Sunday 31 August 2014

The Reason Why We Are Frugal.

Today has been a lovely day weather wise.  It's almost Spring and I can feel some warmth in the air.  Yesterday I secretly plotted with Darren to take the girls out for a special treat after church today.  I packed a yummy lunch of homemade rolls,  curried eggs,  lettuce from our garden,  tomatoes, cheese and water bottles.  The esky was packed into the boot of the car while the girls were busy getting ready for church. 

As we left our church the girls noticed we were driving in a different direction.  Megan asked where we were going to which we replied " Sorrento for lunch and afternoon tea ".  For those of you who haven't been to Sorrento,  it's a lovely seaside town on the Mornington Peninsula.  It's home to many rich Australians and home of the famous,  award winning Vanilla Slice.

We had our picnic lunch down by the water just near the ferry that travels across to Queenscliff.  Lots of families were there taking advantage of a beautiful Sunday afternoon   We kept our eye on the time knowing if we wanted that famous vanilla slice we'd have to get to Just Fine Food by mid afternoon at the latest ( they have sold out by 3pm on occassion ).  During Summer and holiday times they have been known to sell more than 50 trays of vanilla slice with each tray containing over 50 serves.

This slice is creamy,  decandent and generous in size.  To us,  it's a luxury to be enjoyed as a special treat.  It's the reason why we are frugal.  We are debt free,  we can pay all our bills,  we are frugal with the things that don't matter ( like brand names ) so as a family we can enjoy these wonderful outings together.  Over and over our girls exclaimed how yummy the vanilla slice was.  Darren and I could see they appreciated their afternoon tea.  On the way home Jessica and Megan both thanked us for the suprise treat..

It's days like this when I remember back to the hard times of sacrifice when we were paying off our mortgage on a low income.  We knew back then that the sacrifices would pay off in the end.

Yummy Vanilla Slice


What luxuries do enjoy as a special treat ?

Saturday 30 August 2014

This Week's Frugal Tasks

Another frugal week has come and gone and although I've kept myself busy,  it wasn't as busy as last week.  Last week's frugal list was a long one  It's not usually like that.  To achieve all the things I do.  it's a family effort here.  If I'm busy doing some baking and the washing needs to be bought inside then my girls help me out.  Darren is an expert dishwasher unloader,  bathroom cleaner and bed maker.

I firmly believe in encouraging my family to learn new skills around the house.  We all pitch in together to get our jobs done.  Then we can relax.

Here's my frugal list for this week -

* Made pita chips ( again ) for snacks.  We've all taken a liking to homemade nachos after school.

*  Jessica saved the crumbs from the bottom of the wheat bix packet.  I crushed them even further and added them to my homemade dried seasoned bread crumb mix.

*  Made a couple of bottles of foaming handwash refills.

*  Made 16 bread rolls.  These will be used for homemade hamburgers. YUM  !!!

*  Made 2 bread sticks.

*  Made 4 loaves of wholemeal bread.

*  Baked some cranberry hootycreek biscuits.

*  Bought broccoli at the supermarket for $1.40 a kilo.  I bought eight large heads and cut them up into florets.  They have all been blanched and frozen for future meals.  I'll be cutting up the stalks with my Nicer Dicer and freezing them to go into stews and casseroles.  Nothing will be wasted.  I also picked the last of our broccoli.  I picked enough florets for two meals.

*   I cut lots of rosemary from our plant.  I'm drying it ( for the first time ) in paper bags.  It should be ready in a couple of weeks.

*  Made some yoghurt with a sachet and my Easiyo yoghurt maker.  From that yoghurt I'm making a sweetened vanilla yoghurt.

*  Arranged some dried roses into a posy.  I've had these roses drying for about a year.  Oppppsss.  I forgot about them as they looked ok drying on the side of a bookcase.  Now they look lovely in a ceramic jug in my kitchen hutch.

*  Baked an orange cake and muffins with some frozen pureed orange from last Winter.

