Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Money Jar

Loose change.  It seems to accumulate for some people.  Not so much for me, I'm right onto the fact that the couple of gold coins in my purse probably add up to $4 and I can use that for something.  But a lot of people don't think like that, especially men.  Now I'm not being sexist at all here,  men's wallets aren't really built for change and so it annoys them to have it.  They'd rather have lovely flat notes to slide into their wallets, or iPhone cases or whatever it is they keep their money in.  Women have purses with space and zippers to hold change.  And if we don't use that then we tend to let it gather in the bottom of our handbags.

A couple of weeks ago, The King started to put his change in a jar that I had left out on the bench after washing it.  (Originally to keep for home made jam or pickles or such for Christmas presents).  Well!!  That little jar now sits permanently on the microwave and every couple of days gets topped up with a bit more change.  If the kidlets find some coins somewhere they know to put it into the jar.  I've found it wonderful!  The Prince needs $2 for a Kindy excursion?  Off to the jar I go!  The Princess has been super good and deserves a bought lunch this week?  Yep, you guessed it, the money jar is the go.  It also comes in handy when charity collectors or kids selling things for sports clubs or schools come to the door and you have one place to go to for the change you need, instead of scrounging around all over the place.

So for us, the money jar will probably become a fixture.  You could also use it as a savings jar, just make sure you have a hard to get off lid on it to stop you from being tempted to dip into it.  Either way, that loose change will become money you didn't think you had!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Set for Summer

Today I am very stiff and sore and tired.  But also feeling quite a sense of achievement.  Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and as the weather is starting to get warm and the frosty mornings are behind us we decided to plant our summer garden.  This is remarkable because usually we leave it until the end of September and don't end up with home grown goodies until after Christmas.  This year we are organised and should see the fruits of our labour much earlier.

There are many websites you can visit to figure out the best place to plant your garden, how to treat your soil and what will grow best in your area.  We are lucky enough to have quite good soil on our block so we just turn it a few times in the weeks before planting and then mix some compost or organic potting mix through it when we plant.  Once we have put in our seedlings they get a squirt of organic seaweed fertiliser and away they go.  We probably fertilise once a week and water a little each day, more when it gets warmer.  We also need to put some snail and slug pellets around too so that they don't eat our veggies.  Sounds easy doesn't it?  Well it actually is!

The hardest part is digging up and getting your garden ready.  Then choosing what you want to grow.  We have planted lettuce (gourmet and iceberg), carrots, snow peas, apple cucumbers, tomatoes (roma and cherry grape), basil, parsley and chives.  That will pretty much be our salad most nights throughout summer.  We buy ours as seedlings and plant straight into the ground, but it's even cheaper to buy seeds and raise your own - although this requires a bit more work.  Carrots are the fiddliest - you need to separate each plant or you will end up with carrots all twisted around each other.  Not very user friendly! You will also have to set up a stake system for tomatoes, cucumbers and peas - but this can be as easy as a few wooden stakes or some old lattice secured in the ground behind the plants to tie them to.

So now we just need to watch the days get longer and warmer and watch our little plants grow into something we can harvest and enjoy throughout Summer.  We'll save so much money from not having to buy the veggies as well, so it's win win.

If you want to start your own veggie patch for summer salads, now is the time!  It doesn't even have to go into the ground if you don't have much room, many lettuce, capsicum, tomatoes, etc can be grown in pots, go along to your local nursery and have a look around.  It's really satisfying.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Christmas is coming!

Yes it is!  And you can't hide!  But you can be prepared if you start thinking about it now (or even earlier if you are a lot more organised than me).

I LOVE Christmas.  I love the happiness in the air, I love the food (oh my goodness, the food!!), I love spoiling people, I love the family time, I love how my kidlets love it.  I look forward to it every year.  I've learnt over the years that to enjoy it even more, you need to be organised.  It doesn't need to be a huge stressful, out of pocket time.  Not if you plan ahead, and that's why I'm bringing Christmas to your attention now.

I know I'm a bit late to remind you of the toy sales in July, but if you haven't used them to your advantage before, remember it for next year.  If you have children to buy for then these mid year sales are a great way to get organised.  You can layby and they will hold your layby until Christmas Eve, it gives you a bit over five months to pay it off (so you can budget), and it means half your shopping is already done!  I admit it's not for everyone, and it gets harder as kids get older and their tastes change, but read your catalogues carefully, I've managed to layby some bedroom decorations and furniture for the Princess this year.  They are also great if you are expecting a baby - all the pushers, car seats, cots, etc are at great prices too - and all available to layby.

