Sunday, September 11, 2011

Getting on track

Sure aint bloody easy... 

I think the holiday is over and its time to knuckle down, design and stick to routine, save and grow.

we've been here in Bundaberg for a full school term *loving it*  We have sort of worked out where to buy, the veg is growing and we can now eat from the garden *so quick* Got an egg source, some friends, acquaintances increasing & building but now its the reigning in, getting a routine in that works, stuff... *sighs* Getting there and its momentum along with motivation that need a poke here.

Plus we are still keen to meet people, find & explore places, are leisurely in our patterns - however it is time for hubby to look for work, part time at least.

You know those nights where you make plans, have places you want to visit, go to sleep and then morning comes... 

Today was so full of red wine inspired plans and promises. Sunday dawned a little later than planned and not as co-ordinated as hoped. Things got done - more seeds were planted, this time it was chillis, capsicum, basil in the big planters. There was weeding and watering ~ but a fair bit of doddling. 

A camp-fire oven cooked dinner of Moroccan coated chicken, salad followed by dessert of pancakes kept the cost around the $2 per head mark again. The lettuce came from our garden and was so sweet and full of flavour, I feel for those who have only ever enjoyed 'supermarket' lettuce. The difference is so noticeable.

We are just a little out of practice on the side of routine ~ because there is nothing outside of school start and finish we need to align to fit in schedules. Yes, I have therapy and some appointments - but a lot of the exercises are done at home; still waiting for the medical records to come from Ballarat to Bundaberg - and that is holding up the continuity of the current care plan. 

By the end of the week, I really hope all the clothes, plastics, personal items and shoes can have permanent homes and regularly return to their location. I desire all empty suitcases, bags, unrequired linen and household items to be boxed then stored appropriately in the garage. I plan to have all clutter gone and will whip the fingers of offending non-compliers until the actions are habitual.

Tomorrow is linen washing ~ so that is the first thing to do once out of bed. Thus the day will have begun. Still ~ this one is about to end. Hope you had a great weekend and here's to a new week *grins*

Walking along the pathway in the street of no return
You wonder if you'll get there, of the secrets you will learn
In the distance 
You see a lady with ladder
For a most disconcerting manner
That you wish you could have stopped your steps and turned

Don't worry about that
Its gonna be all right
Bring yourself along
For a real good night
Getting back on track
And taking simple steps
Knowing all at once the simple steps are the ones that will get you through

In the screaming silence, hear the words as they distort
It's like listening for thunder while an F-1 tasks its torque
For a moment
You can see a pretty picture
Then as the canvas starts to blister
There's a eerie sound without a noise just as the fire begins to roar

Love the smell of rain...

So it rains more frequently in Queensland...

I get that. At around 2pm, maybe 230pm, you can almost guarantee it is absolutely pouring with rain, school pick up time is impending and no matter where you live, if it is going to rain today it will always be around school pick up time. Sarcastistically more so often than if you have washing on the line, get it off before 230pm and it will be dry - before it rains. The kids and collectors will still get wet.

Nah - that's not a real statistic but it is probably true. Today was a picture of that scenario, and SmallBoy's raincoat was staring me in the face as it hung on the bedroom door ~ and not in the schoolbag where it is supposed to be stored. Be assured, in true saving style, I wasn't rushing off to pick him up from school in the car and save him the saturation of a 15minute walk home. Be damned if good petrol be used because an item was not returned to its appropriate 'home' and would mean a good soaking for its wearer. Let him get drenched and perhaps remember where things are supposed to go. Or not ~ as it was, the rain stopped for the entire walk home and started about 5minutes after SmallBoy walked in the door. No lesson learned - today...

Still, one lesson which has been 'learned' is that by doing all known 'tasks' such as change out of uniform, do homework, handwriting, put dishes away, feed the cats and then ask if you can <please> play on the computer one is more likely to get a positive response. Still, Friday has always been a bit of a screen night as there were usually school mates over from school for a night of movies, popcorn in front of the fire back in Ballarat around now. 

No spending here today. 

But some money transferring was undertaken ~ $700 from Emergency Savings Fund (ESF) and put on to the credit card to lower the debt. Every week $15 goes into the savings, $15 onto the mortgage as 'extra' payments, $50 into the LOC (plus a little more while tenant deposits & mortgage repayment dates align). All regular bill payments are up to date, food sort of on budget.

Got friends coming up the first week of holidays for a few days here then we all escape to the Gold Coast for a few days, then return home - collecting DMIL & DS20 but 21 the following day.  GC accomm is paid - just looking at best theme park ticket bundle. *sighs* Might also get QLD plates ($800ish, from ESF, but will deposit VIC rego refund back in) and transfer RACV to RACQ. Then get to do all the insurance details again *yippee?*

Spent $110 on groceries & sundries Thursday ~ this included coathangers (desperately needed), bulk staples, kitty litter, some garden 'stuff'. Still got $40 for the markets on Sunday so pleased with that. The weekend will see us washing the car, getting in the garden and going to the festival on Sunday (Blooms or something Spring-time related). Oh - and putting away clothes...

Obviously we have $40 for the markets at sparrow's fart tomorrow. It's really time to hit the hay and get ready to get some fresh produce then go to another "Blooming" Bundaberg festival. Actually this one has a parade at 230pm so we are going down with friends. Should be fun. 

*yawns* Just enjoyed a lovely dinner up at the Sims family ~ truly. Last time Hubby was doing the 'house maintenance check' in Ballarat so only SmallBoy and I went - this time her hubby was away. This evening we had a great time - a simple meal of roast chicken and chips which the kids enjoyed watching 'Despicable Me' while we talked, had wine, organised coming over to our place for a BBQ. 

