Monday, February 28, 2011

Money Moanagement


Sometimes it is a little hard. 
I'm a little sick of being 'broke'. I know we are managing and keeping up with payments, but I am tired of having to struggle with the meals, bills, petrol and subsequent lack of ability to go to the movies with friends, not being able to enjoy the theatre unless it is free and, being regional, the lack of quality events accessible via public transport. The markets and entertainment occur out of public transport hours for a return trip or off the route and it makes me a little bitter at times. 

On the upside, I really do like that challenge to see how low our spending can be ~ whether it is the supermarket, the necessary items and the (few and far between) unnecessary and frivolous spends. I love to see just how low I can haggle an interest rate with the bank, negotiate on a bulk purchase from a 'major' outlet, barter a price from an independent seller. Bartering is one of my favourites because I will recommend others use the same person, business or supplier which helps Australian businesses grow and local produce stay local. 

Today I haggled with the bank to bring my credit card rate lower than 9.8% ~ a good rate but none the less, others are offering lower rates. Using the same techniques as previous, I spoke to Tony at the NAB and could not get the VISA lower as it is a 'platinum' card, already discounted and set with no annual fee for the life of the card. Bummer ~ so I asked, how can NAB retain my business without me heading over to ANotherZ bank offering 2.9%? Asking that question provided the information the NAB has a low fee credit card with a nominal annual fee and a current rate of 3.99% ~ that wasn't hard to find out. By changing the type of card we currently hold to the new low fee card has saved $65 in interest payments per month! Too easy ~ and the new card will arrive in 10-14 days. 

Having a little lamb roast for dinner tonight and the leftover meat will be used to make pasties for dinner tomorrow. The roast was $6.09, down from $9.20 ~ add a few potatoes, carrots, some peas and beans means its about $7 all up, perhaps $9 when the pastry and extra veggies for the pasties are counted ~ so that's two dinners for about $1 per head! I used a little BBQ sauce to marinade the lamb so no gravy is needed tonight. 

Facts and Figures
Mortgage comes out next week, as does the loan repayment, Husband's mobile phone account, the dentist, the gas and electricity. It's the expensive fortnight but we also have the pension and carer payment come in. School camp is coming up but those payments have been broken into manageable amounts and they will be paid by mid semester. With no rates due for another 12months, the refrigerator now owned outright  and the credit card under a sort of control, we might get a little ahead by the end of May. Not out of the pooh ~ but not sitting behind the eight-ball as badly as this time last year. 

Money in: 
Friday 25 February ~ $309.50

Money out:
Debt Repayment - Council home care ~ $2
Debt Repayment - VISA ~ $50
MicroSoft ~ $10.95
Internode ~ $60.94
Life Insurance ~ $52.18
Myopathy ~ $50.00
Petrol ~ $60.00
Train Fare ~ $10.20
Groceries ~ $13.16
TOTAL: $309.43

Oh well, at least it is not a deficit. Cashed in FlyBuys points for a $150 payment on the VISA plus  two mystery-shops next week will enable a $20 shop to be done ~ I'll be scouting out for some bakery, meat and dairy items again. Hopefully I can get yoghurt, cream and the rest will be fresh fruit and veg. Plus, and this is the bonus, I am doing a product trial that gives me a $50 Coles Myer voucher, a $50 Rebel Sports voucher and the promise of beautiful skin.

So its time for bed ~ Husband is off to help his mum get her place ready for sale. The Coles "We Love Pets" pack is up for grabs. I've got to say the cats are loving the Optimum dry food and drooling through the Purr Tuna whitemeat wet food. Boy they are feeling spoilt!! Hope you and your friends can enter before Sunday :D

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Summarising Stuff on Sunday

Oh yay ~ I ventured inside a supermarket!
And I got to spend some money ~ milk, meat, bakery and more! Shopping between the two major supermarkets I was able to walk away with four full bags of groceries to add some variety to the week's dinners and lunches.

Using a $20 voucher received from Coles as part of a gift pack from the Salvation Army at Christmas, I picked up 4litres of fruit juice $5, 3litres of milk $3, 700g of chicken thighs $5.39, 1kg of bananas (5) $5.70, 2 cantelope $2.50, 250g Lettuce mix $1.23, 6 cinnamon donuts .90c, 4 marinade sachets .40c and 200g crunchy sprouts .99c - total paid was $5.11

Popping past the other supermarket I scavenged around the meat section and found 8 peppered beef steaks (1.5kg) $8.05 and 8 turkish rolls $6 so picking up marked down produce and putting it straight into the freezer means we have several meat dinners to enjoy in the weeks ahead. We had some of the chicken for dinner in a mango/curry type sauce with salad and leftovers will be for lunch tomorrow in a roll. Yummy!!

The week ahead
The menu did change a little this week - the roast we were going to have tonight is now for tomorrow so the food plan is as follows:
Monday ~ roast beef and vegetables; leftover chicken in rolls for lunch
Tuesday ~ roast beef and vegetable pasties; salad and crackers for lunch
Wednesday ~ pasta with a tomato/herb sauce; should be enough pasties leftover, otherwise sandwiches
Thursday ~ egg and chips; sandwiches for lunch
Friday ~ savoury mince in turkish rolls with salad and chips; not sure about lunch
Saturday ~ dinner with Mum in Melbourne
Sunday ~ spaghetti bolognes 

There's a cinnamon donut each day for SmallBoy's lunchbox and his choice of cantelope, banana, apples or strawberries for fruit snacks. Plus I am making muesli bites with the crushed bits from the bottom of a few packets and making something out of one of the left over Christmas cakes. It's the first one coming up to its best before date, so waste not - want not!!

Only one medical appointment requiring payment this week ~ the myotherapy sessions are relieving and helping me move more freely so its $50 out of the budget but its valuable in my rehabilitation. Hydrotherapy sessions are still available on my 'exercise therapy' card so I don't need to pay for another month for those and walking each day will help build up strength in my legs again - especially the right side which is 'struggling' to regain some movement. At least I don't need to use the cane so much any more - just when its raining or if I am feeling tired or a little wobbly on my feet.

