"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - November 2015
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: How Green Does Your Garden Grow!
- November: Food Mileage
- Best of the Vault: Save and Buy Close to Home!
- Best of the Forum: Shop Your Neighbourhood
- Best Members' Blog: A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish
- Cooking with Mimi: Jewelled Eton Mess in a Cone - Nice, Easy, Truly Awesome Dessert
- Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: New Additions, Sowing Corn and Helping Out the Bees
How are you going?
We love hearing from you - here are our favourite emails this month:
"I want to say thanks to everyone else for contributing to this site. I've been a member on and off for about six years and all of your stories really give me hope that we can live in a better, fairer and less money-driven world." (Pia)
"We are currently away from home house sitting and the only book I have with me is the Simple Savings book I made up from the great recipes you have all put together. A pat on the back for all of you, especially in these hard fiscal times." (Patricia)
"I got your newsletter and I sat and read it immediately. There was a great hint about making vegetable slices so I got to use the leftovers in the fridge - thank you!" (Betty)
Have a great month!
All the best,
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: How Green Does Your Garden Grow!
Sally took the lid off her lunchbox and sighed dramatically, "Look at all these tomatoes! We've grown sooo many tomatoes, I tell you Hanna, it's a curse having SUCH a green thumb!" Hanna smiled, "Great work Sally, they're beautiful! You've done well!"
"Look, we have buckets of them!" Sal said, proudly showing Hanna a picture on her phone. "I guess I could bring some in for you and the rest of the office couldn't I? That would be a way to share our ENORMOUS harvest!"
"You could do that, Sal, but do you really want to bring all those tomatoes in on the bus? I have a much better idea - you could sell them online! I found a great website called ripenear.me where I have been getting $12 per kilo for our cherry tomatoes this month, and last month I got the same for mulberries. Can you believe it?" Sally thought for a moment and said to Hanna, "Hmmm, you're right; the tomatoes might get damaged on the bus..."
2. November: Food Mileage
We'd all love to buy food locally rather than produce that has travelled miles, perhaps even continents to get to us, but it just seems too hard. Or is it? A clever couple from Adelaide has found a way to share local produce, and we want you to check it out! It's called RipeNearMe:
We think it's a brilliant concept where people who have surplus fruit and vegies can list them for others to buy! So, for example, someone's chooks have far more eggs than they can use, they can advertise them for someone else to buy. Or perhaps they have tonnes of bananas and are happy to give them away to others. Maybe it's cherry tomatoes or coffee beans or avocados. We love the idea of connecting those who have a surplus with those who would love to buy fresh and local food. It's the ultimate in Neighbourhood Waste-Watch! You can even set up email notifications for particular produce in your area if you're hankering after something in particular.
And we just don't want YOU to check it out, we want you to tell others - the more people who know about it, the more fresh produce will become available in your area. We think RipeNearMe is on to something very special - and we can help them out! Go and have a look at what's available near you.
3. Best of the Vault: Save and Buy Close to Home!
Buying close to home is great for your budget AND your community. There are some great ways to cut down your grocery mileage - just check out some of these tips!
Better, cheaper fruit from local orchard
In the last six months, I have saved 75% on supermarket fruit prices, by buying in-season fruit from a local orchard, recommended by a friend.
Most orchards sell 'firsts' and 'seconds'. 'Firsts' are the better looking fruit (few blemishes and so on) and 'seconds' are still good looking fruit but may have a few blemishes on the skin that rarely effects the flesh of the fruit.
At the Yeoman family orchard (near Invergowrie, look in the Yellow Pages for your nearest orchard) they usually sell 'firsts' for $2.00 a kilo and 'seconds' for $1.00 a kilo, but it can differ.
I thought this was an excellent find, but realised just how good it was when I checked it against the supermarket prices.
1kg of Fujis is usually worth $4.00 or more at the supermarket, and $1.00 or $2.00 at an orchard, depending on if you buy 'firsts' or 'seconds'.
It's a similar story with nashis, pears, plums, apricots, nectarines, peaches and others.
If saving money isn't enough, you are also eating fruit that is better for you. Rather than eating fruit that isn't in season and may have been stored in fridges which delay the ripening process for up to six months, you'll be eating fruit that has been picked ripe off the tree and sold to you within a week of it being picked!
Beef lovers go halves in bulk meat
We've just gone halves with our good friends in a cow - so if you're a beef lover this one's for you.
We invested in a side of beef each - our mate arranged for the beast to be taken to our local butcher. The butcher then got us to fill in a sheet detailing what cuts we wanted (corned beef, roasts, stir fry, mince, sausages, plus all the great steaks - T-bone, rump, eye fillet). What a bargain - the side cost us $320 and the butcher charged $110 to cut it up. Sound expensive? Not when you end up with 105kg of meat - that's just over $4.00 per kilogram! Considering that you can't get a rump here for less than $15 a kilo, we think we are on a good wicket! Even allowing for some Home Brand freezer bags to pack the meat into doesn't make a real difference (about $3.00 worth of bags). Medium size is sufficient.
