"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - February 2004

This issue includes:-

  1. Making Valentine's Day special
  2. Reducing your meat bill
  3. Saving money on vegetables
  4. Help needed: Catering for a 21st birthday party
  5. From last month: Storing Vegetables, Saving Money for Children and Easter
  6. How this site works: What is the Savings Vault?
  7. How to change your email address or unsubscribe


It has been a great month! We received 551 hints, and have been very busy frantically editing and sorting all the information. Wow! That is a lot of tips.

Everything is growing so fast that we are looking for a contractor to help answer emails. All the details are at the bottom of this newsletter.

We also hit another milestone this month - 3,000 tips in the Savings Vault! Everything just keeps growing and growing. Helping people is so much fun.

"Your Savings Vault saved a friend of mine a lot of money on perfume! They came around to see if we could find a bottle of Coco Channel on ebay (recommended retail price of $150 for a 50 ml bottle). I remembered one of the 'Hints of the Week' a while ago, went looking through the Savings Vault and found strawberrynet.com. We were able to order her a 100 ml bottle for only $95.30! We doubled the size of the bottle and saved a massive $54.70! It was also a great feeling that I could use your website to help out a friend. Thanks heaps! Have a wonderful day!" (Wendy Jones)

"Please thank Karen Terry for suggesting to be nice to people in retail stores. I have a wood stove and my luxury in life is a hot cup of tea from my urn when the stove is off, but my urn died. I have been forced to have lukewarm cups of tea from my thermos for weeks. Today I spied the perfect urn for $120. I was really nice to the shop assistant - smiling so hard my face hurt - and she gave me a $55 discount. Now all I need is the plastic surgery to get the grin off my face. Thank you. I'm sitting here having a cuppa right now." (Paula Nowicki)

That is fantastic. Membership to the Savings Vault costs only $47 and both Paula and Wendy saved $55 on one purchase. Good work everyone!

Have a great day.
Many grins,

1. Making Valentine's Day special

Valentine's Day is about showing someone how much you care about them. There are lots of ways to do this without forking out a hundred bucks. Here are a few suggestions:

$1 Valentine's present

We have made some special love notes and included them in the free area of the site so that everyone can put together a gift for under $1 (just the cost of printing). There are two versions of the love notes. The first has a messages on it (e.g. "I want to grow old with you") to make it super easy for you and the second is blank (just a pretty picture) so you can tell your special person how much you care. Try printing out the notes and hiding them amongst your partner's things. For ideas for what to write in the blank love notes go to last February's newsletter.

To print out the Valentine's love notes go to www.simplesavings.com.au/freestuff/

Impress your partner with a $20 picnic

A wonderful Valentine's gift is to pack a picnic for your partner and you. Buy a good quality bottle of wine for $6, a $2 dip, a $2 packet of crackers, a block of chocolate for $2, and some meat, salad and bread and make some sandwiches for $5. Your only challenge is to find a friend to mind the kids and a great location to enjoy the sunset.

A single flower

Single roses can be expensive. So try a different type of flower or pick one from your garden. One single gerbera in a vase with some shrubbery from your garden looks wonderful. A single gerbera costs $2.50. A single rose costs $5.50. Last year my husband picked me a rose from our garden and put it by my computer so I would see it as soon as I sat down to work in the morning. It smelled so beautiful.

For more Valentine's ideas check out last year's newsletter.

2. Reducing your meat bill

Just because the price of meat has gone up it does not have to put extra strain on your budget. Below are some of the methods our members use to lower their meat bill. The rest are stored in the Grocery Section of the Savings Vault.

Buy meat in bulk from the butcher for $7.50 a kilogram

My friend and I buy our meat in bulk from a local butcher (half a side of beef between two families). This works out at about $7.50 a kilogram for all cuts, even fillet steak, rump, and so on. We freeze it all and it lasts for a couple months.

Contributed by: Lisa Bender

Purchase a deep freezer

The best investment I ever made was a deep freezer. You can save yourself thousands of dollars a year by buying in bulk, especially meat.