More eBay items coming, another giveaway coming this week and a special freebie for a few followers in the Ballarat area ~ if you know anyone in Ballarat, please ask them to follow along and maybe they will be one of six people to receive one of these freebies. Loving the feedback and looking forward to seeing more submissions for the Coles 'We Love Pets' pack being given away. The cats are certainly enjoying tasting the treats so I am sure other dogs and cats will love this too! Head over to FaceBook to leave your message or pop your pet's hints in the comment section below.

Things are looking less cluttered, more in order and a heck of a lot tidier so something is going right around the house for once! Keep your fingers crossed Husband gets one of the jobs he has applied for and any donations to the Treasure Chest or Spare Change Jar are appreciated greatly. It should be an interesting update tomorrow on the budget and debt payments ~ it actually feels like we are staying on track and not falling behind further for the first time in a long time. That alone is a huge relief and great stress reducer!! 

Until tomorrow...

Saving Ideas Which Make Cents

And are sensible too.
It's now been a month since we last shopped for groceries. We've not had the cash available, however this has not been too bad because any money made through eBay or egg sales have been able to go on debt and not on food. It's not been easy ~ but we have been creative. Here's a few things we have done to get through a very tight money month.

  • Shop from Home: This doesn't mean order online. Doing a stock-take of all items in the pantry, fridge and freezer gave me a list of supplies on hand and all meals had to comprise of these ingredients. Also remember to meal plan based on what you have. 

  • Cook meals in advance: so when you can't be bothered or don't have enough time to cook, you are not going to pick up McChucks or Dial-a-Pizza. If you MUST get take-away, use a discount coupon and pick it up to save on delivery charges. 

  • Save Petrol: And use your petrol discount receipts. Every little bit helps.  Fill up your car on Tuesday or Wednesday, you'll find most service stations are cheaper on these days. Car pool when going out with friends, going to work, going to school, going to swimming lessons. 

  • Don't buy, Borrow: Books, magazines, CDs and DVDs are all available from your local library. If you MUST go to the movies, go on Tuesdays when ticket prices are discounted. 

  • Buy Bulk and Generic: And share the expense with a friend. If you buy wine, try cleanskins. Usually these are nicer than 'cheap' bottles and bought in a case, less again. Generic brand flour, sugar, milk and other such staples save us about $200 a year ~ put it in a container (or empty 'labelled' brand box) if you feel embarrassed. Good friends don't care... 

  • Shop at several supermarkets:  Read those supermarket catalogues and get the cheapest. Most are within walking distance of each other anyway. Change your weekly shop to fortnightly. Suss out the local markets for meat and fresh vegetables. Buy your eggs from a roadside stall - or our place - $4 for a dozen fresh free range eggs beats $7 at the supermarket! If you are in Ballarat - that's a hint - message me...

  • Buy Bakery after 3pm: Especially in the supermarket as these items tend to get marked down in the afternoon. Bakery goods last well when frozen. A frozen cinnamon donut put in the school lunch box is fresh and soft by mid-morning recess. I regularly get 12 for under $2. That's 15c for snacks for a fortnight. 

  • Make it - don't buy it: Baby food, pasta, beauty products, cleaners, presents and cards. This list is endless and deserves a post all of its own. A thoughtful, home made gift is more appreciated than $10 in a card - although in a home made card it's a lovely way to contribute to a group gift or wedding wishing well. 

  • Save it - don't buy it: Wrapping paper, plastic bags, large envelopes and post-paks ~ I know there are more things we do this with and its becoming automatic so I'll think some more and list them.

  • Grow it - don't buy it: The first thing which springs to mind is easy vegetable garden items such as herbs, lettuce, strawberries and potatoes. Also consider plants like lavender, carnations, aloe vera and succulents you can pot yourself and present as a gift for house-warming. Last longer than a $10 bottle of wine, is more valuable in the long run and costs less as well!! 

  • Don't buy lunch: Take it from home. Left overs, sandwiches, salads. And don't buy a soft drink - have water, add cordial if you must. You can save $40-$50 a week not buying lunch ~ that's over $2000 per person. That one cafe latte bought each day on the way to work, appointments, friends is costing $1000 a year. 

  • Turn it off: Appliances at the power point; lights at night - by 11pm if possible; the microwave is not a clock (clocks run on batteries); the clothes dryer in summer or dry days; the aircon unless over 40; the heater unless under 3 - jumpers and sox rule! 

  • Quit (or at least cut down) smoking: It's better for your purse and, more importantly, better for your health. Changing from tailor made to rollies is a good start ~ Husband has brought his weekly 'smoke' account down from $115 a week to $36 a week and now plans to stop for good! Yeah!! In 12 months his insurance premium will reduce too! Bonus save!! 

  • Budget it:  Set a budget and stick to it; set up direct debits via your savings/banking account not your credit card; set up a regular payment plan to suit your budget for bills and only have a small balance outstanding when the account comes due; put an extra few dollars on any account with interest such as the mortgage, credit card or loans. 

  • Cancel credit cards: Or pay it out in full each and every month; if you must have a credit card, use it only when cash is not accepted (eg. online) and repay it before it is due. 

  • Open your House: Instead of going out, invite people over where everybody brings something. It cuts out the cost of an expensive night out but still creates a fun environment with your friends. A spare bed and/or blow up mattress saves taxi fares and traffic risks for all.

  • Find FREE entertainment: There are many free exhibitions and activities available. Check the paper, look at council websites and google using the key words 'free event month area' ~ you can find some rippa events - some with free BBQs or food and wine samplings. 
Your March Challenge:  Write down every cent you spend for a month. See where you're breaking your budget. We did this for a month and realised we bought some items at the supermarket out of habit, not necessity. We realised just how much we spent on cafe lattes - not just one a day each either. We discovered we used the car for multiple trips to the same area several times a week, a day even. Buying a bottle of water or can of drink when we now take a bottle of chilled water when we go out as automatic saves $10-$15 dollars a week - just as a change of habit and matter of organisation or planning.

