Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Motherly Advice...Use your noodle...or rice, or pasta...

I've been watching Eat Well for Less. Have you?
What an eye opener!
What people DON'T know astounds, embarrasses and infuriates me in equal measure.
And what they can SAVE is even more astounding!
A common issue seems to be that they all have pantries and refrigerators, overflowing with ingredients they've used once.
Here's the thing.
Modern day recipes and cooking shows are a rort.
Many are produced by the supermarkets themselves (even Eat Well for Less has product placement for Coles and Aldi all over the place), and are an inducement for you to purchase the necessary ingredients to conjure up a meal for the family.
This is utter nonsense.
Let's get our head around ingredients and meal planning for a family. Or even for a singleton.
Protein is protein, be it beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish, or tofu.
A carb is a carb, and could be rice, pasta, crepes, corn, rice noodles or bread.
Most curry pastes have similar ingredients and with the addition of dry spices, can work well...or create a new taste sensation.
Fruit is fruit is fruit. Banana bread can be strawberry bread. A berry smoothie can be a mango one. Orange and Almond cake can just as easily be mandarin, lime or cumquat almond cake.
Nearly ALL recipes come about through someone else's necessity. NOT by the luxury of having ten different versions of the same thing cluttering up your pantry, refrigerator and mind.
Not only that, but in terms of saving money, you can make a few clever substitutions, and have enough ingredients for a whole extra meal. I do this all the time.
You can save your family so much money, simply by asking yourself:
'What is it?' or 'What is its purpose?'.
Here are some examples:

No bacon or ham? What is its purpose? To add smoky flavour - so add smoky paprika. You might have the bacon or ham, but that can be another meal-in-the-making.

No berries for a recipe? What is the purpose of the berries? Probably to add flavour and possibly moisture - so add strawberry essence, strawberry syrup, or another fruity flavour (anything you have on hand), citrus zest or citric acid even, and add fruit juice or oil for moisture.

No chocolate chips for cookie baking? We all know why they're there. For yummy flavour and texture. Instead add cocoa, broken Easter eggs, chopped cooking chocolate, dried fruit, nuts or coconut.

No cherry tomatoes for that fancy recipe? It is just tomato for flavour and colour. So chop up regular tomatoes or make a tomato puree based dressing or sauce out of tomato paste. No tomato paste? Use tomato sauce.

No shallots, chives or leeks? It is onion flavour you need, so use normal onions or even dried onions. I have these on hand always, and they take up no space at all.

Cheese is cheese. Try substituting any kind or even use the long life parmesan for a cheesy boost.

For Celebration recipes that require a liqueur, ask yourself the same question. Its purpose is to add flavour so just use flavoured essence, adding orange juice for Cointreau, hazelnut essence for Frangelico and so on. It's a lot easier on the pocket with no loss of enjoyment.

