"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - June 2009
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Mad Cow Disease?
- July is Time to Shop Smart!
- Best of the Vault: Compare and Stop Before You Shop!
- Best of the Forum: Spend Less, Shop Smart
- Sophie Gray: Capsule Pantry
- Penny's Blog: Chalk and Cheese
- Homeopathy Corner: The Common Cold
- From Last Month: Pantry Problems
- This Month's Help Request: Romantic Meals Away
- Savings Story: 'Tough Love' Debt Reduction
How are you doing? I hope you are having a great month. Things are busy here. I'm now 32 weeks pregnant with baby number four and it is getting harder to reach my keyboard. I swear my arms keep getting shorter!
Our goal for July is to teach you how to be a smarter shopper. Earlier this month I was watching old versions of the Gruen Transfer where a marketing executive said "advertising is about arresting the mind long enough to get money out of it." It really sank in how important it is that we learn how to protect our wallets. Marketing executives have teams of people earning $100,000 - $500,000 a year whose sole purpose in life is to extract money from you.
So this month, we are going to show you how you can defend yourself. How you can stop their tricks from working. How you can keep your money in your pocket. Let's go for it!
From now on, your money is yours - the same way these members' money is now theirs:
"I've just done my calculations, and it looks like my Simple Savings membership (looked on as an investment), has given me a 565% return. Wow! And that's only the money - where else would I get such great ideas and support about just about everything else too? Well done, SS! I thank you from the bottom of my heart." (Gillian)
"Just want you to know that Simple Savings is the best site that I have ever come across. It has EVERYTHING I need to save money every day - recipes, banking, advice and support. The most useful aspect that I have found is that you can find out details about exactly how other people use a particular idea to save money, as opposed to a generalised book that can give you an equation or situation but can never quite make it clear how it will apply to you specifically.
"Even if I was a millionaire I would still subscribe to SS!" (JC)
"I have been really busy with the savings ideas. On Mother's Day I spent the day using your website and writing a budget. This has been my New Year's resolution for about five years but until now I have never been able to get my head around it. I thought that was the best Mother's Day gift I could give myself and my family... some extra cash!" (Kylie Down)
"I would like to thank you for the continuing support provided by your newsletters. The regular reminder has given me the courage to experiment with my own finances. I spent a full hour um-ing and ah-ing about whether or not I could manage the $21 Challenge. Then I actually got up, looked through my cupboard and fridge, and I realised I could! The stocks are not overflowing, but we do have enough to get through a week without adding too much.
"I'm also extremely grateful for all of the Vault contributions. I'm a single parent of one and reading the Vault gave me the inspiration to change my phone company, change all my light bulbs and my hot water heater is now only on for three out of every 48 hours. This has made it possible for me to rent privately and begin a donation to MSF - an organisation I have long wanted to support.
"Thanks again, and looking forward to further experimentation!" (Shannon Brandt)
"All I can say is 'wow'! I accidentally stumbled on your site from another site (www.thatslife.com.au). I read an article, followed the link, and again thought, 'wow'! This is exactly what I have been looking for! I am so excited by this that I think I just killed my printer. I am printing the 'War on Debt' calendar, the Purchase Planner and the tip sheets, not just for me but for my sister and my daughters. My eldest daughter just recently moved into her own place and I still have a 15 yr old daughter at home who is studying and working part time. Some of the hints and tips I have found on your site will even help her and I am putting together a folder of tips for them all. Finally, somewhere to get financial advice for the everyday living costs of everyday people... good job and thank you!" (Denise Gribble)
All the best,
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Mad Cow Disease?
Sally walked into a room full of excited chatter. The rest of the Savings Group had been comparing their efforts after National $21 Challenge Month. "Oh hi Sal, come and join us!" greeted Hanna. "It looks as though we all did a fantastic job with our $21 Challenges! How did yours go?" "Pretty good," said Sally with a shrug, "we managed to come in under budget." "Brilliant!" the others clapped, "Good on you!"
"That's awesome. Well done!" beamed Hanna. "You must be over the moon!" "I am. Really I am!" said Sally. "So is Pete. But we've both agreed we never want to see a lentil or a kidney bean again!" The others chuckled sympathetically. "I know what you mean!" agreed Susan. "I had to get really creative to stretch the small amount of meat we had too. But what choice do we have when meat is so expensive? Go vegetarian? My hubby would never allow it!"
