"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - April 2014
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Easy When You Know How
- April: $21 Challenge
- Ye Olde Shoppe: The One and Only $21 Challenge!
- Penny Wise: A Dash of Soy and a Splash of Lemon
- Best of the Vault: Take the Challenge!
- Best of the Forum: Meet the $21 Challenge Warriors!
- Best Members' Blog: Challenges!
- Cooking with Mimi: Cinnamon Apple Fritters
- Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Using Paper to Save Coin
- From Last Month: Help With 'Cheep' Easter Goodies
- This Month's Help Request: Give Me a Hope Among the Gum Trees!
How are you going? We loved finding 'Better Deals' during March and got some great emails from you as well as about some of your 'wins' this month - well done! April's $21 Challenge month is an old favourite that reminds us to shop at home, menu plan and spend our dollars wisely - we can't wait to hear how you go.
We love hearing from you - here are two of our favourite emails this month:
"I want to tell you what a single phone call achieved. I got my house and contents renewal notice and saw premiums were going up $28 a month. With a single phone call, I was able to renegotiate and reshape the policy and am now paying only $5.00 more per month than I was and saving $270 for the year." (Anne)
"I've just been looking through my files and found I have kept every Simple Savings hint from April 2009 through to the most recent one. The information is invaluable and I thank you so much for all these years of sending them to me! I'm looking forward to many more!" (Kerry (Mr))
Have a great month!
All the best,
P.S. Remember, macadamia oil is still on special for $15 for one litre, plus postage.
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Easy When You Know How
"Psst, Sal, are you there? I need your help!" Chloe hissed, peering around the door. "Oh hello!" Sally smiled. "What's with the whispering?" "I don't want Tom to know I'm here ," Chloe said as she scuttled in. "He'll be home from work soon and he's coming for dinner - but I've got no food! Worse still, I've got no money to buy any more! My car needed a new battery this week and then I had to take Milly to the vet and it used up all my grocery money" Tom's a wonderful cook and he always goes to so much trouble. I can't just feed him beans on toast!"
"Nothing wrong with beans on toast!" grinned Pete. "Why don't you give her one of your double dinners out of the freezer, Sal? They're always good in an emergency - they don't taste half bad either!" "I could," Sally tapped her chin thoughtfully. "But I can think of something much more fun! Can you keep an eye on dinner please, Love? I'm going over to Chloe's. I think it's time for a $21 Challenge!" "Time for a what? Where are we going? And what's that book for?" asked Chloe, looking confused. "We're going to find you some food!" laughed Sally. "Let's get going!"
"That was absolutely delicious!" Tom said later that evening, patting his stomach. "You have to tell me the secret ingredient though - was it baked beans?" "Yes, it was!" giggled Chloe. "Ingenious! Who would have thought?" Tom smiled as Chloe blushed shyly. Thank goodness for Sally and The $21 Challenge. In one recipe she had used up her tin of beans and a tin of sweetcorn that had sat in the pantry for months - and it was GOOD! Best of all, Sally had helped her come up with a meal plan for the whole week. And she thought she didn't have any food!
2. April: $21 Challenge
What can we say about the $21 Challenge that hasn't already been said? Well, to newcomers like Chloe, quite a lot! Amazing as it sounds, the $21 Challenge has been a well-known and loved part of Simple Savings life since 2006. Many of us have integrated it into our domestic management as a matter of course. Like Chloe, we use it as a coping skill to get us through when disaster strikes or when we are faced with unforeseen expenses. We might do it when we want to free up some extra money to go towards a goal or reward. Or we do it as a refresher exercise, to prove to ourselves we've still 'got it' and remind ourselves what we're capable of. Some of us even do it just for fun! Whatever the reason, anyone who has done a $21 Challenge knows how valuable and effective it is. Sally knows this; she learned it from Hanna in the first instance and is now passing it on to Chloe in her time of need.
This month, we want you to PASS IT ON!
A few years ago, Jamie Oliver launched a book entitled 'Ministry of Food' and went on a crusade, imploring readers and viewers to pass their favourite recipes on to their friends, family and colleagues. He wanted people who didn't know how to cook to be able to learn how to create delicious, nutritious, cheaper meals from scratch, rather than resort to expensive, unhealthy take aways and enlisted the help of the public to assist with his mission. This month, we want you to do the same with the $21 Challenge!
