Sunday, March 29, 2015

Victoriana sweet....

My daughter and I have been making Victoriana inspired greeting cards. Inspired by all things Downton Abbey (and can you believe that Series 6 will be the last....gasp and sob!!!), we made these sweet ones to give to friends who have birthdays coming up.
We found the images online and simply printed them out, cutting them to fit our designs....

....some black cardstock, and paper serving doileys, make a gorgeous cameo inspired combination....
.....along with pink or black velvet ribbon and some classic black and white spotted satin ribbon, and some sweet rhinestone look scrapbooking buckles gifted to me by my friend Annabel...

....some really pretty effects were achieved....
How are you spending your Sunday?

Friday, March 27, 2015

This weeks insourcing #8....

This week I made my own Greek yoghurt, then drained it by scooping it into a fine mesh sieve lined with a new, rinsed Chux cloth. Cheesecloth or muslin would achieve the same. I mixed it with honey, and it looks just like soft serve I think, don't you? I use a recipe that only needs 2 tablespoons of the Easiyo starter instead of the whole packet so this makes it so economical, and it's utterly delicious. Yoghurt is eaten daily here, so I estimate that I save up to $15 a week by making my own.
I then popped some into tea strainers, set on top of cups in the fridge, to drain it even further, and ended up with what appears to be scoops of icecream, but is actually yoghurt for healthy banana splits for my daughter and her friends. Saving on Baskin Robbins ice cream treats for them....around $40....really!

I propagated about a hundred succulents and echevarias including this frilly one which is my absolute favourite. I bought it at a country nursery and I've never seen another one like it. Savings without doubt in the hundreds of dollars. Each succulent or echevaria sells for the most astounding prices, from $10-$70, which is just downright cheeky once you know how easy they are to grow. Succulents can be grown just by breaking leaves off and sticking them into soil. Each leaf will grow a whole new plant. Echeverias need beheading (sounds violent doesn't it!). If you behead it close to the base of the rosette and leave it to dry out over a new pot, roots will form, allowing you to replant it. Meanwhile the stalk from which it's been trimmed, will form two or three new rosettes which will become entire new parent plants. Honestly you could start a plant nursery with just one of each variety and make a killing if you so desired! I can't really estimate this one as we've propagated literally hundreds, but lets for today be conservative, and call it $500 saved in buying plants for landscaping our large garden over the next few months.
I found these gorgeous Victoriana images online to use for card making, saving up to $10 per card for similar sweet and olde worlde type greeting cards over the next few months. Can you believe the cost of greeting cards now? It's crazy! I'll call that at least $100 saved.

I made bath bombs to for my daughter to gift to her friends for Easter. Not the best photo, but I thought you'd like to see them. I wished I'd done more of the teddy bear ones, which are actually done in bento sushi moulds. Aren't they cute? That's saved me probably $50 in bought chocolates, not to mention the savings to their parents in dental work.

I made a Frangipani Pie for a friend, who was feeling sad. Frangipani Pie is so named because it's yellow and white like the traditional flowers, not because it's made from them! It's just a sweet shortcrust pie shell, lined with crushed pineapple thickened with coconut milk and cornflour, with a meringue topping, baked until golden. It's an Aussie favourite. Saving on a similar bought treat, about $20.

So my tally for insourcing things this week, that I would have had to buy were I not a happy and productive Home Manager, is $725. I would have had to earn that much money outside of the home, in addition to whatever was required to keep body and soul together.
I'm happy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Five Star Frugal #10...

 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png

This weeks insourcing #7...

Thankyou for holding the fort while I stole away for a mini break.
We've been going non stop since the start of school between my daughters school dance commitments and Dance Captaincy, her role in the community theatre production and her role in the school musical. We literally haven't had a day off, so we gave her a sickie on Friday and escaped to the beach. It rained a bit, but how lovely to have two entire days of not having to be somewhere. We were back yesterday for a full run of the community theatre musical (no escaping that) but even then it was only for three hours and not the whole day so she had plenty of time to veg out. She's such a wonderful hard working kid, honestly, and adores every moment of it, but sometimes Mums and Dads have to say 'enough' ;-)
It's my disabled sons birthday today. He's 24 and has been living independently for nearly five years. If you'd told me when he was 17 that we'd be where we are now, I would not have believed you. The year after he finished school was the hardest as we tried to put things in place for his future. But we never gave up and here we are. He's happy, confident, has a life beyond what we expected, and close to what we imagined, and we're so proud of him. We're yet to meet anyone else with his level of physical limitation, living as he does. He's done so well :)
Further on family, my middle son and his long time girlfriend will be relocating back to home after a three year stint in Sydney. They've purchased a lovely townhouse here so I guess that's pretty permanent! They'll be here by May they say, so it will be lovely to have the whole family together again :D
I sometimes look back on the last 30 years and can't quite believe how many different 'lives' we've all had, how we've recovered from setbacks of many kinds, and found our way to a comfortable life despite the odds. I guess it's one of the great pleasures of getting to our age, and seeing our successes, both great and small.
Of course we have our challenges, even now (as a certain troubled family member will attest), but in the scheme of a lifetime, you'd hope that we weather them as we have so many others.
I was quite proud of myself last week. I had a great tally, and despite my method of totalling where I've saved my family money, being questioned sometimes, I still believe that for ME, it's a great motivating force, and it could be for you too.
So here's last weeks insourcing tasks:
Washed the outside of the car at the self serve bay at the car wash $5 - saving $30.
Cleaned the inside of the car using baby wipes and the vacuum cleaner - saving $20.
Made my daughters lunches every day. Now I always list this and you must wonder why sometimes. But the reason is that she eats like a horse and is gluten intolerant, so if I didn't make her lunches, I truly would have to give her money for the more expensive canteen options like sushi, gluten free brownies, fried rice and so on. Just those three would total $15, and that wouldn't fill her up in a pink fit. So I'm not kidding when I say that my making her lunches (2 serves each of a protein, a gluten free carb, a fruit or veg, and a treat, plus 2 drinks including a sports drink), saves me a bare minimum of $20 a day. Cost to the grocery haul of the ingredients for her lunches is about $20. I save between $80 and $100 a week by insourcing this item alone. Believe me there are mornings when I'd rather not do it as it takes me 20-30 minutes to pack her lunch. But when I see her bubbly and energetic, despite the demands on her time just now, I know it's the right thing to do. I firmly believe that if she were chock-a-block full of takeaway, she would suffer, as would we, and so would the budget!
Washed and groomed the dog saving $30.
Made bento box dinners to use up odds and ends like a single piece of salmon, four crumbed whiting fillets and 8 chicken nuggets. We were sorely tempted to buy bento box dinners from our favourite Japanese takeaway, so this definitely saved $45.
Took our own food away with us and even stuck to our Michelle Bridges plan. Saving on 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners out at cafes and restaurants at the beach, probably around $500. And yes, on previous occasions when we weren't so focused and wanted to 'treat' ourselves, we would have spent that at least. This seems to be the obstacle that some people have with my tally, is that they assume that we would not have spent that money anyway. Well, considering our ample savings in other areas of our DIY life, we have felt quite comfortable in the past, doing exactly that from time to time. So this is again, a true saving, as given we were all pretty exhausted, eating out for every meal was pretty tempting.
Gave my daughter a similarly healthy lunch to take to rehearsals yesterday, saving another $20 minimum.
My husband and I were again tempted to go out to lunch while she was at rehearsal, but contented ourselves instead, with buying some scallops on the shell, and some Moreton Bay Bugs at a seafood outlet at a cost of $35, and I cooked them at home, serving them with Pak Choy in an Asian inspired sauce, and saving us around $100 on a restaurant meal. Again...would we have spent that anyway....yes, we probably would. But my savings mentality and the thought that I could have that $100 to spend in Venice, wouldn't allow!
Total $895.00
I can do this because we've made a choice that I do not work outside of the home except as our business bookkeeper, and I treat my role, as you know, like a real job. I actually gain immense satisfaction from challenging myself every week, to find new ways of saving money, without leaving us feeling deprived. If anything, the real challenge is to find as many ways as I can of enhancing our quality of life for as little as possible. There's a subtle difference between just saving money to pay the bills, and actively seeking ways to save, while finding the little luxuries in life that we all like to enjoy.
I am very content doing this, and I hope that this shows in my posts.
Remember too, that my friend Annabel over at The Bluebirds are Nesting, always says that a dollar saved is a dollar. A dollar earned is really only -75c after tax. So that's puts a whole different complexion on home savings too.
Thankyou all for continuing support and let's all have a wonderful life enhancing, budget controlling week.
Be clever, creative and inspired and you might even surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thrifty Thursday....Old Fashioned Caramel Fingers...