Pork legs, $3.99 a kilogram ($7-$11 per kilo at the supermarket)
Rump steak, $6.99 a kilogram ($10-$20 per kilo at the supermarket)
Lamb loin chops, $8.99 a kilogram ($16 plus in the shops)

Contributed by: Narelle Godbee

NOTE: It costs around $100 to buy a chest freezer in the Trading Post. If your family eats 500 grams of meat per night and you are saving $4 per kilo on all the meat you buy, you will save $14 per week on meat. Chest freezers cost about $6 per week to run. So the total saving is $8 per week. It will only take you three months to recoup the cost of your deep freezer and after that you will pocket $416 per year every year.

Fill meals with vegetables

Even when vegetables are expensive they are still half the price of meat. Carrots often cost $2 per kilogram, zucchini $4 per kilo and mince $7.00 per kilo. So if you are making bolognaise or a stir-fry, pack it full of vegetables. If your family does not like vegetables, cook the sauce until the vegetables are soft and then blend the lot and pour it over the pasta or make bolognaise toasted sandwiches.

Eat fish instead

The price of fish is still low. A 425g tin of Farmland tuna is around $2.03; a 415g tin of ALDI pink salmon is $2.29. If you live near the coast fresh mullet is about $4.50 per kilo and leather jacket is $9.00 per kilo. Frozen octopus is regularly $6.00 per kilo. They are all nutritious and very cheap. Here are some of my favourite very flexible dinner recipes.

Always Delicious Tuna Pasta

It is impossible to go wrong with this meal.

  • 1 425 g tin of tuna in brine
  • 1 sprig of rosemary (1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 sprig of thyme (1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Diced vegetables (all types - carrot, zuchinni - whatever, it doesn't matter; the more vegetables the better)
  • Pasta

Drain tin of tuna. Prepare all ingredients. Boil water for pasta. Put all sauce ingredients in a pot, bring to boil and simmer. Put pasta in boiling water and, when ready, remove from the stove and serve with tuna and vegetables.

Salmon Fish Cakes

  • 1 tin drained pink salmon
  • 2 sprigs of fresh dill (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 4 sprigs of fresh parsley (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs

Mix all ingredients together to make patties. (The quanitities will be slightly different for different brands. Add some olive oil if the mix is dry or breadcrumbs if it is too moist.) Grill on medium heat till brown. Serve with steamed vegetables.

Super budget version

If you have a lot of mouths to feed use more eggs and breadcrumbs.

High protein, low carb version

Thoroughly drain salmon. Use only one egg and do not add breadcrumbs. Pan fry patties on low-medium heat as if they were pikelets.

Gluten-free version

Use gluten-free rice crumbs instead of breadcrumbs.

Barbequed Octopus with Garlic Potatoes and Green Salad

  • Potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

Boil potatoes for 20 minutes. While potatoes are boiling cook butter and garlic in microwave. Pour garlic butter over potatoes before serving.

  • 1/2 kilo of defrosted octopus
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed
  • 2 diced sprigs of fresh basil (from garden)
  • 3 sprigs of parsley (from garden)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Mix all ingredients together. Throw on barbecue. Serve with boiled potatoes and salad.

Look at the prices in the fruit shop and buy cheap salad items. There is so much flavour in the octopus and potatoes that any salad items or steamed vegetables will compliment this dish. Aim to half fill your plate with salad or vegetables

Lemon pepper leather jackets

  • 2 small whole leather jackets
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

If the tough skin is still on the leather jackets, peel it off. Mix other ingredients together and brush over fish. Grill on medium heat. Serve with boiled potatoes and garden salad from previous recipe.

3. Saving money on vegetables

Even though the market has gone crazy, there are still ways you can keep your vegetable bills down. Here are a couple of hints from the Grocery Section of the Savings Vault.

Buy bulk fruit and vegetables for a group

Each Friday my husband and I go to the Rocklea Markets in Brisbane to purchase bulk fruit and vegetables. These are some of the prices for purchasing by the carton (some items are sold separately):

  • 10 kilogram box of tomatoes for $5-$8
  • 20 kilogram box of apples for $5-$12
  • 20 kilogram box of oranges for $5-$12
  • bag of 12 continental cucumbers for $8
  • tray of avocados for $6-$8
  • box of 30 lettuces for $8
  • three cabbages for $4
  • three cauliflowers for $4-$5
  • 20 kilogram box of grapefruit for $5 (four were rotten).

