Most Popular Hints

Vault members get access to more than 18,000 hints in the Vault, plus hundreds of recipes, a very friendly forum, heaps of downloadable tools, and thousands of blog posts by hundreds of authors.

Get your membership here!


Here are the ten highest voted hints from the Vault:

Pie apples for baby food

Instead of buying pureed fruit in jars or tins, which according to the latest stories contain a lot of water, buy a large tin of pie apples (no added sugar) and a large tin of any other fruit in natural juice, puree them together and put in single serve containers. Two large tins make about 15 single serves (a much bigger serve than the baby food tins) and cost about $4.50 less than the equivalent of baby food in tins. The pie apples don't contain liquid so this means that your home-made baby food is not too sloppy. You can vary the taste by changing the second fruit to apricots, pears, fruit salad, peaches, two fruits and so on.

by: Sharlene Dunn 16 responses in the members' forum

Shop first, menu plan later

I have discovered that reversing my old way of shopping is much easier on my pension! Previously I always used to menu plan first, then go to the shops and walk up and down the aisles getting the things on my list (plus plenty that wasn't)! However once we retired I soon realised this was no longer working. I was spending more than we could afford at the supermarket and greengrocer. I needed to find a better way - and I found one!

These days, I do my menu planning and shopping the other way round. I go to the supermarket once a week and buy whatever is marked down. For example, this week I found Wagyu sausages down from $6.95 to $3 for six. That's enough to make three meals for the two of us! I also bought 4kg of chicken breasts marked down to $5.99 a kilo. I can mince some for lasagne, chop some for curries, cut strips for sate or just poach some for sandwiches. Either way I will get at least at least 20 meals for the $45 I spent!

The same goes for the greengrocer. Instead of planning what I was going to buy in advance I now only buy what he has outside in boxes on special. I pick out the best deals, then come home and menu plan around what I have bought. I am finding this so much better on the wallet and would encourage anyone to give it a go!

by: Duchess 54 responses in the members' forum

Chemical-free toilet bowl freshener

This simple tip saves money on toilet cleaners and air fresheners! A cheap and easy way to keep the toilet clean and smelling fresh is to make your own antibacterial spray. I have a spray bottle on the window sill filled with water and a few drops of tea tree oil. After each flush, we spray two or three squirts in the toilet bowl and close the lid. It keeps the room smelling lovely and our toilet sparkling clean without yucky chemicals.

by: Spud 9 responses in the members' forum

All new parents love this gift

When someone you know has a baby, it can be hard to choose a gift that will be appreciated – but this gift is always well received!

I like to give new parents the gift of dinner for a week, which is delivered each night. In the weeks leading up to the due date, I cook and freeze meals that will feed my family and theirs. It gives the new parents one less thing to worry about as they are settling in with their baby, and ensures they are not living on takeaway food.

I make things like pasta sauce, casseroles, soup and garlic bread. Roast dinners and chicken salads are easy to make fresh in large amounts and I also bake cakes and biscuits so they have something to offer their visitors. If they have school age kids, I even give them food for their lunchboxes such as slices of cake, sandwiches, pizza rolls and muffins.

This may not be as spectacular as a large gift with a bow, but all my friends say that it was their best gift, as they are so tired by the afternoon that the last thing they want to think about is cooking dinner.

by: JoJoB 18 responses in the members' forum

A savings success story

Three weeks ago we ended up without a cent to spend on groceries and the money situation for the following week was only slightly better. We had to eat, of course, so I raided the pantry and freezer and managed to get by on what we had. We were also running out of laundry powder and toilet paper so I rationed out these things to make sure we made it through until we could afford to stock up. It meant using less laundry powder per wash and a few less squares of toilet paper each visit, but we got through the week without having to buy anything, saving around $300.

The following week we had only $30 for food shopping. I still had things I could use up in the pantry and fridge/freezer, and the rationing of the laundry powder and toilet paper meant we wouldn't need to buy more until the next week. So I spent our $30 surplus for that week on milk, fruit and vegetables.

