reminded me of what I used to know. But since then I have learned new things too - baking bread, making my own cleaning products, bulk cooking so I can take lunch to work from the freezer. Not bad for someone in a one bed flat with no garden. Not bad at all for a girl who loaded up the car in Cairns last January and ended up in Canberra two months later with a new job and a maxed out credit card! Thanks for the tips and encouragement." (Chris Reid)
"My husband and I have one credit card each. I always owed money on mine, even though we don't use it now. We have a two-year-old and another baby on the way. My husband is the sole breadwinner and brings home around $35,000 a year. We rent and have normal household expenses. I heard about you on Today Tonight and thought to myself 'I will have to look at that website!' I couldn't get over how many things I could learn and do to save the money we have left every fortnight. I downloaded your Bill Payment System and started using it and I am proud to say I have saved about $800 in the last fortnight. I can save simply by watching what I spend. I have never saved in my life, I am so happy! I was always stressed about money and we fought so much but now my husband and I don't argue at all. Thank you for helping me and others out there who were struggling to make ends meet and can now have a little put away for a holiday. You are an inspiration." (Carol)
All the best, Fiona Lippey
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: The Big Clean Up
'So you're quite sure this is everything?' Pete asked Sally. The two of them sat together at the kitchen table, surrounded by bills. 'Nothing else you're hiding from me? No more credit cards, no secret aliases?' he winked. Sally nodded earnestly. 'That's good. No more lies from now on. I need you to be completely honest with me, Sal.'
Sally wriggled uncomfortably in her chair. Was this really necessary? It seemed an awful lot of fuss over one card. She certainly wasn't looking forward to having to explain everything she spent to Pete. From the look on his face, he wasn't exactly over the moon at what he found either. 'Well, it's not hard to see where all our money goes now is it?' he shook his head in disbelief. 'Why didn't you tell me how bad things were? I honestly don't know how to get out of this. Where do we start?' He slumped on the table, his head in his hands.
Sally gazed at her husband in horror. Were things really that bad? She had never really taken much notice of the bills before - she only ever bothered to hide the important ones. She hadn't so much as glanced at them since Hanna got her to drag them out months ago. Hanna! That was it! Sally suddenly remembered something. She jumped up and started shuffling through the drawers. 'Oh Sal, tell me there aren't any more!' Pete groaned despairingly. 'Nope! I just found something Hanna gave me which might help.' She slapped it down on the table triumphantly. 'It's a Bill Payment System! Maybe we should give it a go?'
2. May is Time to Get Organised!
Wow! Looks like Sally's free Bill Payment System is finally going to be put to good use! It's vital that Sally and Pete get organised if they are going to dig their way out of this hole. You see, poor old Sal is a shopping victim in every way and the only thing worse than being a shopping victim is being a disorganised shopping victim.
I used to think that being organised was only for people with spare time on their hands. But, three and a half kids later, I have learned that being organised is how those people end up with all that free time! Knowing what bills to pay on which day, what meal to cook at which time and what food to buy on which day is not just a money saver; it is a time saver and makes it harder for marketers to take advantage of me.
There is nothing a marketer likes more than a disorganised shopping victim. They are so, SO easy to manipulate. They are always too busy and never have enough time to spend making good decisions. This leaves a window wide open for marketers to persuade you, and persuade they do.
They do it by taking advantage of your weaknesses. By claiming that buying a ready-made frozen dinner will make your life easier. By showing ads for pizza and fast food at dinner time when they know you are disorganised, vulnerable and hungry. However if you already knew what was for dinner when you saw the advert, or if you had already eaten then these ads would have no effect on you. The marketer would have wasted their money. You would be protected.
They also like to trick you with little numbers and small print, saying things such as a TV will 'only' cost you $13.95 per week for 36 months, because they know most people are too disorganised to stop and work out the total cost. If you had a Bill Payment System, you would be able to see that those little amounts add up to $2176 by the time you have paid it off. Which is a huge amount of money for a $1299 TV! Being organised would protect you from falling into that trap.
If your money was organised, you would be able to look at your finances and say, 'my bills over the next three months will be $4500, my income is $6000. If I wait two months I will be able to pay cash for that TV and save myself $877. For that amount of money I think I can go without a new TV for a month. I would rather the $877 stayed in MY pocket!'
If you would like to give our FREE Bill Payment System a try, you can download one from here. It is fantastic, easy to use and will help you stay organised. If you spend just 10 minutes each day this month setting up your Bill Payment System, planning out your meals and planning your purchases, you will get back the time you have invested tenfold. So stop procrastinating about what you need to do and just do it!
