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*