The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Thursday 30 April 2015

Feather your Nest Friday. 1st of May, 2015.

Friday and a new month! You might as well get comfy as there are so many things to report!

Firstly thank you to everyone who contributed to Jar Mixes. Just wonderful thank you. Mum is coming to town on the weekend and brining me a heap of big jars with lids and I can get going making some of these ready mixes that I want to try. If this was a good idea for you go back and copy the great recipes that came in as they kept coming until last night! I now have so many. Also Colette had the idea to make the SOS mix up in a jar as a gift and print the booklet that went with it as part of the present. This would be a fantastic gift for anyone wanting to save money and also anyone trying to avoid preservatives etc.

Cath gave us the recipe for Bisquick at Debt Free Cashed up and Laughing. Mum always called this Baking Mix. Uses for Bisquick include easy pies, scones/biscuits, dumplings, cakes and pancakes. It is a versatile base for so many things. Maybe we can work towards a Bisquick cookbook? Cath also gives her ready mix for chocolate cake!! So I will be busy stocking my pantry with mixes this week which is just in time for helping me help out when the baby arrives! Thank you Cath!

Following on from my post the other day on "Stretch a Meal and Use it Up" Tania posted her Mum's Apple Roly Poly. This recipe uses up apples AND qualifies as a stretch a meal desert as well. Deserts are handy when dinner is a bit light on or perhaps just a soup. Finish the meal with this and you will have happy bellies all round. Tania made it a photo tutorial and now I have seen this I think how gorgeous, delicious, filling and easy this is to make. So please add this to your list of ways to stretch a meal and use it up Tania's Mum's Apple Roly Poly. Thank you Tania!'

So how did I build up my nest and save money this week?

It was Andy's Birthday. I made him his favourite fruit cake which he loved. When he came in the door it was waiting for him on a nice glass cake stand. A cake stand makes everything look special! I did a tutorial ages ago on how to make them. This one is simply a glass plate glued to a candle stick. The cake then was desert and his lunch box morning tea all week and we are still going for a good while yet!

From last weeks 99c a kilo pumpkin I made a huge batch of soup. I have a super size crock pot (slow cooker) and packed full I get a bulk amount of soup. It was so good. I gave some to Chloe as she loves this, froze some and have been making it my lunches. Usually I remove some before I blend it and make pumpkin scones. But this time I didn't as I had the cornbread I made earlier in the week. Together these make a beautiful meal.

I found bargains! I bought marked down turkish bread, flat bread, focaccia breads all between 50c and 99c. This was a huge amount. These go on to be made into pizzas, heated to go with soups, as sides and we have a focaccia for dinner on a Sunday night as an easy dinner and use up all kinds of left overs.

Also I got zucchinis for $1.79 a kilo. I have heaps to make another big batch of soup next week.

I had some lovely ceramic empty pots. I filled them with soil and added little parsley plants to them. This turns empty pots and continually coming up parsley seedlings into gifts I can give. Once these are six inches high or so I will be able to give them away.

We also had fantastic news. My husband has not been getting paid enough for his main job. When he takes out expenses he isn't earning much at all. This is very depressing for a man who likes to provide. He has been kept going by doing other jobs in between. This week he got three extra jobs to do that amounted to a few extra days work AND he was offered a better full time job. He starts on Tuesday! This job at least pays a fair wage. So the mood around here is a sense of relief, joy and happiness. This certainly falls under the "building up our house" category!

I added to my pantry and cellar.

Mum had given me two pieces of beef. I made a huge curry, enough for several meals.

Something that I think is a general building up your home thing is I learned a lot this week! I have had some very generous mail that I am learning so much from. My list of subjects to go on with in Pantries and Preparedness is never ending! The same applies to the list of methods and reciepes for Stretch a Meal and Use it up! I have reached the point of having to make lists. This is so exciting to me!

It was also our Anniversary and I got flowers!

I hope you had a great week.  How did you save money and build up your home? It is so easy to forget all we accomplished or not even recognize how much we did as we do many things automatically! But they are worth a lot. Most days I write in my diary the main things I achieved in the day. Otherwise I really forget. Also on Sundays I plan the week and write a list of goals. As I tick these off I feel a sense of accomplishment. I don't always get all these done but it is still great to get some of them done. Then I can look back at the week and be pleased anyway.  And the week isn't quite over yet! This afternoon I am giving my fridge a big clean out and re organize, getting my floors all done and doing some gardening. The sun is shining and it's a beautiful day!

Have a lovely weekend. On Monday I am adding to the Stretch a Meal and Use it up series. xxxx

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. Jar mixes.

I love jars, as you must know! Many times I have looked at mixes in a jar that you can make up and have on hand. I love the idea. But usually I have considered the mixtures I have seen and felt we would not necessarily use that recipe.

Thanks to Teri I had a lightbulb moment about this!
Teri wrote me this lovely letter...

"...I never really thought about my pantry in all the ways mentioned in your posts or on other blogs.  I just call it my "food room" and use it daily to feed my family.  lol  Anyway, I make lots of dry mixes and store them in glass jars or #10 cans. Since it is just my husband and me now, I don't do quite as much, but when I make corn bread I just measure all the dry ingredients into pint jars and when I want to make corn bread for dinner, I just pull out a jar, add the wet ingredients.  It's my way of "boxed convenience" so to speak.  :)  I make my own onion soup mix, "bisquick", pancake/waffle mix, rice mix, dry salad dressings mixes (like Italian and ranch) etc. All these things I've been making and using for years.  Cooking from scratch is the only way I know how to cook. lol

I make lots of things like spaghetti sauce, chili, baked beans, taco soup, split pea soup, beef broth, chicken broth, etc. but I can them in jars so they are shelf stable.  I do use my freezer for many baked goods, like you do, and fruit, veggies and casseroles.  It's just nice to have a bit of both...."