 Here's a few more...
Buttermilk - yoghurt - milk with vinegar or lemon juice added
Butter in a cake - oil - fruit or vegetable puree`
Spices - just add any spice in your pantry. Italian flavours include pungent things like Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Sage, Rosemary, Garlic. Greek flavours includes flavours like aniseed, lemon, and mint. Middle Eastern influences include fragrant, earthy things like Cumin, Coriander, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Sumac. Indian cuisine includes aromatics like Turmeric, Fenugreek, Cardamom, Cayenne Pepper, Chilli, Fennel, and Mint and so on. If in doubt, Google the cuisine, and add another similar spice from the same family.
Milk - equivalent amount of powdered milk or evaporated milk, diluted or reconstituted, coconut milk or coconut cream, or just use water, yoghurt, cream, custard or juice. Again, what is the function of the milk in that recipe?
Coconut milk - powdered milk made up to a thicker mixture or evaporated milk, add some coconut essence or even desiccated coconut. It's not authentic, but you get the flavour, and a really lush texture.
Flour - Cornflour. Now that we are gluten free, I've substituted Cornflour in baking a few times. I can assure you it works. Similarly it works for Béchamel sauce and any sort of gravy.
Onion - shallots, spring onion, garlic.
Soy sauce - Fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Tamari sauce, Vegemite or a stock cube (boullion cube), mixed with some water. Again not authentic, but you'll get the colour and a flavour boost.
Sesame oil - try Peanut Oil, Sesame Seeds, or add any other sort of nuts for flavour.
Eggs in cake baking - 1/4 cup mashed banana, or stewed fruit, or soda water or vinegar in water.
I just made some Dhal and needed some lime juice to go in the Natural Yoghurt accompaniment.
I had none, so used a pinch of Citric Acid in place of the lime worked like a charm :)
No potatoes for mash? Make a red lentil mash by microwaving about a third of a cup of red lentils with some stock until they go to mush. Yummier than it sounds.
Tinned peas, heated an pureed make a good replacement for mash too.
I've recently tried cauliflower 'rice' and really loved it but then, I love cauliflower. Cauliflower mash is another alternative.
Sour cream - use natural yoghurt, long life cream with a bit of vinegar added, or ricotta or cottage cheese. You can make your own ricotta/cottage cheese easily. See my recipe here.
Imagine that you are a long way from any supermarket.
In fact I know some of you are.
Challenge yourself to reduce the clutter in your refrigerator and pantry.
See how many substitutions you can make in your own recipes.
Don't buy a bigger house, or a bigger kitchen, to house a madness forced upon us by the modern world.
Don't have $2,000 worth of food cluttering up your pantry, like the couple on this weeks episode of Eating Well for Less.
Make do.
Our parents and grandparents did it.
We can too.
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Monday, May 21, 2018 I'm saving money in 2018...

 Grab a latte.
Home made of course.
Mine is Chai. I really made this. Truth. Would you expect anything less from me?
Lets talk about saving money....
I watched a new show here called Eat Well for Less. I'm sure they choose the worst possible examples for these shows, but do people honestly spend $700 a week on groceries? Or even $400?
I guess that's okay if you insource in other areas like I've been saying for years now.
But usually, grocery shopping habits are an indicator of other habits, so you have to wonder.
Me? I insource like there's no tomorrow. Or rather like there are many tomorrows, and I want to make the most of them all.
So I never, ever hand over money unless there's no alternative. Well, I do. But I hand money over mostly to SAVE money in another area.
For example, I hand over money for Jamberry heat bonded nail covers. At $11 a sheet or thereabouts, from which I get two manis and two pedi's, I'm laughing compared to a salon mani-pedi. And three weeks worth of wear too!

 I hand over money for the accoutrements to make expensive looking gifts.
Here's my most recent.
$2.50 water bottles with customised metallic gold decals from Mell+Moi on Etsy.
I have Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting to thank for introducing me to Mel and her gorgeous decals.
I fill the water bottles with chocolates for gifting. Bottle recyclable of course!
Total cost? About $13 each. And they look like a $35-$50 gift.
Two have already found new homes, with another 12 ready and waiting.
I shared how I made these last week here.