All the lemons we got from Rosscoe are juiced and I have a hankering for lemon meringue pie so much so I might have to make one. Chicken cooked in the camp oven, with salad from the garden and the markets, and lemon meringue for dessert. Mmmmm ~ no wonder I've gone over 62kg for the first time in 11 years. All this decadent food and dessert I've been making and partaking is adding the kilos to my meager frame - must up the ante on physical activity and bulk up the vegetables over the meat. And cut back to one dessert portion ~ this regime must also include dear Hubby who looks about 6months along at the moment... 

On that note, I'd best scoot. It's market day - early start with an afternoon jaunt. Might make pie for another night and enjoy it with a light meal. *yawns* OK ~ night y'all. Been great... 

Been linking up to some of the blog connect groups ~ this includes:

Poshonabudget - Friday-friend-connect ~ I know it is now Saturday (if not Sunday) - just doddling the last few days...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Say What you Really mean...

You say "battler" like its a bad thing *grins*

Bit of a thinking process going on about those who are "strugglers" and those who are "Battlers" ~ whether there is a difference in the two? Do strugglers really just like to brag under the guise of complaining about how they couldn't really afford the new $149 shoes, marked down from $200 at least, but managed to buy them any way and now its going to be a struggle to find an outfit that matches that shade of mauve.

Is there a class which is really in a position to do well, just has this silly habit of over extending and believing if they think they deserve it then they really should have it ignoring the fact they cannot in fact afford it? There are some who can afford to spend in whimsy, knowing the bills will still be paid and debt reduced. I hope some are reading and willing to contribute to the Spare Change Jar on the left as confirmation there are actually some who can afford to spend on whimsy for real and not just in our imaginations, dreams and wishes...

Seriously, I think there is a type who bemoan their lot when wanting to share an ill-afforded extravagance ~ in some ways I consider myself a battler, but the difference is probably in the region of getting $50k a year less than the "average struggler". Plus I see ourselves as being clever, frugal and powering through with what we have, rather than what we have not but must get regardless of the possible future detriment. The whinging battler is one often wanting to change but sees only the half empty glass, not feeling that happy tiddly feeling the first half put in your head...   I'd just tell her that we don't do takeaway, don't buy new, love fossicking opshops, use no-name and bake my own biscuits and pies. Why hold back - being in control and having control is something to be proud of.

It's like it is someone else's fault they are put in the position of feeling guilty for making a purchase (most likely via credit) which wasn't really needed but desired enough to actually hand over the plastic and cast aside that little voice asking 'but how long can you push that purchase payment out' for that extra dose of guilt on the side ~ and see others on half as much seemingly do twice as well as themselves with some jealousy. Guilt and jealousy ~ the "average struggler". 

Just as some love to say they enjoyed dinner out at that new trendy eatery, spending around $50 a head plus the drinks, I love being able to say I fed all three of us the type of meal you'd expect at a new trendy eatery for under $10 including a nice clean skin sparkling wine. 

Today was even more exciting and rewarding as we ate our own produce in tonight's evening meal. Using $4 of marked down steak, half the red onion from yesterday's salad, left over bean shoots, boiled brown rice and from our garden: bok/pak choy, snow peas, parsley, basil and ginger, I made the yummiest stir fry meal for less than $2 per person ~ easily as good as main from that trendy place others go....

Whose Fault Was It Anyway? 

If you think it was mine (and those goes for anything you think I may have been the one in the wrong from my early teens right through to tomorrow mornings' offerings) ~ fine ~ blame me. Don't care if I am not taking the problem on as my own ~ I do that well enough for myself alone. So knock yourself out ~ not my problem. Bridge, built - over it...

If you are a teacher however, or one who 'looks after' other people's children, or one who understands the concept of 'you kinda need to be responsible for your kids yourself too you know' ~ enjoy the following article:  What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents.

Until the next time ~ do feel free to toss any spare change into the Spare Change Jar or Treasure Chest ~ it all goes on our debt and hopefully is indicative of the fact you find the blog informative, entertaining, education or you can tell we need all the help we can get *grins*

Minimising the Shop/Shock

Today we did spend...

With around $40 of the last week's grocery budget remaining, we shopped with this and the coming week's $50 - including an extra $50 for some extra pantry staples. We've been advised by some friendly Bundaberg locals to get a few 'extras' during the coming weeks into the wet season to ensure if any transportation or access to the area arise, we will still have sufficient to make do for a week or more.

The shop came in over budget by $10 ~ leaving $30 for the veggies at Sunday's market. Almost $40 of the items bought where staples including 2kg each of brown rice, brown sugar, wholemeal SR and plain flour, pasta. Also we needed to have kitty litter ~ and hubby splurged on a litre of coffee icecream. I am going to crush a peanut butter biscuit into the icecream on the whim it will taste delicious.

One must always try to include the occasional splurge to keep the spirit positively happy.

Saving while in Debt 

Through all the little savings we have been making ~ $15 each week into an emergency savings fund (ESF) for those unexpected wallet depleting incidents like car troubles; $5 three times a week on to the mortgage; $160pf of family tax payment to ESF ~ we finally have the buffer of emergency money available. It's taken almost 10 weeks, there is $1500 sitting in our online account and half of it is going to be paid on to our debt. It's not cash in a flash, thus no temptation to splash, but only takes 24hrs to transfer for access should it be needed.

There are two schools of thought about having an emergency fund or savings account ~ especially if you owe money, why should you be able to save for self use before repaying a debt. Another is that by having 2-3 months income in a savings account, accessible only for an 'emergency' expense, you have on hand funds you might otherwise have had to borrow and add to your debt list should, say your car break down or an airfare is required.

