"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - February 2013

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Just When You Thought it was Safe...
  2. February: Control Your Cash
  3. How to Make a Basic Budget by David Wright
  4. Best of the Vault: Best Budget Bits
  5. Best Members' Blog: Paper Days and the Pledge
  6. Best of the Forum: Stash That Cash!
  7. Hidden Gems: Lexatonia Tiles
  8. Homeopathy Corner: An Introduction, Part 3
  9. Cooking with Mimi: Budget Busting Egg-free Pancakes
  10. Claire's Corner: No More Primary School for Us!
  11. 50c Indulgences: New Beginnings
  12. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Trying to Beat the Heat in the Patch
  13. From Last Month: Yeast and Wheat-Free
  14. This Month's Help Request: Outdoor Makeover
  15. Goodbye For Now

Hello,

How are you going? I hope you are having a lovely February. Things have been very busy in Simple Savings land. This month we have been flat out moving into our new office/warehouse. Wow! Can you believe it! After ten years of running Simple Savings from the corner of our lounge or spare bedroom, we finally have an office! And, the kids now have two bedrooms between the four of them; a boys' room and a girls' room. They are in heaven!

This month our focus is on budgeting and we have been working with our favourite budgeting expert, David Wright from Simply Budgets. I really enjoy working with David and I have been able to wrangle some great discounts on his budgeting software for our members. His software costs $127 on his site, but he is allowing us to sell it for just $97. And, I have even talked him into giving all our subscribers a free trial for 30 days. (See below.) How cool is that! :-)

I love being big enough that we can negotiate good prices for you :-) I also love your emails and Facebook messages. Here are some of this month's favourites:

"I was really happy to receive your first 2013 newsletter, as always it is full of wonderful, helpful information. It has started me on a new growth spurt. I was reading 'See it, Be it!' and started to think of the page I would set up. I picked saving money. For me that would mean not gambling on poker machines. I searched the web for a picture that would portray not gambling on poker machines - there were pictures of gamblers at poker machines but nothing that was not gambling. However, I found a book called 'Addiction by Design'. Well, I am now looking honestly at my gambling addiction and I have you to thank for that.

"I also read '2013 the year to...'. I really felt like something tasty to eat - ahhh a packet of chips, I thought. The article talked about substituting. I looked in my cupboard and there were some packets of noodles which had been there for a while unused. I opened one and crunched them up and put the sachet of flavour over them. Well, I can tell you they are a very satisfactory substitute for a packet of chips. I feel well satisfied. Again, thank you for a wonderful helpful newsletter." (Lois)

"I would like to take this opportunity to express my love for your site and the difference it has made to me and my family. Thank you. Each day I learn something from this site. I believe I also have become a better person because of all the giving and sharing that takes place in the Forum. You cannot but feel inspired and also not want to be involved in some way by support, suggestions or in helping others once you start reading the Forum. This is such a wonderful outreach for the whole community not only in the savings area. Thank you from a grateful subscriber." (Janet)

Have a great month!

All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. FREE BUDGETING SOFTWARE TRIAL

We arranged a free 30 day trial of Simply Budgets software for all our subscribers. (PC only.) There are no strings attached to this trial. None at all. Here is the link:-

simplesavings.com.au/simplybudgets/download

If you have never seen this software before and you would like to see how it works, here is a video explaining the software on YouTube:-

youtube.com/watch?v=FOj5N5oEO5s&feature=share&list=UUiWgZQg6k3vYJqKXnuBZ11Q

(Important, you can only get the FREE trial from this newsletter. Elsewhere on our site you will be asked to pay for the trial. I had to twist David's arm behind his back to get him to agree to the free trial. ;-) )


1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Just When You Thought it was Safe...

Sally and Pete were sharing a quiet glass of wine after dinner. Sally sighed contentedly. "You know what, Pete, have you noticed how much less we argue since we started using a budget?"

Pete harrumphed, "Oh no, we still argue Sally, just not about money!" Sally laughed, "Well that's true, but you know what I mean - all our bills are paid on time and we have even started SAVING money each month."

Pete agreed. "Yes, it certainly feels great to be able to control our cash and now we can finally afford that new bathroom."

"Hmmm," said Sally dreamily. "I'm thinking black slate tiles and gold fittings..."

"Oh no," said Pete, shaking his head. "It has to be white tiles and chrome!"

"Black and gold," growled Sally.

"White and chrome," grimaced Pete.

"Black and gold..."


2. February: Control Your Cash

Wow. How far has Sally come?! Once upon a time she and Pete would have been fighting over Sally's hidden credit card statements, or her latest shopping spree. Pete would be begging Sally to please, PLEASE stop buying things with money they didn't have, and Sally, bless her heart would have only looked more confused and desperate as Pete got more angry and frustrated.

Of course, Sally and Pete are not the only couple in the world ever to have fought about money. Money problems are after all the number one reason for divorce. Even Matt and I have been known to clash over the cash! One of the best arguments we ever had was about adding a verandah to our house. I claimed we had the money - Matt argued we didn't. As it turned out, Matt was right.

It wasn't easy to convince me - he had to prove it to me with hard numbers before I begrudgingly agreed with him - but that was the clincher. Matt KNEW we couldn't afford to build that verandah because he had all the numbers in black and white to prove it, whereas I was only guessing. When it comes to deciding when you should or shouldn't spend money it is important you base your decision on hard figures. Don't just guess!

In our case we were fortunate. Matt had our budget under control; he knew how much money we did or didn't have but many couples are not so lucky. Most just wing it - and that is a dangerous way to be. It's like Russian roulette - you just guess, go ahead blindly and hope for the best. You have no way of knowing if you have the money and whether that purchase is going to cause yourself a big headache in a month's time or six weeks' time - unless you have a budget.