The $21 Challenge can help anyone to save money and - where needed - to learn a new way of cooking and eating. It can help you to become more creative and resourceful in the kitchen. It can help you to be more organised and time efficient. It can help you to find cooking more enjoyable with an extensive range of recipes and solutions to common food problems. It can help you to be a smarter consumer. And as Chloe found, it can help you to find both food and money when you think there is none. All you need to do to achieve all this is to give the $21 Challenge a go for one week.
Of course, if you have done the $21 Challenge yourself, you already know all this! So this month, we want you to use that knowledge to help someone else. If you have a favourite $21 Challenge recipe, write it out and give it to someone or share it with your friends on Facebook. Tell the people you care about how the $21 Challenge has helped you and point them in the direction of the Simple Savings website and our Facebook page so they can learn more about it. Better yet, if you have a copy of the $21 Challenge book, lend it out to someone else so that they can get the best that the Challenge has to offer - or best of all, send them in the direction of Ye Olde Shoppe so they can buy their very own copy and keep on passing it on!
The $21 Challenge is perfect for young people leaving home or flatting to help them learn how to cook from scratch and make delicious, healthy meals for little cost. When Penny taught a class of Year 12 students three years ago, she gave them all a copy of the $21 Challenge book and told them. 'You might not appreciate it now - but you will!' Some of those students have gone on to become nurses; some are parents, some are still at university but they have all now left home and still remember the book she gave them (and how some of them had to wrench it off their parents!). The $21 Challenge is also ideal for newlyweds, new parents, families with young children, families with older children - everyone, right up to retirees who would like to find new ways to stretch their dollars further.
Of course the best way to see what the $21 Challenge is all about and how it works is to simply DO it! If you have yet to do a Challenge of your own, make this month the time to give it a go. All the support and inspiration you need is available on the Simple Savings site, including the story of the very first $21 Challenge and how it got its name.
We hope you find it rewarding 'passing it on' this month. Thanks for all your help! Oh - and here's something about the $21 Challenge for EVERYONE that you very likely didn't know. Can you guess who has his very own copy of the $21 Challenge book? Yep, it's Jamie Oliver!
3. Ye Olde Shoppe: The One and Only $21 Challenge
The $21 Challenge book is a bit like magic - you can't really believe you can do it, then poooffff, you have saved $50, perhaps $150 or even more!
Even better... The $21 Challenge is on special for $12, plus postage. You can find out more here.
4. Penny Wise: A Dash of Soy and a Splash of Lemon
My friend reckons you can fix pretty much anything with soy sauce or lemon juice. At first I thought he was quite possibly mad. Many times I would watch aghast as he liberally squeezed fresh lemon into all kinds of dishes I would never have dreamed of shaking one anywhere near! But the thing was, every time he added lemon to something, it turned out good. Better than good; in fact quite often sensational. And, as I've watched him cook more and more I've had to admit to myself that he's not mad after all; he just 'gets' food. As in, he understands its many different flavours and knows exactly what a dish needs to improve it. Eight times out of ten, it's soy sauce or lemon; the other two it might be sweet chilli sauce or curry paste - but he always gets it right and these days I also find myself shaking the soy sauce bottle over many a saucepan or bowl and running out to the garden to pick a lemon! I have been so grateful for this knowledge over the past 12 months when both money and food have been particularly tight. No matter how little food I have had or how plain, I have learned how to make it taste special, even fantastic, with these few things. Sometimes all you need is one simple tip passed on from one person to another to make a huge difference.
And it is tips like this and the many thousands more I have learned from Simple Savings which have helped me through the toughest year of my life both financially and personally. This wonderful site and community has been my lifeline for almost ten years now - but never more so than this last year. I honestly can't imagine what life would be like for the boys and me now without all the knowledge, skills, tips and recipes I have gained from the Vault and Forum over the years. The bank balance may not show it yet, but I feel our lives are extremely rich.
