Woohoo! I've finally got my health and my brain back! Perhaps I'll actually be able to write something proper now. I'm pretty darn content with my lot at the moment. It's freezing cold but I've got the fire roaring, Missy Higgins on the stereo and my groovy rock salt crystal lamp thingy glowing cosily as I write. It's taken me two and a half years but I have FINALLY found the perfect place for it! The kids are at school and peace reigns for at least another two and a half hours. Bliss! The only downside is that it's SO cold that I'm typing with my gloves on so be prepared for a few spelling mistakes...
Have you seen all the wonderful member's creations in the Downloads area? There you will find Mandy's wonderful shopping list which I would now not be without. My Crockpot Cookbook and the GO Crazy cookbook have also been getting plenty of use lately. The Chicken and Potato Slice from the GO Crazy book is awesome and last night we had Beef Burgundy from the Crockpot Cookbook, it was delicious! Although being in my usual state of organised chaos I forgot to put it in the crockpot and had to crank the stove up for an hour and a half when we got home from rugby training. Fortunately I am relieved to say the result was still melt-in-the-mouth wonderful!
One recipe which I can see is definitely going to be a $21 Challenge staple in our house is Kimmie's Greek Potatoes. So easy and delicious and everything I need is always on hand. All I had to do was ask Noel to grab me a few lemons straight off the tree! Liam pronounced these his favourite potatoes EVER and consumed eight of them on his own. He also asked me to pass on his sincerest thanks to Kimmie 'the chicken lady' for sharing the recipe. For those who don't already know, we recently acquired a new chicken and named her after our domestic goddess of the Savings Forum. At first we had a bit of a battle on our hands as she took the term free ranging quite literally but I'm happy to say she has now settled down and is very happy with the other girls. However, I forgot to mention that we also have given a home to a few more Forum identities! Noel came home with three beautiful fluffy sheep a few weeks ago and I wasn't sure what to name them at first but I can now proudly announce that they have been christened Poppet, Mimi and Edwina!
Most recent newcomer to our merry clan however is Petunia (as in PetuniaPie) and I'm very proud of Noel for bringing her home. She is a beautiful little in-calf Jersey cow who Noel spotted at the livestock sale last week. It's a sad fact of life that some animals do not always sell, due to being too old, thin or whatever and these are often bought by abbatoirs (now isn't that enough to put you off buying beef!) However, poor little Petunia was too small even to go to the abbatoir, which was very fortunate for her. Noel could see there was absolutely nothing wrong with her, all she needed was a decent feed. He had no hesitation in parting with $70 for her. Amazing isn't it - you can buy an entire cow (and a half, with its calf!) for $70 but how much beef would that buy you in the supermarket? Not that we have any intention at all of eating Petunia, ever! Only a few days later and she looks so much better and is putting on weight. Hooray! He's a bit of a softie really is Noel, but I didn't tell you that...
Actually he's been a pretty good Simple Saver lately. While I don't think he has managed to kick his smoking habit entirely, neither the boys or I have seen him take a single puff in almost six weeks. When I asked him how he was doing he just grinned and said 'Alright - not perfect, but alright!' It's still one heck of an improvement anyway. He also made the most of some free firewood at the weekend. The council chopped a wattle tree down just up the road from us several months ago for some reason and just left it there. So Noel took his trailer, cut and split the wood and brought it home. Waste not, want not!
Even the dogs are Simple Savers lately! I have always gone for 'middle of the road' dog food - not the poshest, but not the cheapest either. However, the dogs didn't seem to enjoy it much any more and I felt a bit sorry for them having the same old thing night after night, so I decided to take a leaf out of some of the other Vault members' books and make my own. I've been doing this for a couple of weeks now and I can't believe how much cheaper it is, but best of all the dogs absolutely love it! They wouldn't even bother eating their dry food any more half the time but they eat every morsel of their home made tucker. I love knowing exactly what's in it too and it's really no extra hassle, I just put an extra pot on for the dogs when I'm cooking dinner for the rest of us. Already I can't imagine I would go back to buying boring old dog bikkies again. I know it sounds daft but I guess it's my way of showing them I love them, just like when I bake for the kids or make them something special too!