These are the most delicious things. They are straight out of Nannas old recipe book and a family favourite here. I hope they become a favourite at your end too.

They cost next to nothing to make and look like something from the High Tea trolley at a five star hotel, when served stacked and dusted with icing sugar as you see here.

You'll need:

125gms (1/4 pound) butter
125gms (1/4 pound) brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
1 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup dates, chopped finely (you can also use raisins, sultanas or currants)
1/4 cup almond meal (optional)

Then just:

Preheat the oven to 175C Fan forced or 180C normal (350F), and grease and line a cookie tray with silicone baking paper.

Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg and combine well. Add the water and sift in the flour. Add the dates, or other dried fruit and the almond meal if using it. Stir well.

Spread the mixture on the lined tray with clean hands, making it nice and thin. It doesn't have to fill the entire tray, and uneven edges are fine...those crunchy bits at the sides are a treat in themselves!

Bake for about 20 minutes or until firm to touch and golden brown.

Allow to cool, sift icing sugar over them, and cut into neat fingers.



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

21 day family menu for just $350....

Do you want to feel like you're eating at a restaurant every night for mere pennies?
Well, here's my most awesome budget busting 3 weeks of dinner, menu plan. When my son was still living at home, this menu made it possible for us to eat well for less, and prepare meals ahead of time so we could avoid the tired and hungry takeaway trap. This menu will feed your family of four, dinners for under $100 a week once you've made the initial spice and sauce purchases.

 Dinners only - all served with salad of choice unless vegetables stated

Week One Menu
Saturday Fried rice
Sunday Savoury bread cases
Monday Poached chicken salad
Tuesday Crumbed fish, lentil mash
Wednesday Whole microwaved potatoes with home made Boston Baked Beans
Thursday Chicken schnitzels, potato wedges, corn cob
Friday Giant rissole cut into wedges, mash

Baking Cake mix biscuits, freckle muffins

Week Two Menu
Saturday Burritos
Sunday Chicken tenderloins, coconut rice, salad
Monday Baked fish parcels
Tuesday Chinese one step quiche
Wednesday Ham & chicken cannelloni
Thursday Spring rolls
Friday Thai fish cakes

Baking Cake mix biscuits, date muffins

Week Three Menu
Saturday Individual shepherds pies
Sunday Chicken and cashew stir fry, steamed rice
Monday Grated potato, bacon and marscapone slice
Tuesday McMummys
Wednesday Pan fried salmon/fish, frozen chips
Thursday Lasagna/Spaghetti Bolognaise
Friday Home made KFC seasoned chicken tenderloins

Baking Marshmallow rice bubble slice, iced cupcakes

Poached Chicken Breasts:
Bring 6 cups of water to a high simmer and add 6 chicken stock cubes and leave the stock plain, or add any additional herbs or flavours such as diced celery, diced onion, garlic cloves, sprigs of parsley or thyme, lemongrass, chilli and so on. Add 3 chicken breast fillets, return to a high simmer (not a rolling boil), cover the saucepan and switch the hotplate off, removing the pan from the heat source. Allow the breasts to poach for 20-30 minutes without (and this is the important bit) lifting the lid. Slice into a breast after 20 minutes and if it's cooked through to the middle it's ready to be served sliced or shredded, on sandwiches, rolls, salads and even in a stir fry added at the last minute and heated through.

 Multi purpose rice:

 For each cup of rice in your saucepan, add 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Bring to the boil, and as soon as it is boiling, put a lid on it, and turn it off. Not down, but off. Now, this will only work if you do not peek! Leave it sit for about 15-20 not peek! After 15-20 minutes you should have perfectly cooked, fluffy rice. If you have a gas cooktop, and you find the rice is not cooked, simply repeat the 'boil, switch off, cover, do not peek'. It should work.

For thai rice - add a good squeeze of lime juice, and a teaspoon of coriander (out of a jar or one of those tubes or fresh if you have it).

For coconut rice - use half and half coconut milk and chicken stock. ( this is a particular favourite with my kids, and my husband who never used to eat rice, at all!)

For chinese rice - use chicken stock, and a teaspoon of sesame oil.

For dessert rice - use milk instead of water or stock, and add a couple of dessertspoons of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Serve with custard and poached fruit.

