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!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blogger or Slacker?

I do like to blog, and I am just learning I admit, but over the past month or so I've been quite slack.  I've thought a few times that I needed to get back here and post something.... but then I haven't (obviously). Life does get in the way on occasion and mine seems to have been a little more busy than usual.  Not for any particular reason.  There were school holidays and I spent more time with the kidlets, I had worrying news from a friend and she continues to fight her battle with the Big C and my thoughts are with her often, and we had a few minor changes in our life.  But now I'm back here and I'll try to be here more regularly.  I enjoy blogging and sharing how we make things work, I also like hearing tips from others, so don't be shy!!

So... school holidays were fun.  I did some research and found some free activities to do with the kids.  We spent some time at our local library - they always put on special things during the holidays.  We did Easter craft and Autumn craft there.  I also managed to find out about free cooking classes held at the markets by a fabulous group called Kinderchefs.  The Prince and Princess had a wonderful time and came home with what they had made.  Great morning!  Kinderchefs also run cooking classes (for a fee) during school terms and holidays.  You can find out more here.

I also took a tip from another website and put my kids' names down for the Kids Club at Hungry Jacks.  So now at their birthday they receive a letter and a voucher for a Kids Club Meal.  They also receive vouchers to use for the rest of the year.  It doesn't cost you anything to join either and they love to get mail addressed to them and the opportunity to be taken out for a treat.  IGA also runs a similar Club, again it doesn't cost you anything to join and around their birthday, your child will receive a letter and a voucher for a couple of items for free from your local IGA.  The Prince celebrated his birthday yesterday and with his voucher he received a 200g tin of Milo and an orange.  In December the Princess received a packet of choc bits and a kiwi fruit.  They just love going into the shop and finding their items and presenting them at the checkout.

So there's a couple of little money savers for you!  You can join up for Hungry Jacks kids club here and for the IGA one here.

Happy Budgeting Everyone!  I promise to blog more regularly now (hopefully, life permitting).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Being a Responsible Adult (and how it sometimes sucks)

I have been umming and aahing about whether to blog about this.  I like to keep my "public self" as positive as possible.  I also initially started this blog with the intention of writing about how well we manage our budget and still do a lot of what we want.  But life is life and we don't always get what we want even if we try really hard to do so.

Wow, that sounds really cryptic doesn't it?  Sorry about that. 

I'm sad because despite our very meticulous budgeting we won't be able to go away for a family holiday this Easter.  Even though it would have been the cheapest we could do it, driving, staying with friends, taking all our food, it's just not possible if we want to be Responsible Adults and keep on top of things.

And we do want to be Responsible Adults that keep on top of things.  Although for a few moments I just wanted to be an irresponsible child and stamp my foot and say "No, I want to go anyway".  In all probability I could have wheedled the King into agreeing to go with promises of further shopping cutbacks and all sorts of other things (which then would never have happened, I can't let my family STARVE). In the end, though, we had to think that it was better to stay at home and use the money towards bills, and the Princess's school camp early next term, and the Prince's birthday in May and normal Responsible Adult things.

I know this is the right thing to do.  I know that we will be better off for it.  But gosh darn it, I was looking forward to catch ups with our friends interstate and my sister and her little boy.  I was looking forward to our first family holiday since the Prince came along.  But this is life when you live to a budget. 

I'll get over it.  We hadn't told the kids about the possible holiday so they will never even know what they missed.  We'll still have a lovely time as a family over Easter.  And we'll spend it with my parents on Easter Day.  As I said, I wasn't even sure if I should post about it, but I did say in my very first introductory blog post that this is our story.  A good story always has happy parts and sad parts, good parts and bad parts.  And it's definitely a part of a Budget Life story, so it had to be told.  I guess that it shows that even though I believe that you can live happily on a budget, sometimes you just wish you didn't have to!

Anyway.... onwards and upwards!  School holidays begin this Friday afternoon so I'm going to research some activities to do with the kidlets that are Budget Queen friendly.  I think we'll do some Easter craft, cooking, see what's going on at the library and who knows what else?  Stay tuned to find out!

And thanks for listening to me whinge.  I feel better for being a Responsible Adult now.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Growing your own

I love the idea of being a little bit self sufficient.  I can't say completely self sufficient because I'm not about to go milling my own flour or slaughtering my own animals or anything like that.  What I am able to do is grow my own fruit and veggies.

We weren't very organised over summer and only managed to get two cherry tomato plants in.  Our kids LOVE cherry tomatoes.  This summer wasn't very friendly though, very humid and not really a lot of sun.  So although we have quite a few tomatoes on the plants, they are taking quite a while to ripen up and if they don't do it this week I think they will be a lost cause.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, we have some more ground cleared and it's time to think about what we can plant for winter.  We all love broccoli so that will be a definite.  I'll need to make a visit to our nursery and see what else they have and what will grow in our climate. 