Our goal is to have $4000 as our ESF account ~ however at the moment every time it gets to $1500, $500 will be transferred on to the VISA and $250 onto the Mortgage or Line of Credit. As the credit card reduces, so will its maximum limit. Currently sitting $1000 under its limit, with the extra $500, we can reduce the VISA limit to $7k leaving a little buffer for some bill payments (mobile, electricity). 

Putting more into the Line of Credit immediately is the priority. With the rental tenancy in its early months, the fortnightly mortgage repayments don't quite match with the monthly rental deposit - especially with the odd deduction for maintenance to inspect the gas heater *prays - please let it still be ok and not need repairs or repayments* or removal of leaves from the gutters. Once that is a month and a half in advance in 'credit', more can divert to the Mortgage itself than the three payments of $5 added each week.

Enjoying the desserts... 

Even if they are a few scoops of coffee icecream with broken up peanut butter biscuits. You know ~ not that it would ever happen - but the biscuits would be better a little more 'stale' for use with icecream. Regardless, it was delicious with the biscuits being a little more crumbly, still melt in your mouthish than imagined. Just one of those funny little thoughts you have at times... Don't you?

Here is the recipe address from Stay At Home Mum ~ Peanut Butter Biscuit recipe ~ and I've put the ingredients as we used below: 

160 grams plain wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon bicarb
1/2 teaspoon salt

115 grams butter
150 grams brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250 grams smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup crushed walnuts (macadamia, choc chips) 

 Will be looking at Tupperware again ~ and not just the boxes I need to unpack and find homes for within the kitchen. I am hoping to be a demonstrator again ~ one or two parties per week, be able to re-furbish my collection and build it back to its former glory. More on that later ~ but if you are wanting any, do get in touch *grins* 
Think about it and know it will ultimately remove debt, allow storage of dry staple pantry items over the wet season and get us ready for a place of our own upon the return of our home's owners in 2015.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Did someone speed up time?

The things my Husband finds ~ love his photographs... 

I swear it was Sunday ~ and now its Wednesday morning!

Hope all the Dads, stand ins and children all over have enjoyed the togetherness of Sunday ~ now come on, the 'special' day is over, back to the normal. Yes, it would be nice to have days like that all the time, but it takes some coordinating, planning, doing things in anticipation... *bit of a hint dear* 

So who spent a small fortune? Ours came in under $50 ~ including the petrol for our afternoon, our self catered lunch and a yummy roast dinner! Enjoying the left overs from the $11 roast as a pork and vegetable pie for Monday nights meal keeps us about $2-$3 per head per meal ~ we could have stretched both meals to feed four people - it was more fun feeling like happy stuffed little piggies *burps* 'scuse me...

The Week Ahead... 

The garden is about to yield forth its first edible offerings ~ about half the first of the Asian greens are ready and calling for a stir fry or warm salad use. Hmmm ~ that's an idea for the weekend. As for tonight, I took the $5 schnitzels out of the freezer, marked down meat but only two large schnitzels in the packet. So fried them up on the stove, sliced into strips and added to a bowl of salad of lettuce, bean sprouts, baby spinach, radish, cucumber, snow peas, onion, parmasean cheese, walnuts, green apples and a ceasar style dressing... 

Doesn't that sound fancy?! I reckon it looks decently fancy too, happy to serve that up to the Queen should she drop in. Cost under $7 for the whole meal and if HRH had dropped in, it would have stretched for one more as well ~ but she didn't so we ate it all *grins* SmallBoy was a little grumbly over the sprouts but demolished his plateful. Then he had the last of the vanilla cream over a chopped frozen banana ~ the cream freezes on the banana and is a delicious, quick dessert to use up left over cream! 

I am trying desperately to push out this week's grocery shop to build a little 'cash' surplus for some staples we will need in anticipation of the wet season. By not using the remaining $42 of this weeks shopping budget for groceries, I can get bulk wholemeal flours, brown rice, epsom salts, vinegar, coat-hangers and mulch instead.

Just jumped in the shower between making up some peanut butter biscuit dough to make biscuits ~ mainly because they are yummy and it will help lower the craving for long-absent chocolate, but also to compensate for 'boring' sandwiches for lunch SmallBoy has to endure for two, maybe three days in a row *gasps in mock shock*

I've used a variation of the peanut butter biscuit dough from the delightful website Stay At Home Mum, really only changing the peanut butter to smooth. This recipe makes about 30 biscuits - I used the last quarter of the dough to add a few of the Ballarat walnuts for variation. It could probably take nicely with some choc chips - if I had any...

Rather than do a standard grocery shop ~ we can have the pasties made and frozen last week for dinner tomorrow, then the shop can be base more toward those bulk purchases along with some cloves, mince, milk, rolls. With more flour I can make more scrolls, do some biscuits, cakes and get ready for using the bread maker when I get yeast next shop. 

Quick Reflection...

The move to Queensland was not about saving/making money ~ a big part has always been quality of life, a balance of work and play, a climate to aid recovery and movement. More than anything, I am grateful for the way things happened ~ there is a saying: "Things fall apart so other things can fall together" ~ that's what this has all been like.

While it might not be a big deal to many to get a meal on the table (physically or financially); to be able to there in the morning for breakfast, walking, talking, eating, laughing ~ and then again in the afternoon and evening. Some times I feel blessed with the chance to 'do life' with less stress and more enjoyment, even appreciating that it all needs to be done a little slower or with some rest along the day.

I really do enjoy making biscuits ~ they really don't take a lot to put together. Trying different meals to incorporate more salads and vegetables, getting up at sparrows' fart to go to the market, reading or (now) riding over screen related activities for all of us. OK ~ I'm not at riding yet, the boys are and I am jealous. I'm not able to vacuum but I can mop. It's all just a heck of a lot better than expected and imagined.