This letter made my day! Thank you so much Teri. 
And it hit me. I have been looking at other peoples recipes and mixes and thinking I would not use this or that as it is not really what we eat or like. I haven't thought of them as a potential way to have my own trusted recipes ready to go in record time! 

We all know the production line principal... it is so much faster to repeat one action over and over and mass produce things than repeat the whole process many times and on different days, having to get everything out again over and over.
So I thought of all the things I do often bake, that are useful and we like, that I could pre prepare and have ready to go. Like my own "boxed convinience" as Teri said. How handy would that be on a busy night?! 

It is as simple as placing the dry ingredients in your jars and noting the additions you need to add. For a gift I would write the steps clearly out on a label. For myself I am keeping a master list inside the pantry door... ie Cornbread... "add one egg. one can creamed corn..." and then I know what to do (until it becomes automatic anyhow!)

We love cornbread. When I am serving soups this is the nicest side to soup and I have made it for years. I serve it warm. I still make it for the girls and give them a tray. It can be made as a loaf but I find it easier and neater and also better to freeze individual portions if I make it in as muffins.

This is my recipe...

2 cups polenta,
1 and 3/4 cups SR flour,
1/2 cup sugar,
100grams butter or oil, (3.5 ounces)
1 1/2 cups milk,
2 eggs.
I can creamed corn. Optional.

Mix wet eggs and sugar, add milk and oil then dry ing.  If you use the creamed corn you will need to add more polenta. It is a thick but slightly runny mix. Bake until lightly golden and a tester comes out clean. You could also add cheese to this recipe.
Serve warm with hot soup. Delicious! 

You can see the layers are cornmeal (polenta) flour and sugar. 

The recipe makes two dozen muffin sized, two loaves or a baking tray that you could cut into squares. Pop heaps in the freezer for with soups or stews.

Now my plan is to have heaps of these lined up ready to make and then move on to another useful ready mix.

Teri let me know this is her trusted mix she always has on hand..
SOS Mix (Soup or Sauce mix)  Equal to about 9 cans of cream soup)

2 Cups powdered non-fat dry milk
3/4 Cup cornstarch
1/4 Cup instant chicken bouillon (granules or powder)
2 Tablespoons dried onion flakes (I crush mine a bit)
2 Tablespoons dried parsley
a little ground pepper, garlic powder, oregano and basil (use those or other spices/herbs that you like)

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and store in a jar.  (I double or triple this recipe and store in a clean
#10 can (tin) with a tight lid. It sits in my food room and I fill a quart jar for the pantry)

To use:  Combine 1/3 Cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 Cups of cold water.  Cook and stir on stove top or in microwave until thickened. Stir in some sautéed mushrooms, cook chicken, or sautéed celery/onion.  Add mixture to casseroles as you would a can of soup. (if additional liquid is needed in your recipe, just mix a bit more water to the cooked mixture to desired consistency).

* Notes:  This does not have to be refrigerated. The herbs you add can vary, I don't add salt to this as the bouillon has enough, I use my own dried onions if I have them and my own dried parsley and other herbs. You could also use a beef or veggie bouillon.  This is such a handy mix!
Now I am both collecting jars and working out the best mixes that are handy for me to have ready to go. They can also be made up in snap lock bags and labelled with a sharpie. 

This recipe is also used in scalloped potatoes, Broccoli cheese soup, tomato soup and many more. The full list of recipes can be found at Utah state university website where Teri found it. I found it   and here there is a free printable booklet of all the things you can use it to make. What a money saver! I am making this and printing the booklet and sticking it inside my cupboard doors.

Helen makes something similar, if yours is different Helen could you please let us know the recipe and how you use it?

Teri could you possibly add your Bisquick recipe and the ways that you use it if you have time? I think that will be my next project!

This is another way to add to our pantries, make life easier, reduce takeaways, save money and reduce the chemicals found in most packet mixes and cans. A massive win /win all around!

If you have any trusted mixes please share. It's huge help to us all is to be able to make something up quickly and easily and and reduce costs. 

I must have had a mental block with this. I knew it was a great idea but I never thought just to use my own often used recipes! So thanks to Teri for this post and all the possibilities it opens up!

I hope everyone is having a great week. Here we are mid week... I hope to get lots more done by Friday! xxx

Sunday 26 April 2015

Gorgeous gift tags and book marks.

My most recent craft post was about using images from books and magazines to make beautiful cards and how cheap and easy it is. AND how much money it saves!

This is what happens with all the pictures and tiny little bits of lace, braids, ribbons and things after card making... gift tags or book marks. It is amazing how tiny bits are prefect for little tags.

These are really handy and a gift tag is still $2 or so in the news agents and more in a florist. I buy packets of plain tags in Spotlight but always watch for them. They work out only a few cents each. Otherwise luggage tags are available in news agents usually for 5c each and these are really perfect.

You can also cut them out yourself and use a hole punch for your ribbon.

Sometimes I make rustic ones using string as my tie and pictures of birds, chickens, farm animals or something like that.

The ones I have made this time and I have used scraps of lace, torn floral fabric and ribbons. I had some lace that was too wide and I simply cut it lengthwise into long strips. Rustic is sweet, it doenst have to be perfect. And nearly all of them have different ties I as was just using up what I have.

I have mentioned before cutting tulle into strips for ribbons or cutting old lace curtain's into lengths for lovely lace ribbon, both beautiful  on parcels and do not need hemming they just look charming!
You can do the same here on a smaller scale.
Use what you have and be creative. If you sew you will be set for little bits and pieces. If you know someone who sews ask them to save you floral scraps, trims, braids, ribbon scraps... the ultimate would be knowing someone who makes formal wear or wedding dresses and getting sequin and pearl scraps and amazing things like that. (my idea of heavenly!)

