You know, I've been berating myself a bit during these school holidays. Not for big things, like taking the kids out and about - most of those activities have been free anyway but there have been more fast food meals in the last fortnight than I'd like and an awful lot more lollies and treats going out of Mr Patel's than I would normally allow too. However, I have since realised that, at least in other things, I am actually doing a lot better than I thought. In fact, I would go as far as to say I'm doing a heck of a lot better than the average person - at least when it comes to managing the grocery budget anyway. It's been bothering me for a while now that here we are in the latter end of April and I haven't had a 'decent' supermarket shop since last November. By that I mean, I've set foot in the supermarket maybe two or three times but haven't actually purchased anything more than bread, milk and whatever meat is on special. It was praying on my mind that it really must be high time I did a BIG SHOP. So when Noel took the day off earlier this week to spent some holiday time with us as a family, I insisted that we all visit the supermarket together as we must be needing heaps of stuff by now and I wanted everyone's input. Dragging one's husband and children unwillingly round a supermarket is always heinous at the best of times but this time it was even worse than usual because before we even got half way round, we realised that we just didn't need to be there. Thinking we were going to spending a lengthy time in the supermarket, I had primed the kids before going inside, making a game of it and challenging them both to find the best price on whatever it was we wanted to buy but we never actually got round to doing that. We grabbed a few essentials from the Pak & Save's 'Aisle of Value' which was a good start; then the boys caught sight of the Pick & Mix bulk bins and decided they NEEDED a bag of Gummi Bears. As I joined them, filling up a few bags of my own, I grew more and more annoyed at the sight of Noel wandering aimlessly around the fruit and vegetable department - round and round he went but not once did he pick up anything.
In the end I had to say something. 'You know, you really could be a bit more helpful, this job is bad enough as it is! Why don't you get what you want, instead of just wandering around looking at it?' I glared at him. 'That's the thing - I don't want anything!' he replied. 'Everything here is cheaper at Mr Patel's'. As I looked around, I could see he was right, so we agreed we would just pick up whatever fruit and greens we needed from him on our next visit. From there we proceeded to the meat aisle but we didn't need anything there, having a freezer full of bulk meat delivered just a few weeks ago. The same happened at the seafood counter - we had already caught enough fish at the weekend to keep us going for quite some time yet. Bread and milk we also discovered was much cheaper at Mr Patel's. As we went around I couldn't help thinking of one of the first SS hints I learned, 'Sometimes the corner shop is cheaper'. No matter how we tried, we just couldn't fill our trolley up! 'We could buy a cake, Mum', Liam offered helpfully. 'We could matey but we don't need to, because I can make you one', I explained, much to the delight of an elderly lady standing next to us. 'Good for you dear!' she smiled. Ali got the same answer when we ambled up the biscuit aisle a little later on and even he had to agree there was no point buying chocolate yoghurt when we already know how to make it ourselves too. As for the convenience food aisle, I couldn't remember the last time our dinner came out of a jar, it would be a good couple of years ago now. Sophie Gray and the Vault cured me of that! Being as I don't set foot in a supermarket very often, I am always shocked and amazed at the array of new products to hit the shelves since my last visit and this time I wasn't disappointed either. The biggest laugh I got was when I spotted a sachet of 'Bangers and Mash' flavouring - just add water and chuck it over your sausages and mash. 'Since when has bangers and mash needed artificial flavours added?' I raised my eyebrows at Noel in disgust. 'That's criminal!' We finally got our BIG SHOP over and done with and instead of the two overflowing trolleys I had envisaged, our single trolley wasn't even half full. 'Hmm, maybe we didn't need so much after all,' I said to Noel. 'Well I did wonder why you were going in the first place', he pointed out. 'But - but, you're always complaining we don't have any food!' I spluttered. 'Not any more - in fact I haven't done that for some time. I'm like you now, I look in the pantry and make things from scratch when I'm hungry - haven't you noticed?' Er - no, I hadn't, but now he mentioned it he hadn't actually complained of having no food for quite some time. 'Tut, I wish you'd told me that before,' I mumbled but then realised something. 'Do you know what I've learned from this experience? I've learned that we don't actually NEED a supermarket any more!' Noel agreed - I suppose after not using one for five months we had probably already proven that but this just confirmed it - we really don't need to go to the supermarket!' It might sound strange but it was so liberating coming to that realisation! All those years of trundling off to the supermarket religiously every fortnight and filling up my trolley with $400 of stuff each time flashed before me. Of course, it was just habit, I never paid any thought to whether we actually needed anything or not. What an incredible difference. So that's it - we'll just continue growing our own food and topping up as we need it from good old Mr Patel. No more supermarkets for us, hooray!