Another thing to think about it a Christmas Club account with your bank.  Try to start one in January each year and have some of your income directly deposited into it.  It doesn't need to be much, even $10 a week will give you close to $500 by Christmas.  That's got to come in handy.  And because it's an account you can't touch until December, you won't be tempted to dip into it in the same way as a jar on the fridge might tempt you.  If you are disciplined enough, then a jar or tin is also another great option, especially for collecting loose coin, those gold ones add up quickly!

Think about what gifts you would like to give.  I usually give family a big basket of home made goodies.  This also requires planning.  I'll start browsing all my favourite sites soon for Christmas ideas and start a list of what I want to make.  Then I'll write a list of ingredients and work out what can be bought in advance and stored.  Some things, such as fruit cake, puddings or mince pie filling can be made well in advance and is actually better for being let sit for a few months.  That way, I can purchase small bits at a time with my normal shop and it won't add up to a huge amount right before Christmas.  I also like to look in cheap shops for packaging ideas from here on in, boxes, baskets, cellophane, it all gets more expensive the closer you get to the big day.

If you are planning to host Christmas for your family then you can start planning this now too.  Decide what you want to serve.  Ask your butcher or seafood supplier if they have a scheme where you can order and pay off for a few weeks before.  Look into what veggies or salad will be in season (and therefore more tasty and also cheaper).  Maybe even start a small garden to grow some of what you want to eat.  Talk to friends or family and see if they would be interested in buying items in bulk with you to share out (this makes it a LOT cheaper). 

So, even though it seems like a long way off, it's time to start planning today.

NOW is the time to start compiling your present list, whether it is purchased presents or home made, start your list now.  From that list you can work out your approximate budget.  Even if you are doing home made gifts, you still need to factor in the costs of ingredients or materials.  If you can buy in advance, or lay by, then do so!  This will mean that you can pay it off over a number of weeks, rather than get to a couple of weeks before Christmas and freak out (we've all been there and it's not pretty).  If you are baking, then you can buy non perishable ingredients a few at a time with your normal shop and store them in the pantry until you need them.  Doing this now will help you keep your costs down, you will be super organised and avoid that last minute panic buying, and I'll even let you feel a bit smug about it and pat yourself on the back!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How 500g mince feeds my family for three nights..

Magical Mince!  Well, supposedly.  I'm actually not that creative with mince.  I'm sure there is a lot more I could do with it.  I know there are a lot of ideas on the $120 a fortnight challenge blog.  But this is an example of what I use it for and how I made one 500g packet of mince stretch to make us three filling meals.

With photos!!

So with my 500g mince this week I made hamburgers and chilli con carne.  These are some of the ingredients used (many of which you probably already have in your cupboard)

Remember, I am no photographer and also the fluro light has blown in the kitchen and we keep forgetting to get a new one, but anyhoo, you get the general idea.... salt and pepper, garlic, onion, mince, cumin, chillies, tomatoes (tinned) and beef stock.

And here we go with Hamburgers first up...

Place about 250g of your mince in a bowl and add half a very finely chopped onion, salt and pepper and a good slug of tomato sauce and a slosh of worcestershire sauce. (yes, you're right, this is terribly precise cooking)

Then mix it all together really well with your hands (wear disposable gloves if you are not a fan of handling raw meat).  I don't add bread or egg or anything like that.  I do if I'm turning this mixutre into rissoles though to bulk them out a bit more.  This is also where you can play with your flavours.  This is very basic but you can add extra herbs or spices, maybe some taco mix for mexi burgers, whatever floats your boat.

Once mixed, shape into flat patties and put into the refrigerator for at least an hour before cooking. This will help them to hold together.

When you are ready to cook, heat up a non stick frypan.  If you want bacon or onion on your burger then cook these first as the meat doesn't actually take too long to cook through.  While it's all cooking, toast your hamburger buns, chop up your salads and get ready to assemble.

PS - if you like cheese, put your slice on top of your burger patty in the pan a couple of minutes before you take it out so it gets all melty and delicious.


I find that the burger in itself is enough for me, but the King and the kidlets like to have oven chips on the side of theirs, so I usually serve them with that.


Chilli con Carne  (not at all traditional and very much based on the recipe in the AWW 21 day Wonder Diet book so it's actually quite good for you)

Heat up your pan and add a bit of olive oil, 1 onion (chopped finely - ooh yes, mine is not so fine, sorry, it made me cry) and 2 cloves of crushed garlic.  Cook, stirring, until onion softens.