3. Best of the Vault: Transform Your Life
Being organised is fantastic. You feel in control of your budget, your home, your whole life! Here are some tips from the Vault from other organised members. Once you see all the benefits they enjoy you'll be itching to get started too!
Being organised saves you money
Inspired by the hints in the Simple Savings Vault, I decided to declutter my house. While doing this, I discovered that having a clean and organised house can save money.
I used to buy Tupperware regularly because I was always losing my old containers. When I found them during my tidy up, I divided them into small, medium and large sizes. I now keep them to one side in the garage or laundry so I know where they are and no longer need to buy new containers.
I also organised our clothes. I sorted through our wardrobes and saw lots of double ups. This was because we had bought clothing, forgetting we had something just like it hidden away in the wardrobe. All our winter clothes were put into vacuum bags which are now stored on just one shelf in my wardrobe. I also put some special occasion clothing into storage containers knowing it would not be used on a regular basis. Because we now know exactly what clothing we have, and have stopped buying similar pieces, we have saved lots of money.
While sorting through the clothes, I found a few garments that needed repairing. Since I can't sew, I have done a deal with our elderly neighbour. She will fix our clothes for us and in return we will maintain her front yard for the next three months. I think it's a pretty good deal, as we get some exercise and have all our clothing mended; no need to buy new gear.
Just a few examples of how being organised can save you heaps of money.
Organised pantry saves shopping dollars each week
By organising my pantry at the beginning of the year I am off to a good start and have been saving money ever since. I like to bake but my pantry was a mess and I would buy things I didn't need and always forget to buy things I did, resulting in return trips to the supermarket and extra purchases. Using all my plastic containers I organised the pantry and now when I do my shopping list each week I can easily see what I need. Previously I was spending between $150 and $400 per week on groceries, now I am spending less than $130 and allow for a big shop of $250 every six weeks.
Keep toys organised in shoe boxes
I came up with a smart and super-cheap way of organising my daughter's toys and belongings. She has a large amount of little 'things' - dolls with lots of attachments (such as Bratz and Polly Pockets).
To help keep things uncluttered and organised, we went to a shoe shop and asked for some free shoe boxes that were all the same size. We came home and painted them brightly, using left-over house paint tester pots and mixed and matched the lids. We then stuck on printed out labels to give them a professional and neat finish.
This organisation method was free (all but the paint and printing) but best of all, it has given me free time because she is able to pick and rotate her toys herself. Hopefully it will also save me money buying new toys as often in future, because opening each box is always a lovely surprise for her!
Simple steps to get organised reap huge rewards
I have saved thousands of dollars since joining Simple Savings, just by getting organised. This has made my husband and I plan and budget much better, which has enabled us to pay off two credit cards, a long outstanding tax debt and for me to stay off work for one year with our first child. Here is how we organised our financial information so we can easily keep track of bills, receipts and our budget. We have 10 plastic folders labelled with a different area of our finances, for example, utility bills, credit cards, savings accounts and so on. Each folder is divided into more specific sub-sections using dividers. We have a document on the computer that contains all our pay dates. I have this filled in right through until May this year. Every time a bill comes in, I look when it is due to be paid and enter the name and amount beneath the date of the pay packet the bill must be paid out of. The paper copy of the bill is filed in the appropriate folder. Every pay day, I open up the document to see what needs to be paid, and pay it as soon as possible. This means no bill ever gets paid late (in fact most get paid early) so I no longer pay the hundreds I used to pay each year in overdue account fees. Also, being able to see what will be going in and out is a huge help when budgeting. We keep all bills for one year, then shred the ones that are printed double-sided and re-use the empty side of those printed one-sided.
We also have two shoe boxes labelled 'grocery receipts' and 'other receipts'. The receipts for everything we buy are saved in the relevant box and at the end of the month I place that month's receipts in an envelope and put it back in the box. That way, if something breaks or goes off before its use-by date I always have the receipt, so I can always get my money back or a replacement. This year we have also organised birthdays. I have written up a list of all the family birthdays we need to buy presents for and keep a copy of it in my wallet. If I spot any bargains that would make good presents when I'm out shopping, I can get out the list and see who it would be suitable for. No more last minute shopping and going over the $20 to $30 per present budget we have set. As well as all this, we plan our menu a fortnight in advance, regularly use the $21 Challenge and I bake a lot, all adding more to our household savings. It just goes to show that being organised goes a long way.
