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.

Sunday 29 May 2016

The Vicky Challenge. Extra pantry storage by Kelsey.

My Vicky Challenge was pretty good last week. It is crucial I jot down points each day as I forget really quickly and would lose track. Looking back over my list is really good at the end of a week.

We have been going along now long enough that I have worked out my weekly average "earnings" and average monthly total as well. Knowing this eggs me on as I naturally try to beat them which is a good thing!

Thank you for all the amazing comments last week in response to Vicky's post about making the hard decisions.

Glenda said something I am going to repeat...
"The action of being fiscally responsible is an acton that shows how much you care about your family."
I think this is spot on.

My Vicky Challenge last week...

My $125 payment from Adsense. This is going straight into the pantry supplies.

Andy did plumbing repairs which would have had to have saved at least $100.

The weeks lunches plus the fishing picnic for the day $150

Cooking lasagne, freezer meals etc $50

Andy's office drawers saved $100

My hair cut, colour,  condition etc for the month I saved $240

Nails, pedicure etc saved $120

I adore the Aldi Caviar skin care and know I have also saved money there but I don't know how  much as I am not sure how long it will last. This is a discovery for me plus a saving.

So that is $885 right there!  I know I forget things and some things I find too hard to figure out but these are clear savings from our own efforts and I'm very happy with that!

This weeks extra savings ideas are from Kelsey. I asked her if I could share this as it is so excellent. Firstly, there are savings ideas within her post.  Secondly, storage is an issue for most of us and ideas for adding some pantry storage are going to help in several ways. Building up your pantry isn't just a money saver (as you never have to pay full price for anything once you get established!) but also your preparedness. Both are so important.

So over to Kelsey:

 I have been wanting to send you some photos for quite some time but am just now getting around to it! It is something my husband built for me last year, and I just love it.
 As we live in a trailer house, storage space is VERY limited and we quickly ran out of pantry room when we decided to start building up our food supply. I had seen how people would store bulk food in large buckets, and I thought that would be great but also a little unsightly to just have big plastic buckets out in the open in my kitchen. (It's better if things are practical AND look good ;). Then I thought if I had a way to hide the buckets that would work. This is what I came up with, and my husband loved the idea so he set about building me a long box with a lid that could serve as a pretty bench and also pantry storage. 

 We have two large windows in our dining area. Our kitchen table is in front of one and the pantry/bench is in front of the other. This takes care of what would be an otherwise awkward or useless space. The inside fits four large plastic buckets that hold rice, beans, flour, and sugar. (I keep a few small canisters on the kitchen counter that I refill from the buckets for daily use.)

 Food grade buckets are expensive to buy, especially with lids that have airtight seals. I checked at my local grocery store bakery, as I heard they have buckets that they just throw away. Sure enough, they were happy to supply me with four five-gallon food grade buckets with airtight lids for free! All I had to do was clean them. I added labels to the lids this week, which I printed out for free, so major savings on the buckets. 

 This piece of furniture is definitely coming with us to the ranch! It is so useful and very special since my husband built it for me. Eventually I would like to make a long cushion to go across the top.

 I thought I would share this, as I know the ladies are often wondering about creative storage solutions for pantry items. I think something like this could go in any room.

I'm glad you had such a great week! I will visit Bluebirds this evening to report on mine. Very busy, as you can imagine, but good! 
With love, Kelsey

I love it Kelsey and thank you! There are so many places that a bench seat would fit in perfectly even in the bedroom or on the back veranda!
Something like this would also make a great place to store your presents as you make them.

Your husband did a wonderful job Kelsey and your idea in the first place was brilliant. 
Thank you so much. I also spy a very nice kitchen dresser in one of the pictures!

How was your week and your savings/earnings?  Have great new week.
I will not be able to post on Wednesday so Show and Tell will be the following Wednesday and I will report back on Friday... hopefully with lots of good things! xxx

Thursday 26 May 2016

Feather your Nest Friday, 27th May, 2016.

We have had a week of rain! And we love rain so that makes it a good week!

We saved money by:

I made a giant pot of Broccoli soup as Broccoli was on a big special.

I had a big cook up and made masses of spaghetti sauce, pasta bakes and lasagnes.

I gave one to Lucy and we cut it up into individual serve sizes and froze several dinners worth for her.  This is so handy to have. 

Andy had been needing drawers for his office. He looked in Officeworks and what he wanted started at over $100. On Tuesday he arrived home with perfect drawers that I thought he had bought but they were a road side find! So thats a saving!

I made all the work lunches.

We had a dripping tap and a leak where the water goes into the washing machine... Andy fixed both of those.

I used Coles vouchers to accumulate a lot of points towards a gift card. Also I learned to check each docket and this led to another 500 points.  (Thanks Kaye!)

I shopped at Aldi. This was fantastic. I stocked up on basics that are much cheaper there. Also I added to my gift cupboard. They had gorgeous kitchen wares in Chloe's kitchen colours. Some was enamelware. Having bought some for Dad in a kitchen wares store I knew what amazing bargains they were. I was over the moon.

I treated myself to some pink enamelware. I got pie dishes and a baking tray. 