For italian - use half and half chicken stock and tomato puree. Add some garlic if you like.

For sushi - use the proper sushi rice if you can, cook and allow to cool then proceed with your sushi.

To make authentic fried rice - allow your cooked rice to cool, and dry. Spread out on a platter if possible to facilitate this. This is important, so your rice does not glug together when you fry it. In a large wok or fry pan, fry one peeled and diced onion and some chopped bacon. While this is cooking, heat one cup of  mixed frozen veg in the microwave. Throw in your rice (I use about 3 cups cooked rice) the veg, a crumbled stock cube, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and a teaspoon of sesame oil. If you are inclined you can also add an egg, beaten with a bit of water, poured onto a heated sandwich maker hot plate, and quickly lifted off and sliced into ribbons. Toss it all together until heated through. Voila!

Mince Base:

 This super basic mince recipe can save you up to $100 a month on takeaways, thanks to the convenience of having meals already half made.

Note: If you're not fond of the texture of this mince base with the lentils added (it's almost more of a paste, a bit like tinned braised steak and onion), leave the lentils out, and add tinned beans, or extra grated vegetables like carrot and zucchini, or chunks of eggplant which are actually very 'meaty' and give great texture without adding distinctive flavour. Whatever suits is fine, really.

 2kg minced beef
2 cups of red lentils
2 tbsp of vegetable stock powder, or four vegetable stock cubes
1 tsp dried garlic granules
1 dsp dried onion flakes
4 cups of water.

Place all the ingredients into a crockpot (slow cooker) and cook on high for two hours, stirring every 30 minutes. It should be thick, aromatic and an unattractive brown colour (don't let this worry you, it tastes delicious!).

One batch of this is super economical to make, and is enough to serve as a base for seven meals for our family (at the time of writing, some years ago, that was two children and two adults). This saves heaps of money and time too. I usually freeze the mince in 500gm capacity tubs, as that seems to be the right amount for one meal for our family.

The meals I make are:

1. Piemaker pies.
Allow one heaped tablespoon of basic mince per pie. The hollows in those home Pie makers are small anyway, so this is heaps. Frankly you'd be lucky to get more than a heaped tablespoon of meat in a bought meat pie for one! Pour the mince into a small saucepan and add a large spoonful of gravy powder, or a dessertspoon of cornflour. Heat and stir until thickened. Spoon into pastry cases and cook in the piemaker.

2. Mexican enchiladas.
I use Mountain Bread or make my own crepes. Lay the bread or crepes in u-shapes in a large baking dish. Mix the mince with an equal amount of tinned or home-made refried beans. Spread the mixture in a sausage shape down the middle of each crepe, fold each side of the crepe over, sprinkle with grated cheese and bake at 180C until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve on a bed of rice, topped with natural yoghurt and some salsa.

3. Stuffed capsicums.
Halve enough capsicums for half or one per person. Spoon the mince straight into the capsicums, top with some mashed potato, pumpkin or sweet potato. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 40 mins at 180C. Kids love these as the capsicum sweetens when baked.

4. Baked spuds with topping.
Allow one potato of appropriate size per person. Cook in the microwave according to manufacturer's instructions. Split a cross in the top and pile filling into the opening. Top with natural yoghurt or sour cream and chopped, sauteed bacon. Allow one large tablespoon of filling per potato. Mix the filling with one tin of baked beans and heat in a small saucepan before pouring on to the potatoes.

5. Spring rolls.
Mix about four tablespoons of mince mixture with a packet of cooked and cooled Two Minute Noodles, some shredded carrot, and 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice. Using filo pastry sheets or spring roll wrappers, fold a small handful of filling into each spring roll. Spray liberally with cooking spray and bake at 180C for 20-30 mins.

6. Greek pasta bake (Pastito).
Heat a container of mince mixture with a 400g tin of peeled tomatoes. Cook enough macaroni for your family and drain well. Mix with the meat mixture and spoon into a large baking dish and top with your favourite white sauce or cheese sauce. Sprinkle on some grated cheese and bake for 40 minutes at 200C.

7. Shepherds pie.
Add any vegetables of your choice to the mince mixture. Place into a baking dish and top with mashed potato, pumpkin or sweet potato then bake until heated and the potato browns.

One step quiche with variations

 You can add anything to this, from the usual ham/bacon and cheese, to kabana and capsicum, to a Thai variation with the addition of sesame oil and fresh ginger to the basic batter. I have used all of the above, and added things like a tin of creamed corn, shallots, sliced celery, mixed frozen vegetables, any left over meat or chicken, any kind of cheese, sundried tomatoes, a packet of frozen spinach (thaw and drain excess liquid) and so forth.

Basic recipe:
3 eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cups self raising flour
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Grease a 4cm x 20cm pie dish. Whisk eggs, milk and flour until well combined. Stir in all other ingredients. Pour into dish and bake until just set in the centre, about 30-40 mins. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Grated Potato Thyme and Marscapone Slice

 150mls cream
125g mascarpone or any other cream cheese (but marscapone is the nicest in this particular recipe)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh, stripped from the stem
125g tasty cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sea salt
750g (about 3 medium) potatoes, peeled

Peel the potatoes, and grate in a food processor or by hand. Squeeze out all the moisture.

Mix all the liquid ingredients together with a whisk till smooth, then add spices. Add the potato. Press into a greased pie or quiche dish and top with grated cheese.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until potatoes are cooked and top is crisp and golden.

Quick Boston Baked Beans

 2 teaspoons oil
Bacon, ham, speck, corned meat, about 2 handsful, chopped. I like to use speck because you need a lot less to get the flavour 'punch'. You buy it at the butcher, and I pay about $8 for a 500gm knob. I would only use 1/4 of it at time for this recipe.
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules or 2 cloves fresh, crushed
1 teaspoon smokey paprika
400gm tin peeled tomatoes
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 x 400 gms tins of beans, cannelini, borlotti, kidney, drained and rinsed. It doesn't matter which sort really, or pre-soak and cook your own, which is less expensive again.

Heat oil in a deep non-stick frypan. Add bacon or speck and cook for 4-5 minutes until crisp. Remove to a bowl.

Add onion to pan. Cook, stirring until golden. Add garlic and paprika. Cook, stirring for about 30 seconds.

Return bacon or speck to pan along with all the other ingredients. Cook, stirring often till heated through. Season with salt and pepper, and add some dried parsley or fresh if you have it for a bit of colour.

Cake Mix Biscuits (Cookies)

 For quick and yummy cookies, I always use the following recipe.