Divine Dinner for 4 for $5

We've enjoyed a very tasty dinner tonight and everything came from the pantry or freezer for less than $5. It was organic chicken thighs - 600gm for $3.41 (marked down by 50%), some frozen broccoli and peas (1/4 packet - approx 70c), a Kum Lee teriyaki marinade (a free sample, under $1rrp) on a toasted Bazaar turkish pida bread (marked down to 79c)

Tomorrow we are having a roast beef meal which will stretch to sandwiches for lunch and form the meat part of meat and vegetable pasties for dinner on Tuesday. The roast was marked down to $5.36 - gee I love those fiddly price points - and with vegetables like carrots, potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower being used in the roast dinner and the pasties, I hope to avoid shopping again this week. 

Heading up to 'the mountain' to fill two water containers from the spring water tap because buying water is so out of budget for this week. I'm driving to Durham Lead to get some more apples from the roadside trees after school drop off Monday, picking early blackberries from the back paddocks and I've heard there are blueberries running amok out Buninyong way. Use the word 'scrumpers' or 'free food map' for more free roadside food locations near you.  

Don't forget Mands On A Mission has a sponsored competition for your pet ~ a free Coles 'We Love Pets' pack is up for grabs and some great entries have been received so far. All the details and your chance to enter can be found here. Or follow Our Mission on FaceBook.

If you can please contribute any small change or donations, we'd would appreciate anything via The Treasure Chest at the top right of the page ~ its easy to use and we really are truly grateful to those who have put any cents, dollars in to help us out.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Freebies for Friday

It's been a lovely day!
Even got into the garden and put some late summer vegetables in ~ late corn, bush beans, more lettuce and was greeted by the first red tomato of the season! Seriously!! Finally the big plump green fruit is turning red! I was wondering if any were going to be good for anything other than chutney and so glad we stuck at it. I also got all the strawberry runners up from the garden path so the carpet ruined in the recent flooding can go down and stop the weeds. Cheaper than getting netting and less impacting that chemicals. Plus it means we have over 20 new strawberry plants, some already have started to fruit ~ to keep or to sell - this is the question - because these are mighty fine hardy plants!

Bargains and Bonuses

No unnecessary spending (other than my train fare for a free theatre show and the chance to be 'shouted' a free cafe latte - a real one!!) We've done no grocery shopping for a while now ~ no spare cash to use but the pantry bulk stocks have been a life-saver, as has the meat bargains I got at the end of January. Each week I have gone to the Salvation Army and grabbed a loaf or two of bread and the eggs have kept us fed with frozen veg in various slices. The zucchini and squash from MudGuts' friend were a bonus and SmallBoy has enjoyed having lunches which are not the same ol' sandwiches but cold slices, pikelets and celery with peanut butter. Husband and I have had leftovers for lunch most days. I am grateful the chickens are giving us lots of free eggs - another 2 dozen sold so $8 in the spare change tin for the bank. Oh ~ and eBay sales were $30, not $18 ~ I misread and only saw one sale, not two!

I received a complimentary Coles 'We Love Pets' pack courtesy of Coles Supermarkets via Aussie Mummy Bloggers. All opinions expressed are purely my own. Actually, its the cats which made this so easy to talk about! Teddy could barely contain himself and tried to open the packets himself ~ Rossi showed more restraint and stood and yowled for her bowl to be filled. 

The dry Cat Food is from Optimum and both cats loved the chicken flavour, it smells really nice too  - hmmm, things must be getting rough if the cat food is smelling this good ~ the bonus is its really good for their teeth and gums, plus its designed to strengthen immunity and give them healthy guts. Because we've been feeding them no-name varieties along with rice, veggies and gravy I was a little worried the cats might be missing out on vitamins - at $5.19rrp its a reasonable price for a bag of dry food you'd be paying double at a speciality pet store. 

Tyro (my mother in law's little old dog) is trying out the tin of Banquet Chicken and Salmon ($1.75rrp) dog food so I'll tell you how he enjoyed this next week. All week there will be mentions and  reminders about the Coles Pet Food range. Why??

Here's a real bonus ~ ONE LUCKY READER can win a pack for themselves, or their pets to be precise. It's easy to enter and the prize is being sent directly from the Coles Supermarket group's marketing people. So ~ to enter:
  • Follow Mands on a Mission blog via Facebook or Network Blogs
  • Write a comment under this post or on FaceBook with a message from your pet. 
  • Any pet saving tips put in your comment will give you an EXTRA entry.
The winner will be chosen on Sunday 6 March at 830pm

Simple FREE Pleasures
In the years BC (before children), Husband and I used to enjoy many a trip to the movie theatre ~ seeing new releases, art-house movies, even classics like the Rocky Horror Picture show at the Valhulla dressed up in fishnets. With kids and the cost of four movie tickets (or two and a baby sitter) becoming a little on the expensive side, these outings reduced. As television viewing disintegrated into mindless slush inappropriate for children to watch, videos became the method of choice because it allowed the kids to have friends over to watch movies, eat air-cooked popcorn and not break the bank. 

As income dropped, movies and videos factored less and less - mostly because this was the way we used to spending on entertainment - but we've saved several hundred dollars this year with movies borrowed free from the local library. The state library also has tens of thousands of movie and TV series  and is regularly updated with the newest releases. If you are a member of a library, you can search for a movie online from the state library as well as your local - and order it online, on the phone or in person. It's fast, fantastic and FREE!

