Here are 98 "Newsletter" tips.

April 2010 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - April 2010

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: You Spent HOW Much?!
  2. May is Best Shop Challenge!
  3. NEW! Hidden Gems Directory
  4. The Fastest Way to Save
  5. Short Story Competition Winners!
  6. Best of the Vault: Shopping Tips
  7. Best of the Forum: Show Me the Bargains!
  8. NEW! Savvy Cook Showcase
  9. Penny's Blog: Out of the Ordinary
  10. Homeopathy Corner: Breaking Up is Hard to Do
  11. From Last Month: One Pan Dishes
  12. This Month's Help Request: Spendaholic Husband
  13. Savings Story: The Last Laugh


How are you going? I have a confession to make. I'm not getting much work done at the moment. Most of my time is spent keeping an eye on Elora. She is at the stage where she is big enough and fast enough to get herself into trouble - but not smart enough to get herself out of it. I'm looking forward to the time when she understands that when I am putting clips in her hair so that she can see, I am actually doing her a favour. As it is at the moment, she fights me, shakes her head, tries to snatch the clip, pokes her fingers up my nose or turns her whole body into a wiggly pile of squirming jelly so she can escape to the floor and crawl off. It is cute, it is funny, but some mornings I wish we were on the same team. Still, I guess I'm very lucky that the biggest challenge in my day is trying to put hairclips on a reluctant hairy octopus!

Please don't ask me how she ended up in the middle of a frisbee. I don't know. She didn't say.

She is so mischievous, but not as tricky as the winner of our romantic short story competition. The entries were so fantastic that we have given out extra prizes. Thank you to everyone who entered, we had a ball reading them! Although, Elora just didn't seem to get the punchlines.

The best part about spending lots of time with Elora is her thank you grins. They are contagious. It is like when members send in thank you emails. Your letters mean a lot to me and I know that Simple Savings is helping people, that we are all working together towards something special. So thank you for saying thank you!

"I have now been a SS member for nearly a year and love it! Thank you for the many tips on time saving and general lifestyle changes. My family is now aware of turning off lights and get involved in planning our meals. They compete to see who can put together a gourmet meal using whatever is in the cupboard. You have made us more aware of where our money goes and have made me personally accountable for those unnecessary purchases and impulse buys. I check the tips and Forum daily and have started to save and have a goal for each week. Keep up the wonderful support." (Katarina)

"I have had access to the Vault for less than 30 minutes and thanks to one of your finance tips I have already had my interest rate on my credit card reduced by 7% annually for the life of the card, just by making a phone call. I will lose my link to FlyBuys but all I need to do is flash the FlyBuys card when I make a purchase and straight away I regain that reward. Thanks!" (David)

"I fed my family of six on $22.90 this week thanks to your fantastic book. For our tea tonight we had Star Wars Stew. All the children commented that it looked yuck but once it was cooked and dished up they wanted more! They can't wait for Sophie's Lonely Sausage Risotto on Sunday but most of all they are looking forward to McMummy's tomorrow night! Many, many thanks for making my life easier and our meals more cost effective." (Vanessa Howard)

"I subscribed to the free newsletter for a number of years before I gave in and paid for membership. I love the calendar and after using it last year, even without really focusing on the saving aspect, I had the family asking for it this year! Not only that but my husband and older child are getting on board and encouraging me to work on the hints and tips for savings. As a family we are still in baby steps but now we are all working together and I think that is the absolute best!" (Alison)

"I am writing to you about your $21 Challenge book. I just had to say thanks for the inspiration, the wisdom and the cartoons that make me laugh out loud, but mostly for your genuine concern and care for fellow humans (savers) that oozes from every page. You deserve every blessing that comes your way and I hope there are many." (Jane Gibson)

All the best,

Fiona Lippey

PS: We have a brand new monthly competition! Check out our Savvy Cook Showcase for your chance to win a cash prize!

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: You Spent HOW Much?!

Sally took a deep breath and walked into the Savings Group meeting. It was always the same; that familiar feeling of half excitement, half dread. On the one hand, she loved the company and enjoyed listening to everyone share their tips - but on the other? Sally always felt like she couldn't keep up with the others. Hanna in particular was miles ahead; she was always right, always knew the best place to shop. In comparison, Sally felt like she had nothing to offer.

It looked as though today was going to be no different. Hanna breezed in clutching a bulging shopping bag. 'Here we go again,' Sally thought to herself miserably. 'The latest new wonder purchase. Why is it I never seem to be able to find any bargains?' 'I have to share this with you!' Hanna said with a huge smile. 'Now you know how much I love pink,' she giggled. 'Check these out! I picked up FOUR new pink tops for $98, reduced from $250! Aren't they a steal!'

Sally's eyes almost popped out of her head. 'You paid $98 for those? Why didn't you go to Mr Pazook's? They sell them for $5.00 each!' she blurted out. 'Oh heck,' she thought to herself. 'I didn't mean to say that out loud.' Hanna reacted straight away. 'Are you serious? Wow, I've never heard of Mr Pazook's! Where is it? You'll have to show me! Thanks, Sal!' Sally beamed back at her. Wow! Maybe she wasn't such a bad bargain hunter after all! She couldn't wait to get home to tell Pete!

2. May is Best Shop Challenge!

Sally discovered a real 'hidden gem' in Mr Pazook's shop. Hidden gems are shops that save you time and money every time you go there but the specials are rarely advertised. They are the 'best shops' in your area and this month we want you to go looking for them.

There are two ways to find the best shops in your area. There is an easy way and a hard way. The easy way is to ask around. So start your quest by asking your frugal friends where they shop. They will know the best places and will be happy to help - but they will only share their knowledge if you ask them. Note - it is important to make sure the people you ask are actually frugal. Asking your spendthrift friends to recommend cheap places to shop just doesn't work!

This is the easy way; if this fails, you will have to do it the hard way. Start with the phone directory. Work out all the shops in your area that sell the goods you want, then put on your Simple Savings hat (that's a metaphorical hat, not a real one), get in the car and check out each shop in person. Chat to the staff. Check out the goods, check out the prices and work out which has the best value.

This is how I found our 'hidden gem' of a butcher. When we first moved to Buderim, I missed my old butcher ( and tried to find somewhere locally that could match him for quality and price. Every shop I tried was either phenomenally expensive or the meat was just yuck. Then, after six months of looking, I discovered that Buderim Meat Hall does great deals if you buy in bulk. You just have to know to ask. At last we had a reliable source of high quality, cheap and delicious meat.

Although it took a little while to unearth my hidden gem, once I found this shop I was able to save a huge amount of time and money. I no longer had to chase from store to store or waste precious brain space following the specials trail. I had put in the leg work and we get to save $1500 a year on meat. No further effort needed.

This single shop lowered my meat bill by $1500 a year and that is just one shop. This is why it is so important for you to hunt out the best shops. The rewards are huge! Once you have worked out the best places to buy meat, vegies, clothes, shoes, takeaway (yes, I am still a sucker for takeaway once a month) and toys, the savings really add up.

Since moving to Buderim three years ago, I have found that the best place to buy new kids' clothes is at Rivers ( half price sale. The best place to get kids' second hand clothes is our school fete. Kids' shoes are tricky - I'm still trying to work that one out. The best place to buy my groceries is ALDI and the corner shop. The two best places to buy fruit and vegies are at the Fishermans Road markets and Erbachers. The place to get milk is Maleny Dairies ( The best place to buy Thai is Thai Seasons ( The best place to get fish and chips is the Mooloolah River Fisheries ( While they may not be the cheapest, the food is divine and they have an upstairs area so you can enjoy your freshly cooked fish and chips without worrying about the kids running onto the road.

These are my hidden gems. What are yours? Have you worked out the best places to shop in your area? If not, do it now. Stop wasting your money and make sure you are getting a good deal. You will learn more about your own district as you hunt for the best shops. Who has the best bargains? Which shop has the most helpful staff? Which shops make the biggest difference to your food bill? Just like with my butcher, finding the best deals might take a little time to find the best shops in your area but be patient and keep searching. Once you find your hidden gems, they will save you a lot of money for years to come. And, when you do find them, be sure to enter them in our new 'Hidden Gems' directory!

3. NEW! Hidden Gems Directory

We want to make it as easy as possible for you to find the best prices where you live. We want the great shops in your area to get the credit and customers they deserve. So we are creating a 'Hidden Gems' directory, which will be available on the Simple Savings website.

For as long as we can remember, members have been sharing their favourite 'hidden gems' in the Savings Forum but we thought it was about time we made it official and created a list of little known places that can help EVERYONE save money. With your help, the Hidden Gems directory will become the fastest and easiest place to source the best prices and service in your region. If we all share our knowledge, we will all succeed in making some fantastic savings.

To give you an idea of how it will look, here is a snapshot of how my favourite hidden gem, Buderim Meat Hall will go in the directory:

Region: Sunshine Coast

Category: Shop

Products/Services: Meat

Name: Buderim Meat Hall

Location: Mill Rd, Buderim, QLD 4556

Phone: (07) 5445 1411

Website: None

Customer service rating: 5 out of 5

Price: 5 out of 5

Quality: 5 out of 5

How to get the discount: Buderim Meat Hall do great deals if you buy a forequarter, a box of chicken, a whole lamb and so on. The owner is Ian and you will need to ask him for bulk meat. There are no signs and at first glance the shop seems expensive. You also have to fit into his schedule. For example, the first time I asked him for a hind quarter, he said 'sure, as long as you can wait a week'. This is because he likes to hang the meat for a week so it tastes just right.

Information about the shop: The meat is very high quality. The beef is often his own. He is in the middle of getting his farm certified organic, but is in the seven year waiting period.

You see how it works? This is going to be fantastic! Now it's your turn. What is your favourite hidden gem? What do they sell? Where are they? Adding your best shops to the Hidden Gem directory is easy. We have made a page for you to fill in here.

To make the directory work, we all need to work together. Simple Savings members are much smarter than the average shopper. We're a lot fussier too! So please ensure that you submit only the really good shops to the directory. Shops that other Simple Savers will love and think you are a champion for telling them about it. With your support, these 'hidden gems' will be hidden no more!

4. The Fastest Way to Save

I'm really excited about the Hidden Gems directory. It's going to be a fantastic addition to our new-look site. If you haven't visited the new sections of the Vault lately, go and check it out, right now! Matt and Sean, our technical whizzes, have made some fantastic changes and members have been having a ball with all the new whistles and bells! If you're serious about saving money fast, look no further than the Vault. From the moment you join, you get access to:

Thousands of tips you can use straight away. The Savings Vault is the real gem of the Simple Savings website. It is massive. It gets bigger every week and there is always something new going on. The Vault has just had a revamp and members are loving the new format. If you haven't seen it yet, you can get a sneak peek by logging into the Vault and clicking on the 'New Vault' link in the top left corner. The new layout makes it easier and faster than ever before to learn how to save money on the exact thing you want, whenever you want it. Another brand new feature enables you to bookmark the tips you like for easy reference whenever you need them. Just pick a tip to get started!

Heaps of fun! Being a Vault member has never been more enjoyable or interactive. Members now have their very own area where they can create their own savings blogs to share with other members. They make fantastic reading! Follow Sarah ( as she undertakes her first $21 Challenge, the crafty 'Chatterbox' ( as she endeavours to make a year's worth of beautiful gifts and single mum Shelley (, who at 21 is battling more than her fair share of debt as she brings up her gorgeous baby boy. These and many more make inspiring and heart-warming reading. They're also fantastic places to pick up new tips and frugal recipes!

More savvy shoppers than you can possibly imagine! The Forum is just about to be updated into the new site. The Forum is the hub of the Simple Savings community and our information super highway! We have many amazing, clever members who have been helping each other succeed for a long time. No matter what the question is, you will find the answer here - and make a whole heap of new friends in the process!

Vault members are constantly working together to support, encourage and help each other. The best way to save money in the shortest period of time is to become a Vault member and soak up everyone else's knowledge. We offer a 365 day 'no questions asked' money back guarantee so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Take the plunge and start saving today!

5. Short Story Competition Winners!

Whoever said saving money wasn't romantic? We have had an absolute ball reading your short story entries! Originally we were only going to have one winner, but there were so many fantastic stories to choose from that we decided to award one major winner and four runner-up prizes. You are all so clever!

The winner of the major cash prize of $300 is Jill Shepherd for her story 'Two for the Price of One'.

Two for the Price of One

By Jill Shepherd

Derek paced nervously along the strip of pavement in front of the busy cafes. It was the most popular place to come for lunch in town, a large selection of food, and often a busker or two providing entertainment to those who sat at the outside tables.

He had checked the newspaper that morning, and found a two-for-one meal deal at the Italian cafe he was now passing the front of. He paused to read the menu for the fifth time as he searched the sea of faces coming and going around him. All of a sudden he saw her; the mass of curly blond hair helping her to stand out from the crowd as she headed right towards him. Self-consciously Derek straightened his tie and brushed imaginary dust off his jacket as he moved inside the cafe and joined the long queue.

He had admired her from afar, noticing her on many occasions at lunch times at this strip of cafes. She often seemed to have vouchers for meal deals, and he saw she would ask other lone females, if they would like to share the cost of their meals. He noticed she never approached a man, which was probably very sensible, but one day, he happened to be in the queue behind her when the lady she asked had her own voucher. So he had stepped in to offer to share the cost with her. He remembered the nervous look on her face at his suggestion, but she had accepted his offer. Since then, they had often smiled and greeted each other, and once more last week he had been in the right place at the right time, and they had shared the cost of their lunches again with the voucher she had. They had sat together, and over the course of their short lunch, Derek had become smitten. He had been looking out for her ever since, and was trying to work up the courage to ask her out.

He turned around as she joined the queue behind him.

'Hello again Rachel,' he said brightly, trying to sound calm and casual.

'Oh, hello,' she replied, furrowing her brows slightly as she looked more closely at his face, trying to place him.

'It's Derek, we've shared our lunch costs a couple of times with vouchers,' he explained, feeling more uncertain now that she didn't seem to remember him. Perhaps he had read the signals wrong and she wasn't interested in him.

At the mention of his name, her eyes seemed to brighten, then her eyes flicked down to his wrist and rested upon his distinctive gold Rolex watch.

'Oh, Derek, yes! How are you?' she replied, a smile breaking out on her face now she seemed to remember who he was.

'I have a two-for-one voucher today. Shall we?' he asked indicating that they had reached the front of the queue and it was their turn to order.

'Thank you, Derek!'

They ordered and collected bowls of steaming pasta with sauce; then passed their meal chatting amicably. Derek was struck by how much more outgoing Rachel was than he remembered. But one thing he had remembered perfectly was her beautiful face with soft blue eyes.

Much too soon, they both finished eating and the waitress came to take their empty dishes away. It's now or never, Derek thought, wiping his mouth just one more time with his napkin, trying to calm his nerves.

'Rachel?' he asked, trying to keep his voice steady.

'Yes, Derek?' she replied, with that same wonderful smile

'Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?'

'You know, Derek, I think that would be very nice indeed,' Rachel replied. She reached into her bag for a pen, and grabbed an unused napkin from the edge of the table.