We purchase for 10 to 13 friends and family members, and they give us $20 a week. We take with us a list of all the vegetables, and split them into two. Each household gets one lot of vegetables one week and the other lot the following week. Each family gets around two large boxes each week.

We went to Coles and priced the vegetables and fruit. Our $20 box of vegetables came in at $43. This is not to say that you would spend this amount on vegetables each week but, when you get all of this for $20, it is a great saving. We have chooks and they are fed all our leftover vegetables each week; I freeze anything possible that is left over.

Buying in this way saves us $92 a month. When I get a carton of, say, grapefruit for only $5, I turn the fruit into marmalade; the only other cost is sugar. Lots of other fruits can be turned into jams and pies for your freezer. The list is endless. Just think of the savings.

If you go to a market near you to purchase bulk fruit and vegetables, I suggest that you take someone to help as well as a trolley to cart the large boxes back to your vehicle.

Contributed by: Vicki Turner

Look at the prices before you buy

One of the most common mistakes shoppers make is buying out of habit without looking at the price.

Be flexible

As fruit and vegetables change season, the prices change. Be flexible - rather than buying broccoli all year round out of habit. When the price of broccoli is high and the price of spinach is low, buy spinach instead.

Grow your own herbs

The cheapest way to make vegetables last is to grow your own. Even if you live in an apartment you can grow plants in containers. The vegies taste better and you only pick what you need so they are always fresh.

Find an old foam fruit box (fruit and vegetable shops usually happily give them away), fill it with a suitable potting mix (around $5) and plant your seeds (as cheap as $1 a packet - and you get heaps more than you need for one sowing). Even a pot of a frequently used herb on a windowsill will save you money. You can usually get herbs for about $5-$10 a pot (depending on size), rather than the $2 a bunch you usually pay, so it doesn't take long for them to start saving you money.

Contributed by: Carolyn Starr

Choose small pieces of fruit

We eat a lot of fruit in our household and at certain times of the year various fruits are expensive. We know there are benefits to be gained from eating these fruits so we don't like to cut back when they are expensive.

What we do is select smaller sized fruit. The price per kilogram remains the same, but we get more pieces for the same price.

Giving children a small piece of fruit is a good idea as well. Small children, particularly, usually waste a lot of a banana, apple or orange if it is too big.

Contributed by: Michael Davey

4. Help needed: Catering for a 21st birthday party

This month Julie Webb asked:

"We are planning an at home 21st birthday party for my son soon. Does anyone have any great ideas for catering? This will be a BYO alcohol event for about 60 people."

If you can help Julie go to:


5. From last month: Storing Vegetables, Saving Money for Children and Easter

Saving money for children

Last month Jayne Sinnott asked:

"Does anyone have any suggestions about bank accounts for children? We have 15-month-old twins and people tend to give money as gifts rather than presents and so I want to ensure that the kids are getting a good return on their little cash cache!"

We had some truly fantastic responses to Jayne's request. There were three favourite accounts. The first was ING Direct (at least 30 people wrote in to say they had been using ING Direct and it was fantastic), the second was St George (5 people) and the third was Bendigo Bank (3 people). There were pages and pages of ideas and great stories. I wanted to add them all to this newsletter. We have stored them in the 'Banks' section of the Savings Vault.

NOTE: Remember, there are tax implications linked to investing money in children's names. An accountant will be able to help you to make sure that more of your child's money remains theirs.

ING Direct

I'm confident that the all time best savings account is with ING Direct. You can bank over the phone or save the call and do it while you're online. There are no fees because there are no branches to pay for; there are no excess transaction fees because there is no EFTPOS or ATM; and there is no impulse spending of your children's savings because there are no keycards or credit cards. It all works by direct credit or direct debit from your existing bank or credit union account. The interest is calculated daily and paid monthly. You can have a savings plan set up and deposit or withdraw money as you please; however, it is not instantly accessible so you can't get the money out to buy that great dress with your children's savings and 'put it back later'! But the best part is the interest rate. At the moment it is around 5 percent and not for a fixed term of ten years or five years or one year or even six months, but EVERY DAY, no matter how much is in the account, as there is no minimum balance. So kids (and adults) could even save their $5 a week pocket money and not be penalised.