*  Megan picked a small bunch of daisies from the garden

Flowers that Megan picked from our garden
Homemade bread rolls

Homemade bread sticks

The last of our broccoli
Strawberries I bought to make jam last week.
Dried roses from anniversaries and Valentine's Day

Whole orange cake and muffins


What frugal things did you get up to this week ?

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Cranberry Hootycreek Biscuits

Here it is.  The much asked about,  much talked about Cranberry Hootycreek Biscuit recipe.  I first came across this recipe on the Cheapskate's website a couple of years ago.  I love homemade biscuits and was looking for a different type of biscuit.  The name had me hooked straight away. Darren likes to call then " Hooten Nannies ".  I think the original recipe might have come from America as it had pecans,  plain flour and bi carb in it.  I've changed the recipe around to make it my own.

1/2 cup of butter or 125 grams
1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups of self raising flour
1/2 cup of rolled oats
1/3 cup of packed brown sugar
1/3 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of white choc bits
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees.  Line a biscuit tray with baking or silicon paper.
In a medium bowl mix together the butter,  egg,  vanilla extract and sugars until creamy.  Add the flour,  rolled oats, cranberies,  choc bits and walnuts.  Mix until combined. 
Drop heaped teaspooonfuls onto the biscuit sheet and flatten slightly with your hand.
Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges start to brown.  Cool on the biscuit trays.

Notes -

*  You can use any nuts you like.  I use walnuts because they are cheaper than pecans.
*  I chop the cranberries so that they go further in the biscuits.
*  Biscuit dough can be frozen in log or ball form.  Allow 15 minutes for the logs to defrost before slicing.
*  I use a big Kenwood mixer to make the dough.  Hand mixers can be used to beat the sugars,  egg,  vanilla extract and butter but you need to switch to a wooden spoon when you add the other ingredients.
*  I make a double batch to save time.  Some to bake for eating straight away and the rest of the dough goes into the freezer
*  They make great presents wrapped in a cello bag with ribbon.

The finished product - Cranberry Hootycreek Biscuits

Logs of dough from the freezer

Flattened dough on a biscuit tray

I hope you enjoy these biscuits ( cookies ) as much as my family does.  Let me know if you get a chance to bake them.

Saturday 23 August 2014

This Week's Frugal Tasks

I've had a very productive week at my house.  Lots of cooking,  lots of baking,  some gardening and a few tasks that will help stretch my dollars a little further.  Looking at my list I'm feeling a great sense of accomplishment.  My freezers are full and the cookie jar holds some yummy treats.

Megan my youngest daughter was beside herself with excitement when she came home from school on Thursday.  There was a roast in the slow cooker with roast vegies in the oven.  I was making lots of cranberry hootycreek biscuit dough ( for the freezer ) and baking some to eat.  She proclaimed that "  Life doesn't get any better than this ".  You can bet that my heart swelled with happiness.

Here's my list of frugal tasks for this week -

*  Cooked three meals of spag bol for the freezer.

*  Cooked four meatloaves ( at the same time ) for the freezer.

*  Picked lettuce for homemade hamburgers and wedges one night..

*  Megan made forty scones.  Half went into the freezer and the other half were served for morning tea at church with homemade plum jam.

*  Cooked meat for two pies and froze it.

*  Made dough for eight pizzas and froze it.

*  Refilled and diluted the shampoo and conditioner bottles in both showers.

*  Made a lasagne for three meals.  We ate one meal that night and froze the other two meals.

*  Made two jars of lemon butter.

*  Made nineteen pumpkin scones .  They are now in the freezer for my morning teas.

*  Bought chicken fillets at $5.99 kg.  I bought $31 worth and portioned them into twelve meals and froze them.

*  Made seven jars of strawberry jam for $7.50.  I'm hoping that our strawberry plants give us lots of fruit this year so I can make more jam at a cheaper price.

*  Made chicken stock in the slow cooker with the skins from the fillets.  There is enough to make two batches of chicken soup.

*  Made a triple batch of cranberry hootycreek cookie dough.  Most of it was portioned into logs and frozen for future baking.