So what we want you to do this month is to make your own budget. In the following article, our friend David Wright is going to explain how you can do your own budget. You can create one in an Excel spreadsheet, bits of paper or use his software, do whichever way is easier for you. But, make sure you do your budget!


3. How to Make a Basic Budget by David Wright

I am going to show you how to make a basic budget so you can predict, and pay for, all your bills months before they arrive. It is a bit like having a crystal ball for your finances so you will never be caught short, or accidentally run out of money again.

To do this I'm going to ask you to do the following -

  • Collect up all your bills from the last 12 months
  • Sort them into categories
  • Add up the numbers
  • Create a 12 monthly spending plan

Sounds complicated? You'll see it isn't at all. Sure, this part takes a little time but the pay-off will be well worth the effort because once you have finished you will have gained absolute control over your finances. No more just guessing! Let's get started.

STEP 1. Gather Your Expenses

First, grab all your bank statements and receipts from the past 12 months. Next, you need to begin sorting them into date order and separate categories, as described in step two:

STEP 2. Categorise Your Expenses

The easiest way to do this is to lay your statements and receipts out down your hallway in a long chronological line, month by month. Once you've done that, use highlighters to colour-code similar expenses, such as marking all the electricity payments with yellow, all the health insurance payments in blue and so on. You will immediately see that patterns emerge for your recurring expenses. Stand back at the end of your hallway and you'll be able to see your big bill months and your little bill months.

Once you have them all laid out and highlighted, you should notice that they fall into these three categories:

  1. Regular Expenses:- Predictable expenses that fall within a yearly cycle, such as the electricity bill occurring every three months or the grocery bill occurring weekly.
  2. Long Term Expenses:- Semi-Predictable expenses which fall on a much longer cycle. These will be things like buying a new refrigerator or replacing tyres on your car.
  3. Unpredictable Expenses:- These are expenses that require 'Savings' to be put aside, such as paying for physio bills after a broken leg or paying for a daughter's wedding.

So now you need to separate all your bills into the three categories mentioned: Regular Expenses, Long Term Expenses and Unpredictable Expenses.

STEP 3. Add Up the Numbers

Each of these three expense categories will affect your budget in different ways. So we are going to treat them differently.

Regular Expenses

Your Regular Expenses are very consistent and happen several times per year. So it is easy to work out how much the item costs you each year by multiplying the amount with the number of bills you received. For example:

Electricity $200 x 4 times a year = $800/yr
Telephone $50 x 12 times a year = $600/yr
Petrol $80 x 52 times a year = $4160/yr
Home insurance $80 x 12 times a year = $960/yr

Once you have worked out what every item costs, add up the total cost of all your Regular Expenses for the year and then divide it by your number of pay days (52 for weekly, 26 for fortnightly and so on).

This figure is the amount of money you need to put aside each pay day to pay for your Regular Expenses.

For the sake of this exercise, let's say the amount we need to cover our Regular Expenses is $654 every pay day.

Semi-predictable Long Term Expenses

Some of the Long Term Expenses you will need to budget for can be found in last year's statements and receipts, but many will not be. So you're going to have to walk around your house and write down all the things that you will need to replace when they wear out or rust out. Think about how long a new one should last, think about how old your items are now and try to estimate when you think you will need to replace them and what each one will cost. Then work out how much you need to put aside each year for your future Long Term Expenses.

Do it like this example:-

Refrigerator replacement $1000 every 10 years = $100/yr
Washing machine replacement $1200 every 8 years = $150/yr

Add up the total cost of all your Long Term Expenses per year and once again divide by the number of pay days in a year. This figure is the amount of money you need to put aside each pay day to cover your Semi-Predictable Long Term Expenses.

For the sake of this exercise, let's say the amount we need to cover our Long Term Expenses is $80 per pay day.

Unpredictable Expenses

After you have planned for your Regular and Semi-Predictable Expenses, there is still a need to put money aside for expenses that are just not predictable at all, even if they are 'once in a lifetime' expenses. Doing this will pick up anything not covered already and will then give you a complete picture of your total household budget.

(Nominate a weekly amount for each item - some will be an estimate and some you can calculate fairly accurately.)

For example,
Daughter's wedding $10 a week = 10 x 52 = $520/yr
Retirement fund $50 a week = 50 x 52 = $2600/yr
Round the world holiday in two years' time $100 a week = 100 x 52 = $5200/yr

Add up the total amount needed per year. Now divide this by your number of pay days. This figure is the amount of money you need to put aside every pay day for your Unpredictable Expenses.

For the sake of this exercise, let's say the amount we need per pay to cover our Unpredictable Expenses is $180 per pay day.

Now, it is time to add all your categories together.

Regular Expenses - $654 per pay day
Long Term Expenses - $80 per pay day
Savings - $180 per pay day
Total required - $914 per pay day.

If you have done all this, when you get to this point you will know how much money you are supposed to put aside each pay to cover your bills into the future.

Perfect in theory, however, the biggest revelation for me was when I found there is no guarantee that doing what I have outlined above will ensure you will always be able to pay your bills when they are due!

I got really frustrated when I did all the calculations, worked out my budget and I still had bills arriving that I struggled to pay. I'd be tearing my hair out wondering what I had done wrong!

Bills would come and I would find myself short of money.

I had to sit down and really think about what was going wrong. And then I worked it out. The answer was that I had not done anything wrong; I had just not quite done enough right. There was one more piece to the puzzle! The job was not quite finished off and I set about working out the perfect system to get it right!

I had done a two dimensional budget. It balanced Income and Expenses perfectly! What I went on to discover was the need for a three dimensional budget which not only looked at ins and outs but also brought timing into the plan. That's when we went from a financially struggling family to a low-money-stress family!