My smaller tags I will use as gift tags on parcels or as labels on food gifts. Maybe also as a recipe tied to a gift in a jar food mix. Or you can give the gift of cooking and write the recipe on the back, or instructions for heating or something like that.
A good supply of these is great. And they pretty up a foodie gift no end.

The larger sized ones I am going to use as book marks to put in a card (that I made) and probably write a little note or scripture on the back.

I have two of my Great Grandmothers Bibles and the treasures kept in both include little cards and book marks with love notes, verses, dates and names. They have been tucked into the Bibles and kept. Years later they are gorgeous memento's full of memories. Anyway a pretty bookmark is a sweet gift.

These are from the smaller pictures I had left in my Shabby Chic book. This book was a great find and my $2 turned into heaps of full sized cards, bookmarks and tags...

As I finished these I noticed things  still have...  I have pictures of chickens, ducks, gardens... sort of a farm theme. I have red rick rac braid and red gingham and string. I am thinking I will do a farm theme brighter set... that looks kind of 50's farm kitchen. This would possibly look great on jars and cooking.
Just see what you have and what it lends itself to!

We all love to get pretty mail. There is only one thing better and that is pretty mail with pretty stuff inside!

Just now I have heard an old friend is in hospital. It is so handy I can get my card box out and choose one I know she will like and sent it off to her tomorrow. Every time I need a card I have a selection to choose from and save quite a bit of money.

I made tags on the weekend when it was raining. Now I have topped up my supply and had a nice time  doing it!

In my last post I also covered soaps and gift bags. I also cover gift boxes when I have suitable boxes come my way. Another use for pretty pictures is for covering little note books and diaries.  Plain cardboard covered books are best for these. I am on the look out for some more but these I did at Christmas to pop into cards...

Paper crafts are so inexpensive if you collect as you go. Once you are looking out for images you find them everywhere. And they have the potential to become so many sweet things and gifts.

There is something else about crafting. It makes you happy! When you have projects on the go you are content at home. I still often hear of women who spend the day in shopping centers or the mall, because they are bored. HOW do they have the time?! I have no idea. But shopping is a problem treated as a hobby for many people and being busy at home you just do not even think of such things! Crafting is relaxing and absorbing. It feels wonderful to create lovely things! It is good for us!

Have a wonderful week! 

See you on Wednesday for the next Pantries and Preparedness post. 

Thursday 23 April 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 24th April, 2015.

This is the last Friday of the month! This means next Friday is the 1st of May! We will have reached May! Ok, I sound excited... this is because Lucy's baby is due mid May! It seemed sooo far off and we are nearly there!

So much to do. So little time now!

This week was pretty good. I am always excited for Fridays to consider how much I achieved during the week.  How did I save and how did I feather our nest a little bit more?

Some savings for the week...

I made progress on a blanket I am making. Chloe loves Moroccan Wedding Blankets and I didn't have a clue what they even were. But I always think you can make anything if you try! So I googled these and decided to imitate one in crochet. I bit off more than I can chew really but I am making progress... and Jacqui sent me a picture as she saw of one in a store and it was $1200! So this is going to be a major gift for Chloe and she is keeping an eye on it as I go! There is no way it IS a real MWB but it is looking nice and I am enjoying the challenge. This is Queen size bed size... or will be.

I made sausage rolls. I went for large ones that I can serve as man size serves or cut into smaller ones. It gives me heaps of meals and snacks in the freezer, a dinner this week and some for the girls. I will use some for soup nights as the addition of something like this makes a man sized meal.

A neighbour knows I love ladders. I don't think she understands why exactly but she knew of someone with an old ladder and arrived with this...

It is great! I think I am going to set it up to dry my herbs and flowers. It is a great rustic old ladder and I love it! I will post pictures when I have it set up and am using it. Ladders have so many uses! Like for shelving as the florist I featured a few weeks ago did. Or hanging in the shed and using to dry clothes in winter... hang your towels on in the bathroom... or my smaller one in the kitchen that I hang my prettiest tea towels on (dish cloths?)  Oh.. or suspend from the ceiling in the kitchen and hang all your pots and pans from. Very useful and charming too.

My Parsley is growing in about twenty new patches and looking good. I am very happy I should have parsley to give away and maybe even go to a swap market with.

On that note... I am working on items that I could trade at a local produce swap. If I have bunches of herbs including huge bunches of parsley I think I could go to one of these. I could also take bunches of Bay Leaves from Mum's giant tree, bunches of Rosemary... and I thought I could crochet cotton dish cloths or something else that would be appealing at a swap. Also I could make soap. Having more items to trade would be good... so I am working on this. I thought I don't have enough items to trade to go to one of these swap meets. But I think I can use more of my resources and get myself into that position. This is in my quest to try some things I have not tried before! If we keep doing the same things we are going to get the same results! I really want to increase my results!

I met with Hilde and as always she gave me so many new ideas. I will share these on Stretch a Meal and Use it Up. When I  am with her my pen is in my hand and I am writing, writing... The only comparison would be to say it would be like spending an afternoon with Mimi and everything you would want to ask her! (I would never stop writing notes!)
This has me thinking... if Nan was still alive what questions would I ask her? There would be a lot and even though I learned heaps from both my Nans I wish I had asked more questions. Now is the time to learn the family recipes. How to make things for ourselves. How to knit or crochet or whatever skill that you have the opportunity to learn. We often have wonderful teachers in our family, as friends or neighbours, they are willing to teach us for free if we ask. Sometimes they will be thrilled we want to learn! Sometimes it creates beautiful time together and heaps of fun. Learning new skills, new recipes etc and trying new things is progress! The other is to take the time and teach a skill. School holidays are a wonderful time to teach skills to children and get them going. This is really important. It takes time to teach and to learn but it is the wisest investment!