'Why don't you come and pick me up after work?' she said as she wrote something down, handing it over the table to him. 'Around six o'clock?'

'Great! I'll be there,' Derek replied, reading the name of a small second-hand bookshop not far from his work. 'I'll see you this evening.'

Then Rachel picked up her bag and with one last smile she left the restaurant, leaving Derek grinning from ear to ear, clutching the napkin.

At five to six that evening, Derek was standing outside the bookshop, once again full of nerves as he reached for the door handle. As he pushed open the door a bell rang, and Derek saw Rachel behind the counter. She looked up and smiled at him. He smiled back, but faltered when she turned and shouted, 'Rachel, there's someone here to see you.'

Derek's hand left the door, and it slammed shut behind him with a crash. 'But you're...' he managed to stutter, before, out of the corner of his eye he caught a movement and turned to see... Rachel! Confused, Derek looked between the two girls. Twins!

'I'm sorry, Derek' said the girl behind the counter, 'I'm Jennifer, Rachel's sister. As soon as you said your name today, and I checked you were wearing that distinctive gold watch, I knew you were the man she's been talking non-stop about for the past two weeks. I should have told you then, but I must admit I wanted to know more about the man my sister is so interested in.'

Derek nodded, 'That's ok.' Then he turned back to Rachel, 'So would you like to come to dinner with me tonight? Since I haven't exactly asked you yet?' he said, holding his breath as he waited for her response.

Rachel smiled warmly, 'I'd love to,' she replied, but when she looked at her sister, Derek could see she was a little nervous.

'Jennifer can come too if you like,' Derek said generously.

'Oh no you don't!' Jennifer protested laughing. You don't get two for the price of one this time! I'm sure you two will get along just fine without me!'

Well done Jill!

Runner up prizes of $50 have also been awarded to the following members:

  • Lynley Tulloch for 'Pearl'
  • Sarah P for 'Shameful Love'
  • Kelly Heaton for 'Love and Home-Made Compost are Free'
  • Brenda Howson for 'Secret in the City'

Congratulations! You can view all five top entries here.

6. Best of the Vault: Shopping Tips

You can save hundreds of dollars a year by avoiding marketing ploys and knowing when and where to shop. Here are some great tips from the Savings Vault to help inspire your next shopping journey!

Be bold and ask for discount

I have found that people become embarrassed about asking for discounts when there are other people around in fear that the salesman will say 'No'. If you can get past this fear, you can get many bargains from almost anywhere. I have had bargains reduced by 30-40% due to being bold and asking directly. This is what you can get for your money when what you want is not cheap to start with.

Contributed by: Caron Jolleys

Picking up small bargains on sale

It's a good idea to look for small bargains for children's gifts, such as books for $2.95 from Kmart, little toys and 'girlie' stuff, and store them in a present box.

This year my youngest son was invited to about six birthday parties all within two months. With my hand-made cards and paper and present box, I didn't need to rush around trying to find presents or cards. I already had them!

Contributed by: Jo-ann Green

Wholesale bargains, Adelaide

I can recommend a great outlet for bargains in Adelaide. Gaganis is located at 9-13 Bacon Street, Hindmarsh. They are wholesalers but the public can shop there too at the same prices. They stock all things Italian; pasta, sauces, beans, herbs, dried onion (my favourite), olive oil, kitchen ware and much more. It is so cheap to stock up there! You can also buy their products in supermarkets, but it is cheaper still to buy from them direct.

Contributed by: Annabel Saunders

More bargains at West End, Brisbane

If you can't make it out to DFO (Direct Factory Outlet) in Brisbane, don't panic - there are many clearance shops at West End! You can find great bargains here on art supplies (, save on baked goods at the Vietnamese bakeries and browse the clothing shops around Montague Road. Then there is Reverse Garbage ( which recycles various materials - you'll be amazed what you can find!

Contributed by: Em

Fancy items from bargain stores

I am a big fan of the classical country style of decorating. I often find myself shopping at end of season sales in the big department stores, or at the factory second shops, or even the 'bargain' stores like the Warehouse and Clints. Surprisingly, GO-LO have exactly the same items that trendy country decorating boutiques have for only a couple of dollars.

Contributed by: Sara Dias

Shop for quality second hand bargains

We have saved heaps on our fishing gear by taking the time to shop around for good second hand fishing gear and watching out for the classified ads in newspapers. We have also found high quality rods, reels, lures and other items of fishing gear at low prices at garage sales. Some people get all enthusiastic about fishing and buy a lot of expensive gear, then for whatever reason, their enthusiasm wanes and they end up getting rid of it. This is when you can often get the bargains!

Contributed by: Rob Tonge

Cheap shops on the Gold Coast

On the Gold Coast you can try Salvation Army, St Vincents, Animal Welfare League, Daffodil Shops and Lifeline. Most of the op shops seem to be along the Gold Coast Hwy. Last time I checked there were four within walking distance of the Palm Beach CBD and also half a dozen within walking distance of the Southport CBD. Also in Southport, one can walk to stores such as The Warehouse, Stacks, and Crazy Clarks within the CBD. In Ferry Rd, Southport, there are quite a few second hand furniture stores grouped together, and I have found lots of bargain items in these over the years. Another great spot for finding second hand furniture and knick-knacks is the section of the Gold Coast Hwy between Miami and Burleigh - there are about four large shops in a short section of highway. There is also a huge discount clothing shop in the middle of Southport in the Australia Fair Shopping Centre, where I noticed they have many of their items for only $5.00. As you can tell, Southport is my favourite bargain hunting suburb on the Gold Coast.

Contributed by: Jill Wiseman

Be persistent when asking for a discount

Try shopping around for discounts by 'playing' shops off against one another.

When I needed to buy a bike helmet for my son, I mentioned that a friend recommended that I go to a shop where she had bought the same one for $90. After relating the story four times, I got the helmet for $95 instead of $149.

I always ask for a discounted price, and usually save between $10 and $50 which is a considerable saving. Retailers prefer you to spend at their shop, not others.

Contributed by: Annette Damon

Best bargains not always at $2 shops

For bargain hunters who like to shop at $2 or similar discount shops, I have found that they do not always have the best price. As an example, I purchased a 40ml brand name men's roll-on deodorant for $2.00, only to find that I could have bought it in a 75ml bottle in Woolworth's for $2.11! Just goes to show, it doesn't pay to assume the 'cheap' shops are naturally the cheapest!

Contributed by: Karen Webb

7. Best of the Forum: Show Me the Bargains!

When you ask a question in the Savings Forum, you can always be guaranteed of an honest reply! In these threads, our members share some of their favourite bargains and shopping around tips. No matter what you're looking to buy, they'll find a way to help you get it for less!

Sharing - bargains, specials, free, very cheap...

Where can you find the best specials this week? Look no further than this thread!

What bargains have you bought (scored) lately?

Find hidden gems and much more in this busy discussion!

Current meat prices

Where's the best place to buy meat? How do you know if you're getting a good deal or not? Our clever members answer these questions and more here.

Unit pricing - tricks the stores play

Would you pay over $14 for a kilo of cereal? It's easy to get sucked in by sneaky unit pricing in stores. This thread exposes some of the tricks stores use to make shoppers think they are getting a good deal - and how you can avoid getting a bad one.

It pays to shop around

Shopping around for the best price is one of the most basic rules when it comes to saving money - but is it really worth the effort? You betcha!

Help me choose a new laptop

Buying a new computer can be a nerve-wracking experience. Not wanting to make an expensive mistake, Doofybear asks the Forum members to share their advice and experiences. Smart thinking!

8. NEW! Savvy Cook Showcase

At Simple Savings we are constantly blown away by how clever and creative our members are in the kitchen. They are experts at cooking from scratch, cooking in bulk and making a teensy amount of food go a long way. Not only that, their recipes are lip smacking good! We thought it was about time we showcased some of these wonderful frugal cooks. Keep reading - the next one could be you!

This month's star savvy cook is Kate Andrew, who could be described as a bit of a hidden gem herself! She's been part of the Simple Savings team for some time but we thought it was high time we introduced her properly. Kate designed the $21 Challenge book cover and took care of the book layout. She has also done the calendar year in and out, as well as the downloadables. However, she's not just an amazing designer. Kate is also a mother of three, a super smart shopper and, as we discovered when writing the $21 Challenge book - a fantastic cook!

Those of you with a copy of the $21 Challenge book will have already seen some of Kate's brilliant recipes. They're not just delicious; they're super practical for busy mums. This recipe comes from the $21 Challenge book and is a huge favourite with Penny's family. Penny loves it because it makes a little mince go a long way but most of all she loves it because it's an ingenious way to get her kids to eat tons of vegetables. It doesn't matter which vegies she puts in, they always wolf it down. Once Penny put in so much silverbeet, she turned the mixture bright green - and the kids STILL loved it! Give it a go - we're sure you'll love it too!

Kate's Savoury Mince with Hidden Vegetables

Savoury mince is a fantastic family meal and so versatile! Use it for spaghetti bolognaise, lasagne, pies, nachos, tortillas, tacos - it's even fantastic on toast or in toasted sandwiches for an easy, filling snack.

The key to perfecting this mince is to ensure your vegetables are chopped super-fine (we recommend using a food processor or blender) and that it is cooked for a long time if possible to maximise the flavours. Serves 4-6.

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 500g mince
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped
  • ½ - ¾ cup roughly chopped, mixed vegetables (the more variety the better, e.g. broccoli, mushroom, cauliflower, spinach, celery, cabbage, even a little pumpkin or sweet potato)
  • 1 - 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ beef stock cube
  • ½ cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 jar tomato pasta sauce (or one 400g tin diced tomatoes + one tbsp tomato paste)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ - 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ - 1 tsp dried basil (or two fresh sprigs in puree)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh parsley if you have it

Pop all your vegetables in a food processor or blender and process or puree until super fine. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium high heat and brown the mince. Add the pureed uncooked vegetables to the pan with your meat. Add any remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring regularly.

Tip:If you are planning to cook your mince quickly (30 minutes), it is best to cook your pureed vegetables a little before adding to the pan to strengthen the flavour. Remember, mince always has a richer flavour the next day, so don't be afraid to cook it the day before you want to use it!

You can find more of Kate's ingenious recipes in The $21 Challenge book. They are all delicious and so versatile. We have been getting fantastic feedback about them from readers! Look out for:

  • Kate's Tomato Casserole - Page 138
  • Kate's Rich Gravy Casserole Base - Page 140
  • Kate's Coconut Casserole Base - Page 204

If you don't have a copy of the book, you can order one from us here. (*nudge nudge, wink wink*)

New Monthly Competition! Send in Your Recipes!

Now it's your turn! Do you have a favourite frugal recipe that you would like to share? Send them in to us, with an accompanying photo and you could be featured in our Savvy Cook Showcase! We will be giving away a cash prize each month for the best two recipes - $100 for Vault members and $50 for non-Vault members.

We can't wait to receive all your yummy recipes! Send them in to us here.

9. Penny's Blog: Out of the Ordinary

Apr 24, 2010

I've just returned from a very productive shopping trip! Thames is one of my favourite towns. It's full of quaint little shops where you can browse to your heart's content, particularly at the bottom end of Pollen Street, which I believe is called Grahamstown. It's also the home of my favourite op shop, the Salvation Army Family Store! I don't get the opportunity to go there half as much as I'd like, so couldn't resist ducking in there. The racks are always full to bursting and you never know what you'll find. It probably sounds a bit corny but I love the fact that there's just such an air of warmth and caring in the shop. The shoppers are in there to get a bargain and the staff are there to help them get one. I tell you what, most other clothing stores could take a few lessons from these ladies in shop layout. Everything is clearly labelled and so easy to find. I particularly like the section against the far wall, which bears a large sign that says 'OUT OF THE ORDINARY'. I'm dying to know what things are housed there but haven't been game enough to look yet!

I was just about to leave the store when something jumped out at me. A straight, black skirt in immaculate condition and in my size! You wouldn't believe how many shops I have scoured for one of these over the past few months, only to be told you can't buy them any more because apparently they are 'out of date'. Not being a dedicated follower of fashion, I snapped it up regardless and headed for the counter, where I was charged the princely sum of $4.00. I was chuffed to bits with my bargain and couldn't believe it when the lady apologised that she had to charge me full price as it wasn't a 50% off day! When I think how much I would have been prepared to pay in the high street stores just to get my hands on a skirt like this, I had to chuckle. I can't wait for my next appointment in Thames so I can go back and check out the jeans!

I was sharing my shopping success with Noel that evening and the conversation got around to our favourite shops. Noel would never get his hair cut anywhere else but at Trevor Roberts' barber shop in Huntly. He's been there as long as we (or anyone else) can remember and as soon as you walk through the door it's like going back in time. Make no mistake, this is a serious bloke's shop. The walls are festooned with everything from Tottenham Hotspur soccer memorabilia to stuffed ducks, pheasants and marlin. The only reading material you'll find are fishing and hunting magazines, along with National Geographic. There's a big stack of magazines to choose from, which is just as well as you can often be in for a long wait. With Trev, there's no such thing as appointments. You just walk in, and sit and wait your turn. People are happy to wait as long as it takes, because not only do they get the cheapest haircuts in town, they just like being there. Trevor refuses to rush, he'll cut your hair when he's good and ready. In the meantime, customers just sit and soak up the atmosphere - and often, watch the entertainment.

While you wait, you can be treated to any number of visits from some of the 'old fellas' in the town. More often than not they have no intention of getting a haircut, they've simply popped in for some good natured banter with Trev, who is always pleased to see everyone and gives back as good as he gets. I kid you not, Compo, Foggy and Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine would be completely at home here. All the furnishings are old and traditional, from a bygone era and unlike pretty much every other hairdresser I've seen in the last 30 years, Trevor still insists on wearing a white coat. Young or old, everyone loves getting a haircut from Trevor. It's his low prices and his obvious love of his work that keeps them coming back.

Another favourite store of ours is West's Trading, in Te Kauwhata, which has been owned for years by Maurice and Eileen West. You could call Maurice our local answer to Arkwright from Open All Hours (although he'd probably kill me for saying so!). The shop front is deceptive and nobody can believe on their first visit how far back the enormous shop extends. Talk about an Aladdin's cave! They just don't make shops like this any more. No matter what you need, you can find it at West's. A new bed, a wedding present, garden hose, framed art, tap washers, decorative soaps, fishing rods, duck decoys, crayfish pots, thermal underwear - this treasure trove has got it and much, much more. It's like The Warehouse - before The Warehouse was ever invented! The difference is that West's products are always top quality. They pride themselves on supplying their customers with the best and if on the very rare occasion they don't have what you're looking for, they'll get it in for you. Day in and day out, you can find the pair of them behind the counter, chatting to customers about everything from the weather, to fishing or the latest rugby score. Visitors from outside the area are always gobsmacked at their range and prices and never leave empty handed. 'Who would have known?' they say.