Aldi had Caviar Power skin care on special. I had heard a lot about this. British magazines tested it and it beat very very expensive brands by miles. And I also had a personal recommendation that it is simply divine. And it was marked down!  
Skin care can be very expensive and over the years I have tried so much! Because the girls were in the beauty industry I have been able to try some beautiful brands. Eventually I discovered a few things and these days I buy Loreal and Olay mostly. They are excellent and a fraction of the cost of the beauty department brands (and yet the same ingredients)  So I decided to try this Caviar. 

There is a mask, serum, scrub, foundation, day cream and night cream. All together this was 1/4 the price of one item that it compares to in the department store. 

Well, it is the nicest thing I have ever tried! I just love it. And it only is in store once a year.  Yesterday four people complimented me and one was super sleuth Lucy. She asked what had I done different? I looked much better apparently. You can rely on daughters I tell you! 
I am totally hooked on this. I thought I would mention it as skin care can be a ridiculous expense. Like hair care and hair dressing these things can amount to thousands a year and do for lots of women. I know I save over $2000 a year on my hair. And more on doing my nails and pedicures etc. And something massive staying away from cosmetic counters. But now this! It is just beautiful and totally agrees with my skin.  Very happy! Love Aldi! 

I earned $125 from blog advertising. I am not writing my blog to make money but now and then I get a payment from ads. It helps.  I want to say that when you watch you tube tutorials to always watch the ad first. The work that goes into making a tutorial is immense. The person gets a little payment if you watch the ad. Also if you like them click like and follow them. That supports them. 
On blogs you like watch for ways to support them. If I go to a blog I love I click on an ad that might appeal to me as I know this helps them get some income. And if I want to order something from Amazon I would do it via A Working Pantry as this also gives them a small payment. You can support blogs without any cost to you. You have no idea how much this helps them. 
If you do not click like, follow or comment the person has no idea you exist or even care. They are no cost ways of helping.  Thank you to everyone who follows, likes on FB or shares posts, forwards posts, clicks on ads, pins on pinterest and adds links to their own blogs. Thank you.

I gave myself a hair cut and deep conditioning treatment.

I built up the home, feathered my nest and got ahead by:

Adding meals to the freezer. 

Helping the girls with meals.

Making little outfits for Harper and pretty socks.

I added to the pantry with a little battery operated radio for $5 that I found on a mark down table. A battery operated radio is an absolute necessity in a crisis if the power is out. That is how you know what is going on and what to do. This is a spare for us.

Also I added to my plastic tubs several items including powdered milk.

I hope you had a very good week! How did you save money and build up your home?
Have a lovely weekend! xxx

Tuesday 24 May 2016

The Christmas Challenge. My week.

The last week was quite rainy and so when other plans were put off I used the time to get stuck into a few presents.

Years ago I filled both the girls Glory Boxes with baby rugs, cot and bassinet linen, pram rugs etc. Also quite a few baby clothes. I thought that way if I kicked the bucket they would still have things I made for their babies.
Also I had tubs of things put away and lately Harper has grown into some of them and has been wearing things.  It's quite amazing to see really as if a dream came true after years of sewing for children who were not born yet. And here she is!

This was one of the outfits I made ages ago. It has Winnie the Pooh, Tiger and Piglet on it.

Inspired by the outfits getting used I started on some more. I am a bit rusty. I used to embroider non stop.  If you want to see the type of things I did have a look at Mouse wedding. I used to make up the figures from children's books and stories I imagined. I lived in an alternative reality evidently!

Now I notice my eyesight isn't as good. But I hate excuses so enough of that!

This week I added a little bunny to a pink onesie.

And a fox to a little top...

Mel had made woodland creatures out of felt and this led me to a whole world of cute creatures and easy designs found on pinterest. Lucy likes anything to do with the farm. And we have plenty of foxes! And rabbits! I have decided that the fox is getting made into a girl fox with either a necklace or an ear bow.  I will get to that on the weekend!

I have several more designs cut out ready to sew on.

I added rose buds to a singlet. I do not still know the US term for this. It is an undergarment but not all in one just a top.

And I added a crochet frill to little socks. I have a white pair started as well...

None of this made it into the Christmas cupboard! I also made a large lasagne as the gift of help and needless to say that didn't go into the cupboard either!

However, I did find two bargains that did get put away. Two boxed and beautiful kitchen gifts that were amazing buys and they are safely stashed for Christmas.

I am almost finished the pink and cream baby rug. One more week I think. It is reminding me of Coconut Ice...

This will go into the gift cupboard too.

Next week we will be in June! So we will have May Show and Tell. Please send in your pics of what you have been making, even works in progress! You can post them on to the Bluebirds Facebook page here. or email me at
I love seeing what you have been making and hearing the stories that go with the things, the giving, donating and all the things that come from crafting!

Today I am heading off to Aldi. I follow the catalogues and this week they have gorgeous things at such wonderful prices. I am hoping some of these things will also go into the gift cupboard. I seem to have two main themes... kitchen and laundry. This is good as I can put together some hamper type gifts and match things together. 

I hope your week is going well! Lets work to get to the end of June with a good selection of gifts towards Christmas. If this is your first year making gifts all year round then I am so excited for you to get to December and have a virtual little shop in your own home to select gifts from.  In October I make the Christmas cakes to put away and then in December I still add cooking. This all adds up to such a variety of gifts. December financial strain is pretty much eliminated and the best thing of all is you can give many more gifts than you ever have before. You can give to someone you don't know but think is lonely or in need, you can give to charity, neighbours or whoever you feel might be neglected. This adds to the joy of Christmas so much. I consider this the secret formula of loving Christmas. Always make multiples and more than you think if making something if you have  the materials. They will always come in handy!