On the way to see Hilde I went to the fruit and vegie shop that is always amazing.  I got broccoli for $2 a kilo, banana's for $2 a kilo, small continental cucumbers for $1.50 a kilo. Pumpkin for 99c, Mandarines $2.50  and green beans for $1.50. Because of the price a got heaps of Broccoli. This is a fraction of local prices. Broccoli here has been over $7 a kilo. This was fantastic!

I went op shopping and had a couple of good finds. One is a designer item that I am adding to my collection to go to my friend in our Ebay selling venture. Or experiment I should probably say. This is another thing in my "try something new" efforts.

This week I added items to my cellar, condensed milk, tinned soups, and a better torch to my nightstand.

This is one of the birds that visits every evening. It is only taken with my ipad so you can imagine how close they get. He gets grated cheese. If I give him something else he just looks at it and waits until I get the cheese. They stand on the doorstep and can see when I go to the fridge. Both have then flown inside and I have had to say "no no" and they go back to the step!

This is when I sit at the table outside. I had cheese in my hand and my ipad in my other hand. This is the evening entertainment!

It is raining and it rained most of the night. I am so glad! Today I can stay inside and get a few more things done before the weekend. Then I am making soup and a stew... then meat pies using the left overs. And working on the blanket...

How did you save money and feather your nest this week? I hope it was a good week for you as well. I have a bit of a theme going for myself at the moment. To do everything I usually do but to also try new things. Whether it's a new recipe or just to try a new method, skill or even a shop in a different area and compare prices. Working towards going to a produce swap and selling on Ebay... these are new for me.
I mentioned on Wednesday how you can find gardening groups, Buy, sell and swap groups etc in your area on face book and the local paper. And that my Aunt has joined a group that meet in each others gardens and they also swap produce. It was Mel who first showed me that you can find local groups like this on face book. 

Also as a possibility... there has never been a better time to use your crafting skills for both gifts and something that you can sell or trade with. For instance I went to a "boutique" baby store with Lucy last week. Hand knitted baby jumpers in size 000 started at $70! Little pram knitted rugs started at $80... cot rugs started at $200. We had a bit of a laugh... my Mum has been knitting flat out for the baby. According to this shop she has already given Lucy $1000 worth of knitted items!  But the moral of the story is your skills could be valuable in so many ways.

Have a wonderful weekend and think about what you can try that is new for you that might bring you savings, satisfaction, and new possibilities! xxx

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. Progress report and finding new ways to add to our pantry.

Things have changed over the few months I have been building up my pantry and cellar. I think it comes from reading several wonderful blogs and seeing all my storage as my pantry. (these are on my side bar)  My fridge, freezer, kitchen pantry, cellar and also laundry and bathroom cabinets are all part of my pantry and preparedness. And so are the medicine cabinet and first aid supplies.
The things Andy keeps in the shed... tools, batteries, buckets etc these are all part of it as well!

So my focus now is much more on everything! In my mind my cellar has become my "home store" where I can find anything I might run out of including things like dish washing liquid, soap, toothpaste as well as food. This is a big project, transforming it from a wasted space to a store!

This week Sydney had a massive storm. At the moment 100,000 people are still without power. Someone I know went out in it after the storm and realised it was a massive mistake, trees were down and it was generally unsafe. We need to be able to stay put and not go on the roads until things are ok. The number if times I have heard of people being killed as they are basically sight seeing disasters amazes me. Stay safe! That is just sensible! If we are at least a bit prepared we can easily stay home and out of it with plenty of food etc for a few days. Driving to the store for milk is just not necessary! Since I wrote this it got worse and many more are without power and lives have been lost sadly.)

Anyway, I am seeing each area as my pantry and considering everything that adds to them as building up my pantry.

The other gradual change has been becoming more aware of every opportunity to add to each area. My first methods to build up my cellar were great specials especially two for one prices. Whenever something we use was half price I would buy up and basically store all the "free" items in the cellar.
The next was I get gift cards from Woolworths from time to time as a reward. They are usually $5 and now and then a $10 one. I use those to buy half price specials (and double their value) and these items build up my pantry. I continue to do these.
Other times I have sacrificed something small and used the money to add to my pantry. This can be really good. In one instance I had a parcel I needed to post. I expected it to cost around $10. At the last minute I was able to give it to someone who was travelling to delver. So I used that $10 for my purse I keep for good specials. So it ended up as food in my cellar instead of postage. This has become a bit of a game. I love being able to do a swap and save and use that money to build up the pantry.

Other little things I include...

Every parsley plant that has come up I have nurtured and replanted if it needed re locating. All of this will be fresh green vitamins and minerals I can add to so many things.

Each week I have had a cook up and added to my freezer. Last week was Pasties. Yesterday I made sausage rolls. On the weekend I am making meat pies.

In summer free fruit allowed me to add enormously to my pantry. It took the form of rows of jam, fruit pies, stewed fruit in the freezer and fruit cobblers. It added up to an enormous amount of food!

I have discovered a lot of foods that last a long time that I never considered before. Now I work them into our meals and keep them on hand. Reading what other people store and use has really increased my options.

My own herbs, chili, spinach and limes in our garden give me little bursts of freshness and flavour to add to lost of things.

Every shopping trip is a mission to see what I can find! Everywhere I go is too! Where ever I go I check out the local fruit and vegie store, watch for road side stalls, watch for fruit trees and think about how I can build up my pantry.

If you have an excess of something think about selling items or trading as a way to add to your supplies. When you start this it is amazing what comes back. As I have so many chili plants and I have dried and frozen chili I take them with me to give them away. People tend to say "oh I have some lemons would you like some?" and other excellent statements like this! :) Giving is always good. Good things happen.