And then of course there's our favourite bookshop, which you may have heard me mention before. Browsers in Hamilton - now that's what I call a REAL bookshop! Think 'Black Books' without Dylan Moran. Wall to wall books at teensy prices. You could spend the whole day in there and not buy a thing and nobody would care. It smells of books. The people there love books. I adore the music, the ambience, the fact they stay open late at night so people can come in and browse at their heart's content. What Noel and I realised as we talked, that all of our favourite stores are owner-operated. Not big names or global chains but one-offs and totally unique. Let's face it, there aren't many shops like that out there any more are there? Which is sad but all the time people like Trevor Roberts, the Wests and Browsers continue to give a stuff about their products, their prices and their customers, we shall continue to support them wholeheartedly. And of course the Salvation Army Family Store and every other place who proudly continues to sell straight black skirts without caring if they're out of date! Hurrah!

April 2010

7th - Eyes wide shut

12th - The School of Ken

19th - Try and try again

27th - Under the influence

10. Homeopathy Corner: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

It would be wonderful if we all sailed through relationships and lived happily ever after. Unfortunately almost everyone is affected by a relationship ending at some time or another. Everyone deals with heartbreak differently and it is common to experience a rollercoaster of emotions. The good news is, homeopathic remedies can actually help you through this painful time. If the tears won't stop, or you find yourself unable to face others - or you can't rid yourself of the urge to throw a vase at your ex - there is a remedy that will help you get back on an even keel! Fran Sheffield discusses how homeopathy can heal the heartache in this article:

11. From Last Month: One Pan Dishes

Last month Emma asked:

"I need meals that are easy for the nights I'm working, preferably cooked in the one pot or pan. Can anyone share recipes for one pan dishes for the oven? I find dishes like lasagne, scalloped potatoes and shepherds pie easy but would really like more variety."

One pan dishes can be a saviour when you don't have a lot of time or energy. Thank you everyone for your recipes. We will be adding them all to a new category in the Savings Vault for One Pot Meals.

Bake a dinner cake

This variation of the much loved zucchini slice is brilliant. It freezes well, it's flavoursome and relatively healthy! My children call it 'dinner cake'!


  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup self raising flour, sifted
  • 375g zucchini, grated
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 200g rindless bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 60ml vegetable oil


Preheat your oven to 170C. Grease and line a 30cm x 20cm lamington pan. Beat your eggs in a large bowl, then add the flour, beat until smooth, then add zucchini, onion, bacon, cheese and oil. Mix it all up. Then pour it into your greased pan and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Serves 15!

Contributed by: Amanda Reynolds-Smith

Flexible fish pie

This is a recipe you can play around with, but the basics are:

In a medium size casserole dish, lightly mix together a large tin of tuna or salmon, or the equivalent weight in smoked cod, along with two cups of white sauce, a chopped onion and a cup of peas. Top with mashed potato, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Cook at 180C for around half an hour.

Here's where the flexibility comes in. You can add any other vegetables you like to the mix, swap the fish for cooked chicken, or include hard boiled eggs. This is a popular dish in our household and the perfect recipe for using things you probably have in your pantry.

Contributed by: Catherine Adler

Family favourite vegetable bake

My kids - and my husband - love this healthy vegetable bake! First up, make this cheese sauce.


  • 1 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1 onion, finely diced,
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese.


Place all ingredients in a saucepan in the order listed above. Combine and stir until thick. Then grab whatever vegetables you have in the fridge, chop them up and place them in an oven-proof dish. Cover in cheese sauce and sprinkle a little grated cheese on top. Cook for five minutes or until the cheese on top melts. This dish is also great when re-heated the next day.

Contributed by: Katherine Pierson

Always popular chicken casserole

You can't go past a chicken casserole when it comes to one-pot cooking, and this traditional recipe is sure to become a family favourite.


  • Chicken pieces
  • Chopped onion
  • Other vegies
  • Tin of diced pineapple (remove tin first)
  • Herbs
  • Cornflour


In a casserole dish, place as many chicken pieces as you need, along with some chopped onion and other vegetables such as carrot, capsicum and mushrooms Throw in a tin of diced pineapple, including the juice, plus herbs and spices to taste e.g. chilli, paprika or thyme.

Cook at 180C for about an hour or in a slow cooker on low setting for at least six hours. You may want to thicken the juices towards the end with a little cornflour to make a nice gravy. You could also use boneless chicken thighs, but the cooking time will be much less. This is delicious served on mash or rice.

Contributed by: Catherine Adler

Health packed sprout omelette

This omelette recipe is a one-pan dish but for the stove, not the oven!


  • 1 cup alfalfa sprouts
  • 1 cup Mung bean sprouts
  • 2 tbsp chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Combine all your ingredients in a bowl then pour into a frypan, covering the whole base. Cook then flip omelette to cook the other side, or put under griller. Serve with toast and slices of tomato on the side.

Contributed by: Rhonda Toope

Nan's chow mein

This version of chow mein came from my nan and was popular with my cousins and I as kids, and continues to be popular with our spouses and kids now that we're grown. The following quantities make four good sized servings.


  • 500g minced meat, particularly good with beef or a combo of beef and pork
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cabbage, shredded
  • 1-2 carrots, grated
  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1dsp curry powder, or to taste
  • 1 packet chicken noodle soup
  • Good splash Worcestershire sauce


Brown the mince and onion in a small amount of oil or water. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Add enough water to come about one third of the way up the pan; simmer with lid on until the vegetables are cooked through, stirring regularly to ensure nothing sticks. Do not allow to boil dry!

If you don't have chicken noodle soup, just use chicken stock powder. In the past, I have also added a packet of fried noodles near the end of cooking time for extra texture. You can also add whatever vegetables your family like - spring onions and green beans work particularly well.

This recipe doesn't freeze but it does reheat well for a hearty lunch the next day.

Contributed by: Melanie Linder

Easy cheesy pie

This yummy one dish meal now replaces our takeaway night. Not only do the kids love it but it saves us around $30 a week. Cheesy pie is a quick, easy and no-mess treat, so no more big kitchen clean ups when you're already tired. Enjoy!


  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 3/4 cup grated cheese
  • 200g bacon, diced
  • Small handful of chives
  • 6-8 eggs


Line a pie dish with pastry. Sprinkle half the cheese and half the bacon into the dish, top with chives. Crack eggs into the dish and pierce the yolks, then add the last of the bacon and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 200C for about 20 minutes or until the eggs are cooked.

Contributed by: Yvonne Lane

After dinner delight

It's technically not a dinner, but it's mouth-watering all the same! Chocolate fondant puddings are really simple and taste delicious!


  • 200g dark chocolate, melted
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 60g butter, chopped
  • 1 egg


Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pour into greased ramekins and bake for 20 minutes at 180C. Serve with cream or ice cream! This is great pick-me-up after a bad day but it's also cheap and quick!

Contributed by: Hayley Webb

12. This Month's Help Request: Spendaholic Husband

This month Cathy H asks:

"My husband is turning 50 this year and I am 42. I am a stay at home mum while my husband is the wage earner. Unfortunately he is a spendaholic. He cannot be bothered to inconvenience himself to save a few dollars. Catching a taxi is more convenient than a train and he will buy anything he wants without another thought. Money is tight at the moment and I am concerned as we are going heavily into debt. He is in control of the money as he earns it. I have no knowledge of exactly what he earns and where the money is distributed because he is a business owner.

"I am a great believer in 'look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves' but he just shrugs it off and keeps spending. He believes that one day he will 'strike it rich' and all the debts will disappear. We have four children aged from 10 years to nine months. We are locked up so tight financially that we cannot borrow a cent. He is not getting any younger and I am really scared that one day he will die and leave me with a massive debt and the costs of raising the kids. We have limited super - certainly not enough - and no other investments. Has anyone got any suggestions to try and make him change his ways?"

If you have a spendaholic remedy we would love to hear it and so would Cathy! Please send your helpful suggestions and support here.

13. Savings Story: The Last Laugh

I have been receiving your newsletter for some time now and used your tips and advice to reduce my food bill dramatically but I didn't think I could do any more to save money. Until I did the $21 Challenge!

My husband reluctantly gave me copy of the book for Christmas. I say reluctantly because he and my daughter were convinced they were going to starve, as $21 for a week's supply of food was not possible. To quote my daughter 'I am too young to starve to death! $21 wouldn't give us enough food for two days, let alone a week!' In an attempt to try and derail my attempt at the Challenge, they sought support from immediate family members, all of whom agreed it could not be done and laughed at me for even wanting to try it. However, I was not about to be deterred! I continued full steam ahead on my mission, now even more motivated than ever to prove to those who laughed at me that it could be done.

Fast forward to the last week of January 2010 - my $21 Challenge week.

Fridge, freezer and pantry underwent the obligatory stocktake to analyse what was on hand, a menu for the week was drawn up and a shopping list was created to buy those items missing. To prove only $21 would be spent on the week the family accompanied me shopping. This is a feat in itself, as any other time I could never bribe them to come grocery shopping! To my delight the grand total came to $19.30. You should have seen the looks on their faces! Priceless. Their only comment? 'We haven't eaten anything yet'.

Still, the week came and went without incident. My daughter, to her surprise, did not starve and my husband commented on the variety of food and in fact how much better we had eaten. Total money saved for the week $180! My hubby apologised for doubting me and congratulated me on continuing with the Challenge, given the obstacles he and the others had put in the way.

As for my laughing family members, they're now begging to borrow the book so they can do the Challenge themselves. Guess I had the last laugh!

Contributed by: Tracey Grobbelaar

April 2012 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - April 2012

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: World's Greatest Mum
  2. May is Toycott month!
  3. Hidden Gems Competition Winner
  4. Best Members' Blog: This Month's Winner
  5. Best of the Forum: Retail Therapy?
  6. Best of the Vault: Shiny, New Things
  7. Cooking with Mimi: Family Treat Night
  8. Penny's Blog: You Can't Take it With You
  9. Lin's Garden Diary: Bugging Out!
  10. Homeopathy Corner: Big Savings
  11. From Last Month: Kids' Clothes for Grown Ups?
  12. This Month's Help Request: Where Do I Start?
  13. Savings Story: Major Savings, Freedom, Freedom!
  14. Goodbye, Goodbye...


How are you going? It has been an interesting month in Simple Savings land. Something very strange indeed happened. Simple Savings members actually REQUESTED we put up our prices. Yes, it is true! So this is what we are going to do. We are going to increase the price to renew your Simple Savings Vault membership from $17 to $21 per year on the 30th of May. (The price of new memberships is still $47. It will not change.) However, we understand not every member wants their renewal fee to go up. So we are giving everyone the option to renew early for up to five years at the lower price of $17 until the 30th May.

If you would like to renew early, click here.

We have received some wonderful letters this month. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to write in. We love to hear of your success!

"I undertook the $21 Challenge two weeks ago and I am proud to say I was successful in my endeavour. I purchased broccoli, oranges, apples, milk, cheese and eggs for a grand total of $20.85. I normally spend $300 a week on groceries, so this was a huge saving for me and has helped me to think how to use what is in the pantry and replace ingredients in recipes for ones I already have! Thank you Simple Savings." (Heidi)

"I felt the need this morning to share with you how appreciative I am of this website, and in particular, the Forum. As I take stock of all the information I have got out of it, I realise that this site has been like a wise family member to me. I come on here for everything. It's my first port of call and I usually don't have to search anywhere else.
Thank you so much for all that this site has given me." (Alison)

"Just wanted to let you know I finally did the $21 Challenge last week and I finished the week with $3.00 to spare! We ate really well all week. The only items I had to buy were onions, mushrooms, a piece of pumpkin, a small amount of cheese and some fish. I feel really proud that I've finally done this and this week one of my work colleagues has been inspired to give it a go too!" (Linda James)

Thank you to everyone for their kind words this month. I really appreciate it.

All the best,

PS. If you want to renew early for less money. Click here.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: World's Greatest Mum

Sally couldn't help smiling as she got into her car. Today was going to be great! 'Toys R Fab' was having a massive sale and she was determined to be first in line. There was only one thing Sally loved more than buying new things for herself and that was buying new things for her kids - and today she could buy as much as she liked! She could picture the scene already this Christmas. 'My kids are going to think I'm the best mum in the world!' she thought to herself happily.

'Now promise me you won't go overboard,' Pete had told her that morning. 'You don't have to buy something just because it's on special you know'. 'Of course not!' Sally replied, rather miffed. 'I am simply being a smart consumer Peter. I've got my catalogue right here and I've already circled the things I need.' She waved it under his nose. 'Hmm, I'm not sure we NEED any more clutter in this place,' Pete said wryly, 'but at least you won't be paying full price for it I suppose!'

Sally had a ball. She got everything she had circled in the catalogue and much, much more. After all, everything was so cheap! She reached the checkout and smiled happily at all the other smart shoppers with their trolleys heaving, just like hers. 'That will be $862 please,' the cashier's voice jolted Sally into reality. Oops! She had only brought $300 cash with her. Not to worry, she could always use her credit card!

2. May is Toycott month!

Sally had been doing so well, until she fell into the trap that so many of us do - succumbing to the dreaded toy sales. Da, da, da, dumb!

It is a very easy trap to fall into. The annual toy sales have become a cultural phenomenon; everyone is doing it. It is so ingrained that we even had a note sent home from childcare one year asking parents not to drop their children off two hours early on the morning of the Target toy sales. They do not have enough staff to look after the influx.

The sheer volume of toys purchased is astounding! Last year I read a quote by Sally-Anne Newson, head of Big W online sales. She said that their goal was to sell more than three million toys in the sales. "That's two toys every second for 24 hours a day for 14 days". That is a LOT of money to spend on toys. And, it is a lot of unnecessary pressure placed on parents, families and mortgages!

The reason we spend so much money on toys is they are an emotional purchase. We buy them because we love our children. We also love the buzz we get from them smiling and saying "Thanks! You're the best!' One time when I bought some Lego for Jacqui, she was so excited she literally jumped up and down in circles around the store shouting 'Yippee!'. The buzz is so cool that I find myself looking for excuses to buy her new toys. It is this love that marketers use to manipulate us into buying truckloads of toys.

Many of you know that I originally trained as an industrial designer - but few know it was because I wanted to be a toymaker. I love toys! I love making children smile. But, as I gained insight into how the industry works, I started to rebel instead. I started asking, why? Why do we let the media and the toy stores whip parents into a frenzy when we know it is going to place more pressure on the family? These toy sales do NOT save people money. They are using our love for our children against us. We are being encouraged to spend our childrens' future on 'stuff'. Why do we let them do that to us?

Then I made a decision. I decided, I am not going to the toy sales this year. 'No way! No more! No how! I don't want to be herded towards the toy sale checkout. It is time for a Toycott!' There are better ways to get our children to smile and tell us that we are the best mum in the whole world. Like baking their favourite biscuits, listening to them, smothering them in kisses or reading them stories.

In this month's Toycott challenge, we want you to help us teach other parents ways to get their kids smiling that do not involve buying new toys. Tell us the fantastic things you have done which made your children grin. Then we will retell your stories to help and inspire others. Then everyone can get the emotional satisfaction of new toys - without having to buy any. Please write in and tell us, how how you made your child smile as if they had just received a cool new toy? The best four entries will win $50 each. To enter the competition click here.