See you on Friday, I hope I have a good week to report. So far so good! xxx

Sunday 22 May 2016

The Vicky Challenge. The Hard Decisions.

Each week as well as reviewing our savings for The Vicky Challenge we also try to add some new ways to save.

For anyone new read this post to understand The Vicky Challenge. You can join this challenge at any time! The challenge is on the sidebar in the index. Each week we also have a theme to help us expand our ways to save!

This week Vicky has written something that I think is very thought provoking. She has told me about "revisiting" before and I now do that as a matter of course. We can do things out of habit but things change and we need to revisit our budget, habits, spending, plans etc and do some reconsidering from time to time. This week she is talking about making "The Hard Decisions".

But first my Vicky Challenge...

The last week was much better than the previous one!

Firstly, I had my bargains and free items at Spotlight which the shared voucher which combined to save me $40.

We had a fish dinner from Andy's catch saving $10

I made the fishing day food and drinks plus the whole weeks work lunches and drinks $150.

Mum gave us a duck which we roasted saving at least $10.

I found a book on drawing for a gift saving $15 (I paid $1)

My op shop purchases added the most. The blankets are $520 each in the shops. I paid under $20 each saving $1000.  When Chloe saw them and looked up their value she said "wow this is really going to help your Vicky Challenge!"

That's $1325 right there! My cup and saucer are English fine bone china  and I only paid a few dollars.

I also made gifts and did lots of bulk cooking but it is too hard to work out what I saved exactly. I would have to say at least another $100.

Now over to Vicky....

 The Hard Decisions.

As many know over a year ago my husband lost his job. And because of previous injuries he has been turned down for jobs although he is highly skilled and a seriously hard worker. I am a true believer of being positive and that no matter how bad things get there is always something to be grateful for, but at times we may have to make hard decisions. The decisions that others will try to talk you out of or flat out give you a hard time about. 
I have been made fun of because I stock my pantry so well. I have been called names and been made fun of because I decided to start seeing the value of everything instead of taking the cost of things for granted from saving what I used to spend on a stamp to things that are gifted to us. Some people think these things are worth nothing. To me they are worth a lot! 
Years ago we invested in stock. And watched the markets go up and down, but with the goal in mind that we would have money when we retired. So even though we are nowhere near retiring yet I took a second look at this resource and revisited as I do everything here at home. First let me add that my husband is doing a fine job of making enough to pay the bills and come up with the extra that happens here and there like prom costs. We got of ahead of the mortgage loan by years by paying extra each month with the intention of being mortgage free after we became debt free. 
BUT because of the previous injuries he's had over the years when he comes in he is moaning and groaning and in pain and yet gets up in the morning and starts over. BUT I have to think how long will he be able to do this? And what would our options be if he can't? 
So we made the very hard decision to use the stocks and pay off the house. It wasn't easy by any means and of course we have heard all about how we will need it when we're old, but by doing this and not having a mortgage (we paid half and will do the pay off in Jan. to save big dollars on taxes)  we are saving a ton of money in interest over the years and if money is really tight we can easily cover the other things we do have to pay. And the people who are poo pooing our decisions and making fun of me quite often I have found are not disciplined when it comes to money or budgets or making hard decisions. I am very disciplined this way and know some who have taken out big loans for luxuries not knowing how they would pay for it. You can only have so many payment plans before your whole check will go to payments with nothing left to live on. We will still have funds left for a rainy day, we will still have an emergency fund that we add to when we can and by sticking to our plan we will be more secure in the future.

 So if you have those hard decisions whether it's paying off a mortgage by sacrificing now and living a simpler lifestyle or downsizing to a smaller home because you can no longer afford the one your in, retiring early or continuing working, being a stay at home mom or leaving a bad relationship, my best advice is plan ahead, PREPARE as much as possible this is very important and if you know it's the right decision for your family do it and stay on the path you have mapped for your self. Don't let others belittle you for it.

It is funny that Vicky wrote this as I have been thinking a lot about they way the world and media especially glorify all kinds of terrible things and on the other hand people can be very critical of things that are good. A friend was criticised because she knits. Yes, for KNITTING. Most young Mums will experience being pressured to do something "better" with their lives than look after their children. And I'v heard terrible things said about anyone who lives within their means and doesn't use credit! Horror of horrors! So it is weird! If you build up a pantry, downsize to reduce debt, start saving and living simply, you are likely to be in the firing line of someone.
So it can take courage to make the hard decisions and to stick to the things you believe in. It can also take courage to accept a reality we haven't wanted to face, cut out things that are costing us dearly, change long held plans or re asses generally. Change can be hard. Going against the flow can be really hard.  But there is no use going down the gurgler with everyone else or as our parents would say "jumping off the cliff because everyone else did!"
It is also crazy to persist with something that isn't working. Trying something different though is change and much of the time we would rather stick to the thing that isn't working!
That is the challenge today, make the hard decisions. For the good of your family and future!

How did you save and add value last week?
Have a wonderful new week. The sun is shining this morning and I have lots to do. I love to get the week started well so off I

Thursday 19 May 2016

Feather your Nest Friday, 20th May, 2016.