"Maybe there's another way," Hanna said thoughtfully. "What if we put some of the money we've saved towards some super cheap meat?" "Eww, cheap meat!" Sally turned up her nose. "It'd be tough as old boots. I'd rather stick to my lentils!"
"Not necessarily," said Hanna. "I say we get on the phone and start ringing around some wholesale butchers. Between us we should have enough to buy a whole pig - or even a cow!" Sally's jaw dropped. Had Hanna gone completely mad? Where on earth were they going to put a whole cow?
2. July is Time to Shop Smart!
With the help of her friends, Sally is on the right track this month. By spending an hour ringing around a couple of butchers, Sally and the rest of the group will all halve their meat bill and save themselves about $1500 per year. That's a whopping $6000 between the four of them!
Which brings the question; if saving money on meat is that simple, why doesn't everyone do it? Why do people continually resign themselves to paying far too much for second rate meat? It is because most people are victims of marketing. Victims of marketing - or shopping victims as I call them - are led from store to store lured by brightly coloured brochures, well laid out stores and cleverly put-together marketing campaigns.
Smart shoppers on the other hand are not taken in by flashy marketing tricks. They know a good deal when they see one and can tell a real bargain from a fake one. How? They do their homework. They invest in research. They refuse to blindly hand over money without being 100% confident that they are making the best choice. A little time spent investing in research results in some massive savings, as Sally and her friends are about to find out.
Extracting money from a smart shopper is not easy. Fortunately, becoming a smart shopper is! The simplest and easiest way to learn how to protect yourself and become a smart shopper is to follow our Eight Steps. If you have read these steps before, read them again - but don't just read them; reading alone is not enough. You need to LIVE by them, the way Matt and I live by them. With these Eight Steps you WILL become a smarter shopper. So make it your mission this month - learn the Eight Steps below and follow them!
Step 1 - Stop yourself!
Be cynical. Before you reach for your cash, before you grab your credit card, before you pick the item up off the sales rack, pause for just a minute. Stop yourself, start thinking about whether or not you are about to make a good or bad decision and you will save money. It doesn't matter how or why you stop yourself, it is just important that you do STOP the purchase, START the thinking process and move on to Step 2.
Step 2 - Are you hungry?
If your belly is empty then your decision making is impaired. Our bodies get confused between the desire for food and inedible objects. So if you are hungry, go away and eat something, (even if it means buying a piece of cake and a bottle of water from a bakery) then wait for 15 minutes before moving on to Step 3.
Step 3 - Is there something else?
There are so many other things you could buy. Is this item really the one you want to spend your hard-earned money on? There are so many other things you could achieve with this money. Will you be limiting yourself by making the purchase? If you have decided that this is the only thing you want, go to Step 4.
Step 4 - Is it worth the effort?
Every time you reach for your cash, ask yourself if it is really worth the effort. Every $20 you spend is an hour you are going to have to work. Is it really worth the bother? Just leave your money in your wallet - it's so much easier than going through all this thinking and having to earn extra money! Now, if you have decided the purchase really is worth the bother, move on to Step 5.
Step 5 - What will you gain?
Now, work out what you or your family will gain by buying the item. What are the long-term consequences? Will it improve your health and happiness or genuinely give you more free time? How? If you cannot answer these questions positively, then leave your money in your wallet. It is important that you are really sceptical. Now move on to Step 6.
Step 6 - What will you lose?
Every time you buy an item, you both gain something and lose something. If you are lucky, the only thing you lose is cash, and the time it took you to earn that money. But this is not always the case. A great example of this is a computer game. You gain entertainment, but you lose quality time with your family. Once you are certain you have worked out everything you will lose, move on to Step 7.
Step 7 - Is there a better way?
Now it is time to shop around for a good price and work out the smartest way to buy it. How can you get the best value for your dollar in the minimum time possible? Occasionally, working it out for yourself will take more time than you save, but you will get satisfaction in knowing that you have NOT been tricked and are doing the best for your family. Once you have researched your purchase and found the best way to buy it, move on to Step 8.
Step 8 - Do you have the spare cash?
Most of the time, buying things on credit is stupid. So if you don't have the cash, remain free; walk away and live happily ever after. Nothing is worth burdening yourself with debt for. This means you should avoid credit cards, laybys, interest free loans, mortgage refinancing facilities and so on. Only buy something if you have the spare cash - and if you don't, go home and save until you do.