If you DO find yourself wanting to buy things from the toy sales this year, please be cynical and read our eight steps for protecting your wallet. If you go to the toy sales with your guard down, marketers will take advantage of you.

Here is a link to the Eight Steps.

If you need extra support or someone to chat with, pop into our Forum. Good luck! We look forward to hearing all about those wonderful smiles!

3. Hidden Gems Competition Winner

Our Hidden Gems directory is designed to help members source the best deals in their area. Whenever you come across a real gem of a business, enter it in our Hidden Gems directory and you could be in the draw to win our monthly prize of $100 cash! This is our way of saying thank you for helping other members save by sharing your knowledge. The more information you can give us about your special store, the better.

This month's winner is The Fabric Cave at 78 Belmore Street, Ryde, New South Wales as nominated by Barb.

The Fabric Cave sells fabric remnants, buttons, knitting wool, discontinued patterns, tapestries and so on with all profits going to charity. The fabrics are donated and arranged in colours. There is also dressmaking and upholstery fabric. There were bins out the front with pieces of lycra and tulle and other bits and pieces. The stock changes regularly depending on donations received. If you no longer sew and wish to get rid of your stash they will happily take your donations.

It is open Monday and Friday 9.30-2.00 and the first Sunday of the month 9.30-12.00. The ladies serving were lovely. Although the address is in Belmore St, you enter via Porter St.

I happened to visit the day of their first ever 50% off sale and I bought six pieces of fabric, some quite big and all very good quality for only $19. This included a lovely piece of linen and some good quality stretch material. I can make at least six items of clothing and probably more from that haul. I had selected one piece that had a mark on it which I hadn't noticed and the staff pointed it out to me. Even at full price I would have been happy to buy it!

Congratulations on being this month's winner Barb and big thumbs up to The Fabric Cave for providing a budget-friendly store for sewers and crafters alike.

If you know somewhere special that others would like to know about, please write in and tell us. Send in your Hidden Gem here. Thank you and good luck!

4. Best Members' Blog: This Month's Winner

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Rising Grace (previously Fall from Grace) for this extract from her blog 'I'm addicted to shopping':

Note: I'm pretty horrified about how much money I've spent. I don't really need or want any comments expressing disgust or shock about it, please keep it nice. I'm feeling very ashamed, especially as I know how tough some people are doing it on here. I'm a bit fragile and writing this at 2am because I can't sleep for worry and won't have the guts to admit any of it in the morning!

I think I have a shopping addiction. A genuine 'need to seek help' kind of addiction.

I can't stop spending money on clothing. Sometimes accessories and shoes, but mainly clothing. Over the last two weeks I've spent *deep ashamed breath* over $1000 on three skirts, a belt, a jacket, a top and a dress. This is not uncommon for me and the reality is that I can't go through a week without buying at least one or two items of clothing, often three or four... I am here to try and figure out why I do it and stop feeling so sick about how much money I've spent.

I think there are a few reasons why I do this:

(1) For much of my early adult life I was extremely overweight and couldn't buy 'nice things'. I lost almost 40kg about three years ago and suddenly a whole new world of *vanity* opened up to me. I can fit into all of the straight sized clothing lines and designer lines that I used to dream about. For someone who couldn't buy a year 12 school ball dress and had to buy a horrid, satin peach 'mother of the bride' ensemble, being able to fit into a designer size 12 is like a dream come true. Suddenly I started to develop my own sense of style and received positive attention from others. I regularly get random compliments from strangers in the street over what I am wearing and I get so much happiness and satisfaction out of that...


The happiness and satisfaction only seems to last for such a short while. I will buy a new skirt or dress and by the time I've worn it twice I am sick of it. I am embarrassed to wear something twice in front of friends or my boyfriend. Every time a social event comes up I feel like I have to have something new to wear to it. I guess I am trying to say that it's not just a feeling of vaguely wanting some new clothes but an overpowering need to have something new so that people will think I look nice and I will feel confident enough to actually go to a party. I have actually avoided going on a date with my boyfriend before because I felt that I didn't have anything nice enough to wear, even though my wardrobes (I have three, plus a full sized dressing room) are bulging with clothes.

I think my sense of self-esteem and confidence is irrevocably wound up in what stuff I buy and wear. I am known as the 'stylish' one of my group of friends and sometimes I feel so trapped by that expectation. Every time I have a job interview I have to buy a new outfit otherwise I am incredibly nervous.

I grew up in a relatively wealthy family and I have seen my mother shop like this all my life. My first memory of us spending time together was her buying me designer T-shirts at the age of three. My mother was very disappointed that these shopping trips ended when I started to put on weight as a young teen. Unfortunately, I don't have the income of my parents and my attempts to recreate their lifestyle just means I have nothing else to show for it.

I NEED and WANT to do something else with myself. I have tried to:

  • Tell myself savings in the bank feel better than a new dress (well for me they simply don't)
  • Direct debit 10% of my weekly income into a savings account (I have been known to transfer money from this acc. to my regular acc. with my smartphone in the change room at David Jones so I can buy stuff)
  • Establish an emergency fund of $500 (ditto with the transferring)
  • Cut up my credit card (done and I only owe a minimum of $500 on it nowadays)
  • Unsubscribe from fashion retailers' emails so I don't have to know about the lovely new things they are selling
  • Only go out with enough cash to tide me over (unfortunately I know my CC pin off by heart)
  • Give myself savings goals (goals that quickly die when I see something new and pretty).

I earn $740 per week after tax and I have nothing to show for it. This time last month I had a $500 savings fund and $600 in savings. I have spent it all. The only way I can pay for this amount of shopping is by living at home with my parents still and neglecting other areas of my life (boring necessities like car servicing).

Does anyone have any ideas about what I can do to help myself? So far I have decided upon:

  • Establishing my main savings account with another bank so I can't transfer money instantaneously to my everyday account. Any transfers will take three days not three seconds in a change room!
  • Putting a small amount of money away in an account I like to call 'fripperies' every week. When I have enough money in that account, I can buy something nice with it. If there is no money in that account then NO fripperies
  • Stop shopping as a 'hobby'. I love to go to a shopping centre on a Saturday and just wander and spend money. No more - I need other hobbies!
  • Actually getting some help from a psychologist for my self-esteem and self-confidence issues. I think I have a real problem and I won't be able to get through it on my own.

So for my own records, to keep me accountable and to try and keep me on the straight and narrow, I want to start this blog. I'd be interested to hear anyone's thoughts about other ways to help myself through this.

Congratulations Rising Grace for her honesty when facing her personal spending demons. To read more from her, or any of our other members' blogs, click here

5. Best of the Forum: Retail Therapy?

Everyone loves a little retail therapy now and again! Unfortunately it is something many of us turn to when we want to feel better but can't actually afford it and we end up feeling worse! Next time the urge to splurge hits, head to the Forum instead for plenty of savvy support, wise words and terrific tips like these!

Personal style catalogue saves on spending and washing!

Marvellous Mimi has just the trick to rein in your spending when cries of 'I've got nothing to wear!' echo around your house. Why not set up a style catalogue showing all the different outfit combinations you have in your own wardrobe? If it's good enough for the supermodels..!

What do you think is an excess that others see as necessary/normal?

This thought provoking thread cuts to the heart of the 'want' versus 'need' debate. Where do you think the toy sales catalogues fit into this equation?

Things I no longer buy

You will be truly surprised and instantly inspired by the countless things our savvy members no longer waste their money on. Delve into this thread for an abundance of everyday ways to keep your cash in your pocket.

A saving is NOT a saving when...

When you save money, do you put the money you have saved into a savings account or use it to pay off debt? Or does it simply get spent on something else - in which case, does this actually make it a saving at all? Tassie Bound provides some real food for thought when she questions 'where does the money you save go?'

How much do you spend on clothes for your kids?

Chocolatewheats has a teenage daughter who says she has 'nothing to wear'. But is she really hard done by? How many clothes does a child actually need? In this thread our helpful members are quick to share their advice and experience.

$1 savings plan

What do you do with those pesky gold coins that seem to find their way down the back of the couch and under the mats in the foot wells of your car? Our clever member Marigold has got a plan to make her small change really work for her!

Today I saved $$ by... thread number four

It doesn't matter HOW you save money - as long as you save it! This lovely, chatty thread shows the value in every single saving we make. Big or small, it all adds up!

6. Best of the Vault: Shiny, New Things

What truly makes you happy? Going shopping and spending your hard earned money on more possessions - or enjoying the self-satisfaction and peace of mind you get from having financial security? These clever tips from our Savings Vault show it is possible to achieve both!

Saving money while still having lots of toys

Babies and children love lots of new and varied toys which can end up costing a lot of money. Two good ways to save money and still have lots of toys is to:

  1. Let all of your friends with kids know that you love second hand things like toys and clothes. You will find that they will often quite happily pass on old toys and clothes, both for you and your baby.
  2. Go op-shopping (or second hand shopping). Toys from second hand shops are only ever a couple of dollars maximum and usually all they need is a wash with disinfectant - plus to your child it's a brand new toy.

If you get any toys from these methods it doesn't matter if your child isn't old enough for it yet. Just put it away and bring it out at a later date. Got too many toys? Then split them into a couple of boxes and swap the toys around every week. Your child will rediscover some old toys that they were previously sick of. I have found that as well as saving me money, my child actually prefers second hand toys to new.

Contributed by: Darra L

Make non-spending a habit

When I first became budget conscious, I started looking at where my money was going. The bottle of water from the store, the newspaper on the way home, the quick bite to eat with friends and so on. I was amazed to find how quickly those little things added up. So I implemented a no-spend day once a week. For one day during the week, I would not buy a thing. No food, no stamps, no papers, no mints, no music. Nothing! It was difficult at first to manage one day a week but within a fortnight I had built it up to two days a week. This means I have to work out exactly what I need and wait until a spending day to purchase it. This not only stops silly spending but once you actually have to wait to buy something you usually forget you needed it in the first place! No spending days have transformed my spending habits and I urge anyone trying to cut down on consumerism to consider having their very own no-spend days.

Contributed by: Jan Dooley

Scratch that spending itch

I'm saving madly to build a new house so I've really cut down on discretionary spending. Every so often, however, my fingers itch to spend money on something frivolous and unnecessary. When this happens I think ahead for the next few months. Whose birthday is coming up? Is Christmas coming up? Are there any special events coming up? What essential item do I need to spend money on? I then make a list of presents or essential items and go shopping for those things instead. I have no guilt trips as it's money I would have spent anyway and I'm prepared with presents and other things so no last minute panic. Best of all, that itchy spending finger has gone!

Contributed by: Helen Kuisma

Joining toy library

I joined the local toy library when my son was about ten months old, the age when he needed the bigger, more expensive toys to keep him occupied. For an annual membership of $50, and one rostered 'shift' (1.5 hours) in the library per term, I can borrow up to six toys for two weeks. So far I have only borrowed three toys each time but each set of three toys would have cost over $100 to buy. He gets to play with different toys every two weeks and I don't have to spend hundreds of dollars keeping up with his developmental stages. The value for the $50 membership so far: at least $350 in just two months!

Contributed by: Kirrilly Lindberg

Creative kids' fun from the recycle bin

I've discovered a great way to keep my three-year-old happily entertained with free decorative boxes she can paint! We keep all of our old cardboard boxes for recycling - cereal boxes, tea bag boxes and so on. When my daughter wants to paint something, instead of going out and buying her something to paint, all I do is get something from the recycling, slide my finger down the sides to 'undo' the glue, turn the box inside out and re-glue or, if pressed for time, staple or sticky tape. This puts the printing on the inside, and my daughter has a beautiful clean box to paint and decorate to her hearts content!

Contributed by: Kate

No deposit lay-by traps

I find it annoying that stores put all the great (or not so good) sales, such as the toy sales, on when you receive your tax refund. Many people (including myself) have fallen for the no deposit lay-bys. The catch is that you must pay the first instalment two weeks later but then you can wait until Christmas to pay the balance. A lot of people put heaps on lay-by, only to have to cancel it two months before Christmas. It's the no deposit lay-bys that trap people into spending up big without the money to pay for the purchases later.

Contributed by: Naomi Kuta

Recycle your toddler's clothes

I save around $10 on each pair of my five-year-old's shorts, by recycling her toddler clothes - it sounds crazy, but it really works! I have already saved $60 on my daughter's summer clothes this year! Instead of throwing out size one and two shorts when your toddler has outgrown them; try them on your child again at around age four. You may well find that they fit again or are possibly a little too large! How does it work? Once the children outgrow their 'toddler tubby tummy' and no longer use bulky nappies the larger waistband made for size one and two clothes can fit a four or small five-year-old child easily again. You can either recycle the shorts as before, or make them into a cheap summer pyjama set by adding a T-shirt. You can pick up children's T-shirts for just a dollar or two each from larger supermarkets. Combine the shorts with the T-shirt and you have a saving of up to $15 on a regular set of pyjamas!

Contributed by: Kim T

Some extras to say thanks to our Vault members for all their valuable contributions:

Don't be trapped by expensive branded toy accessories Contributed by: Jeana Sullivan

Smart mums don't spend on toys Contributed by: Sandie

Unspend your way out of debt Contributed by: Lisa R

Felt fun toys are cheap to make Contributed by: Mon Cat

7. Cooking with Mimi: Family Treat Night

While we're all trying to avoid the temptation to shop for toys this month, let's reward ourselves with some delicious new family treats! I'm thinking a fun dinner idea is in order, and my Fondue-Style Pizza followed by my Triple Treat Ice Cream Loaf, fit the bill perfectly!

Who can resist soft, chewy cubes of bread dipped in rich tomato sauce, cheesy goodness and crispy bacon bits! And if you think that sounds good, wait till you slice into the gooey ice creamy goodness of the Triple Treat with layers of pink and white marshmallow sandwiched between ice cream and chocolate! Is your mouth watering yet?!

Fondue-Style Pizza

(Serves 6)


  • Medium serving bowl
  • Cheese grater
  • 2 microwave-safe bowls or jugs, 2 litre capacity
  • Whisk
  • Bread knife
  • Freezer bag
  • Sharp knife
  • Non-stick frypan
  • Flat serving platter
  • Dinner plates


  • 1 cup milk powder
  • 3 cups grated cheese
  • 2 cups water, made up to stock with 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 4 tbsp extra water
  • 4 tbsp cornflour
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • A pinch each of oregano, thyme and basil
  • 3 bacon rashers
  • 2 loaves unsliced bread, preferably day old


Use your bread knife to carefully remove the outer crusts of your unsliced bread. Pop these into a freezer bag for making breadcrumbs or snacks another day. Cut your unsliced, crust-less loaves of bread into 4-5cm cubes and place on your serving platter.

Next, dice the bacon finely using your sharp knife and set aside. You'll be dipping your cheesy bread into the bacon bits, so the smaller they are the better.

Spoon your tomato paste into your bowl, and add the four tablespoons of water and herbs. Stir well until it looks like thick tomato sauce and set aside. You could also use regular tomato sauce or pasta sauce if you prefer.