Taking Shortcuts

When I first started this 'three dimensional' budgeting I did it all on bits of paper using a calculator and a calendar. I'll explain how to use the calendar next month. It worked so well I got VERY excited, even if it did take me a lot of time. It made such a difference I just wanted to tell everyone about what I had discovered.

I eventually made software to speed up the process and do the calculations and I started doing budgets for other people who were suffering the same way I had been. I changed many people's lives for the better.

If you would like to trial my budgeting software, Fiona has harassed me into letting her give you a 30 day trial for free. Here is a link to the software:

simplesavings.com.au/simplybudgets/download

(If you want the trial for free, hang on to this link. If you try to get the trial from David's site or from our Ye Olde Shoppe both will try to charge you.)


4. Best of the Vault: Best Budget Bits

There are so many ways to help you control your cash! The Vault is full of fantastic ideas to help you keep your money in your pocket - some are clever, some are cool and some are just downright kooky! Here are a few to get you started:

A better way to budget

We have learned how to save $372 per fortnight, or almost $10,000 a year, on our living costs!

Since having a baby, I have been dipping into our re-draw from our home loan for the last three years. On top of my partner's salary, we have spent about $30,000 extra since our baby was born. Because our savings were dwindling, I had to do something about it. We were using EFTPOS to buy everything and usually by mid-fortnight, we had spent our salary and then started using the re-draw facility.

I decided to draw up a budget. The first thing we did was to open three bank accounts: a savings, bills and a pay account. I used a free budget manager from www.alphalink.com.au/~sergeb/smart-budget.html to help so that I could see the 'big picture' of where our money was going.

To make it easier, I over-budgeted our expenses. This is our weekly budget:

  • $150 food
  • $20 each pocket money
  • $50 weekend money (shared)
  • $55 petrol (two cars)

Each pay day I divide the money up and put it into labelled jars. If we don't use all of the allotted money, I take it back and put it into the savings jar.

I also used the budget planner to calculate all our bills, including rates and mortgages, electricity, gas, registrations and insurances, so that we put money away each fortnight. Expenses like gifts, clothes, postage and other sundries have to come out of our food budget.

Simple Savings provides very innovative ways to save on these expenses. I looked around and found a butcher's shop that was cheap with staple foods where I now buy meat ($20 a fortnight) eggs ($1.00 per dozen) and bread ($2.00 for three loaves). I have found a cheap fruit and vegetable shop, where I am buying crates of apples ($8.50) and 10kg bags of carrots ($5.00) to juice instead of buying juice.

Since doing this, we feel like we have more money, more fresh food and we are not broke a week later - plus we've been saving $372 EVERY fortnight, which equates to $9672 a year!

Contributed by: Elizabeth

Stick to a budget night and reap the benefits

By doing my budget on my payday every second Friday I have found that I have stopped overspending or impulse buying because the money is already allocated. My budget is already drawn up so as soon as my money goes into the bank I immediately transfer any money for savings into my savings account (bonus interest of course) and I pay as many bills online as I can. Then I subtract my direct debits (mortgage, life insurance, car insurance) from my balance and work out exactly how much money I have left to physically take out of the bank. This way I only use the ATM once a fortnight, saving on fees, and the only money I have is the cash in my hand. With that cash I disburse it to bills which can't be paid online, gifts, whatever is due that fortnight and all I have left then is my pocket money, which I also divide up into different amounts for different outings I have planned for that fortnight. This only works if you do your budget the very day you get paid, otherwise it is easy to spend money without thinking about where it's coming from and finding it later isn't easy.

Contributed by: Elisa Simpson

Some brilliant, and timely, budget advice

Have money, will spend. Only problem was, we were spending too much!

My husband and I wanted to make major renovations to our home, so I went back to work. We had been doing just fine on his income but the extra money I was making disappeared into thin air. We are fortunate to have free daycare, courtesy of my mother-in-law, so that didn't explain the mystery of my missing money! What we were doing, quite simply, was spending too much of that extra income. Time for action.

First, I opened a separate bank account and had my wages transferred into it. The interest rate is not that flash but the fees are low.

I set up an Excel workbook with a calendar style budget. I can see how much money is coming in and going out on any given day, and I include estimates of upcoming bills. I always make the estimate slightly more than the previous bill. If the new bill is less, it's a bonus.

I keep an inventory of what is in my pantry and write a proper shopping list so I don't buy what I don't need.

My Excel workbook also includes a price list of everything we buy so when I go shopping I know exactly how much it should cost me. This helps me keep to my budget and if it goes over I see if there is something we can do without for another couple of weeks.

I regularly have a big cooking day when I make enough meals to last three weeks. We no longer buy takeaway as there is always something quick and easy in the freezer. My goal is to eventually cook enough meals to last for four weeks. I'm getting there!

I take snacks and lunches to work. I buy a loaf of raisin toast for $4.00, stick it in the freezer and take two slices to work each day. Better than paying $3.00 for a couple of slices in a cafe. Lunch can be tasty leftovers or a sandwich from home. Snacks consist of fruit and nuts and to satisfy that afternoon chocolate craving, I buy a 'fun size' packet of Milky Way bars. With 20 bars in each pack, this is much better value.

Instead of buying new shoes, I have found a place that will re-sole my favourite shoes for $6.00.

We are now saving my entire pay packet and a fair chunk of my husband's as well. Our renovation dream is much closer to becoming a reality.

Contributed by: Irene Knezovic

No more stress with budgeting

My husband hates not being able to spend money, which has made saving a bit tricky! I was stressing about money but then I discovered Simple Savings and began to find ways to get on top of our budget.

Now I put his petrol and spending money in an account that is just for him. Another account, which we both access, pays all the weekly expenses and a third account is not touched for anything but the bills. As I do all the banking, I then go through at the end of the week and transfer any leftovers into the 'sealed' account. It's a bit fiddly but it removes him from temptation and keeps the budget running smoothly.