More tools to help you become a Smarter Shopper
Memory Triggers - One way of stopping yourself is to keep a Memory Trigger in your wallet. These are available free for Vault members from the Downloads area. Print them off and put them wherever you need to, so you can stay on track and think twice before handing over your money.
The Savings Vault - What can we say? The average member saves $4000 in the first year of membership alone. We offer a 365-day 'no questions asked' money back guarantee so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Your Vault membership is just a click away. Think of it as an investment in yourself!
3. Best of the Vault: Compare and Stop Before You Shop!
Shop around, shop around, always shop around! You never have to accept the first price you see for something you want. Shopping around for the best price is not only great for your wallet; it's also brilliant for your self esteem. You have found the best way to get what you want. Be proud - you are one smart shopper! Here are some of our comparison shopping examples from the Vault.
Compare prices of baby gear in shopping centre
If you're shopping for baby gear in a large shopping centre, compare the prices in the major shops before you purchase. I recently compared prices in Target and Kmart in the same centre and found that some of the identical items (nappies, bath lotion, and so on) were cheaper in Kmart. It can also work the other way, of course. Just because these two shops happen to be owned by the same company doesn't mean that they have the same pricing policy!
When you are in a hole stop digging!
I've found that a simple sentence has really helped me focus more and motivate me towards developing the no-spend habit. While I understand the whole trap of using credit cards, minimum payments and the interest crunch, it's been a bit of an ongoing process where I've been stuck in the cycle of paying things off and then falling into the trap of using the card again for *emergencies*. While an emergency fund makes a lot of sense, it never seems to last long.
So now I tell myself this - "When you're in a hole, stop digging."
I know it sounds simple, but the power of the sentence is in the first part. You have to keep confronting the fact that the hole is of your own making and that the only way to get out of it is to stop what you are doing. It's not the bank's fault. It's not the easy credit. It is my choice.
This has really worked for me!
Compare deli prices to meat aisle
When in supermarkets, be sure to compare the price in the meat department to the deli. At our local Coles last week, chicken thighs skin-on in the meat department were $11.98 per kilo but chicken thighs skin-off in the deli were $7.94 a kilo. Not only were they cheaper, the thigh fillets in the deli were better for you too!
Check your total expenditure before you shop
The hardest thing when sticking to a grocery budget is knowing when you've reached it! I have created a simple spreadsheet with all the usual grocery items I buy listed and how much each costs, and before each shop I mark off each item I need and then check the total. This gives me a good idea of how much my shop will cost before I even get to the store. I also print the list off each shop and this becomes my shopping list. It takes a little time to get it started but is a great help once it's up and running.
Shop with a task in mind
If you really feel like you can't fight the urge to shop, at least shop with a task in mind. Instead of splurging on impulse buys for yourself; buy a present for another person for Christmas, birthday, wedding or whatever is coming up through the year and stick to a price limit!
Compare weights of meat on the bone and boneless meat
It is worthwhile to compare the edible weight with the purchase weight for meat on the bone you routinely buy. Once you know roughly how much bone there is in any cut, you can work out whether it is worth it to pay the extra per kilogram for boneless meat and chicken. This can also apply to the skin on chicken. I've found that about 50% of the time it does constitute a good buy to pay the extra but to buy a smaller amount.
The same goes for fruit. I used to avoid paying the higher prices per kilogram that stone fruits usually cost compared with bananas and apples until I worked out that a banana skin can weigh as much as 50% of a banana, whereas a pip is usually less than 10% of the weight of a peach. We now enjoy eating a wider variety of fruits without increasing our food budget - which I regard as a considerable saving!
Work out the costs of baking vs buying
It is definitely worth working out the costs of baking vs buying. I used to always buy biscuits and normally it would be a 300g bag (or more) of whatever was cheapest. However, recently I sat down and worked out the cost of making chocolate chip biscuits and was amazed to discover that I can bake approximately 30 biscuits, weighing just over 500g for the small cost of $1.78! I have checked out the supermarket costs and they can't compare - not only that but home baking tastes SO much better and I know what's in it too!
Window shop then buy online
When I need to make a big purchase, I always window shop first and if I find something I like, I record the details and then look for it on eBay. By doing this, I recently saved over $100 on a pair of new and genuine Adidas sunglasses for my partner. I have also made huge savings on brand name clothing, handbags and much more. It really does pay to window shop around!