Now it's time to make the all important cheese fondue sauce. Measure your stock and milk powder into your microwave-safe jug and whisk thoroughly. Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes until steaming hot.

Next, mix the cornflour with four tablespoons of water until nice and smooth. Add along with your grated cheese to the stock and milk mixture and mix well. Microwave on high for a minute at a time, whisking between each minute, until you have a thick smooth sauce.

Toss your finely diced bacon into a hot frypan. Reduce the heat and allow to sizzle away for a minute or two. While you're waiting, re-heat your cheese sauce so it's piping hot for serving.

Now it's time to call family and have them lay out the table with dinner plates, cutlery, the tomato sauce and the platter of bread cubes.

Tip the crispy bacon bits into your small serving bowl and get it to the table pronto! Remove your cheese sauce from the microwave, give it one last good stir, tasting for seasoning. Tip it all into your serving bowl and take it to the table.

Now there's an art to this... but you'll catch on quickly. One morsel and you'll be sold... Simply pierce a fat, fluffy cube of bread with your fork. Dip it lightly into the seasoned tomato paste sauce and shake off the excess. Now dip it into your cheesy sauce before dipping quickly into the bacon bits, collecting just a few. Pop into your mouth and enjoy!

Don't ya love it? Sort of pizza-ish, sort of fondue-ish, heaven on a fork!

Triple Treat Ice Cream Loaf

(Serves 8)


  • Loaf tin or dish
  • Aluminium foil
  • Large spoon
  • Sharp knife
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Microwave safe dish
  • Serving platter


  • 1-1.5 litres vanilla ice cream
  • 6 large pink marshmallows
  • 6 large white marshmallows
  • 125g cooking chocolate
  • 6-8 small rectangular biscuits

Remove your ice cream from the freezer and allow it to soften for 20-30 minutes. In the meantime, line your loaf tin or dish with aluminium foil. Snip each marshmallow into three flattish discs with your kitchen scissors.

Cover the bottom of your dish with the biscuits, trimming them to fit. Next, cover the biscuits with a thick layer of ice cream about 10cm deep and smooth with the back of your spoon. Layer the marshmallows, white then pink, over the ice cream. Add another layer of ice cream over the marshmallows as before.

Place the chocolate into a microwave-safe dish and heat on 50% power for about 90 seconds until melted and smooth. Pour a thin layer of melted chocolate over the ice cream loaf and smooth again. Pop your loaf into the freezer for at least two hours to firm up.

When you're ready to serve, run a knife that's been heated under hot water all the way around the edges of your loaf tin to loosen it, and then upend it onto your serving platter, chocolate side up. Cut thick slices using a heated knife. Looks great, tastes even better!

8. Penny's Blog: You Can't Take it With You

April 29th

I'm back! I hope... goodness me, it's been a while! I would love to spin you a wonderful tale full of twists and turns all about my exciting adventures during the past month but the truth is, I've been in bed pretty much the whole time. I'm not going to bore you senseless with my health woes but in a nutshell:

  1. I don't have breast cancer - yay!

  2. I don't have cervical cancer - double yay!

  3. I do, however, have some sort of virus which attacks your heart and kidneys and can even kill you if you don't kill it first. No 'yay' for this one! Ali actually refers to my bedroom as 'The Chamber of Secrets' because I can disappear in there all of a sudden and not venture out again for weeks! Still, I'm up and about now and the doctors are doing their best to get rid of the blasted thing - only time will tell whether they have been successful.

Makes life interesting I guess! It's certainly one way to save money as I haven't been able to drive my car so no petrol expenses, no Zumba classes (saving $20 a week), no lunches out with friends (another $20 a week), no nothing really. All of life's little luxuries and material possessions become totally unimportant when you're not able to tootle off to the shops to get them or watch TV or read magazines to be exposed to all the 'must-haves'. Just goes to show that a person can exist quite easily on nothing but bed rest, chicken soup and ice cream when necessary. I mean really, at the end of the day, what else is important but food, your loved ones and a place to sleep? Not much, I've learned!

April 2012

2nd - Mr Patel - World Famous in NZ!

9. Lin's Garden Diary: Bugging Out!

Arggghh! My broccoli leaves have holes in them! Honesty, they look as though the kids have attacked them with a craft puncher! Keen to prove their innocence, Seb and Zoe became regular little Sherlock Holmes's as they hunted high and low for signs of snails, caterpillars and any other creepy crawlies but kept getting interrupted by pretty white butterflies. Turns out it was actually these nasty little critters that ate our leaves! In need of an effective deterrent FAST, we delved into the Vault and Forum and found a world of information on how to be rid of bugs and diseases, including some great natural recipes for organic sprays:

Banish the white butterfly!
Thanks to Susanne (VIC) for this tip! To get rid of the white butterfly she suggests 'Spray the plants first with the hose and then sprinkle plain flour over them. If snails, white butterflies or cabbage worms are the problem they will eat the leaves and flour. The flour will swell up inside them and kill them'. Donna (QLD) also suggests Pyrethrum spray. Senior Citz (QLD) says 'If you string small bits of white cloth or paper in the area of your vegies, the invading white butterflies will go away as they are very territorial and will not invade where another group is working'. Get the kids involved - Seb and Zoe had a ball drawing and cutting out their butterflies!

Scare off pests with soapy water
Yes, I'm serious! Water from the washing machine can be collected and used directly on plants in the garden. This helps protect from a variety of pests. The soapy water can be collected during the spin cycle and seems to work very well on tomatoes. Alisa (Otago NZ) also suggests 'left over soapy water from washing dishes. My mum swears by it!' You can also make a soap spray, which is good for banishing aphids, red spider mites, and thrips. You need 225g of plain soap and 9 litres of hot water. Grate the soap and dissolve in the water, stirring well. Cool before use. After spraying infected plants gently hose down with clean water. Repeat as often as necessary.

Garlic spray
Use this for ants, spiders, white fly, beetles, leaf hoppers, scale, citrus bugs (stink bugs), caterpillars, aphids, cabbage and tomato worms. Thanks to Bloomen Marvelous (Kallangur,QLD), 'I use about 7-10 cloves of garlic, a good swig of Tabasco (maybe a quarter of the bottle) and/or three chillies. Smash the cloves to a lumpy pulp and put the chillies or Tabasco in an old jug. Pour about a litre of boiling water and let it sit all day, all night and the next day. That afternoon add 70% water and 30% garlic, mix in a garden sprayer and spray as needed. The mixture lasts for about three weeks and then goes off'.

Onion spray
Great for spider mites, caterpillars and thrips. Place onions in blender or chop. Cover in boiling water. Cool and dilute before use.

Seaweed tea
As many of you know this is my favourite feed, but it is also really good for mildew, fruit rot and rust. Leave seaweed (the large floppy type) to soak in a bucket of water. I leave the bucket near the garden and apply once a week, allowing the rain water to top it up.

Chilli spray
Thanks to Mawghan (WA) for this general pest control spray. 'Blend together half a cup of fresh chillies with two cups of water. Add a dash of dishwashing liquid to improve sticking. If you have no chillies substitute with two tablespoons of Tabasco sauce. Always spray a small section of the plant to check for leaf burn. Check in 24 hours and if there is no damage spray all the plants you want to protect. Leaf burn with any spray is more likely to occur during hot weather.'

Lettuce spray
A great way to use up those limp lettuces in your garden or fridge! Use for white cabbage moth. Simply boil up the leaves, then cool and dilute before spraying.

I also love this tip from Cheshire Cat (QLD)! She suggests putting a hair net over young cabbage plants while they are small to keep the bugs out. She says it might look a bit silly but it works at keeping the butterflies at bay!

On a final note, to avoid unwanted pests and diseases, keep your vegie gardens tidy by removing dead leaves and falling leaves and gently forking through to allow good drainage and air flow. Crop rotation and companion planting also help to keep these pests away. A strong plant is a happy plant and is more likely able to fight off the nasties. Happy gardening everyone!

10. Homeopathy Corner: Big Savings

We are often asked why Simple Savings includes articles about homeopathy in our newsletters. It is a great question and the answer is; because I see the world differently to other people. When Fran first showed me how homeopathy works and how the remedies were made I was so excited. I thought if even a tenth of what she is saying is true the government would save itself millions, if not billions, of dollars.

When Fran first started writing articles for this newsletter I wanted her to do price comparison articles such as this one about Ron's osteomylitis. Osteomylitis is a severe and very nasty disease which her patient had been suffering from for 20 years. When Fran told me Ron's story, I started adding up the numbers and realised the government had probably spent about $80,000 helping Ron with very little success. Fran on the other hand gave him his life back for the grand total of $360. That is a huge cost saving!

Here is a link to Ron's article:

11. From Last Month: Kids' Clothes for Grown Ups?

Last month Sophia asked:

"I have lost a lot of weight over the past year and have gone from a size 14 to a size 6. I should be over the moon but I am really struggling to find clothes to fit me. Even adult size 8 clothing just hangs on me. I am resigned to the fact that I am going to have to look at wearing children's clothes but there is such a small selection of shops where I live and none of them have a children's range except for toddlers! Can anyone recommend any stores which carry a good range of clothing for teen girls?"

Thanks so much to everyone who sent in their ideas to help Sophia out. Here are a collection of our favourites!

Become a clothing market expert

Two years ago I had a similar experience. At 175cm and 65kg I was already considered slim/skinny but then was taken ill and my weight dropped to 53kg! I was fortunate in running into an old school friend at the local market (Chandler Markets in Brisbane). She was walking out with all sorts of things she had picked up from the general market/flea markets. From then on I joined her and bought a variety of clothes including designer jeans, pants, jumpers and jackets for $2.00-$3.00. You can try most things on at the stalls and you get an idea of what will fit after a while. It's amazing how a new pair of jeans can add a whole new dimension to your wardrobe. Give it a go - you may even become addicted like I did. People often comment on how well I'm dressed but I never let them in on my secret that my outfit costs as little as $5.00!

Contributed by: Kirsty C

Go undercover

Size 6 adult clothing is not as hard to find as she thinks. I can recommend checking out Undercoverwear's website at and click on the 'clearance' tab. You can find plenty of size 6 brand new fashions starting at $5.00 where the original prices were way more expensive. Also don't forget eBay! Just put 'size 6 women's clothes' in the search area. Major shopping centre stores such as Witchery and Sussan often have plenty of unsold garments on special because they are a size 6 or 8 and most of us are a larger frame. Happy hunting!

Contributed by: Pauline Bilotto

Free delivery from the UK? Whatever next!

For great clothing in all sizes try Next online ( It is a British company which has just started delivering overseas. When you log onto the website you need to click on your country's flag at the bottom as not all items are available in all countries. They have a full range of petite adult clothes but also a range of teenager's clothes - and the best bit is they deliver for free! Honestly, there are no hidden costs and it doesn't matter how much you order; they deliver it right to your front door for no charge and if it is not right you can just send it back to them... for free! Hope this helps!

Contributed by: Emma Rainey

Look around for Asian stores

Visit the Asian shops in shopping centres or in the smaller neighbourhood centres and you will find many items in smaller sizes, including shoes and evening dresses. They are fashionable, cost effective and because they cater for a large percentage of their population they come in several colours.

Contributed by: Deb Manendis

Overseas/online keeps petite wardrobe stocked

I buy a lot of size 6 clothes from eBay, ASOS, Lippy, Wayne Cooper, Cue, and Review. USA is good to buy from for jeans because they go to size 0. On eBay I buy underwear and coats from Asia as the sizes tend to be small. Also I go to factory outlet places. Usually the size 6 clothes end up there reduced, which is a bonus!

Contributed by: Sandra Latter

GirlXpress is great!

Kmart has a great range of clothing called GirlXpress. It is in the adult section but made for teens and stocks a size 6. I buy most of my clothes from there as they are cheap and nice and I know they will fit. Dotti also caters for small sizes.

Contributed by: Celia Tanner

Compare stores with a few clicks

The best places to find smaller sized clothing are Asian and American brands or stores. For example there are Asian-based clothing stores in most shopping centres such as TEMT, SES and Valleygirl, who all often have very small sizes. Also try American-based online stores; they will have measurements to compare your body to their sizing guide, so you may find you will fit their size 4, or even a size 0, which is two below a 6. It may even work out cheaper buying this way because you can compare many stores with a few clicks!

Contributed by: Louise Harvey

Target for teens good for grown-ups too

I recently discovered that Target sell most, if not all, of their clothing online. Target seems to have a great range of teen clothing and their Hot Options brand is often made in a smaller fit. I sometimes wear a size 6, sometimes 8, but I find that Target size 8 fits me quite well. I believe they also put their measurements on the site, so you can be sure whether or not something will fit you before you order.

Contributed by: Robynlouise Thomas

Be philosophical

I am an NZ size 6 (which is smaller than Australian size 6, so I really sympathise with your dilemma - I HATE buying clothes!). I found stores like Jay Jays and Alley X stocked some size 6 (I lived in Townsville). The thing with girls' clothes is that they usually don't make them with hips. They are kind of straight, so if your figure is one where your waist isn't too different in size to your hips, you might manage wearing size 10, 12, or 14 girls, but I'm finding it increasingly hard to find girls clothes that fit hips AND waist, especially after having a baby! I've finally decided that the only way I will ever get the clothes I WANT in a size I FIT is to make them. A friend who has great sewing (and pattern making!) skills is helping me. I've decided to cull my wardrobe over the next few years, so I own less clothing but actually wear what I have rather than a whole motley collection of things that get worn maybe once a year. I'm starting with some elasticised and gathered skirts. Four in different colours that use the same basic pattern, just enough to get me through this coming summer. Then next year I'll probably do the same with some dresses using a style that I can put leggings and long sleeves under, or wear sleeveless so I get optimum use out of them.

So my tips are:

  • Know what you like
  • Know the styles that suit and fit you best (no floppy necklines for my small busted frame!)
  • Consider spending more money on fewer items of clothing, but focusing on ones that can be dressed up, dressed down, and go with multiple other items in your wardrobe
  • Try to be philosophical about it all - can you put up with wearing those pants that are really a bit too big for a few more months this year, then get new ones next year so you can spend the money on some end-of-season sales instead?
  • Don't get sucked into buying something only because it fits. If you don't like it, you probably won't wear it. Unless of course it is your uniform!

Contributed by: Amy Diffey

12. This Month's Help Request: Where Do I Start?

This month we have an interesting one! Karen asks:-

"I've been on SS for a few months now, so am relatively new and loving every minute. However, I tend to flick from one thing to another, spending valuable time and need more structure. Do you have any suggestions to new members where to start? For example, I have:-

  1. Mimi's recipes/other recipes on my watchlist.
  2. $21 Challenge (read this book from the library).
  3. Hints & Tips (added to my watchlist).

I desperately need to reduce my shopping bill and need to menu plan more often. Does anyone have any other suggestions? What do other members do to get the best out of SS?"

If you have any tips which can help Karen, please send them in to us here.

13. Savings Story: Major Savings, Freedom, Freedom!

'I have just finished our annual household budget for 2011/12. My husband had kept our 2005 budget and I did a comparison and was amazed how much the cost of living has increased! Insurances have more than doubled, electricity has doubled and water is close behind. Food is a big one that has drastically increased since 2005. However, with all of those increases we have managed to cut our household costs in half since 2005! This has freed both of us up to be able to live the life we want and do things we didn't think possible.

