Back on track

Posted May 29th, 2006 by Penny Wise

Phew, it’s a good feeling to be back into a decent routine again! Yes, all is well once more; the bills are paid, the house is respectable and we are all eating properly again since I made the time to write out a menu plan. I am NEVER going to sacrifice my sanity or grocery budget by not making a menu plan again. I had no idea just how much money we save by doing this but I certainly got a sharp reminder last week! Because I found myself with so many interruptions and so little time, I didn’t get round to doing a menu plan. Consequently I had no idea what I was going to cook from day to day and with so little food in the house, half the time I would go to make something and find that I was lacking in at least one essential ingredient. On the positive side, because I was determined not to give in and go to the local shop, I did find myself pleasantly surprised at what I could find to ‘make do’, but by Thursday I had used up all my emergency supplies and the boys had been fed for days in a row on burgers, processed chicken things of various kinds and unlimited chips. They loved it – I didn’t! So, I had no choice but to go to the shop. A little voice in the back of my head did whisper something to me about taking the time to make a menu plan first, so I could take a list of things I needed to buy, but I waved it away. I was on a mission to buy food and I didn’t care what it was as long as we had some.

Big mistake. I went through the store, filled my trolley with this and that and almost fell over at the checkout when I was asked to hand over $144. Remembering that a few short months ago I allowed myself a weekly budget of $200 to spend on groceries, this was a lot. It may not sound so bad at first glance, but thanks to my lack of planning, all I had ended up with was the items needed for that evening’s meal. One meal! Everything else I had bought was just stuff! I had no idea what I was going to do with it or if I even needed it – a tin of spaghetti here, a can of tuna there. I felt even worse when I got home and put the shopping away. I had spent $144, yet where was all the food? Somehow I made it stretch to last the end of the week, but when Saturday came around there was no way I was doing without a menu plan anymore – I didn’t care how pushed for time I was. So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, took my recipe books into the bathroom and devised my menu plan while in the bath! I stuck it up proudly on my fridge and later that day when I went back to the store, I took my list of everything I needed for the week ahead and spent a grand total of $45.60. Less than $50 for a week’s worth of meals – now that’s more like it! If my expensive mistake isn’t a testimonial to meal planning, I don’t know what is!

Did you hear the first Simple Savings radio show on Friday? I just loved it, Fiona and Debbie sounded terrific! I had never listened to Internet radio before, but I gave it a go and really liked what I found. It doesn’t cost a cent to listen to and the best thing is that you can listen to what you like, when you like! I have to admit that the Simple Savings show was aired a little early in the morning for me, but it didn’t matter, because later in the afternoon I was able to quickly find the show in the World Talk Radio archives and listen happily as I worked away on my computer. It gave me quite a few chuckles and it was great to hear the interesting topics discussed in the phone-ins from all over the world. I’ve never been one for listening to a radio without blaring music, but I really enjoyed browsing through World Talk Radio’s list of shows because you can choose to only listen to the shows which interest you. There’s still time to listen to the first show if you go to ( Flylady also has her own show on a Friday - the same day as Simple Savings, so I have really enjoyed whiling away the hours listening to them both. I have found Internet radio to be a very welcome free companion, who would have thought it!

Noel has been working hard building my chicken run in the orchard. I love it! It has heaps of space for my yet-to-arrive feathered friends and has totally transformed what used to be a bit of a scrubby, weed-prone area. Perfect for chickens to scratch and do chicken-like things happily in! We have been begging or borrowing materials where we can to try and keep costs down. The chicken house (or should I say mansion, it’s huge!) has been made entirely from timber which we already had. It has a corrugated iron roof which was made from sheets left behind by the previous house owner, and most of the fencing materials we already had, or were able to source for free. After reading some of the great tips in the Vault, I had been keeping my eyes open at the local dump and found them to be a brilliant source of all kinds of wire netting (and corrugated iron, not that we needed any!) so all we needed to buy were a few posts. The neighbours even gave us a big chicken feeder that they no longer used! Now all I have to do is ask some friends for a little hay to line the nesting boxes and it will be all ready to house some occupants.

Apparently chickens also really like bread, which is really good if it means that I can keep any further poisonous crusts away from Ella. She is fully recovered but thoroughly fed up with her strict diet and has decided to take matters into her own hands lately. Just a few days ago Maxine returned home to find that she had left her laundry room door open and a four legged visitor had popped in while she was out. Unfortunately for Maxine she had left an opened bag of dog biscuits in the same room and Ella had been tucking into them with joyous abandon. She knew it had to be Ella because her own two dogs were safely in their kennels, but the real giveaway was the sheer amount of slobber strewn across the rest of the biscuits. Only a dog on a diet would leave such a trail of evidence! While I scolded Ella profusely for taking advantage of our good neighbour’s hospitality, I did have to chuckle to myself. Even the dog is getting into Simple Savings - who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?!

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