Large blackboard keeps family organised
One can of blackboard paint has our family much more organised and gets us talking at the dinner table. With eight people in the family I needed a way to show everyone what activities and meals were planned for the coming week, but cork boards were expensive and not large enough. My solution was to buy a 500ml can of blackboard paint from the hardware store and after cleaning one wall in the dining room and taping off a 1m x 1.5m area with masking tape, I painted two coats (with enough paint left for another board when needed).
I have a chart showing the days of the week across the top and the activities down the left side, adding each child's initial according to their activity and relevant day. Under this I have written our daily routine so my husband and the kids know what is expected from each of them to help maintain the house, for example, who will be setting the table, washing the dishes and so on. It was a life saver when I had our last baby because my husband could follow the routine and no one missed their activities. We also use the board to encourage the kids and write birthday messages.
Because we gather together at least once a day for a family meal, we discuss the things on the board and decide what needs adding. Everyone who has seen the board loves it.
Buy $1 cards and write them in advance
In reviewing where my money went last year, I realised that I had spent heaps on birthday cards and postage, so this year I got organised and saved money and time and enjoyed doing it.
First, I wrote a list of all the birthdays, anniversaries and other special dates I usually send a card for. Then I went to the cheap shop and purchased the required 25 cards at $1.00 each and to the Post Office and purchased 25 stamps. Now comes the best part. I went into my favourite coffee shop on a quiet morning, sat in a corner booth, ordered a Devonshire tea ($5.50) and a jug of water (free) and spent the next 45 minutes writing and addressing my cards. I stored them in an old shoe box ready to go closer to the date.
How much have I saved? I calculate that this method has saved me $69.50. I used to grab cards on the run at the newsagent for an average of $4.00 a card. This equals a saving of $75, less the Devonshire tea treat (a net saving of $69.50). In addition, I have saved fuel, time and energy in making the extra trips. While buying bulk stamps doesn't actually save any money it does save fuel and time making repeated visits to the post office. In addition, I can probably save on postage by being organised and having cards ready in case I see people in the week or so prior to their birthday.
The benefits of planning
Over the years, I have found the best way to save time and money is through being organised.
Every night after my two young children have gone to bed, I sit down with my diary and plan what I am going to do the next day. For example, I make a meal plan so I can avoid buying expensive takeaways. I also write down my forecast expenditure for the next day. This is good for my budget as there is no impulse buying or unplanned spending.
It only takes five minutes every evening to save many hours and dollars the following day.
The write way to get organised
Writing a list can help make any ordeal tolerable. I live out in the bush and a trip to town is the worst day of the week. So the night before I go, I grab a pen and paper and write down everything I want to accomplish the next day. By morning my sub-conscious has planned my day and I can make any final additions to my list.
Writing things down relieves my mind of the need to remember everything, therefore increasing my energy and vitality, as worrying and thinking too much can wear you out. By the time I leave the house, I have mapped out the shortest route which covers all the stops and visits necessary to complete my list. This reduces travel time and fuel usage too!
4. Best of the Forum: Restoring Order
Between our savvy Forum members, there's nothing that can't be sorted, organised or decluttered! Here are some of our favourite examples.
Ann was struggling to get to grips with her new chest freezer. All the digging and delving in the freezing cold to find the right food was getting her down. How could she organise all the different foods for easy access? With one easy step - ask the Forum!
ClutterCath leads her merry band of SS declutterers into another successful mission! This time, it's the dining area. Follow the gang as they take on this busy living area and make it easy care and presentable for when unexpected visitors drop by.
Tracy has had enough of living in chaos. She wants to be organised - but where does she start? Simple Savers to the rescue!
If you've ever wanted to know more about Once a Month Cooking, this is the thread for you! OAMC expert Belinda has compiled all her favourite freezer-friendly recipes in a downloadable book to share with members. Not to be missed!.
5. Sophie Gray: Daily Bread
A few years back our household income took a substantial dive. Among other changes, our budget restricted us to purchasing the cheapest bread available. Reminiscent of a kapok duvet inner, our daily bread took on a whole new significance.
While my newfound recycle shopping and bargain hunting skills made me feel pleased with my resourcefulness, using that horrid bread to stick within budget really got me down. The desire for really good bread drove me into the kitchen and I began to make more and more of ours by hand.