Still, if you are a movie goer ~ Village Cinemas has a special offer where you can buy tickets for $7 for use through March. Tickets need to be purchased by 6 March ~ you can find more information using the link here :

Well, speaking of movies ~ we've just enjoyed Avatar and now SmallBoy and his mate have bunkered down so Husband and I are going to watch a few episodes of Dead Like Me ~ all thanks to the Library. No need to dress up, we're in our dressing gown and slippers for extra comfort.

Here's to a great weekend and if you happen to find any money in your pocket or coins on the ground ~ please consider putting it in our Spare Change Jar (marked with the 'donations' button) or see if you can help us out via eBay or a Simple Savings membership or any of the options shown on the Q+A page. Here's to Our Mission and reducing the debt :D

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Laughing at Motherhood

I have seen the most hysterical musical...
Well it has been a great few days of no-spending, but I had a wee splurge and for the cost of a train ticket to Melbourne, I was fortunate to see a 'spit the dummy' preview of Motherhood the Musical. A 'spit the dummy' session is very much like a cry-baby session at the movies where babies, toddlers and tears are more than welcome. From the mob who brought Menopause the Musical to the stage, this is a cack of a show so many can enjoy. Whether you're a mother, a grandmother or have a mother ~ there are classic lines we've all heard come out of our mothers' mouths - if not our own!!

It was 90 minutes of laughing over swelling ankles, leaking lady bits (and the way lovely, luscious ladies can't laugh, cough, sneeze or dance without a little wee coming out if those pelvic floor exercises aren't maintained - for life) and the joyous moment when the children are finally asleep! Even if it does mean stepping on deadly pieces of Lego or horny dinosaurs in the dark - although with the invention of luminous dinosaurs this is a lessening occurrence!!

The audience had a smattering of babies and toddlers ~ some were almost 'trained' to cry at the most appropriate moments! Word of warning ~ if you do have a wee one adverse to loud noises, it may pay to have earmuffs at hand because there is some mighty fine re-enactments of the noise of labour, the dulcet tone of the average mother screaming organising the kids into the car. Thank goodness I'm good with those aforementioned pelvic floor exercises ~ otherwise I think there would have been a little puddle left on my chair!! 

I must say a big BIG thank you to Dannie who had the free tickets to Motherhood the Musical ~ and also a HUGE thank you for my first store bought cafe latte in almost six months! Oh my - if getting out for a social outing wasn't thrill enough ~ that glorious sip of a freshly brewed glass of roasted bean bliss made the morning just so so special!! Such a simple pleasure some think nothing about enjoying many times during the day. It might sound silly to some but that $4 cuppa was the creamy froth on top!! Who needs cherries?!

One Clever Save
It's easy to understand the benefits of checking what food supplies are at hand, menu planning around those supplies and shop accordingly. By sticking to a shopping list consisting only of required items is a sure way to keep costs down. Doing the same can apply to the way you use the car. Too often appointments are scheduled at different times on different days or in a way which ends up using the car unnecessarily many times a day. 

We've started making appointments to fit around the run to school or can flow into the school pick up. It's helped save on petrol and maintenance ~ as well as saving time, stress and the environment by planning our trips carefully. Combining appointments or working out a route which allows for several things to be done along the way makes for petrol saves. We share the school runs with another family a few times a week ~ we pick up their boys in the morning or drop them home and their folks do the same. Both of us have benefited with savings. Instead of needing to fill the car twice a week, we've been managing on one tank a week to get to and from school each day (about 20km per day), several therapy sessions each week, helping MudGuts with appointments and volunteering. Sometimes it lasts longer than a week which is fantastic!

Carpooling not only saves on the petrol, wear and tear ~ it also helps saves sanity with the increased social interactions. One of the greatest benefits I've gained is the ability to renew friendships of old, left on the sidelines while recovering and the new friendships being built. Not just my friendships but those of SmallBoy and for Husband who has spent most of our regional life working and interacting with workmates in Melbourne. It's been a major strain on his social life not having met many blokes unless it has involved the pub or dinners with other couples.

Another few items sold on eBay has taken $18 off the VISA debt this week ~ very pleased to see that chestnut reducing. Plus it makes a little more space and less clutter with every item sold.

Lunching with love
SmallBoy has been craving a lunch order from the canteen. While $5 for a pie, donut and chocolate milk isn't a great deal ~ its not in the budget. However, in order to become a little more creative than the same old sandwich day after day, I've sent him to school with pikelets, date scones and an extremely popular addition - celery with peanut butter down the centre groove. Tonight I've made the savoury impossible pie (or cheats quiche) and SmallBoy is taking a slice for lunch. Fingers crossed it goes down the same way as the zucchini slice.

Impossible Quiche 
1 cup grated tasty cheese
1 chopped onion
1/2 cup SR flour
4 eggs
3-4 chopped bacon rashers
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt, pepper and herbs to season 
powdered parmesan cheese (optional)

Mix all together well and pour into grease tin
Top with a sprinkling of powdered parmesan and bake 35min at 180c 

Other fillings to add
1 Tuna, chives, parsley
2 Ham, peas, corn
3 Leftover veg, broccoli, cauliflower
4 Bacon, tomato, garlic
5 Asparagus, ham

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monday Mayhem

Summer ~ where for art thou?
Believe it or not, it's summer. I keep hearing some parts of NSW have 35 degrees, parts of QLD are sweltering in mid 30 humid temperatures and WA is boiling under hot sun. It's topped at 14 here and the fire had to be started this morning. The house was like an ice-block!

We've avoided turning on the heating ~ much as some savers have avoided turning on the air conditioning ~ and had jumpers, layers of clothing, thick Explorer socks on. I've even had my beanie on to avoid losing body heat - just like a baby! Apparently the weekend is supposed to be warmer and I am really hoping so because Saturday is our Yard Sale. Oh ~ and we sold a dozen eggs. $4 is in our Spare Change Jar for banking! Woo Hoo!!