1 packet cake mix (any cake mix will do)
1 egg
4 tablespoons margarine
choc chips, peanuts or sultanas.

1. Place cake mix in a bowl, add egg, margarine and a dry flavouring of your choice (choc chips, peanuts or sultanas). Mix well. If too dry, add a tiny amount of milk.

2. Place spoonfuls on a greased tray, press lightly with a fork and bake in a moderate oven till golden. Cool on a rack and enjoy!


 1kg mince
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp each of basil, oregano and thyme
1 egg

Mix all the ingredients together with your hands. Tip onto the bench or chopping board and press into a flat rectangle with your hands. Roll out like a scone dough, with a rolling pin if you have one, otherwise just press firmly so it compacts and you have an even thickness. You have to roll one way with the rolling pin otherwise the mince will just stick and come away. You can roll it between sheets of baking paper if preferred.

Using a large scone cutter cut out your patties and freeze on a plate between freezer bags. When frozen, place into freezer bags and they will remain separate for future use. I toast slices of bread on my griddle plate to get the stripes, cut the bread into rounds with the scone cutter, pop the pattie in with a slice of cheese and a squirt of tomato sauce (and a pickle for those who like them). They are served with home-made wedges in a paper bag with McMummy's logo (printed off my home computer and stapled to the sides), and a thick shake. I include trinkets like stickers, tiny soaps, DVD vouchers, promises for a hand massage or manicure for my daughter and her friends, that sort of thing.

Ham and Chicken Cannelloni:

 Cannelloni tubes or crepes
Chicken breast cut into strips or chicken tenderloins
Thinly sliced ham
Tasty Cheese, some cubed, some grated
Bottled pasta sauce, or homemade if you have it

Roll a slice of ham around each chicken strip and push into tube or roll inside a crepe. Lay the filled cannelloni in a greased baking dish. Push a cube of cheese (feta, tasty, whatever) into each end of each cannelloni tube (this is optional). Pour the pasta sauce over it all, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 180C for 25-35 minutes.
Thai Fish Cakes:
 Large tin pink salmon
2 eggs
2 tablespoons tom yum paste
1 teaspoon minced lemongrass
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced coriander
3 tablespoons plain flour
6 dried kaffir lime leaves, reconstituted for one hour in a cup of water, finely shredded

Dipping sauce:

80mls water
150gms sugar
80mls white vinegar
1 tspn salt
1/2 teaspoon minced chilli
2 shallots, finely sliced

Make dipping sauce first by combining water, sugar, vinegar and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add chillies, remove from heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, stir, and leave to one side.

Place salmon and eggs in food processor and process until combined. Add tom yum paste, lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar, coriander, and flour, process to a smooth paste. Add a little more flour if necessary. Transfer to mixing bowl, and add shredded lime leaves. Mix well, and shape into small patties.

Heat enough oil in a small saucepan to deep fry the patties one or two at a time. Cook in very hot oil for 2-3 minutes each, and drain well.

They can now be frozen until ready to use. Dipping sauce will keep for at least a week.

Microwave on high for one minute for 3 patties or wrap in foil and reheat in oven at 180C until piping hot.
Lasagna Impossible Pie:
You have to make the baking mix first...

1 cup plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cooking margarine

Mix dry ingredients together, then process for 30 seconds in a food processor, or use a knife to cut the margarine into the mix. Store excess in the fridge.

This serves 8...

1/4 cup plus an extra 3 tablespoons creamed cottage cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
450gms mince (I'm going to use chicken mince), cooked and drained
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
170gms tomato paste
240mls milk
2 large eggs
1/3 cup plus 4 extra tablespoons baking mix
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried garlic granules or 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Preheat oven to 200C. Layer cottage cheese and Parmesan in a greased 25cm pie plate.

Mix cooked mince, 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons mozzarella cheese, oregano, basil, and tomato paste in a bowl. Spread evenly over the cheese mixture in the pie dish.

Combine milk, eggs, baking mix, salt and pepper in a bowl. Beat until smooth and pour into plate.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cool for 5 minutes.
Home made Southern Fried Chicken (KFC to us Aussies!)

 I use this recipe for my home made KFC. I cut the poached chicken into strips, dip in the batter and flash fry. Yum!

1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Pepper
300g corn flour
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon paprika or chilli powder/cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin powder
200ml Buttermilk
2 eggs
1 litre oil for frying

Combine eggs and buttermilk.

Sprinkle some of the herbs over the chicken pieces, then mix the rest of the herbs with the cornflourh and salt and pepper . Dip the chicken into the flour mix, then into the buttermilk then back into the flour mix.
This goes lumpy and gooey, but that forms a nice crust when you fry.

Heat oil to 180 C in a large saucepan or wok.

Slowly add the chicken pieces to hot oil and fry for serveral minutes until deep golden and crunchy. Place on cake draining tray and if neccesary place in moderate oven to finish cooking for 5 mins. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy hot or cold!
Marshmallow rice bubble slice (copycat LCM bars)
8 cups generic rice bubbles
3 tablespoons margarine
400gms marshmallows
 Mini M & M's, choc chips, yoghurt icing if you wish

Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Put the rice bubbles in a very large mixing bowl. Melt the marshmallows and margarine together in a microwave safe jug...about 45-60 seconds on High. They will puff up and the marg will melt. Quickly beat them together until smooth, and immediately pour over the rice bubbles. Mix well, working quickly, until combined. Pour into prepared baking tray. Flatten with wet hands. Sprinkle with topping if desired, pressing topping into top of slice. Chill for one hour and cut into bars or squares. Makes 24-36 large bars. I wrap mine in foil and put a smiley sticker on daughter still loves them.
Another great money saving idea is to replace the cannelloni and lasagna sheets with crepes. This has been particularly useful for us, now that we eat gluten free.

 In week one, you would bake them filled with mince mix, cheese and bacon, covered with a bechamel sauce, as a variation on the idea of filled bread cases.

 You could use them for week two next week in place of the cannelloni, rolling the crepe around the chicken strips and ham, laying in a baking dish, and covering with the sauce.

 In week 3, they're superb in place of lasagna sheets. I bake the lasagna in a round cake tin, serving it in wedges.

Basic crepes:

 3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup milk or water

Hand whisk the ingredients until well combined. If you have a food processor, combine by using the steel blade, processing all ingredients for 20 seconds. Refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight to improve texture of cooked crepes. The batter should look like thin pouring cream.