Saturday was Harper's first Birthday and that seems like at least a year ago! So it must have been a big week or a busy one.

I have to show you her pretty dress...

And spectacular hair clip!

It was a beautiful day and I think what a big year that was. It was wonderful.

Some of the ways I saved money this week:

I had a $40 Spotlight voucher which was useable on anything (including specials) provided it was a minimum of $100 purchase. I went in and picked up six balls of wall, some suede for making embroidery appliqués, a lacy hanky with an initial and several other things. They were all on great specials. Only they were never going to add up to $100. In the queue I offered my voucher to a couple with a large floor rug but that too was a massive special marked down from $250 to $80. But the man said "ok, this is great lets combine our purchases!"  So we made friends in an instant and went through together deciding to split the $40 and have $20 each. He handed me $60 for his now even further reduced rug. At the check out the entire purchase came to $63 after the voucher. So $3 covered my whole bag full of things!
We all walked out happy with great bargains! I still can't believe all this stuff came to $3!

I froze left over cooked rice to use in baked rice custards.

Mum gave us a duck which I cooked as a big roast with stuffing and lots of vegetables.

I bought a book for my gift cupboard perfect for a young girl for $1. 

This week I made a huge batch of zucchini soup. It has been so nice. I add a spoonful of Turmeric to my soups now for the extra healthy boost.  I will happily have soup for lunch everyday and I gave Chloe some too. 

Yesterday Broccoli was on special at $2 a kilo. That is really cheap for here. I got two bags full and that will be the next soup.

One night was a fish, chips and salad dinner from fish Andy caught.

On Tuesday I had to go past an op shop so I called in. Best decision ever!  Last year I discovered that to buy a pure wool blanket now you are looking at $300 plus.  They had two beautiful pure wool KING size rugs in perfect condition. 

I paid under $20 each for them. They are just lovely. 
When I got home Chloe said "these are really going to add to your Vicky challenge!" and she went and looked up the retail price. Lo and behold this was $520 EACH.  I knew I had something good but wow.  I feel they were a great investment.

Also they had a lovely English porcelain cup and saucer, with rosebuds! 

To say I was thrilled is an understatement!

I got ahead with packets of glittery pegs for the gift cupboard.

Also another baby rug was finished and put away for a future gift.

I added to my pantry and storage. This included rice, sugar and tinned milk.

So that is where I am up to. I have the Broccoli soup in the crockpot and a cream and pink rug started. And lots to do today like washing and tidying up! But I feel very happy with the week.

How did you save money and get ahead? I hope you have a lovely weekend. I am hoping for a very quiet weekend, to go nowhere and do some crochet. xxx

Tuesday 17 May 2016

The Christmas Challenge. A bit of this and a bit of that!

Today's post is a mish mash of present making and results!

In the last couple of weeks I have had a few things on the go plus enjoyed the results of some making and giving! It is really an endless cycle.  The aim is to keep up with gifts during the year and still end up with a great supply stashed away for Christmas time!

Firstly I made glitter pegs. Pegs are the most useful item. I used them to hold the cheese packet shut and all sorts of things. You can even hang the clothes on the line with them! So cute ones are sweet to use and make a good gift.

Jes has a tutorial that is just lovely... here. I decided to glitter mine. The glitter is encased in glue and varnish so it will not fall off.

A lovely use for them is to hang photos up on a little "clothes line" to display in the house. This looks so sweet. Or stick a little magnet on the back and hold your notes on the fridge.

I made myself a life time supply and 12 packets went into the gift cupboard. As I already made wool wash, laundry liquid and crochet cleaning cloths I could add these to little laundry themed gift baskets.

I have enjoyed seeing Harper wearing some things I have made. Here she is wearing a little top I embroidered roses around the arms and neckline. The pants have a row of roses across the pocket.

I finished another baby rug. This is almost the same as the last one, with most of the same yarn. It is  all used up now!

The first one I gave away last weekend. I gave it to a young couple with a baby boy. I don't know them well but they don't have any family support so I thought a gift would be nice. Well, they appreciated it so much! That one had the little matching hat. I was so glad I could give them this.
Now I have a spare. And I have started a pink and cream one.

I made a couple dozen cards as I ran out. I just did simple ones with lovely images from a couple of op shop books. Now my supply is replenished! 

I use cards to write letters, thank you's etc as well as Birthdays so I tend to go through lots.

Mum has been using up wool left overs. She gives many rugs to charity. On the back of the chair is one that she used smoky and neutral colours...

The one at the front is all blues and she is still working on that one. They are all pure wool and so soft and lovely.  She makes tons of little hats also.

I have to show you something beautiful.
Mel told me how her husband made their son a Gnome House! It was all from things he picked up and cost a few dollars at most. She made Gnomes to go with it from pegs. This was a beautiful story as it was at a time they didn't have much money and yet the gift is so sensational...

It kind of speaks for itself in terms of creativity, love and work! I think it is just gorgeous. I thought I have to show this as something like it could be made for children into dinosaurs, action figures, fairies or whatever! And we have some very creative people here in terms of wood work plus that have children and Grand children. Wonderful! I really appreciated your pictures Mel.