Approach your local butcher if you don't have friends who can organise this sort of thing and see if he can pair you up with someone - it's well worth it. We figure we have $800 worth of meat at least and enough to last us for about six months or even more.
Roast your own coffee beans and save
We love our morning coffees and enjoy top quality coffee without the cafe price tag. We grind our own beans. I used to drive 15 minutes to purchase a 250g bag of roasted beans for $11. This would last us a week or two, depending on visitors. However, I now purchase green beans on the Internet and have them delivered as $4.00 delivery is cheaper than my petrol costs to pick them up! I buy 2kg of green beans (they last stored for a year) and roast my own each fortnight.
Paying $32 for 2kg including delivery as opposed to purchasing ready roasted beans saves me $56. You can purchase smaller amounts but the courier is the same price and they can be stored anyway.
To roast your own beans, purchase green whole beans of your choice. Turn on the extractor fan and open the windows (as they roast the smell is like burnt toast!). Use your largest frying pan with a lid. Heat it up.
Pour your beans in so that the bottom of the pan is covered. You can weigh them first if you want. Put the lid on, but keep the beans moving in the pan constantly. They will start to pop and the husks will come off. Depending on how long you cook them, this will create a medium-dense roast in around 12 minutes. They continue to cook for another 10 minutes once off the heat so allow for further browning.
Take the pan outside and blow off the husks. Tip the beans into a metal colander and leave outside or somewhere to cool. Once cooled, store in a dark, airtight container.
Beans are best left for 24 hours before use so cook well before you run out.
There are other methods on the Internet using popcorn machines and so on but most of us have a frying pan and a bit of arm muscle. Enjoy!
Family market day
We have a local fresh fruit and vegetable market that operates every Sunday. As an extended family we got together and decided to go to the market each alternative Sunday to buy for both families. We email the other family to let them know what we need. We then get together to divide up the purchases. Some weeks, when vegetables such as tomatoes are cheap, we join in the making of pasta sauce. This method of buying has saved us heaps of money and encouraged family gatherings. We are also eating healthy and cheap fruit and vegetables.
4. Best of the Forum: Shop Your Neighbourhood
Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to start doing things differently; even when we know we'll save money and get better produce. The best thing about our Forum is the encouragement and support our wonderful members give each other. Here are just a few examples:
Some good ideas here for those who don't have to rely on a butcher for meat!
Join Doofy and our Forum members in finding that perfect summer salad for all your fresh locally-grown vegies!
No point finding great bargains if you don't know how to make them last!
5. Best Members' Blog: A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish
One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win $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 Ebony C for her blog on how she is planning her family's grand adventure!
I recently read a quote online and loved it - "A goal without a plan is just a wish."
I think that it's great and I'm now using that to plan out what I want to gain and how to get there. My goal is family travel. I love reading about other families who have managed to travel to numerous places as a family and how they have seen fantastic places and spent quality time together. A lot of them recommend savings beforehand and beginning to live a life with less (less clutter, more basics).
Here is my plan:
- Remove the excess clutter in my life. What is clutter? Books, clothes, papers, general junk (old bills, unnecessary paperwork) old children's toys that can be used for other children, linen that's not used.
- I began with clothes and linen. Our son's preschool has a fundraiser twice a year called a closet cleanout. They raise money by donating our clothes, shoes and linen which get passed onto charity through a company. I managed to sort through my clothes, DS's clothes, and got DH on board to sort out his, as well as our linen cupboard. We managed to collect eight large garbage bags of clothes and linen for preschool. It took a bit of ruthlessness on our behalf and actually looking at what we wear and asking ourselves "Do we really need six blankets for winter as well as the three doonas we have for our beds?" The answer was no.
- Books - we don't read them all. I have heaps of cookbooks that I don't use. Maybe someone else will. These are in the process of going on eBay and Buy, Swap, Sell sites on Facebook.
- Papers have been shredded and removed. General rubbish has gone into the bin (three large garbage bags full!).
- Children's toys - still have to go through these with our son. He helps to decide what he uses and what should go to children who don't have toys.
- Savings are needed.
- We have recently opened a high interest ING direct account. We transfer a minimum amount each pay cycle when we both get paid. Any extra money gets transferred over as well when we can. Our PayPal (from eBay sales) is linked so it can be transferred into here as well.
- Meals. I used to meal plan and it drifted away from me. Now I'm looking at it again.