Of course I hand over money for grocery items. Don't we all?
Last week, I made sure I grocery shopped with a list and a menu plan. I know there's some conjecture on whether this saves money for some families, but all I can say is that here, it works. If I manage to snag a bargain (which I almost always do), I can rejig things. But it's always good to have a plan.
I mostly prefer not to hand over money for someone else to peel, chop, dice, slice, marinate, bake or portion control my groceries.
Instead, I save money by doing it myself. I  prep when I get home, including chopping veges, peeling and cutting up fruit, making yoghurt, poaching chicken, making soup for dinner, boiling eggs for sandwich spread, and soaking beans to make garlic and pepper white beans for breakfasts. Same as your garden variety baked beans, but no tomato sauce. Surprisingly delicious :)
For years now, I've simply done this as part of my grocery shopping routine, and this has saved us literally thousands of dollars.
The show Eat Well for Less showed how even just crumbing your own chicken portions saves $3-$5 per 500gm (1lb.) tray. And how making your own coffee at home instead of spending $2-$6 on bought coffees saves a fortune. In the show, one family could potentially save $17,000 a year by adopting some of these routines. $17,000!!!! That would feed my family for two years!
I know that making my own yoghurt saves us $15 a week using the method outlined here.
I boiled eggs and made curried egg spread. You may laugh, but curried egg and lettuce sandwiches are standard lunchtime fare here. Why does every meal suddenly have to be a gourmet affair? Or even a takeaway affair??
I peeled and quartered my home grown, bowl ripened pawpaws (papaya). Yum. If they're already prepped, I'm more likely to eat them. I love them. They're sweet and nothing like the bland rocks you buy at the supermarket. Pawpaw grows from sapling to fruiting tree is just one year. I have three pawpaw trees, all groaning with fruit. I eat them for breakfast, and grate the green ones into Thai salads. Grow something. It all helps. Have you seen the price of Pawpaws at the shops? $9 a kilo which equates to $6-$9 each fruit. Whaaaat???
I got a big pot of home made chicken soup bubbling away. My soup stock and End of Week Soup recipes can be found here.
While the soup bubbled away, I tossed in a chicken breast, so it could poach in the broth. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes, then removed it, allowed it to cool, and shredded it for sandwiches. All of the lovely spices and flavours in the soup were infused in the chicken and the flavour was wonderful. Remember? We don't hand over money for takeaway lunches here!
I soaked dried white beans in a container of water, for cooking the next morning.
I saved money in as many areas as I could.
My refrigerator was a thing of beauty!

Note that we still splurge on some luxury items. We do hand over money for certain items, so that we don't feel completely deprived. It's important to factor some money into the budget for Fun Food. I talk about this often. See this post here for example.
Husband has his favourite brand of juice and loves the Home Brand Blueberry yoghurt.
Daughter loves the fruit tubs for their sturdiness in her knapsack for University. She also likes the convenience of the single serve cans of tuna for the same reason. I stock up on both of those when on special, as all can be stored in our pantry (or The Shop as I call it), and chilled as required.
We prefer a certain brand of cheese slices, but again, I only buy these when on special, when they equate to a similar price to a generic brand. Otherwise I buy a block of cheese and slice it up myself.
Our 'luxury' items, are really more little things that we buy for the convenience or practicality, and even then I'm particular about the price I pay. If they're not on special, we don't buy them. We slice our own cheese, Daughter takes an apple for lunch, Husband eats plain yoghurt. We don't just buy, buy, buy and justify our spending by saying 'oh....we deserve it.' No.
We recently acquired a Soda Stream. $20 on Gumtree, still in the box and unused. We don't drink soft drinks and sodas at all. BUT we adore our fizzy water. So now, armed with our water bottles labelled Bubbly, or Champers or Moet, we fizz our own tap water, and decant it. It's rather posh swigging fizzy water from a bottle labelled 'Moet'!
Meal-wise, we don't hand over money for someone else to cook very often at all these days.
 I make my own gourmet Beans on toast...fresher than the usual...

Home grown pawpaw (papaya), gets peeled and sliced into wedges, ready to eat for breakfast too. Drizzled with Pear, Cinnamon and Vanilla syrup made from over ripe pears, it's a café` worthy treat.

Yoghurt parfaits are conjured up for the morning rush as well. These are Morello cherry, vanilla yoghurt and gluten free granola. Yum for desserts as well. We don't hand over money for someone else to plop a bit of fruit, yoghurt and muesli into a tub for us. Why on earth would you? It's a three minute task to load up enough for three days!

Note the portion sizes. Just because you have a bigger container, doesn't mean you have to fill it. The purchased tubs are tiny. Keep your serves similar, otherwise you're not necessarily saving money at all!

Look what a pleasing sight they make lined up ready to go, at eye level in the fridge.