Starving the Supermarket
It's been another day of no spending. Since having next to nothing for a grocery budget, I have had to be a little creative at times - substituting items I'd regularly use or looking for a lower cost option. The last few days I've looked at what we use and what we could be making from scratch for less. Some things are easy to spot but as we run out of items (like dishwasher tablets - bought several sample boxes last year while 36 for $3 introduction price) what can we do instead?

Breadcrumbs - yesterday I mentioned saving the crusts from bread and crumbing them in the blender. If there isn't enough crusts - adding crushed weetbix or cornflakes helps make the breadcrumbs go further.
Custard powder - eggs, milk, cornflour, sugar, vanilla - when you've got it all why use a packet?
Mint sauce - mint, vinegar, sugar - too easy
Muesli bars - Muesli bites n bars recipe
Paper towel - we use napkins, serviettes or facewashers for hands; old cotton t-shirts or shirts cut to various sizes for drying off things; newspaper for absorption.
Tissues - we use hankies
Cling wrap - lunch-boxes, containers with lids. I have a caterers pack of cling wrap which is 8years old in June every so often it is used on the kids paints.
Dish Tablet - back to the sink wash
Laundry powder - natural alternative like bi-carb and vinegar
Garbage liners - plastic bags (found several dozen during the de-clutter!!)
'Jar' Sauces - no chicken-tonight here
Cleaners - been using our home mix

Now the goal is to see what else we can change. The biscuits, cakes and muffins are already in process ~ although sometimes you cant beat a bought Arnotts Mint Slice biscuit. But its been months since that's been in the house so I might try to make them. Got the recipe, got the ingredients, gotta try it out.

Not much else happening really. There is some Tupperware up on eBay for sale - as always, more coming. Husband has taken some cool pics of some Country Road items which will be up for sale in the next few days - just trying to find the cable to fit the laptop. And all systems are go for the Yard Sale ~ with the advertisement ready to go in! Not sure how much the ad is yet - hopefully its under $20 but somehow I doubt it.

Heading to Melbourne to see Motherhood the Musical tomorrow ~ free tickets and off-peak travel make for some very inexpensive 'me' time. My first outing in I dont know how long! Of course it ties in with a physical check and other timely medical stuff but hey, I am going to the theatre for the first time in years! I can't wait.

So off to bed I go ~
Here's hoping your tomorrow will be as good as mine *cheers*

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Making Good Choices

Because we have options!

The 3 R's come in many forms. When Husband became my carer, it was only ever planned to be a short term options allowing me to focus on recovery, rehabilitation and regaining my balls. The first 3R's. The doctor said it would be great if he could be home for at least 9 months, maybe even a year because I was an emotional mess as well as physically struggling. I love having a doctor who is experienced enough to know what I needed before I fell apart and caring enough to insist upon it.

About 18months after surgery I had a set back. Sadly, trying to help a very good friend, my best friend, when I needed the help and support was part of the down fall - I ignored my own anxiety and depression. It's no-ones fault as such ~ I was trying to be a good friend while not strong enough in myself. Ultimately the friendship of 25years ended and, after many tears and internal self berating conversations, I forgive myself for being human, having emotions and accepting my weaknesses. We all lost on so many levels and we all move on. Reflections, regrets and realisations ~ another 3R's.

I am getting stronger, the brain is there and everything is right on schedule ~ just as my surgeon said. Nothing for a year, some adjustments and recovery in the second, improvement in the third but five years in all. This is the start of the third year and, as he is the Head of Orthopaedics at RMH, my surgeon has the knowledge and experience to know - and be accurate! Too often I have taken on board the expectation of 'non medicos' and those who know what should be happening because they knew someone who had an operation too.  I look forward to getting all this medication out of my system and becoming physically stronger! Rah, rah, rah ~ just another 3R's... *laughs*

Which brings me back to options ~ Husband has applied for some local employment and his former employer wants him to do work to ease some overload on occasion. Naturally the preference is to getting one of the local positions but during the interim, travelling to Melbourne a few times a fortnight is going going to allow him to bring in some much needed income, help me get through this next six months and then, when I can manage in the garden and change the beds without help, he hopes to get full time local work and we can up the debt destruction and save again for our Queensland dream move. No R's there ~ just some hopeful positive goals.

How low can you go?

Pretty darn low compared to others!  Let me tell you ~ I fed four people a 'special' dinner for under $6 tonight including dessert!  We had veal schnitzel, shoestring potato chips and apricot turnovers to finish. Oh it was delicious!!

As often as possible, I try to budget each dinner time meal to be under $3 per head and usually average the weekly dinners to meet this target. My family does tend to like meat of some variety in every meal and I've been known to make a chicken casserole for four using one chicken breast and padding it out with potatoes and vegetables. If Husband happens to take on the cooking duties for a night, which he does for the Sunday roast  he knows I expect enough left to make a pie for the following night - not knowing I usually also make that stretch to lunches and a curry if possible.

Guess the iPhone was upside down 
At the end of January I bought meats which were marked down by 33% - 50% and popped them in the freezer. One lot was 4 pieces of veal schnitzel marked down to $3.84 - at $21pkg this is not an item I'd usually consider - but at $10pkg it made for a 'special' dinner opportunity. To make breadcrumbs, I save the crusts from each loaf of bread especially the seed and grain variety, storing them in a bread bag until there are about a dozen, and whiz them around in the blender until they are crumbs.

A few months back, because we didn't have potatoes in this year, I took the lazy option and got a 5kg caterers bag of frozen shoestring chips from one of those Campbells Cash n Carry type places for $5 - I think you can also get them at CostCo and other wholesale type stores - and used about 500g of these over two dunks in the deep fryer. So that was about $1 worth of chips. We had bought a case of unlabelled, dented tins of pie apricots for $8 from the SPC outlet, 66c a tin. I cut two sheets of frozen puff pastry in half, placing a pile of apricot on each piece, sprinkled a little brown sugar over them for sweetness and folded them over into a big triangle and baked them in the oven until golden brown. Adding a scoop of apricot yoghurt, stored frozen in the freezer - a 1kg tub marked down to $3.30 as it was due to expire - and voila! SmallBoy thought these were the best dessert ever made - so easy to please that boy! Making those again for sure - especially as there's still plenty of yoghurt still in the freezer!!