There are so many ways to shop smarter! Here are some more links to terrific tips in the Savings Vault:
4. Best of the Forum: Spend Less, Shop Smart
Much of the time it feels impossible to leave the house without spending money. And let's face it, life would be pretty dull if you could never buy anything at all! But there are some brilliant ways you can shop smarter and still save - just like our clever members in the Savings Forum!
NOTE: The Forum is in our paid members area, the Vault. You have to be a Vault member to access it.
The Forum members reckon Claire M deserves an award for faithfully bringing a new thread into the forum every month so members can support each other in the monthly challenge. We agree - thanks a million Claire!
Rochelle loves op shops and so do we! You can find some wonderful bargains and save yourself loads of cash. Enjoy sharing your finds here with other members.
Being a smart shopper sometimes involves a lot of comparing prices which can be tedious. However, here is a site where you can compare grocery prices online with a click of your fingers!
Even if you have never tried to be a 'smart shopper' or 'smart saver' before, the Savings Vault members always have the best ideas and support around for newbies. Both these threads are just a sample of what you can do starting from scratch.
Baby steps for a newbie
My SS experience - Newbie
5. Sophie Gray: Capsule Pantry
You may have heard stylists talk about the 'the capsule wardrobe'. It's a selection of a few key garments from which you can make up dozens of smart and fashionable outfits. It saves you time and money and means you always have a great outfit for any occasion. (Visit www.mycapsulewardrobe.com and click 'gallery' for an example.)
My assistant Gillian is the capsule queen. She arrives every morning for work looking fabulous, in a seemingly infinite variety of lovely clothes, while I'm schlepping around in the same jeans I've worn all week (or worse, still in my dressing gown). It's not that Gillian has loads of money to spend - she works for me after all! But she has that whole capsule thing licked. She can add a cool jacket or floaty top to the same basic skirt and boots and it looks like a totally different outfit. She doesn't need to shop all the time as she can create an outfit by mixing and matching what she already has. It's smart, individual and yep, it's economical as the basics are usually not that pricey.
The capsule principal applies equally in the kitchen and this is where I really do have it going on. I worked out years ago that I needed a list of Pantry Essentials which I could then mix and match and dress up with the occasional item from the Luxuries list. This approach has saved us tons of money and provided us with endless tasty, inexpensive and healthy meals.
Applying the capsule wardrobe principal to your pantry will definitely save you money. You'll shop less and consequently spend less, because you are shopping smarter.
Work out what your absolute essentials are - just like with clothing you'll need the undies - onions, garlic, oil and seasonings.
You'll need to think about seasonal changes - fruit and vegetables and some all-year-round options, frozen or canned fruits and vegies.
You'll need staples - flour, milk, eggs, sugar, butter or spread, bread, canned foods, pasta, noodles, rice and so on. Look in your pantry and freezer and list the items you can't get by without.
Add a selection of affordable proteins - meat, fish, beans, tofu.
And a few specialty bits - these are little luxuries which, like jewellery, transform something simple into something stunning. Chorizo or other good sausage, salmon, parmesan and other specialty cheeses, chocolate, nuts, berries - you get the idea. Save them for special occasions.
Then mix and match - think about the dishes you regularly make; have you included those things in your lists? Have you factored in some quickie meals for busy nights? Work out in advance what goes with what so you can confidently cut back on the unnecessary items.
My favourite 'capsule pantry' ingredient is dried pasta. Like the perfect pair of black pants, I can dress it down or up, add lots of accessories or keep it really simple. It's appropriate at any time of the year and in most social situations!
Spaghetti with spicy sausage, ricotta and lemon
This dish can be made easily allowing 5 minutes for prep and first stage cooking, and roughly 5 minutes to complete cooking and seasoning. Or you can do all the prep in advance, in which case it will take around 8 minutes to make once the water is boiling, depending on how fast you move!
- Fresh or good quality dried spaghetti for 6 people
- 1 tbsp oil
- 3 fat cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
- 3-4 dried chorizo, quartered lengthwise and chopped
- 1 cup white wine
- Zest and juice of a lemon
- 2 generous handfuls of chopped parsley
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup ricotta
- (Optional) - two cups of frozen baby peas or baby spinach leaves
Heat oil in a frying pan, add chilli flakes and cook for 1 minute, reduce heat and add garlic and chopped chorizo.