- I made a list of the meals we enjoy often. I came up with about 25. I made a 3-week rotating menu, sorting out so that the beef, chicken and vegetarian meals were spread out across the week. I also made a list of optional extras (curried sausages or devilled sausages) that could be traded off so that we don't feel too bored. I have an additional list of meals that are freezable and can be used as alternative. I had made Fridays as a Free Choice Friday or Freezer Friday.
- I have set aside this weekend to go through my fridge, freezer and pantry to use what I've got and build from there.
- I have also looked at doing more $21 Challenge weeks, because I'm sure that I have heaps here, but I just don't see it yet.
- Shop at Aldi first and shop with a list.
- Ensure the family is on board.
- Talk about saving and what we want to achieve. Look at free family activities that we can visit and have family time.
- Talk about how we can save.
Fingers crossed we can do it. I think that, by breaking it down, we have a better chance of achieving our goal!
Well done Ebony, we can't wait to hear about your holiday plans!
You can read more of our members' blogs here.
6. Cooking with Mimi: Jewelled Eton Mess in a Cone - Nice, Easy, Truly Awesome Dessert
I was inspired to serve our Eton mess in a cone, by the old cream horns that were once available at local patisseries and cake shops. A cornet of puff pastry, filled with whipped cream and raspberry jam, all dusted with icing sugar. Absolutely scrumptious, if a bit sinful. In todays 'eat healthy' world, cream horns are not seen so much anymore. And of course with waffle cones readily available, why would you go to all that fuss and bother with puff pastry anyway!
The inspiration for the jelly jewels came about when I discovered that the berries I had bought to recreate this had been eaten by a certain someone in this house, not me. The culprit is not owning up. So, I had three different pink jellies, and thought... well, why not! Clearly, these are not for everyday eating. But as an occasional treat or dessert for a special celebration, they are unbeatable. Quick, easy and impressive.
- Waffle cones
- 1 carton whipping cream
- Several meringues, crushed lightly so you have some crumbs and some chunks
- Berries, either fresh ones lightly macerated with a little sugar and left to chill for an hour or so, or frozen ones, thawed and drained OR pink or red jelly crystals.
If using the jelly jewel idea, make the jelly up with just one quarter of the recommended amount of water, pour into a small container from which you can easily release the set jelly, and chill until firm. This will take about 45 minutes in the freezer, or up to two hours in the refrigerator, so do this ahead of time.
Once set, remove the jelly from its container and cut into tiny cubes. Set aside on a platter in the refrigerator.
Whip the cream till stiff peaks form.
Lightly fold in the berries and/or some of the jelly jewels and crushed meringues.
Scoop into the cream and berry/jelly jewel mixture into waffle cones, top with a couple more jelly jewels or a berry, and serve.
I love an easy treat. :)
Note: We use gluten-free waffle cones which are available in the health food aisle in many supermarkets.
7. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: New Additions, Sowing Corn and Helping Out the Bees
A few new victims for the patch
I'm trying a few different crops out in the patch this summer that I've wanted to grow for a while now. Most of these are well suited to our subtropical climate and will hopefully give us some great warm weather yields.
I'm growing taro as a possible replacement for potato as they're one crop I haven't been able to grow with consistent results. I've seen some very lush-looking taro being grown in a few different spots around the western suburbs of Brisbane so I know that it does very well in our climate but have never really thought to try it until now. They are grown mainly for their tuberous root which can be boiled, mashed, turned into chips or baked. It is thought to have originated in South East Asia and is a staple in many Pacific cultures.
I purchased some purple flecked "Bun-long" taro from Green Harvest and was very fortunate to also receive a load of white-fleshed taro (along with some other goodies I'll mention in a tick) from a mate I started chatting to through YouTube a while back. Cheers Ben!
Taro likes moist, well drained conditions and partial shade. One lot of each variety have been planted out in the wicking barrel system behind the lime tree bed, another lot of the white variety in a sheltered wicking bed in the front yard and two small white-fleshed plants in an aquaponic bed under the mango tree.
We also got some Queensland Arrowroot (Canna Edulis) root sections from Ben. We've grown the arrowroot before but haven't used much in the kitchen until we were gifted some by a friend a while back. Maya used it in a casserole-style meal in the past and I think it would go well in a Thai-style Massaman curry.
It likes moist soil but we have also grown it in a fairly dry position in a rental property where it did OK but I wouldn't say it thrived. Queensland Arrowroot makes a nice ornamental plant as well - it produces small, delicate red flowers which contrast nicely against the lush green foliage. I have seen it used as a border plant in gardens with smaller flowering plants and herbs planted at its feet. The height of the arrowroot helps to shelter the smaller plants from the hot afternoon sun and wind, as well as give them a nice backdrop at the same time.
The leaves of the plant also make great 'chop and drop' mulch as well as being a fantastic nitrogen source for the compost pile. This is one plant that we'll be growing a lot of once we have more rootstock to help in compost production.