Must mosey ~ another full and exciting day. I do hope we get coat hangers in the next day or so. I'd really like to hang the last of the clothes and get everything out of the campervan completely. Out come the nick-knacks, pictures and books. Might need another bookshelf...

Let me know if you try the biscuits or what more details about the meals we prepare and eat, budgeting $2-$3 per person per main meal per night. Most nights usually cost $6 for a meal for three hearty appetites, occasionally with leftovers for lunch.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Things that make change

Who said you had to spend heaps to make a veggie garden? 

OK ~ you probably didn't but I know others who have. In the past six weeks, we have not only set up a raised veggie bed for nothing, we've got the seeds, fertiliser and more in for next to nix. Building the garden bed used a lot 

We have saved hundreds of dollars over the years. Instead of paying up to $5.00 for packets of seeds which may or may not sprout, we have started grabbing packets of seeds from the herb and soup sections of the supermarkets. 

The seeds you get for coriander, mustard, fennel, cardamom or celery in spice packets from the supermarket for cooking can be planted in your garden. These normally cost around $1.00-$1.50 per packet and you will get a lot more seeds than the packets bought from a plant store. 

We also get the full dried peas (not freeze dried) from the soup section (with the lentils and McKenzies packet mixes) and these successfully grow ~ we've had the sweetest sugar snap peas ever from soup peas! A packet normally costs $1.50-$2.00 and you get well over 100 seeds. In comparison to buying 'packet' seeds it would cost you five times as much for about 20 or so seeds. Just remember not to buy the split peas ~ they won't grow at all.

Another way to save buying seeds is cut the ends off shallots and replant them, it takes about three weeks before they get over their 'shock', but you will have an endless harvest of shallot stems to use in salads. We do the same with old onions, including salad onions, that have hidden themselves away in our cupboards and sprouted. Plant them in your garden, let them flower and go to seed to get great seed stock for the next few years. No need to buy more!

Garlic can be done in the exact same way. Grab a clove and plant it flat end into the ground. After about four months you will get a great bulb of garlic from your original clove. A few cloves turns into a bumper crop and look great drying in the pantry or kitchen. Be aware that garlic from China or Mexico has usually been treated with Bromide (a carcinogenic) so only use Australian grown garlic.

Pumpkin, cucumber, capsicum, tomato, chili and other vegetable seeds can be cleaned, dried and then planted out to give you more seed stock to play with. If you plant two different types of pumpkins near each other, they cross pollinate and you can end up with a hybrid which tastes great. We usually let one or two of each vegetable go to seed so that next years planting will cost us even less. This works well with  lettuce, silverbeet, rocket, Asian greens, mint, corn, loofah, tomatoes and sugar snap peas.

Old potatoes and sweet potatoes that start sprouting can be replanted and will give a good crop. Just cut a sprouting part of the potato and plant it, from one potato you get up to five new plants, with around 30-40 potatoes from each. Some people don't recommend the growing of potatoes in old car tyres ~ we've never really had an issue with it as it has always been easier to add an extra tyre and layer of dirt as the potato plant leaves come through the soil ~ but you can always use an old hay bale or hessian bag of soil if you'd prefer.

Sowing broad beans, carrots, onions, radishes and spinach can be difficult and fiddly and the best way to solve the problem is to make home-made seed tape. It is an easy family activity and something we've done for years. I actually submitted this as a hint to Simple Savings about four years ago and its still there in the Vault and was mentioned in one of the newsletters.

1. Unroll a strip of toilet paper on a table (any ply, unbleached and non-scented), to the length you wish. While it might seem quicker to do one long, straight row it is easier with a few shorter strips when planting out.

2. Make a thick paste of flour and water. Dab the paste onto the toilet paper using a cotton bud, spaced apart as per the seed packet recommendation, for example 20cm.

3. Place a seed on each paste blob.

4. When the paste is dry, the seed tape is ready to fold. Starting along the strip's long edge, fold a third of the paper over the seeds, then fold the other third over to cover the seeds completely. Lightly dampen the paper, misting it with a spray bottle of water to secure the seeds. Make as many of these strips as you need then carefully carry them to the garden.

5. Make shallow furrows in the prepared soil, lay the strips down, mist heavily with the spray bottle of water and cover with soil. Now, your seeds will grow in straight, spaced rows. Tip: Alternate carrot seeds with radish seeds because when the radishes sprout, they help to mark the row and break the ground.

The key to a successful veggie garden is good watering practices ~ having lived through drought in Victoria, investing in a water tank was the only reason we kept ourselves in vegetables until I became physically unable to tend the garden and Hubby's lengthy absences due to work made it an event in weed cultivation. 

Already we have Asian greens at the usable stage (although leaving them another week or two will mean they are bigger and require less in our stir fries) and we are about to sow the second cropping of corn, peas and carrots to ensure they are growing in a staggered manner. We have lettuce going to seed to add to those already growing and hope to have the beetroot ready for salads in the next month. 

This Fortnight's Menu

It's posted a little later than I hoped, but we have been eating to the menu as planned. The list was written up on Sunday and stuck on the fridge as usual, so I've extended to carry through to next week. In the middle of welcoming back my long lost kitchen Tupperware friends, released from the cold Ballarat shed and reunited with us here in Bundaberg. Oh FridgeSmarts, dear ModularMates ~ how I have missed thee... 

Yes, well - so here's what we've been having and what we will have going forward.