To many people, the idea of enjoying home-made bread sounds like either a luxury or an utter impossibility but a cup of flour from a 5kg bag costs so little. With a little organisation, for the same price as a loaf of nasty bread, we can make something delicious that fills us up far better than any commercial bread.
If you are planning to make a yeast dough you do need to be organised. It is a process, but much of the time is passive 'resting' time. The actual 'hands on' time is only about 15 minutes. If time is short, a 'quick bread' is a good alternative.
People are invariably impressed by home-made bread. To the uninitiated it appears to be an artisan craft rather than an everyday task, so mastery of the bread basics assures you of legendary status among your peers as well as helping you to stay in budget, and think of all the plastic bags and tags you won't be loading into the landfill.
- Quick breads are a great option when you don't have time to make a yeast dough. Similar to a scone dough they are quick to make and are best eaten fresh.
- If you don't have loaf tins make a cob or farmhouse style loaf or shape into rolls.
- To tell if the bread is cooked, it should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, if not get it back in the oven quick smart.
- Baked yeast bread, scones and rolls all freeze well and are best used within three months.
- Unbaked yeast bread dough can be frozen but should be defrosted and baked within one month or less.
- Unbaked doughs may require more yeast than usual, as freezing will damage some yeast cells.
- If the timing of your dough rising does not work out with your schedule, simply punch the air out of it and pop it in the fridge till you are ready to deal with it; you can keep the dough this way for a day or two.
- A loaf of home-made bread is always a welcome gift when you go to someone else's house for a meal.
- You can make the dough late at night and leave it to rise in the bowl in the fridge. In the morning knock it down, shape into loaves and bake when risen.
- Don't wait till the dough is the size of a cooked loaf before baking it. 'Oven spring' occurs when the yeast is stimulated by the heat of the oven completing the rising process during cooking
Fast and Easy Flat Bread
This flat bread is so versatile. Vary the seasonings to suit your taste and use it as a wrap, a dipping bread or side dish.
- 1 heaped cup flour
- 1 heaped tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 - 3 fat cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- Splash of olive oil
- 1 handful of chopped fresh herbs
- ½ cup hot water
- Oil for coating
Mix together flour, salt, baking powder, herbs, garlic and chilli. Add oil and mix, then add the water to form a soft dough.
Knead gently for 2-3 minutes then divide into 4-6 pieces. Roll the pieces out to thin circles and brush with oil. Cook on a heated grill plate (barbecue plate is ideal) or in a frying pan for 2 minutes either side. Serve warm with dips, salads or as a wrap.
Poppy Seed Beer Bread
This quick to mix bread is excellent toasted or fresh with thick marmalade; its slightly sharp flavour also goes well with soft cheeses. It is a little inclined to crumble so cut in thick slices.
- 2 ½ cups self raising flour
- 50g butter
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 350ml can of beer
- 1 tbsp poppy seeds
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Rub the butter into the flour with the fingertips; add salt, sugar and beer. Mix lightly until combined and pour into a greased loaf tin. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake for around 50 minutes until well risen and golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack and serve in thick slices with marmalade.
I always make this in the food processor; it takes only minutes to assemble.
A Standard Loaf of Bread
Hand made bread is different to shop bought or bread machine bread. It has a coarser crumb and is a lot more filling. We go through about one loaf per day (2 adults and 2 children) having toast and sandwiches.
I played around with different flours and made wholemeal; delicious but a bit crumbly, whole grain, white, honey, sesame...
Bread does not need a lot of 'hands on' time - only around 15-20 minutes but it is a lengthy process.
To make one large white loaf
To activate the yeast
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 tsp active yeast granules, also known as dried yeast (not a breadmaker blend!)
Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and sprinkle on the yeast. Set aside while the sugar and water brings the yeast to life. About 5 - 10 minutes.
In a large bowl combine
- 4 cups plain flour
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 3/4 cup cold milk
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
When the yeast is frothy pour it into the other ingredients and mix well. Turn it on to a floured bench and knead it (stretching out the gluten fibres in the flour) for 10 minutes. Wash the bowl, spray it with cooking spray and place the dough back in the bowl, spray the inside of a plastic supermarket bag with cooking spray. Put the bowl into the bag or use greased cling film to cover the dough. If you have a microwave you can speed the process along by giving the dough one minute on low power (10-20%) then allowing it to rest for 10 minutes before repeating the 1 minute on low power. Alternatively put it in a sunny spot, in the airing cupboard or on top of the freezer, somewhere warm, until the dough doubles in size, around 40 minutes.