Contributed by: Bernadette S.

Old fashioned price tags help keep budget on track

We are saving literally hundreds of dollars a month by putting price tags on all our food. Until we had our baby nine months ago my husband and I really had no budget. We'd just buy things as we needed/wanted and would visit the supermarket numerous times a week. I wanted to be a stay at home mum to our daughter but on one income this was proving really tough. We sat down to work out where all our 'disposable' income was going and we realised we were spending an extreme amount of money on food. My husband liked to cook adventurous meals that included countless extravagant ingredients and we were spending around $200-$250 a week for just the two of us!

So we decided to focus on how much money we spent on each meal. I started writing the cost of each item on the jar, container or tin when we brought it home from the supermarket and it was quite incredible how much of an effect this had on our spending habits. Seeing the dollar signs on every item that we were cooking with helped us recognise the bargains at the supermarket and get the best deals available. We then set a dollar limit for each meal of $5.00 for breakfast, $8.00 for lunch and $15 for dinner. Each week we challenged ourselves to reduce the cost of each meal by a dollar and are now managing on around $2.00 for breakfast, $2.00 lunch and often under $5.00 for dinner. It also makes meals more interesting as we're always looking for an ingredient that fits inside our budget. Once a week we have a 'Friday Night Feast' where we don't stick to the minimum spend, yet we still find ourselves trying to make the most cost-effective meal!

Now we're buying less tinned and pre-prepared food, we've stopped buying chips, biscuits, desserts and pasta and are making our own wherever we can. We buy meat every second week and if we run out we just supplement with beans and legumes. Now we can survive on under $150 one week and $100 the next. We've found we're now cost cutting in every aspect of our lives and have saved $400 in the last fortnight alone.

Contributed by: Sally McQuillan

Here are a few more ideas for our valued Vault members:

Hold on to your cash with Mojo's help! Contributed by: fatbottomedgirl

Stay within food budget, aisle by aisle Contributed by: Faye June

The 'Better You' Budget Contributed by: Heather F


5. Best Members' Blog: Paper Days and the Pledge

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Faye for her blog on getting organised and saving money!

I did something that I've been putting off for far too long yesterday - I had a paper day.

It took me a whole day but I managed to achieve SO much! For example, I made a 25% saving on my gas and light bills combined. I rolled three superannuation funds into one. I re-activated my ING account and set it up for my emergency fund... I was on a roll!

I also went to the library today and borrowed a home energy audit kit. I have an LED LCD HD 3D TV on order from Castle Hampers so until the end of the year I will still be using my old televisions with set top boxes. I think they will give me the biggest shocks in my energy audit.

I also read some time ago that anything with an element is brutal for energy consumption. So when my toaster died I just didn't replace it and now use the griller on the gas stove. I recently cut all my hair off and no longer use a dryer or straightener either.

So that leaves the kettle. Every morning I have a couple of cups of tea and then a coffee, all in fairly quick succession. That's a fair bit of boiling (element) time. So I'm taking The Pledge. I'm going to fill the kettle full (instead of just one cup's worth) and put it in the thermos. I'm looking forward to seeing if it makes a difference. I started doing this once before, but petered out but this time I'm deadly serious!'

Congratulations Faye on getting organised and making changes!

To read any of our members' blogs, click here


6. Best of the Forum: Stash That Cash!

We are continually amazed by the huge numbers of kind, helpful and resourceful members who make up our fantastic Forum community. If you have a problem, someone will have an answer! And when it comes to money - careful, stand back - you are going to get stampeded with information and support! If it's one thing our members do well, it is supporting each other, so this month we'd like to highlight a few of our favourite long term savings threads - it is never too late to join in.

$140,000 mortgage down to $0 in 12 months #14

It is ALL HAPPENING in Freedom's thread and to borrow one of her sayings, 'When one little thought turns wild, magic can happen :)'
read more...

2013: The lowest we can go #3

Can you hear the squealing? That is the sound of dollars begging for mercy as this amazing group and their fearless leader s-t-r-e-t-c-h them to breaking point!
read more...

Feb '13: Babysteps mortgage, CC and savings challenge

Another friendly and fantastic group of Financial Freedom Fighters who strive to make every dollar count.
read more...

Babysteps with Dave Ramsey #13

This series of threads kicked off in 2010 and is still going strong!
read more...


7. Hidden Gems: Lexatonia Tiles

Our Hidden Gems directory is designed to help members source the best deals in their area. This month's Hidden Gem is Lexatonia Tiles, Sydney as nominated by Simmy.

Lexatonia is a family run business specialising in tiles but we used them for most of our bathroom renovation. They have a huge (almost overwhelming!) range of tiles, but if you don't find one you like they can order in pretty much anything. They also order by the metre rather than the box so you can order as little or as much as you like without having to pay for a whole lot of extras you don't need.

The service is wonderful. They will order in anything for you from their bathroom suppliers and find the best price they can. They price matched a few things for us and threw in a couple of upgrades for free too. I must have been in there ten times over a fortnight and they were always helpful and understanding of my limited renovation knowledge! If you tell them your approximate budget they will work hard to find a solution within that range.

Where: 6/2 Abbott Road, Seven Hills, NSW
Contact: (02) 9674 1944

Well done Simmy on locating such a fantastic hidden gem and thanks so much for sharing.


8. Homeopathy Corner: An Introduction, Part 3

Sometimes I wonder where my family would be today without homeopathic remedies and without Fran. And it is not a nice thought. Fran has helped us through some very difficult and worrying health episodes. However, so many people still do not understand homeopathy or how it can help them and that is really sad. So I am very pleased that Fran is doing her best to help as many people as possible. She really is worth her weight in gold. And then some!