Growing your own also helps you understand what is in season and therefore what will be cheaper to buy.  This can make a huge difference to your shopping bill.  Even if you don't have green fingers or don't have the time for gardening, knowing what is in season is very useful when you are on a budget.

Hopefully we will be able to get to our garden this weekend and get some veggies in.  It's a great project for the kids too, they love seeing the plants develop and then eating what they have grown.

Even if you only have room for a few pots, growing something you can eat is really rewarding. And money saving!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Promised Recipe with pictures

Well here we go.  This recipe is one I make fairly often during winter when we are looking for a warming dessert.  It is also one of the King's favourites.  Apple Crumble - my way but based on a Nigella Lawson recipe.  I think it is a good choice as apples are just coming into season so will start to be good value for money (however, you can easily substitute an 800g tin of pie apple if you need to! I won't tell).  I decided to do this one yesterday as the Prince and I found about seven apples ready to go on our tree, hurrah for self sufficiency!

So here we go.

First up, you need apples..
Yes, there are only two here, the others were already being peeled before I thought about taking a photo.  Ooops.

Peel, core and slice about six or seven apples (or more, really it depends on whether you like lots of fruit or more crumble!).  Pop them in a shallow pan with some sugar (about a tablespoon), a dash of vanilla, some cinnamon and ground cloves and a little bit of water - not too much, probably only 2-3 tablespoons.

Now cook these, covered, until tender.  JUST tender, not mushy, remember, they will get another cooking in the oven later.

They smell rather fabulous right now.  Allow these to cool a bit while you get on with the crumble mixture.

So this is what you need for the crumble..

Sugar, SR flour (yes this is unusual for a crumble, but it's a good unusual!), butter and almond meal.  Please note Budget Queeny use of no name products.  They are fine for baking and waaaay cheaper.

So, in a bowl, mix together 250g SR flour and 150g sugar.  This is also a departure from tradition, but I like my sugar to be incorporated into the flour and butter mix, not forked through afterwards.  Take the plunge - try it this way.  Once you have mixed those together, chop 150g butter into smallish cubes and throw them in the bowl too.

It's better if your butter is cold.  Mine wasn't, it was warm yesterday.  Sorry.

Now you need to rub the butter into the flour/sugar mixture.  Rub it using your fingers and thumbs.  It's actually quite therapeutic. (It is also really difficult to take a picture with one hand whilst rubbing in butter).

You need to keep on rubbing until you get a mixture that looks like, well, like crumble.  I don't like the description you usually get that it looks like breadcrumbs.  I think it's chunkier than breadcrumbs.  Well, here's a picture anyway, to show you what you are aiming for.

Now you just need to tip in a quarter of a cup of ground almonds and fork that through the mixture.  It gives a boost of flavour to the crumble without being overly almondy.  If you have nut issues, just leave it out.

It's worth noting that you can do the apples and the crumble up to this stage in advance and just keep them in the fridge seperately until you are ready to cook.  Really handy if you having people around for dinner and want to do something hot but that can be prepared earlier.

Now that you are ready to cook - preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius. (Such a funny word celsius, always looks misspelt - please do not tell me if it is).

Place your cooled apples into a greased pie dish.
You will see that I only have a thin layer of fruit.  This is because I make it more crumble heavy because I am a good wife and that is how the King likes it. You can go more fruit here if you like, I don't mind.

Cover your apples with a good layer of crumble mixture.  This recipe does make a lot of crumble, so if you don't want to use it all you can pop the leftover in a snap lock bag and throw it in the freezer.  It's then ready to go next time you are ready to crumble.

And now you are ready to bake!  I would bake it for around 45 minutes or until golden.  I left ours in a bit longer so it went golden brown and very crunchy.  Check on it from about 40 minutes or until it is cooked to your liking.  This will also depend on your fruit and crumble ratio.

Here it is!

Serve it up with icecream, custard, cream, all three if you feel so inclined...

You can use this crumble topping mixture with any type of fruit, just try and use what is in season because not only will that be the best quality, but also the cheapest.

Yum!!  Hope you enjoy. 

We did.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Budget Cooking

Sometimes being on a budget seems to limit your creativitey a bit.  I find we tend to fall back on the same meals quite often because that's what we can afford.  I suppose I even get into a bit of a rut of cooking the same thing each fortnight because it makes shopping easier and preparing meals becomes a no brainer.  However, there is only so much bolognaise one can take and sometimes that means looking for inspiration. 

