Monday, August 20, 2018

Budgeting and Insourcing...Quick and easy money makers....


I come from a long line of gardeners.
My parents and grandparents all had an enviable green thumb and in fact my Grandparents earned a living from a strawberry farm for many years.
So, how come I didn't get the gene?
I'm okay at herbs and fruit, awful at veg, and so-so at flowers. A bit sad really considering my gene pool.
But there are some things that I not only grow, but have found can make you good money if you can be bothered potting them up and dragging them to the markets, or even setting up a sign on the fence that says 'For Sale', and a sample. I haven't had one stolen yet, although I suppose there's always a first. Mind you our little whippet goes nuts as soon as any car pulls up outside our house, so having a dog doesn't hurt!
In fact, we're considering making this a retirement Saturday afternoon job as we can sit and read at the same time.
Here's what we've grown, and very easily, given my black thumb.
Jade plant (Money plant)
The Yuccas are brilliant. It takes time to get them going, but we started with just one, and now have dozens. You just have to cut them off at a height at which you're happy to have them regrown and each stem will produce several new plants. Keep doing this and soon enough, you'll have Yuccas coming out of your ears.
The great thing about the Yuccas is that they are so expensive at the nurseries, that you can sell them for $25+ each and people think they're a bargain.
Dracaena work the same way.
Hydrangeas are astoundingly easy to propagate and I have half a dozen growing well from a single plant for which I paid $20. By Christmas they'll be worth that much at least. Just cut a piece off, dip into Hormone powder (about $5 for a sachet that will do dozens of plants), or Honey, and put into a pot with potting mix.
Ivy and Lavender are the same. Cut off a little sprig, poke into soil, and off they go.
Geraniums the same again, and people still love them, believe me.
Agave have the little 'pups' growing off them constantly. Pot them and watch people pay $15-$40 for a decent sized one. The Agave and Yuccas are really favoured as landscaping plants at the moment as they're so hardy and low maintenance and look very stylish as a combination.
Frangipani, well, you just break a piece off, let it dry out for a day or two, then stick it in a pot with potting mix.
Usually they'll strike, but you do get a few failures. I have a Fijian style evergreen one that doesn't drop it's leaves. It has the enormous white and yellow flowers that just about fold back on themselves. Husband paid $95 for it for me for an anniversary present years ago.
So each cutting from that one, is worth about $50. I have four.
All up, I think we have the potential to earn at least $1000 come Spring and Summer, and for just a small initial investment of a plant or two, some recycled pots and a few bags of potting mix. $100 at the most.
And the bonus is, what you don't sell, you can wrap beautifully, tie a big bow on, and give it as a gift.
Win either way!
But start now...
Do you have some more plants to strike and sell, or give as gifts?
Tell me all about it...
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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Three quick, easy, inexpensive dinners + gluten free pastry recipe!

You don't need much to make an impressive meal at home. And it will always cost less to replicate a favourite takeaway, than it will be to run out and buy it.
It's a good strategy to set aside an hour, one day a week to create your own convenience food or takeaway replicas, for those evenings when you just can't be bothered cooking.
Here are my three favourites...
 Spring Rolls, even Jumbo ones are one of the least expensive and most delicious things ever.
They can be made with shredded cabbage, shallots, carrot, some seasoning and little else. Leftover mince or shredded chicken or fish (very yummy!) is optional.
One packet of Spring Roll Wrappers, 1/2 a cabbage and 1 carrot, shredded with the slivers of shallot (green spring onions) and some Chinese Five Spice, makes the most enormous number of mini spring rolls, or at least twelve large ones. It costs mere cents to make dozens of the mini ones, over those that we pay $1.00 for, from a Chinese takeaway.
Filling and rolling Spring Rolls is a fun thing for kids to do, or relaxing and kind of oddly therapeutic for you, if you like little repetitive tasks. Just make them up, freeze them in ziplock bags, and take them out to spray with cooking oil and bake, as you need them. Served on a platter with some curls of shallot, a wedge of lemon or lime, and a little bowl of dipping sauce, they look very impressive :)
A big batch of Rice Noodles soaked, then stir fried with finely sliced Kale and Bok choy, a little chicken marinated in honey and soy, along with a good spoonful of garlic, is great too. I toss in a few pistachios or cashews at the end sometimes. When you see how much you can make at home for under $5, you'll never look at those little Asian takeaway containers the same way!
It's also good to make Pastry and turn it into something delectable!
I am a pastry novice, but I finally found the secret to a good batch, as it's one of those things, like a white sauce, that once mastered, means you have the magic to turn any old leftovers in to something gourmet. Yes, you can buy it, but it takes so few ingredients to make it and then it's sooooo fresh, that it's worth mastering.
Here's the recipe in Four Sentences, Nanna-style...
With the very tips of the fingers, rub 60gms (2oz) of well chilled beef fat or lard, into 120gms (4oz) self-raising flour (gluten free is fine), which has been well sifted with a little salt (add a teaspoon of caster sugar for a sweet pastry). When the mixture is fine and crumbly, mix to a stiff dough using a butter knife to combine it with just enough ice cold milk, to bring the pastry together in a ball. Roll out on a well floured board, and line a pie plate with half of the pastry. Fill as desired, top with remaining pastry re-rolled, and brush with milk, before baking at 180C (325F) until golden brown.