This month Fran is unraveling some of the mysteries of homeopathy by explaining all the different forms remedies come in and how frequently you should give remedies. Here is a link to this month's article:-

homeopathyplus.com.au/homeopathy-made-simple-how-would-you-like-your-remedy-part-3

Thank you Fran!


9. Cooking with Mimi: Budget Busting Egg-Free Pancakes

It's the end of the school holidays, which means it's the start of the school term. The bank account is empty courtesy of Santa and the school uniform shop and the kids still want a treat. Hells bells, as my Aunty Myrtle used to say!

When I was a kid, pancakes were the ultimate Mother Hubbard meal. You know the one where she looks in her cupboard and it's bare but she still has to feed herself and the dog and goodness knows who else? That was our place on weekends. In fact, that's still our place, but thanks to my humble childhood, I still know how to rustle up something from nothing.

I've actually managed to trump the family dynasty's secret budget busting pancake recipe though, by eliminating the need for an egg. One egg + flour + oil + a little milk and sugar used to be the recipe of choice for us, and probably for you too.

No egg = no yummy pancakes today.

But with the simple addition of some white vinegar and a little rest for the batter, we can now have pancakes even without an egg in our Mother Hubbard's cupboard.

Here's how:

Budget Busting Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour (GF flour works well too!)
  • 2 tbsp milk powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp oil or melted butter or margarine
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence or vanilla extract

You'll also need a non-stick pan, a plate to hold your cooked pancakes, cooking spray or a little butter, oil or margarine, and a spatula. Of course honey, maple syrup, fruit and yoghurt or ice cream and caramel sauce are all an excellent idea for satisfying pancake consumption too. Our favourite used to be a little butter whipped in a bowl with honey to sweeten it, so steal our idea if you wish. It's certainly a frugal option!

A much neglected secret I learned at my grandmother's knee on the subject of perfect pancakes, is to have a thin, neat edged spatula with which to flip them. A metal one is best. Basically, dodgy plastic egg flip thingy with rough forward edge = rough looking pancakes with nasty blobby edge. And one more? Only cook one neat pancake at a time. Do not be tempted to try and fit three in the pan. It's difficult to flip 'em, and it just gets messy.

Now, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a hollow in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix well with a whisk until smooth.

Allow the batter to rest for 30 minutes. You'll notice bubbles forming on the surface. Do not be tempted to stir the batter again. You'll be scooping it straight into your hot pan, fluffy air bubbles intact.

Heat a non-stick pan over a medium-high hotplate and spray it liberally with cooking spray or just a smidge of oil or butter. Honestly, you don't want them to 'fry' as such. The dryer the surface of the pan, the better. If you don't have spray oil, melt a little butter or margarine in the pan, then remove it from the heat and wipe the melted butter away with a paper towel. That's how little you need. And that pan has to be nice and hot initially, but you'll be turning it down to about 2/3 of full power after the first pancake bites the dust.

Accept that the first pancake, for reasons only known to the cosmos, will always fall into the aforementioned dodgy category. If you can get a picture perfect pancake on the first go, I want to hear about it. I think it's the universe's way of keeping us humble...he-he!

Take a large serving spoon or 1/3 cup measuring cup and scoop it full of bubbly batter. Plop the batter into the middle of your hot, lightly greased pan, and spread it quickly with the back of the spoon or the edge of the measuring cup, into a nice, even circle.

Watch for the edges of your pancake to cook and rise slightly and for bubbles to form on the surface. Do not try to flip your pancake until a nice firm edge has formed or you'll end up with aliens, not pancakes. Slide your lovely thin spatula under one edge of the pancake and if it lifts easily with no ensuing dribbles messing up your neat circle, it's ready to flip. At this stage, your pancake is pretty much done, and you're just browning the other side, so give it about thirty seconds, lift it to check for a nice golden colour and slide it onto a waiting plate.

Turn the hotplate down to 2/3 full heat.

Continue with the rest of your batter, cleaning the edge of your spatula thoroughly after flipping each pancake. It's a simple thing that really makes a difference.

Keep cooking and stacking those pancakes till the batter is all used. This quantity makes 6-10 decent sized pancakes, so enough for one good pancake eating session, whether for two big kids or 10 littlies.

Pat yourself on the back for being such a great parent. Kids fed, takeaway visit averted, happy tummies... it doesn't get much better than that!

You can discover more of Mimi's yummy creations in our Members' Blog area.


10. Claire's Corner: No More Primary School For Us!

So, here we are one month in to the New Year... last month I resolved to achieve three things this year: lose weight, pay off the credit cards and get the bathroom sorted. And I've made a good start, well... a start of sorts! I've signed myself up with MyFitnessPal (thanks to a member suggestion some time back!). It's a great little site that helps you track your calories and help you think twice about what you're eating. I don't know if I've actually lost any weight because we don't have any scales, but I have definitely been more controlled with my eating. Think I'll pop up to the doctor tomorrow and use their scales and see what the number is! I've also transferred my credit card debt onto a lower interest card (1.99%) and have budgeted to pay it off over the next six months. And as far as the bathroom goes, we've planned to buy what we need over the next two months and do the bulk of the work over Easter. So I guess all the planning is there... just need to make it all happen!

With just a few days until the kids are back at school, my youngest is preparing for her first day at intermediate - she's a bundle of nerves! I'm working hard to help her feel relaxed about it, but I guess it's just one of those things that she'll have to go through. I'm pretty sure she'll come home after her first day feeling happy. With any luck she'll have a few friends from primary school in her class and her teacher will be nice! Deep down, I'm just as nervous as she is! We were lucky to have a wonderful primary school that we loved, so it's a bit of an adjustment. I admit that I shed a few tears on her last day, I feel like we've entered into a new era as a family - we no longer have primary school-aged kids!

