Mistaken identity

Posted May 8th, 2009 by Penny Wise

I've found another good way to save money, apart from being holed up writing a book! Unfortunately writing the book is much more fun. The boys and I are all sick with the flu at the moment and have hardly been out of the house for days. I came down with it first and jokingly told Ali I had swine flu. Little did I know he would take me seriously and it would end up all around the primary school! We've saved heaps in food as nobody feels like eating and a fortune in petrol as we've been too ill to go to any of the places we normally do. Apart from feeling like crap it doesn't really bother me at all; it's actually nice not to have to rush around and I'm a real homebody anyway. Just as well, as going out these days is obviously bad for the image!

I was gobsmacked to hear through the grapevine the other day that a so-called friend had been spouting off. 'She's all talk! How can she be Penny Wise when she goes to the cafe every week with her mother? She doesn't save money at all!' I was spitting tacks and went straight into a rant. "How could that little upstart presume to know anything about me? The only reason they even know I go to the cafe every week is because they WORK there. Mum and I have been meeting there once a week for lunch for years. It's our mother and daughter treat and we're keeping that person in a bloody job at the moment because not many people can even afford to eat in cafes any more! They should come over to my house, I'll show them how Penny Wise I am!' and promptly went on to reel off half a hundred different ways we save money around the home." "OK OK!" my sounding board begged for mercy. "But think about how it looks. You do pretty much what you want. You're always doing cool stuff as a family. For someone who is supposed to be Penny Wise, you don't seem to go without anything".

And that's just it, isn't it? People who don't know Simple Savings think we all live on bread and water and walk around looking like bag ladies. That's what being frugal is all about isn't it? No! "Living the Simple Savings way is NOT about going without - it's about finding the smartest way to get what you want" I explained to my mate. "Knowing how to save money on all the squillions of little things in life means we CAN afford to enjoy our lives the way we want". My friend looked surprised. 'OK, I see what you mean' he conceded. 'That's a very smart answer. I can't argue with that!' Too right buddy. The very same day, Ali and Noel returned from a weekend in the bush, bringing home two deer for the freezer and an enormous rainbow trout, caught by Ali and big enough to feed all four of us. That know-it-all from the cafe probably spends more on hair products in a month than we do on food!

The whole experience did make me think though. I'm so wrapped up in our cosy SS world, doing our thing that most of the time I'm pretty oblivious how I appear to people. It always comes as a real shock when complete strangers know who I am. Like the lady who came up to me at Liam's rugby game last week and said 'I know who you are! You're Penny Wise! I read all your stuff!' and proceeded to fill in everyone else within earshot exactly who I was too, while I stood there thanking my lucky stars I had bothered to do my hair. And sitting in a hospital waiting room surrounded by people reading That's Life is always guaranteed to freak me out a little! Still, I've realised there are three types of people. 1) People who don't know me at all like the lady at rugby but come up and talk to me about Simple Savings anyway, which I love. 2) People who know me well and can choose to talk about Simple Savings or not whenever they like and 3) People who THINK they know everything about me because we say hello in the street and would never dream of talking to me about Simple Savings, yet freely pass judgement should they spot me buying a bottle of lemonade in Mr Patel's, like the person at the cafe.

I don't mind admitting, it got to me for a few days. If that's what one person I thought was a friend thinks, what do other people think? I thought about it during the week when I was using up all the wilting celery and home grown tomatoes, courgettes, silverbeet and capsicum to make the most incredible vegetable lasagne. The family love it so much, they don't even notice there's no meat in it! I thought about it some more when I used the marshmallows Ali brought back from the bush with some age-old brazil nuts and a lump of cooking chocolate to make Nigella Lawson's Rocky Road (be warned these are dangerously addictive! I'll copy the recipe at the end). And I thought about it some more when I used the leftovers from our roast beef dinner to make what I now call 'Squirrel's Recycled Roast', thanks to the SS'er who contributed it to this fantastic Forum thread. Hopefully Squirrel won't mind if I copy it in this blog too, to save a lot of scrolling!

All these things I did among countless others in order to save money and stay out of the shops. Nothing unusual, it was just the sort of thing that I usually do. I felt really good about it because I knew I was doing a really good job. And that was when I stopped getting all het up and realised that I shouldn't care what other people think, or presume to think. The important thing was that I knew I was doing a good job because after all, I'm doing it for my family and that's all that matters. Back when I really was a Sad Sally, I would never have dreamed of doing all these things. We couldn't do all the things we do now as a family back then because we were always broke. It was only when we learned to live the SS way that we could. If learning how to live off the smell of an oily rag means I can afford to take the family to see the All Blacks, or Cirque du Soleil once a year or meet my mum at the cafe for lunch once a week then so be it! It struck me and not for the first time, that most Simple Savings members know me far better than those people I see on the street, even though we've never met!

Anyway, time to get off your soap box Penny! Here are the recipes I mentioned - Nigella's Rocky Road is TOO good! So good in fact that when Noel went to the supermarket the cheeky so-and-so deliberately picked up another bar of chocolate so I could make some more (even though I don't have any brazil nuts now!) I don't know what planet Nigella was on when she said these make 24 - I followed the recipe exactly and came up with 14 bite-size ones. They didn't last long!

Rocky Road

200g milk chocolate

25g dark chocolate (I just use 225g of whatever I have, mine was all dark)

75g brazil nuts

75g mini marshmallows (or big ones chopped into quarters)

Melt the chocolate either in the microwave or using a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Roughly chop the brazil nuts and mix into the chocolate with the mini-marshmallows. Drop heaped teaspoons onto a lined baking sheet and leave to cool in a cold place, though not the fridge if at all possible as it will take some of the 'gleam' from the chocolate.

Squirrel's Recycled Roast

This is so good, you have to try it! Have just copied the following info from the Forum, thanks Squirrel!

Any left over roast meat (I use beef or chicken for this) I slice very thinly and lay in casserole dish. Add any left over gravy and make some more if required (you can add a diced cooked onion for extra flavour) stir through till meat is all covered in gravy. Top with either left over sliced roast potatoes (or parboil some and slice) and brush with a little butter and bake till golden and cooked. You can also use left over pumpkin, kumura or parsnip and pop slices under potato slices. Makes a little bit of meat feed the family again the next night!

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