I swear the forum is psychic! Seriously, every time I have thought about or needed something in the last week, it has appeared like magic as a forum thread. For example, last week in a blog entry, I mentioned that I was going to print out the free Canteen Price list as I was fed up with the boys eating a week's worth of snacks in one sitting. No sooner had I finished writing than I checked the forum and there it was, in discussion! I've printed it out and just in time too, as I've had it up to 'here' with my two piglets! Already it has made a difference – baking and fruit is 'free', they can eat as much as they like, but if they want a bag of chips, a yoghurt, Shapes or a Roll-Up, that comes out of their daily canteen allowance, with maximum daily spend of $1.00. It soon makes them stop and think how much they REALLY want something. The Canteen Price list is explained fully in the Simple Savings Free Stuff section.
As if that wasn't coincidence enough, last Saturday was Noel's birthday. I really wanted to make him a carrot cake, like his Mum used to make him every year, but every time I tried out my recipe it turned out like a slab of concrete. I decided to look on the Net for a different version first but in typical addict style I just had to check the forum first. I couldn't believe my eyes when one of the newest postings was entitled 'Home made banana and carrot cakes!' So I made the Spiced Carrot Cake courtesy of Charm L and it was delicious – what brilliant timing! On the subject of snacks and baking, I really enjoyed last week's Simple Savings show about low cost lunch box fillers with Fiona and Sophie Gray. I thought I was pretty good on the lunch box front but Sophie put me to shame with all her wonderful ideas! I can't wait to try some of them out. One thread entitled 'Bring a plate – any suggestions?' brought back a long forgotten memory that made me chuckle. That particular expression is a real Kiwi/Aussie one, which as a 19 year old English girl, I had never heard before moving 'down under'. So when I received my first NZ party invite, which said 'Bring a plate', that's exactly what a brought – a plate. Well, two actually, one for Noel and one for me, I figured our hosts can't have had enough crockery for everyone to eat on!
The weekend was pretty uneventful. Noel spent his birthday fishing and the boys and I went on the hunt for a Father's Day present. For once, we knew exactly what we wanted to get him! We bought him Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking book and I was surprised how genuinely excited and grateful he was upon opening it. Unfortunately, spending a relaxing day on the water the day before had weakened his resolve considerably and by the time he opened his book, unbeknown to the rest of us he was already back to square one! Still, at least he has the book to help him now – apparently several of his colleagues have used the book with great success, so the boys and I are hoping it will be a worthwhile investment. Talking of worthwhile investments, remember my Mum's mishap with her new ScanPan? Well ScanPan replaced her entire pan, not just the lid, in just 48 hours, along with a complimentary oven glove AND her promised bottle of wine from the shopkeeper – how's that for service!
All in all, it was a pretty low cost week. I only visited a shop once, although that was in part due to lack of time as it was a busy week! I was really pleased with myself that I didn't succumb to the temptation of buying takeaways. Two nights in a row I was really torn between throwing something together at home or taking the easy way out and going to get fish and chips. Luckily Simple Savings mode kicked in and I reminded myself that takeaway wasn't actually an easy way out at all; it was far easier to cook something at home and not have to go anywhere, so that's what I did and it felt so nice knowing that I hadn't wasted $30 on food, not to mention petrol on an unnecessary trip. My $21 Challenge skills have served me well when it comes to making something out of nothing!
I also managed to save on yet another vet bill, thanks to the Vault. After clearing Dudley's horrendous vet bill, Noel had warned me in no uncertain terms that we were not spending another cent on him this year, so I was mortified to see that the poor wee chap was experiencing severe problems in the 'number twos' department. My fault for being lazy and feeding him dry food for a few days, it doesn't matter how supposedly wonderful or 'complete' the brand is, all dry food has ever succeeded in is blocking him up. Being the drama queen he is, it is most upsetting to see him in this state and of course he can't be left like that too long – but after all his previous expenses, Noel was going to blow his top if I took him to the vet. What was I going to do? I typed in 'constipated dog' into the Vault search (as you do) and really wasn't expecting any results, but it didn't let me down! I found a hint entitled 'Save on vet bills' – just what I needed! Two tablespoons of cooking oil was all it took to fix the problem – to think I had almost gone rushing off to the vet for another expensive consult, not to mention a most undignified procedure for poor old Dudley. I don't know who was more relieved, him or me!
Dudley was better in no time and while we were on a roll I decided it was the ideal opportunity to give him a haircut. I used to take Dudley to a professional groomer every eight weeks to keep his long coat under control, but with all the months of ear and eye infections, followed by surgery, he had been unable to be bathed for quite some time. His fur had got all clumpy and matted and he looked more like Bob Marley than a Tibetan Terrier. Now of course, he was fully recovered from his operation, but I was in a bit of a dilemma. The nearest pet groomer was 40 minutes' drive away. I was going to have to get back into the routine of driving all the way up there every eight weeks, hanging around for two hours while he was being beautified (very bad for impulse buys) and then shelling out $45 a time on collecting him. There had to be a better way.
A couple of months ago I picked up a Remington hair cutting kit for half price in a Briscoes sale. At $29, I figured if I could use the clippers to groom Dudley myself, I could save up to $300 a year! So I snapped them up – but then I couldn't quite bring myself to use them on him, what if I stuffed it up and made him look dreadful? Weeks later, I figured he couldn't possibly look any worse than he already did, so it was time to take the bull by the horns (or the dog by the tail) and test my barber skills. First I had to bath him. I always used to just use our shampoo, but with Dudley's massive amount of thick coat, I would have to shampoo him twice, then put on conditioner to be able to permeate his coat and deal with the knots. Then I remembered the bottles of wool wash I had been saving. I had read in the Vault that eucalyptus wool wash made a great dog shampoo, so every time I finished a bottle, I filled it up with water and stored it for later use on Dudley. You would not believe how well that stuff works – even with 95% water! It made the job so easy, I would never use anything else now – and so much cheaper than using shampoo. Once dry and tangle-free, I got to work with the clippers, while Dudley howled and sang. It took a bit of practice and maybe the results are a little more rustic looking that the professionals would do, but he still looks very presentable and with those kind of savings I reckon we can live with it!
With only enough firewood to last us two or three more days, it's just as well that we have been enjoying better weather recently. I made it through the winter without a clothes dryer, yippee! While hanging the washing out yesterday, I noticed that the lemon tree was hanging with ripe fruit and groaned inwardly. What was I going to do with all those? For years I would just leave them there but these days I can't bear to see anything go to waste – especially if it's free! I started racking my brains for ways to use them up, but I needn't have worried – by the time I checked the forum last night, the answers were waiting for me in the forum under '6 lemons I need to use'. I should have known!