I portion my own bacon and deli meats too. I check both the deli and the refrigerated section, noting the price per 100gms, and choose accordingly. The best buys can vary from week to week. This week I stuck with buying the bacon labelled 'Economy Bacon'. I never regret this. The cuts are more meaty and generous, and I portion these up into meal sized packages, freezing all but one to keep on hand for quick BLT's or Bacon and Eggs for breakfast, thus avoiding handing over money for those meals in cafe's. Honestly, in the scheme of family eating, who needs cafes??
Of course, the grocery shopping and meal preparation are not the only ways we save around here.
We insource all kinds of things.
This week I made cards. Have you seen the price of a card these days? $6-$12 if you don't mind. Sure you can buy a very ordinary one for $1, but why would you when you can make a dozen really lovely ones for that?

These are just printed on normal A4 paper, picture placed strategically upside down in top left hand corner on the screen, sentiment similarly strategically placed right way up in bottom right hand middle corner, printed out, and folded in quarters to form the card. A strip of chiffon or tulle tied prettily along the folded edge, finishes them. So pretty and cost of about 5c each. We don't hand over money for things like cards.
Family health is important too. Especially in the chilly Winter weather.
I recently handed over money for some little amber glass spray bottles and a few more customised decals from Mella + Moi.
I then did some research, both of my Mums handwritten recipes for aromatherapy, and online, and came up with a blend for sanitiser sprays.
 Those hand sanitiser sprays have been a huge hit. Based upon the Four Thieves blend, but with my own twist, they look super cute, smell great, and so far, so flus or ills and chills here.
Kist is an abbreviation of 'Kills Stuff'.
I'll leave it to your imagination what Kish is short
 Finally, we don't hand over money for gifts too much if we can help it. Sometimes a significant birthday, or a birthday for the men in the family will have us stumped. But that's fair enough, because we insource gifting as much as humanly possible. That's one of my jobs as Homemaker.
You may remember my doll panel doll I made last year, leading up to the Festive Season.
She was so well received that I've made a few more...

Pretty adorable, right?
Just a few sequins, beads, buttons or bits of embroidery, and they're super special.
Honestly, anyone can make these.

And here's those water bottles. All labelled up, ready to be filled as seen, with chocolates chosen to suit the recipient.
Even the most craft challenged person could manage this. Order the labels well ahead of time though, as Mel gets very busy and they can take up to six weeks.

Of course all of these lovely gifts need to be wrapped as well.
We don't hand over money for gaudily printed gift wraps.
I bought 5kgs of butchers paper from a party supplier about six years ago. You buy it by weight. Funnily enough.
We use it plain, embellish it with writing, stamp it with words or roses, swathe it in ribbon or cover it in cellophane, also bought in bulk.

