Monday, July 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - 28th July

Notes on last week's menu:
Nothing exciting to report..

To use up this week:

* pork roast

Menu Plan this week:

Monday - pork & gravy sandwiches
Tuesday - spaghetti bolognaise (sauce in dreampot) - I'll be at work that night
Wednesday - sweet & sour pork, rice
Thursday - steak & veges
Friday - beef stew with bacon, onion & potato
Saturday - calzones
Sunday - roast chicken & veges

Lunches for Pete will be soup, ham & salad sandwiches, pork & salad, steak wraps.

For more exciting menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Eating from the garden:
* various herbs
* potatoes
* radish

Planting this week:
* haven't decided yet

See my "Quick Updates" over on the side to see what I've been up to in the garden lately.

We sold our van!!!

Our van has now driven out of our driveway for the last time!!!

Back in February we bought a new A-van and put our old slide-on camper up for sale. Finally, it has sold! Not without dramas though - we have had lots of people look at it but it obviously wasn't what they wanted. On Wednesday a man came out to look at it, took some measurements, and made us an offer - which we accepted (gladly lol). He left a deposit and we organised for him to come on Sunday to pick it up. He came - we got it almost on, only to find that a post on his rollbar was in the way! We took it back off and he promised to do some modifications and come back today.

Another sleepless night hoping that he would indeed come back - and he did! A bit of hassle getting it chained on since his ute was different to ours - but finally I had the cash, he had the keys and we were all happy!

And in a fitting finale, it was raining as we put it on and chained it up..

So that is a big weight off my mind, we can now pay out the loan we took to buy our new van, and ease a bit of stress in how much I have to earn each month.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bits and pieces

You know you've gotten carried away with the seed catalogues when they arrive and *that's* when you think "uh oh, where am I going to plant them all??!"


I started clearing the back vege patch this afternoon in preparation for planting my seed potatoes that arrived a couple of days ago. The cheeky magpies were having a wonderful time sitting right next to me grabbing the bugs I uncovered - I threw quite a few big fat cutworms (or similar) to them which they were most grateful for!


This is what you find when you miss harvesting all of your potatoes a couple of seasons ago!! I think there's about 1.5kg there. I love "free" food!


In other exciting news, I met Crazy Mumma today! It was only briefly but I think we both felt like we already knew each other. She very kindly gave me a yacon tuber and rhizome - the yacon tastes so sweet raw, and met with approval here - it was declared "my favourite vegetable ever - can you grow some of those please Mummy?!". It reminded me of a nashi pear or of an old style 'china pear' that we used to get from my uncle's family farm. We ate half raw and cooked the rest up as part of a mixed fruit crumble. In the crumble it kept it's crunch which was unusual but nice!


Updating my 'no supermarkets for 4 weeks' challenge, all I've bought this week was meat (from the local butcher), bread (from the local baker & our local independent servo, made by a local bakery).

I may need to buy some fruit this week but will see how we go.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

$21 & 'no supermarket' challenge explanation

A couple of people asked for more information on the challenges so here's a more detailed explanation.

The $21 challenge was created by someone on the Simple Savings site (see banner on the right). You use this in an 'oh no I have no money until next payday and need to feed the family for the week' situation! The idea is to use up what you have in your pantry / freezer and stretch it as far as possible. The tin of chickpeas you bought when you were on a health kick, the meat that's worked it's way to the back of the freezer etc - time to haul them out and see what you can make.

The first step is to inventory what you have - go through your cupboard, freezer, fridge, fruit bowl etc and make a list of everything that can be used to make a meal. Then get creative and make a menu plan - remember Google is your friend :) Look for substitutions for things you think you need - if you think outside the square you can really stretch your food.

Then work out the things you absolutely *have* to buy and try to keep it to as little as possible (in the case of the original challenge the limit was $21). That's it - stick to not buying anything else for the week and you'll succeed.