This week I plan to again spend no more than $21 on groceries ~ and it really can be done. You don't always NEED to spend $200 or more at the supermarket every week - sometimes its just the habit. Don't forget to check what you've got in the pantry before you meal plan - then write the shopping list. I already know every ingredient required for this week's menu is in my cupboards and can substitute an item if necessary.

I really want to get some fresh fruit and veg however I need to get nothing so nothing is what I am aiming to do. There might be a need for milk, possibly some celery and maybe some lettuce ~ but I am also going to see what I can scrounge up, barter and trade - I've definitely got some eggs to negotiate with!! Oh I am a little sick of eggs, but they're here, they're free and they are very very yummy! All going to plan, the menu for this week should go something like this:

Monday: Tuna Mornay on rice
Tuesday: Freezer Surprise Pie - I think its lamb
Wednesday: Chicken curry
Thursday: Chicken stir fry
Friday: Hamburgers on home made rolls
Saturday: Home made pizza
Sunday: Eggs, Hash Browns - we voted for this

Must let you know weaning off medication is not an easy ride. The past few days have been extremely - well weird comes to mind. But its all for the best and hopefully will get easier. It certainly helps to know why 'everything' has been so fuzzy and why its been a few days between posts.

This week...

I am having the first of two competitions with prizes donated from reputable businesses! It's all a bit exciting really. I hope you'll suggest to your friends to start reading and following Our Mission, because the more people you get following the blog the greater the chance you could get a very helpful home item and the opportunity for new giveaways to become available! But you will have to wait a few more days...

Ending with a little piece I wrote not too long ago ~ if you like it, please let me know. I do enjoy feedback and the last post had some positive and helpful comments. I was totally thrilled beyond belief with the support and heaps of little contributions into the Treasure Chest!! Every little bit helps our debt go down and it is even more satisfying to know there was a suggestion or habit mentioned which helped you. Bit waffly - I know - but to know so many thought the pillow slip hint was worth a contribution was such a buzz!

Dancing lightly in the sky
The lonely lovely butterfly
Flutters on the western winds
Soaring up and back again
Colours shimmer in the sun
A butterfly seems to have such fun
I wonder if I'll ever be
Dancing high and totally free

ஜ Gratitude and Love ~ Namaste ஜ

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ten Tips for Tidy

Oh I feel sick...

For once, the least of my worries is the money and, after paying the rates yesterday, the amount we have available through to the end of the month is so little anyone in the same situation would be curled up in a little ball of fear, dread and terror. Not that anything has been going down the drain on frivolities, anything and everything is going on debt and the dent seems to be showing! We haven't bought chocolate for so long, and I am hankering a block of Caramello or a few Cadbury Creme Eggs.

As much as possible I've tried to be positive and recognise we have sufficient food in the pantry, a full tank of petrol, feed for all the animals and the opportunity to get another $20-$30 if more fresh free range googie eggs are sold. I know no additional payments are due until the end of the month, all medications are at hand and the therapy costs have been budgeted and available for the coming fortnight. Regardless - it doesn't stop that churning in the guts with the realisation of how 'broke' really is the feeling as well as the status of the bank accounts.

The main part of feeling sick today is the side effects of withdrawing from a five year relationship with opiate pain medication coupled with the other night's glass of champagne, glass of red wine and an intensely bright sunny day this morning. My rose-coloured glasses help by assuring me the partaking of alcohol is to blame but the sad reality is this is the start of my narcotics withdrawal. My head wants to explode, my eyes want black-coloured glasses to block the light (not that helpful for seeing tho'), my tummy is turning and basically I feel like I am moving about 3cm above the ground in a hazy cloud of psychedelic sparkles. Some might think this sounds like fun ~ be assured, it is not!! 

The things we do!!  OK ~ Onward and upward. Can't fall down now ~ I've got too much to do. I hope those sparkly bits will catch me...

Getting Organised to avoid CHAOS

Being out of action the past few years is a great explanation as to why the household is cluttered, disorganised and rather messy. Sadly, its not the sole reason because we've always been hoarders living in clutter, disorganisation and untidiness. While using the brilliance of Simple Savings steered us in the right direction with saving ~ I discovered we suffer from a disorder called CHAOS "Cant Have Anyone Over Syndrome".

Can you see the desk?
CHAOS affects lots of people and for various reasons. Ours is the embarrassment of the constant state of shambles. It's not unhygienic or putrid ~ there is just crap and clutter everywhere. So one aspect of Our Mission has been to find a semblance of order and maintain it. Being such a daunting task, I established a few methods to get this under way without being overwhelmed every day.

For me the word 'Chores' translates as hard work ~ I prefer to use 'Goals' and these are the 5 Golden Rules for my 'Cleaning Goals' list:

1. Identify the trouble areas
2. Write a weekly cleaning goals for the house
3. Write a daily daily goals list at night for the next day
4. Establish a "Room of the Week" list
5. If you see a piece of paper/rubbish ~ pick it up and throw it out

I am not one for having a huge attention span amount of energy or strength and possess excellent procrastinating skills. These skills seem to have me flit back and forth without a Daily Goal list to bring me back on track. The infamous "They" say don't plan too much to avoid failure. I say write what you hope to achieve, complete at least half and carry the rest over. If I don't, I forget what I'd planned ~ have I mentioned the medication makes me forget things this post yet??

As every area is a trouble area at the moment, the 'Room of the Week' is in play and, ideally, 15mins every hour or two is taken in the designated room to remove the stress of it being 'such a big task' and steadily pick away at the clutter. There are three boxes (choose what is wanted; throw this rubbish; sell or give to charity) and a basket (keeping this, its needed) which comes out at the end of the 15mins to find or return to its designated location.