Punch it down and give it a quick knead, then put it into a greased loaf tin or shape it into a farmhouse loaf on a baking sheet. Put the tin on the warm top of the oven while you heat the oven to 200°C.
When the dough has doubled again, bake it for 30 minutes. It should be golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Cook's tip: if you wish to use instant yeast (7g sachets) I would use 1 ½ sachets and mix the instant yeast directly into the dry ingredients. Add the liquids and continue, kneading and raising the dough in the normal manner.
6. Penny's Blog: Mr Home Brand
April 21, 2009
Eek, sorry it's been so long! I've been buried under an avalanche of work lately. I can happily vouch that having no life for a few weeks is an excellent way to save money! Seriously though, it's been really quite good for our family. I never realised until now that I'm actually a bit of a control freak. Coupled with being the most disorganised person on the planet it seems rather a strange combination but I am one nonetheless. I'm one of those annoying martyr-like types who is always saying 'Tut - if you want something done properly, do it yourself,' or 'It's alright, I'LL do it' (accompanied by a deep sigh). The last few weeks I have had no choice but to let other people do things for me - and it's been a real eyeopener! I always knew I was a bit of an overindulgent mum when it came to buying things for my kids, but I never realised how little I actually let them do. All these years of mollycoddling and cleaning up after them has actually done them no favours at all. It's not that they are incapable of doing things for themselves, far from it. It's just that until now I never let them! I am now the proud mum of two boys who CAN do a fantastic job of vacuuming, doing the dishes, tidying their rooms, getting the washing in, filling the firewood basket and all sorts of other things. We have even made the boys their own recipe book of healthy, filling things they can make themselves in minimal time without resorting to scoffing biscuits or potato chips because Mum isn't at their beck and call. As a result, we get far more time together as a family in the evenings. Even they have to agree it's well worth the extra effort on their part. Nobody's indispensable, as they say!
Noel, bless his heart has been holding the fort. He has become the chief grocery shopper in our house and always comes home proudly regaling all the wonderful things he got on special. We have a bit of a chuckle about it but he really does do a good job. The last time he came home from the supermarket there was barely an item that didn't bear a red and white Home Brand label. 'Very good Simple Savings!' he grins as he goes on to tell me about all his '4 for $5' deals and other bargains. Last week he decided a feed of fish was in order and challenged himself and Ali to go and bring home their limit of fresh snapper without spending a cent on bait or anything else. This they achieved in a morning and brought home enough fish to feed three families for two days. Which brings to mind one of Fiona's favourite sayings, 'Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for life'. I don't think we'll ever have to worry too much about going hungry with my hunter-gatherers around!
Noel has often joked in the past when I've made the odd slip-up or daft decision, 'I should be the one to write a blog, I'm a better Simple Saver than you!' I'm not entirely sure about that but he has certainly raised the bar lately and in turn made me step up too. After a horrendously hectic week I accompanied him on a trip to the garden centre last weekend to get his favourite 'mega broccoli plants', a variety called Green Dragon. He had the most amazing results last year, we've never had so much from a single plant, it just kept growing and growing! Anyway, the trip was about 35 minutes each way and in my typical martyr-like way I was bemoaning the fact that I shouldn't really be taking time out to go to the garden centre when I had so much work to do. My eyes were hanging out on stalks, my brain was completely drained and most of all I was starving. I wanted KFC and I wanted it NOW. I was exhausted and truly believed it was going to make me feel better. So I nagged, whined and even dropped my bottom lip until Noel gave in and said 'Fine, you can have your blasted KFC'. 'Cool!' came the chorus from the back seat. 'But I want you to think about this. It's going to cost around $40 for lunch when we have plenty of food at home. You can eat whatever you like for free in half an hour but if you really want to send us $40 backwards for the sake of one meal, that's up to you. And don't come to me moaning that you're putting on weight after you've fed your face with it either.'
Well that did it for me. 'Fine! I won't have it then,' I snapped. 'I won't even be able to enjoy it now anyway, I'll just feel guilty!' But I knew he was right. It wasn't worth sending us $40 backwards for. Even the kids had to admit their dad had a point. But I was still peeved and to add insult to injury the queue for the drive-thru was backed up out of the car park. Even so I was prepared to wait. My argument for eating fast food on the way home was that it would save me time. I could scoff it on the way, be nice and full and get straight back into my work as soon as I got home, without having to waste valuable time stuffing around making lunch for everyone. 'Firstly, you don't have to make everyone lunch, we are all big enough to get it ourselves,' came Noel's reply. 'Secondly, you won't be saving any time at all because you would have to work even longer to pay back your $40 lunch!' I knew he was right but it didn't cheer me up any. Now what on earth was I going to eat?