*  Made a triple batch of peanut butter choc chip cookie dough.  I portioned it all into logs and froze it.

Homemade hamburgers on homemade rolls with homegrown lettuce and homemade chips.

Scones with plum jam for morning tea at church

This lasagne will be portioned into twelve serves ( three meals )

Cranberrry hootycreek biscuits for afternoon tea.

What frugal tasks filled your week ?  Do you bulk cook some of your meals ?

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Menu Planning

I've had many people over the years ask me how to menu plan and where to start.  Menu planning is the best way to save a lot of money on your food budget.

 I can remember many years ago when my girls were little,  I'd spend about half an hour in front of the pantry,  fridge and freezer trying to find something different to cook that night.  Money was very tight and I didn't have great cooking skills.  Spag bol and chop suey were cooked once a week.  I loved those meals but even I was getting a little tired of eating them so often.  Inspiration was hard to come by when you are looking at the same old, same old ingredients.  In desperation we'd have eggs on toast,  spaghetti on toast or crumpets.  I cringe when I think of it now.

The first step to writing a great menu plan is to write a list of all the meals you can cook.  Include even the basic meals like spag bol,  fish fingers and eggs on toast.  When I first wrote my list I think I had about 15 - 20 meals on it.  As time went on I learnt to cook a few new meals each year.  If they were a success I'd add them to my list.  I now have about 45 meals I can cook.  Some are cooked more regulary than others.

Once you have your list,  grab another piece of paper and write the day and date of each day down the side for the whole month.  Then work out how often you want to eat certain types of meat each week.  For example it might be fish x1,  chicken x2,  beef x2,  pork x1 and lamb x1.  Then you need to work out what meals work best on each night.  If you have swimming with the kids on Thursday night then a roast won't work unless you are happy to eat at 9pm.   If you ae all home on a Sunday night,  then the roast might work better then.  I always have a different meat each night for variety.  If I served chicken three nights in a row,  we'd all be tired of it.  If there is leftover meat from a roast,  it's either frozen or served two night later.

Cheaper meals are included to offset the dearer cost of roasts.  I also don't cook on Sunday night.  This isn't for religous reasons. We quite often have church functions for lunch on a Sunday or family gatherings. By the time tea comes around we are only wanting something simple and light.  I cook from scratch six nights a week so Sunday night in our house is called " Get your own but feed me ".  My girls and husband are quite capable of cooking something simple and it gives them a chance to improve and expand their cooking skills.

Here's my current menu plan -

Mon 18th - Lasagne and veg
Tues 19th - Honey soy chicken drumsticks with mash and veg
Wed 20th - Roast beef with roast veg
Thurs 21st - Tuna casserole and greens
Fri 22nd - Chicken curry in slow cooker with rice
Sat 23rd - Rissoles,  gravy,  mash and veg
Sun 24th - Get your own
Mon 25th - Meat pie and veg
Tues 26th -  Honey mustard chicken with rice
Wed 27th - Chicken flan with mash
Thurs 28th - Fish ( from box ) with rice,  zucchini slice and veg
Fri 29th -  Hamburgers with wedges
Sat 30th - KFC style chicken drumsticks with mash and veg
Sun 31st - Get your own
Mon 1st - Spag bol
Tues 2nd - Wedding anniversary - not sure what we'll have
Wed  3rd - Roast beef with roast veg
Thurs 4th - Salmon patties with rice and veg
Fri 5th - Freezer meals ( pick your own )
Sat 6th - Rissole casserole with mash
Sun 7th - Get your own
Mon 8th - Meatloaf with mash and veg
Tues 9th - Sausages,  mash and veg
Wed 10th - Silverside in slow cooker with roast veg
Thurs 11th - Tuna pasta bake
Fri 12th - Homemade pizza
Sat 13th - Beef stew in slow cooker with mash
Sun 14th - Get your own
Mon 15th - Lemon chicken drumsticks with mash or rice and veg
Tues 16th - Nasi Goreng
Wed 17th - Roast beef in slow cooker with roast veg
Thurs 18th - Tuna caserole with greens
Fri 19th - Lasagne with veg

I do my big monthly shop on the 16th of each month so I  write my menu plan the night before I shop.  If for some reason I can't shop then,  I have a few days up my sleeve on the menu plan.