Contributed by: Sarah Hyndman

St George Dragon Direct

Online accounts have very good interest rates and the money isn't locked in for a long period of time. St George has an online account called Dragon Direct. You need another St George account to transfer money in and out of this account because it is only accessible online, but the interest rate is 5 percent. The money can be taken out at any time with no penalty and there is no minimum balance needed.

Contributed by: Jamie Redmond

Bendigo Bank term deposit for kids

I have just invested my children's money in a term deposit at Bendigo Bank, which I think is just a Victorian bank. The minimum initial deposit is $2,000. As the kids had $1,000 each, we put it into a joint term deposit.

The account is called Bendigo Gold. The interest rate is 5 per cent and the deposit is invested for a term of 12 months. Over the 12-month period, you can withdraw 25 per cent of the initial investment without the interest rate altering. You can also add to the term deposit throughout the 12-month period with amounts of $500 or larger.

The flexibility of this term deposit is not found with other banks and I think the minimum initial deposit may be lower than that for other banks as well. The interest rate is great when compared with other term deposits for the same amount ($2,000) and for the same length of time (12 months).

Contributed by: Maureen Lesjak

How to make vegetables last longer

Last month Renee Thornhill asked:

"I was wondering if anyone else had any tips on how to store fruit and vegetables to make them last longer. I go shopping fortnightly and have to have staple meals for the second week as the vegies don't last."

This month I learnt that there is a real art to making your vegetables last longer. We received masses of storage tips for different types of vegetables. There were so many responses that we are still editing and categorising them into the grocery section of the Savings Vault.

Cook, freeze and reheat

My husband is a fruit and vegetable wholesaler and as many wives will understand it means a feast or a famine. He 'forgets' to bring home the vegies a lot of the time, but when he brings them home I get boxes full, so I have had to work out ways to deal with this feast or famine cycle without BUYING too much at the shop.

There are a lot of lines, such as lettuces and watermelons, that don't keep well. These need to be used first. Others items, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, keep moderately well, so these can be used less urgently. Then there are the long distance lines like sweet potatoes, carrots and spuds - these can be held off for use at the latter part of your buying cycle.

You can also freeze some fruits and vegetables, or preserve them. Blanching vegies such as broccoli, cauliflower and carrots in pre-prepared sizes and then freezing them in zip-lock bags prolongs their shelf life and makes for a quick meal. These frozen items are best served cooked into a pasta or casserole or made 'au gratin'.

As bananas approach the 'uhh-ohh' stage you can throw them as-is in the freezer. The skin will blacken but the ageing of the fruit will be halted. When required for muffins or cakes simply defrost and mash them. Berries can be used to make jams, and the current issue (February) of Super Food Ideas magazine has a recipe for Melon Paddle Pops on page 69, made from pureed fruits, such as watermelon, mixed with ice cream.

There are so many options.

I had an abundance of vegies and eggs a while back so I cooked up a large quiche and froze it. It defrosted and reheated beautifully a week later, saving me a trip to McDonalds!

Contributed by: Michelle Quinsee

Freezing vegetables

Try freezing vegetables. Blanch them in hot water first and then put them straight into cold water. You can then bag the vegies up into smaller portions and keep them in the freezer. Most vegetables can be frozen.

Contributed by: Trish Ashcroft

Rob's Longlife Vegetable Bags

I buy Rob's Longlife Vegetable Bags. They are available in the supermaket next to the freezer bags and I find them to be very effective at prolonging the life of our vegies. The bags are green and not very expensive, around $2.00 for 10, and should easily keep your vegetables for two weeks.

Contributed by: Selena Brook

Tupperware Fridge Smart Containers

I have found the Tupperware 'Fridge Smart' range to be excellent for keeping fruit and vegetables for up to two weeks and longer. They are expensive, but with the lifetime guarantee, they are definitely worth it. I have recently purchased two containers for my carrots and broccoli. The broccoli kept for two to three weeks, and stayed crisp, while the carrots kept for three to four weeks without going limp! They also keep other fruit and vegetables fresh. There's also a magnet provided to help you with what works and what doesn't.

Contributed by: Olivia Geue

Cheap Easter ideas

Last month Robbyn Maddison asked:

"I would like some cheap Easter ideas, including chocolate egg making."