All going in different directions

I've also stuck to the following Ten Tips for Tidy regime:

1. Lower my expectations for the house 
 ~ I want a tidy, lived-in home, not a structure where nothing is touched for fear of finger prints...

2. Fill the sink with hot soapy water in the morning for:
 ~ breakfast bowls
 ~ empty cups
 ~ other dirty dishes during the day
 ~ deterring ants

3. Doing a little housework often and one big tidy on Thursday in anticipation of weekend rest strikes visitors
 ~ pack the dishwasher from the sink, run when full
 ~ ensure every cook up makes at least another 'fast' dinner option
 ~ make school/work lunches over the weekend, wrap and freeze to get out each morning
 ~ do clothes laundry one day a week, linen and towels another
 ~ placing folded doonas and sheets inside a pillowcase avoids a messy search
 ~ put clothes away on the day

4. Menu plan for a week
 ~ freeze leftover roast for pie/pasta sauce
 ~ divide meat into meal portions before freezing
 ~ cut or portion fruit/veg into the crisper (FridgeSmarts) immediately

5. Grocery shop alone in the evening 
 ~ hubby can watch his TV shows stack the dishwasher
 ~ no interruptions means no impulse buys
 ~ its mark-down time
 ~ no chance to buy from other (closed) shops

6. Trying not to double handle things
 ~ rubbish goes straight in the bin
 ~ fold washing as it comes off the line - pair and fold socks there too
 ~ underwear does not need to be ironed or folded to go in the drawer
 ~ put clothes away on the day

7. Leave rooms better than seen on arrival - it takes less than 5 minutes to:
 ~ put laundry from the floor to the hamper
 ~ straighten a doona, make the bed
 ~ wipe a bench
 ~ change the toilet roll
 ~ say something is empty (- write it on the shopping list)
 ~ put clothes away on the day

8. Recruit the family to help 
 ~ everyone over the age of 3-4 can put dirty dishes in the sink, collect toys to away in their room, dirty clothes in a hamper
 ~ everyone over the age of 5-6 can pick up rubbish. have an exclusive chore, put their clothes away on the day
 ~ everyone understands the repercussions of remotes/power cords withheld until things are done
9. Writing the shopping list progressively through the week 
 ~ matched to the menu plan
 ~ when you notice an item is low or finished
 ~ try to include a reward for yourself occasionally

10. No beating myself up or calling myself a failure if I don't get 'everything' done.
 ~ I am only human
 ~ There is always tomorrow
 ~ Chocolate can ease the feeling of failure

Found it (and shelves)
This is, by no means, a complete list but as a general weekly guide to getting organised or reorganised as a household. Ideally the weekend is available for the family and friends. I like the idea of focussing on a big clean on Monday to start the week and another major whip-around on Thursday so there is a semblance of order for the weekend. 

Should Better Homes and Gardens ever wish to visit ~ I think I will steer the focus onto the garden and outdoor areas. If Vogue decides to come over ~ I'll be drawing the curtains and pretending no one is home. When friends or family drop in ~ finally I almost feel happy to have them waltz in without a three day advance warning... almost.

Supporting Our Mission

Simple Savings - If you use the link for Simple Savings ~ remember to mention you were referred by Mands because Simple Savings offer members either $10 or extra membership for sending new members over. It's a really helpful and beneficial website.

MandsMission on eBay - There one lonely little item up for sale at the moment. But there is plenty on its way since we started following the list above to declutter.

Well, time to tidy up in the kitchen and get that dishwasher stacked. Table is cleared, benches are wiped, rinsing done only stacking to go. Plus all the washing was put away. Even writing about it positively rubs off ~ see how you go and please report any successes.

No idea what is in store for tomorrow other than getting in the garden to weed the 'big garden bed' and move the little roosters ~ who aren't that little any more. We really must get them into the freezer because we are almost out of chook in the freezer and the prices don't seem to be going down any time soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Monday's Money Matters

Oh it has been a glorious day today!
The sun's shining, there's just a hint of a breeze and today marks 20 years in remission for a very good friend of ours. As an added bonus ~ we have been out and had a celebratory (free) feed to mark this momentous occasion. It's even more special as Mrs Jonahs was not expected to see her 20th birthday let alone celebrate two decades later. It really does help put things into perspective.

Now The Jonahs is not their real name ~ its a carry over from a name which stuck back in 2007. For the past 4-5 years we have had their help and support with SmallBoy while Husband worked in Melbourne and I recovered from surgery. Every few weekends they would whisk him away to play with their children and every so often we'd have their little guy over to stay for the weekend. We've loved watching Joe grow up over the years, seen the changes when autism was confirmed and enjoyed observing the friendship between the two boys get stronger each year. Only recently we became aware that we are the only people he will stay over night with ~ even going away with us for a while. He is witty, highly intelligent and a great kid to have around. SmallBoy wishes for a brother like Joe.

No Spend / Low Spend

This past few weeks have been the most successful for no spending or low spending on necessities (if you discount all the back to school requirements). Those things we did need to purchase were either second hand or haggled in price. SmallBoy's school uniform items had a fare share of haggle power. After picking up, almost brand new, polo tops - 2 each in long and short sleeve, 2 pair of Stubby shorts,  2 pair of Stubby trousers and a zip up motif jumper for less than the price of a new jumper - the Grade 6 bomber jacket at $55 was one expense non negotiable in price. His school shoes (at $110) were also non negotiable and less than the $300+ for orthopaedics but we got the orthopaedic insert for half price and a 50% off voucher for our next purchase. 