Developing what we are growing, cooking, doing... as part of the conversation makes people realise we will use or swap produce. I work it into conversations if I can. In Adelaide, at least, it is perfectly possible to know people who have fruit falling to they ground they would not consider picking up. Our neighbours were like this with three huge peach rtrees. I asked and I received... I picked huge baskets of peaches over three weeks.

My aunt told me she has joined a group of gardeners who meet in each others gardens and swap produce. What a good idea!
Many areas have, buy, sell, swaps and many can be found in the local paper and facebook pages. Imagine the possibilities!
Local free cycles can be wonderful to find everything from vintage canning supplies to manure for the vegie patch, food items and pick your own fruit.
You can advertise for free that you will pick fruit and return with jam or a pie.
You could place a notice "canning jars wanted" on a free notice board or on free cycle.

What I am saying is maybe we can explore possibilities we haven't considered?  If you know someone with a farm, vegie garden, chooks or who hunts or fishes maybe you can establish some kind of swap with them?
If we don't have produce to swap maybe we can knit dish cloths or cook or offer some commodity from our own talents?
If you know someone with a bakery or food business this might have possibilities.
Maybe there are steps we can take that we haven't tried before? Maybe we can boldly ask where we haven't asked before. I wrote "Ask and you hall receive"recently and the amazing results it produces to just ask simple questions...

If you have limited space you might be able to grow more herbs if you stack your pots like I do. It really works so well. I stacked four old pots, filled with dirt and a tomato stake down the middle, to stop them from topping over...

Each layer I filled... big things that need more room went at the bottom, which is a half wine barrel.

It is in the sun at my back door and it is mainly watered from kitchen water, left over tea from the teapot, water form cooking vegetables etc.

Now it has grown and the amount it produces is huge!  I pick herbs almost everyday. I give away bunches. The bottom layer is currently chili and basil. It is massive! Even my budgie Chippy gets a bunch a day!

This takes up a small amount of room and produces so much!

It is funny... in one way we are surrounded by abundance and in another people don't necessarily notice it. It is a mind set to some extent. On holidays at one of the little beach towns we go to we met an old man. He was working in an op shop for the day. Every morning he goes fishing. Then he keeps enough of his catch for his dinner and he goes door to door in a little run her does around his retirement village. He gives everyone fish according to what he has caught. In turn he gets given home grown vegies, fruit off trees, home cooking and all sorts of things and an excellent social life! I thought this was wonderful!

I am loving going from things I have always done, things I have been doing for the last couple of years to thinks I have not really ever considered or known about!  When our eyes are opened to new possibilities it is really exciting!

What are some ways you add to your pantry? And what are your tips to build it up when there isn't necessarily spare money to do it with?
I really want to challenge you to trying something you have not done before to build up your pantry and preparedness.

Thank you for all the wonderful ideas on Mondays post about crumbles and stretching meals. Lots of really good and some amazing ideas came in and some brilliant ways to stretch meals!

Now I am heading off for the day to see Hilde who is always full of ideas on pantries, how to stretch things, frugal things and general great fun. I have four huge op shops to go to as well and the cheapest best fruit and vegie shop I know. I cannot wait to see what I find!
It is also a perfectly gorgeous sunny day!

I hope you are having a wonderful week. I hope I have great things to report on Friday! x

Sunday 19 April 2015

Stretch a meal and use it up. Crumbles.

Today I am starting what will be a series, "Stretch a meal and use it up".
There are so many ways to do both these things and when you are doing both togehter you are onto a winner! Like with crumbles. Good old fashioned and yummy crumbles.

Firstly they "use it up" on two levels. You can use up quite tired fruit that is no longer appealing fresh (and could be headed for the bin) in a crumble. So that bowl of apples going soft become something delicious. You can use up a glut of fruit. You can use tinned fruit that you found on a great special.
In summer I had peaches that needed using that day or it would be too late.  I used a suggestion I gratefully recieved here and made a peach crumble. Actually several. Once this fruit was cooked I had a few more days to use it too. It was the best crumble I ever made!

So you are using tired fruit that might have been wasted. Or bargain fruit or tinned. You can mix some of this and that if you think they will go together. I have mixed pear and apple, rhubarb and apple, apricot and apple... apple and sultanas. You can use raw fruit, in which case cook it longer and slower, or cooked fruit which will heat through and be cooked quicker so you are really just going for a golden brown topping. If you are not sure go to your most trusted chef, cook book or website and check out a few recipes or use a family one as your basic recipe and vary from there. You cannot tell someone how much sugar to add as some fruit is already sweet and some is tart. You really need to add and taste. But once you have made one then it is an easy go to desert any time you have fruit to use up.

The crumble part, the topping, is also using up left overs. Your crumble topping uses up all kinds of things that could have been thrown away. Once you make crumbles you see all sorts of things that you can save to go towards your next one. Keep a big jar in the pantry and add dry ingredients that can be used as your next crumble topping. Some great things include...
The crumbs from the bottom of the cereal packet.
Crumbs from the bottom of the biscuit barrel or packet.
Left over cereals or museli.
Oatmeal, rolled oats, porridge.
Sultanas, nuts, other dried fruits.
Biscuits that no one liked much!
Anything that is not already crushed I put in a snap lock bag and belt it with the rolling pin and in it goes. As long as things are dry they will keep in your jar ready for your next crumble.
In the fridge I keep left over nuts. Crushed these are beautiful in your crumble toppings.

When you need a topping you melt some butter, add some flour, brown sugar plus some of your mix and that is it!

My best ever crumble was very simple. I greased a baking dish and 3/4 filled it with sliced and peeled peaches. These were sweet so I added the smallest sprinkle of sugar.
In a bowl I melted butter, maybe half a cup or so, and added flour, brown sugar and crushed walnuts. I added a dash of cinnamon. I tasted it to see if it was sweet enough, so just go by taste. It should be delicious.
Once this was crumbly I sprinkled it in a thick layer over my peaches and baked it until the crumble was golden and I could see the fruit was bubbly.
Served with cream this was just beautiful. Crumbles soak up cream or ice cream like a sponge. Custard is the other obvious addition.