Chocolate self saucing pudding

Desserts are not written on the menu plan.  If the main meal is a light one then I'll make a dessert as a treat.

Saturday 16 August 2014

This Week's Frugal Tasks

The Gower household is back into the normal routine this week.  School runs,  work,  house work,  gardening and food shopping have filled our days.  Oh what joy  !  Oh what blss  !  It was great to do the everyday tasks that gives me a sense of accomplishment.  Simple living also gives me a chance to stop and enjoy the abundant blessings in my life.

Here are my frugal tasks for the week -

*  Topped up my car with petrol at $1.36 a litre when petrol was selling for $1.55 a litre everywhere else.

*  Cleaned the dishwasher with bi carb and white vinegar.

*  I shared a bag of lemons with some ladies from my street.  A christian lady a few doors down from me invited all the ladies in our street to a high tea last Saturday. We had a fabulous time together with lots and lots of food,  talking and a game.

*  Cleaned the kettle with citric acid.  It looks like new again.

*  Baked some chocolate peanut butter biscuits to go with a present for a birthday party Darren and I went to.

*  Accepted some capsicums from my Dad.  Darren used some on his homemade pizza.

*  Refilled a travel sized shampoo and conditioner bottle.  The toiletry bag I use when I travel has now been restocked.  It's one less thing I need to think about when I'm packing for a holiday.

*  Picked three more heads of broccoli.  At the moment broccoli is selling for $7.98 a kilo in the supermarkets.  I'm saving a small fortune by growing my own.

*  Picked some lettuce for the chicken wraps the family had for tea one night.

*  Baked three loaves of wholemeal bread.

*  Picked some silverbeet to hide in a pasta bake for tea one night.  My girls don't like silverbeet but will eat it if it's cut finely and hidden .

*  Recycled 10 bread bags that my husband bought home from a bbq.

*  Made a menu plan for the next five weeks and wrote my shopping list from it.

*  I had enough leftovers for two single serves of beef stew.  It's now in the freezer for another meal.

*  Cut up a cereal packet to use as go between for when I'm making and freezing hamburger patties.

*  Used the carpet sweeper to wizz around the house instead of using the vacuum cleaner.

Beef stew simmering away in the slow cooker.  The lid is off to take the photo.

Broccoli that has been blanched and is ready for the freezer

Freshly picked silverbeet

What frugal tasks have you completed this week ?

Do you keep a list of your frugal tasks ?  Maybe this could be your challenge for next week.  I'd love for you to share your list.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Miracle Spray

Here it is.  The much talked about Miracle Spray.  This wonderful recipe was revealed by long time member of The Cheapskates Club  Joyofquilting a couple of years ago.  She mentioned in passing that she was making a cleaning spray and all the members on the Cheapskate's forum begged her for the recipe.
I must say,  Miracle Spray has changed my life.  It was like having a " lightbulb moment " when I started using it. It replaces so many cleaning products and can save you a few hundred dollars a year.  It's so much better for your health.  I suffer from nasty sinus headaches from time to time.  If I can gather enough strength to clean my showers with the Miracle Spray,  my sinuses are cleared within minutes. 
1.5 litres of water ( 1 cup of very hot water ) 

300mls of white vinegar - no name

60mls of dishwashing liquid - good quality

25mls of eucalyptus oil - not water soluble

3 tablespoons of Lectric soda powder

Miracle Spray ingredients

Mix the Lectric soda in 1 cup of very hot water to dissolve.

Add remainder of ingredients into a 2 litre bottle,  fill up with tap water and shake well.  Decant into spray bottles.