To prove his point, Noel headed for the kitchen as soon as we got home. 'You get to work, I'LL make your lunch,' he growled, despite my protests. In a grand total of 15 minutes he had got steak out of the freezer, defrosted, seasoned and cooked it and served it up accompanied by a freshly made salad and creamy scrambled eggs on the side. 'There you go - now that is fast food,' he said. 'If you had had your way and queued up for KFC, we would still be on our way home!' Once again he was right. My home-made lunch was delicious, healthy and so filling I could hardly move by the time I had finished. 'That will do your brain AND your body a lot more good than that deep fried stuff,' he went on. I was miserably defeated but eternally grateful at the same time. He had saved us $40 in one hit but had really done much more than that. I'm a great one for not taking lunch breaks for fear of running out of time but he made me see that I COULD afford to take 15 minutes out to have a really good work lunch. I had never thought of cooking anything like that just for little old me before! The meal Noel made me cost next to nothing with our home-grown meat, salad and eggs and it kept me well fuelled for a productive day's work for hours afterwards. Point well and truly taken dear!
If I sounded like a spoilt brat before, you'd be absolutely right! Still, it's a crystal clear example of why you should never shop on an empty stomach; it really impairs your decision making, just as Fiona says! And on the positive side, ever since the KFC incident I've been having heaps of creative fun in the kitchen. With no time to go to the shops I have had no choice but to 'make do' and have come up with some wonderful concoctions. I pulled some lamb shanks out of the freezer, which I had no idea what to do with but found some wonderful recipes in the Slow Cooker Recipe Book. The one I made was simply called Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks. It was delicious! There was just one problem - and it was a very small one - I had wayyyy too much yummy sauce left over. Far too much to waste, and with a cup and a half of red wine in it there was no way I was giving it to Ella the Labrador either! So I got some mince out of the freezer and simply browned it before adding some mixed herbs, chucking all the leftover sauce in and cooking through. We had no potatoes left in the house so I served it over rice with green veges on the side. I was already apologising in advance to the family for my made up creation but everyone loved it and scraped the plates clean. Very $21 Challenge-ish!
It doesn't bother me at all that I don't have time to go food shopping; we could quite happily survive for days. The kids absolutely love this recipe for fruit crumble, which I made the other day from a few sad apples and pears and half a tin of leftover boysenberries but you can adapt it to use whatever fruit you like. I still have enough sad looking fruit in the bowl to make another!
- 4 - 5 apples, peeled and sliced (or pears, peaches, apricots! If using tinned, drain well first)
- ½ cup dried fruit OR 1 cup fresh, tinned or frozen berries of your choice.
- Juice of half a lemon (not essential but good!)
- Drizzle of golden or maple syrup (optional)
- 1 cup flour
- 150g softened butter or margarine (or 125g at a push)
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ cup coconut
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the peeled, sliced fruit in a deep baking dish. Sprinkle the dried fruit or berries on the top. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fruit if using and drizzle the syrup over the top. If you don't have lemon juice or syrup, sprinkle a little extra brown sugar over the top instead. Put the oats, flour, coconut, brown sugar and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the butter and combine all together by running the ingredients through your fingers (you can of course use a food processor but it doesn't take long to do by hand and avoid the extra dishes!) Keep running the mixture through until well mixed and crumbly. Scatter the crumble over the fruit and bake for 50 minutes. Delicious on its own or served with ice cream, cream, custard, even milk, whatever you have!
Now I'm not the main one doing the shopping, we have resurrected one of my favourite money savers - the short term and long term shopping list! It's nothing flash, just a sheet of paper drawn into two columns. The column on the left says 'Need it Now'. In this column we write down everything we have run out of, or are running out of and will need to replace the next time one of us goes to town. The one on the right says 'Need It Later' and contains all the stuff we might run out of but don't have to replace until Noel does the next big shop. It's a really good saver for us, as it means I'm no longer grabbing bits and pieces from Mr Patel's (where I hate to say Mr P but it costs more) but waiting until we go elsewhere where we can find the same things for cheaper. With the average rule of thumb being at least a dollar saved per item, all those dollars really add up! It also means I no longer run out of bits and pieces like paprika (that I don't usually remember I've run out of until I go to make a Goulash and kick myself every time) - I just put it on the 'Need It Later' list when I run out and remind myself not to make Goulash for another week or two!