It's not something you can do all the time - generally the meals lack a bit on the nutrition front - and certainly in my house, the peasants revolt after a while :)


The 'no supermarket' challenge has a different purpose. You won't be able to do it unless you have a bit of a stockpile. The idea isn't necessarily to save money (although that can be a handy side-effect) but to challenge yourself to be more self-reliant, and to avoid paying money to the big corporations. Ideally I'd like to get to the stage where I could go an extended period without buying food, but until the garden is producing and my stockpile is bigger, it's baby steps.

So my challenge is to not go to the supermarket for 4 weeks. I'll be using what I have at home, and if I need anything else I can only buy it from local shops. So I can buy from the fruit & vege shop, butcher, and the small independent servo. Oh and I only have $20-odd to do so lol

That's my rules - feel free to adapt it to your circumstances. I shop fortnightly, so I'm just doubling the normal time I usually go - if you go to the supermarket every couple of days, try to extend to a week. If you shop weekly, try to extend to 2 weeks etc.

Let me know if anyone decides to take part - I'd love to hear how you go.


BTW, there is a truckie's strike happening from Monday next week. Opinions vary as to what the effect will be, but it mightn't hurt to be a bit prepared.

Belated Menu Plan Monday - 21st July

Notes on last fortnight's menu:
The frittata was nice but it made quite a lot. We only ate half and the rest got wasted as no-one seemed inclined to eat it as was, and I couldn't think of any way to disguise it or use it in something else. (Any ideas?)

I blogged about my success with the plymouth pie, so it's a definite keeper. The thai wraps were quite yummy - I think they'd make a good lunch.

I swapped a few meals around last week. The chicken pie with herby cobbler topping turned into a chicken laksa as I didn't feel like cooking anything 'heavy'. The braised beef with herby dumplings was delicious. The roast chicken carcass made some more stock which then turned into a vegetable soup to go in the freezer for lunches. I ate all of the creamy potato soup this week so I need to make some more of that too.

I also made all of our bread products for the fortnight - quite chuffed with myself about that! I made some normal bread, tortillas, the one hour french bread I've mentioned before, and made up a beer bread to go with the chili con carne (worked beautifully with it!)

To use up this week:
* Bit of Bacon & scrambled egg
* 1 piece of crumbed chicken

Menu Plan this week:

I'm getting a bulk order of beef & pork tomorrow so menu planning is very sketchy until I see what we have there.

Monday - crumbed chicken and chips
Tuesday - some sort of casserole I've pulled out of the freezer - it doesn't have a label!
Wednesday - steak & veges
Thursday - pork?
Friday - fried rice (using bacon, egg and leftover chicken)
Saturday - ? not sure if Pete will be home for tea
Sunday - roast pork & veges

For more exciting menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Eating from the garden:
* various herbs
* radish

Planting this week:
* haven't decided yet - have heaps of seeds coming from Diggers this week (yay!)

See my "Quick Updates" over on the side to see what I've been up to in the garden lately.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Home school day - kite making

Since we started homeschooling, I've really been wanting some sort of regular get-together of local homeschoolers. There are plenty of one-off excursions we can, and do, go to, but the trouble with those is you might meet a family on one excursion, and then not meet them again for another 6 months. There are regular sports organised like ice-skating, but they are an hour's travel away and quite often for older kids than Billy. We have gotten together with other families on and off, but everyone gets busy and things fall by the wayside.

I really wanted some sort of regular get-together where they came together to do different activities and got to meet the same kids each time - to give them some consistency and help the isolation factor. And to be honest, I wanted it for myself to be able to interact with adults a bit more :)

After 6 months of wishing, and chatting with a couple of other parents who I found out also wished the same thing, I finally bit the bullet and decided to organise something myself. I found a local community hall that hired out quite cheaply and sent an email to our local groups asking for interest. We set a date of every 2nd Monday (starting today) and I crossed my fingers that someone would turn up.

I wanted to have an activity up my sleeve 'just in case' and had previously bookmarked this great kite-making page.

We made one this morning just to make sure it worked - here was our test run - they worked fabulously. Especially since today was *really* windy!