When the chorizo is starting to brown, pour in the wine and simmer for 3-4 minutes. (While the pasta and sauce are cooking you can chop the parsley and grate the parmesan.)
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the packet directions. While the pasta is cooking chop the parsley and grate the parmesan.
When the pasta is cooked reserve ¾ cup of the starchy cooking water and add to the sauce. If using baby peas add them to the sauce now, so they heat through while you drain the pasta.
Return the pasta to the pan, toss in the parmesan, ricotta, baby spinach if using and pour on the sauce. Fold through the spaghetti, adding in the chopped parsley. Squeeze in the juice of a lemon and lemon zest, and adjust seasoning to taste adding more parmesan or lemon as required.
Serve in bowls with extra parmesan.
Creamy spaghettini with smoked salmon
Smoked salmon is a luxury to most of us. This super quick and easy pasta dish is a great example of how a little bit of a luxurious ingredient can go a long way. Salmon is intensely rich and flavourful so you only need a little, and this creamy delicious pasta meal is definitely good enough for guests.
- 100g smoked salmon shavings
- 300g dried spaghettini or spaghetti
- 200g crème fraîche
- 3 spring onions, sliced
- Juice and zest of a small lemon
- Black pepper
- Chopped parsley, optional
Boil the pasta in salted water according to the packet directions. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the starchy water it was cooked in.
Return the drained pasta to the pan and stir in the lemon juice and zest, spring onions and crème fraîche. Lastly, fold in the starchy water and salmon shavings.
Divide into bowls and top with a little cracked pepper and chopped parsley.
This easy kid-pleasing spaghetti meal is quick to make. If you don't have spaghetti, use penne, or any other pasta shape. This isn't a spicy sauce despite the chilli, you can of course add more chilli if you fancy a little more zing.
- Dried pasta for 4 people
- 200g diced bacon, rind removed
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 500ml passata (sieved cooked tomatoes, see cook's tips)
- A pinch of dried chilli flakes
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- A handful of fresh parsley
In a non stick pan, gently fry the bacon till lightly coloured. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a minute or 2 then pour in the passata. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering cook the dried pasta according to the packet directions. When the pasta is cooked stir the parmesan into the sauce and serve over the cooked pasta. Top with fresh parsley.
Cook's tip: Passata has a richer tomato flavour than regular canned tomatoes. Traditional passata is simply cooked, sieved tomatoes with a little salt and sugar added, it's really easy to make and bottle, or freeze yourself. It's also pretty cheap to buy and makes a great tasting sauce in minutes, it's readily available in supermarkets and delis.
6. Penny's Blog: Chalk and Cheese
June 29th, 2009
Have just returned from a surprise couple of days away! Last Thursday was our 15th wedding anniversary. There's no denying we're chalk and cheese but opposites attract as they say! In typical romantic style, I presented Noel with a copy of the latest 'Homegrown' book from NZ Gardener about growing your own fruit trees. In return I received two charms for my beloved Pandora bracelet and a whole two days away, just the two of us! It was a huge surprise and I had no idea where we were going. First I was taken for a dip at Miranda Hot Pools, where the lady kindly gave us an $8 discount simply for having to wait a few seconds for a staff member to arrive. We sat in the fog and munched happily on fish and chips before I was taken on a mystery tour through the back of beyond to our final destination - our favourite motel, Ashwood Manor in Hamilton! We have always enjoyed staying there over the years as it's so lovely and peaceful and everything is within walking distance. Not to mention we love the enormous spa baths!
We went for a leisurely stroll around the city and came across the most wonderful second hand book store called 'Browsers'. I could easily have spent all day in there! The atmosphere was lovely, the books were awesome and so were the prices. One thing which really grates me is second hand book stores which charge almost the same price for pre-loved books as it would cost to buy the exact same book new. Not so Browsers! Fiona calls places like this 'hidden gems' and I have definitely committed this little gem to memory for future visits! We had worked up a bit of a thirst after all that culture so we went to The Bank bar where we were instantly handed a free drink! We're still not entirely sure of the occasion but were very appreciative nonetheless! From there we went to one of our favourite restaurants Iguana where Noel managed to score two more complimentary beers thanks to it being their 'Wild Food Month'. Of course this was right up Noel's alley! I stuck to a nice conservative pasta dish whilst he tucked into everything from paua and wallaby to snails!