At present we are not working and not getting any help from the government either in any form. My husband has had to change work (he was in the construction industry) because of his arthritis and is now full time at uni doing a degree, I am at home having time out also because of chronic conditions but we are not anxious because we have saved and been busy little savers from working hard and putting into place all the saving tips we could find and Simple Savings have had a large impact on that.

We have rethought EVERY expense we had and REVISED all of our spending habits. Some of which were; looking at all the different insurances we had, which really gobble up our hard earned dollars. We both had two life policies, which we simply did not need. So we cancelled one each and kept the ones attached to our superannuation which come out annually from our super, freeing up cash flow on hand. I have put the $21 Challenge principles into place every week now for our groceries; in other words I don't buy anything we just don't need immediately and I don't get tempted by the yummy sales.

As of last June we are completely out of debt, we own our own home, own cars and all our own stuff :)... This makes a huge difference between having to work sick and having time out to catch our breaths and RETHINK life and what's important. I have also put the $21 Challenge principles into place in clothes shopping and craft... and it's working! I am now trying it out with gifts which are a big one as I have six daughters, their partners and seven grandchildren.

Even my hubby has come on board with all of these things which make life a little easier and more pleasant. I am now passionate about putting saving measures into place and am still rethinking everything before I do it! AND the big plus is I'm having FUN doing it!

Contributed by: Jennifer R (reproduced from her blog)

14. Goodbye, Goodbye...

Phew! Well, that wraps up another busy month's newsletter. We hope you have enjoyed it and have been inspired by all the money saving tips. Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'g'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try.

Don't forget to spread the love around to all your friends and family too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Have a fabulous month and good luck with your Toycott Challenge. See you next time!

All the best,

April 2014 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - April 2014

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Easy When You Know How
  2. April: $21 Challenge
  3. Ye Olde Shoppe: The One and Only $21 Challenge!
  4. Penny Wise: A Dash of Soy and a Splash of Lemon
  5. Best of the Vault: Take the Challenge!
  6. Best of the Forum: Meet the $21 Challenge Warriors!
  7. Best Members' Blog: Challenges!
  8. Cooking with Mimi: Cinnamon Apple Fritters
  9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Using Paper to Save Coin
  10. From Last Month: Help With 'Cheep' Easter Goodies
  11. This Month's Help Request: Give Me a Hope Among the Gum Trees!


How are you going? We loved finding 'Better Deals' during March and got some great emails from you as well as about some of your 'wins' this month - well done! April's $21 Challenge month is an old favourite that reminds us to shop at home, menu plan and spend our dollars wisely - we can't wait to hear how you go.

We love hearing from you - here are two of our favourite emails this month:

"I want to tell you what a single phone call achieved. I got my house and contents renewal notice and saw premiums were going up $28 a month. With a single phone call, I was able to renegotiate and reshape the policy and am now paying only $5.00 more per month than I was and saving $270 for the year." (Anne)

"I've just been looking through my files and found I have kept every Simple Savings hint from April 2009 through to the most recent one. The information is invaluable and I thank you so much for all these years of sending them to me! I'm looking forward to many more!" (Kerry (Mr))

Have a great month!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. Remember, macadamia oil is still on special for $15 for one litre, plus postage.
Save $3500 per litre on beauty products!

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Easy When You Know How

"Psst, Sal, are you there? I need your help!" Chloe hissed, peering around the door. "Oh hello!" Sally smiled. "What's with the whispering?" "I don't want Tom to know I'm here ," Chloe said as she scuttled in. "He'll be home from work soon and he's coming for dinner - but I've got no food! Worse still, I've got no money to buy any more! My car needed a new battery this week and then I had to take Milly to the vet and it used up all my grocery money" Tom's a wonderful cook and he always goes to so much trouble. I can't just feed him beans on toast!"

"Nothing wrong with beans on toast!" grinned Pete. "Why don't you give her one of your double dinners out of the freezer, Sal? They're always good in an emergency - they don't taste half bad either!" "I could," Sally tapped her chin thoughtfully. "But I can think of something much more fun! Can you keep an eye on dinner please, Love? I'm going over to Chloe's. I think it's time for a $21 Challenge!" "Time for a what? Where are we going? And what's that book for?" asked Chloe, looking confused. "We're going to find you some food!" laughed Sally. "Let's get going!"

"That was absolutely delicious!" Tom said later that evening, patting his stomach. "You have to tell me the secret ingredient though - was it baked beans?" "Yes, it was!" giggled Chloe. "Ingenious! Who would have thought?" Tom smiled as Chloe blushed shyly. Thank goodness for Sally and The $21 Challenge. In one recipe she had used up her tin of beans and a tin of sweetcorn that had sat in the pantry for months - and it was GOOD! Best of all, Sally had helped her come up with a meal plan for the whole week. And she thought she didn't have any food!

2. April: $21 Challenge

What can we say about the $21 Challenge that hasn't already been said? Well, to newcomers like Chloe, quite a lot! Amazing as it sounds, the $21 Challenge has been a well-known and loved part of Simple Savings life since 2006. Many of us have integrated it into our domestic management as a matter of course. Like Chloe, we use it as a coping skill to get us through when disaster strikes or when we are faced with unforeseen expenses. We might do it when we want to free up some extra money to go towards a goal or reward. Or we do it as a refresher exercise, to prove to ourselves we've still 'got it' and remind ourselves what we're capable of. Some of us even do it just for fun! Whatever the reason, anyone who has done a $21 Challenge knows how valuable and effective it is. Sally knows this; she learned it from Hanna in the first instance and is now passing it on to Chloe in her time of need.

This month, we want you to PASS IT ON!

A few years ago, Jamie Oliver launched a book entitled 'Ministry of Food' and went on a crusade, imploring readers and viewers to pass their favourite recipes on to their friends, family and colleagues. He wanted people who didn't know how to cook to be able to learn how to create delicious, nutritious, cheaper meals from scratch, rather than resort to expensive, unhealthy take aways and enlisted the help of the public to assist with his mission. This month, we want you to do the same with the $21 Challenge!

The $21 Challenge can help anyone to save money and - where needed - to learn a new way of cooking and eating. It can help you to become more creative and resourceful in the kitchen. It can help you to be more organised and time efficient. It can help you to find cooking more enjoyable with an extensive range of recipes and solutions to common food problems. It can help you to be a smarter consumer. And as Chloe found, it can help you to find both food and money when you think there is none. All you need to do to achieve all this is to give the $21 Challenge a go for one week.

Of course, if you have done the $21 Challenge yourself, you already know all this! So this month, we want you to use that knowledge to help someone else. If you have a favourite $21 Challenge recipe, write it out and give it to someone or share it with your friends on Facebook. Tell the people you care about how the $21 Challenge has helped you and point them in the direction of the Simple Savings website and our Facebook page so they can learn more about it. Better yet, if you have a copy of the $21 Challenge book, lend it out to someone else so that they can get the best that the Challenge has to offer - or best of all, send them in the direction of Ye Olde Shoppe so they can buy their very own copy and keep on passing it on!

The $21 Challenge is perfect for young people leaving home or flatting to help them learn how to cook from scratch and make delicious, healthy meals for little cost. When Penny taught a class of Year 12 students three years ago, she gave them all a copy of the $21 Challenge book and told them. 'You might not appreciate it now - but you will!' Some of those students have gone on to become nurses; some are parents, some are still at university but they have all now left home and still remember the book she gave them (and how some of them had to wrench it off their parents!). The $21 Challenge is also ideal for newlyweds, new parents, families with young children, families with older children - everyone, right up to retirees who would like to find new ways to stretch their dollars further.

Of course the best way to see what the $21 Challenge is all about and how it works is to simply DO it! If you have yet to do a Challenge of your own, make this month the time to give it a go. All the support and inspiration you need is available on the Simple Savings site, including the story of the very first $21 Challenge and how it got its name.

We hope you find it rewarding 'passing it on' this month. Thanks for all your help! Oh - and here's something about the $21 Challenge for EVERYONE that you very likely didn't know. Can you guess who has his very own copy of the $21 Challenge book? Yep, it's Jamie Oliver!

3. Ye Olde Shoppe: The One and Only $21 Challenge

The $21 Challenge book is a bit like magic - you can't really believe you can do it, then poooffff, you have saved $50, perhaps $150 or even more!

Even better... The $21 Challenge is on special for $12, plus postage. You can find out more here.

4. Penny Wise: A Dash of Soy and a Splash of Lemon

My friend reckons you can fix pretty much anything with soy sauce or lemon juice. At first I thought he was quite possibly mad. Many times I would watch aghast as he liberally squeezed fresh lemon into all kinds of dishes I would never have dreamed of shaking one anywhere near! But the thing was, every time he added lemon to something, it turned out good. Better than good; in fact quite often sensational. And, as I've watched him cook more and more I've had to admit to myself that he's not mad after all; he just 'gets' food. As in, he understands its many different flavours and knows exactly what a dish needs to improve it. Eight times out of ten, it's soy sauce or lemon; the other two it might be sweet chilli sauce or curry paste - but he always gets it right and these days I also find myself shaking the soy sauce bottle over many a saucepan or bowl and running out to the garden to pick a lemon! I have been so grateful for this knowledge over the past 12 months when both money and food have been particularly tight. No matter how little food I have had or how plain, I have learned how to make it taste special, even fantastic, with these few things. Sometimes all you need is one simple tip passed on from one person to another to make a huge difference.

And it is tips like this and the many thousands more I have learned from Simple Savings which have helped me through the toughest year of my life both financially and personally. This wonderful site and community has been my lifeline for almost ten years now - but never more so than this last year. I honestly can't imagine what life would be like for the boys and me now without all the knowledge, skills, tips and recipes I have gained from the Vault and Forum over the years. The bank balance may not show it yet, but I feel our lives are extremely rich.

I wanted to be able to give something back as a thank you for all the support, advice and encouragement I have received from members during my first year as a solo mum. The following is a collection of recipes which have helped get me through meal times on many an occasion. Most of them I've had for years, some even since I was a small child but it's only really now they are coming into their own and I am thankful for every one of them. Some are completely made up and I'm not sure if I'm doing you a favour by inflicting them on you but if you are brave enough to give them a go, please do, I would love to hear what you think! I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as my boys and I do but most of all, I hope that perhaps one day they may just help someone else the way they've helped me.

With much love and gratitude to you all,

Penny x

A Dash of Soy and a Splash of Lemon (397Kb)

You can get updates on Penny's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page.

...or in our Members' Blog section.

5. Best of the Vault: Take the Challenge!

Just when we think we've heard every $21 Challenge recipe or idea from Simple Savers, well, they just keep surprising us! Here are some clever and practical tips and delicious recipes to help you on your way to a successful $21 Challenge.

Chicken-less chicken soup

The $21 Challenge forces me out of my comfort zone and makes me look at other ways of making the family's favourite meals. Small variations are hardly noticed and save me money while clearing out my cupboard. Here's an example. The other night I made chicken soup from scratch without using chicken - I just added chicken stock instead of chicken pieces. I served the soup with udon noodles and lots of garlic bread - yum. My six-year-old daughter said she wants it again soon!

Contributed by: Julie Szabo

I fed the family for a week for less than $14

I did it! I spent just $13.30 this week simply by rethinking my meals. I realised that all I needed to do was make a single chicken cover most of the week's dinners. First, I defrosted my $6 chook that had been sitting in the freezer and roasted it. Then instead of slicing it, chopping it up and serving it as pieces, I took all the meat off the bone which amounted to about four cups. I then planned five main meals which incorporated extra protein where possible. Here are the meals, which were all yummy and reasonably healthy:

  • Chicken, bacon and avocado pasta
  • White chicken chilli with cannellini beans
  • Chicken casserole with tinned tomatoes, chick peas and veg
  • Chicken and veg quesadillas
  • Chicken risotto (using the stock I made from the chicken carcass)

It was creative, varied and fun and it saved me heaps of time and money!

Contributed by: Mary M

Smart shopper meets $21 Challenge

I had always wanted to complete the $21 Challenge but could never get my head around the idea of sticking to such a small amount of money! But recently, I made a breakthrough.

For the last six weeks we have switched to a fortnightly shop instead of weekly. Our original budget was $130 a week for two adults and three children but we would sometimes spend up to $180 a week. I set a budget of $220 a fortnight and if any extras came up I had to pay for them out of our sanity money.

Last week I recorded the cost of each item I bought and my shopping came to $190 for the fortnight. I then went a step further and listed my recipes and the cost of each item, divided by the amount of serves each meal allows. I then worked out my fortnightly menu plan based around the cheaper meals, which are still nutritious and healthy.

To my astonishment, I have worked out this fortnight's main meals come to a grand total of $38.98, or $19.50 for each week. Therefore I have found a way to partake in the $21 Challenge, even if it is just for my main meals.

I am so excited and even more determined to stick to this fortnight's menu plan and shopping list.

Contributed by: Melissa

Free salad dressing

For a tasty, and free, salad dressing, I use the leftover flavoured vinegar from olives or sun-dried tomatoes. This adds a really interesting flavour to your everyday salad.

Contributed by: Sue Tossell

Set goals, find support and trust and you'll get there

For those wanting to get started on the $21 Challenge, I recommend reading the book from cover to cover first to get an overall feel of it. Next work out how you can implement the Challenge and start saving that precious grocery money! Also, think about your goals and why you are doing this. Go beyond just paying the bills and think about what really floats your boat - it may be to buy your own house or to go on a holiday. Another tip is to read as many books about finances as possible. And finally, find support on the Forum and trust that you will get there!

Contributed by: Minister of War & Finance

6. Best of the Forum: Meet the $21 Challenge Warriors!

The $21 Challenge began when Simple Savings member Barbara told us about a joke her husband had played on her. Little did he know what he had started! Barb had asked her husband to bring home some grocery money and thinking it was a great laugh, he returned waving a single $20 note. How on earth could she feed the two of them and their two teenage boys for a week on that? Determined to prove she could do it, Barb found a $1 coin floating around in her pocket - and the $21 Challenge was born! Since then, Forum members have been helping each other through $21 Challenge weeks with ideas, support and encouragement. Here are some great ideas for when the cupboard is bare... think again!

Are these ingredients useful or should I put them in the too hard basket?

We've included this thread as it is the PERFECT example of what the $21 Challenge is all about - using what you have on hand.

Recipe: flat bread

So you're all out of bread, rice, pasta, tacos? Think again!

Down to one egg

The cupboard is never bare with Simple Savers on your side!

$21 Challenge in the extreme

Forum member 'Taking care of the pennies' shares her $21 Challenge, with encouragement and ideas from the sidelines. Bravo - you're doing wonderfully!

7. Best Members' Blog: Challenges!

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a $100 store credit in Ye Olde Shoppe or $100 cash each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's Blog winner is Pumpkin Patch who is doing big things on a small budget!