So 12 o'clock saw us at the hall anxiously waiting for some other families to turn up. I needn't have worried - 13 families turned up - a total of 30 kids!! Mostly primary school aged and younger. It was fantastic and I was so relieved!

Everyone seemed really enthusiastic. We've planned out the rest of the term as a group with some great ideas. We chatted, the kid's played. We made the kites which went really well (except for having only 1 pair of scissors!) and they flew them. We chatted and the kids played some more.

I really hope this is the start of something good - it's certainly a promising start!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Extreme $21 - final update & No Supermarket for 4 weeks challenge

A final update on the extreme $21 challenge - we did it! I'll review the recipes tomorrow when I menu plan for next week, but it went well. It cleaned the freezer out of lots of bits & pieces, and got me being a bit creative especially by the end of the fortnight.

And now for a new challenge.

On Friday I ordered a bulk meat pack from our butcher - I'll pick it up on Wednesday. I'm "borrowing" the money from our bill account (there's enough in there to cover it) and will pay the account back each month. I went shopping today and spent $80-odd on staples - flour (16kg!), cheese (1kg), butter (1.5kg), a couple of whole chickens, some fruit & veges etc.

So my goal is to stay out of the supermarket for the next 4 weeks. I still have about $20 that I can use to top up with fruit, veges, eggs & milk if I need them - I can get the fruit, veges & eggs at the fruit shop, and the milk at the servo so I shouldn't need to go near Bilo or Aldi during the time.

Does anyone want to join me?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Day in My Life - July 14th

Up at 7, made Pete's lunch, saw him off to work.

Checked emails & favourite blogs, did freecycle moderatoring.

Made breakfast (rice bubbles for Billy, porridge for me). Put some yoghurt on to set while I was cooking the porridge.

Billy claimed his tummy was hurting again (he was sick the other night) so spent a while sitting in the toilet with him. Held off having a shower until I could gauge how he was.

9ish Phonecall from a friend inviting us out to the library today - Billy chose that moment to be sick so had to tell her I'd ring back! Another phone call inviting us for lunch - also had to ring back & decline. We're popular today!! Sat watching kid's TV while cuddling Billy.

10:15ish Judged Billy ok enough to leave him while I had a quick shower, make the beds and get meat out for tea.

Typed up a recipe for my blog.

Billy seemed ok. We read about Bastille Day (the abridged kid's version) and talked about it. We watched a couple of video snippets about it on the computer- including a Lego re-enactment of Bastille day lol.

Helped Billy set up & do some painting. I dried up the dishes from last night and cooked lunch (noodles for Billy and toast for me) while he was finishing the painting.

Had lunch & read my book. Did some work on my section of our home ed newsletter and sent it off to the editor while Billy played some games on the computer.

We took advantage of the rain stopping and a brief bit of sun to get out and take photos in the garden.

I did the washing up (I swear it breeds in our house!), swept the kitchen floor and wiped down the cupboard fronts (well overdue). Tidied up a bit. Remade Billy's bed with his winter sheets - finally dry after their midnight wash on Saturday night. The above was interspersed with "Mummy, come and have a look at this" or "Mummy, can you help me with this".

I set up an ebay auction for some things Pete wants to sell.

5pm Pete home.

Dried the dishes. Cooked sausages for Pete's lunch tomorrow and for Billy's tea. Cooked tea for us (chilli con carne), and watched the news while we ate.

Read some more blogs, wrote a post for mine about the garden.

Finished & uploaded ebay listing.

Did Billy's bedtime routine and got him to bed.

8:30ish Started paid work... It's so hard to get motivated at this time of night but I don't have a lot of choice..

10:30ish Finished work for the night. Updated my blog with this post and now I'm off to bed.

For more "Day in my Life" stories check out Jenny's blog.

In the garden

I took advantage of a bit of sunshine this afternoon to get out and take some photos of the garden at the moment.

Radish is growing well. I have it in a container and also in patches in the main bed.