The next day we decided to have a wander round the shops to see if we could find anything for Ali's upcoming birthday. I had been excited the day before to see a sign in the boys' favourite clothing store '50% off all clothing!' 'Wow, perhaps I'll finally be able to get Ali that glow-in-the-dark skeleton jacket he's wanted for ages!' I told Noel. So we drove round and round until we found the nearest carpark (which was miles away) and ran through the pouring rain until we finally reached the store. I was delighted to find the aforementioned jacket - but to my disappointment it wasn't on sale. It was in the ONLY rack which wasn't on sale. 'Hmph, there's no way I'm paying full price for it!' I grumbled but as I made my way around the store I saw not one, but two large signs - one by each doorway blatantly saying 'Up to 50% off ALL clothes'. The big fibbers! I was pretty miffed and instantly pointed it out to the shop assistant. 'You said up to 50% off all clothes, but it's not at all!' I pouted. I would never have done that before SS and to be honest I felt a bit guilty having a go at her as it wasn't her fault but still, it was false advertising! Just the other day a local furniture store was fined $28,000 in court after admitting providing misleading information about the savings to be made on sale goods so I was darned if I was going to let anyone else get away with it. She agreed totally and she and another staff member said they would tell the manager and make sure the misleading signs were taken down. She also kindly offered me a discount of 10% but as that worked out to just $9 on a $90 jacket I still wasn't going to take her up on it. I'll wait for a REAL sale thank you!
Looks like I'll have to wait a while though. Round and round we traipsed but all the sales were rubbish. I hopped into one store excitedly after spotting a big sale table inside the doorway with a sign advertising popular brands for $20. The sign had been strategically placed so it looked as though the whole contents of the table was on sale for $20 but alas, no. Only a single small pile of t-shirts at the end of the table was $20, the rest was still $50 and upwards. The whole experience made me very cynical I can tell you!
Disillusioned with our false bargains we decided it was time to wend our way home, via the supermarket. Fifteen years of marriage or not, I decided I am never setting foot in a supermarket with Noel again. In recent months he has designated himself Chief Supermarket Shopper; a title I have been more than happy for him to have. It's a job he takes very seriously - a little too seriously if you ask me. Heaven help me if he spies one of my dockets and I happen to have bought something which could have been bought for less elsewhere or does not meet his approval!
It's extremely rare that we both go to the supermarket but on this occasion we had no choice but to venture in together. Straight away Mr Chief Supermarket Shopper took control. He strode his way purposefully around the fruit and vege section without once stopping to make any decisions about what we wanted or needed together. I did try to help and noticed there were some lovely looking Nashi pears. 'Hmm, Ali likes these,' I thought to myself. 'Hang on!' came the voice from around the back of the tomatoes, meaning 'don't buy anything without me!' Needless to say we did NOT get the Nashi's, they were deemed too expensive. The further we went around the aisles, the worse it got. 'I know my prices! You don't!' 'I am a smart shopper! You're not!' I swear he took at least 10 minutes faffing around in the bread aisle finding the best bargain loaf. I was already close to wringing his neck by that stage but the last straw was when he went and took the block of cheese I had picked up on special out of the trolley and smugly replaced it with another. I could take no more and left him to it. Never again!
I do admit to him being right about one thing though. I know we've got tons of meat in the freezer but I had had a craving for Beef Rogan Josh for ages and I didn't have the right cut of beef. So we perused the meat counter carefully for some time but it was no good. 'Sorry, but I refuse to pay this sort of money for crap meat,' Noel looked at me apologetically. I had to agree, we've been too spoilt with our meat for too long - our prime steak at home costs less than the supermarket gravy beef! I remember growing up in England that beef steak was so expensive it was something we only ever had on very special occasions such as birthdays. Now we have so much of it we think of it as mundane! We grow our own beef and they are raised solely on grass, the way nature intended. While not everyone has the space to keep a whole cow, many people don't realise they can source a whole beef animal just the same way the farmers do. You don't have to 'grow your own' to get awesome value for money. OK you do have to pay more up front but the savings are well worth it. The cheapest way to do it without growing it yourself is to get yourself along to a livestock sale. These are usually held several times a week and are advertised in your regional newspaper. You can either go along yourself and choose a suitable beef animal, or contact a livestock agent in your area, explain what you want and he will do it for you. Although we have our own animals on the place I refuse to eat anyone I know so this is what we do (it helps that Noel is a livestock agent!). To find a 'stockie' in your area, either do a Google or Yellow Pages search, or ask at a rural supplies store. You can even buy cattle on Trade Me these days but if you see it yourself at a sale you can be confident you know what you are getting.