With February being a no-spend challenge, it couldn't have come at a better time for us - what an expensive month January was with car registration, house and contents insurance, all the utilities in at once not to mention things like RACQ, and other odds and ends. Add to that two lots of visitors, one family of them from overseas, and a trip with them for a few days to the beach which included lots of eating out, not something we usually do.

When they left, I decided it would be an opportune time to do a couple of $21 Challenges coinciding with the February challenge. I challenged myself to go the entire month without buying anything other than essentials. We wouldn't go without much, I had plenty of food in the pantry and a freezer full of meat, the main requirements would be fruit and vegetables. I keep a well-stocked supply cupboard as well, with plenty of toilet paper, soap, toothpaste and the like and I make most of my own cleaning solutions so that would present no problem.

We ate very well indeed, using only things we had on hand - I freeze most of my excess garden produce after the winter crop so there was no shortage there, and each night I could come up with an innovative meal to satisfy even the hungriest male. In addition, we had plenty of breakfast food, and lunches were sandwiches or wraps, home-made soups or quiches. The man of the house was quite amazed that we didn't need to go shopping for anything much at all - I have never done a $21 Challenge before but I really enjoyed the entire concept of it.

The end result was very satisfactory - the food bill for the entire month of February amounted to a very low $51.37. Even I am impressed. I plan to continue this as much as I possibly can but with our overseas visitors returning in the next day or two, that is going to be a big challenge - they tend to eat out almost every day so I'm going to have to work on changing that. At worst, I do have some two for one meal vouchers at our local club that we can use if necessary.

During the month they are here, we will all be going to the beach for a couple of weeks, staying in separate units, so we will again take most of our food with us - they will no doubt eat out much of the time. However, for the other couple of weeks when they are here with us at home, we will be striving not to blow the budget so I have some simple tasty meals planned for us all. I'm sure we can do it.

The bonus will be that I can get the contents of the big freezer down enough so that when we go on our own holidays in a couple of months, we can turn it off along with the drinks fridge, just leaving the main fridge/freezer stocked.

Well done Pumpkin Patch - we look forward to following the rest of your adventures!

You can read more of our members' blogs here.

8. Cooking with Mimi: Cinnamon Apple Fritters...

When the Fridge is Bare and the Apples are Scary!

Turn these ...

into this ...

... with a pancake recipe.

My daughter has taken these apples to school and back for the last two weeks. I guess I should take the hint. No apples in the lunch box. They're a bit battered and bruised, but still edible... sooooo...

Remember the budget busting eggless pancake recipe I posted a while back?

Well it turns out it works well for this too; a great lesson in adapting an old favourite to make a new one. Just add the grated and chopped apple, some cinnamon, fry briefly in hot oil, more cinnamon sugar and ice cream. Feast :)

Here's the recipe again...

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 2 tbsp milk powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Combine the first four ingredients in one bowl and add the next four. Mix well. Done.

For the fritters:

  • 2-4 apples
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Cinnamon sugar made by combining 1/2 cup caster sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Paper towels or clean tea towels for draining

Peel your apples. Grate two and chop the other two into cubes. Mix the apple in to the batter. Add the cinnamon.

Let the batter rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium high heat, until a bread cube dropped in browns in about 25 seconds.

Remove your batter from the fridge. Don't stir it!

Take tablespoons of batter and drop them carefully into the hot oil. Flip them regularly with kitchen tongs, until they are golden on all sides. Remove them to the paper towel to drain well.

Toss them in the cinnamon sugar and serve immediately as is, or with ice cream, custard, cream or cinnamon yoghurt.

Yummmmmmeeeeeee :)

You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Using Paper to Save Coin

and Dirt-Free Chicken Waterer!

Recycling to help feed the squirmers and feather the nest

Paper is one recyclable that most folks will quite happily pop in the recycle bin along with bottles and cans but lately we have been using it for other purposes. We started to think about all the paper that we receive in the form of bills, junk mail, cardboard packaging, toilet rolls, free 'newspapers', as well as scrap paper generated by children, and we decided that we could be using a lot more of this resource on site. I don't recycle the glossy magazine style papers or cardboard boxes as I have read that the chemicals/inks used can potentially leave toxic residues in the soil. The best way I have found to shred the paper (after experimenting with the lawnmower and mulcher) is with a cheap $20 paper shredder we purchased a few years ago.

It has shredded hundreds of old bills, the girls' old school work, old seed catalogues and many, MANY of the discarded newspapers left on the train by folks on Bianca's evening commute home. So far we have come up with more ideas than we have paper for. ;)

We have been feeding soaked and shredded bills and scrap paper to the squirmers for quite a while now. They really do hook right in and make very quick work of it. Dry shredded paper can also be added into worm farms if they become too wet to help soak up some of the excess moisture. We have also used four dampened-down sheets of newspaper as a covering for the top of worm farms to help keep the bedding moist as well as keep the light out. It normally doesn't last long as the worms will quickly start munching on it if there isn't enough food around. :/

I started to use shredded paper for the girls' nesting box after the old bedding got saturated during a heavy storm. There was no fresh straw on hand and I figured that the worms wouldn't mind sharing their paper, and have been using it ever since with no complaints from the girls as of yet ;)

The compost pile is another place in the yard where paper/cardboard can be helpful for some. While we urban gardeners have access to a lot of nitrogen based composting ingredients (food scraps, lawn clippings and perhaps poultry manure) we don't all have yards that supply us with a lot of organic matter high in carbon (dried leaves & branch trimmings). Paper is essentially pulped timber which is very high in carbon and an essential part of the composting process. It's also a lot cheaper than popping down to the produce store (if you have one nearby) to buy a bale of hay (our last bale cost us $10).

Making a cheap, dirt-free chicken waterer

I blogged on a very basic waterer made with one of these nipple drippers a while back but thought I would do a quick little 'how to' post on it, as well as an update on our watering system. These nipple feeders are a great way to keep the water clean and fresh for your flock as they are a closed unit and dirt can't get in. Our chickens have had theirs for a while now and it has been a great success, so I thought I would show you how cheap and easy it is to make one.

These little units work on water pressure. The water in the reservoir keeps the valve shut until the bottom pin is moved, dislodging the tiny ball and allowing water to drip through for the bird/animal to drink. Once the pin is back in place the water pressure forces the ball down, stopping the water. They can be bought from stock and pet supply stores for $3.00-$4.00 each or for around a dollar if purchased on the Internet in bulk.

To install the drippers all you need is a container to hold water, a drill and drill bit. For plastics of different thickness I tend to use different drill bit sizes. For really thin plastics (like the small bucket above) I used an 8mm drill bit. I would use 8.5mm for plastics up to 2mm thick and 9mm drill bit for thicker plastics like PVC pipe.

The first thing to do is to drill the hole. I find that you need to be careful with the thin buckets as the plastic can rip if the drill catches. Next you need to clean the swarf that is still attached to the hole. For this I use a utility knife, being careful not to cut into the hole itself or otherwise the seal around the dripper won't be water tight. The drippers can then be screwed in until the washer is tightly pressed against the base of the bucket. All that's left to do now is to add some water, check for leaks (which can be fixed with a few wraps of white plumbers tape) and hang in the chook pen :)

It won't take any time at all for the chooks to work out how to use them. It only took five to ten minutes before our girls had the feeder figured out. The feeder we use has been expanded to include another water station in their day pen. Both water feeders are now fed by two large reservoir tanks so the daily task of checking the girls' water now involves making sure a simple float valve works. Here's a clip on how ours is now set up that might help give you a few ideas:

That's about it for now. Have been flat out of late so the fish farm isn't quite finished as of yet but I am fairly sure that you will get to see it up and running in the next blog. ;)»
Hope you all have fun in the patch and until next month,

Rob : )»

You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

10. From Last Month: Help With 'Cheep' Easter Goodies

Last month Aimee emailed us asking for ideas on celebrating Easter with her large family without spending a fortune:

"Now I have stopped working, I'm looking at ways to cut expenses. With Easter coming up, I need some ideas to give Easter gifts to my four children, their partners and my 13 grandchildren, aged from 2 to 19. I would normally just go and buy Easter eggs for everyone - last year this cost me over $250! I just can't afford to do that this year so would love to hear some crafty and clever ideas or recipes to cook, to give them this Easter."

We got some fantastic ideas for Aimee! Here are some of our favourite replies:

ALDI Easter bunnies good for a crowd

With a lot of people to buy Easter gifts for, I go to ALDI and buy their chocolate bunnies for $0.98c each. Not only are they cheap but the chocolate is really yummy and they are a decent size at around 18cm high. I buy these for my 26 volunteers at work as well. Great value!

Contributed by: Ellen D

A saucy Easter with help from Mimi

Who says you have to give chocolate eggs for Easter? A cheaper alternative which is just as nice is to make up a batch of Mimi's Chocolate Sauce for the adults. Add in some alcohol if you have some to make it even more grown up. For teachers and friends at Easter we make large chocolate freckles. First buy blocks of white, dark and milk chocolate, some multi-coloured sprinkles i.e 100s and 1000s or you can use coconut. Find three different sized circle shapes you can draw around, for example, egg cup, glass and so on and draw around them on sheets of baking paper cut to fit trays or large containers that will fit in your fridge. Melt your chocolate, spread thinly on the paper within the circles, sprinkle the sprinkles and put in the fridge. Once set (which doesn't take long as they are so thin) peel off the paper, put the chocolate freckles back in the fridge in another container and start again. You can get a LOT of freckles from one block of chocolate! To give to the recipient, put a mix of the different sizes and flavours in little cellophane bags and tie with curling ribbon or whatever you have to hand in your craft supplies. It's also a great activity to do with kids!

Contributed by: Samantha B

Vine Easter baskets

Our beautiful Easter baskets are pretty much free! This year we are making little Easter baskets with the children (5 years +). To make, first gather some bendy pittosporum or ivy vines or similar and form two circles. Attach them together to form a circle at right angles to each other. Next, lash together at their intersecting points using vine or wool. This forms the frame of the basket. Now wrap the bottom of the basket with weaving material or more vines running from side to side, wrapping around the top edge, going down and over or under the bottom seam and up and around the opposite edge. You can make them as tight or as loose as you wish but I have found the spaces easier to work with if they are a couple of centimetres apart. Continue weaving until your basket is ready. This is a wonderful activity to do with children and lovely to hold Easter eggs, not to mention other things afterwards!

Contributed by: Jane

Yummy Easter gifts for kids and adults

For a delicious and economical Easter gift for grown-ups, try this! First cover glace cherries with almond paste (or almond icing) then coat the cherry-almond balls with melted chocolate. You can make them look really impressive by popping them into mini cupcake cases, which are available from $2 shops. For the younger ones, chunky sized chocolate bars are better value for money than eggs. Watch for the '4 for $5.00' specials at the supermarkets and start stocking up now. Also if you are near a 'Reduced to Clear' or other discount store, you can pick up a range of chocolate goodies for much less than the usual supermarket prices. Today my local 'Reduced to Clear' has small mesh bags of Christmas chocolate baubles for $0.50c. Take the Christmas foil wrapping off and they can easily pass for Easter goodies!

Contributed by: Terri D

Home-made bunnies and baskets

Easter gifts don't have to cost a fortune! A few years back after one Easter I bought some rabbit chocolate moulds and every year since I make solid bunnies as gifts. Good quality chocolate is always on special leading up to Easter. I make paper Easter baskets to put the bunnies in too; there are heaps of instructions and videos for making these on the Internet. They cost next to nothing and look beautiful!

Contributed by: Elizabeth

Split the cost with an Easter picnic

An enjoyable and economical way to celebrate Easter is to host a 'family fun, bring your own plate' picnic. Ask different family members to contribute some eggs for a hunt and other activities. People love being involved in projects like this and appreciate one family member taking the initiative to organise it.

Contributed by: GoGo Goanna

Make an Easter bunny sock puppet

For a low-cost, chocolate-free Easter gift, here are some really easy sewing instructions for an Easter bunny sock puppet! (

Why not make a few and have a puppet show? At the end of the day they have a new companion to take to bed too!

Search Google for all sorts of crafts and free printables you can surprise the children with or do together. Make a basket up with pencils/craft supplies and some printables as a gift to keep them busy all Easter!

Contributed by: Wendy

'Magic Easter seeds' are priceless for kids

For a wonderful and memorable Easter treat, all you need is to buy a packet of Smarties and make each child an egg-shaped lollipop! The day before Easter, take the children into the garden and give them each an 'Easter Seed' (aka a Smartie) and ask them to plant it. Next morning, get up early and at each seed site, pop a lollipop into the garden like a flower. Voila! Magic Easter flowers! My grandmother did this for me one year and of all the Easters, I remember this one the best. RIP magic Grannie! I love you! Here's how to make the lollies:

You'll need 18 lollipop sticks


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp glucose syrup (see note)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 to 2 drops food colouring of choice

Line 2 large, flat baking trays with baking paper. Refrigerate until you're ready to use them.

Combine sugar, glucose syrup and water in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to the boil (do not stir).

Add food colouring and reduce heat to low. Boil gently for 12 minutes or until mixture has reached correct temperature. To test temperature, drop a small spoonful of sugar mixture into a glass of cold water. Allow to cool, then remove from water. The mixture is ready if the toffee is brittle (149°C to 154°C on a sugar thermometer). If not, continue boiling mixture and checking until toffee is brittle. Remove saucepan from heat.

Remove baking trays from fridge. Drop spoonsful of toffee onto baking trays. While mixture is still soft and warm, press a lollipop stick into the centre of each circle. You will need to work quickly before the toffee sets.

NB: Lollipop sticks are available from Spotlight stores and via Spotlight's mail order service. Glucose syrup, also known as liquid glucose, can be found in the health food section of large supermarkets or at health food stores.

Contributed by: Sandra D

Economical Easter gift bags

Personalised Easter bags are fun to make and cost little. Last year I bought a pack of 20 Easter cellophane bags for $2.00 at a discount shop. Then I made a batch of sugar cookies (you can make your own favourite biscuit recipe) using Easter theme cookie cutters and sprinkled the uncooked dough with 100's and 1000's to make them 'special'. To present them I shredded some new green A4 sheets of paper and put a little in each bag for 'grass'. I bought a kilo of chocolate mini eggs for $5.00 and put a few in each bag with the wrapped cookies. I then wrote a personal note from the Easter Bunny for each person and put that inside. It was fun to make up the bags and didn't take too long to do. The bags were tied up with any ribbon I had in my craft box and a simple name tag completed the job. These bags were then hidden for the recipients to find. All this cost less than $20 and was very well received!

Contributed by: Heather

Marshmallow Easter eggs fun to make with kids

You can buy marshmallow Easter eggs, but it's much more fun to make them! I used to make these with my grandchildren at Easter. Fill a shallow baking tray to the depth of about 15mm with cornflour. Make depressions in it with the back of a dessert spoon (this makes half an egg shape). Make a recipe for marshmallow - we used the Edmond's cookbook recipe - and pour it into the cornflour 'moulds'. When set remove the egg halves from the mould and dust off, then stick the halves together with melted chocolate to make a full egg shape and then coat the whole thing with more chocolate.