Put a knob of butter or marg in a square of paper towel, heat a non-stick round frypan, and rub the wadded marg over the base of the pan to grease. Do not over grease the pan. Sprinkle with a few drops of water and if they sizzle, the pan is ready.

Working quickly, pour about 3 tablespoons of batter into the pan, and swirl to cover the base. Pour excess batter back into bowl.

 Cook for one minute, flip, and cook for 30 seconds on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.

Store with sheets of greaseproof paper between crepes, freeze in a ziplock bag until required.

 You can make further cost cuts or eat a more plant based version of the menu by making my Crockpot Refried Beans to replace:

1. The mince mix in the Burritos week two.

2. The McMummy's in week 3, changing to another takeaway favourite, Nachos.

3. The Boston Beans in Week 1, changing to Mexi-Potatoes. Just replace the Boston Beans with Refried beans, topping with all the usual Mexican accompaniments, such as guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese and crumbled bacon.

Also note, that I on occasion I had run out of or just didn't have, Smokey Paprika, so I used a tip from a chef friend of mine, and threw in some bacon rind I had saved to generate the 'smoky' flavour in the refried beans. This worked well, and I simply removed the rind after the chilling step, and before processing. I also recently found a product that my American readers would be familiar with, called Liquid Smoke and just half a teaspoon of that would do the trick too.

Crockpot Refried Mexe-Beans:

 This makes heaps...enough for 4 meals of Nachos for 4 people...
and costs about $3-$4!

2 cups dried red kidney beans
1 cup red lentils
3/4 cup olive oil
6 cups water
1 onion diced
6 cloves of garlic, sprinkled with a touch of oil and roasted for 15 minutes in a moderate oven (more or less according to your love of garlic!)
1 tin peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1-2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (this makes it quite spicy, but palatable for younger kids. Adjust for preference)
1 Bay Leaf

Squeeze the roasted garlic out of it's papery shell. Chop the peeled tomatoes.

Combine everything in the crock pot, and cook on high for 9 hours (if an old one like mine) or probably on low if yours is a newer model. You can also simmer this on the stove top for 2-3 hours.

Refrigerate overnight or as long as possible, to cool and allow the beans to take up the liquid.
 Remove the Bay Leaf.

Empty into a food processor and blend until smooth, or mash well with a potato masher.

Taste and adjust for flavour.

Ta-dah....Better than the bought ones (well, we think so..)...Mexican Refried Beans.

Serve as a dip layered with guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese, and salsa, or over nachos, with rice, or as a filling for enchiladas, crepes, or vegetarian pies.


 1. Steam the rice for Saturdays Fried Rice and chill in an airtight container.

2. Make the bread cases and freeze them. Push crustless slices of bread into large muffin holes, spray with oil and bake until crisp.

3. Poach the chicken breasts and store in their own liquid.

4. Shred cabbage and carrot for salads for the week.

5. Process the bread crusts from the bread cases for crumbs for fish and schnitzels and freeze for later use.

6. Make a batch of Bulk mince mix in the crockpot for the next couple of batch should do a 3 week cycle at least.

7. Make a batch of bulk rissole mix and freeze into meal sized portions....see McMummy's below.

8. Make the Boston Baked Beans and freeze.

9. Do a multi use cooked potato batch....1/3 mashed, 1/3 cooked and diced for potato salad, 1/3 diced for later roasting. Make sure you do enough mashed to freeze some for the individual shepherds pies in Week 3. To reheat, defrost, pop into a saucepan, stir over medium heat until piping hot, then leave with a lid on for 5 minutes, off the heat. Give a good stir, adding extra milk or butter if you like...should be perfect.

10. Bake biscuits and muffins.

(This sounds a lot, but honestly it's no more than 2 hours of work.)


 1. Remember to defrost portion of bulk cooked mince for Burritos. If making your own, make the tortillas or crepes for these today. Assemble in advance and freeze in a tray, if you want. Once frozen, they can be tipped from the tray and stored in a ziplock bag.

2. For info...I never cook the coconut rice in's so quick and easy, and best made and eaten immediately. Poach enough chicken for the dish with the coconut rice and the cannelloni at the end of the week.

3. Assemble the baked fish parcels. One half to one piece fish per person. You need to keep these frozen, so have everything ready to go. Lay out one piece of foil per person. Put a knob of butter, a grind of salt and pepper, a squeeze of bottled lime juice on each piece. Lay the fish piece over this. Repeat the ingredients on top. Finish with a paste of minced coriander and lemongrass. Fold or twist to seal and refreeze. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 180C, and bake for no longer than 30 mins. As soon as the fish is white and flakes easily, it's ready...if you over cook it, it will be dry, so check every 10 minutes.

3. Quiche best made on the day.

4. Cannelloni can be stuffed with slivers of poached chicken breast and slices of ham, proscuitto, salami or mortadella. Then assembled in a baking tray or slice tin for freezing. Once frozen they can be tipped into a ziplock bag. On day of cooking, assemble in the baking tray again, pour over bottled or home made pasta sauce (tomato or bechamel or alfredo), sprinkle with cheese and bake for 45-50 minutes covered, and 10 minutes uncovered to brown.

5. Spring rolls can be made in advance using Bulk mince...see recipe. Freeze until ready to use, then spray liberally with cooking oil, and bake at 180C until golden.

6. Thai Fish Cakes can be made in advance including cooking and then brought to heated temperature in oven or microwave. 

 7. I use cake mix for bikkies and muffins, and make up several batches at a time and freeze them ready to go. You can also use my Bake Anything Mix.


 1. Use the Bulk Mince and frozen mashed potato from week one to assemble the shepherds pies.

2. Poach enough chicken for stir fry (shredding or dicing it and adding in the last couple of minutes of stir frying to reheat), and KFC strips at the end of the week.

3. Dice bacon for potato slice and set aside in a ziplock bag.

4. Make patties for McMummy's if not done previously.

5. Slice the salmon fillets in half lengthwise and then into 3 pieces. Make a marinade of sweet chilli sauce, lime juice, coriander and lemongrass (yes we like thai fish!), and seal fillets and marinade in a ziplock bag, massaging the marinade into the fillets well. Freeze until ready to use. Bake, pan fry or grill to your liking.

6. Decide whether the dish is lasagna, impossible lasagna pie, lasagna crepe stack or spaghetti bolognaise. Make crepes or assemble ingredients for impossible pie in a ziplock bag. Use the bulk mince on the day with appropriate variations, to assemble.