Sunday: Pork chops and steamed vegetables

Monday: Spaghetti Bolognes 

Tuesday: Tortellini with tomato, chilli and basil sauce

Wednesday: Pea & Ham soup (homemade, SmallBoy had face plant - will elaborate over the weekend)

Thursday: Pea & Ham soup for SmallBoy; Peri-Peri chicken salad for us - both homemade

Friday: *Splurge* Takeaway burgers, fish, seafood, chips

Saturday: Vegetable pasties

Sunday: Roast Chicken with all the trimmings - Happy Fathers' Day - :D

Monday: Thai Beef Salad (of sorts)

Tuesday: Chicken and vegetable pic

Wednesday: Tuna patties and salad

Thursday: Veal schnitzel and salad

Friday:  Nachos

Saturday: Gozlemes

Sunday:  Roast Pork

Having just eaten down our Ballarat pantry ~ moved to Bundaberg with 'nothing' and now building back the basics including herbs, spices and oils before we focus on too much stock piling purchases. I do want to make sure we have extra flour, sugar, rice and some other staples (considering this is the first time in years I've actually got no rice!!)  We are fine for cleaning, washing products - I have an abundance of shampoo & conditioner thanks to a trial on Soap. Couldn't give away as much as they gave me!
All the cat food has been sent up (thanks Mum) so that will last through until the end of the month of September - 15 cans and two packets of dry food (plus extra litter) is a huge saving! 

As September is school holidays, and we are going away to the Gold Coast with friends for four days in week 3, then we have 4 extra mouths for week 4, I've got a little spending cash aside for some restaurant meals. I've already planned some of the menu for visitors and have most of the items in the freezer already. I also expect that friends will contribute to some of the groceries - especially while we are on the GC. 

Week 1 - w/e 01 September ~ Budget $100
Week 2 - w/e 08 September ~ Budget $ 50
Week 3 - w/e 15 September ~ Budget $ 50
Week 4 - w/e 22 September ~ Budget $100
Week 5 - w/e 29 September ~ Budget $ 50

Part of this week (Week 1) shopping are some of those staples - just to start building some in reserve. It was suggested that, in anticipation of our first 'wet season', we do use some of the budget to ensure we have extra and start rotating stores as we get the chance to increase the volume. I'd like to have 5kg of brown rice on hand, so if I buy 1kg now and look for specials on 1-2kg to build it up. 

Time to relax ~ bit of a garden and sorting kinda weekend. Hubby has brought some personal 'home' items for us to intermingle in the house, more of our belongings are out of the camper and finding places to be kept. We are finding our place and making our mark ~ I do like the feeling we are creating. Almost a full school term has passed, we've been here in our own for six weeks and so much has been achieved. Time for reflecting over the weekend too I think *nods*

Monday, August 29, 2011

Put the cash back in your wallet

Objects are closer than they appear... 

We actually have some savings...

And I am wondering if it is better to put an extra $1000 onto the VISA or keep the $1200 as 'emergency money' and keep putting on an extra $100 per week to all the interest accumulating accounts. Ahhh - the dilemma.

As things have been SO stretched finanically in the past, the security conscious part of me would rather keep the savings in the online account, continue adding $15 each week and leave it be. The money conscious part of me says if the VISA is reduced by $1000, the limit can also be reduced thus lowering the interest. The flippy-floppy part of me says keep half, put half on the VISA - or maybe its better on the personal loan - or perhaps the line of credit - or put a bit on each...

I posed this question on the Mands On A Mission facebook page and got a great response from the author of 365 Ways to Make Money and 26 Ingredients, Kylie Ofiu. Before stating her opinion, Kylie mentioned the choice depends on other information ~ are the bills being paid, has there been any discussions or arrangements made with the financial institutions involved and was more than then minimum repayments now required? 

Once I clarified that all the regular expenses are covered, our debts/loans are getting a little more than the minimums each month (some more than others) and we are looking at getting the VISA onto a lower rate or zero rate card ~ but with nothing as back up if (say) car repairs were required its VISA (which we want to avoid) if we put our savings on to the debts.  Kylie offered the following opinion:

"If you are covering everything, keep the $1,000 aside for emergencies (like car repairs, insurance excess, health problems). It will stop the need for the Visa and will be easier to pay off that debt..."
She also suggested putting half on to one of the debts and keeping $500 as an emergency fund to avoid additional credit card debt.  Kylie also recommended looking for ways to make extra money and it might be time to get moving on setting up selling Tupperware again. I do so love the product and will be quite happy to potter through a party or three each week ~ must think seriously about that.

Of course, Hubby is about to look for work ~ even part time to start but we need to hear what the therapist says about my requirements and what abilities I should be strengthening. Especially as my neck now appears to be next on the chopping block (and I don't mean off ~ just need to have surgery to remove spurs and stop the nerve compression).

Our Little Mantras

This past week, we have set up some really fantastic habits and - while still new and practising - its not only lowering our spending, it is increasing our debt reductions as we issue 'penance' when temptation almost wins with a sneaky purchase or totally unnecessary spend.

Everyday he's "shuffling" 
On Thursday, I needed to get milk and onions which I did . . . and picked up two magazines . . . and put them back, thus "saving" $14.90. As penance, I put $10 onto the VISA and only $2.89 was spent on the required items. 

On Wednesday, I saw the nicest skirt ~ $15 ~ and even went so far as to browsed online to see if I could get it cheaper. Then moved away from the computer... Didn't buy anything and put $10 onto the LOC as 'penance' for evil thoughts *grins*  I figure if I felt like I had the funds for such 'extravagances' then I have the funds to pay a little extra onto our debt. 