Last week we were back to normal but my two weeks of poverty made me realise just how much money I can save each week by using less of everything and trying to use up what I already have in the fridge and pantry. Over two weeks I had managed to NOT spend about $570 and I had also cleared out a stack of canned beans, canned tuna and sardines, frozen vegetables, frozen meat and frozen loaves of bread that were taking up space in my pantry and freezer.

by: Caroline Cuccovia 3 responses in the members' forum

Money tin savings work online too

I have discovered that regularly checking the balance of my everyday bank account and putting just a few cents away into savings each time adds up to some big savings. How it works is this - I check the balance of my everyday account online and then transfer every amount under a dollar showing on that balance, to my savings account. For example, if my everyday balance showed $300.45, I would transfer that 45c to my savings account.

If I transfer 5c every day, then I save $18.25 per year. But if I have as much as 99c to transfer each time, I save $361.35! The more often I log on, the more I save. It works on the same principle as the Money Tin Challenge - except that I had let this spare change slip down the back of the virtual couch for too many years - not any more!

by: Anita H 38 responses in the members' forum

Save money by ignoring pamphlets

People are constantly amazed when we tell them that we have managed to whittle down our weekly grocery bill to just $100 for our family of four. Our income may not be all that we would wish, but with a little dedication, we have made a huge difference.

For example, in recent months, we have saved $50 per week on our grocery bill, since we have started throwing away our supermarket circulars! For years, I eagerly awaited the arrival each Sunday of the supermarket 'junk' mail. I would plan our eating to a large extent on the weekly specials, and would stock up on a few of them, believing it was saving me money.

However, once I began throwing them away without even a glance, it had an unbelievable effect! Not only did it cut down on the clutter in the house, but amazingly my grocery bill plummeted. I now buy only what I need - as opposed to what the stores want me to buy - and the benefit is showing. By throwing out the junk mail alone, our weekly grocery shop reduced from $150 per week to around $100, saving $2,600 per year!

I still use a menu plan to help me stick to my budget, but now it is food of my choice, rather than being influenced by supermarket advertising. A typical weekly menu might look like:

Monday - Baked chicken and salad (whole chicken $2.50 from local butcher)
Tuesday - Fish and chips (fish $2.00 per pack at ALDI, I use potato gems or
chips about $2.00)
Wednesday - Pasta bake & salad
Thursday - Taco's
Friday - Baked beans (ALDI's are really cheap at around $0.40c for two cans)
Saturday - Chicken legs, pasta and salad (chicken legs $2.00 per kilo)
Sunday - Quiche & salad

I usually have all the meat I need already available, as I buy in bulk, so all I need to buy for the week are any other items to complete the meals. I buy salads and vegetables on alternate weeks - one week we have salad with everything, the next week I buy vegetables for all our meals. It may sound an unusual way of shopping, but this way there is no wastage; unlike when I used to buy both.

I don’t buy everything in bulk, but some items work out more economical, such as:
Bread - I buy bread from Coles after 6pm to take advantage of the markdowns - for example, $0.50c for a packet of bread rolls, or a loaf of bread.
Chickens - Patton’s, our local butcher have many great specials, including chickens for $2.50 each. I buy ten at a time and freeze them; they may not be huge, but plenty enough for a family meal, plus leftovers for sandwiches.
Fish - ALDI have oven bake fish for $2.00 per packet (the cheaper of the two
versions). They are like large fish fingers, and perfect for us. Combined
with the chips or potato gems, the whole meal for a family of four comes to $4.00.
This is a standard meal for us, and I make sure I buy plenty to last between ALDI visits. Ice cream - I wait for special offers so I can purchase five litres for $5.00 and buy in bulk.
It also pays to buy washing powder and toilet paper in bulk when on special, as they don't go off and you will always need them!

When I was planning my meals around the supermarket brochures, my shopping list was actually doubling - that was without any impulse buying as well! Another thing I also now do to cut down costs, is alternate a meat meal, with a non-meat meal. You will see from the menu plan above how we eat meat and vegetables one night, baked beans the next, or pasta bake and so on. We enjoy our meat, but find we can cope with every second meal being meat based, and it really keeps costs down.

We don’t eat cereal every day for breakfast, it works out too expensive - it’s actually more expensive to eat than steak! We have toast, eggs or grilled tomatoes. With the children, lunches are mainly sandwiches; the kids like their Vegemite, peanut butter and Nutella; the adults make use of any leftover meat. For school lunches, I dropped most of the expensive packaged goods (for example, Rollups) in favour of two sandwiches and a piece of fruit. They still have a lunchbox treat now and then, but it’s sometimes, not everyday.