Meanwhile, Miss 14 has morphed into a fully-fledged teenager over the holidays. She now stays awake most of the night and sleeps all day. When she does emerge, she's either hungry, bored, grumpy or tired... or an unpleasant combination of all of the above! Just before Christmas, she was using my laptop when she 'accidentally' (read - carelessly!), walloped it into the wall while carrying it - decimating the delicate screen! She was extremely sorry and spent a few very anxious hours worrying about how I'd react when I got home. Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled - I use my computer for work every day, so it was a scary feeling not to be able to use it!

I had been considering upgrading, so I decided to take advantage of a very good deal at The Good Guys and got myself a newbie (my Christmas pressie to myself I guess!). She then paid to have the screen repaired on the broken one, and now has it for herself. The upside is that I no longer have to put up with her wanting to use mine all the time, the downside is that she now uses hers ALL the time! She's back at school in a week, so I've decided to start enforcing limits now so that she will be back into a good sleeping routine when school starts... this will be easier said than done!

So I have one child entering her intermediate years, one in the midst of teenage-dom and one who is becoming an adult - of sorts! My eldest turned 19 on Christmas Eve, it staggers me how quickly time goes by - everyone tells you when they are babies that they grow up fast, but you don't believe it until it happens before your very eyes! Mr 19 has been labouring for the past four or five months building fences, but he's just applied to join the Navy (after much deliberation over which one of the forces he'd go for). He has the prerequisites, so now it's just a matter of passing the intake tests. He's just waiting to hear back about the date, but he's as keen as mustard to get in so that's a good start!

I'm now off to do some internet searching for budget bathroomware, update MyFitnessPal and switch off madam's computer!

For this month, I've chosen a quote that touches on the topic of kids growing up... seems to be on my mind a fair bit this month!

"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about."
- Angela Schwindt

You can read more of Claire's warm and wonderful words in our Members' Blog area.


11. 50c Indulgence: New Beginnings

Our Indulgences under 50c thread started the year with the theme of 'New Beginnings'. Along with the Simple Savings Calendar theme of 'See it, Be it' we went about setting our intentions for the New Year and hopefully, for the whole year ahead!

I have used the tips in the Calendar and they really work! For example, if you are trying to give something up, you need to replace it with something else. Another great idea is to tell other people so you get some support for the changes or new habits you are trying to create. In the thread we have shared and encouraged each other as we have worked our way into the year. Telling everyone my intentions has really worked for me and the support has been wonderful!

A beautiful way to keep your goals in mind is to make a vision board. As was discussed on the forum this is a brilliant way to keep reminding yourself of your goals. I keep several vision boards and had a review and update for the new year. I had to really think about my goals and my wish list this year. Amazingly there is nothing I really want except time with my family and some little holidays with my husband. So my updates include the cutest caravan and happy gatherings, picnic baskets and the ocean. From past experience I will most likely find all these things come into my life as the year goes on.

My other vision boards are to give me joy and inspiration every day. I want to keep the things I adore and treasure somewhere I can see them all the time. The one in my bedroom has photos of the girls when they were little, love letters they wrote me, flowers and trinkets. It makes me smile every day. I have another of beautiful times with my husband, our wedding and concert tickets we have been to and so on. They really bring me joy every day and add a great deal of gratitude to my life as I am reminded how lucky I am. Positive images and thoughts have to be good for us!

Another form of vision board for me is my yearly diary. My daughter makes it for me by covering a diary with pictures of things she knows I love. Every night when I write in my diary I see all these lovely things that are somehow personal to me. It's a very easy and inexpensive treat and making one as a gift is a beautiful idea! For example, horse pictures for the little girl who loves horses or dinosaurs for a little boy.

Scrap booking or having a photo album just to collect images of things you love and inspire you soon creates a sort of inspiration file. I started these when I was 12 and when I look back through them I see the life I have is the one I cut and pasted for so many years! Looking through my current one is total therapy. My heart just sings seeing so many lovely things in one place! This is a great project for teenagers to help them focus on the life ahead of them and feel excited about it.

So as you make your plans for the year, use reminders to help you reach your goals. Helen and I have great plans for a thread each month that will help us achieve those goals. Our next thread will help by looking after our health AND saving money at the same time so come and join us!

Annabel

You can drop in and join Annabel, Helen and the Under 50c Army here: Heaven scent... under 50 cent indulgences February 2013


12. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Trying to Beat the Heat in the Patch

Saving plants from the heat

With the heat wave that some parts of Australia have had, I thought I might share with you how we are trying to minimise its effects on the plants in our patch.

We are expecting six days of 35-40°C temperatures so hopefully the wicking beds will provide enough moisture to keep most of our plants well hydrated. We have a number of plants in pots; some are irrigated using Wetpots, while others are relying on us to keep the water up to them on a regular basis. All of these will be feeling the sting from the heat so, in an attempt to keep some water up to them, I have placed a few in trays. Keeping pots in trays with a centimetre or two of water in the bottom is a great way to ensure that the plants have access to water. It is best not to leave them in direct sunlight as the water will evaporate quickly.

All our potted plants will be getting a small watering every morning before the heat sets in. The wicking beds will be filled on the Monday afternoon (last 30°C day) and the beds will get a bit of a hosing so the mulch can soak up some moisture as well. They will be checked again on Wednesday and Friday evenings to see if they need a top up. Some valued plants will be given a spot water if needed but I am prepared to lose a few of the older or poor performing ones. My biggest concern will be the seedlings that I am nurturing in the trays.

One idea that might help vulnerable plants is the use of a plastic bottle with a small pin size hole in the base.