So we have made some little mantra's and tips to help us not to spend just because... I have enough clothes, food, shoes, cleaning items to last a month and can spend that time looking for food, cleaners and REQUIRED purchases as they come on special. There is nothing I need urgently tomorrow.

I'd rather save for a "___ house/car/holiday ___" than buy another new shirt / skirt / jumper
$20 is better put onto the credit card than taken off.
If you 'want it' ~ put it back. If you decide you 'need it' come back tomorrow and think about it some more.

Other Reminders
Take a pic of your wardrobe, dresser drawers or shoe pile (your weakness) ~ keep it in your wallet IN FRONT of the card or cash ~ Look at the item you really don't need, look at the picture, look at the price and put it back... Even at the op shop. I carry around a picture of all the boxes of clothes we had at the garage sale and it reminds me I never EVER want to get to that amount again!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Saving - not Spending

SmallBoy enjoying a winter swim... 
We are finally back on the no/low spend trail ~ aiming to not spend anything until the end of the month. This is the fourth day with no spending. Of course there are things that are best described as 'required' spending. Things like the electricity or gas bill, the rent or mortgage, those types of expenses are always needed.  However, we don't need to use the car - we can (and do) walk to school, walk up to the fruit & veg shop, walk to the doctors. We don't need to use the home phone - the mobile has calls and text included in the monthly charge, we can sent an email or pop over to someone's home for a chat. 

We don't need to go shopping - there is enough in the pantry, the freezer and fridge. A regular shop is often a habit which only brings you to the supermarket by force of habit. This is another reason why menu planning helps keep the costs down.  The only 'required' spends are $50 on electricity, $3 for school sports, $3 for milk over the weekend, maybe a few dollars on some veggies and fruit.

But that should be IT.

I am doing up our new budget now that we are settling in to a bit of a routine in our house-sit in Bundaberg. Restocking the pantry and fridge/freezer has been a bit of an expense but we have kept it to a minimum and put 'wants' on the shopping list and wait to find them on special. We've got all the essentials, its sufficient for now.

A big 'no spend' goal for the next 12 months is that of no new clothes. Seriously ~ having culled thousands of items to hundreds, left a few boxes in the shed in Ballarat and brought a suitcase (or three) here to Bundaberg which I cannot hang or store anywhere, if I buy one item ~ be it op shop, co-op, or some discount superstore ~ I will donate it AND three additional pieces to charity. Seriously, I have three times the amount of clothing than the boys combined. 

Husband is not really going to need anything either - perhaps shoes but probably not even them. SmallBoy will require new clothes over the year ~ strangely enough he keeps growing (or his clothes keep shrinking) and there will be new school uniform requirements in the new year.  
Clothes no longer possessed... *sobs*
This alone will make a huge dent in the outgoings ~ although I did see a really nice dress advertised for $15 today (stop it *smack* bad Mands). 

Today was actually a great day, involving no spending or money at all! The house is tidy, all benches and tables are wiped (with fresh lemon juice in the water too boot!), all dishes done & laundry away. The garden was watered, weeded and a trashy novel got read out in the sunshine. I went to school in the afternoon to walk home with the SmallBoy ~ thus meeting up with a fellow gardener/mum on the main road (who I met on Freecycle a few weeks ago), met her mum from Melbourne, checked out the vegetables growing and got an invitation to dinner on Saturday. Bonus! You can't buy a day like today *grins*

The veggies are starting to grow *yummo*

Monday, August 22, 2011

Time just flies...

When you are making a new house into a home *grins*

Big apologies for the lack of updates this past week. Life is busy and semi-active and by the end of the day, I am in agony ~ a bundle of oww's and ohhh's. The new pain meds are a wee bit strong (considering I was off them 2-3 months ago) but I am getting a decent sleep. 

It's taking a little time, but house-sitting a fully furnished place takes a little longer to set up and make into your own. Especially when you are going to be living in it for about five years! So why have we decided to house-sit.

Back in 1997, Hubby and I agreed we would move interstate within 5-10 years to enjoy warmer weather and fulfil our dreams. The location was not determined at that time - he wanted to be in the Coffs Harbour region, I wanted to be in the Sunshine Coast or higher. Neither of us were insistent on either location, we just knew we were looking for a place warm with oceans and/or mountains to provide us with a true sea/tree change.

When SmallBoy came along in 1999, we'd made the move to Ballarat ~ close enough to family to be some distance away. In a nice way. *grins*  We had mountains, wildlife, bushland - but could still get to family within an hour or two, and have them visit if they chose. While this was not too often (aside from Hubby's mum on regular welcomed occasions) - we were fortunate to rent a farm house with an acre to ourselves for $120pw - a pittance in any climate. This allowed us to save for a home, more when we both worked but cope when neither were employed.

Bought the house mid 2006, and less that a year later I was off work - and discovering there were fractures in my spine from a car accident a decade earlier. Oh the joys! Had to wait a year but had a spinal fusion, laminectomy and bone grafting. Sadly the graft failed - but the rest has been progressing exactly in the time frame the surgeon advised. Add in a blot clot, some severe depression and anxiety, its amazing things have progressed on track.  

There were a few who felt they knew more that the Head of Orthopaedics at RMH which did nothing for my mental health ~ imagine being told you're wallowing in a disability which isn't there. Personally I think a little encouragement, some helpful phone calls and lots of cheers at milestones would have done me 100 times more good boosting my depressed, loss state of mind than pathetic put downs. I learnt who my true, honest friends are through this experience ~ the result surprised me. Those who have helped me through - especially with spiritual, helpful friends in those first months post op and the caring, motivational friends during the last six/eight months - you have been so special to me and always will be regardless of the distance. I have even gained weight and in twelve months have put on twelve kilos - from 45kg to 57kgs - gee I am so please and proud of me (and grateful for support of friends).