Vicky had someone very kind give her rolls of wallpaper for crafting. She shared photos of what she made with an old roll of pink wallpaper recently and Clara saw this here on the Bluebirds. Clara had met Vicky at a pantry building talk at her church. She arrived at Vicky's house with rolls and rolls of beautiful wallpaper and said she thought Vicky could use it!  I wanted to say hello Clara that was so nice! 

 There is so much joy in creating and giving. I feel so content when making something that it does me more good than the recipient! 

What are you making and how is your present supply going? I hope you are having a good week! xxx

Sunday 15 May 2016

The Vicky Challenge. A guest post by Teri.

Last week wasn't really a big week of savings for me. 
I had the usual savings from making all the lunches, the fishing day picnic etc
And I used a free $5 voucher at Spotlight.

So my Vicky Challenge total I make at around $155.
That is my worst week of the year! 
But, as we all know, there are big weeks and small ones and they all add up over the year.

I did more "home building". I cleaned, organised, painted out of the way spots and so on. 

I hope your week was good and with lots of savings!

This weeks extra savings tips are from Teri. Every way you can build your pantry is a good thing. I have had several letters just recently to tell me how a well stocked pantry has made a whole world of difference in challenging times.
For this to be the case we have to work hard on them while we can and take every opportunity.  
Over to Teri... I hope you are inspired!

PANTRY BUILDING—Rotating, making do and re-stocking.

As we are all regularly working on your pantries and supplies, and doing a great job, we all need to keep a steady pace with filling our shelves. Things in the world are more uncertain than ever and many of us have/are experiencing less income to use for pantry building and weekly grocery shopping. Where we live, we are seeing daily price increases of food/non-food items as well as utilities, water, housing and gasoline. So, I wanted to share some ways that I have been saving to fill our pantry. (I have gleaned many ideas from Annabel, Patsy, Brandy; and other comments on all of their blogs; thank you so much).

So today, I would like to share some ways I rotate and refill my pantry. Hopefully, you will find a way or two to use your food/supplies and continue filling your pantry shelves, even if it is just one or two items! Being creative is important, as well as substituting ingredients, and making your own mixes and other convenient foods. I don’t like to feel “trapped” by all the advertising (“buy this or that- it’s new, improved etc.”) plus getting into my car to get one or two items just isn’t an option. Spending a bit of time re-packaging bulk items, making our own freezer meals/or components for meals, canning/freezing/drying extra food to waste less, or filling clean jars with our own mixes for easy meal times, are all ways I save money and have healthier options. Read Annabel’s recent post on using scraps to stretch our food! Scraps!

One way I save a lot is using my powdered milk. I wrote a post last year that will give you some ideas. (See here )This rotates my supply and saves trips to the supermarket for milk. I bake with it, use it to make rice and other puddings, and custards, I make “white rice” for breakfast using left over rice and a bit of cinnamon and sugar, I make my own granola and use reconstituted milk for that and I stir it into my coffee daily. I prefer non- instant powdered milk, although instant dissolves quicker. Just use it on a regular basis!  A couple of weeks ago, I needed to use up some frozen chicken broth, so a made a double batch of homemade cream of chicken soup. I measured the amount of powdered milk I would need and stirred it into 2 cups of the cold chicken broth, whisking it until dissolved. (normally I dissolve it in warm water for this recipe but using the broth gave my cream soup a much richer flavor). I also used my dried herbs and it tastes so much better, too! I use this for gravy, casseroles and any recipe calling for a can of cream soup. (Add mushrooms, sautéed veggies, chunks of chicken, etc., if you desire).

A couple months ago, I ran out of celery salt in my cupboard shaker and the pantry jar was just about empty. So, I made up a new batch adding my dried lettuce and spinach to the celery and celery leaves and just grabbing salt from the pantry. This made enough for my shaker and two jars in the pantry. I recently made a thank you basket of homemade jams, salsa and added a shaker of celery salt to give to a co- worker, who gave us a wonderful gift of 14 boxes of canning jars!!! This was a wonderful blessing, and opening each box was so fun!!

Along with making my own celery salt, I use all my powdered herbs and veggies to make spaghetti sauce, chili, meatloaf/meatballs, and soups. It is so nice to have these in my pantry. Often the veggies and herbs I dry are because we have more than we can use at once, and this saves a lot of waste plus fills our jars!
Two weeks ago, our son came up for dinner. He brought a red velvet cake he had baked the night before, and had asked if I would make some fluffy frosting for it. I was just adding the vanilla extract (which I make) to the finished frosting when he asked me to add a little almond extract too. I went to the pantry to get the almond extract and my little bottle was almost gone. (We used what was left and the frosting was yummy). This is something I don’t use often and so hadn’t noticed that I needed to replace it. So, we looked up how to make our own extract and I now have a pint jar “brewing” in the food storage room!! (I used almonds gifted to us). I’m also making my own peppermint extract with our dried mint and I plan to make lemon and orange extracts when I can get good deals on citrus fruits. (I just read how to do the citrus extracts on Jes'’ blog). And after straining my last batch of vanilla extract, I dried the vanilla beans and have been using them to flavor my coffee! I just break off a small piece and add it to the coffee filter. Delicious!!