As we always have nuts in the house I include some crushed nuts now in my topping. But you can adapt your toppings to suit yourself and be nut free or gluten free or whatever you wish.

Crumbles used to be something our Grandmothers made and for good reason. But now they are "in fashion" again I notice as the cooking shows and restaurants have been featuring them (along with a lot of good old fashioned comfort foods).

I made one on the weekend and I used a tin of pie apricots as Andy loves apricots. He worked all weekend so I made special dinners. I used the flour, butter, brown sugar, crushed walnut mix. It was beautiful and as it was raining outside a cooked desert was a treat. We don't have desert every night. It is either special or when I feel dinner was a bit light on or when I am serving soup as a main. Then I get a meal from less and top it up with desert. To me desert can be used as a way to bulk out a meal when you need to do that.

I just love that you can make something so good from fading fruit and remnants saved up from cereals etc. You feel as if you have made something wonderful out of thin air.

Recipes that use up our leftovers, stretch a meal, make the most of the times when we have too much of something and help the budget overall are just so good. Pizza is a good one. So many bits and pieces work as toppings! And so many things work as bases.

Some others I find really useful are impossible pies, fried rice, sweet or savory scones (biscuits), pancakes, corn bread, custards... baked, rice, creme caramel, soups, stews, mornay, bread and butter puddings, muffins. All of these have great use it up potential as you can vary the ingredients so much.

Some things that stretch a meal like a casserole or meat meal are yorkshire puddings,  vegetable side dishes, dumplings, corn bread, bread rolls, rice, mashed or baked potatoes or sweet potatoes, potato bake and Nan's tomato casserole.

Left overs and bits and pieces take on all sorts of possibilities when you have highly adaptable recipes. So that is something I am working on in following posts. It helps us eliminate waste and be creative!

What are your "use it up" recipes and recipes for when you really need to stretch a meal to go further?
Mimi recently said that she was trying to hold back one ingredient where possible when making a meal. Just adding one thing less. This over time was giving her ingredients to make another meal, or toward another meal. I thought this is really good. I often add more than I need. Economy wise and calorie wise this is a winner! You can kind of make a little game of it.

Another saver is to try and go just one more day before you shop. To have a use up every left over day and stretch your supplies out just an extra day. This can call for some inventiveness! But over a year this can be a big saving!

Combined I hope our ideas can help each others budgets.

I want to tell you a little thing. When we travelled recently we went through a lot of country towns. Increasingly we have noticed how many empty shops there are. How houses look run down and gardens dead. We have seen the gradual decline in many places we have visited but also in places we have lived. Tonight Andy was talking to his friend on the phone. His friend is a very industrious hard worker. (Also way out in the country). Andy said how he is finding it tough. People are not spending and there is no money around... so his business is very low and everyone else's are too. So he will do anything at all for a dollar and is taking on all kinds of random extra things. Each time we speak to someone from this area the report is a little bit worse.
I am not saying this is everywhere but we are noticing it where we live. Around here empty shops and closing shops are just the norm now.

So I think there is a great need for helps like the blogs we talk about, for blogs like The Cheapskates Club and My Abundant Life, for economical recipes like Mimi posts and for learning skills to do better, cook better, DIY, live frugally and happily... all of these things. The need must be there and people must be looking. And for us, the more we learn the better! The more we build up our pantries the better!

Have a wonderful week!

Thursday 16 April 2015

Feather your Nest Friday. 17th April, 2015.

How was your week?! I really love Fridays for the reason that making a list of everything I did achieve is a celebration. Usually I feel pretty good then. I mention this as several times in the week I read on blogs how so many ladies feel depressed and overwhelmed at all they have to do, by their lists, by all the work in front of them. On a few I added my comment that if we don't stop and look at all we did and feel proud of ourselves and the results, well, then, no wonder people feel overwhelmed. It would be like endlessly working with no pay day!

Pay day for me is having some idea of the value, both monetary and spiritual, of all my efforts. Mimi frequently works out the dollar value. ie if I had purchased that meal instead of making it the cost would have been $$?? Or for me this week, if Andy had bought coffee and lunches the cost would have been  probably between $50 and $70. However, I packed lunches and sent coffees each day saving most of that money. That is just ONE thing. Add them all together and see how much it is! It might be a worthwhile challenge for a week. List all the things you do where the alternative is to buy that product or service. List the savings on each one and see what your work saved your family. Maybe we all need to do that now and then!

But "pay day" is also realising all the other benefits. I like to have things organised and looking nice. I am HAPPIER when my surroundings reasonable. Other payoffs are too many to list... a welcoming home, a comforting sanctuary, a place the family are proud of, a place people feel safe, healthy food on the table... there are just so many things about our homes that make them something far beyond a house.

All these things are building up our home and feathering our nests!

Some of the ways I saved money this week were:

I made lots of pasties for meals and the freezer and I used left over pasty for jam tarts. (from some of my summer jams) This is the worlds simplest thing but they look like stained glass windows!

Mum gave me two beef roasts. I can roast them or make casseroles or curries, then pies...

I knew rain was coming and I got the washing all done and dry before it arrived. I dont have a dryer and line dry everything.  Beating the rain and using the last sun feels like a great success!

Then appreciating the rain. Rain on the garden is a saver in itself and better than any watering.

I went through my recipes and found lots that I haven't made in a while that I will start making in the next few weeks. And I found a sausage roll recipe bulked out with grated carrot like my daughter makes and this will be next weeks cook up.

My first scarf is finished and I have started another one.

I said no to some outings and saved the budget and got more work done.

My baby parsley patches have come up everywhere. I have parsley in plague proportions!