I have many recipe books (the King would deem it a bit of an obsession, but in truth I don't buy them, but I do request them for birthday and Christmas presents - especially Nigella).  So if I'm feeling a bit uninspired I will often browse through those for ideas, sometimes a dish I haven't made in months (or years even) might pop up at me and make it onto the rotation for a while, giving something else a rest.  I also browse a few different sites on the net for ideas.  I especially spend time on Taste (recipes and forums) and more recently on my new favourite - The $120 Food Challenge .  Sandra is amazing - she has $120 a fortnight to spend on food (less than us even!!) and she blogs about her fortnightly dinners, desserts and baking treats.  Each recipe has a costing provided as well so it's great for budget savvy people like us.  I find it great for providing inspiration, or a twist on an old favourite and I know that she's in the same boat as we are so that it will probably be something we can afford.  Have a look and I'm sure you will find something there to inspire you.

I do have my own recipes that are great budget savers and over time I'll share them with you in this blog.  Making things in larger batches and freezing half is really handy for those "can't be bothered" nights and means you don't fall for the temptation of take aways. I also love to bake which helps us a lot as I don't buy prepared cakes, biscuits, etc. for lunchboxes and snacks. I'm always after new recipes too, so if you have a favourite I'd love for you to share it! In fact, I'll try to post up a recipe and photos of said recipe sometime in the next week. Now there's a plan, and there's nothing like having a plan!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Spend Days

I have just read an entry over at Notes from a Frugal Journey which I found very interesting.  You can read it here; No Spending Days

I realised after reading this that we actively do this.  We plan our spending each week in our budget.  So I can go three or four days without spending anything.  It's a really great idea to try out for yourself.  I'm sure that you have all done the thing where you go into a shop for a loaf of bread or some milk and come out with a couple of other things too.  This cuts into your budget, maybe only a couple of dollars at a time, but if you think about how much that can add up to in a year it makes quite a difference.  So I guess it goes back to my earlier post about my rather obsessive planning for shopping day - doing so means I don't need to keep popping into the shops and spending more than I need to.  It's only a small thing, but if you put away that couple of dollars that you DON'T spend then you should find you have a significant amount after a couple of months and you can really treat yourself.

Hurrah for No Spend Days!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Library

I am in love with The Library.  My local library, your local library, it doesn't matter, I love it.  I love that you can go in there and pick out twenty books and take them home for free.  I love that you can borrow dvds or cds or kids toys or magazines for free.  I love that my local library runs school holiday programmes for free that make my kids happy.  I love that my kids love books as much as we do because we visit the library at least once a month (though more often it's once a fortnight).  I love that my library now has the ability to source a book for me from almost any library in our state, so I'm not just limited to what is on the shelves.  I love that I have probably saved thousands of dollars by no longer actually buying books, just by using my the library instead.

I love libraries!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bit of a Budget Blowout..

Firstly, sorry about the break from blogging.  Real Life has been a little busy (and stressful) of late.  Anyway, things look calmer now so hopefully I'll have some more frequent posts.

Last weekend The King had his 40th birthday.  This 40th birthday was celebrated well.  Not just on one night, or two nights.  No sirree, this was celebrated on at least three nights and some of the daytime too.  Friends came from many corners of the country to join in.  Some were booked to come, but due to Cyclone Yasi were not able to be here.  They were, however, here in spirit and a glass or two was raised to them.  Luckily the cyclone didn't do much damage and we are very grateful for that.

Friends coming from interstate meant that some were staying with us overnight and some were going to be here for mealtimes.  Therefore my normal planning (see previous post) had to go into overdrive!  I had lists upon lists.  Lists for food for the party (fingerfood was provided - mostly homemade, it's cheaper and nicer).  Lists for dinners, lists for lunches, lists for nibbles, lists for the shopping to provide the ingredients for the food on the other lists.  Also lists for general housework, because otherwise I am useless.  I like a list.  I like to cross things off a list so I feel like I'm achieving.  It's a good thing.  Maybe a slightly mad, obsessive thing, but a good thing for me.

Obviously feeding anywhere from an extra two to an extra ten adults was going to make a difference to our weekly budget.  Luckily we had planned ahead.  Things I could get in advance (non perishables or things that could be prepared ahead and frozen) went into the trolley in my weekly shops in the five or so weeks leading up to the event.  Two advantages here.  One - I had things done in advance and didn't run around like a mad woman during the weekend.  Two - when we got to the weekend the budget wasn't blown completely out of proportion, just a bit of disfiguration.  When it came to shopping last Thursday for the weekend ahead I had it planned out like a military operation (well almost).  I had four different shops to visit to make sure I could get what I needed at the best price - lists were written for each shop so I knew what to get there.  It's all about the organisation!  I managed to get everything we needed and we still had money in the bank.  That's a plus.  Also, because I am a big believer in "it's better to have too much than not enough" I have ended up with some food that I didn't use which means that the next shop will actually be smaller than usual as I have at least three meal options already in the freezer.  Bonus!  We also had planned on how many drinks we would need and made a special trip to a large chain to buy them cheaper.  We didn't come near drinking everything so there is lots leftover.  That will last us some time too.