Having your pantry stocked with daily meal items, baking supplies and even non-food items not only saves money but it helps build the skills you have, and you learn new skills! When our kids were little, I wanted to learn all I could about being prudent and using our resources wisely. I was intimidated by baking my own bread but knew I wanted to learn that skill. I loved to bake homemade goodies but wanted to learn more. So, I tried and tried until it was easy. (I made several loaves a week, and then made quick breads, cornbread, muffins, etc. to supplement and give variety). Then, I wanted to learn more about wheat, and grinding my own and from there, researched (in books, not the internet LOL) how to store food for longer than a few months.
After that, I wanted to learn how to pressure can, make my jellies clear and make my own mixes. Each time I learned something new, I was not only adding to my “skills” but I was excited about it and wanted to share my knowledge! I’m still learning with so much more to accomplish but it’s a way of life and I enjoy making more and more from scratch.

Last week, my husband brought home a fresh turkey (which had been marked down to 59 cents/pound), so we went to the pantry for herbs, seasonings and several jars of homemade BBQ sauce and brined it for two days. We baked it over the weekend, using some for dinner and dividing the rest for meals during the week. We put the bones in our slow cooker, which made delicious broth and used that for soup the next day. This is one way we save a lot by stretching one turkey into multiple meals, extra for the freezer and keeping costs way down. It’s nice to just have a well-stocked pantry to make yummy meals with. (Plus, I’ve learned to substitute many ingredients, saving more time and money).

One way I learned early on was to use half the amount of meat called for in a recipe. (Even using one piece of chicken to feed our family)! Using extra veggies, beans and pasta helped to stretch a pot of soup, chili, casserole, etc. Also, having my SOS mix made up and handy, helped to cross off several items from my grocery list. (Recife can be found here
Shopping from my food storage room to replace the items used in my pantry by the kitchen, there is always a meal to fix on a hectic day or when the meal plan doesn’t get used that day. Meal planning is so helpful. I use mine as a guide as we sometimes mix it up because of how the day goes. Either way, there’s always a meal at dinner time, with leftovers used for lunch the next day.

Coupons don’t get used very often, since most are for products we don’t buy, and buying in bulk (such as sugar, flours, baking items, vinegar, etc.) from a warehouse store, coupons aren’t generally offered on those products. When I do shop at our Kroger store, I use electronic coupons if it is something I already buy and works for the store brand.

Another area I’m working on is increasing our water storage supply. I fill my empty vinegar bottles and 2 liter bottles with water. When thinking about washing clothes in a bucket or sink (if I’m unable to use my washing machine), I decided to buy a couple 99cent bottles of liquid detergent since dissolving my own powdered detergent might be hard to do in cold water. I would be able to boil water but would rather not worry about that if I’m also trying to cook and do dishes with limited resources. (I’ve made my own liquid detergent in the past, which worked great, but decided to buy it this time). Trying to store water for cooking, drinking and washing dishes/clothes has required us to be creative with our storage options.  

We recently re-organized and made more space for water. We are also working on putting some type of protection on all our shelves, (to keep jars from falling off), and (from a commenter on Brandy’s blog) I’m going to start collecting apple/fruit boxes, cutting them down to size and use to store filled jars. This will help to keep from stacking my jars and I will label these boxes with the contents.

We are all working hard to fill our pantries. Whether it’s planning and preparing meals, making gifts or sharing with others, this all helps our budgets, and I also feel good about what I am doing. During some stressful times recently, we have been using our food storage/supplies and only replaced things we needed or meat that was marked down. We have been gifted food, also, and this has been a true blessing. We haven’t really done anything different, since this is our way of life, but
have just been more careful. It’s surprising how many things can be left on the store shelf and never be missed!

Annabel has been mentioning job losses, downsizing and companies closing shop. This is heartbreaking, as it is happening here in the US as well. When this happens, or other things come up, we are all able to use our pantries/supplies and not worry about feeding our families. Stay strong ladies!! I was really touched by a blog I recently read (sorry the name slips my mind). She didn’t have much money for groceries but she still had a great week adding to her pantry. She was canning apples, making jam, and using the food on hand to add to her pantry shelves! I recently did something similar. I had a handful of strawberries that needed to be used. So, I added those to some blueberries and a partial bag of strawberries/bananas (both from the freezer) and made a batch of berry jam. Berries that would have otherwise been tossed, and made a bit of space in my freezer!! Yum!!
I make my own “spray and wash” (as many of you do). Recently, our local grocery store had a special on ammonia for 59 cents/bottle! You had to purchase 5 to get that price but that was ok, as the extras went to the storage room!

Books are another way of finding ideas. I don’t spend a great deal of time on the internet but I do enjoy finding alternative ways for food prep, cleaning, laundry, etc., keeping me out of the stores. I use my older canning books, old cookbooks, and our local extension center also has lots of great information. Some years ago, their handouts were free or maybe a nickel but well worth it! I read and re-read my books, looking for ways to save/reduce waste. The library is another great resource. And, of course, all you wonderful ladies! Experience is the best way to learn.

Thank you Teri!  
I can't encourage you to build up your pantry strongly enough. If you are newer to the blog see the Pantries and Preparedness section in the index. There are so many ways to add to your pantry and many are free or very inexpensive. Just keeping at it is the key and making the most of every opportunity!

Have a really good new week!  I hope I have better savings to report next Monday! 
How did you save and get ahead?  Every little bit helps! xxx

Thursday 12 May 2016

Feather your Nest Friday, 13th May, 2016.

Casting my mind back to Sunday, Mother's Day, it seems like forever ago! So it must have been a big week.