Husband's dental requirements need additional work done. The first 'quote' was over $500! I asked if that could be reduced or bettered and you would have thought I had grown an additional eye in the middle of my forehead. We had been advised the 'scheduled' fee for this work was $159 and, seriously, that's closer to what I was prepared to pay. The 'best' that could be offered was $400 - paid in two instalments if that would assist our budgeting. So I rang two other dentists - explained what work was required, what I understood the scheduled fee was and asked for a quote to do the work. The dental hospital could do it for $20, but it would be about a year until an appointment would be available. One clinic said it could do the work for $280, but would not provide a written quote. The other clinic would not offer a written quote either, but did say if the original dentist wished to confirm the quote of $180 it would do so. Regardless ~ the first dentist would still go no lower than $250 so you can guess which dental clinic got the business. People think that dentists are not open to negotiation ~ have you ever tried. One reason I haggled over the dental fees was because my brother was told he had to pay over $2000 for dental work ~ and he got it down to under $800. Therefore I've never ever gone with the first quote!!

This past week there has been no shopping budget ~ the rates ensured that. However the pantry and fridge are sufficiently stocked, I ducked up the back roads and picked five apples for SmallBoy's lunch box, grabbed a loaf of bread from the Salvos and scored a voucher for Bulla Split Icy-poles which will cover dessert for him for a fortnight. I also sold two dozen eggs at a friend's office and should be getting an order for a few more ~ there are six dozen eggs in the fridge at the moment and that's $24 dollars to go onto something like the VISA. Speaking of the drastic plastic ~ its almost under $6k and as soon as it does, the limit gets to go down again. I am so glad I didn't take the PIN option ~ it's been so long since I used it I would have forgotten it by now. I can't remember the NIVA card PIN and its not been used since October! At the end of the month, the NIVA is reducing to $1000 available and this will roll $2000 onto the Line of Credit or the Mortgage ~ I can't remember which the bank suggested as a preference but we are to get a phone call next Monday to sign off on this one.

I've kept the 3L milk bought last week exclusively for the breakfast cereal and used powdered milk in cooking and my morning cuppa. It's not too bad, if nice and chilled you wouldn't know the difference. I'm going to see if I can sneak some into the milk carton to stretch it through to Friday - otherwise I'll be making pikelets for breakfast because there will be no milk for the porridge or cereal. Mmmmm - porridge. I had a 'pay it back' experience from a girlfriend I've helped in the past ~ having used my pantry to feed her family for a week two years ago, she popped past with Weetbix,  biscuits and some dishwasher tabs. That was so timely as SmallBoy has eaten the last of the cereal - hence the porridge *grins*

With the previous shop - at end of January - only $115 of the budgeted $120 was spent. We spent $10 on milk and cat food the week later but not the original $21 planned because petrol was needed - we ended up getting $2.40 off with a docket. The mystery shop $10 paid for milk, water and onions on Thursday and, until our pension comes on Friday, we don't have anything spare for shopping. It's going to be a scrape through by the short and curlies to have enough for the personal loan - so long as no unexpected fees or charges or a withdrawal goes through a day or two early, we are going to be fine. 

The Current Debt Total :  $32,052.74  
@ 25th January

Our Money : $27.90
Your Money : $54.20
'Coffee' dates : $7.00
eBay Sales : $42.50

The Total Paid onto the Debt : $ 132.60

New Debt Amount : $ 31,920.14

Our contribution in detail
$   5.00 - grocery savings
$   2.40 - Petrol savings
$ 13.50 - 50% off shoe insert
$   7.00 - cash discount for acupuncture
$   8.00 - egg sales

I do apologise for those waiting for eBay goodies to be added for selling ~ had a few friends suggesting different ways to go, putting clothes in bundles vs individual items and it is a little hard to get my head around the best way. I've set up a weekly schedule to help get the housework, de-cluttering, gardening, medical and online activities operating in a more organised fashion. This should help while the brain fuzzies escalate during medication withdrawal. Husband is being a brilliant carer and supporter ~ he's even gone so far as walking in for one item at the shop and exiting with that single item. He's also been helping get the fantastic pictures together so there is always something from the day to post and checking the information is accurate.

A Coupla Things to Flog

In trying to build a little momentum for contributions, donations and support for Our Mission, I've decided it is time to get this Blog a few more followers. Linking in with some other Mummy Bloggers has been part of this drive. None of these are paid advertisers, although if you let them know you heard about them here it might get a few dollars tossed into the spare change jar *cheeky*

Some have competitions, some have awesome products to sell, a few are just random wafflings about the 'joys' of chillins and all are pretty darn interesting as far as I am concerned. Here's hoping you'll check out one or two... ~ I am using this wonderful chappy's eBook to help build Mands On A Mission's readership as part of a 31 day to build a better blog.

SoloMum ~ She's got a gorgeous necklace for readers to win. She's also offering the Zen Habits book on "Less" I've been eyeing off for a while now ~ let her know you heard how lovely, fantastic and brilliant she is through Mands On A Mission and fingers crossed I can win it *please*

PlaySand ~ It amazes me how creative people can be! I'm not sure of prices but if you are in WA you can have a hosted creative party ~ otherwise there are party packs or 'Im bored' kits available to do at home yourself.

Australian Made, Australian Owned ~ now more than ever is the time to consciously buy locally made and grown products

Cadbury 'Catch Up' ~ Mostly because I love Cadbury chocolate - and the new ads are really clever. Do you know how hard it is to see Cadbury Creme Eggs in the supermarket and leave them on the shelf?? Happy to provide an address to anyone wanted to sent chocolate!

Don't forget to have a look back at recent entries for other Flogged Stuff ~ I will try to mention a few each week.  Oh ~ I didn't win the Harley Davidson, so you won't be seeing that up for sale on eBay any time soon but I did win a bottle of perfume called "Outspoken" worth $50 and will be popping that online sometime soon.

OK ~ had a few wines, enjoyed the Duck a l'orange dinner and Tiramisu dessert - time for bed.
Hope to catch you all tomorrow - after my morning of volunteering at the children's respite centre!! I hope my working with children paperwork has been authorised so I can move around the building.

Onward and upward