I use this to make an old fashioned Bacon and Egg Pie. Not a Quiche, which is a different thing with eggs and milk mixed together.
You line your pie dish with half of your pastry, sprinkle the base with bacon sliced into 2.5cm (1") pieces, crack in 3-5 eggs depending upon how many you have on hand, top with more bacon (I cut up about 4 rashers for this), then top with the remaining pastry. Roll the scraps into little rosettes or shape into leaves, and decorate the top of the pie if you wish.
If this is a savoury pie, I sprinkle it with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, after I've brushed the surface with milk.
If it's a sweet pie, I sprinkle with coarse raw sugar.
It just looks prettier.
These meals work out at under $5 for a serving large enough for at least four people. That's $1.20 per serve.
You can't go wrong.
Note: I apologise for the varying font sizes in this post. I have no idea why Blogger is misbehaving this way!

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Motherly Advice...3 Continents, 5 weeks, 1 I did it...

 One of the reasons we live such an exquisitely frugal life, is so we can afford to travel. In the last 15 years, we have had 8 fabulous overseas trips, each one a special memory for us all. But there is an art to these things, and one of the very first lessons we learned was to travel light.  We also learned quickly, that if you dress comfortably, yet well, and look neat and well-travelled, you're more likely to get upgraded. And who wouldn't prefer to travel Business Class! 
We've now done this AND been upgraded successfully many times, so I can truly vouch for the whole One Bag idea.

It takes some discipline, it takes a level of maturity on the part of the kids (but we took our 8 year old and she managed!), and you have to abandon your 'just in case' mentality, but it makes travelling much easier. No waiting around at luggage carousels. No lugging a suitcase bigger than yourself from one end of the world to the other. Or one end of the airport to another!
You have to accept some monotony in your wardrobe selections, but only you will notice. You may also have to accept the limitations that travelling light places upon grooming. But you get creative! 

We did a five week trip a couple of years ago. We travelled from Australia to England, France, and the U.S. in that time.  Husband, Daughter and I all took one carry-on bag only, and a handbag or equivalent.
Here's the thing.

Whatever you can buy at home, you can pretty much buy at the other end...unless you're going to Deepest Darkest Wherever. And even then, they have equivalents.

Resign yourself to buying consumables or specialty items at the other end. You'll be okay. In a lot of cases, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner are even cheaper 'there' than here. In London we bought toothpaste for 28p, deodorant for 66p and shampoo and conditioner for 99p. Same in the U.S.

Here's my packing list:

1. One cashmere poncho/cape. Easier to wear than a coat or jacket, and easier to whip on and off if the weather was warmer for some reason. I bought mine at:

It was half price and I paid about $250 for it. But it was worth every single cent. Lightweight, extremely warm, dressy enough for the theatre, casual enough for sightseeing. Brilliant. I'm still wearing it, several years down the track. Such a useful thing.

2. 1 x pair lightweight comfortable black pants.

3. 1 x versatile black microsuede roll neck top...wear 6 different ways.

4. 1 x bright shirt...which I wore on the plane there and back...just for variety.