I wanted to be able to give something back as a thank you for all the support, advice and encouragement I have received from members during my first year as a solo mum. The following is a collection of recipes which have helped get me through meal times on many an occasion. Most of them I've had for years, some even since I was a small child but it's only really now they are coming into their own and I am thankful for every one of them. Some are completely made up and I'm not sure if I'm doing you a favour by inflicting them on you but if you are brave enough to give them a go, please do, I would love to hear what you think! I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as my boys and I do but most of all, I hope that perhaps one day they may just help someone else the way they've helped me.
With much love and gratitude to you all,
You can get updates on Penny's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page.
...or in our Members' Blog section.
5. Best of the Vault: Take the Challenge!
Just when we think we've heard every $21 Challenge recipe or idea from Simple Savers, well, they just keep surprising us! Here are some clever and practical tips and delicious recipes to help you on your way to a successful $21 Challenge.
Chicken-less chicken soup
The $21 Challenge forces me out of my comfort zone and makes me look at other ways of making the family's favourite meals. Small variations are hardly noticed and save me money while clearing out my cupboard. Here's an example. The other night I made chicken soup from scratch without using chicken - I just added chicken stock instead of chicken pieces. I served the soup with udon noodles and lots of garlic bread - yum. My six-year-old daughter said she wants it again soon!
I fed the family for a week for less than $14
I did it! I spent just $13.30 this week simply by rethinking my meals. I realised that all I needed to do was make a single chicken cover most of the week's dinners. First, I defrosted my $6 chook that had been sitting in the freezer and roasted it. Then instead of slicing it, chopping it up and serving it as pieces, I took all the meat off the bone which amounted to about four cups. I then planned five main meals which incorporated extra protein where possible. Here are the meals, which were all yummy and reasonably healthy:
- Chicken, bacon and avocado pasta
- White chicken chilli with cannellini beans
- Chicken casserole with tinned tomatoes, chick peas and veg
- Chicken and veg quesadillas
- Chicken risotto (using the stock I made from the chicken carcass)
It was creative, varied and fun and it saved me heaps of time and money!
Smart shopper meets $21 Challenge
I had always wanted to complete the $21 Challenge but could never get my head around the idea of sticking to such a small amount of money! But recently, I made a breakthrough.
For the last six weeks we have switched to a fortnightly shop instead of weekly. Our original budget was $130 a week for two adults and three children but we would sometimes spend up to $180 a week. I set a budget of $220 a fortnight and if any extras came up I had to pay for them out of our sanity money.
Last week I recorded the cost of each item I bought and my shopping came to $190 for the fortnight. I then went a step further and listed my recipes and the cost of each item, divided by the amount of serves each meal allows. I then worked out my fortnightly menu plan based around the cheaper meals, which are still nutritious and healthy.
To my astonishment, I have worked out this fortnight's main meals come to a grand total of $38.98, or $19.50 for each week. Therefore I have found a way to partake in the $21 Challenge, even if it is just for my main meals.
I am so excited and even more determined to stick to this fortnight's menu plan and shopping list.
Free salad dressing
For a tasty, and free, salad dressing, I use the leftover flavoured vinegar from olives or sun-dried tomatoes. This adds a really interesting flavour to your everyday salad.
Set goals, find support and trust and you'll get there
For those wanting to get started on the $21 Challenge, I recommend reading the book from cover to cover first to get an overall feel of it. Next work out how you can implement the Challenge and start saving that precious grocery money! Also, think about your goals and why you are doing this. Go beyond just paying the bills and think about what really floats your boat - it may be to buy your own house or to go on a holiday. Another tip is to read as many books about finances as possible. And finally, find support on the Forum and trust that you will get there!
6. Best of the Forum: Meet the $21 Challenge Warriors!
The $21 Challenge began when Simple Savings member Barbara told us about a joke her husband had played on her. Little did he know what he had started! Barb had asked her husband to bring home some grocery money and thinking it was a great laugh, he returned waving a single $20 note. How on earth could she feed the two of them and their two teenage boys for a week on that? Determined to prove she could do it, Barb found a $1 coin floating around in her pocket - and the $21 Challenge was born! Since then, Forum members have been helping each other through $21 Challenge weeks with ideas, support and encouragement. Here are some great ideas for when the cupboard is bare... think again!
We've included this thread as it is the PERFECT example of what the $21 Challenge is all about - using what you have on hand.
So you're all out of bread, rice, pasta, tacos? Think again!
