All hail Sophie Gray!

Posted June 22nd, 2007 by Penny Wise

Typical isn't it – I've spent hardly a cent on groceries this week so far and I haven't even been trying! I do admit to a little retail therapy yesterday though. Briscoes and The Warehouse had a huge sale on and while we're not exactly flush at the moment, I decided the savings were too good to miss out on, because all the things I bought, I was always going to buy anyway. Just boring things really, like curtain tracks and furnishings but why pay full price when you can get 50% off? It's for Liam's birthday present, you see. His birthday isn't until August but I've started gathering things now as we've decided his present will be a new room. Somewhere all of his own that he will absolutely love and hopefully feel safe and secure. I want everything to be just perfect for him – but it's got to be on a budget, which is why I just HAD to take advantage of the sales.

I've been scheming for a while now, how I can create the best possible room on a budget and being ill for a week recently resulted in plenty of time to come up with all sorts of brainwaves. Being a member of SS has given me confidence as a consumer to ask for the things I want and I have used this twice in the last week with great results. I was supposed to be taking the boys to meet the All Blacks while they were visiting Hamilton last Friday for a surprise but of course we were all knocked out with the flu. However, I knew that they were going to be visiting a certain store, thanks to an email notification from their VIP club, so I decided to be cheeky. I got on the phone, explained how sick we all were and how disappointed Liam was not to be able to meet his heroes and asked if it was possible for them to ask the players if they would be kind enough to autograph something for him instead. The kind lady at the end of the phone was most sympathetic and said no problem. I wasn't really expecting anything to come of it, but first thing Monday morning a courier parcel arrived, containing an official All Blacks match replica ball signed by the five players who had visited the store! What fantastic service! For Kiwis, the store name is Champions of the World and they're really good guys!

So the ball has duly been put away to take pride of place in Liam's new room when the time comes. Around the same time, I also wrote a letter to the head office of Rebel Sport. I explained what a tough year Liam had had, how much he loved rugby and how I was hoping to give him a fantastic rugby themed room. I asked if it was possible that they had any unwanted posters or surplus promotional material that they could send our way to decorate the new room. Three days later another parcel arrived, contained three ENORMOUS posters of Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Byron Kelleher. They're so huge I'm going to have to nail them to the wall! I can't wait to see Liam's face when he sees those! I got the idea a couple of months before from the Rebel Sports staff. I asked what they do with all their promotional posters when they've finished with them and they told me they either get thrown away or sent back to the manufacturer, so I figured it would be a pretty good bet and I was right. We now have the most unique and amazing décor any rugby mad boy could dream of and it didn't cost a cent!

My favourite bargain yesterday though, was on a floor rug for the new room. I had pictured a brightly coloured rectangular shaggy rug and was pleased to see just what I was after in the Warehouse – but I couldn't believe the price at $99! More than a bit steep for what was basically a glorified bath mat I thought. Which gave me an idea. I trotted on into Briscoes and what do you know? There in the bathroom section was a large blue shaggy bathmat, exactly the same as the 'real' floor rug but much cheaper at $19.99, with another 30% off in the sale! I was pretty impressed at my SS thinking and I totally guarantee that no one will be able to tell the difference. All up, I saved a total of $263 by shopping in the sales and I made my way home from the shops not only happy with myself for making some great savings but also happy with myself for only sticking to what I needed to buy and not purchasing anything extra on impulse.

I do have to admit to another reason for me hitting the shops though – I HAD TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! Ali was unceremoniously sent back to school yesterday (Liam having gone back on Monday) and after 11 whole days of one or both children being at home sick, I was in dire need of a day out. What a joy it was to crank up the car stereo and sing at the top of my voice without coughing (or more importantly, without the kids commandeering the CD player). I didn't even care too much when the car boot fell on my head while I was trying to stuff my shopping bags in, or when I tripped over in front of a bustling carpark of people while trying to find my car keys. Just as well I got out of behind four walls today, as I returned home to find Noel home sick from work with the dreaded flu and none too pleased with me and the boys for passing it on to him. I guess it's my turn to play nursemaid now!

I'm still really grumpy about missing Sophie Gray in action last week. Especially as all my friends have been raving on since about the wonderful evening I missed. They've gone and got all inspired now and are rushing out to buy Home Brand everything and huge bags of flour. Never mind the fact I've been telling them all how wonderful she is for the past two years or more. Cooking the Sophie Gray way has become a hugely integral part of the Simple Savings way of life for me, but believe it or not, this amazingly clever woman is still unknown to many New Zealanders, which is absolutely unforgiveable as far as I'm concerned, seeing as she is one of us and making such a difference to the lives and bank balances of so many. If I had my way, Sophie would be featured more regularly on NZ television and in magazines than Paris Hilton. So, why isn't she? Simple – Sophie instructs people to save money, rather than spend it. Several years ago, another cook called Jo Seagar became immensely popular in NZ. She had her own television series and became a household name through showing Joe Public how to cook simple, delicious and very decadent recipes. In fact, the poor woman copped a fair bit of flack for making her recipes TOO decadent in an age where healthy eating is supposed to be paramount but above all, Jo's television show was an advertisers dream. Everything from the sugar she used to the appliances she cooked on were top brands and their names were broadcast continually throughout each episode.

In another clever marketing ploy, Kiwis have for years been treated to a daily advertorial segment called 'Food in a Minute', where a lady called Allyson Gofton shows viewers how easy it is to throw delicious meals together in (obviously) minutes. They are always appetising and of course appealingly quick and easy; however the basis of every single one of these recipes is created around convenience food, whether it be from frozen potato pom poms to Country Mince flavouring from a jar. I was actually given the recipe book from the first series but soon found I couldn't actually make any of the dishes without having to go out and buy at least one of the main ingredients in tin or jar form. I'm ashamed to say I had never even heard of the Destitute Gourmet before Fiona told me about her, and it's an NZ brand! The only reason I can think why not is because Sophie tells people they don't need to use convenience products and flashy brand names. In NZ, one of our most popular 'cheap' brand names is called Pam's – a bit like the Australian Black and Gold I would say, perfectly good products without the posh labels. Oh how I wish Pam's would wake up and use Sophie Gray to endorse their products instead of Jamie Oliver! I mean, get real – the man lives on the other side of the world and gets his products from local markets; what's the betting he's never used a Pam's product in his life? In comparison, Sophie is clever, witty, sincere and a blooming good cook who uses these products all the time to make amazingly cheap and tasty dishes. Wake up and smell the generic coffee Kiwis! Thank goodness for Simple Savings for opening the eyes of many to the wonders of Sophie Gray. Maybe one day the rest of our nation will catch on. I'll get off my (Pam's) soap box now...

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