Mind you, I have managed to make the odd expensive mistake too. Two of them happened when I was sick. I ran out of my home made laundry liquid and didn't have the energy or inclination to make any more but had to tackle the washing mountain somehow, so I bought a small packet of Surf 'Cool Fresh' powder. Egads I thought the smell alone was going to kill me, it was so overpowering! I kid you not, I could hardly bear to go in the laundry and even when the washing was dry I still couldn't stand the smell. Worse still, it sent Noel's eczema into overdrive and he kept me awake several nights scratching himself silly! Suffice to say I won't be making that mistake again.
Another one was when Ali told me at 8.30am that his class were making 'healthy sandwiches' for each other and he had to bring a load of ingredients to share with his classmates. Apparently he needed to bring a lettuce, sweet chilli sauce, cheese and a cheese grater to school. I told him we didn't have any lettuce and we didn't keep sweet chilli sauce in the house as Liam is allergic to it but he could take the cheese slices. To which Ali protested loudly that it was the WRONG kind of cheese, he had to bring the grater, therefore it had to be the kind of cheese you could GRATE. Now had I not been ill, I would have sent him to school with a note to explain the absence of aforementioned lettuce and chilli sauce. I would have also sent the cheese slices, mentioned to his teacher how irresponsible it was to expect the kids to take cheese to school when it was currently costing their parents up to $14 for a decent sized block and told her she could like it or lump it. However, lacking as I was in strength of body and mind, I took what seemed the easiest way out at the time. I drove to Mr Patel's, bought a lettuce, a bottle of chilli sauce and the smallest block of cheese I could find. Another mistake I won't be making again!
However, neither of those are as bad as the most stee-yoopid mistake I made of all. Last term Ali decided he would like to learn to play the guitar. A music teacher has been coming to the school for years so I thought 'why not?' I made enquiries, discovered there was a space and all was hunkydory; I didn't even need to get him a guitar as the teacher had a small acoustic one he could borrow. At the same time, Liam decided he wanted to learn to play the drums. Actually he's wanted to learn for years but now that he is attending a different school there is a tutor available. Same scenario, I made enquiries, found there was a space and all was hunkydory there too. There was only one difference - Liam's music lessons are free, Ali's aren't. I didn't realise this until I received an invoice for $236 for NINE guitar lessons. That's just for one term, and there are four terms in a year! At no stage was I informed of any costs, either by the school or the music teacher, both of whom I spoke to before starting the lessons. Now no doubt I'm just plain stupid for not asking if there was a charge but I had always believed the music lessons provided at school were free. What a plonker!
At least I'm not the only one throwing away money thoughtlessly. It looks as though there are a lot of plonkers in the area I live. According to recent newspaper reports, all other regions nationwide have tightened their belts but not good old Waikato. By the sound of it the whole district needs to do a $21 Challenge! One couple we could all learn a whole lot from is Matthew and Waveney, a South Island couple who have committed to filling only ONE bag of household rubbish in an entire year. These guys have totally thrown themselves into the Simple Savings way of life and are really enjoying exercising their consumer power. They've done a heck of a lot to inspire me, I know that. I was already pretty good at recycling after No Landfill Month but reading about these people made me realise there was soooo much more I could do that I've never even thought of. Just a few days ago, I was appalled to discover our rugby club caterers buy and throw out an average of 150 disposable plastic cups every Saturday. Not any more! Our committee got together and learned from the caterer that it would cost exactly the same to purchase reusable, dishwasher proof cups. So that's what we'll all be drinking out of from now on! Matthew and Waveney are doing a fantastic job and are Simple Savings members too, so do check out their website at Rubbish Free Year!