Starvation diet

Posted June 4th, 2007 by Penny Wise

By today's title I do not mean that we are all starving due to two weeks of doing the $21 Challenge! It's this 'Trying to starve Woolworth's' thread in the Forum that's really got me motivated to start making as many things from scratch as I can. The thing is, I didn't realise how much I had been neglecting in Sophie Gray's books either. Just because I have tried out almost all the recipes over the last year or two, I thought there was nothing new to try but on a rainy afternoon perusing all four cook books, I realised there is a heap I have missed! For example, I can now add all the following to my 'make-from-scratch-rather-than-go-out-and-buy' repertoire:

Herb dressing

Balsamic vinaigrette


Cheese spread

Custard (without custard powder!)

Pita and Naan bread

Condensed milk, creme fraiche and sour cream

Marscapone cheese

Drinking chocolate


Tomato paste or puree

Curry paste

Tandoori mix

Honey soy marinade


Ravioli and pasta

Flaky pastry


Ice cream

Fruit porridge



Cajun, Mexican and Italian spice mixes

And the list goes on - look at that, another 30 things I no longer have to buy, just like that! Best of all, they look easy too; no fandangled ingredients or hours stuck in the kitchen. I decided to put some of my new-found knowledge into practice for dinner last night and have a go at making Naan bread to accompany Sophie's Chicken Biryani recipe. It was so easy, I was amazed! The family was really impressed and have been enjoying all my experimenting with new dinners from, the Forum too, such as the KFC chicken and a big new favourite, 'French Shepherd's Pie'. The only thing they have requested is that I please stop winging it with the meals and go back to menu planning as they're all fed up of not getting fed until 8pm and later every night by the time I get myself organised! So I duly sat down and wrote down a menu plan for the week ahead yesterday and tonight's dinner was made very easy by the fact that Noel went fishing yesterday and brought home a feast of fresh snapper and crayfish! Should keep me out of Mr Patel's for a day or two anyway, although I have to go before too long to take something back. I finished the second Challenge week on a total of $19.74, which was great but would have been even better had I not spent $4.37 on a big packet of milk powder on special. I have never bought the stuff before but have learned a lot about it through Simple Savings and thought I was being really clever safeguarding myself in case we ran out of milk. Unfortunately when I got home I noticed the expiry date - three months ago! So much for my bargain!

One thing I did not include in this week's Challenge though were the kids' rewards for rugby. After making a new deal with the family that the boys could only have McDonalds on rugby days if they scored a try, both of them scored on the weekend (nothing like an incentive!) and being as Noel and Liam were at a different venue to Ali and I, we both ended up forking out for their lunches. Thank goodness the next game is at home for both of them - no fast food around for miles! And at least I managed to make a great saving on not having to rush out and buy firelighters thanks to the Hint of the Week 'Make your own firelighter blocks'. This hint caught my eye straight away and I couldn't wait to try it out as we were already running really low. The following day I got the opportunity to try it out and while I had a bit of trouble with the Vaseline sticking to my fingers while trying to deposit the cotton wool in the fire, eventually I got the hang of it and Noel (who had previously dismissed the idea) was amazed to see a roaring fire not long after. I even demonstrated my firelighting trick to his burly fishing buddies yesterday and they were most impressed too!

My firelighting skills have certainly been put to good use today anyway. Today is Queen's Birthday, which is a public holiday in NZ but the weather being revolting as it is means we are all stuck inside. Even the chickens don't want to lay any eggs and Noel and I are pacing around grumbling about all the projects we want to be doing outside but can't. At least one bonus of this time of year is the citrus trees. Even after moving here from England 15 years ago, I still find having orange and lemon trees on tap in the garden a huge novelty. For years I completely forgot we had them and would still go out and buy lemon juice in bottles! For the first time since moving into our house four years ago, we are going to have our own grapefruit too, very soon! The tree hasn't had any fruit in years but since we pruned a load back and let in some light to the orchard, it is now very happy. Mind you, I think it's happy state may have quite a lot to do with the tree being situated in the chicken run, all that free manure is working wonders!

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