A couple of flowers on some of my strawberry plants.

Some tiny lettuce seedlings.

Overview of the main bed with clumps of radish.

Pansies in a pot - a bit of colour in the garden.

I planted some peas in this pot yesterday.

I *think* this is baby arugula (rocket) but I'm not certain.

Another unknown - possibly beetroot or parsnip. I planted them both at the same time.

The sunflowers Billy planted in 'his garden'.

Broccoli has started forming a head.

One of the hop plants has some leaves on it.

So there you go - a quick tour of the exciting things in the garden today.

Plymouth pie recipe

I've checked out the copyright laws on recipes and as far as I can interpret, it means that I can't reproduce the recipe exactly. But the ingredients can't be copyrighted and I can write the instructions in my own words, so here is the recipe for Plymouth Pie from Sophie Gray's destitute gourmet "Everyday Smart Food for the family".

Plymouth Pie
Serves 4-6

1 tbsp oil
1 brown onion, chopped
700g lean minced beef (I used about 400g and a couple of handfuls of red lentils that I boiled first)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp plain flour
250ml beef stock plus 1 beef stock cube
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
4 tbsp tomato sauce
pinch of mixed herbs
3/4 cup peas (I left these out this time)
salt & pepper

Pie crust
1 1/4 cups plain flour
170g butter
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold water
egg for glazing

To make the pie crust -
Mix butter into flour with your fingertips, add the salt and cold water until the mixture comes together. You may not need all of the water (or maybe even a touch more) so add it gradually.
Form into a ball, wrap in greaseproof paper and rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Filling -
Heat oil in a saucepan and cook onion until soft. Add meat and brown it.
Add worcestershire sauce and flour - mix well. Stir in stock & stock cube, carrot, tomato sauce & herbs. Simmer, covered for 15 mins, stirring occasionally. Add peas, season with salt & pepper and simmer another 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Roll out half the pastry. Line a 23cm metal pie dish with the rolled out pastry, then fill it with the cooled meat mixture. Roll out the rest of the pastry, put it on top, crimp the edges and brush with beaten egg yolk. (I forgot to do this!)

Poke a couple of holes in the top for the steam to come out. Bake at 190 deg C for 30 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

6 monthly goal review

Time to revisit the goals I made for in Dec for 2008 and see how things are going..


* finance hubby's microbrewery from savings/earnings only - no debt - hopefully we have enough saved for this now. Even more hopefully it will get underway and start earning some money next year! Things are at a standstill atm waiting on other people to do stuff. We used the money we had saved towards the caravan instead. Plans are still up in the air.
* get down to $10,000 non-mortgage debt ($6,000+ to pay off) Hmmm, can we forget I made this one??! Buying the caravan increased our non-mortgage debt again. Personal loan for van has $2,700-odd remaining, then back to paying off the family loan. Hope to have the personal loan paid off by the end of the year.
* look at non-stress alternative income sources that can work around homeschooling - does such a beast really exist??! lol I can't say that I've found one yet!
* save at least $1,000 in appliance repair fund (washing machine is on it's last legs) by June 45% there - won't get there by June but have started an extra "rainy day" savings account that could be used in an emergency. New goal to reach $1000 in appliance fund by Dec. Oh and we won a new TV in a competition, so don't need to worry about buying one of those for quite some time!
* reduce present/gift spending - more homemade? LETS? We had a shocking year this year with the present budget - several weddings, births, 40th b'days - all out of the ordinary. Hopefully next year will be better but need to be vigilant. So far so good, but the birthday rush starts from next month.
* Go back to tracking expenses! Hiding head - I keep failing on this :(
* Actual envelopes aren't working too well for medical / misc household - try virtual envelopes. Seems to be working ok but it's hard to tell without tracking. See point above..