Mother's Day was my highlight.  Afternoon tea was at Lucy's house and increasingly I am realising she is more like me than I ever knew.

This week I saved money by;
I made Cornbread as Muffins. I made three dozen to go with soups. Being soup season I love having something like this to go with it. 

Most went into the freezer. One dozen were given to Chloe when she came home from a trip for her freezer.

A basket of muffins is a great gift. So is a basket of scones (biscuits) especially if they are still warm. That is hard to beat.

Many things are more manageable as muffins, from corn bread to meat loaf...

Yesterday zucchini was $2 a kilo so I got a big bag of those. They will be soup of the week next week.

I used a $5 voucher at Spotlight for craft supplies.

We had a leftovers dinner. I had left over curry and a casserole which was just a tiny bit.  When I have little bits and pieces I often put it out Indian style.  It makes left overs seem so abundant! 

The beauty of curry, casseroles etc is they are actually better the second time around as flavours develop.  I added a couple of items form the freezer and it ended up a feast.
I am going to do a post on this in The Vicky Challenge.  Many countries feature small bowls as the way of serving... Japan, Indonesia, China, India.... and the markets or ethnic stores locally sell the bowls and serving dishes very cheaply. Anyway, I love doing this and it seems so nice!

I had both mint and yoghurt and wizzed them up to go with it and now have some for another dish I am planning on Sunday.

I feathered my nest by:

On Wednesday I cleaned inside and out of the fridge, washed it all out, washed the shelves in the sink, re lined the shelves etc. I pulled the fridge away from the wall and cleaned behind and underneath (yuk!) and while I was at it I painted the skirting boards in the kitchen since the fridge was already out and the skirting boards scrubbed. Pheww that was quite a big job but nothing makes you feel more virtuous than a spring cleaned fridge.  I wiped it out with vanilla which I still smell every time I open the door. It is lovely!

Somehow all of this had a domino effect and I cleaned out the kitchen island, shelves and had a re arrange to make things work better. It is working too.

I got ahead by:

The muffins in the freezer,
A completed present into the gift cupboard.
Things ready for the next fishing trip picnic.
Teri and Vicky helped me get ahead in a big way! They have both written wonderful articles for up coming savings and pantry tips. They are amazing.

I added to my pantry:

Currently I am filling plastic tubs. I added long grain rice, canned tomato, tea and coffee.

How did you build up your home or get ahead this week?

Most of our week was rainy and quite dark. Today the sun is shining! I have washing out in the sun and more in the machine. I think it is also going to be sunny tomorrow so I will also get the towels done. Sunshine after rain is the most beautiful thing. 

Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Tuesday 10 May 2016

The Christmas Challenge, Show and Tell for April, part 2.

I have two baby rugs going. One knitted and one crochet. I notice that crochet is more portable so if I have to wait somewhere I take that one.  And both are about half way.
The cool weather and dark evenings are good for knitting or crochet. These gifts take longer but they make a major gift when they are finished.

Also I am working on a project from Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth. Hopefully next week I can show you!

So now to the last of our April Show and Tell.  Thank you for all the lovely emails! The gift cupboards are filling!

First of all I have to show you this lovely photo.

Rachel's Mum was de cluttering and adding touches around the house. This looks like it is from a Victoria Magazine!  Good motivation on my decluttering and tidying! 

Next Rachel's Dad made a topiary tree. It is amazing! He used a tree brach for the "stick" and covered it in gorgeous roses.

Just beautiful! Something like this would be worth hundreds in a store. 

Barb has been making cards plus is working on note books. She uses her little machine to press pretty patterns into the paper... 

Glenda has been sewing. She made her Grand Daughter a cushion for her room in colours she loves. This was after making her Grand Son a Star Wars pillow. 

I admire patchwork and quilting a lot as I have seen how much work goes into these.

She also made her Great Niece a Tote...

Even the handles are quilted! Glenda is using up small remnants to make gifts plus making up ready to sew packs. I think these gifts will be treasured.

Jen made Lavender Sachets...

Jen picked Lavender from a friends Lavender bush. She used fabric from scraps someone gave her. And she saves ribbon from inside clothes. You know the long ribbons they use to keep the clothes neatly on the handers in the stores? Jen saves those. So these were entirely free for her to make.
Very clever!

Also Jen said that it is hard to get ahead with gifts as we make them they go out the door! This is true. Making multiples like this is the way to do it as some make it into the cupboard.

She also has been making wash cloths plus made an initial picture for a child's room which I thought was lovely...

Now I hope I have remembered everyone!

I also had some great recycling themed photos come in. I am going to show those in a separate post as I want to build on the ideas of recycling and being inventive.  They are fantastic!

On the side lines there have been lots of discussions on various resources people have and what on earth can be made from these? Often Pinterest comes to the rescue here. If you type in your resource i.e. "wood slices" you have hundreds of ideas in a minute.  Doing this I noticed "branches" has a lot of ideas! So many natural things around us are free and make something lovely. In fact just now this is a big trend. There are rustic, country, woodland themed weddings. Stuff you find is featured in amazing table settlings and decor. And all costs the earth if you buy it.
So look around you. You may have many more free craft supplies than you even imagined!
The words "free craft supplies" are music to most of our ears!

I hope you are having a great week. I am about to move my fridge, clean it out, clean under and behind it and paint that little area that is hard to get to while it is out. I will be happy to get that done. It is only a few minutes painting and I love a sparkly fridge!