Here in NZ, the price of a whole animal changes with the seasons. In winter or summer you can get yourself a decent sized beefie for the freezer for around $500. During spring and autumn you can expect to pay around $800. If your budget won't stretch to that in one go, many people go 'halves', 'thirds' or even 'quarters' with friends/family members. Once at the sale, if you don't know what you're looking for, ask a stock agent at the saleyards to help you (you can't miss them). Once you have selected your beefie you don't have to take it home with you! You can either 1) make a call to your local wholesale butcher and ask them to pick it up from the saleyards or 2) ask the truck drivers nicely at the saleyard if they will take it straight to the butcher for you. Don't be scared to ask for help or advice at the saleyards, there will be plenty of experienced farmers and buyers there who will be happy to share tips. From there, the butcher will contact you to ask what cuts/portion sizes and so on you want. He will then contact you again a few days later when your fresh, top quality meat has been processed and packed and ready for pick up or delivery. Easy when you know how! The cost of butchering a whole beef animal is usually around $200 (NZ). With beef mince currently selling for $10 a kilo in the supermarket, the amount of mince alone you get by purchasing in bulk this way more than pays for the cost of the animal and the processing. That's without the porterhouse steak, scotch fillet steak, rump steak, stewing steak, schnitzel, corned silverside, topside roast, rib roasts and sausages that you also get!
The process is the same for lamb. We have our own sheep, but I could never eat Edwina, Poppet or Mimi! So I nag Noel into buying one I don't know at the sale. Sheep are actually really expensive at the moment by usual prices, they're around $70 for a hogget but again the value is amazing and it costs less than $50 for processing and packing. With lamb shoulder chops priced at $16.99 a kilo at the supermarket and lamb roasts at over $20, the savings are massive in comparison. So that's how we do it - food for thought, hmm?
9th - Still here!
15th - Shepherds Pie Soup
17th - Ways and means
22nd - Mission possible
7. Homeopathy Corner: The Common Cold
This month Fran has written a practical common sense article with simple tips to avoid catching a cold and what to do if a cold catches up with you. To read Fran's article go to:-
8. From Last Month: Pantry Problems
Last month Patricia Brooks asked:
"We have a storage problem with our pantry. It is about 56cm wide and deep and too tall for me to reach the top shelf. My problem is that the items at the back get lost, and a couple of times I have bought a grocery item, only to find I already have one tucked away at the back. Most solutions are costly so if anyone can suggest a morecost effective way to organise it we would be very glad."
Patricia is not alone! Many Simple Savers have similar storage problems. Thankfully, just as many have solutions that are innovative, inexpensive and effective! Here are some of the best:
Ice cream containers stack up well
Empty ice cream containers are ideal for helping me maintain a tidy pantry. How do I know? My family goes through about four litres of ice cream each fortnight! Ice cream containers stack really well, so I use them to store grocery items that are usually difficult to stack. For example, I use a container for pasta items, one for packets of sauce and soup mix, one for spices, and one for small baking items such as food colourings and essences. The containers are easily removed from the pantry - you use what you need and put the container back when you're done. Just remember to label each container so they can be identified at a glance. If you're not a big ice cream fan, grab some containers from family or friends. In return, you can give them my handy storage hint!
Simple steps to better storage
To make it easier to see what you have in your pantry, get some planks of wood and stack them on each pantry shelf until they resemble steps. Place your tins and containers on the steps, so you can see what's on the step behind without having to move a thing. You can buy storage products that do a similar job, but they're expensive, especially when a few planks will do the same thing for next to nothing. Also, I keep a small stool in my pantry - it's small enough to be inconspicuous but it makes it easier for me to reach the top shelves.
Cost effective storage
My solution to having a better organised pantry is very cost effective. That's because you don't need to buy a thing! The key is HOW the pantry is organised -each shelf in my pantry is split up as follows:
BAKING - flour, sugar, icing sugar and so on; COOKING/MEALS - polenta, rice, pasta, sauces and gravy; SNACKS - chips, biscuits, salsa, muesli bars and so on; STOCK - spare juice, long life milk and large tins of oil; SELDOM USED - bread mix, cake mix and so on.