One tip I have learned which has really helped me is that the family actually prefers me to cook from their range of ‘family favourites’, rather than consulting cookbooks or fancy magazines. If this is what they enjoy - stick to it and save yourself the time and money!

by: Kerry Robinson 14 responses in the members' forum

Five dollar saving scheme

About a year ago my husband and I were having lunch at a seaside cafe when we noticed the people next to us paying their bill with $5 notes. We found out that they were on a trip around Australia and every time they were given a $5 note, they saved it and used it toward their food bill.

Thinking this was much better than saving $2 coins, I started doing the same. As soon as I receive a $5 note in my change, I pop it into my purse and then put it in a money box when I get home. I keep track of how much is in the box by writing the amount in my diary; when I get to $500 I empty the money box, take it to the bank and put the money into a term deposit for a rainy day.

So far I have saved $1435! I never miss the money and most times I go shopping I come home with at least one $5 note!

by: Lesley Royle

Handy pillowcases make for a tidy linen cupboard!

I have saved myself the frustration of constantly losing items from my sheet sets (and the expense of having to buy replacements) by keeping them all together in a simple but ingenious way! I used to be constantly searching for a full set of sheets and pillowcases in my linen cupboard no matter how many times I tidied it up. It's crazy but, in my frustration, I actually found myself buying new sets! Knowing this wasn't a real solution I finally pulled everything out, put all the sets together and placed all the sheets and extra pillowcases inside one matching pillowcase. Since then I haven't lost a single item! I can easily see my sheets and duvet sets and the kids can now find their sets and make their beds on their own.

by: K.L 30 responses in the members' forum

Confessions of a stay at home mum

I can hardly believe it but we have an extra $2000 sitting in our savings account! I have been a stay at home mum for 18 months. My husband earns a slightly above average salary, which allows me to stay at home with our son. We have a modest home, with modest furnishings and modest tastes. We haven't really had a financial plan since we got married two and a half years ago and have just been cruising along, saving a bit some months and spending it other months.

When I first left work I had full intentions of making a budget, planning our meals, organising our lives and generally being on the ball with our finances. Each month when pay day rolled around, I would say 'this is the month where I get organised!' But it never happened. I am the first to admit that I have been lazy, unmotivated, complacent and ostrich-like. I have been a member of Simple Savings for over a year and always thought we were doing OK and didn't really need to know all these ways to save money. I had heard of the $21 Challenge but wasn't really motivated to try it and we were ticking along as usual - until last month.

With baby number two arriving in three months we needed extra storage space so we extended our garage to make room for all our stuff. This extension made a dent in the savings account which although we knew it would, was quite depressing to see the balance dropping and dropping and not going back up. Lo and behold, motivation began creeping in!

I downloaded all our bank transactions for the month and was horrified to find that I had spent an average of nearly $260 per week on groceries for two adults and one toddler. There were lots of other things I was also horrified to see but I started with the groceries as it seemed easiest. Motivation knocked harder. I decided to take charge!

I read the first two chapters of the $21 Challenge on the website, put a copy of the book on my library request list and did a stocktake of my pantry, fridge and freezer. Imagine my shock when I discovered I had enough ingredients to plan meals for the next 19 days! That's not counting meals like scrambled eggs, pumpkin soup and the emergency baked beans on toast. We had enough food in the house to live on for over three weeks! We just needed fresh fruit and veges and that was about it. I didn't quite make $21 but my first grocery shop after doing the stocktake came to $61, down from $258 per week the previous month.

From then on I watched the bank account like a hawk and knew where every cent went. In previous months when the bank account got low, I would simply pull out the credit card and pay it off on pay day but not this month! This month it stayed in my wallet.

It's pay day again tomorrow and guess what? I have spent an average of $160 per week on groceries, saving us nearly $100 per week. By being aware and thinking to myself 'do I really need that?' and deciding 'no', the savings account has increased by a whopping $2250! That figure makes me weak at the knees! I can’t honestly say where the money has been going before now. We don’t have the latest gadgets, appliances or clothing. I am truly at a loss BUT I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself right now! At the same time, I feel a bit sick that I didn't do this 18 months ago, or even 12 or 6 months ago, but I've done it now. I am motivated to change my ways. I have goals. I have the energy to do this and I have Simple Savings to thank for giving me the tools to continue saving. THANK YOU!

by: Rochelle Weston-Arnold 11 responses in the members' forum