Most Popular Hints

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Here are the ten highest voted hints from the Vault:

Healthy eating for less

I have finally convinced my three daughters that eating a healthy lunch, including sandwiches with salad, is not only good for them but tastes great too. However, soon after changing their lunch habits, I found that this method was taking a large chunk out of our budget.

Being a working mum, it was easier to stop at the supermarket on the way home and buy pre-packed salad ingredients, but I soon discovered it was adding around $55 to the weekly budget. Plus, buying cold meat to match everyone's tastes added another $40 per week. I decided it was time to cut down. After doing some homework looking for the best prices and quality, I now purchase a bag of carrots, a couple of fresh beetroot, some fresh bean sprouts and cucumbers and a variety of lettuce. I noticed that by purchasing these items late on Sunday afternoon, I can pick them up even cheaper.

I grate my own carrot, beetroot and cucumber, throw in the bean sprouts and store in the fridge in an airtight container. I tear up the lettuce leaves and mix together in a plastic shopping bag and store in the vegetable crisper where they stay fresh and crunchy all week. My salad ingredients now cost less than $10 per week and they last longer. Throw in a small portion of sundried tomatoes for my hubby and I add approx another $1.50 to my total.

Instead of buying cold meat from the supermarket deli, I now purchase a couple of extra chicken breast fillets from my Asian butchery for around $4.00; this is cheaper than ALDI or any other local fresh meat source. I cook and shred the chicken myself while tinned salmon and tuna add extra variety; a $0.69c tin of tuna covers two lunches when added to salad. I purchase mince when it is on special and make a large batch of meatballs, which are frozen and used over a period of weeks as another filling alternative. Another favourite is home cooked corn beef; rather than putting the leftovers in the fridge, I slice it thinly and freeze for another filling choice.

My three girls are now involved in the Sunday afternoon preparations. Whilst my eldest daughter is madly grating the salad items, I tear up the lettuce and my younger daughters have great fun mixing the meatball ingredients and rolling them ready to cook.

Our family of five is still eating yummy healthy lunches but for $70 to $75 a week less than before!
We also have the added bonus of spending time together while we prepare and my daughters are learning new skills too.

by: Tracy New 7 responses in the members' forum

Puzzling our way to a new house

My husband and I have finally found the key to successful saving! The two of us are dreadful savers; while we're good at putting spare change in a jar, we don't know what to do with it once the jar is full! We thought a saving thermometer would be helpful, but wanted something that wouldn't be so obvious when people came over to visit. So we came up with a more subtle brainwave - a jigsaw puzzle!

We bought a jigsaw of what we wanted (a house) and assigned a dollar amount to every piece. Now we 'buy' pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, the money goes in our jar and we bank the money once a month. We even set up challenges for ourselves, such as who 'buys' the most pieces in a month, and we never have to worry about what to buy each other for presents - we buy pieces of the puzzle of course! Once we've completed the puzzle we're going to hang it on the wall - of our new house!

by: Castaway 25 responses in the members' forum

Sanity saved with Christmas wish books

When my children were young, I dreaded the arrival of Christmas catalogues and their enticing displays of new and expensive toys. So, some months before Christmas, I purchased cheap scrap books and the children spent some time covering them with Christmas paper. These became their Christmas Wish Books!
As each new catalogue arrived, the kids would carefully go through it and select any item they would like to receive. They would then cut out the picture and glue it into their book, with no limit on how many items they had in their book. However, the children knew they would not get everything in their wish book. On Christmas Eve, the kids would leave the books out for Father Christmas, who would be able to look through them and select one or two of the items to leave in their Santa sacks.
This worked so well for us in our one income, cash strapped household. I knew what each child wanted and I could see how much their gift choices were; this meant there was no rude shock when I went shopping for the items. I was also able to tell grandparents what toys the children were interested in, so they were able to purchase a gift knowing it was something the child wanted.
Even as the children outgrew Father Christmas, they still liked to make up a Christmas Wish Book - just to be sure they received something other than socks, jocks and hankies! I've never put a dollar value on what I saved, but I know it saved my sanity at a very stressful time of the year.

by: Kirra 25 responses in the members' forum

Crockpot party feeds the crowds in winter

I came up with a great low cost, low stress way to feed the crowds at my son's 21st birthday party. With the weather being chillier, the food needed to be warming and more robust than usual. I came up with the idea of a crockpot party! I am borrowing family members' and friends' crockpots and am filling them in the morning with different dishes, then I can 'forget' about them until the evening! When it's time for everyone to eat, I can then just plug them all into a power board and put them on the table. This is a triple whammy saver for me! It saves time as I don't have to spend all day in the kitchen and can get other things ready for the party instead. It saves money as I can use cheaper cuts of meat to achieve tender dishes and - as I don't have to use serving dishes, it even saves on washing up!

by: Linda C 14 responses in the members' forum

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

Families work together

With a combined effort, we have been able to purchase the majority of required household items for several families in our community, without incurring any extra debt. By using a common practice from our country of Papua New Guinea, we have been able to join together as families to help each other with basic needs.

Along with other women from Papua New Guinea, we have moved to Paraburdoo, a mining town in Western Australia, due to our husbands'
jobs. In the first month, all families contribute to buy one family's basic need; like a washing machine, freezer, dryer, lawn mower and so on. The next month we contribute and pay for another family and cycle goes on until all families own one item each. Whilst waiting for our turn to come around, the first family that has the item allows us to share it until we have our own and so forth.