One area I'm determined to save money on this year is on food for sports games and practices. Rugby starts for the boys next week and they are playing for a different team this season. Being out of the area we now have to travel a lot further for training. The midweek trainings are also held later and fall on our busiest night of the week. The boys arrive home from school at 3.30, we have to leave the house by 4.30 to be at training for 5pm. They don't finish training until 6pm (usually later) by which time we have to rush hell for leather to get back to our home town for Ali's scouts at 6.30. He doesn't finish scouts until 8.30pm so it's a long night for him and he's usually starving in between times. The first week of training we agreed that it was 'too hard' to cook dinner that night, so as we would have to go past McDonald's on the way to scouts we would make training night our weekly Macca's night. Even I was looking forward to the first one! However $40 later I had changed my mind. My car was full of chips, I had lettuce all over my lap and they forgot Noel's fries. Ali kindly donated his own to his dad but by the time I got Noel's burger and fries to him almost 45 minutes later they were pretty lukewarm and ordinary. After all that, we still weren't full anyway and ended up having a second supper when Ali got home from scouts. Never again!
So I was really glad when I came across the tip 'A sporting approach to saving money'. Just as the author of the tip says, it's common sense really but every now and again you just need a reminder of what you should be doing and that was just what I needed! I'm so glad I found this tip at the start of the season and not the end, I'm really looking forward to seeing what yummy, home-made tummy fillers I can treat the boys to after trainings. After our takeaway experience I no longer consider training nights 'too hard' for cooking. I would rather rely on my trusty crockpot than Ronald McDonald!
7. Homeopathy Corner: Asthma
This month Fran has written a great article covering some self help tips for asthma, explaining the side effects of conventional medicine and describing how constitutional homeopathic treatment can minimise and often get rid of asthma long term. Now wouldn't that be a huge saving for asthma sufferers?
Also in this month's article are links to free talks, introductory offers and promotions running for AHA qualified homeopaths all around Australia to celebrate World Homeopathy Awareness Week (WHAW).
8. From Last Month: Inspiring Side Dishes
Last month Lisa H asked:
"Embarrassing but true, my kids love the packet 'pasta and sauces' - you know the ones; sour cream and chives, Alfredo and so on. While I love the convenience, I know they are not dollar wise or healthy. Has anyone got some good (and quick) recipes for side dishes?"
We received all sorts of fabulous suggestions for time and money saving side dishes for Lisa. Thanks to everyone who sent in their recipes and ideas. We have a feeling Lisa won't be the only one to try them out!
A saucy side dish idea
Cheese sauce freezes really well, so when you have a few minutes to spare, make up the following recipe and freeze in small containers or even ice cube trays.
- 425ml cold milk
- 20g flour
- 40g butter
- 50g grated cheese - use whatever cheese you prefer
Put the milk, flour and butter into a saucepan, bring slowly to a simmer while whisking. When the sauce starts to thicken, reduce heat to the lowest possible setting and leave for five minutes. Then, stir in cheese and add seasoning to taste.
With this scrumptious cheese sauce on hand, all you have to do is cook some pasta. Halfway through cooking, throw some frozen mixed vegetables in the pot with the pasta. Defrost a couple of cubes of sauce in the microwave and stir through drained pasta and vegetables. Top with some chopped ham or left over chicken pieces and you have a simple, healthy and low cost pasta meal.
TIP: If you want to cook the pasta earlier in the day, just cool it under running water when cooked and keep in the fridge. When required, drop it into boiling water for just a minute or so and it's ready.
Four fantastic ideas
One good idea is never enough. Here are four ways you can create the perfect side dish.
Couscous makes a quick and cheap side dish. It only costs about $3.00 for a big box and it cooks in less than three minutes. For added flavour, stir through some grated carrot and sultanas after you've cooked it.
Angel hair pasta with grated cheese is another easy side dish. You can pick up a packet of pasta for about $0.79c and it cooks in less than five minutes.
A big batch of mashed spud will keep well in the fridge, so you can use it for a few nights in a row.
Look out for the baked potato button on your microwave. Wash unpeeled spuds, prick them with a fork and place in the microwave. Press the button once for each spud and you have jacket potatoes in minutes. Pour some yoghurt onto the potatoes and throw some chopped shallots on top for a tasty garnish.
I've started making couscous recipes for my family. Couscous makes the perfect base for any side dish as it's healthy and cheap, with a 500g box costing around $2.50.