There's been ups and downs, rights and wrongs but overall - our little family unit is so strong and happy together, we knew we could and would cope with the decision to move to an area we knew no-one, with a campervan and the idea we would be able to get long term, low/no cost accommodation in return for work or caring for someone. We decided so long as it was between Buderim and Cairns (our choice of area since around 2004), it would work. We thought Gin Gin to Maryborough would be best, having looked at a few properties in Tin Can Bay, Kia Ora and Childers over the years.

And here we are ~ house-sitting a three bedroom place in the Bundaberg area for the next three-five years while the retired owners embark on their around Australia adventure. With our only expenses being electricity and communications, we hope to reduce our debt by half this year and then start saving for our own Queensland piece of paradise. 

More importantly for the short term is building a social/friendship base in the area. SmallBoy has settled into school brilliantly ~ proving to be quite popular with his classmates and even developing tanned legs. This we discovered when out on the weekend and his 'tan' was highlighted by the white 'socks' on his bare ankles. *chuckles* He has been put up a year academically and is coping with the extra workload and subjects. We are considering a tutor just to ensure no gaps in his learning will make things difficult in upper high school. 

Finally my therapies are set in place and I'll be starting hydrotherapy next week. I've got the homoeopathic work scheduled plus I am working with weights, magnets and yoga to get more movement into my right side (which is considerably weaker than the left side). Costs a damn fortune - seriously half our income is on therapy at the moment so I will have to cut back. Scarily, there is some bone spur and nerve blockage going on in my neck (nice to know I wasn't making that up either!) and it looks like my hips are not aligned, but this last issue should self correct as I strengthen my core muscles again. Being in tune with my body is helping and will be a lot easier once this run on pain relief has ended and the pain management clinic sessions start.

So ~ a little history, goals and plans. Much more interesting than hearing how we have unpacked suitcases, set up bedrooms and worked out where things are stored in a 'strange' house. Oh, but we have built our raised vegetable bed and hope to be enjoying lettuces and asian greens in the next few weeks. Can't wait.

This Week's Menu 

Sunday: Beef Stroganoff with beans
Monday: Pumpkin Soup and Pide bread
Tuesday: Nachos and salad
Wednesday: Chicken schnitzel and salad
Thursday: Spinach and ricotta pasta
Friday: Tuna Patties and chips
Saturday: home-made KFC
Sunday: Pork chops and veggies

Baking/Making: Pumpkin scones; Ham and cheese scrolls; Lemon meringue; home-made 'Savoury Shapes' 

Gosh I am loving life at the moment ~ for all the crap, I ain't dead yet and hope to be out in the ocean in summer and riding a pushbike again by the start of next year. The scars are fading (but I am so proud of the big one) but the mental scars are still healing. Its a journey. Thanks for sharing it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spending ~ to aid the children...

Yeah, I can justify $70 spent at the school fete. It's the other spending which is getting a bit ridiculous...

After twelve months of penny-pinching and stretching everything as far as possible (plus a little bit more), our move has resulted in an extra $100 a week available in our budget. And we've been using it on silly things, like $10+ bubbles, chocolate, new books (as in full price, not op shop) and take away coffee to the tune of $50 a week. Ridiculous and frivolous and not really within our spending/income capacity.

We knew upon arrival we would have some outstanding bills regarding the tenants and the need to restock the pantry ~ arriving with nothing food-wise meant a few hundred dollars would be required.

I think we are now at the point we can reign in the spending, return to a weekly budget of about $250 and use the rest to pay down the debts. Time to head back into the Simple Savings Vault and refresh ourselves on some of the great ways to make do without missing out. It's definitely time to get back into baking and making our own repairs on clothes. Most importantly, its time to get back on track with menu planning and grocery shops.
Our principal ~ the queue for this was enormous! 
(as for the $70 at the fete, no ~ I can't really justify $70. Had it stayed at the planned $30 it would have been reasonable, or if we'd won something in one of the raffles maybe, but as neither happened I guess I have to put it down to a 'we've never been able to do that before' experience and never do it again...)

Menu planning miracles 

I have been menu planning now for well over a year although I must admit to being a little lax over the last month while settling in often changing our minds on a whim, or even worse taking the lazy way and getting take-away. So its time to get back to the way I was before we left Victoria!

Meal planning has transformed the kitchen into an organised place where all kinds of delicious aromas float about and mouth-watering meals appear with minimum stress, fuss or panic. No 'its six o'clock and I have no idea what we are having for dinner' in this house.  Even better, they arrive on the table with little or no impact to the bank balance. I can't believe how much I can save on our food bill while our family get to eat better than some of the local restaurants and hotels. All it takes is a piece of paper stuck to my fridge!

I never thought I would be the kind of person to follow a meal regime having been an ad hoc dinner preparer for decades, but the results are so startling that I am a total convert. I've always enjoyed cooking; I just saw it as something I never had enough time to do for every meal, every day, especially when we all worked or studied full time. My collection of recipe books had been neglected, even those I picked up at the OpShop with good intentions of picking one new recipe to try every week. Tipping that goes for a lot of people :D

After stopping work and waiting for spinal surgery (and more so when back on my feet), there had to be a way to ensure good meals would be made, especially if I was to run out of oomfph and Hubby was picking up the slack. I reviewed what was on hand, had a look through my good old 'Cookery the Australian Way' school book and other simple meal type recipe books, drew up a menu plan and straight away couldn't believe how quick and easy it was to jot a menu plan to paper. Here's how I do it:

Step 1: Food on hand:
Have a look through the fridge, freezer and pantry. What staples are there? What meats are in the freezer? What vegetables have I got in the crisper (or garden) to use? Do these form an entire meal or what extras do I need to make the meal? Is there something here (say with mince, or chicken) that I can base a new/untried recipe around? Is there a recipe I have been wanting to try? Can you make one meal stretch out into two? Pies are our usual stretch meal ~ making the Sunday roast return later in the week. Or if there is only a little left over, its a pasta sauce or weekend toasties.

