Saturday 27 December 2014

This Week's Frugal Tasks

No matter what time of year it is we always try to be wise with what we have and what we've been given. This week has been no exception.  Although my frugal list isn't very long, we haven't wasted anything.  Here's what we have achieved -

*  Made a jar of Anzac biscuits to give to a family as a Christmas present.

*  Hung up the Christmas cards using wool.

*  Diluted the dishwashing liquid by about 1/3 for washing dishes.  I use vinegar and diluted dishwashing liquid with boiling water to mop the floors.  The dishwashing liquid for the floors is dilued by about 3/4..

*  Sold some eggs this week.

*  Sold a few jars of strawberry and apple jam.

*  Cut up a cereal box to make page dividers for my price book.  I cut up  the cereal packet to use as go between for hamburger patties,  chops and single serves of frozen soup.

*  Recycled tissue paper from a present that was given to me.  I also recycled the gift bag to use in the future.

*  From Christmas Day I recycled lots of tissue paper,  some craft ribbon and eight medium sized gift bags.

*  Gratefully received some bread rolls from a friend.

*  Saved water from the showers and watered the pot plants with it.

*  Continued to pick beans,  letuce,  silverbeet,  strawberries and raspberries.

*  Bought enough wrapping paper for the next 5 years or so.  I was able to buy it in plain silver and gold.  This will be great to use for any occasion throughout the year.

My Nut Cracker collection

Freshly baked Anzac biscuits

Anzac biscuits for a present.

I love buying Christmas trees.

The cheapest way to hang up Christmas cards.
What frugal tasks did you complete this week ?

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Our Year, A Thankyou and Merry Christmas

I'd just like to say a big thankyou to my blog and facebook readers.  I really appreciate you taking the time to read my posts.  I've made some wonderful new friends and we've created a fantastic community of like minded poeple who want to live the abundant life on a budget.  Your comments are greatly appreciated and have bought many smiles to myself and my family.  My life is overflowing with joy.

It's been a BIG,  BIG year and completely unexpected in so many ways.  We started off in February with Darren leaving his job to be available for his ministry work.  This was and continues to be a huge leap of faith for us as we wait on God for "his " work. .

We set out on our new lifestyle by cutting our spending to a minimum,  planting more fruit trees,  expanding our vegetable growing,  cutting out all unneccesary spending, making do with what we have and cooking and baking everything we can from scratch.  With all of this came pure joy and contentment.  Most importantly,  God provided for ALL our NEEDS.

Then we had a camera crew come calling on us.  Our family's story went to air on A Current Affair on 23rd of June.  We knew we had a story to tell,  but never in our wildest dreams could we have known it would touch so many people's lives.  The response was so overwhelming with A Current Affair announcing the next night that I'd joined the team.  I almost fell off the couch.

About two weeks later I launched my blog and facebook pages so that people could find me and learn more about our simple but abundant life.  I'd never blogged before and didn't really know how facebook worked.  A whole new world was opened up to me. I also learnt how to use our digital camera and to take reasonable photos.

The next week 3AW the talk back radio station in Melbourne asked for an interview.  Darren and I made our way to the station to be interviewed by Denis Walter who had followed our story.  The interview went well and people started finding my blog.

A Current Affair has given me the opportunity to help others with their budgets,  inspire mums and dads to cook and bake from scratch. and to find cheaper ways to do things.  I've learnt to travel by myself,  to pack lightly and to work with a camera crew.  I'll be forever grateful for the opportunities they have given me.

A funny result of the tv stories is that now I have to dress better when I'm out and about.  No longer can I duck into the shops for milk when I've just finished cleaning a client's home.  Complete strangers now stop me to talk about the latest tv story.  It's an odd feeling to be recognised but I'm glad the stories have people talking about the simple life.

I've made new friends with fellow bloggers like Annabel from The Bluebirds are Nesting , Tania from Outback Tania ,  Joolz from  Simply Joolz , Brandy from The Prudent Homemaker , and Tanya from Flood Proof Mum . Most importantly I'd like to thank my special friend Cath Armstrong from the Cheapskates Club who has a blog called  Debt Free Cashed Up And Laughing .  She believed in me and told my family's story to a reporter from A Current Affair and the rest is history.  All of these bloggers have been a source of encouragement and inspiration to myself and my family.  Thankyou so much.

As this year draws to a close and a new one begins,  I pray that you have a glorious Christmas filled with love,  laughter,  good food and peace as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  The greatest gift ever given and the reason for the season.

Here are some photos from this year.