All you need to do is boil a small amount of water, add couscous and take off the heat. Cover and let sit for a few minutes. Add spices, sultanas, nuts, roasted vegetables and you're done. This only takes five minutes or so and it's absolutely delicious.
Make pasta last longer
Making your own pasta sauce is a piece of cake. These two recipes are delicious proof of that!
Alfredo sauce - Melt a little butter in a saucepan and add about 1/2 cup of cream. Remove from heat and add 100g grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Pour over cooked and drained fettuccine. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.
Piquant sauce - Chop three red chillies, two garlic cloves and a few shallots. Cook for just a few minutes in a little butter. Add cooked and drained spaghetti, salt and pepper, chopped parsley and combine. Serve with parmesan cheese.
TIP: To protect your hands, wear gloves while chopping up the chillies.
Restaurant quality side dish
I got this recipe from a website which contains copycat restaurant recipes; www.bestcopycatrestaurantrecipes.blogspot.com
Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo
- 225g solid cream cheese, cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine
- 1/2 cup milk
- 225g fettuccine, cooked and drained
In a large saucepan combine cream cheese, Parmesan, butter and milk, stirring constantly until smooth. Lightly toss pasta with sauce, coating well.
According to the recipe, leftovers freeze well. Not that we've ever had any leftovers!
Souper side dish
My family loves pasta out of a packet but I could no longer justify the cost; so I came up with my own version. This soup based recipe, for an average size family, is made in minutes and tastier than anything off the shelf.
- 250g pasta of your choice - use more for larger family.
- 1 tin of soup of your choice - we like cream of chicken, cream of mushroom or pumpkin soup.
- 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
Cook pasta and vegetables, stir through soup straight from the tin and you have a tasty side dish in minutes.
Fill 'em up with Philly
My kids love pasta as a side dish, and this recipe is a special favourite. After I've cooked the pasta, I mix through some Philadelphia lite cream cheese. It stirs through easily, just like a sauce, and requires no further cooking.
My oldest child has eczema so can't eat tomatoes and my middle child is lactose intolerant so can't have normal cheese; in both cases, Philly works a treat and only a small amount is needed. My children love it!
My Philadelphia pasta is not only good as a side dish. With the addition of some ham and broccoli it makes a lovely lunch as well.
Dreamy creamy potatoes
My creamy potatoes have a taste similar to pasta packet meals, but are a lot cheaper.
Slice potatoes and place in a dish, pour over coconut cream or coconut milk. If necessary, add water to cover potatoes. Sprinkle a pack of French onion soup over the top and bake in the oven until the potatoes are soft. Delicious!
9. This Month's Help Request: Looking the Part
This month we have a question from Rose H who asks:
"My husband will soon be made redundant and he hasn't bought himself new clothes for 10 years. Quite frankly I love him but he looks daggy, let alone presentable enough for future job interviews. Unfortunately with the cost of raising kids, buying groceries and paying large bills for school I have had difficulty splashing out on a new wardrobe for myself, let alone him. I would like to find deals on men's clothes and inexpensive alternatives to designer suits to help update his look. Can your members help point me in the right direction?"
Good on Rose for planning ahead to prepare her husband for his interviews! If you know where to get fabulous deals online or otherwise for men's clothing we would love to hear from you. Click here.
10. Savings Story: Living Well on Less
I recently gave birth, and my husband and I agreed it was best for me to stay home full time and look after our newborn son. That meant the complete loss of one wage, or $1700 per fortnight. I did not know how we would survive, as we had only just managed to get by on two incomes before the baby came along. This was very scary, so we sat down to assess our budget and have not looked back! Cash was no longer splurged on weekends. Shopping for shoes and clothes was no more, so big savings there. Unnecessary use of the car to go to the corner shop was also history, saving $60 in petrol every fortnight. Take away food was a no-no, and I am now losing weight. To save on electricity, I bought a Thermos flask and only boil the kettle twice a day for the baby's milk. Another big saving. This lifestyle change is amazing, and it's working! We now live on one wage and don't need the $3400 per month I used to earn. I am so impressed with this and keep kicking myself at how wasteful we were before the baby arrived and the amount of money we could have saved! Currently we are unable to save money but we are surviving and are not behind on bills. We have enough food, a roof over our heads, clothes to wear and we live a happy life. I get a lot of advice on making ends meet from the Simple Savings newsletter, so thanks for the hints. They really work!