Crossing off the 'to-do' list

Posted September 18th, 2006 by Penny Wise

Hooray! Am finally back on the planet after another dose of the flu bug from hell. Thank you everyone for all your kind messages! Actually, even though it was a rotten week health-wise, it didn't turn out to be a bad one for savings. First, I received a nice surprise phone call from our local power supplier. Several weeks ago I was grumbling about having to pay for a power line to be fixed which had fallen down on our land. I paid the bill and at the same time filled in a 'feedback card' about the technician who had fixed the power line. This had been enclosed in the bill and while I wasn't exactly turning cartwheels about paying for a mishap that was not of our making, Noel and I had been really impressed with the technician who came out late at night after a hellish day with much of the country still powerless and worked quickly to fix the problem, all the while remaining friendly and smiling. I wrote all this in my comments and was quite amazed when a representative from the power board rang to thank me. 'You're kidding – are positive comments really that unusual?' I asked. Apparently they are, which was why the woman was even more excited to tell me that I had won their monthly prize draw. I hadn't even known I was in one, but was quite impressed to learn that I had won a $100 voucher from a major electrical store. Well worth the trouble in sending in my feedback card and it pretty much covered the power line repairs we had forked out for! Typical – the only time I ever win a competition is when I don't know I have entered one!

I decided it was going to be a good week for saving money and made a mental note to cross some of the nagging things off my 'to do' list. I used a recipe from my Destitute Gourmet book to make Lemon Curd (yep, still trying to use up those lemons!) and it was a big hit. One thing I had been planning to do for ages was to order a copy of 'Living the Good Life' by Linda Cockburn. I first read about Linda and her family in a copy of That's Life! Magazine, who made the decision to spend basically nothing for six months by being as self sufficient as possible. Being such a Felicity Kendall 'wannabe' myself, this idea appealed instantly and I couldn't wait to get my hands on Linda's resulting book. I had read quite a bit from members about buying books online from Fishpond in Australia and was excited when I recently learned there was an NZ branch too, so checked it out to see if I could find Linda's book. There it was, in glorious paperback and all mine for the taking – for $61.95. Was it that expensive everywhere? I had to find out, so I swiftly paid a visit to the Aussie Fishpond site – and found the exact same book for $39.88! Even with the exchange rate I saved almost $17 and I was pleasantly surprised to find I was not charged extra for posting across the Tasman. While browsing the Aussie Fishpond, I chuckled to myself to see their current list of Top 5 bestsellers. Spots one, two and three were all occupied by Destitute Gourmet books and number five on the list was 'The Complete Tightwad Gazette' by Amy Dacyczyn. Methinks an awful lot of Simple Savers have been shopping here! Which reminded me, I had been meaning to check out the infamous Tightwad Gazette for quite some time. A frequent topic of the Discussion Forum, it was still a bit of a mystery to me. I shopped around between the NZ and Aus websites to see who had the best deal this time and found that on this occasion the Kiwi version won out. Now, I suppose you're thinking 'hmph, why didn't she just borrow them from the library and save even more?' True, but if these books are all they're cracked up to be, I figured they would both be ones I would want to hang on to for future reference and hopefully would teach me how to save a lot more money than their RRP in the long run. Boy, has this proved to be true! But that's another blog...

Mid-week I went into a bit of a baking frenzy. One of the other joyful similarities between NZ and Australia is that we both get Super Food Ideas magazine (except we have to pay a bit more for it, groan). I try not to buy magazines any more as a rule (I just read Mum's!) but I had been wanting to check it out ever since I read a Vault hint called Super Food Ideas Magazine from a member who finds them really useful for menu planning. The Discussion Forum was also talking about the delicious sounding scroll recipes featured in this month's issue - Super food ideas - last edition so I thought I would grab a copy and check it out. I thought it was great, but to be honest I still have so many brilliant Simple Savings recipes to try out, I probably never need to buy another recipe book again! As it was, I ended up using a Vault recipe to make the Cheesymite scrolls I wanted and they turned out a treat!

So one way or the other the boys' lunch boxes are looking pretty good and I'm delighted to say that I have solved the problem of my boys eating 'uncool' potato chips! Well, Sophie Gray has solved it really. I was listening to the radio show she did with Fiona recently called Liven up your lunch box! and it appeared the secret really does lie in the packaging. Little portions, little containers are what appeal. After I caught the boys smuggling three days' worth of chips into their tent last weekend, I vowed never to buy any more multipacks, but when Monday morning came I was panicking. What was I going to put their 'uncool' chips in? A plain old plastic bag full would just be brought home untouched. I racked my brains for ideas from Sophie's show and wondered if I dare try it. I found two small, plastic containers and filled them with chips for each child. Then I ferreted through Liam's desk until I found a sheet of Dragonball Z stickers. I decorated the lids as artfully as I could, then popped them in the lunchbox without a word to the boys. I waited nervously for all kinds of complaints, I was even worried that they might get a ribbing from other kids for having something that looked 'babyish' but on the contrary! Not only did their little container come home empty every day but their friends all thought they were cool!

Just as well I did all that baking earlier in the week, because I got well and truly struck down with the dreaded lurgy not long after. My Mum is always telling me 'nobody's indispensable' but I beg to differ. If I were to stay in bed sick on a permanent basis, our house would be a prime candidate for 'How Clean is Your House' in a matter of a few days. Take Saturday for example. I had been in bed all morning while Noel kept an eye on the boys, but had to get up shortly after lunch as Noel had to attend a funeral. I crawled down the stairs and the home which I had been so beautifully tidy just 48 hours before resembled a complete bombsite. The fish were still swimming around in the dark as nobody had turned the lights on or fed them and the chickens had also not been fed either. Noel had kindly made everyone else lunch except me and it was evident that spaghetti toasted sandwiches had been on the menu. Evident from the amount on the floor and ingrained into the tops of the wicker bar stools that is. Hubble was lurking guiltily in the lounge having rolled in something absolutely foul and knowing that he was about to be either banished outside or worse still, given a bath. For once I was grateful for my blocked nose, it made the job at hand far more bearable. In his defence Liam had tried to wash off the offending pong using the outdoor hose – and wearing my black knee-high boots because he hadn't wanted to get his own shoes wet. That in itself was quite a sight but the real display piece was the blonde Dolly Parton wig, which was plonked on the front doormat. The wig is one of Tui's favourite playthings and she can often be found curled up asleep on it, but on this day she had decided to make it extra special and deposited a large nugget of donkey poo in the middle of it and left it there to welcome any prospective visitors. Needless to say, the rest of the family were completely oblivious to the state of their surroundings and I was feeling pretty despondent until I spotted two cardboard packages on the bench. My new books had arrived! Even though I had ordered them from two different countries, they had arrived on the same day and – whaddya know? They had both been posted from the same mail centre in Auckland! My goodness I was glad I shopped around on those prices!

So, I was able to curl up contentedly on the couch with my Linda Cockburn book for the rest of the afternoon. And all the next day. In fact, I devoured the whole book in 24 hours and was quite sad that I had finished it so quickly but I couldn't put it down. I got out of my sickbed the following morning feeling totally inspired and really excited about the differences we can make to our current way of life – all of which nicely compliment the whole Simple Savings philosophy. A brilliant and immensely thought provoking book. Not least due to the inclusion of a Cinnamon Scroll recipe that I couldn't resist trying out yesterday and was described by Liam as 'heavenly'. Praise indeed! To find out more about Linda and her amazing family, visit their website on Sustainable Living. Now, bring on the Tightwad Gazette!

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