 Remember these are just dinners and snacks, and that you may already have many ingredients, so check first!!! Even with having to purchase these items, the 3 weeks comes to under $350 for all dinners, some lunches, salads, and snacks for a family of 4. Subsequent 3 week cycles will cost less, as you will already have things in the pantry to carry over. Remember, you still have to supplement this with your other shopping items like toiletries and pet food, but for the actual food component, it's extremely cost effective.

NOTE: This is a FIRST TIME spend. You may already have many of these items in your fridge or pantry!!! I have also rounded all items up to the next dollar. So if my items usually costs $1.20, I have listed it at $2.

The first weeks ingredients will yield enough bulk mince for 3 weeks, poached chicken for our lunches and dinners for at least a week, and ingredients that will be used for many weeks or months such as herbs and spices, and pantry items. It also allows enough fish for at least two weeks, bacon for the entire 3 week menu, enough potatoes for mash for 3 weeks, the grated potato for week 3 potato and marscapone slice, and eggs for baking. You could obviously reduce this considerably, by cooking beans, biscuits, and muffins from scratch, using up old veges in the fried rice, making your own breadcrumbs from the crusts of the bread of the bread cases and so on.

Week one shopping list for family of 4

 Rice $3
Mixed veg $3
Sesame oil $3
Oyster sauce $3
Dried onion $3
Dried garlic $3
Bacon $7
Eggs $3
Chicken stock cubes $2
Cooking spray $3
Chicken breasts $12
Mince $15
Red lentils $3
Bread $6
Fish fillets $15
Breadcrumbs $2
Washed potatoes $6
Unwashed potatoes for mash $6
Cannellini beans x 2 $2
Smokey paprika $2
Tinned tomatoes x 1 $2
Brown sugar $3
Tomato paste $2
2 vanilla cake mixes $3
Assorted salad or vegetables $20

Approximate spend $132

Week two shopping list for family of 4

 Lavash bread $5
Chicken breast $12
Coconut milk $2
Minced coriander $3 (or plant some!)
Minced lemongrass $3
Bottled lime juice $3
Eggs $3
Creamed corn (for quiche) $2
Minced ginger $3
Shallots $3 (plant these too and you'll have an endless supply!)
Cannelloni tubes $4
Square ham $2
Bottled pasta sauce $3
Spring roll wrappers $3
Large tin pink salmon $4
Tom yum paste $5
Fish sauce $3
Dried kaffir lime leaves $3
White vinegar $2
Minced chilli $3
2 cake mixes $3
Dates $3
Salad and/or veges $20

Approximate spend Week 2 $98.00

Again, a FIRST TIME shop for week 2, so check your pantry first!

Week three shopping list for family of 4

 Chicken breasts $12
Handful cashews $2
Marscapone cheese $5
Lean mince $7
Hamburger rolls $3
Cheese $10
2 salmon fillets $12
Frozen chips $4
Lasagna sheets $3
Generic rice bubbles $3
Marshmallows $3
Choc chips $2
Cake mix $2
Icing sugar $3
Salad and/or veges $20

Approximate spend week 3 $91.00
So there it is. You really can eat well for less. Yes it's a little more effort and planning, but you won't regret it!
Let me know how you go!
Mimi xxx


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

This weeks insourcing #6....

Cooking is such a restorative activity. Our family motto has always been, 'When you don't know what to do, just cook'.
So cook, I have.
Summer Garden Casserole with slivers of Triple Brie seen above.
Sooooo yum.
All you do is thinly slice about six tomatoes, a couple of field mushrooms, slice the kernels from some corn cobs, and sliver some of that glorious Australian garlic that is HUGE. Pop it all in alternate layers of tomato, corn, mushrooms, fresh basil and rosemary, and garlic slivers in a quiche dish (3 layers of all that is good), sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, and bake in a moderate oven until it all collapses and warms through...about 60-75 minutes. Serve with brie, or bocconcini or even croutons on top. Dee-vine.
Cinnamon cookies with cherry ripe centres, seen below.

Summer fruit jam here....
Jam is so easy....just equal parts fruit and sugar and a bit of lemon...

...and home made Prawn toasts here....

All up that lot would have cost a pretty penny had we had similar meals out and about. Lets just say this week insourcing on gourmet jam alone saved around $50. Honestly. I saw 'gourmet preserve' at the fancy schmancy fruit market yesterday for $9.99. Ten bucks for jam....puh-leeeze.
Fancy chinese meal? At least $60 saved there.
Fab vege bake thingo? No idea, but anything like that served at a café, is around the $18 a head mark. So lets round that up to $60 as there would have been coffees and such involved there for sure.
And big, fat, delicious cookies? Well last time I looked that were selling for about $3 each. I made 36. So that's around $100 worth of cookies....whaaaaaat??
Someone said to me recently that you can't count the savings if you wouldn't have ever bought that thing anyway. I guess that's true. But by putting a value on the things that I would HAVE to buy if I worked full time and couldn't make them, I get a very clear picture of my value in the home. That's the rub, isn't it. Work = $$$. But if I can stay home and save an equivalent sum of money by insourcing, then I get to have the best of both worlds and so does my family.
What do you think?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weeping, Musicals and Sukiyaki...

Yes I'm in recovery mode.
Recovery from stalkers, funerals, year 10 exams-by-proxy, and bad food.
Today I've watched The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall (on telly), eaten healthfully, rested copiously, and wept freely.
Tonight I will eat Sukiyaki.
Tomorrow I will be my usual self.
I love Phantom. I've seen it twice in London, twice in my home town and dozens of times on DVD. I never tire of it. Angel of Music, and Music of the Night bring me to tears. Every. Single. Time.
Do you love musicals?
Which ones are your favourites?
Do they make you cry at their emotion, or laugh at their irony?
Do you like the ones that portray real life? Or Fantasy?
Do tell.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

There are pearls, and then there are pearls....