The next big project will be assisting each family to obtain a second hand vehicle for starters, then when we have settled in and are mobile enough, we can trade-in the second hand vehicles for brand new ones to suit the timing of each family.

By putting in the effort as a group, we are able to achieve our dreams within a reasonable time and without going into debt. Our culture embodies this practise of sharing and helping each other, and it has worked just as well in Australia as it did for us in Papua New Guinea. A positive outcome which may invoke similar thoughts among close friends and neighbours in other communities.

by: Niandros Popeu-eri 5 responses in the members' forum

Stylish storage for virtually nothing

I created a storage system in my home office that cost next to nothing!

I stacked four white planks, one on top of the other, supported in between by two house bricks at either end. The bricks are covered in bright red fabric to stop scratches and to blend in with the office décor. Instead of buying cane baskets from Spotlight at $22 each, my 20 filing baskets are black mushroom boxes, free from the supermarket. These boxes are strong and sturdy and the perfect size for A4 papers; they even have handle slots, so the boxes can be pulled out easily. I stuck large labels on the front of each box indicating what is inside, and my invoices, accounts, bank statements and so on are now readily at hand.

My storage system is a great time saver, the red/white/black colour scheme looks great and it cost nothing except for the MDF planks which Bunnings cut to size to fit my space. I saved over $400 on the baskets alone!

Pleased with how well this worked, I did a similar thing in my craft room, to store and organize all my sewing, patchwork fabrics - immediately visible when the box is pulled out – knitting wools, card making paper and supplies. I covered the boxes in pretty pink wallpaper off cuts bought for a few dollars from a garage sale. Same story in the kids' playroom, where their storage shelves acts as a room divider. The kids have painted crazy designs on the boxes, which hold colouring pens and pencils, card, paper, scissors and toys. The kids are allowed to pull out only one box out at a time, so the toys are always cleaned up and put away before the next one can be pulled out.

Simple, cheap as chips and such a stylish way to stay organized!

by: Shannon Hunter 13 responses in the members' forum

A wonderful way to say goodbye

My husband was dying of lung cancer. He wanted his ashes scattered at sea and, being a practical man, discussed other details. He did not think much of church services and a eulogy delivered by a person he did not know.

He died in my arms at home and the next morning he was picked up by Sommerville Funerals. (Most people are unaware that they may have some time with their loved one before the body is collected.) A private cremation was arranged and I collected my husband's ashes for his 'celebration of life' at our home. All our friends arrived, charged their glasses, sat or stood on our front lawn and listened to his story that I had written a few days before. We played his favourite music and people stayed all day. My husband loved a great party and this was no exception. Everyone said this was the best service they had ever attended and they were going to do the same.

Incidentally, the only cost was the private cremation fee. Nothing like some of the very high fees I was quoted.

by: Michelle Morris 17 responses in the members' forum

Big savings on seeds

We have saved over $150 in seeds alone this past year. Instead of paying up to $5.00 for packets of seeds which may or may not sprout, we have started grabbing packets of seeds from the herb sections of Woolworths, Coles and IGA. Most mustard, coriander, fennel, cardamom or celery whole seeds that you get as a spice for cooking will sprout for you in your garden. These normally cost around $1.05 per packet and you will get a lot more seeds than if you bought them from a gardening shop. We also get the full dried peas (not freeze dried) from the soup section and have planted these successfully for three years now. They give us the sweetest sugar snap peas ever! A packet normally costs $1.53 and you get close to 100 seeds. In comparison to buy 'packet' seeds it would cost you over $12.

We also cut the ends off shallots and replant them, it takes about three weeks before they start to recover, but then you have an endless harvest of shallot leaves to use in salads. We do the same with old onions that have hidden themselves away in our cupboards and have sprouted. Plant them in your garden, let them go to seed and you will have a great seed stock for the next few years. No need to buy more!

Garlic can be done in the same way. Grab a clove and plant it flat end into the ground. After about four months you will get a great bulb of garlic from your original clove. Be aware that garlic from China or Mexico has been treated with Bromide (cancer causing agent) so only use Australian grown garlic.

Old potatoes and sweet potatoes that start sprouting can be replanted and will give a good yield. Just cut a 3cm piece around the sprouting part of the potato and plant it, from one potato alone you could get up to seven new plants.

Pumpkin, cucumber, capsicum and other vegetable seeds can be cleaned, dried and then planted out to give you more seed stock to play with. Try planting two different types of pumpkins near each other and you might get a hybrid created which tastes great. Our family had a butternut mix with a jap pumpkin and it was the sweetest tasting pumpkin we'd ever tried. We also let one or two of each vegetable go to seed so that next years planting will cost us even less. Our goal is to go totally self sufficient in the garden. So far we have an abundance of butter lettuce, silverbeet, rocket, mint, corn, tomatoes and sugar snap peas all from previously saved seeds.

by: Nat 9 responses in the members' forum

Bulk liquid hand soap the easy way

I found a way to save almost $50 a year on liquid hand soap with hardly any effort! Just take a bucket filled with four litres of water. Drop a bar of generic soap into it and let it soak for 24 hours. Give it a mix and pour into clean two-litre milk bottles. Just top up pump bottles when needed. For a little added luxury, add half a cup of sorbolene cream and a few drops of glycerine. Works a treat!

by: Rachel Warner 53 responses in the members' forum