Add your 250g mince to the pan and cook until browned, breaking it up so you don't end up with any big chunks of mince.

The pan is hot, so now my pictures are even more shonky because of bad light and heat haze! (not a photographer!!!!)

Add 2 teaspoons of ground cumin and 2 teaspoons of chilli powder and stir through until fragrant.

Throw in your can of undrained chopped tomatoes, 3 tablespoons of tomato paste and 1/2 cup of beef stock.  The mixture will look very liquid. Reduce your heat and let it simmer away until the liquid reduces and you end up with a thicker mixture.

Like this!  At this point, throw in 125g can of four bean mix (or plain red kidney beans if you prefer). Heat through.  I had forgotten to buy them so mine is sans beans.

You can use it straight away as is on rice with cheese grated over or as a nachos topping (which is of preference in our house).  If you use it as nacho topping you will have more than enough for two night's worth, so freeze half in a snap lock bag for another night.  It should also make enough for four adult serves to have on rice - depending on how big your family is, this may still be two nights worth (it is in our house).

For nachos, I place corn chips on a plate.  Spoon on the chilli con carne, top with grated cheese and sour cream, then shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, avocado and more cheese.  It is very filling!!!

Here 'tis..

I hope that gives you some ideas for what to do with mince and how you can make it stretch.  You don't need a lot when you are adding salads etc to your meals either.

Happy cooking!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oranges and lemons...

Way down in the back of our garden there is an orange tree and a lemon tree.  The lemons have been quite prolific this year and we've had lemon slice, lemon meringue pie, lemon butter, lemon drizzle cake, and lots of lemon juice.  I was becoming a bit uninspired for what to do with all the lemons, especially after the kidlets went and harvested the tree and I ended up with about forty lemons in my kitchen!!

Enter a post from Nicole Wood on her blog Through my Eyes.  She's made orange and lemon cordial!  And now so have I.  I'm very excited by this, I'm not sure if they kidlets and the King will enjoy it but I know I will, and it's hardly cost me anything to make.  I am going to squeeze the other lemons and freeze the juice so I can make this cordial again and again. 

If you would like to try it, you can see Nicole's post and her recipe here .

I'll be back later this week with mince magic! Well, not magic, but how I stretch mince to feed us for about three nights.  With photos.  Ooh lala!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New look for a new life

So it would seem that again I need to apologise for not blogging!  Life has changed again.  The King has returned and all is very good in our household.  Sometimes it would seem that you have to go through some really horrible stuff in order to get back to the good stuff, to see rock bottom before you can get back up again, to realise what you had to appreciate it.  Hope that makes sense.  Whether it does or not, we are back to being a single income family and I am back to being a Budget Queen (with a whole lot more backbone and strength than I had before).

Essentially we are beginning again, so I decided to change my blog design to reflect that.  This one seems to be brighter and happier which is how I feel about life so it's fitting.

I haven't got much budgetty stuff to write about today, I've basically been going through the motions for the past couple of months, but I'm going to make much more of an effort.  I now have two days to myself as the Prince has started kindy (where has my baby gone??).  That should give me time to post more often, to try out recipes and even photograph them and share with you!

In the meantime, smile and be happy, you never know what is around the corner waiting for you! xxx

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-changes... (yes, you should now be singing David Bowie in your head)

Well. Despite my last post about becoming a better blogger, I haven't.  I do have good reason though.  My life has been turned upside down and inside out and my heart is broken.  The King has left.  Sadly he does not feel for me the way he once did and so the decision was made to separate while we are still good friends and can be amicable for the kids.  Staying together would have led to resentment, hate, possible cheating, hurt, all the bad, nasty icky stuff that we don't want to have happen.  So that is where we are. 

So now this blog will be all about my new challenge.  How to survive as a single Mum with two children.  How to get through this, well let's be honest, bloody awful time, and to come out the other end stronger and so much more self sufficient.  I won't lie to you, I'm scared, very scared.  It's going to be tough, I'm going to have to be even more thrifty to make sure that we get by.  And it's not just about the money side of things, emotionally this will be really difficult too, for both the kids and for me.

So where I am at right now is trying to figure out my finances.  I've finally got an idea from Centrelink for what I'll receive from them so now I can do my budget.  I also need to have a "big proper grown up talk" with the King to sort things out fairly and properly too. 

Bear with me, I'll be back to blogging properly again soon, and I'll be learning lots and lots of new tips as well.

The King is gone, Long Live the Queen!!!