The cupboard is never bare with Simple Savers on your side!
Forum member 'Taking care of the pennies' shares her $21 Challenge, with encouragement and ideas from the sidelines. Bravo - you're doing wonderfully!
7. Best Members' Blog: Challenges!
One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a $100 store credit in Ye Olde Shoppe or $100 cash 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 Blog winner is Pumpkin Patch who is doing big things on a small budget!
With February being a no-spend challenge, it couldn't have come at a better time for us - what an expensive month January was with car registration, house and contents insurance, all the utilities in at once not to mention things like RACQ, and other odds and ends. Add to that two lots of visitors, one family of them from overseas, and a trip with them for a few days to the beach which included lots of eating out, not something we usually do.
When they left, I decided it would be an opportune time to do a couple of $21 Challenges coinciding with the February challenge. I challenged myself to go the entire month without buying anything other than essentials. We wouldn't go without much, I had plenty of food in the pantry and a freezer full of meat, the main requirements would be fruit and vegetables. I keep a well-stocked supply cupboard as well, with plenty of toilet paper, soap, toothpaste and the like and I make most of my own cleaning solutions so that would present no problem.
We ate very well indeed, using only things we had on hand - I freeze most of my excess garden produce after the winter crop so there was no shortage there, and each night I could come up with an innovative meal to satisfy even the hungriest male. In addition, we had plenty of breakfast food, and lunches were sandwiches or wraps, home-made soups or quiches. The man of the house was quite amazed that we didn't need to go shopping for anything much at all - I have never done a $21 Challenge before but I really enjoyed the entire concept of it.
The end result was very satisfactory - the food bill for the entire month of February amounted to a very low $51.37. Even I am impressed. I plan to continue this as much as I possibly can but with our overseas visitors returning in the next day or two, that is going to be a big challenge - they tend to eat out almost every day so I'm going to have to work on changing that. At worst, I do have some two for one meal vouchers at our local club that we can use if necessary.
During the month they are here, we will all be going to the beach for a couple of weeks, staying in separate units, so we will again take most of our food with us - they will no doubt eat out much of the time. However, for the other couple of weeks when they are here with us at home, we will be striving not to blow the budget so I have some simple tasty meals planned for us all. I'm sure we can do it.
The bonus will be that I can get the contents of the big freezer down enough so that when we go on our own holidays in a couple of months, we can turn it off along with the drinks fridge, just leaving the main fridge/freezer stocked.
Well done Pumpkin Patch - we look forward to following the rest of your adventures!
You can read more of our members' blogs here.
8. Cooking with Mimi: Cinnamon Apple Fritters...
When the Fridge is Bare and the Apples are Scary!
Turn these ...
into this ...
... with a pancake recipe.
My daughter has taken these apples to school and back for the last two weeks. I guess I should take the hint. No apples in the lunch box. They're a bit battered and bruised, but still edible... sooooo...
Remember the budget busting eggless pancake recipe I posted a while back?
Well it turns out it works well for this too; a great lesson in adapting an old favourite to make a new one. Just add the grated and chopped apple, some cinnamon, fry briefly in hot oil, more cinnamon sugar and ice cream. Feast :)
Here's the recipe again...
- 1 1/2 cups plain flour
- 2 tbsp milk powder
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
Combine the first four ingredients in one bowl and add the next four. Mix well. Done.
For the fritters:
- 2-4 apples
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Cinnamon sugar made by combining 1/2 cup caster sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Paper towels or clean tea towels for draining
Peel your apples. Grate two and chop the other two into cubes. Mix the apple in to the batter. Add the cinnamon.
Let the batter rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium high heat, until a bread cube dropped in browns in about 25 seconds.
Remove your batter from the fridge. Don't stir it!
Take tablespoons of batter and drop them carefully into the hot oil. Flip them regularly with kitchen tongs, until they are golden on all sides. Remove them to the paper towel to drain well.
Toss them in the cinnamon sugar and serve immediately as is, or with ice cream, custard, cream or cinnamon yoghurt.
You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page
or in our Members' Blog section.
9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Using Paper to Save Coin
and Dirt-Free Chicken Waterer!