I actually gift the hand scribed wrap above to other people to use to wrap gifts.
My daughter just wrapped her boyfriends gift, using these techniques. I've taught her well ;-)
What I'm saying is this....
We only hand over money when absolutely necessary.
Otherwise we INSOURCE.
Insourcing this week saved me big time.
I estimate I saved $150 by prepping my own groceries, making my own yoghurt, marinating, baking, poaching, boiling eggs, assembling yoghurt pots and so on.
I saved by making my own lattes...about another $60.
Gifts? Gosh. $700 saved. Minimum. Seriously. No, really!
Hand Sanitiser? Another $150, easily.
Cards? I made two dozen. 24 times the value of the cards I'd like to buy? Let's say $8 is the usual price of the ones I like the look of. That's $192 I would have spent if I'd bought cards at the last minute like most people do. I spent about $10 making them, including the paper, the ink, the stick on crystals on the black ones, and the scraps of chiffon and tulle. I've saved $182. And if you think that's ridiculous, start taking note of the price of cards and how often you think you need to buy them!
Gift wrap the same. I've had that original 5kg batch of paper for six years now. I've saved hundreds and hundreds of dollars over that time. This week, we'll just call it $10, okay?
$50 saved on a mani-pedi.
Oh! And I cut my own hair, deep conditioned it, and blow dried and straightened it, then curled the ends. That's a $120 saving, if ever there was one!
Are you ready for this?
This week, I lived well, looked good, gifted generously, planned ahead, fed my family café quality meals, kept us healthy, maximised our water intake, and still had time to have a mini break for two days near the water, and saved myself $1422 on what I would have spent if I'd outsourced everything, instead of insourcing those tasks.
That's the savings.
That's not factoring what I still actually spent into the equation.
Here's what my outgoings were:
Groceries $148
Jamberry nails $11
Chiffon and tulle for cards, from scraps
Ink cartridge $35
Decals from Mella+Moi $90 for 12 water bottles and 16 hand sanitiser sprays
Essential oils, witch hazel and glycerine $120
Bottles and spray bottles $40
Chocolates to fill bottles $16
Doll panel bought last year 6 dolls for $5
Total $465
I spent $465 on feeding the family well, top notch personal grooming, family health and wellbeing, glamorous gifts and girly gifts to last between now and Christmas, cards and gift wraps for the next six months, and had a ball doing it all.
Actually it was far less than that. The expense for the decals, essential oils and bottles was actually apportioned over the last six weeks, so you could divide that $250 by 6, and add in a single weeks percentage, and my ACTUAL spend last week would be $41 on those items, not $250. That would make my total....
Just digest that for a moment.
If I were a different person, I would have spent $2,232 on doing the same thing.
I've spent just a little over 1/10th of that amount to achieve the same outcome.
It's hard to fathom, isn't it?
But it's true.
I know people who do this. And they're proud of it, like it's some sort of badge of honour.
It all just goes on the Fantastic Plastic aka The Credit Card.
They don't think twice about it.
Don't you go there.
Live well. Plan ahead. Put some effort into your own life, and feel GOOD about it.
I know I feel good. Content. Accomplished. In control of life.
How about you?
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

War on TV Chefs...Home Made Baked Beans....

Where I live, 'Baked Beans' are squishy things in a bright orange sauce, purchased from the supermarket.
They're inexpensive, but truly, you can make them for mere cents. For the price of one can of baked beans, I can make a saucepan full, and mine taste really, really good. Even the carnivore in our family will eat them as a meal.
My home made baked beans also contain not a single processed ingredient. Not one.

They're easy, healthy, and delicious, and so much lighter in taste and texture than their canned counterparts.

Start this a day ahead of when you'll need it, to give you time to prepare the beans.

You'll need:

1/2 cup dry cannellini beans, soaked and cooked to soften (I used red kidney beans for the batch in my photo...any are fine really)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, sliced down the middle and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 beef stock cube
1/2 cup water
1 dessertspoon cornflour
1 tablespoon oil

Then just:

Add the oil to a pan over a medium high heat, and fry the onion till translucent.

Add the tomato, garlic, and celery and fry until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir often.

Add the crumbled beef stock cube and stir well to combine.

Mix the water and the cornflour and add to the pan. Stir until it all thickens. Add a little more water if required to create a smooth sauce.

That's it.

Add diced bacon, speck or a teaspoon of Smokey Paprika for a great flavour boost.

Serve on toast, over rice or pasta or as a topping for baked potato, potato nests, hash browns or baked capsicums.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Insourcing.... new gift ideas...Glamorous water bottles...

I'm always brainstorming for a cute DIY know me.
Here's my latest effort.
One $2.50 drink bottle from KMart...

Here is the water bottle in the online catalogue.
Rubbery skin thing removed....not aesthetically pleasing at all...

...upcycled with these fabulous custom decals from MellaandMoi on Etsy.


I came up with the wording, gave Mel the size of the bottle, chose a font and a colour, and look what cleverness resulted...

How much do I love the one I kept for me...

Filled with water fizzed by our Soda Stream, it's now a special pleasure to ensure our water intake is up to scratch.

The decals work out at around $5.
So that's $7.50 for a super duper cute gift.
You could pair this with a Soda Stream to fizz water for a special gift for someone for a great price.

Or fill it with chocolates for a Champagne kinda look and a reuseable container.

Don't say I don't give you all the best tips.