5. 3 x black camisole type t-shirty things. To layer if cold, under or over another shirt, or to wear alone if warm (and it often was, believe it or not, even in October).

6. 2 x sets silk thermal underwear...also black...doubled as Pyjamas. Again, worth every cent. Very thin and lightweight under your clothing....and very, very warm. If it got too warm, it's thin and light enough, that you could pop into the loo, whip it off, and roll it into a little tiny ball in your bag. Fantastic.

7. A couple of beautiful silky scarves for dressing stuff up or just to wrap around your neck when cold.

8. 4 x pairs knickers...all lightweight synthetic, so they could be washed in the shower and dry by the next morning.

9. 3 x comfortable lightweight bras.

10. Leather or leather look alike gloves...don't bother with wool, they aren't warm enough and they get wet!

11. One skirt, knee length, for going out and for variations in weather.

12. Bathing suit...well, you never know....and I did use it!

On the plane, there and back, I wore my favourite jeans, dressy shirt, the poncho, and the only pair of shoes I took...a pair of black, medium heel, calf high boots. Again, dressy enough for going out, comfortable enough for sightseeing. I only regretted not taking a pair of thongs (flip-flops) to wear around where we were staying. I probably could have fitted them in though!

I rolled everything to pack it. The official 'One Bag' method of folding, didn't work all that well for me.

I carried and packed all of this into one large weekender, an Oroton bag, which was a gift from my sons. It was probably not as large as some overnight bags, sort of A shaped at the sides... wider at the base than at the top, and I fitted EVERYTHING in that. Husband didn't believe I could do it, but I showed him!
You won't believe how much more efficient  and streamlined you feel, travelling this way.
While everyone else is heaving and huffing and puffing, you're breezing through the airport, straight out into your new destination, fresh as a daisy.
You look more like an experienced traveller, or even 'a local' too, and you're less likely to be harassed or targeted by undesirables.
Honestly, I'm the ultimate 'must look good every day' kind of person. And we coped admirably. We even discarded some items along the way and replace or upgraded them with local bargains. So bear in mind, NOT to take your very best with you. You might find a new VERY BEST en route.

What are your best travel or packing tips?
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Motherly Advice.......Is Extreme Frugality for you?

At the heart of many of my posts here, is the desire to save money, time and energy. I think that's why you visit me, right?

I'll share something that I'd like to throw into the mix.
I've done some interesting reading over the last few years. The world wide web is like one long endless magazine in that respect.
In combing the net for money saving, time saving, sanity saving ideas, I read one blog post that cautioned against 'money saving' over all else. I wish I could remember where that was, but I didn't think to save it at the time.
That was a light bulb moment for me.
Many of you who read my blog, do so to share and indulge in ideas to save money. We all want to save money for different reasons, but everyone's budget is finite, right? No matter how much you have, you need to manage it effectively.
I've read a few blogs and been involved in online discussions that advocate all types of what I would consider 'extreme frugality'.
Whilst extreme frugality might be admirable, I think we have to be careful not to lose our essential self in the process.
Tried and Denied
Here are some of the ideas I've tried, that have been denied further inclusion in my routine, for one reason or another...
In terms of looking after self, the much touted money saving Bicarb and vinegar for the hair in one online discussion, didn't work for me at all. Lovely shampoo and conditioner and having my hair looking just so, is part of who I am. So in taking on that bit of frugality a few years ago, I lost a bit of 'me'.
Still on personal care, the deodorant 'crystal' that's a solid piece of a combo of mineral salts, and totally looks like a piece of Boho d├ęcor comes next. Sit it next to a scented candle and a dreamcatcher and nobody would be any the wiser. You use this by rubbing the crystal on clean, wet armpits straight out of the shower. It does not prevent you perspiring like a modern anti-perspirant deodorant, but theoretically, it prevents bacteria growth, thus, supposedly, preventing odour.
Well. Not here in 35C+ heat and humidity, it didn't. I stank like a pole cat after about an! So, being that I love smelling nice, this one didn't work for me where I live. Possible in a cooler climate, it would work like a charm.
Making soap was one I put off for years. But this was one that was a resounding success. It probably doesn't save us a great deal in terms of personal use, although there were definitely savings. But it saves us literally hundreds of dollars in ready made bespoke gifts! That was an unexpected benefit!
Here's my fantabulous recipe and instructions for making the most sublime and silky Goats Milk Soap.
I've had my flirtations with the Miracle Cleaner for my bathroom surfaces, and wasn't enamoured. My bathrooms get pretty dirty thanks to a husband who is out on building sites daily. That said, I adore it as a general purpose cleaner, and tint it pink when I make it. It's an absolute staple. For bathroom cleaning, I make a different concoction. You can find my recipes for favourite household cleaners and fresheners here.
I'm also fine with NOT making every single food item from scratch. I've learned that it's truly okay to use some convenience foods when and where required. The world will not cave in. Here that means pre-sliced Colby cheese, although I'll grate Tasty for cooking and for toasties.  I'll make my own spice mixes like Moroccan, Italian and Thai, but I buy curry pastes. Well curry paste...Korma paste does me for pretty much any dish that calls for curry paste. I amp up the sour/salty/sweet element for Thai dishes with other herbs and flavours like fresh Coriander (Cilantro) or Makrut (Kaffir) Lime Leaves which we grow. I'll make my own fried rice, but now have no qualms about keeping a sachet of pre-cooked brown rice in the pantry for a quick version if I've forgotten to pre-cook my rice the day before. See, it's about finding your savings sweet spot, isn't it.
Also Tried and Denied were home made sanitary pads, home made toilet paper replacements (for number ones only I hasten to add!), home made toothpaste, and home made hand cream. Those things were all effective, but not sustainable here. However, if we ever found ourselves in the position of needing to use them due to geographical location or financial necessity, I can honestly say we'd give those particular ideas another try.
These ideas all exceeded my personal limits for money saving strategies.
I respect those who want to employ them, but they just were not for me.
What works for you?