Recycling to help feed the squirmers and feather the nest
Paper is one recyclable that most folks will quite happily pop in the recycle bin along with bottles and cans but lately we have been using it for other purposes. We started to think about all the paper that we receive in the form of bills, junk mail, cardboard packaging, toilet rolls, free 'newspapers', as well as scrap paper generated by children, and we decided that we could be using a lot more of this resource on site. I don't recycle the glossy magazine style papers or cardboard boxes as I have read that the chemicals/inks used can potentially leave toxic residues in the soil. The best way I have found to shred the paper (after experimenting with the lawnmower and mulcher) is with a cheap $20 paper shredder we purchased a few years ago.
It has shredded hundreds of old bills, the girls' old school work, old seed catalogues and many, MANY of the discarded newspapers left on the train by folks on Bianca's evening commute home. So far we have come up with more ideas than we have paper for. ;)
We have been feeding soaked and shredded bills and scrap paper to the squirmers for quite a while now. They really do hook right in and make very quick work of it. Dry shredded paper can also be added into worm farms if they become too wet to help soak up some of the excess moisture. We have also used four dampened-down sheets of newspaper as a covering for the top of worm farms to help keep the bedding moist as well as keep the light out. It normally doesn't last long as the worms will quickly start munching on it if there isn't enough food around. :/
I started to use shredded paper for the girls' nesting box after the old bedding got saturated during a heavy storm. There was no fresh straw on hand and I figured that the worms wouldn't mind sharing their paper, and have been using it ever since with no complaints from the girls as of yet ;)
The compost pile is another place in the yard where paper/cardboard can be helpful for some. While we urban gardeners have access to a lot of nitrogen based composting ingredients (food scraps, lawn clippings and perhaps poultry manure) we don't all have yards that supply us with a lot of organic matter high in carbon (dried leaves & branch trimmings). Paper is essentially pulped timber which is very high in carbon and an essential part of the composting process. It's also a lot cheaper than popping down to the produce store (if you have one nearby) to buy a bale of hay (our last bale cost us $10).
Making a cheap, dirt-free chicken waterer
I blogged on a very basic waterer made with one of these nipple drippers a while back but thought I would do a quick little 'how to' post on it, as well as an update on our watering system. These nipple feeders are a great way to keep the water clean and fresh for your flock as they are a closed unit and dirt can't get in. Our chickens have had theirs for a while now and it has been a great success, so I thought I would show you how cheap and easy it is to make one.
These little units work on water pressure. The water in the reservoir keeps the valve shut until the bottom pin is moved, dislodging the tiny ball and allowing water to drip through for the bird/animal to drink. Once the pin is back in place the water pressure forces the ball down, stopping the water. They can be bought from stock and pet supply stores for $3.00-$4.00 each or for around a dollar if purchased on the Internet in bulk.
To install the drippers all you need is a container to hold water, a drill and drill bit. For plastics of different thickness I tend to use different drill bit sizes. For really thin plastics (like the small bucket above) I used an 8mm drill bit. I would use 8.5mm for plastics up to 2mm thick and 9mm drill bit for thicker plastics like PVC pipe.
The first thing to do is to drill the hole. I find that you need to be careful with the thin buckets as the plastic can rip if the drill catches. Next you need to clean the swarf that is still attached to the hole. For this I use a utility knife, being careful not to cut into the hole itself or otherwise the seal around the dripper won't be water tight. The drippers can then be screwed in until the washer is tightly pressed against the base of the bucket. All that's left to do now is to add some water, check for leaks (which can be fixed with a few wraps of white plumbers tape) and hang in the chook pen :)
It won't take any time at all for the chooks to work out how to use them. It only took five to ten minutes before our girls had the feeder figured out. The feeder we use has been expanded to include another water station in their day pen. Both water feeders are now fed by two large reservoir tanks so the daily task of checking the girls' water now involves making sure a simple float valve works. Here's a clip on how ours is now set up that might help give you a few ideas:
That's about it for now. Have been flat out of late so the fish farm isn't quite finished as of yet but I am fairly sure that you will get to see it up and running in the next blog. ;)»
Hope you all have fun in the patch and until next month,
Rob : )»
You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page
or in our Members' Blog section.