* only take on one large project per month (max) - that will leave time for other one-offs / fixes. I'm booked up until May already!! Still finding it hard to say no to little things that then turn into time-consuming big things, but sticking to this on the whole. Currently booked up until September.
* Try to work no more than a couple of nights / week On the whole, yes, doing well. Through the week I try to work no more than 3 nights, 1 night doing non-paid work stuff (quotes etc) and have one night off the computer.
* start monthly newsletter back up Haven't even thought about it.
* Keep weekends free Generally yes. I also try to keep one day / week completely computer free.


* Enjoy it!! Yep!
* try to get into some sort of routine Nah, we threw routine out of the window and are happier for it!
* don't overcommit with activities We have a good mix atm.


* me time each week I'm doing far better than I was 6 months ago. I'm knowing my limits more and taking time for myself. Computer free days help as does one night / week off the computer.

Steps to achieve above goals:

* Utilise LETS more Am using it a bit more but still not as much as I could
* Concentrate on grocery budget - more from scratch, bulk buying Ups and downs but not too bad
* Stop buying lunch every time we go out Much better but still not perfect - it helps to not go out!
* Get garden productive I'm hoping the fact that we're not getting a lot out of the garden atm is because it's winter! Am really working on this one.
* Track expenses Hmm, seems to be a theme here - I MUST do this!
* Take time to do things rather than just spending money Getting better at thinking before I buy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I made pastry!!!

Many moons ago I attempted to make pastry - rather dismally. It just would not do what it was supposed to - I couldn't roll it out without ripping it to shreds, it was soggy and just not good!. I pigeon-holed myself as "not able to make pastry" and haven't tried again.

Until tonight..

Now that I'm quite good at making bread and adept at making pasta, I thought I'd try again with a Destitute Gourmet recipe for Plymouth Pie (basically meat pie).

It rolled out perfectly - I was even able to roll it onto the rolling pin to drape over the pie dish without it ripping anywhere.

It cooked perfectly - not soggy and nicely crispy.

And it tasted divine - light & flaky. (The inside of the pie was yummy too!)

I think I have to say now - "I CAN make pastry!!!!"

Been away

Picture taken by Master B - it's probably his fingerprint in the middle of the frame as well :)

We've been away for a couple of days. My sister-in-law booked a guesthouse out in the vineyards for all of the clan - it's a 4 bedroom, self-contained house set on a huge bushy area, owned by a friend of hers.

Pete has 3 siblings, and they live scattered from 30 mins away to 2 hours away. While we get together for birthdays and Xmas, nobody usually has much time to just sit & chat with each other. So Cher booked the guesthouse so everyone could spend a few days together without having to rush back home, rush off to sport etc etc. One brother & his family weren't able to make it, so there were (only) 8 adults (siblings, partners & Mum & Dad) and 5 kids!

It was noisy, chaotic but good fun! It was great to be able to see the cousins getting along, and to be able to spend time with my newest niece who we haven't seen much of before this. After the kids all (finally) went to bed, the adults were able to kick back and chat.

Hopefully we'll make this an annual event.

(So for those who asked, the extreme $21 challenge is going well - obviously the last few days were budgeted separately!)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Menu Plan - 7th July

Extreme $21 challenge update
I stretched my $26 to buy:
* 1 whole chicken - $5.66 - I was hoping for a few more marked down, but that was the only one, so I only got 1.
* 3L milk - $3.19
* Butter (500g) - $2.18
* Butter (250g) - $1.15
* 1kg tasty cheese - $6.29
* 600ml cream - $2.04
* Yeast (280g) - $3.75
* home brand scotch finger biscuits - $1.18 (a treat for the boy who was helping me)
TOTAL - $25.44

I forgot about the 1kg of beetroot I also have so can add that into the veges on hand. Also a pear that looks like it's been carried to & from work a couple of times, a couple of bananas turning spotty and 2 passionfruit. There's also bacon in the freezer.

Notes on last week's menu:
The chicken did extremely well - dinner, fried rice, a couple of lunches, chicken & spaghetti bake, and then I made chicken stock with the carcass & used the stock to make a wonderful creamy chicken & potato soup with the little bits of chicken I picked off the rest of the carcass. (Well I thought it was wonderful anyway!)