The water will slowly drip out ensuring that the plants around it receive a little moisture during the day. I have seen bottles like these at the local community garden used to keep potato plants moist during times of extreme heat.

Shade is something that will also help your plants survive the heat. We are lucky in that we have the shade house but it isn't doing the best it could in some areas.

The capsicums under the 30% cloth are already showing signs of 'sunburn' so we will be adding some 50% cloth over the top just to make sure we don't lose any more. There are a few different ways to shade plants using things you may have on hand. A portable pergola would make a fantastic shade structure that could be situated over a garden bed or two. A sheet tied to a few stakes or to the side of a building would make a great cover for plants. An outdoor table (lay a cloth over the top if glass) or even outdoor chairs would be good enough to give vulnerable short plants a bit of cover from the harsh sun. Moving pots under the eaves of the house, a large tree or veranda would also decrease the plants' stress levels. I hope that may give a few ideas on how to help plants withstand heat over a hot period.

Chilli paste from the patch

We have managed to save all the chilli crop from the fruit fly this year (does a joyful jig) so I decided that the first lot would be used to make up an Asian-style chilli paste. Most of the ingredients came from our patch with the galangal, lemongrass, lime rind and leaves all being stored in the freezer from the last harvests. Only the coconut vinegar and sugar came from the shops : )» I must also thank Joy for sharing her recipe with me and while I didn't follow it to the 'T' I used it as a portion guide.

Sambal Oelek

  • 500g chillies
  • 300g galangal (ginger would work just as well)
  • 300g garlic
  • 4 stalks of lemongrass, chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated lime skin
  • Small handfull of Kaffir lime leaves
  • 350ml coconut vinegar
  • 200g rapadura sugar

Place all ingredients except for the sugar and vinegar into a food processor. Slowly add the vinegar while processing on high until all ingredients become a paste.

Bring the paste to the boil in a saucepan. Slowly pour sugar in and stir until dissolved.

Reduce heat and let the paste simmer for five minutes.

This made enough to fill three sterilised pint/500ml jars, two of which were added to a hot water bath for 10 minutes so they could be stored for later use or used as gifts for friends. I must say that I was very pleased with the flavour and I am still hanging out to try it with some locally farmed black tiger prawns.

I my Asian curries. : )»

Read more of Rob Bob's garden blogs in our Members' Blog area.


13. From Last Month: Yeast and Wheat-Free

Last month Sue Izard emailed us about yeast and wheat-free recipes. She said:

"My daughter has just been told she needs to spend a few months yeast and wheat-free to give her adrenal glands time to recover from a whole range of foods they were reacting to. I've looked in the Vault but most of the dietary info is about gluten-free foods. Does anyone have any ideas about yeast-free?"

We got some fantastic ideas for Sue - thank you for sharing your wisdom! Here are some of our favourite replies:

Learning to live yeast-free

Many years ago my elderly dad was advised to eat a yeast-free diet to treat a skin problem. He was overwhelmed by the long lists of food he should avoid. However, I went online and found some good ideas.

Firstly we wrote down his current diet. Next we substituted the things he normally ate with yeast-free options. The biggest initial challenge was bread but he substituted oat porridge for toast; rice cakes, crackers or crispbread for sandwiches and we found lots of yeast-free snacks. Vegemite had to go but he was happy to avoid it along with beer and wine in order to recover. When in doubt he ate a variety of fresh meat or fish with lots of fresh or frozen vegetables (except mushrooms and olives) and tea with milk but no sugar.

Most difficult of all was cheese which he loved. However, as his skin cleared he felt it was worth it and has now developed a new appreciation for nuts like almonds, cashews, macadamias, pecans and walnuts.

Contributed by: Marg Mansfield

Spelt bread may suit if yeast-free

If you're on a yeast-free diet, here are a few products that I have found to be very good. Orgran have a good range of yeast and wheat-free products - some are available in the supermarket and others can be bought from organic shops. I like their gravy mix, especially when mixed with meat juices. I also use Healthybake or Ancient Grains spelt bread. This uses a sourdough base so it has a small amount of natural yeast but less than regular bread. They also do breads made with other flours such as rye.

For more good ideas and yeast-free recipes, visit www.theyeastdiet.com.

Contributed by: Lesley Smith

What to avoid/enjoy if you're yeast-free

If you're on a yeast-free diet, here are a few tips on what to avoid and what to enjoy:

  • Avoid gluten-free breads as these are usually still baked with yeast.
  • Avoid soy sauce on sushi as the sauce is fermented.
  • Avoid Marmite or Vegemite as these both have yeast in them.
  • Avoid fermented drinks like ginger beer.
  • Avoid having a lot of sugar as this can cause an overgrowth of yeast. This includes dried fruit, fruit juice and pasta sauces.
  • Enjoy plenty of rice, quinoa and potatoes.
  • Enjoy meat, fish and chicken.
  • Enjoy a few pieces of fresh fruit each day, but not too much as it is high in sugar.
  • Enjoy plenty of fresh vegies each day.

Contributed by: Belinda Lansley

Tricks to living yeast-free

I had to live yeast and sugar-free for about six months when I was in my thirties. There were two key tricks for me - the first was to focus principally on eating meat and vegetables. I ate a lot of meat and salad during summer, then as winter came I ate a lot of soup (by cooking up lots of vegies in a pot with stock or water plus rice or barley). This was followed by grilled fish, chops or steak and potatoes or rice of all kinds (risotto makes a nice change) with cooked vegies.

The second trick was to make social time with friends that involved something other than food (such as a movie, an art gallery or park). This helped me to avoid the foods I wasn't meant to eat!