My post today is not about jewellery, although I love pearls.
It's not about jewel boxes although the jewel of friendship is foremost in my thoughts.
And it's not about lace, although the fabric of life is one that like lace, sometimes looks delicate and yet is strong, or conversely can look strong, and yet have little weaknesses that become it's undoing.
I lost a friend last week.
Just seven days ago as of this very moment, 11:30am on a regular Thursday morning, my friend was going about her day with no inkling that she would not see another morning.
Very late that night, a blood clot that had formed in her leg, travelled to her lungs, and she drew her last breath. Nobody that knew her can believe that someone so full of life, can be gone in an instant.
She was not an elderly person and had every expectation that she had close to half a century left before she would be called to join her Mother and Grandmother in whatever lies beyond this life.
Since her passing I am obsessed with making my moments count, for what if I too, do not wake to see another day? We all think these things happen to 'someone else'. But sometime, somewhere it is us or someone we love dearly, that becomes a statistic.
If ever there were a time in my life where that old saying 'Live every day as if it were your last' held meaning, it is now. Look for the pearls in your day, and value them and cherish them. Today is all we have. Tomorrow is not yet come, and yesterday is gone and in the past and cannot be changed.
Today my 'pearls' will be...
Make a favourite meal
Listen to a favourite song
Surround myself with people I love and who love me equally in return
Buy a bunch of roses and make a little bouquet to lay on my friends casket
Eat an exotic fruit
Wear my wedding pearls which I save for 'good'
Remember my friend fondly
Walk in my garden
Look at old photos and remember good times
Hug my husband and daughter and tell them I love them
Ring my sons and their partners and do the same
Send my siblings a card to tell them how much they mean to me
What if I didn't wake tomorrow? Would I exit my life feeling it was a life well lived? I hope so.
What are the pearls in your life today?

Monday, March 9, 2015

This weeks insourcing #5...

I had a productive week this week, which allowed me to save quite a bit towards our spending money for our trip in June. It's not far off now, and we're getting a bit excited!
1.  I did so much decluttering in the kitchen to gain some much needed space for storing my baking bits and pieces. Then I combined all of my alternative GF flours into a GF flour blend pre-mix (like a Bisquick mix or the Bake Anything Mix that we Aussies know) which I'm now using for everything from pastry to crepes to use in place of lasagna sheets. I'm baking some currant and cinnamon scones using this today. I'll replenish this as I go along as it really cuts down on preparation time for scones (biscuits) and pancakes for snacks too. Savings of perhaps $15 on similar snacks or makings of meals.
Baking Mix
9 cups plain flour
2 cups milk powder
 6 teaspoons baking powder
 1 teaspoon salt
 1 cup cooking margarine

Mix dry ingredients together, then process for 30 seconds in a food processor, or use a knife to cut the margarine into the mix and rub it through with your fingertips. Store excess in the fridge.
To make Scones (biscuits)....
To 2 1/4 cups baking mix, add 2/3 cups milk or cream or even just water. Mix well quickly, without over working the dough. Tip out onto a greased and floured tray, and press lightly into a 5mm (1/4 inch) slab on the tray. With a very sharp, pointed knife, mark into 9 squares, by just cutting the dough enough so that it bakes with a line for you to cut later. Bake at 200C (about 450F) for 20-25 mins until risen. Remove from the oven allow to cool, and cut into portions. Serve with jam and cream if you're an Aussie, or butter and gravy if you're from the Northern Hemisphere!
To make Pancakes (Hotcakes)....
To 1 1/2 cups baking mix, add 1 egg, 3/4 cup water, 1 egg, and 2 tablespoons melted butter or oil. Cook in a non stick frypan over high heat, flipping once when bubbles appear on the surface.
2. I made great lunches and afternoon teas for my daughter for school, and also discovered that you can buy PowerAde which is a electrolyte replacement drink for sportspeople, not a caffeine and guarana laden thing like some of them, in powder form. My daughter had been complaining of cramps as she is very busy with Dance and theatre just now, and her ballet teacher suggested this as a solution. Who knew? It's worked brilliantly. Now these are around $4 for a 600ml bottle already made up, but if you buy the powder, it works out to just 78c for the same amount. Sure you don't get the dinky bottle, but our girl doesn't care! So that's a huge saving. Again, I always rate this at $20 a day, but perhaps with the PowerAde added in, it's more like $30. Two PowerAdes a day when my daughter is busy and it's this hot here, is not unrealistic.
3. We didn't succumb to takeaway despite being very busy, thanks to advance meal prep like marinating steaks, dicing veges, and steaming rice ahead of time. Many savings on eating out or takeaway....let's say $90 this week.
4. I made my Onion Confit which we love with the steaks, with quiche and all kinds of things. Quality of life thing....maybe a saving of $30 on a bistro dinner for the three of us?
5. And I made Cherry Ripe Fudge as a treat, which was delicious, and which provided an impromptu gift for a friend when boxed in pink tissue paper and tied with a lush pink velvet ribbon. Saving of at least $20.
6. I baked 12 Basil, Olive and Pumpkin muffins and we had those for breakfast two days running, saving money on café breakfasts. Saving of around $45.
7. And while I was there, I made a Pumpkin, Orange and Ginger Teacake which gave us afternoon tea for us and friends for another two days. Much money saved by NOT going to cafe's and instead, sitting on our gorgeous deck underneath the Poinciana trees which are just magnificent at the moment. Saving of perhaps $60 in socialising at trendy café`s.
8. I made two concessions to convenience food and used some frozen shortcrust pastry and tinned 'whipped' cream, to make tiny jam tarts for my granddaughters. One sheet of frozen shortcrust pastry, made 18 mini jam tarts. These were filled with plum jam that my daughter and I had made last week, and topped with a fluff of the cream dispensed from a can....awful stuff, but lasts forever and such fun for the littlies who love it along their finger like a caterpillar to lick! So much enjoyment for $4! Total cost about $1 for the 18 tarts.
9. In a second tiny concession (forgive me but puff pastry from scratch? Nahhh...) I made 24 small sausage rolls for nibbles and lunches. 1 1/2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, some sausage mince mixed with grated carrot and spices, baked in a hot oven....real Nanna food and the family lapped it up! Sausage mince is about as nutritious as I-don't-know-what, but gosh darned it sure tastes good wrapped in melt in the mouth pastry and tomato sauce (ketchup)! Saving of $6 on frozen sausage rolls or $20 on bought ones in a café`, I think. Long time since I bought a sausage roll!
I estimate that my baking alone saved us around $200 this week. The Cherry Ripe Fudge was both consumed and gifted, saving another $50, and advance meal preparations, PowerAde mixing and decluttering, which someone else would have charged my like a wounded bull to do, would have put my daily rate this week at somewhere around $300 a day, in work that would have had to be outsourced if I was still a career girl.
In total, what I achieved with Insourcing in the last seven days, would have cost me up to $1500 had someone else performed all the tasks that I managed in my week. I'm very pleased with that.
How did you go?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

For a friend sadly gone from this Earth....

She chose to walk alone
Though others wondered why
Refused to look before her,
Kept eyes cast upwards,
Towards the sky.