In next month's newsletter we'll do a huge section on Easter savings. Here are a few to tide you over.

High quality gifts with chocolate

Throughout the year I search the discount stores and sale tables for delightful inexpensive gifts, mostly around the $2 mark. About a month before Easter I stock up on cellophane because the price of it goes up and the availability goes down steadily from then. I buy a bag or two of quality mini eggs (in previous years I have bought Cadbury Creme Eggs and Lindt Lindor Eggs). I then pack the tiny gift and tiny egg together, wrap in cellophane, tie with a ribbon and add a tag.

Ideas for this year include:

  • Travel brush with little hair ties in the hollow handle ($2 from Gone Bazzar) plus mini eggs for my nieces
  • Tiny painted wooden scrunchie drawer with hair ties ($2 from Crazy Clarks, filled with a quarter of a $2 pack of hair ties) plus mini eggs for another niece
  • Manicure set ($2 from Gone Bazaar) with mini eggs for a friend's teenage daughter
  • Mobile Phone Lanyard with Key Clip in school colour ($3.50 from Fun Fair) plus mini eggs for friend's teenage son
  • Microwave egg cooker (pack of two microwave egg cookers was $2 at WA Salvage) with Cadbury Creme Egg inside

The possibilities are endless, but avoid useless stuff - it is false economy. I would rather pay a bit more and have the item used. So many times I have seen cheap Easter eggs given in large quantities so the giver appears generous, only to have the eggs end up spat out and in the bin. Go for less but better and you are on a winner.

Contributed by: Michelle Quinsee

Remaking broken eggs

If you like making your own chocolates, the best way is to buy some moulds. The cheapest I have found are from the supermarket.

The problem is that the actual chocolate can be very expensive. So here's a neat trick. (One of my friends works at Big W and told me about it - other stores might do it too.)

In the lead-up to Easter there are always Easter egg casualties on the shelves - from large single eggs to packets of the smaller eggs. The stores will sell the broken eggs - in large quantities too - rather than throwing them away.

All you need to do is hunt around the stores and you will be able to buy a lot of chocolate for little money. Take it home, melt it on a low heat and pour into your own moulds.

Voila! Brand new Easter eggs!

Contributed by: Amy Taylor

Chocolate filled Smartie eggs

To ensure that you don't spend a fortune at Easter, save the plastic moulds that come with the eggs you buy. Melt some chocolate, paint the mould thickly with it and allow to set. (I make two.) When set, remove the half chocolate egg from the mould, fill the egg with Smarties and close it by painting on more chocolate.

It's much cheaper than buying eggs! You can then put all your eggs in a nice wicker basket.

Contributed by: Cassandra Rochele

6. How this site works. What is the Savings Vault?

This newsletter is part of the free services Simple Savings provide to help people to relieve the financial pressure from their lives. There are 20 to 30 hints in each monthly newsletter. The hints in each newsletter come from our online archive called the Savings Vault. The Savings Vault contains over 3,000 hints to save money on all aspects of your life. You can access it 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it costs $47 per year.

This month quite a few people asked if the Savings Vault is relevant to Brisbane, Melbourne and other areas of Australia. Of the 3,000 hints, 80 percent (2400) can be used by everyone no matter where you live. The other 20 percent cover Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and all other capital cities evenly. There is even information for Darwin. The way it works is that the more members there are in a certain area the more hints there are for that area.

Consider how much money you are wasting on a daily basis. How much money do you throw away? What is your current grocery bill? How much do you spend on presents, yoghurt, ice cream, fruit, electricity, phone bills? Now, how much money could you save by becoming a member $50, $100, $800, $1000, $5000? It all depends on your current lifestyle.

There is so much information in the Vault that we could charge $247 and you would still recoup your investment. But, that is not how this site works. We operate a lot like a charity. It only costs $47 to subscribe to the Savings Vault. To become a member go to www.simplesavings.com.au/order/

7. How to change your email address or unsubscribe

To unsubscribe or alter your subscription, send a blank email to this address

If you have encountered a problem with our newsletter, please email me. I will give your comments immediate attention.

© 2004 AL Consulting Pty Ltd. This publication may be freely redistributed if copied in its entirety. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted with written permission.