I also explored vegetable patties with nut butters as the thickener and fish patties made in the food processor (egg holds them together). I delved deep into Asian food styles (which use no wheat and no yeast) and I explored wheat alternatives such as oats for biscuits and so on. For breakfast I feasted on smoothies, home-made bircher muesli (soaked oats, mashed banana, honey and milk, mixed up and topped with fresh fruit) and in winter I made fresh porridge every day. The main thing was to be prepared so that I was not caught hungry and tempted to eat 'off plan'.

Contributed by: Jo Verity

Super quick yeast-free bread recipes

For a quick yeast-free bread fix, here are a few helpful recipes:

Wraps

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp LSA or ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Salt and pepper to season

Mix all ingredients well and spread onto a flat dinner plate. Microwave for about three minutes. Remove carefully, cool and fill. This recipe can also be used in a waffle maker to make 1-2 waffles.

Nut & Seed Bread

  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp almond meal or LSA
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp nut butter
  • 1 tbsp linseed

Mix all ingredients together and pour onto greased bread and butter plate. Microwave for 90 seconds. Remove from plate and cool. Slice carefully to make two thin slices.

Mugmuffin

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 3 tbsp almond meal
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Mix all ingredients well in cup or mug and microwave for 90 seconds. If using a mug it will rise over the mug but settle down when cooked. This recipe works best in a medium to large tea cup. Change flavour as desired.

Contributed by: Janice Giddy

Menu planning key to special diets

When my son was reacting to wheat, gluten and numerous other things, my naturopath suggested that I base most of his meals around protein, fruits and vegies, and rice (instead of pasta and breads). It's actually really easy to do and just requires a menu plan that is followed to the letter.

For example, breakfast was a basic omelette made with egg, water, corn or peas, or leftover shredded chicken with a little cheese. For lunches some ideas include: home-made kid-friendly fried rice, chicken or boiled eggs, tinned tuna with vegie sticks and home-made beetroot dip and chicken and corn soup with rice instead of noodles in.

Dinner was the most simple of all and included things like chicken, pork or fish with salad or vegies with mash or home-made wedges. Snacks were always yoghurt and fruit. Home-made frozen yoghurt popsicles were great for dessert, just mix and freeze mixed berries with any flavoured yoghurt and add some honey. And for smoothies, mix yoghurt, milk, a banana and a little honey and cinnamon.

Contributed by: Brooke

Yeast substitute for everyday baking

Here's a quick and useful tip if you're on a yeast-free diet... use equal parts lemon juice and baking soda as a yeast substitute in everyday recipes! You can still cook your regular meals and stay yeast-free. Just make sure you add them last so they work properly.

Contributed by: Squishy Squishy

Home-made yeast-free pan-fried bread

It can be hard going without sandwiches when you're yeast-free but there are some great alternatives such as corn cakes, rice crackers, scones, pancakes and pikelets made with some of the alternative flours like buckwheat that are all yummo!

Many gluten-free flours (which also mean wheat-free) are now superior to what they used to be. As a treat to die for, try Melinda's Heavenly Chocolate Fudge Brownie packet mix - honestly, it lives up to its name! I found it at Coles.

However, my favourite is pan-fried bread, especially with home-made soup. Mix up assorted flour (go easy on the rice flour as it makes it gluggy, I always include a good portion of buckwheat) with an egg, some dairy (yoghurt makes it airy, I like to use ricotta or cottage cheese myself), a grated carrot (optional) and enough water to make a dough consistency. If you're not using a self-raising flour, use a raising agent. For a savoury version, add mixed herbs, grated vegetables and fresh pepper. Or if you like a sweet version, use grated fruit or sultanas. Avoid honey though as it will make it burn.

Cook in a hot frying pan that can be covered. I use olive oil for savoury breads and butter for sweet. Put in the mix and press evenly. Cover with the lid, turn the heat down a quarter and wait about five minutes. Turn the heat down another quarter and turn bread over. Wait another five minutes then turn the heat down to low and give it a few minutes each side until you get a hollow sound when you tap the bread with your knuckles. If you like a crustier finish, leave the lid off when you turn the heat down to low. I find you get a better loaf if you do smaller ones than a large one. It is a bit of trial and error to get it right but from then on it is easy. Cut into wedges to serve.

Contributed by: Jacki Perry

Yeast-free bread options

If you need to be on a yeast-free diet, my tip is to be careful as there is often yeast 'hidden' in many sauces, flavourings and sandwich spreads.

There are several yeast-free breads available (they taste best toasted or in a sandwich press). They are quite expensive so I buy a loaf and freeze it in two-slice packs as it's very difficult to separate the pieces if you freeze it as a whole loaf.

There are several yeast-free options for wrap-style bread including mountain bread. I also buy roti bread from my local fruit shop which is very cheap. Plain potato chips and plain corn chips (without flavouring) are yeast-free. You can also buy yeast-free pizza bases in Coles and Woolies and make your own pizzas.

For a yummy savory treat, I mix tinned tuna, shallots, chopped cherry tomatoes and grated cheese and spoon them into Yorkshire pudding cases from Aldi. You then bake them in the oven until the cheese turns a golden brown. Yum!

Contributed by: Sally H


14. This Month's Help Request: Outdoor Makeover

N. Carson has emailed asking for some help! She writes:

"After six years of indoor renovation, we are finally ready to begin on the outdoors! The prospect of ripping up 4x32m of concrete driveway and replacing it with bitumen, digging out 35sqm of unwanted dirt in the backyard, erecting a front brick fence, building a deck and also general landscaping is extremely daunting - and costly! Any advice regarding cost-effective concrete demolition, skip hire, dirt removal or waste disposal - and also outdoor renovation advice would be incredibly appreciated!"

If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share, please send them in to us here.


15. Goodbye For Now!

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for February 2013 and we hope you have enjoyed it and have been inspired by all the money saving tips. Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say, 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...
All the best,
Fiona