Wendy  xoxo

Christmas Decorations

A few of our chickens

Denis Walter from 3AW

Our lemon tree

Wholemeal bread with extra goodness

Cranberry hootycreek biscuits

Chocolate brownies

High tea at home

Garden produce

Home made laundry powder

Lemon chicken

Monday 22 December 2014

The Menu Plan Went Out The Window

The last few weeks have been very unpredictable in our home.  We've had the bathroom renovations come to an end and the mess to clean up afterwards including a complete dust of the house.  Darren had a church communtiy day to organise with hampers and toys to give away.  Our church cafe opened and Darren was heavily involved in the set up. .Both Darren and I have been unwell over three weeks.

With me losing my voice it took two attempts to film my last tv story for this year.  That meant I needed to get the house " tv ready " twice.  Normally I can do this without a problem.  But when you feel like crawling into bed,  it can be a challenge.  With the events that happend in Sydney,  there were challenges in finding a camera crew available in Melbourne.

We've also had the usual Christmas breakup dinners to attend,  school presentation nights,  VCE info nights,  a school hiking camp for Megan and the usual housework to do.  Jessica is working more shifts in the lead up to Christmas and Megan started working at the church cafe.

Thankfully my Christmas shopping was almost complete before all this craziness decended upon our normally quiet home.

As for " THE MENU PLAN ",  well,  it's on the fridge but lets just say, it went out the window.  I had a vague memory of writing it a month ago but with so many things on,  there were many days when I didn't even have time to look at it.  Some days we stuck to the menu plan.  Other days we swapped meals around and other days we ate out of the freezer.  Jessica and Megan cooked a few nights when I was sick.  Some nights we just ate what each of us felt like.

Menu plans are very important to have.  They can bring some stability when craziness fills your life.  They are also meant to be flexible when the best laid plans go out the window ( with the menu plan ).

Having a well stocked pantry,  fridge and freezer helps to stay on track with your grocery spending too.  Although we didn't cook everything on the menu plan,  we used those ingredients to make other meals.  Having meals in the freezer was a big help as well.  When my throat was at it's most painful,  spag bol came to the rescue as  I needed to eat something soft .  I always cook the meat sauce in bulk and freeze it into meal portions.

If you haven't tried writing a menu plan before,  I encourage you to give it a try.  It might not be possible to stick to it all the time,  but it's comforting to know you've planned your meals as best as you can.

As for next month's menu plan,  I'll write it again knowing it will help us through Christmas and the holiday season..

Saturday 20 December 2014

Christmas Story On A Current Affair.

A Current Affair will be showing my Christmas story on Monday night 22nd December on  Channel Nine at 7pm.  I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did filming it.

For those who are finding it hard to make ends meet at Christmas,  this story will inspire you to have the best Christmas possible no matter what your budget is. 


This Week's Frugal Tasks

Christmas Day is drawing nearer and we've almost finished our Christmas preparations.  It's been busy here as I filmed a story for tv and recovered from laryngitis.  Here's what I managed to do this week -

*  Saved some bread bags to recycle. Jessica uses them to scoop out the kitty litter.

*  Topped, tailed and cut up two colanders of beans from the garden.  I've frozen them in freezer bags.  I don't bother blanching them.  They taste ok by just freezing them

*  Made up some more foaming hand wash for both bathroms. The recipe is here  Foaming Hand Wash

*  Cut up the rest of the ham I bought last week.  I bagged it up into sandwich portion sizes and pizza sizes and froze it for future meals.

*  Started saving water from the showers again. We couldn't do it with the bathroom renos and then the big clean up.  It feels great to be in the routine again.

*  Made two big pots of vegetable soup.  I had lots of zucchinis from the garden and some vegetables from a tv story to use up.  I don't like wasting food so this is a great way to turn them into something delicious.  Most of it was frozen into single serves...

*  Made vanilla yoghurt using a starter I'd frozen previously.

*  Kept the curtains closed on the warmer days.  By doing this I didn't have to turn the evap cooling on until later in the afternoon.

*  .We were abundantly blessed with an enormous ham,  a leg of lamb and some vegetables this week.  This was so unexpected and came at a time when I didn't feel well enough to go shopping.  I also.haven't had a car all week as it's finally being repaired after the hit and run we were involved in a couple of months ago.  I won't open the ham for a while as we are using up the other ham that I froze into meal sizes.  We used the lamb for two main meals and sandwiches the following day.

*  I started picking raspberries and freezing them for future use.  I'm hoping to get enough to make some raspberry jam.  SOOOOO good  !!!

*  Made more peanut butter choc chip biscuits.  I'm so glad I had the dough in the freezer.

What frugal tasks did you complete this week ?

Thursday 18 December 2014

What Makes You Happy ? December 2014

With December being so busy for many,  it's still important to take time out and reflect on the things that make you happy.  It will bring you a sense of peace,  contentment and joy to your life.

Here's what makes me happy -

*  Christmas decorations.  I look forward to getting them out each year.  I also like to make some and they look great on the tree ( if I do say so myself ).