By having shelves stocked by type, I only need to look on one shelf to see whether or not I have a particular item. It also makes it easier for the kids to put items in the right place when they help unpack the groceries.
My pantry is now organised, things are easy to find and everyone can search for items themselves - which saves me time as well!
An alternative pantry
This is not your usual solution to pantry storage problems but, then again, I don't have the usual type of pantry. Part of my pantry is actually a lovely chest of pine drawers that were no longer needed in the bedroom. The sliding drawers make for easy access, which is a real blessing as I have arthritis in my back and neck, plus I am rather on the short side! I store small items, for example, tinned prawns in the drawers at the top of the chest. Tins of fruit, jars and bottles are grouped together in the medium size drawers and soft drinks and juices are kept in the large bottom drawer. In my kitchen cupboards I use plastic baskets and medium sized tubs to store other food stuffs. Like my pine drawers, these baskets and tubs slide out easily and I can see at a glance what I have in stock. These tubs and baskets were bought from discount retailers such as The $2 Shop.
A ladder in the larder
It's possible to keep your pantry in order without spending too much money - all you need are a piece of laminated white paper and a small step ladder.
Divide the paper into sections for example, four sections if you have four shelves. Using a removable pen, list the items on each shelf in the appropriate section and stick the paper to the inside of the pantry door. Add or remove items from your list as you buy or use these items. Keep the step ladder handy and use it to reach for the item you need. Storing seldom used items at the top of the pantry helps too!
Lazy Susan organises my pantry
I have a deep pantry, so I bought some lazy Susans for the pantry, as well as the fridge. Life is much easier now, as I just spin 'Suzie' around until I see what I want. You can find lazy Susans for a good price at most retailers, such as Big W.
A trio of tidy tips
These are just a few of the things I do to prevent doubling up on pantry items:
I stack the shelves according to height. I put tall items at the back of the shelves, for example, biscuits, cereals, containers of flour and pasta. For organisational reasons, I try to group items such as flour, cake mix and sugar together.
I bought two baskets and put all of my packet pastas, packet meals and small items like canned tuna into them. This takes up far less space on the shelf and allows me to pull the baskets out to get the item I want.
I put the items I use every day, or on a regular basis, at the front of the shelf or on the shelf that's easiest to reach. The items I use least are kept at the rear or on the bottom or top shelves.
Crates are great
I lose things very easily in my large pantry, so I went looking for storage crates with straight sides, so as not to waste space. I found what I was after at Bunnings, ranging in size from small to super large. I labelled each crate 'vegetables', 'condiments', 'Italian', 'Asian' and so on and then packed the crates with the appropriate tins, boxes or bottles. Now, if I am looking for a specific ingredient, I know which crate to go to, which is a great time saver.
My crate system makes my pantry easy to clean, as I just remove all the crates and stack them in the corner of the kitchen while I clean. When I'm finished, I slide them back in again. So easy!
9. This Month's Help Request: Romantic Meals Away
This month Theresa Green asks:
"We are about to embark on a much needed weekend away for two, something we have been saving for. The apartment has a kitchen and because we don't have extra funds to splash out on fancy meals I would love to take some nice food to make that would really make it special but doesn't require a lot of cooking or cash."
If you are a hopeless romantic with culinary skills, Theresa could use your help. Send your tips here.
10. Savings Story: 'Tough love' Debt Reduction
With a little 'tough love' I have helped a close friend pay $7000 off her debts in just five months. She had a real problem on her hands with her total debt on just two cards reaching over $22,000 in January this year. My friend asked for my help because, despite being on a relatively high salary, no budgets or savings tricks were working. While the plastic burned a hole in her pocket and the debt stayed depressingly high, she would pay off large chunks of debt and then go shopping, only to max out the cards again.
The solution has been to hand over all her financial management to me. This has really worked. The credit cards have been cut up, the passwords have been re-set by me and all her statements, new cards and credit limit increase offers now come to my address. Every pay cycle I transfer funds to bring down the credit card debt, allocate a weekly allowance to her current account and pay off other bills.
After five months, the debt is down to $15,000. This extreme savings solution relies on trust, room for negotiation and support of other friends and family. This system is also teaching her to live more frugally by limiting the weekly spend. This solution is not for the faint hearted but it recognises that saving and debt reduction sometimes requires 'tough love'.