10. From Last Month: Help With 'Cheep' Easter Goodies
Last month Aimee emailed us asking for ideas on celebrating Easter with her large family without spending a fortune:
"Now I have stopped working, I'm looking at ways to cut expenses. With Easter coming up, I need some ideas to give Easter gifts to my four children, their partners and my 13 grandchildren, aged from 2 to 19. I would normally just go and buy Easter eggs for everyone - last year this cost me over $250! I just can't afford to do that this year so would love to hear some crafty and clever ideas or recipes to cook, to give them this Easter."
We got some fantastic ideas for Aimee! Here are some of our favourite replies:
ALDI Easter bunnies good for a crowd
With a lot of people to buy Easter gifts for, I go to ALDI and buy their chocolate bunnies for $0.98c each. Not only are they cheap but the chocolate is really yummy and they are a decent size at around 18cm high. I buy these for my 26 volunteers at work as well. Great value!
A saucy Easter with help from Mimi
Who says you have to give chocolate eggs for Easter? A cheaper alternative which is just as nice is to make up a batch of Mimi's Chocolate Sauce for the adults. Add in some alcohol if you have some to make it even more grown up. For teachers and friends at Easter we make large chocolate freckles. First buy blocks of white, dark and milk chocolate, some multi-coloured sprinkles i.e 100s and 1000s or you can use coconut. Find three different sized circle shapes you can draw around, for example, egg cup, glass and so on and draw around them on sheets of baking paper cut to fit trays or large containers that will fit in your fridge. Melt your chocolate, spread thinly on the paper within the circles, sprinkle the sprinkles and put in the fridge. Once set (which doesn't take long as they are so thin) peel off the paper, put the chocolate freckles back in the fridge in another container and start again. You can get a LOT of freckles from one block of chocolate! To give to the recipient, put a mix of the different sizes and flavours in little cellophane bags and tie with curling ribbon or whatever you have to hand in your craft supplies. It's also a great activity to do with kids!
Vine Easter baskets
Our beautiful Easter baskets are pretty much free! This year we are making little Easter baskets with the children (5 years +). To make, first gather some bendy pittosporum or ivy vines or similar and form two circles. Attach them together to form a circle at right angles to each other. Next, lash together at their intersecting points using vine or wool. This forms the frame of the basket. Now wrap the bottom of the basket with weaving material or more vines running from side to side, wrapping around the top edge, going down and over or under the bottom seam and up and around the opposite edge. You can make them as tight or as loose as you wish but I have found the spaces easier to work with if they are a couple of centimetres apart. Continue weaving until your basket is ready. This is a wonderful activity to do with children and lovely to hold Easter eggs, not to mention other things afterwards!
Yummy Easter gifts for kids and adults
For a delicious and economical Easter gift for grown-ups, try this! First cover glace cherries with almond paste (or almond icing) then coat the cherry-almond balls with melted chocolate. You can make them look really impressive by popping them into mini cupcake cases, which are available from $2 shops. For the younger ones, chunky sized chocolate bars are better value for money than eggs. Watch for the '4 for $5.00' specials at the supermarkets and start stocking up now. Also if you are near a 'Reduced to Clear' or other discount store, you can pick up a range of chocolate goodies for much less than the usual supermarket prices. Today my local 'Reduced to Clear' has small mesh bags of Christmas chocolate baubles for $0.50c. Take the Christmas foil wrapping off and they can easily pass for Easter goodies!
Home-made bunnies and baskets
Easter gifts don't have to cost a fortune! A few years back after one Easter I bought some rabbit chocolate moulds and every year since I make solid bunnies as gifts. Good quality chocolate is always on special leading up to Easter. I make paper Easter baskets to put the bunnies in too; there are heaps of instructions and videos for making these on the Internet. They cost next to nothing and look beautiful!
Split the cost with an Easter picnic
An enjoyable and economical way to celebrate Easter is to host a 'family fun, bring your own plate' picnic. Ask different family members to contribute some eggs for a hunt and other activities. People love being involved in projects like this and appreciate one family member taking the initiative to organise it.
Make an Easter bunny sock puppet
For a low-cost, chocolate-free Easter gift, here are some really easy sewing instructions for an Easter bunny sock puppet! (parenting.com/article/easter-bunny-sock-puppet)
Why not make a few and have a puppet show? At the end of the day they have a new companion to take to bed too!