She didn't have companions
No need for earthly things.
Only wanted freedom,
From what she felt were
Puppet strings.

She longed to be a bird. That she might fly away.
She pitied every blade of grass
For planted they would stay.

She longed to be a flame,
That brightly danced alone.
Felt jealous of the steam
That made the air its only home.

Some say she wished too hard.
Some say she wished too long.
But we awoke one autumn day
To find that she was gone.

The trees, they say stood witness.
The sky refused to tell.
But someone who had seen it said
The story played out well.

She spread her arms out wide.
Breathed in the break of dawn.
She just let go of all she held...

And then she was gone.

*original from As Told By Ginger*

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Insourcing....what is it again?

I'll be in Venice in 121 days. I can't wait.
But I wouldn't be going if it weren't for my insourcing habits. Sure we could take out a second mortgage or give the credit cards a flogging, but we're a bit past all that. At our age, it's cash. And we can either afford it or we can't.
So. The way we manage this is by cleverly doing as much as we can to live our comfortable (some might say 'luxurious') life, in-house, so to speak. Each day, we either consciously or sub-consciously make decisions about what we eat, wear, buy and plan for. Wherever we can, and if it's humanly possible, we then try to recreate that food, purchase, planned activity or whatever, at home.
We once loved eating out in luxurious restaurants. We'd go once a month or more often if we could find a babysitter. At that time, it was important to us as a couple, as we had a disabled son and a toddler, and it was the only time we got alone together. We spared no expense on those outings as we felt we deserved a treat.
As time wore on though, we tired of the over inflated food and wine prices, and reasoned that as we're both pretty good cooks, who had learned a thing or two over several years of dining out, that we could probably recreate our favourites at home. It became a bit of a fun challenge, actually. We were already insourcing renovations, landscaping, and many other activities, so this was just one more step.

Pannacotta with raspberry coulis...why not? Slow roasted Rib Eye on the Bone or Rack of lamb with oven baked figs and honeyed feta...yes! Pan fried barramundi with beurre blanc...a cinch. Citrus tart served with mascarpone and blueberries...any day, just ask me. Once we realised how inexpensive and easy these meals were to have at home, we sacked the babysitter, who was actually the largest expense of all, and started to enjoy sharing beautiful food in-house, with our children and our friends.
 So on that ambition, we succeeded.

 Our next goal was to make home more like the luxurious restaurants and hotels with their sumptuous furnishings and lush landscaping, by the addition of chandeliers, indoor palms in gorgeous pots, and oversized floral arrangements in glossy vases, a garden full of interesting plants, and an entertaining area of which we could be proud. More insourcing please. Ten years worth actually. Only now, are we approaching completion of that dream, with the addition of a new BBQ deck (clever husband built this), a new fence (built by clever husband and some friends), and a little levelled and grassed area where we can play Bocce, Badminton, Skittles, or allow a place for our dancer daughter to rehearse and choreograph to her hearts content. Thankyou to selves for much patience and hard work. Outsourcing that lot would have been a number with lots of zeroes following it.
These things, individually are within everyones reach, really they are. Pinterest and the many talented bloggers out there who share their projects for us to copy, make it easier than it once was to create a look in order to mimic the styles we admire. You can do a course too, on just about anything these days from building a fence or a retaining wall, to refurbishing a chandelier, although really if chandeliers are your thing, they're not that expensive these days. Me? I want a HUGE chandelier...and they don't come cheap...unless I refurbish an old one!
We have some beautiful art purchased in London (that's what we decided to buy as London Buses in miniature or Buckingham Palace teapots for us! Again, small decisions reap long term rewards), some treasured pieces of fine furniture sourced over years of antique restorations in my younger days, and plenty of vintage silverware and crystal. The vintage linen, silverware and crystal gets a daily airing, as we set the table restaurant style every night. 
Hanging a framed painting, either your own artwork, your childs or one you've bought, setting a beautiful dinner table, saving for furniture that will last you more than five years, or buying it second hand as I did, and restoring it, which is enormously satisfying in itself...these are little things that anyone can do to enhance the day-to-day living experience.
Even if you don't have (or like!) vintage crystal, linen and silverware, it costs nothing to throw a clean sheet over your dinner table, lay out your crockery and cutlery prettily, and whip up some serviettes from fabric remnants. A centrepiece of  tealights in a coloured glasses, and some greenery in small bowls can really make the table look lush. These things all help you feel like you're really living luxuriously, and place no pressure on the budget or bank account. Often we've found that the dining out experience is really about those little touches, and not about the food so much at all!
The advent of dozens of DIY programmes, magazines, blogs and books, means that you don't have to buy ready made anything-at-all these days and yet we all do it. Ready made meals, ready made rooms, ready made kitchen packages including the soup ladle and the strainer, ready made bedroom furnishings and ready made beautiful picture perfect children and pets...or just about! There's someone out there to advise you on everything from wedding planning, to gift purchasing. Heck, they'll even do it for you, if you like! Then you get to have the same wedding, home, pets, and gift the same items to your friends as everyone else...what fun....NOT.

If you want to shop, how about setting your sights a little higher than the local fare. How about saying 'let's save up for a shopping spree at Harrods in London'. Or Printemps in Paris, or Macy's New York, or the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney. If I want a shopping hit, I head to The Brisbane Arcade in the city where I live. It's a bit more special, I have a lovely lunch, and I feel like I've had a real treat, rather than just 'going shopping' as a leisure activity. I don't always buy something, but I certainly enjoy the experience more that trawling the local shopping mall.
Learn to love the experience of dining at home, of shopping to feed your family well, of cooking new and interesting dishes for breakfasts and lunches, as well as dinners. It can all be a treat for the senses, a luxury in itself, if you go about it the right way. The more you do it, the less you'll feel the need to fritter money away on the little budget thieves like takeaway latte's (shudder), cheap handbags, and discount costume jewellery. Learn to cultivate a preference for quality over quantity. Save for a few of the finer things in life, even if you start small.
My first trip to Paris was a revelation. It cured me forever of wanting to shop in the local mall, drink bad coffee and wear cheap jewellery. The experience of travel, opened my eyes in ways I could not have imagined. I had travelled of course, but only as most Aussies do, to New Zealand, Fiji, and the Australian! Paris. Now that's a whole new ball game.
I know it's hard, when everyone else is doing something that contravenes your long term goals. But try just saying 'no...we're saving for Paris', or whatever your goal is, and be firm. They'll all be green with envy when you come back with that new little treasure you picked up at Printemps.