Even if you are on a strict budget, you can occaisionally throw a bash or have a big weekend as long as you plan it well.  It won't be spontaneous, but it will be satisifying.  Give yourself at least six weeks (in reality I would have had much longer for this particular weekend).  Meal plan, drink plan, make lists and buy what you can in advance, a couple of things at a time so it doesn't feel like much difference to your budget.  Being organised in this instance will not only save you money, but also mean that you have more time to spend with friends and have fun!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shopping Day

Thursday is Shopping Day in our house.  Well, not IN our house because I go out to the shops, I've looked at online grocery shopping and it's too exxy for me.  Plus I love going up and down the aisles, seeing new products and most of all choosing my own meat and fruit and veg.

A lot of planning goes into Shopping Day.  For starters, I keep a magnetized pad on the fridge where we write down things as they run out or we realise that we need during the week.  I also try to menu plan.  When I say menu plan, I don't mean that on Monday we are eating X and Tuesday we are eating Y and so on.   I mean I figure out seven meals for the next week.  Some will come from what happens to be in the freezer, some I will need to buy for.  Some weeks require less meals depending on what the social calendar is like.  So then those ingredients, etc go on the list as well.  Then I'll check the fridge and pantry to see if anything is running low and add that too.

Finally comes the weekly catalogue read through.  Usually I'll give them a quick flick through when they first come and then keep the grocery ones aside.  By Wednesday I have all the catalogues from the various grocery shops collected and I go through them again, keeping in mind what I need to shop for.  Whoever has the best specials is generally where I'll do my major shop.  If another place has a really great special though, I will make a  trip there for that item too.  I may also find a special on something that I don't need this week, but that is so good that I can't go past it.  If it will save me money in the long run and I can afford it this week, then I'll get it as well.  By now, my final shopping list is complete.  A little bit pedantic? Maybe.  A little bit time consuming?  Not really.  A lot organised?  Yep! (At this point I would like to admit that my more organised shopping lists are even done in department order, dairy, frozen, deli, butcher, etc.  What?  It means less chance of missing something!)

I also go shopping with a set budget to work with according to how much we have incoming, and how many bills etc need paying.  I have been known to walk around the supermarket with a calculator in hand to make sure I don't go over on especially tight weeks.  ( I don't add up in my head, that just doesn't work.  The King will tell you this.  He makes me add up my Yahtzee scores with a calculator.  Math is not my strong point.  However, I can work out a percentage off something pretty quickly!).

In the end, when I go through the check out and I see my total it's usually right around the budget mark.  Sometimes it's under and when it is I get myself a little treat.  Usually a coke.  I have a coke addiction.  To the black fizzy stuff of course.  So maybe it all seems a little bit too hard basket to plan a simple trip to the supermarket like this, but trust me, it's how I make our budget stretch further.  By working out what we need, how much we can spend and what we can save I make room for a little treat or two, or something extra in the trolley for the family.

So my tips?  Plan your week so you don't have to make lots of little trips to the shops.  Write a list and take it with you!  Stick to it.  Read your catalogues and see where you can get more for your money.

Incidentally, today I was a teensy bit over.  But that's because I'm buying for a BIG weekend next weekend for the King turning 40.  And it was only by about $10.  So it's not that big a deal.  And he can't tell me off because it was for him!  More on that in a later post.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

First Post Ever!

Well here I am in Blogger Land.  I've been inspired to begin this blog as a result of people often asking how I manage our household on the one income.  Some people have suggested I write a book, one person in particular suggested I start blogging (Thanks Tammi).  So here goes!

I have some ideas in my head about how I'd like this blog to go, but I'm also willing to let it evolve into whatever it does, so feedback is welcome.  I suppose I believe that experience is a great teacher, so why not share my experiences with others and if it helps them -  then great!  I hope to pass on tips that I have learnt but also things I've tried that haven't worked.  Pretty much, I'm going to share the way I manage our family income.  As a result there are bound to be some anecdotes about our family life in order to illustrate what I'm talking about - hopefully this will make it entertaining for you.

So the basic cast of character are.....
Me - The Budget Queen
Husband - The King
Daughter - The Princess
Son - The Prince

We live in a three bedroom house, mortgage, two cars, and all the general expenses you'd expect from a typical family.  Sometimes we struggle, sometimes we spend, this is our story.