 Of course, much of what works for me, will not work for everyone else either. Some of you tell me this. It's a delicate balancing act between money saving, and just destroying your soul and making everything that is pleasurable in life, a trial.
The truth is, we all need to feel that there is reward.
That reward might be a family holiday for some, whereas for others, the mere act of having money available for an emergency is an absolute priority.
For others, it truly is 'can I pay the rent or the utilities bills this week', and believe me, I've been there too, and I know for a certainty, that my views on extreme frugality tips, had they been available then, would have been very different.
What's your reward?
Make sure you have your reward firmly fixed in mind, and balance what frugal measures will make that happen, without destroying who you are in the process.
My reward these days, is the supreme satisfaction of knowing that I can roll with the punches. When the finances are stretched for whatever reason, thanks to my ongoing frugal efforts, we barely see it as a blip on the radar. This also means that when we are flush, we don't see any need to spend up because our Quality of Life is maintained, no matter what. 
There is no Feast or Famine in our home.
Life is always a feast.
A feast for the eyes thanks to a clean and welcoming home and garden, and soft, worn decor.

A feast for the ears thanks to plentiful trees and birdsong and gentle music.

A feast to our fingertips, courtesy of lush and lavish home made furnishings of soft mohair, velvet, chenille, silk and wool.
A feast for the tastebuds thanks to delicious home grown and home cooked meals and treats.
And we constantly inhale contentment and abundance, with home grown French Lavender, Kaffir Lime leaves, and herbs like chives, basil, oregano and mint growing abundantly in pots and in our garden.
What more do we need, as human beings?
Does extreme frugality have a place in your life?

I do not follow any Extreme Frugality Bloggers.
My frugal blogging friends, some of whom you see listed at right if you're on your desktop screen, are sensible and practical in their methods of frugality. I like that. It's real, it's sustainable, it's achievable.

 Whilst I admire the Extreme Frugality bloggers enormously, I feel that some of their strategies would be truly soul destroying for me, and for my family. 
I've also wondered whether they must continue to offer extreme frugality solutions to remain in line with their blog themes, and ponder how many of those things are sustainable, even for them.
In that vein, we also have to accept that where we live, and what we are able to grow, barter for, buy inexpensively and in bulk, and be comfortable with long term, may vary enormously.

What are your limits,  and what are you willing to do to enhance your life whilst remaining true to your financial goals?
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