See you on Friday for, hopefully, a good weekly report! xxx

Sunday 8 May 2016

The Vicky Challenge. 9th May, 2016. Scraps!

Welcome to the Vicky Challenge! I hope you had a good weekend. Thank you for all your encouragement last week. I had a restful weekend and feel ready to take the bull by the horns again!

I hope you had a lovely Mothers day too! The girls put on afternoon tea for me. It was beautiful!

My Vicky Challenge last week included:

I colour changed a pair of winter boots. They are in good condition and look great. I think this probably saved me around $200 as now I have scrapped plans to buy some.

My side of the road Ficus tree would have to be worth $100 at least. Its made my back courtyard look lovely!

I made all the work lunches $100.

The fish Andy caught were $27 a kilo in the shops and he caught 3 kilos = just over $80 worth!

I made a big batch of chicken soup. This fed everyone plus some frozen for later.

I cooked a giant pot of spaghetti sauce. It provided meals and frozen meals.

(I am not sure the savings to say for those... but these things mean we never get take away)

I made three dozen cornbread muffins. As muffins are at least $3 each here I will say $90 (after costs)

And I took apart my handheld vacuum as it wasn't working properly. Following the directions on how to take it apart and clean inside I did all this step by step and it worked! So I saved there over a repair man for sure.

It is well over $500 in savings. I will fine tune that a bit before writing my total into my book. I do that so I can add up each month and ultimately get a total for the year!

I hope you also found ways to save and get ahead. Last week so many of you had testimonies of how getting ahead has helped you to stay afloat in hard times, help others, pay off mortgages and is making an absolute world of difference. Almost all of it is achieved bit by bit. It is the small things that add up!

Each week we are trying to come up with new ideas! We want to see how much our efforts save and add to the family budget and position but also learn more and more so we can build on that.
This week our extra savings subject is scraps! Ok, that doesn't sound wonderful but people throw out so much food that they consider to be scraps or waste.

A common thing that we have left over is bread. I tend to freeze bread so these days I have less leftovers but I used to have many.  I wrote a post ages ago called "Never waste a slice of bread!" One of the loveliest things you can make is Bread and Butter Pudding. I make this as a cake. It looks beautiful, slices nicely and is yum. It is served warm with cream. It also uses up jam as I always have plenty of that.

I will let you read bread ideas at the above link. And the recipe for this Pudding is there too.

I have a cooking show I love and learn from. I could see that in a commercial kitchen nothing is wasted. It would not be viable to waste food. Every peeling, stalk, bone, oddment goes into something. They are amazingly inventive on how to use everything.

Stock is probably the number one way to use every bit of left overs. I have only been regularly making stock for a year or so. Now I love to make it! And then it is the base of many soups which is another wonderful way to use up every last piece of vegetable, meat, herbs etc.

I make my stock in the crockpot. I have a colander that fits inside the crock pot and that I pack with whatever I have no hand. At the end of the day I just lift this out and it is self strained. However you do it doesn't matter. Long slow cooking extracts the goodness and flavor.
Aside from soups stock is great to cook your rice in! Stock or bone broth is full of nutrients. I think of it as a cheap way of making vitamins!  If you think of it that way imagine not buying vitamins and instead using everything you can to add nutrition to your home cooking? Pouring water from veggies down the drain is pouring vitamins down the drain and then we go out and buy vitamins!

At home I do not peel potatoes, carrots etc I just scrub them. Many things have most vitamins and minerals in the skin. But if you do peel them they can go into your stock. The stems from the bunch of parsley go in too!

I keep and use all celery tops. They make the best stock ever! I freeze it too, fresh, if I have too much at one time. It just goes from the freezer into the next batch of stock or chicken soup.

Broccoli stems go into soup. You often get a lot of stem. I keep it all. If I am not making soup yet I just freeze the whole bit in my "future soup" bag in the freezer. This bag fills up faster than you think. Soon you have the makings of a big pot of soup.

You could also slice it in a stir fry, grate it in a zucchini pie etc.

The bones from your roast or ham can all go into wonderful stocks. To make baby food I usually get a lamb shank or other sliced through bone with some meat on it and add loads of veggies. This is so nourishing! I reported before that I costed this out and compared to store bought baby food. My crockpot full of baby food would be $70 in jars from the store and I can make it for about $5.  I think homemade is better too.

Vicky saves her pumpkin seeds and grinds them for her chickens. I feed them to our parrot! 

Of course there are also other ways to put scraps to use.  If you have chickens then nothing really ever goes to waste, or a worm farm or a compost bin. They are all great as well.

Patsy at A Working Pantry has a Facebook group. Each week she has a challenge of coming up with 100 ways to use something up. This is a great source of ideas for all kinds of leftovers. And things! The other day it was 100 ways to use ice-cream containers!

Now over to you! I want to see how many ways we can come up with to use up scraps. We have some serious savers here just trying to get ahead. (wisely) And we have some families experiencing hard financial times.  Food going into the bin is money going into the bin! Food prices seem to just be going up and up. So if you can help with this it might really help someone and will certainly help me.
I am amazed at how many new tips I have from you all that I am now using and wonder why I never thought of!  Ways to use scraps and left overs can add "free" meals and so much goodness.

Have a great week! xxx