Hands up who else's kids were celebrating the end of No Screens Month by jumping out of bed and turning the TV on yesterday? My two certainly were, although to give them credit, they have become much better at turning it off when they're not watching it. Before, they would leave it running regardless while they played, even when there was nothing on worth watching but not any more. Long may it last! I gleefully informed them that they were about to jump straight from one torturous challenge to another - No Spend Month! Normally this news brings about much moaning and groaning and eye rolling but this year they were completely unfazed. As Liam pointed out, these days they buy all their own stuff anyway so me not spending anything isn't really going to affect them!
Even so, my No Spend Month didn't exactly get off to a brilliant start. First day back at school today and Liam discovered that he could no longer get his school shorts past his hips. With school uniform and stationery costs one of the few expenses still taken care of by mum, I had no choice but to queue up this morning with the rest of the parents whose children had also experienced 'school holiday spread' and fork out $100 for two pairs of shorts! Ouch! Granted, they were essentials I suppose, I could hardly send him to school in his pyjamas but good grief they're expensive! Just the other day I spent $160 on a new uniform for Ali. As of today he's now at the same school as his big brother. *Sniff*, my baby's gone off to college! He looks so small! Much smaller than Liam was at the same age we soon discovered. I had a cunning plan that I wouldn't have to buy anything for Ali's school uniform as I had been carefully keeping all the items Liam had grown out of over the past two years. Unfortunately when the time came for Ali to try on Liam's old shorts you could almost fit a whole extra person in there. Adjusting the waistband wasn't an option, there was just TOO much fabric and he would have ended up looking like Worzel Gummidge! As it was, we ended up having to get the smallest possible size available and the same went for the shirts!
At least we don't have to worry about spending much on the food bill this month. Noel's already harvested 43kg for the month of January and picked another 4kg yesterday for the first day of February! The only vegetables we have to buy at the moment are carrots and onions, everything else coming out of our ears. It's so satisfying to sit together around an entire dinner which has been grown ourselves, whether it's a roast dinner with potatoes, beans, broccoli and cabbage or a barbecue with freshly picked salad and home made coleslaw. We have enough broccoli in the freezer now that we shouldn't have to buy any all year! Noel's friend gave us a couple of pork roasts and some chops the other day, so what with the recently acquired smoked fish and venison the freezer's looking chocka again. We also have 15 whole salami in the freezer so shouldn't have to worry about what to put in sandwiches for a while!
The chickens are finally laying again after what seemed like an endless hiatus so all things considered I'm feeling rather like Barbara Kingsolver these days! Yes, I'm still trying to plough through 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle'. I think it must surely take the record for the longest time it's ever taken me to finish a book but I will get there! It makes me feel very, very lucky each time I read about Barbara and her family proudly harvesting, preserving and freezing mountains of glorious homegrown food because we feel just the same. It's not just about the taste, it's about having such a huge appreciation for the food we grow, that we dig up or pick ourselves and bring to the table. The journey and the time it has taken for one tiny seed to grow and feed our family. No one can tell me you feel the same about grabbing something wrapped in plastic from the supermarket. Harvesting has become a daily task for Noel these days but it's a task he never tires of. Our fridge is full of the most wonderful, fresh food and dinner takes barely any time to throw together these days. Who says fast food has to come in a takeaway container? Best of all, the kids love it. I never, EVER thought I would see Liam eat cabbage but he happily scoffs it now!
Reading all about how Barbara makes her own cheese has really piqued my interest and I would love to give it a go but I know right now that if I got into making my own mozzarella, feta and ricotta I would be the size of a house in no time. I was severely dairy intolerant growing up and couldn't manage my first taste of cheese until I was 18. Ever since then, it seems as though I've been making up for lost time! Perhaps one day I'll be brave enough to give it a go. Home made pizza dripping with home made stringy mozzarella sounds just TOO good not to try!
One book I managed to devour in far less time is 'Domestic Goddess on a Budget', by Wendyl Nissen. Now here is one interesting lady! New Zealanders will no doubt be familiar with Wendyl in her 'former life' as editor of a string of high profile women's magazines which she documented in her first book 'Bitch and Famous'. However five years ago Wendyl stepped down from the corporate ladder in search of a more simple life. These days she has chooks running around the yard, is an enthusiastic gardener and cleans her house with vinegar. Like us, she is passionate about saving money and the planet and loves helping others do the same by getting back to basics. While many of us Simple Savers are already accustomed to making our own cleaning products and so on, 'Domestic Goddess on a Budget' is a heartwarming read full of great tips on anything from gardening to stain removal to recipes for making your own face creams. And guess what? She even mentions Simple Savings! What a lovely surprise that was! I'm also really enjoying Wendyl's free weekly 'Green Goddess' newsletter, which you can sign up to receive here. The reason Wendyl called her book 'Domestic Goddess on a Budget' comes from her high flying days in magazines, when she first picked up a copy of Nigella Lawson's 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'. As a busy, stressed out mum, Nigella's vision of comfort cooking and relaxing in the kitchen couldn't have sounded more foreign to Wendyl and for years she dismissed any thought of being a 'domestic goddess'. What she didn't know at the time however was that Nigella's idyllic prose had planted a seed of desire to create a real home to nurture herself and her family. She went from being a 'Sad Sally' to a Happy Hanna - or as you'll see from her newsletter, a happy nana!
Well it's almost time to go and pick my boys up from school. The silence today has been deafening! I can't wait to hear all about their day but before I go I'll pack a drink and a snack for them in the car so I don't get tempted to buy any treats at Mr Patel's. Mind you, it's so rare we go in there lately he's probably forgotten who we are! One thing's for certain, I'm determined not to add any more to my list of spends today. I loved the hint 'Our daily money watch' and have taken to writing everything we spend on our SS calendar. There's nothing like reminding you how much money you've spent staring you in the face each day to put you off spending any more!