Step 2: Choose some recipes:
Check recipe books, go online, ask a friend for that delicious meal. No doubt you'll have your stock standards and your favourite weekly/fortnightly recipes, and a couple of bulk recipes that get made every few weeks to stock up ready for quick meals or lazy brain days (also known as 'ooops - forgot to take the meal out of the freezer' days).
When you find a recipe you'd like to add to the week's dinner repertoire, pick a day on your menu planner and write it down. I write the name of recipe book and page number, or the website address and recipe name on the menu plan. As well as making it easier to re-find when the time comes to cook, it ensures that Husband knows where to look in case I am having a 'medication' day, or muscle spasms and finding it hard to manage on the day.

Step 3: Check your schedule:
You do need to bear in mind what your commitments are for the week - if Tuesday night is training night meaning you're home later than usual, that is not the best night to schedule making roast pork marinaded in an orange and ginger demi-glaze, with perfectly crispy crackling for the first time! But its the perfect night to schedule the slow cooker meal this night, or use a portion of bulk cooked bolognese and simply prepare the pasta.

And menu planning is not just the dinner schedule, think about some baking to cut the cost of store bought snacks or work day muffins. I've got into the habit of adding one biscuit recipe and one cake, slice or muffin recipe to make per week and this gives us enough for the week's lunches and afternoon teas. Home baking alone has saved a small fortune on snacks and lunchtime treats.

Step 4: Write the shopping list.
While you're filling in your planner, write down any of the recipe ingredients you don't have or need to check the cupboards to see if you've got enough. While finalising your meal plan, you get to start your shopping list for the week. I try to have planned my menu on Sunday, buy everything on my shopping list on Monday or Tuesday when mark downs seem to more available and I'm done. Being prepared with the shopping means I don't end up popping back for 'one more thing' and walk out with 10 or so 'great buys'. It's not a great buy if it blows the shopping budget, is it?

Step 5: Put it up!
My planner is on the freezer or fridge where everyone can see it every time they go to the big white box in the kitchen. I look at it each morning and go straight to the freezer to take out any meat that needs defrosting and I am half way there to being ready. Hubby and I know exactly what is on for dinner and how long it will take. It really is that easy!

We eat consistently on time at a suitably appropriate hour because I'm not fluffing around trying to think what to cook. Being organised is much better than throwing any old thing together for the sake of a meal - dinner is a great time to sit talk, enjoy a meal and wind down after a busy day.

I'm enjoying cooking new things and the family is enjoying eating them. Because the meals are balanced, it's much easier to adapt them to suit everyone's preferences or tweak to work in with what we have on hand. It has also helping me to restock our pantry from scratch without the need to spend $100s immediately on all the herbs, spices, oils, flours, sugars and tinned items like tomatoes and tuna I had accumulated over the years for daily, weekly and occasional use. Meal planning ensures I know what is in the cupboards and I can get new, fresh goods as the need becomes apparent.

Use any recipes you like for your menu planner - you know what your family will eat! Our meals look as if you have spent ages preparing them but they are so quick! The meals look as good as those we've had at restaurants, often taste better and certainly cost a heck of a lot less.  With the majority of ingredients used being items you already have in the pantry,  primarily Home Brand and generic ingredients, I can usually have the evening meal budget come in around $2per head. It's sitting around $2.50 at the moment as we find all the bargain spots and wait for our first veggies to grow ~ but it means a weekly shop of $50 is not unrealistic and the odd bottle of bubbles can make it into the trolley. *grins*

This weeks menu is/was:

Sunday: Roast Chicken (Tandoori) and veg
Monday: BBQ T-Bone steak and salad
Tuesday: Veal Tortellini with tomato and basil sauce
Wednesday: Tandoori chicken and veg pie
Thursday: Roasted pumpkin soup with Turkish pida bread
Friday: Fish patties and chips
Saturday: Baked beans, Bacon and eggs on toasted grainy bread
Sunday: Roast something - probably lamb or chicken (in the freezer)

The tortellini was one of those fresh deli packs, servings for four, marked down to $3.03 from $5,90; bought 2 and froze them. I am making the soup this afternoon, using the remaining pumpkin bought for $2 from the Shalom Market trip 3-4 weeks ago, and will share the recipe on FaceBook. The fish patties will use up the left over rice frozen from last week's stir fry and a tin of homebrand tuna.

If you are interested in seeing and using the menu plan, or my shopping list / pantry stock take sheet ~ leave a comment and I'll work out how this can be made available for followers to use. I've used google docs previously, however any suggestions would be welcome.

Time to get ready for the school walk ~ hope to catch up with you all during the day and I'll get that pumpkin soup made and the recipe posted on FaceBook.  Enjoy your day and let's lower that debt and increase those savings together.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Six Truths in Life

Six Truths in Life ~

1. You cannot stick your tongue out and look up at the ceiling at the same time, a physical impossibility due to the tendons within your neck.

2. All idiots, after reading #1 will try it.

3. And discover #1 is a lie.

4. You are smiling now because you know you are an idiot.

5. You soon will share this with another idiot.

6. There is still a stupid smile on your face.

I sincerely apologize ~ I'm an idiot and I needed company...

TGIF ~ and thank goodness for that *grins*

Coz he's my husband 

Have a wonderful Friday everyone :D