Some of the ways I built up our home were:

I added to my pantry... tinned cherries and tinned milk. (evaporated milk). 

I cleaned and cleaned. I had a catch up as I was behind in a few things.

Our hydrangeas were almost finished so I pruned them. I gave a heap of cuttings to a friend and then put all the flower heads in a vase. They are mostly dried but with hydrangeas this is still pretty. And looks "autumny" and lovely. This is a HUGE vase...

Good things...

I met Mel! She lives on the other side of  town to me but we met for coffee and talked and talked! It is funny when you meet someone and you feel so familiar with them from endless chatting online, sharing our lives and weeks. Mel is gorgeous. And she had saved and washed me twenty lovely jars with lids! Does she know me well or what!?

It rained properly and is still raining. That is a great help in itself.

I hope you had a good week and I hope you know how important your work is and what a difference it makes to your family!

Thank you to everyone who added to the freezer meals ideas. The list just grew and grew and I have some new things to include in my own freezer. Thank you!

How did you save money and build up your home this week?

Have a great weekend and some well earned rest. xxx

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. The help of frozen meals.

Today I am thinking about preparedness from a shorter term approach. Meals in the freezer for when you have the flu, the weather is terrible, life is hectic, cooking just isn't going to happen and all the times that you might otherwise think about getting take away. This is still preparedness. It's preparedness for lifes regular bumps.

Meals in the freezer are a huge help. They will get you through in all these circumstances and also when money is tight. They are a part of your normal food storage and emergency preparedness.

Building up meals in your freezer is really easy to do. Some of you will be better at this than me! If you regularly get take away this alone will help your budget and health to a huge extent. Using the savings to increase your emergency fund or pantry add to the benefits.

The simplest way to build up ready meals is to cook double and freeze a meal. There are many things I don't think it makes any sense to cook a single meal, when you are making them just make double. (or more!) Think about it and make a little plan based around what your family likes. I have heard people say this doesn't work as their family will see the extra and just eat it. If that is the case as you are serving separate the extra meal away and put it out of sight. Also there is nothing wrong with saying that something is for another night!

Some of my meals are so easy. Actually all of my meals are easy... like yesterday I made pasties. In the cooler weather I love a pasty and a glass of milk. I feel like a little kid with that combination. My Nan made Pasty Slice. So it looked like a square pie. Packed full of vegies and they froze perfectly. So you can make them individually or as a larger slice to cut up. I made a dozen pasties that are meal sized...

And I made 2 large and two small family size as Pasty Slices...

This made meals for 14 or more. We ate one each for dinner last night with spicy relish. A family one is going to the expectant couple... the rest in the freezer. Easy! So one afternoon cooking = at least ten back up meals. (and ten nights of no cooking!)

My cooking here is nothing wonderful. I even use bought puff pastry, I confess. Also I have left over pastry that today I am going to use up with some of my homemade jam and make cute little jam tarts. You guessed it... I will make a few, not just one!

The other day I had a spaghetti sauce cook up. It fills my biggest cook pot. It is simply mince, onion, tomato, tomato paste, pepper, oregano... I will add grated vegies like zucchini etc as I have them. The important thing is to simmer it for ages to develop the flavors. But once I have this I can make...

Spaghetti bolognese,
Savoury mince on toast,
Mixed through macaroni cheese as a bake. (kids love)
This mix as a meat sauce on a pizza, topped with cheese is great. Kids and men love it! I added salami to Andy's and he thinks I'm a genius. lol

You can fill tacos.
I line a dish with corn chips... fill the middle with your meat mix, cover in cheese and bake. This is a crowd pleaser and so tasty. This is the kind of thing we have instead of take away. That was our Sunday night dinner while we watched football. So easy.

"Chow Mien" the addition of shredded cabbage, rice and chicken noodle soups SOUNDS odd but it makes a savoury rice dish that is yummy and kids LOVE. It can be served with toast too. It is easiest to add cooked or partially cooked rice (about one cup) and sometimes you are going to need to add more liquid. This cooks up to be so tasty.
They are the usual things I will do from a spaghetti sauce cook up. One cook up produces so many different meals.

 Lasagna will go further if you cut it into serving sizes when it is cold and  freeze those. Then each package is one portion. There are no trays with left overs that way.

Another one is also mince based. I will make up a big batch of mince, egg, bread crumbs, tomato paste, herbs and make meat loaf and also make hamburgers. This will give me several spares of each and both can be frozen raw or cooked.
I often the cook my meatloaf in the slow cooker surrounded by vegies. Usually I will do two. One for dinner and the other will be sliced up for cold meat in lunches. Yummy! But for children I would cook my meat loaves in a muffin tray (in what size is suitable) and then you have individual servings which look neat and individual servings to freeze.

The idea of a basic thing that can then become something else is the biggest help. My most usual one is to make a chicken, beef or lamb casserole. I always add a huge amount of vegies. Make at least double and eat the casserole the first night. Then use this as filling for pies and use pastry to encase it or cover the mix with mashed potato or sweet potato and cheese and bake that. It is a sort of Shepherds Pie then. These are lovely and they also freeze. Or make individual sized little pies. Again for children use a muffin tray so your pies are child sized. Making things in good portioned sizes gets you so many more meals from a batch of anything. It saves waste. If you have lots of leftovers making everything in serving sizes pretty much eliminates that and it can be a huge saving!

This is a pot roast. The greens go in later. At the end this became pies. It gives you very tender and tasty pies.

Soup is easy to make in big batches and freeze in serving sizes. If you aren't well chicken soup ready to heat up is so good!

I cannot understand making A cake. I will always double or triple it and make several or make a cake and muffins or some combination so that I have a batch to freeze.
You can also slice a cake up into lunch box sized portions ready to drop in lunch boxes in the morning.

The same with scones or corn bread. Then you always have something to go with soup, for the kids when they come home from school, for visitors...