This can be used on kitchen benches, sinks, toilets, laundry stains, washing  freshener, tiled / vinyl floors, showers and carpet stains.  It also removes stickers from items.  Just spray a few times and leave it for a couple of minutes then wipe the sticker off.
Please do not use on timber surfaces as it could damage the finish.
Please do not use on mirrors as the oil will leave the mirrors streaky.
I quite often make the Miracle Spray in double strength.  Just double all the ingredients into a 2 litre bottle and top up with water.  Label the bottles as " double strength ".  Dilute it when you fill up the spray bottles. 

Saturday 9 August 2014

This Week's Frugal Tasks

It's been another busy week for many reasons.  Monday I was at work as well as the A Current Affair story going to air .  Tuesday was my milk,  fruit and veg top up day and answering lots of emails and messages on this blog.  Wednesday I had washing, vacuuming and mopping to do as well as the radio interview.   Thursday and Friday I was at work.

In all of this busyness I found time to do the things that give me the greatest joy - looking after my family,  keeping my home tidy and finding ways to make my dollars stretch a little further.  I'm happy when I'm making things myself.

Here's what I did this week -

*  Dried the washing on the line when possible.

*  Accepted some glass jars from a friend.  These will be used to make jam when the stone fruit comes on sale in Summer.

*  Made three loaves of wholemeal bread for the freezer.

*  Made fruit icecream with fruit that was cheap in Summer and a little bit of cream that needed using up.  I had the fruit stored in containers in the freezer until I had enough to make a decent sized batch of icecream.

* Made a double batch of chocolate choc chip muffins.  Some went to a family in our church whose Mum had been in hospital.  The rest went into the freezer for lunchboxes.

*  I did some weeding yesterday as the weather was lovely.  I fed the weeds to the chooks who gratefully received them.  Yes,  even my chooks are grateful  !!!.

*  Saved water from the showers and poured it into the washing machine.

*  Saved two slices of roast beef to make a chunky beef and vegie soup for tea tonight.

*  Instead of filling up the dinner plates too much last night,  I portioned some of the food into a container to make a freezer meal.

*  We still had some corn from last year's crop in the freezer so we ate it with two of our meals.

*  Picked some silverbeet to put in a chicken flan for dinner one night and as a side dish for another night.

*  Cooked lots of pumpkin that was bought a few weeks ago for 69 cents a kilo.  I've portioned it into containers and stored it in the freezer to make pumpkin scones at a later date.

*  Made pita chips for snacks.

Frozen fruit,  cream and honey for fruit icecream

Ingredients ready to be wizzed in the food processor.

Portioning into containers for the freezer

Yummy icecream

Pita bread dried in the oven to make chips

Draining the water out of the cooked pumpkin

Cooked pumpkn portioned and ready to be frozen

Chocolate choc chip muffins

What tasks have you completed this week that made your dollars stretch a little further ?

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Radio interview on 3AW

Just thought I'd let you know that I'll be on the radio station 3AW ( 693 ) tomorrow the 6th of August at 2.32 pm  Dennis Walter will be the host and I look forward to meeting him after watching him on tv and listening to him on the radio for so long.

I must admit,  I'm more nervous about the radio than being on tv.  There are no second takes with live radio.

I hope you can tune in.

Meeting Dennis Walter before the show

Live to air

A lovely man who's been watching my stories on tv.

Here's a link to the audio of the show


Wholemeal Bread With Extra Goodness

This recipe is for two 700g loaves of bread baked in 700g bread tins

450 grams of plain white flour
450 grams of plain wholemeal flour
1 tablespoon of dry yeast
9 grams of bread improver
3 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
600 mls of very warm water
1 tablespoon of olive oil

EXTRAS - These can be added to the flour for extra goodness.  You can't see it in the bread like you can with multigrain.

2 tablespoons of white chia seeds
2 tablespoons of oat bran
2 tablespoons of linseed meal

Place all dry ingredients in mixer with dough hook amd mix well. You can use a large bowl and spoon ( or hands ) if you don't have mixer.  Pour in warm water and oil and mix until all ingredients are combined.

Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead for one minute.