Search Google for all sorts of crafts and free printables you can surprise the children with or do together. Make a basket up with pencils/craft supplies and some printables as a gift to keep them busy all Easter!
'Magic Easter seeds' are priceless for kids
For a wonderful and memorable Easter treat, all you need is to buy a packet of Smarties and make each child an egg-shaped lollipop! The day before Easter, take the children into the garden and give them each an 'Easter Seed' (aka a Smartie) and ask them to plant it. Next morning, get up early and at each seed site, pop a lollipop into the garden like a flower. Voila! Magic Easter flowers! My grandmother did this for me one year and of all the Easters, I remember this one the best. RIP magic Grannie! I love you! Here's how to make the lollies:
You'll need 18 lollipop sticks
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 tsp glucose syrup (see note)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 to 2 drops food colouring of choice
Line 2 large, flat baking trays with baking paper. Refrigerate until you're ready to use them.
Combine sugar, glucose syrup and water in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to the boil (do not stir).
Add food colouring and reduce heat to low. Boil gently for 12 minutes or until mixture has reached correct temperature. To test temperature, drop a small spoonful of sugar mixture into a glass of cold water. Allow to cool, then remove from water. The mixture is ready if the toffee is brittle (149°C to 154°C on a sugar thermometer). If not, continue boiling mixture and checking until toffee is brittle. Remove saucepan from heat.
Remove baking trays from fridge. Drop spoonsful of toffee onto baking trays. While mixture is still soft and warm, press a lollipop stick into the centre of each circle. You will need to work quickly before the toffee sets.
NB: Lollipop sticks are available from Spotlight stores and via Spotlight's mail order service. Glucose syrup, also known as liquid glucose, can be found in the health food section of large supermarkets or at health food stores.
Economical Easter gift bags
Personalised Easter bags are fun to make and cost little. Last year I bought a pack of 20 Easter cellophane bags for $2.00 at a discount shop. Then I made a batch of sugar cookies (you can make your own favourite biscuit recipe) using Easter theme cookie cutters and sprinkled the uncooked dough with 100's and 1000's to make them 'special'. To present them I shredded some new green A4 sheets of paper and put a little in each bag for 'grass'. I bought a kilo of chocolate mini eggs for $5.00 and put a few in each bag with the wrapped cookies. I then wrote a personal note from the Easter Bunny for each person and put that inside. It was fun to make up the bags and didn't take too long to do. The bags were tied up with any ribbon I had in my craft box and a simple name tag completed the job. These bags were then hidden for the recipients to find. All this cost less than $20 and was very well received!
Marshmallow Easter eggs fun to make with kids
You can buy marshmallow Easter eggs, but it's much more fun to make them! I used to make these with my grandchildren at Easter. Fill a shallow baking tray to the depth of about 15mm with cornflour. Make depressions in it with the back of a dessert spoon (this makes half an egg shape). Make a recipe for marshmallow - we used the Edmond's cookbook recipe - and pour it into the cornflour 'moulds'. When set remove the egg halves from the mould and dust off, then stick the halves together with melted chocolate to make a full egg shape and then coat the whole thing with more chocolate.
Decorate egg-shaped arrowroot biscuits for Easter
I have been using this tip from Family Circle for almost 20 years to save me money at Easter! For an economical treat, simply buy a packet of oval shaped Milk Arrowroot biscuits and decorate them with royal icing and sprinkles. You could use melted chocolate too if liked, be as creative as you like with what you have! They can't be done too far ahead or they'll go soft so keep them in an airtight container until the last minute, then grab some cellophane or cheap little containers, pop in a few 'eggs' and add a gift tag and you're done!
11. This Month's Help Request:
Give Me a Hope Among the Gum Trees!
Lou has emailed asking for some help! She writes:
"I need some help working out how the second hand website Gumtree works. I have seen things for sale which I would like to buy but I'm not willing to pay the asking price. What I want to know is, can I ring and offer less? What are the best ways to buy things on Gumtree? I really need some tips and advice."
If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Lou, please send them in to us here.
12. Goodbye for Now!
Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for April 2014 and we hope you have enjoyed it. Don't forget to pass on the $21 Challenge ideas to any family or friends you think would benefit from saving money on their groceries.
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,