*  Our chickens.  They are such funny creatures to watch as they run around fighting over a strawberry.  It's almost like watching a cartoon but in real life.

*  A good home cooked meal.  It warms me up inside knowing I'm feeding my family good food that will help them to stay healthy and strong.

What makes you happy ?

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Christmas Table Decoration

Do you ever get stuck trying to work out how to decorate your Christmas table ? Here's a great idea for a decoration that won't cost you a cent.

Find a clear glass bowl or vase that you already have. It doesn't matter what shape or size although you don't want it to take up too much room on the table. 

Fill the bowl or vase with leftover Christmas ball decorations. We took a few from the back of the tree - no one will notice. I used smaller balls to fill in the gaps made by the bigger balls.  If they still have hanging loops on them, hide them underneath.

All our decorations are bought on sale after Christmas and we have lots to spare.  Each year we change the color scheme of our tree.  This year it's pink,  purple,  blue and silver.

I've teamed up the bowl of decorations with a beautiful blue table runner I made years ago.  Add a few silver tea light holders and it's complete.

Saturday 13 December 2014

This Week's Frugal Tasks

This week's frugal list will be a short one.  I've been sick all week with laryngfitis.  I've had to cancel all my cleaning jobs and a day of filming for tv ( hoping to do it next week ).  As lousy as I feel I'm trying to stay positive.  I rarely get sick and haven't had a cold in over 18 months.  Both my girls have been home all week and have been helping out with the cookng and cleaning.

Here are the few things we've managed to do -

*  Baked a big batch of peanut butter choc chip biscuits with dough from the freezer.

*  Used less water with the washing machine.  I haven't done as many loads but we have still saved the rinse water for each next load.

*  Gratefully received turkish breads from a friend at church.  For tea on Sunday night we used some of them to make pizza with chicken Jessica bought home from work and cheese we also received from a friend. The meal was very yummy and almost free.  The rest of the turkish breads were frozen for future use.

*  Megan made chicken noodle soup from scratch using homemade chicken stock from the freezer.  She only used a recipe to get ideas from then made it her own way.  It was so yummy and for about an hour I felt a little better.

*  Picked more beans and strawberries.

*  Dried the washing on the line and clothes horses ( when it rained ).

*  We purchased our first ever Christmas ham.  We've never been able to afford one before but this year I had a little extra money in the food slush fund.  Tasman Meats have Bertocci hams for $6.99 kg.  I picked half a ham with no bone.  We'll be slicing it thinly and freezing as much as we can.  Darren spoke to the butcher and found out that they last five days in the fridge once opened but can be frozen.

*  Cooked all meals from scratch.  It can be tempting to get takeaway when the cook is sick. So far we've avoided the temptation.  We have plenty of food in the house so we may as well use it.

*  Continued to collect eggs each day.  Four out of five chickens are moulting to some degree so we feel blessed to still get between 2 - 4 eggs each day.

*  Purchased beef ribs for $3.99 kg from Tasman Meats.  This is a great price and Darren will enjoy them when we have bbqs.

*  Bought legs of lamb for $6.99 kg from Tasman Meats.  They have all been frozen and we now have enough to ration them out for special occasions over the next twelve months.

*  Megan picked five small bunches of flowers from the garden to cheer me up.

My gingerbread people in the kitchen

Megan's chicken noodle soup meal.

Flowers for me

Christmas decos in the loungerom

Our girly Christmas tree

Christmas present decorations

All lit up.
What frrugal tasks have you completed this week ?

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Family Meat Pie

2 sheets of puff pastry
400 grams of beef mince
3 tablespoons of gravy powder
3 teaspoons of onion flakes or one small onion diced
Salt, pepper and parsley to taste
2 tablespoons of corn flour
1 1/4 cup of water
2 medium / large potatoes peeled and diced into small cubes
1 egg beaten

Cook mince and drain off any fat. Add onion, salt, pepper and parsley. Sprinkle gravy powder over meat and mix in well In a cup mix the corn flour and water. Add to the mince and stir until meat thickens. Let the meat cool.

Place one sheet of puff pastry into a greased round pie plate. Cut the corners off the second pastry sheet and place these triangles onto the edges of the first sheet to give it a more rounded look. Spoon the meat onto the pastry pushing down and evening it out. Place cubed potato on top. Add the pastry lid and roll and fold the edges down. Brush the top with egg and spike the lid with a skewer. Cook in an oven at 190 degrees celcius for one hour.

Serves 4 people with vegies on the side. Can be frozen if fresh meat is used and cooked.

The meat for the pie can be made in bulk ahead of time and frozen into portion sizes.

Pie straight out of the oven

Meat I'd already cooked ,  frozen and defrosted

Cutting the potato into small cubes

Please take note of the pastry for the bottom.

Ready for the oven

It is really filling

A close up.  Sorry,  there was lots of steam.