I was feeling like a pretty smart shopper I can tell you - until I got home and opened the mail to discover I had somehow neglected to pay last month's phone bill! 'How on earth did that happen?' asked Noel, pointing out the $7.50 extra I had been billed in late fees. I don't know! I can only think it happened because it's the only bill I don't pay online or through direct debit, I must have put it away and forgotten to write out a cheque later. Apologies to anyone still waiting for me to send their copy of the $21 Challenge Survival Guide too, I have finally got my new laptop set up and will get it through shortly. Tut - even that proved a costly exercise. I couldn't understand for the life of me why I couldn't connect to the Internet and blamed it on the new Windows Vista program with all its whistles and bells (come back XP, all is forgiven!) In the end I had no choice but to call out my local expert Greg, who found in about three seconds flat that the reason I couldn't connect was because Tui had chewed through the cable. Again. So, he took away the old cable and promised me a nice new one a few days later. I duly picked it up and went to plug it in but found that I couldn't turn the laptop on - it seemed that for some strange reason it hadn't shut down properly after Greg's visit a few days before and it was now in a permanent state of limbo. I couldn't turn it off properly either, so highly embarrassed I called Greg again. 'I've killed my computer already!' I wailed, much to his amusement. 'I'm obviously just not meant to have a laptop'. He promised he would be out again in a day or two so I had no choice but to sit and wait. Twenty-four hours later, Noel came along and attempted to have a look at it but I brushed him aside - after all, this is the guy who doesn't even know where My Documents is on the computer, how would he possibly be able to help? 'I can't turn it on or off!' I grumbled, 'I've tried everything'. 'Have you tried unplugging it?' he asked. 'Of course I have - it doesn't make any difference, it still runs on a battery', I snapped. 'Have you tried removing the battery?' he suggested. 'No, but it won't do any good', I insisted. Upon which he unplugged the laptop, removed the battery and - the lights went out. 'Now it's off', he said. He then popped the battery back in, turned the computer on - and it worked. 'Thank you!' I breathed a sigh of relief - it was going to be a bit embarrassing calling Greg back and telling him he no longer needed to come out but at least we had now saved another call-out fee. 'Tut - and you're supposed to be the computer whiz!' Noel laughed. Yep - I'll never hear the end of this now, I should really add it to the 'What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you' thread that's currently doing the rounds in the Forum!
I have managed to make a few small savings recently though. One thing I have learned as an SS member is to at least try and fix something before throwing it out and I have been applying this to clothes lately. Over the past few months I have gathered up a pair of Noel's work trousers with a broken fastener, a pair of Liam's brand new trousers, worn once with a bloomin' great hole in (which looks suspiciously like a Tui chewing attack), a winter shirt with half the buttons missing, a bra with the underwire poking out and a pair of Liam's pyjama pants where the stitching has come apart. Once upon a time I would have thrown all these things out but instead I went on a hunt for all the things I needed and would you believe I found all my supplies at the local Post Office? The joys of living in a small town! I picked up a pack of needles, a reel of cotton (I had lost these essentials years ago), a packet of buttons, a hook and eye and an iron-on patch. Mum helped too and in next to no time we had the lot fixed, ironed and ready to go again. I felt so productive! It cost just a few dollars and they all look as good as new. I still have enough of the patches left to fix plenty more holes too!
This morning is freezing and the boys are enjoying a nice warm breakfast in bed. I'm a bit worried about how much of their scrambled eggs on toast is going to end up IN their beds but I was feeling like a nice kind Mummy this morning. OK, I wanted to get on and write my blog in peace too! Also, there's something about the cold weather that always makes me head for the kitchen. I suffer from overwhelming urges to make soup and tummy-warming breakfasts for everyone, whether they want them or not. At least we have more than enough eggs for me to indulge this habit at the moment. My chickens have finally got the hang of egg-laying and they are little stars now! I used to detest chickens before I had my own, all squawking beaks and scratchy feet but I have really got quite attached to my girls now, who would have thought! For anyone else who is in need of some cold weather comfort food, I can highly recommend the spicy recipes for Nachos from the Forum. We tried these last night and they were absolutely divine! There are some great new hints again this week; one of my favourites which is also very timely is this one, No lights allowed in daylight hours. I am forever telling myself that we need to make more of an effort as a family to turn lights off but I always forget - this hint could be exactly what we need! It's been especially obvious during the school holidays, I'll often walk into the lounge in the middle of the day and find all the lights on, or that the kids haven't even bothered turning their bedroom lights off and it really bugs me but it's up to me to make sure we all keep up a constant effort. If you search for this hint in the Forum, it will explain how it's done, I can't wait to have a go!
We've still been following the ABC holiday programme and today is 'M'. I was just thinking this morning that we haven't even been to the movies this holidays and a friend has just called to see if we want to go and see 'Meet the Robinsons', so today is the perfect 'M' day to go! As I said before, we haven't done too bad this holidays - our two favourite outings were actually free ones. Liam went to meet the Chiefs again on Monday, in a free event organised for local rugby-mad kids. He got to attend a training session with his idols and loved it - it's not every day you get to tackle the likes of Sione Lauaki! The guys were great and it was a brilliant, well organised day. Best of all it was free! As also mentioned, we caught a lot of fish a few days ago too. Noel, the kids and I, two of Noel's colleagues and a black Labrador called Rupert went to the Seabird Coast which is about half an hour from where we live. The weather was perfect, we took a long fishing net and the guys waded out to sea to see what we could haul in. We caught over 20 flounder, one nice snapper and the biggest John Dory any of us had ever seen. Everyone on the beach came up to see what we had caught and then to top it off, one of the locals performed a spectacular aerobatics display right above us. 'How's that for free entertainment!' marvelled one of the watchers. What a bonus! We spent all afternoon playing on the beach and as it was getting dark we all sat and munched freshly caught fish and chips. 'I just can't think of anywhere I'd rather be right now!' smiled Noel's mate and we all agreed. Until Ali piped up 'Yes, but Mum it's supposed to be 'H' day today and we haven't done a thing beginning with 'H'!