I multiply fruit cakes as they keep for a year or more. It is just as easy to make several as make one. This keeps in the pantry and is so good to have on hand.

These are the ways that when I am cooking I make it worth my while and then I have several meals from one. Then there is always something easy for a busy night, you never have to cook every evening and you always can build up your frozen meal supply. You no longer need take away. You have your own food bank ready to go. So often you hear people say how they are tired of cooking every night. You don't have to cook every night! Once you start making extra you soon are cooking a few nights a week at the most.

I also always keep pizza bases or turkish bread in the freezer. I always have cheese, ham or bacon, in the fridge or freezer and pineapple, tomato paste, herbs etc in the pantry. So in a few minutes I can make pizza, pizza subs, toasted sandwiches etc. This is far quicker than getting take away anyway and a fraction of the cost. Also I often wonder what is wrong with eggs on toast, baked beans, sandwiches or some other simple thing for dinner in a pinch?

My meals to build up my freezer are pretty basic but reliable recipes we like. Many things can be frozen or served different ways to make a variety of meals. Mostly I do this according to what is on special and sometimes what I have been given, as in the case with the use- it- up- fruit cakes and usually soups too.

What are your easy meals and good options as frozen meals? Having a selection is a big help. It gives you variety and choice. I am always on the look out for more.

Patsy really taught me that all our food storage is our pantry. This part of our food storage is very helpful. Imagine how much our Grandmothers would have loved to have the freezers we have!

In another post I will talk about meals to create from the non fridge/freezer part of our food storage and also how just a few fresh things in the garden make make a world of difference to the possibilities.

This week in South Australia tens of thousands of people are without gas and so have no heating, cooking, hot water. It has happened in two large towns due to a burst gas pipe. You can see those doing ok have alternative methods to cook and heat water such as a gas BBQ with a gas bottle or electric hot plates. It always pays to have plan B! A good reminder. It is also a reminder that when something like this happens all the things that you would need ie gas bottles, gas BBQ, electric hot plates, all sell out in minutes. So rushing out to buy them when the crisis hits is not a good time to go shopping! It would be a good time to have spares though.

I hope you are having a good week! xxx

Sunday 12 April 2015

Beautiful images from old books...

On our trip to Tumby Bay our op shopping was a big part of the fun. I came home with three books I chose for the gorgeous images.  One was a Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic book and two were books on roses. Each were between $2 and $4 in price. The whole idea was that these give me images for making lovely cards!

I will get over 100 cards and tags from these! Cards really are very inexpensive to make this way! I had enough images to share with a friend as well.

This weekend I started making some cards up. These are really simple. I have made fancier cards ie with ruffles and written tutorials which you can find in my craft section. But these are stunning images and so I just make a simple card.

I began with the Shabby Chic book and made a series...

I love these, the chandeliers, the sparkle and soft colours!

Then I started on roses. These are lovely too! In some cases the pictures were stunning on both sides of the page and I had to decide! 

Also in early posts I showed how you can take a plain or recycled gift bag, add a picture and end up with a lovely gift bad for your gift giving. These are expensive in shops! But sometimes stores use these when you make a purchase. Then they have a logo or something on them. Well, just cover that and make your own gift bags! In our news agency gift bags are expensive. Cards are mostly about $8, tags even are a couple of dollars. Each thing like this you make is a big saving.

In another early post I showed how you can use lovely magazine images or book images as gift wrapping for small gifts. I always keep a selection of the larger pictures for gift wrap. The uses are endless! On that note posters, sheet music, jewellery catalogues... lots of things make lovely gift wrap...

I start with the largest images. Some were full page... these are great for wrapping something or for a larger gift bag. Then I make cards and small bits get used up on gift tags. This gets you the most value.

An example of wrapping is this time I have made wrapped soaps to go with my cards. I just buy boxed Dove soaps. I like the pink soap but any are fine. I wait and get them on specials. Usually $1 each. What started me on these was seeing a gift wrapped soap in a gift store for over $20. Seriously. So I have made so many of these!

Some of the larger rose images were big enough for this. I just add a bow or an embellishment... you can really use anything you have. 

These are really handy as a small thank you gift, teacher gift...  Also I often add one to a gift I am posting. Every time I have heard back how wonderful the parcel smelled when it was opened! 

These also would be a nice party favour. My tips are wrap tightly and neatly. Place your sticky tape so that your ribbon will cover it. Use tacky craft glue to secure ribbon and embellishments. 

These are so handy! 

My next gift is to pack up cards into a pack as a gift in themselves. You could add a pen or stamps or an address book. But really you don't need to... they look lovely. I use cellophane bags and tie them up with a bow. For my aunt I make gardening or cooking themed cards. You can personalise them to what someone loves. Then I finish that with a bow. This is a lovely gift and will save the person money as they don't have to buy cards for a while! 

So my three books which were $8 all up have supplied me with months worth of pretty pictures for all of these little projects. Books have much better quality paper than magazines so the pictures have a good finish to them. You could also cover gift boxes, plain books. diaries... the list goes on! 

I keep on saying that you don't have to be artistic to be crafty! There are so many ideas and once you get going it is surprising how the results encourage you to go on. The savings certainly do too. 

Beautiful images have so many possibilities. A stunning gift tag can become a bookmark. If you have lovely frames fill them with images from books are your art. Imagine doing this with gorgeous childrens illustrations for a nursery! (I have nurseries on the brain at the moment!)

I hope you had a good weekend! I have so many things on the go, several crochet projects, cards and soaps, cooking... then I decided to alter some winter scarves I have that are lovely but just too bulky for me so I never wear them... so the sewing machine is out and I am making them over. (or under really)

But now it is Monday I have a long list as there are a errands to run and we must eat and things like that!
Have a wonderful week! See you Wednesday for Pantries! xxx