Peas and carrots

Posted May 8th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Why is it crap things always happen at once? There I was, feeling so positive and doing a fantastic frugal job if I say so myself. Then the dishwasher conked out and the washing machine followed suit. The washing machine is a bit of a pain but funnily enough I don't miss the dishwasher at all. I wouldn't even bother getting it fixed but Noel says I can't have it sitting there doing nothing. It's my car that really hates me though. After realising last week it was overdue for both a warrant AND a service, I whizzed it in to the local mechanic. Happily legal again and glad everything was in order I drove home from rugby practice and broke down halfway home on a corner. With my cellphone running out of credit I managed to SOS my mum who called a tow-truck. In the meantime, Ali and I had to wait almost an hour in the rain at the side of the road, watching everybody sail by and gawk at us. Only ONE person stopped, an elderly lady bless her. Even one of our neighbours drove merrily by - I'll remember that mate!

So back it went to the mechanic, who pronounced it fixed the next day and indeed it did feel like it. Until I drove home from rugby training again yesterday and it started happening again. This time the kangaroo hopping and horrible smell were also accompanied by a funny little light on the dashboard which looks a bit like a helicopter. Apparently that signifies some kind of computer problem so once again it's at the mechanics but he thinks the most likely scenario is that I'll have to take it to a Holden specialist to reset the memory. I wish there was something like that for humans; my memory's been dodgy for years! On the positive side, all the time I'm without a car it makes for an extremely cheap existence. For starters I had to cancel my opticians appointment. I wasn't really looking forward to that anyway as the last time I went there was two years ago and the following day I lost my glasses. Noel wouldn't let me claim for new ones on our insurance; he insisted they would turn up. Well it's been two years and I haven't found them yet! Knowing my luck, my eyesight will have altered horribly and I'll need an entirely new prescription, so I'm almost too scared to go and quite glad I had to cancel.

This meant I also had to postpone my op shopping trip, which was going to coincide with my optician's appointment. I was looking forward to it immensely and it was a bit of a compromise with myself, as I felt in need of some retail therapy but couldn't actually afford it. So I had it all planned out. First my favourite recycled clothing store, followed by the Salvation Army shop, followed by the second hand book store and to top it off, a visit to the organic food co-op. Needless to say it all went out the window along with the optician. But I suppose that's a good thing really. I won't get a chance to go for a while now and I guess when it finally happens I'll just appreciate it more!

Although I do have to admit to just a teensy splurge last weekend. I'm blaming Yummy Mummy from the Forum for this one (but don't worry, I'm very grateful really!). When I learned from her thread 'Yummy Mummy's Fashion and Beauty Tips' that skinny leg jeans and cute boots were the way to go, I decided I just HAD to get me some. There was some method in my madness, as these were intended to go with all the chunky knits I have bought over the last year or two but while I love them have never worn them because they make me look the size of a house. I just knew that Yummy Mummy's advice was the answer to my dust gathering chunky knits! So I headed to Dress Smart in Hamilton, which is a nice wee mall full of wholesale clothing outlets - many of them posh labels at discount prices. While even my discounted budget wouldn't stretch to Trelise Cooper, I did find three pairs of super comfy black skinny leg jeans in Hero for just $15 each! So I'm rather embarassed to say I bought all three but they were such a bargain and I knew I would get heaps of wear out of them. Next stop was Number One Shoe Warehouse, where I found a pair of boots I really liked but unfortunately couldn't choose between two colours. So I bought both! Now I knew this was very naughty but do you know what was even worse? The very next day I saw an ad on TV for a Number One Shoe promotion - buy two pairs and get one free! Now isn't that bloomin' typical - all I got when I was in there was 70% off a second pair of school shoes and I wasn't even buying a first pair!

At least I can say hand on heart that I am doing absolutely FABULOUS on the food front. Do you know - sometimes it feels like I'm doing the $21 Challenge without even trying! Three afternoons of rugby training a week means I have had to hop back on the menu planning wagon. I should never have fallen off it, I just can't seem to get dinner organised at a decent hour without one. Anyway, I had totally forgotten how much menu planning slashes your food bill. It's unbelievable! I'm not letting a single thing go to waste either, all the leftovers we have go towards dinner the next day (for example, last night's corned beef is being turned into corned beef hash cakes for tonight) or into 'tiffin' lunches. Ali groans every time I gleefully leap on the leftovers after dinner and say 'ooh look, tiffin!' but I love the expression, it makes leftovers seem so much more appealing. I always look forward to my tiffin lunches! Except a couple of days ago when I was making goulash. Too late I realised that I had run out of paprika so decided to substitute it will chilli powder. We must have looked like something out of a Disney cartoon family, all sitting around the table with gallons of water and steam coming out of our ears. It wasn't very economical on the sour cream either, we had to slap tons of it on our plates just to cool it down! I was dead chuffed to find that I FINALLY had success making gluten free pastry though. After several absolute disasters I decided to give Sophie Gray's Chicken Pie with Herby Cobbler Topping a go. It's always been one of Liam's favourites but we hadn't been able to have it since he was diagnosed with wheat intolerance. Still, I plucked up courage to try it with gluten free flour and it came out a treat! You wouldn't know the difference - apart from the fact that I had to make the topping out of heaps of little 'scones' rather than a whole crust to avoid the pastry collapsing but it's great to know we can still enjoy the odd pie together as a family now. Even leftover peas, carrots and broccoli have been used to make tiffin lunches! I made them into individual curried vegetable pies and froze them, they're darn good too!

Now don't you just love that about Simple Savings? I can tell other Simple Savers about turning leftover peas and carrots into a dozen pies and feel really proud, and everyone says 'good on ya!' but if I said that to half the mums at the school gates, they would look at me funny and say 'that's nice', as if I had gone round the twist. My friend Maxine and I were talking about that the other day. When you're a Sad Sally, you usually hang out with other Sad Sally's. You do the same things, go to the same places and cough up the same amount of money without giving it a second thought. But once you become a Happy Hanna, all of a sudden to start to gravitate towards other Happy Hanna types. It's not like you undergo a personality change, or like the Sad Sally's any less than before, but it's just different. Happy Hanna's understand, support and encourage each other the way no other kind of friend does. Best of al, they genuinely enjoy the way they live. I wonder how many Sad Sally's could truly say that?

I went to the supermarket at the weekend for the first time since March. I didn't even buy that much but thanks to menu planning I shouldn't have to go again for a very long time. I came home feeling very smug and in control - not to mention very chuffed when I unearthed a 2kg bag of chicken pieces in the freezer I didn't know I had when I was putting everything away. Don't you love it when that happens! I picked up a copy of the Sunday Star Times, which I don't usually buy but was interested in the promised feature about slashing your grocery bill. Being a broadsheet I couldn't very well stand there in the supermarket with all the various sections falling out on the floor around my trolley so thought I had better bring it home to read. Good on the media for finally doing something positive I thought. Well, I got it home, opened it up and almost fell over. 'FEED A FAMILY OF FOUR FOR $170 A WEEK!' blared the headline. Like that was some kind of huge achievement! Heck, if that's supposed to be an outstanding feat, how much are people spending these days? I mean we're talking on food alone here, this figure included nothing else. They even went to the effort of getting a professional nutritionist in to design a balanced menu for the week. No offence but it wasn't rocket science and there certainly wasn't anything they wouldn't have found in the Vault. I couldn't help myself - I wrote to the editor and told them all about Simple Savings. Egads - I wonder how their team of 'experts' would get on trying to come up with a menu for $21 a week!

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