Place the dough into large bowl and cover with a freezer bag and two hand towels.  Leave in a warm place until dough rises to twice it's size - about 40 mins.

Knead the dough lightly and divide into quarters. Place two quarters into each lightly greased bread tin. Spray well with water. .

Place tins in warm oven or warm place until dough almost reaches the top of the tins - about 30 mins. Take out of the oven .

Turn oven on to 220 c for electric or 200 c for fan forced. This takes about 10mins to heat up. As the oven heats, the dough will rise to the top of the tins or just above

Bake for 30 mins. I rotate the tins halfway through baking for even browness.

Remove from tins straight away while still hot. Allow to cool completely. Slice with a good quality bread knife 2 - 3 hours later.


If you don't have bread tins,  this recipe could make three smaller loaves if you use meatloaf pans.  You could also use round tins too.

Once you've made this a few times, it beomes second nature. I don't even look at the recipe. It's important to put a timer on for each stage so that you don't loose track of time.

 I also use no name flour.

You can make white bread from this recipe using 900 grams of plain white flour.

This recipe can make 16 standard sized rolls.

Although it takes about two hours to make the bread, I clean up the dishes as I go and find other jobs to do like putting a load of washing on or vacuuming.

I store the bread in the freezer in recycled bread bags.

This bread is best eaten fresh or if you freeze it,  it's great as toast.

Ingredients for bread making.

Dough mixed together

Dough in a bowl with a plastic bag and two towels

Dough has doubled in size

Dough in bread tins

Dough has risen to the top

Yummy baked wholemeal bread ( with extra goodness ) 

I hope you enjoy baking this bread as much as I do.

Saturday 2 August 2014

This Week's Frugal Tasks

This week has been an interesting week in the Gower household.  It was a week of firsts for all of us.  On Monday afternoon I flew out from Melbourne Airport to go to the Gold Coast for a few days to film another story for tv.  This was the first time in 24 years that I'd travelled by myself.  The first time I'd been in a taxi by myself in over 26 years and certainly the first time I'd taken a taxi from Narre Warren to the airport.

It was also the first time I'd travelled without my husband and two daughters.  I must admit that it was a strange feeling and I felt all grown up.  I did meet up with the camera crew the next day and all was right in my world again.  They took good care of me and were very kind.

Trying to prepare a menu plan  for my family was a challenge.  They all said they'd be fine and would take it in turns of cooking each night.   So for the first time in about ten years there was no menu plan to follow.  It was a little strange to leave the family to fend for themselves but if they'd really got stuck for meal ideas,  there was a stash of single serve leftover meals in the freezer.

We all survived and my family didn't starve.  The house was still standing and tidy when I came home.

When I looked at my list of frugal tasks for this week,  it was a little on the slim side.  So in the last two days I've tried to get a few things done so that I wouldn't be embarrassed to post the two tasks I completed before I went away.

So here's my frugal tasks list -

*  Made cranberry hootycreek biscuits for the biscuit ( cookie ) jar.

*  Made lemon butter with lemons from our tree and eggs from our chooks.

Lemon butter.  So yummy on toast  !!!

*  Made room air freshener.

*  On the cold days I closed the toilet and laundry doors so that I wasn't heating the whole house.

*  Packed water and snacks from home for my trip.

*  Closed the curtains a little earlier on cold days.

*  Filled up the cars with petrol when it was cheap and used discount fuel dockets.

*  Gave homemade peanut butter choc chip biscuits with a present for my Mother in Law's birthday.

*  My daughter made honey mustard chicken from scratch while I was away.

*  Brought the free muffin from the plane home for someone to eat.

*  Made strawberry yoghurt.

*  Picked 5 broccoli heads from the veg garden and blanched them for the freezer.

Broccoli still growing rwo weeks ago

Freshly picked broccoli

*  Picked silverbeet from the garden for a meal.

*  Cut up a cereal box to add 2 page dividers to my price book.

*  Cut up the cereal liner bag to use as go between for freezing food.

What did you do this week that was frugal in any way,  shape or form ?