The maple glazed sausages were ok but nothing spectacular. Same with the chicken & spaghetti bake. Lasagna with homemade pasta was a bit overcooked but still very nice.

To use up this week:

Menu Plan this fortnight:

I've been going through the destitute gourmet books I got for Mother's Day so if anyone has the books they might see a lot of familiar recipes!

Monday - frankfurt bake
Tuesday - not home
Wednesday - not home
Thursday - frittata with beetroot & orange salad
Friday - plymouth pie, mashed potatoes & vages
Saturday - wraps with thai beef salad
Sunday - roast chicken & veges

Monday - chili con carne & rice
Tuesday - chicken pie with herby cobbler topping
Wednesday - Sambal stiry fry
Thursday - homemade fettucine & bacon & tomato pasta sauce
Friday - braised beef with herby dumplings
Saturday - Bacon quiche & salad
Sunday - leftovers if there are any, otherwise there is still 1 lot of mince

Breakfasts will be as normal - toast, 'dippy egg' (poached egg with toast soldiers), porridge or cereal (generic 'weetbix' or 'rice bubbles')

Lunches will be leftovers, soup (heaps in the freezer) or cheese sandwiches for Billy & I, chicken or sausages and salad, or soup for Pete.

For more menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Eating from the garden:
* various herbs

Planting this week:
* pot out the almond tree
* do some more weeding & plant more herbal groundcovers

See my "Quick Updates" over on the side to see what I've been up to in the garden lately.

Extreme $21 challenge

"Welcome to the extreme $21 challenge. Watch Kez try to feed her family with $26 for the fortnight!"

Due to a bit of runaway spending on the credit card (I'm only guilty of too many fruit trees!), as well as a client who thinks its ok to pay their invoices whenever they like rather than when we want them paid, we really have to tighten the belt for the next month or so. If you haven't heard of a $21 challenge, the idea is to feed your family for $21 for a week by being creative, and digging into the pantry. I'm extending that - I've raided the coin tin, the console in the car and anywhere else I can think of, and I'm going to try to feed us for the next 2 weeks on $26.

I have to cater for 12 dinners, plus lunches. (we're not home for the other 2 dinners).

In the freezer I have:

* cocktail frankfurts (probably 500g worth)
* 1 lot casserole chuck steak
* 4 lots of mince
* 1 lot of sausages
* 2 lots of sandwich steak

So 9 meals there, more if I can stretch it out. Very "meaty" though so I want to buy some chicken to alternate.

I have 15 eggs so that can do a couple of meals. Pete is very much a "need meat" man so I can't feed him too many non-meat meals, I just have to sneak lower meat in!

Fruit & vege wise - I have a bag of oranges, a couple of apples & tins of fruit so that should be adequate. I have about 10kg of potatoes, frozen peas & cauliflower, a couple of ears of corn, a few carrots & tomatoes, heaps of tins of tomatoes and a tin of corn if I get desperate. So we should be right there.

Here's my shopping list:
* 3L milk
* cheese
* butter
* chicken - will try to get 2 whole chooks, 1 to roast & then use for lunches, and the other to cut up into pieces.
* cream (to make ice-cream)
* yeast (for bread, rolls etc)

Prices have gone up so much lately esp for cheese etc that my price book is way out of date, but hopefully I'll be able to do it.

Stay tuned :)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fun with Bubbles!

To make strong bubbles, use:

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dishwashing liquid
1/2 cup of water

Dissolve sugar in water, then mix in dishwashing liquid. Place in fridge for 5 minutes to make the bubbles last longer.

The sugar apparently stops the bubbles popping as quickly because it slows down the evaporation. We also learnt that bubbles last longer if it's raining because of the humidity in the air.

So with strong bubbles, you get to do this:

Make sure the base of the glass is wet otherwise the bubble will pop.

Wet the end of the straw in the bubble mixture, and then you can insert it straight into the bubble!

Blow gently and voila, ..

a bubble within a bubble!!

And we get to call this science :)