Sweetleaf** or Katuk (Sauropus Androgynus) is one plant that I've only read snippets on until Ben dropped off a couple of cuttings. Katuk is a bush/shrub that grows in the warmer tropical regions of South East Asia but can also be grown in a warmer temperate, although it isn't as productive from what I've read. The young leaves are used as a green in salads as well as cooked dishes but I haven't seen anyone comment about the small edible fruits they produce. I only nibbled on a few leaves so I haven't had a chance to experience the full flavour of the greens but I've been told it has a sweet nutty flavour. It has high protein content (around 50%) and is also rich in vitamins and minerals. Ben pointed out that it is much better tasting than the moringa so it might end up replacing our sad looking moringa tree. ;-)
I was unsure of where to plant them out due to the upcoming (next year some time) redesign of the yard so today I popped one in a wicking bed out the front and another in a bed in the hoop house for the time being. They propagate very easily from cuttings so I will be able to start off new plants as needed to help fill out the patch in the future as needed.
**Stevia (Stevia Rebaudiana) also goes by this name but is not related to Katuk/Sauropus Androgynous.
Longevity spinach or Sambung in Filipino according to Ben, (Gynura Procumbens) was also in the goody bag we got.
It's a close relative to Okinawan spinach and looks almost identical except for the lighter colour of the leaves, but the taste is almost identical. I have popped the cuttings I got into the aquaponics but will be keeping an eye on them as I think they are likely to take over the bed just like the Okinawan variety.
Sowing coloured Aztec and glass bead corn
Last week I sowed a mixture of the Coloured Aztec and Glass Bead corn varieties out in a bed in the front yard vegie patch so that they can cross-pollinate each other. I'm doing this mainly to see what colour the kernels will look like and I think it will be interesting to see what sort of corn they will grow next season.
To help improve the germination rates I soaked the kernels in some water for about eight hours before sowing them and it looks to have done the trick. Before the seeds were sown out, the self-watering wicking bed was fed up well with some home-made compost and worm castings I got from a local worm farmer. I sowed the seeds out in 15cm/6" deep trenches to try and get their roots set more securely into the bed as I have had a few issues with the tall stalks falling over in the past. The 1x1m square/3x3 foot square bed ended up having 40 seeds sown out into it in four rows. One seed of each variety went into holes spaced 20cm/8" apart.
The first crop of Aztec I grew was grown in the same bed with about 46 plants so I am not worried about overcrowding but did find I had to top up the reservoir every day through the hottest weeks to keep the plants happy. ;-)
I was very happy to see that there was a 100% germination rate which is something I have never had with corn before. I will post updates on these fellas as the season progresses.
Helping the zucchinis to fruit
"Why are my small zucchini/squash/pumpkin fruit rotting and dropping off the vine?" is one question I've seen pop up in online gardening groups quite often at this time of year. There can be a few reasons for this. Sometimes excessive heat prevents the fruit from setting, sometimes there may be no male flowers to provide pollen to fertilise the female flowers at the same time they are open. One of the main reasons we have poor pollination rates here at certain times of year is the lack of pollinators in the patch. Zucchini (like all heirloom cucurbits) have 'imperfect flowers' meaning they have both male and female flowers.
The female flower is very easy to spot as it has a small fruit behind the flower, while the male is just a bloom on a stem. Plants such as tomatoes have what's called 'perfect flowers' meaning that they have both male and female sex organs in one flower. Plants with perfect flowers can be pollinated by being bumped or moved around by the wind or by insects moving pollen from the anthers to the stigma of the flower.
Cucurbits, with their imperfect flowers, need the pollen transported from the male to the female flower. This job is normally carried out by insects like bees and ants in our patch but at times they may not be present when needed or don't travel to every female flower to make a pollen deposit. If this happens to your plants and you notice a few of the fruit dropping off you can pick up the slack and improve the yield by taking matters into your own hands, or in some cases, paintbrushes, and pollinate the female flowers yourself. The way I like to go about pollinating the female flowers is very basic.
I remove the male flower, strip the petals off and dust the pollen onto the stigma on the female flower then repeat the process on any other female flowers that are open. It is a very easy process that takes only a few minutes. A paintbrush or a cotton bud can also be used but I find it just as easy to use the male flower. It is a good idea to put the bee suit on and pollinate the flowers early in the day (before 9am here) as the flowers do start to close once the day heats up. I posted a clip to our YouTube channel the other day for those who are interested in a bit of a closer look at the process.
Well there's a little bit of what I've been up to in the patch over the past few weeks.
Hope you've enjoyed the quick catch-up and that your gardens are filling out with some tasty home-grown produce.
Cheers all & have a great one,
8. Goodbye For Now
Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for November 2015 and we hope you have enjoyed it. We hope you get to know your neighbourhood a bit better and find some savings along the way!
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,