Contributed by: Jacqui

Decorate egg-shaped arrowroot biscuits for Easter

I have been using this tip from Family Circle for almost 20 years to save me money at Easter! For an economical treat, simply buy a packet of oval shaped Milk Arrowroot biscuits and decorate them with royal icing and sprinkles. You could use melted chocolate too if liked, be as creative as you like with what you have! They can't be done too far ahead or they'll go soft so keep them in an airtight container until the last minute, then grab some cellophane or cheap little containers, pop in a few 'eggs' and add a gift tag and you're done!

Contributed by: Kerrie S

11. This Month's Help Request:

Give Me a Hope Among the Gum Trees!

Lou has emailed asking for some help! She writes:

"I need some help working out how the second hand website Gumtree works. I have seen things for sale which I would like to buy but I'm not willing to pay the asking price. What I want to know is, can I ring and offer less? What are the best ways to buy things on Gumtree? I really need some tips and advice."

If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Lou, please send them in to us here.

12. Goodbye for Now!

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for April 2014 and we hope you have enjoyed it. Don't forget to pass on the $21 Challenge ideas to any family or friends you think would benefit from saving money on their groceries.

Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...
All the best,

April 2016 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - April 2016

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Caught Short
  2. April: The Problem With Money
  3. This Month's Competition: How Do YOU Keep Your Cash?
  4. Last Month's Competition: Impossible Promises
  5. Best of the Vault: Spend Less Than You Earn
  6. Best of the Forum: A Little Determination Goes a Long Way
  7. Best Members' Blog: Same Time Next Year?
  8. Best of SS Facebook: Overcoming the Elements
  9. Savings Story: Confessions of a Stay At Home Mum


This month's calendar contains one of my favourite quotes by Charles Dickens:

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound nought and six, result misery."

I love this quote because even though money can't buy happiness, the harsh truth is, spending more than you earn does result in misery. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow - but sooner or later our bad decisions catch up with us.

The easiest way to ward off this misery is to keep your money in your pocket. But, keeping your money in your pocket can be very hard to do. So to make it a little easier, this month we are going to focus on all the different ways members manage to achieve it - me included!

I hope you have a lovely month.

All the best,
Fiona Lippey

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Caught Short

"Are you nearly ready, Sal? We've only got an hour!" Hanna chivvied her friend along. "Plenty of time! It doesn't take an hour to make a chicken salad," Sally rolled her eyes. "Just making sure I've got my purse. Right, let's go!" Every Friday, Sally and Hanna went for lunch together at their favourite café. It was their weekly treat and every week they ordered the same.

"Thai chicken salad and a large mochaccino?" smiled the waitress on seeing them. "You know me too well!" grinned Hanna. "That'll be $22.50 please," came the response. "What? Are you sure?" Hanna asked in alarm. "It's not usually that much!" "Sorry. Management's put the prices up," the waitress told her apologetically. "I don't have enough," Hanna frowned.

"What do you mean, you don't have enough?" asked Sally in disbelief. "I thought you were an amazing saver! Are you and John going through a tough patch?" She touched Hanna's arm, concerned. "No, not at all!" laughed Hanna. "It's just I only have $20 in my purse. It's all I ever carry on me when I'm out." Sally looked puzzled. "It's true," Hanna explained. "If I only carry $20, I can only spend $20. Guess I'll just have a toasted sandwich instead of the salad please, it's about time I tried something new!"

2. April: The Problem With Money

Why is spending less money than we earn SO difficult? Why do so many people struggle with it? The answer is simple:

We are under constant and continual pressure to spend. Our lives have blurred into one long, constant stream of sales pitches; on TV, on our mobiles, in magazines, on our computers, on the street, via telephone, in the supermarket, at lunch, at school, on the bus, on the train and at the movies. Wherever we go and whatever we do, someone is trying to get us to part with our money.

We all deal with this constant bombardment differently. These are the techniques that I have found work for me.

Out of sight, out of mind

The first thing I do is hide money from myself. I only ever have a tiny amount of money in my everyday savings account and only keep a small amount of money in my pocket. If I'm going out and know I'm going to need more money than that, I only transfer the amount I'm going to need.

Running out of money is okay

I often run out of money when I'm shopping and that is okay. When I have spent all I have in my wallet to spend, then I have reached my limit and that's fine with me. As long as I have petrol or a bus card to get home, it is fine to run out of money.

Stay cynical

Another thing I do is be constantly cynical. I never ever trust sales people/pitches/adverts. If someone says a product is going to make me more beautiful, smarter, fitter or healthier, I want proof. This especially applies to doctors, vets and dentists.

Returns on my investment

If I'm thinking of parting with my money I find myself thinking in a realistic world what sort of return I am going to get on my investment. Will it make me happier, will it bring more money or will it give me useful skills I can use to get my money back?

Grow a thick skin

When it comes to spending money it is important you do not care what others think of you. We need to be able to laugh, be sure of ourselves and shrug off social pressure.

We are told if we don't spend money we will be left behind. But in fact, the opposite is true; If we spend all our money - THEN we will be left behind. No matter how small your income, we want to help you to keep more of it in your pocket - starting right now!

3. This Month's Competition: How Do YOU Keep Your Cash?

Different saving strategies work for different people. Hanna limits the amount of cash she carries; I limit the amount available to me in my bank. This month we want to know what tricks YOU use to hang on to more of your money. What do you do to ensure you don't touch it or fritter it away? How much money do you manage to keep each month? What do you find is a good amount? How do you manage to spend less than you earn on a tiny income or a single wage, or with kids or a huge mortgage? The more tried and true solutions we can share together, the more people we can help to achieve happiness and avoid misery.

Send in your entries to us before midnight, May 15th. The winning entry will receive $100. We'd love to hear what works for you!

4. Last Month's Competition: Impossible Promises

Last month we asked everyone to keep their eyes peeled for the most ridiculous examples of advertising in the form of products which couldn't possibly deliver what they claimed. We knew you wouldn't disappoint - and you didn't! We received stacks of entries and had a hilarious time reading through all the impossible promises you came across in a single month. In fact, there were so many great entries that we couldn't pick just one winner! So, we are awarding a 12 month Vault membership to all the following runners up. See if you can spot your entry!

Starving kids!

I always wonder about the companies that sell ready-made meals delivered to your door. The ads always have the theme of a family with young children and the parents signing up to meal deliveries before cutting to the parents having lost weight and having so much more time to spend with the children because they don't have to cook. But what do the children eat? There is never any mention of meals for the children, and the parents say they don't cook now, so who is feeding them and what are they eating?! Makes no sense to me! Aside from the cost of ready-made meals, I always think the family meals where you cook and eat together are the best fun!

Cheryl Heslin

This product sucks!

The ad showed a whole bag full of stuff being vacuumed down small enough to fit into a suitcase. I have suitcases and thought, Wow, imagine how much stuff I could pack away!' I hesitated for a week and finally decided that it would be worth it. How wrong I was! The first bag wouldn't vacuum. The second bag did but then I discovered that it was way too big for my suitcase. Not to be beaten I put it in the linen press - it was still saving space! Or so I thought, however, by the next day the bag had puffed back up. Whilst I could have returned the goods for a full refund, the cost of returning them ruled out that choice. A lesson well learned! I have never given into temptation from TV ads since and I have only ever bought one thing from the internet which did what it promised to!

Sharron Hillman

For your bottom, from my heart

According to the ads, buying and using Huggies nappies makes you a better, more patient parent and proves you love your kid more than someone who uses inferior nappies!

Kristin Holt

A perfect room for a perfect child

If there's one promise that is impossible it is kids' stylish room makeovers. They look great, the room is clean and tidy and everything has a place. It looks so fantastic that it makes you want to go and get all the matching pieces, so your house will look as good. Of course the reality is, once the kids are in there for a few hours they don't look like that!

Danielle Quinn

Putting the fizz into relationships

Coca Cola is at it again. Have you seen its latest television commercial with the loved up couple who share every passionate moment with a bottle of Coke, only to find that when conflict arises in the relationship (symbolised by a smashing bottle of Coke on the floor), they are suddenly alone? But not for long - that magic bottle suddenly appears once again in the hand of the handsome Romeo to find that his gorgeous lady can't resist the 'Coke' and the relationship is reignited!

Michelle Finch

The joys of toys

I find that adverts for children's toys or games show lots of happy family time and hours of entertainment. In reality, however, the kids look at them for around 30 seconds (while Daddy sits on the sofa with a beer, surfing the internet) before tossing them aside and moving onto something else. Before you know it, all the pieces of that new toy are scattered around the house such that they become just clutter and can never be used again (until, of course, you step on one of those sharp pieces on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, cursing that advert that made you buy it in the first place)!


Fall at your feet? Not quite!

My mum bought one of the new Scholl foot products, from the ads which imply other women will fall over while marvelling over your gloriously kept nails. So far I've managed to stay upright when I visit!

Erin Holden

Want to cook like Nigella? Get a new fridge!

In the Sunday Mail there is an ad for Fisher and Paykel's Izona CoolDrawer Fridge, in which it states it will make your kitchen as stylish as Nigella's and hopefully your cooking just as good. Well I doubt that my 42-year-old kitchen will look as stylish as Nigella's just by the addition of a new fridge. As for the cooking being just as good, I think that very unlikely too - but doesn't Nigella spend most of her time lurking in the pantry looking through her herbs and spices rather than looking in her fridge anyway?

Yvonne Zemdegs

Muesli bars give you super powers!

I bought a box of "Nice & Natural" super grain muesli bars. Does anyone really think that they are going to get a cape and super powers? It sure gave me a smile when I was packing the family lunch boxes!

Carrie Taylor

Where are all the super models hiding?!

I've been using Lynx deodorant for twenty years now, and not a single super model has ever fallen out of the sky, driven out of her way, or materialised on the bus next to me! Maybe I just need to spray more on (and maybe the extra spray explains why teenage boys smell the way they do?).

Jacob Aldridge

The secret to being a 'real man'

My favourite impossible promise is the 'Old Spice' commercial implying that you will be a 'real man' if you use Old Spice Body Wash.

Tahnee Hrelja

Defy age easily - use a youngster!

The best example of impossible promises have to be advertisements by the cosmetic companies to promote skin care products which claim to be 'age-defying' using models aged under 25!

Maralin Econ

A whole array of impossible promises

  1. Ads for face products always give me a laugh. Often the model or 'everyday person' is either 13 years old, Photo-shopped or has had extreme plastic surgery or botox. Whilst I do sometimes find myself thinking 'ooh, that looks fantastic, maybe I should try some?', the sensible side always kicks in and says WASTE OF MONEY!

  2. I clean houses for a living and love it. The ads that amaze me are the ones that say 'spray it on, wash it off and all is sparklingly clean'. I have used every product out there as I find the client has them in the cupboard. Not one does this for me so that I can sit and have coffee, smile or dance my way through the day. They all need at least a little bit of elbow grease!

  3. Years ago there was an ad for Impulse body spray. If you wore it men were supposed to run up to you on the street to give you flowers. I wore that stuff for ages BUT no flowers!

Sharron Callandar

And, the overall winner is Julie Darby with this ad that makes her want to throw something at the TV every time she sees it. We couldn't agree more Julie!

No need to work out, just rub it in!

I think my all-time favourite for absolute codswallop (and that's a polite way of putting it!) is the TV ad for Nivea Q10 Firming Lotion. Nivea have now uploaded the ad to Youtube, here.

I don't think I've ever seen an ad which contains such a load of garbage as this one - it opens with footage of a VERY fit and toned young woman working out - someone who quite obviously hasn't a speck of cellulite and absolutely no need whatsoever for any kind of firming lotion. But what about the days you can't work out? Simple, says the ad, just use this lotion and (it infers) it's just as good as a workout for toning up - and can give you firmer-looking skin in just TWO WEEKS! Yes folks, just two weeks. We're also treated to shots of this young woman twirling around in a chair and prancing along the street in a short, short dress, and the final straw is seeing her slapping her pert bottom whilst admiring herself in the mirror as the voice-over spouts this nonsense. What is this cream - magic? It can't possibly give results like the ones (supposedly) shown in the ad, and in a fortnight?! Seriously... what an insult to the intelligence this ad is!

Julie wins herself $100 for her entry - guess we know one thing she WON'T be buying with it! Thank you to everyone for sending in all your fabulous entries. Just goes to show, it takes more than clever advertising and sneaky marketing to pull the wool over a Simple Saver's eyes!

5. Best of the Vault: Living Within Our Means

For many people, the thought of EVER being able to have enough money to put any aside seems downright impossible. Fortunately these tips from the Vault and countless others like them are living proof that it really is possible. Why not give some of these a go for yourself?

'Cash only' system better late than never!

I am saving more money than ever before since I switched to using cash only! I cancelled all cards which were attached to my accounts and no longer have a bank account with card access. On pension day, I make BPAY payments on my phone/Internet, power, gas and water accounts. I have automatic transfers of money into my savings accounts; this is a set amount every fortnight. I then go to the bank and withdraw the money I will need for the next two weeks. This consists of money for rent, petrol, medications, pets, groceries and then some pocket money for me. I put these into individually labelled resealable bags, which I keep in a zippered pencil case in my bag, and my spending money goes in my purse. I often have money left in my bags, but I still withdraw the same amount every fortnight. This allows me to grab specials and the occasional treat. Any money that is left in my normal account at the end of the fortnight, I transfer into my savings account the evening before pension day.

I have read and tried so many hints and tips on how to budget your money but this one has proved to be the perfect one for me. The amount of money I now save is amazing. I sometimes think that if I had only used this system when my children were little, I would be a rich woman by now, or at least a well-travelled one!

Contributed by: Gusta T

'No bonus' mentality buys our wildest dreams for free!

Pretending my husband didn't get a bonus and living accordingly has meant we can afford luxuries beyond our wildest dreams with zero effort! Over 12 months ago, hubby received a rather nice pay increase. However, we decided rather than use it and incorporate it into our everyday living, we would continue to live on the same amount as before and put the amount of the new increase into savings, for any luxuries we may want further down the track. In this short time alone my hubby and son have got to go to the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne and my daughter and I have got to enjoy a 10 night cruise to the Pacific Islands, complete with spending money! It's amazing how it adds up and it's money we don't miss at all!

Contributed by: Carole Watson

Budgeting for all bills on a low income

I am on a very, very low income, so I budget for every bill and expense. I put away bill money every fortnight and that way I have all my bills covered as they arrive, and we seem to just spend the rest. Last year I decided to pay me as a bill, so every pay day I pay me first, just $50. I now have over $1200 in savings. I can't believe how easy it is; just pay yourself before everyone else. The first couple of pays it was an effort not to touch it, but as soon as I saw it mounting up, I got very excited. I tell myself all the time that money is power. While $1200 is not much to some people, to me it's a fortune. Try it - it empowers you.

Contributed by: Catherine Eve

Kids become bankers in 'cash-only' family

Our family has come up with a fantastic budgeting system, where the kids are the 'bankers'! We have become a 'completely cash' family. This means that we worked out what cash we need to put aside every week and we withdraw only that amount. I have a card in my wallet that has the note denominations on it, for example, three x $50, six x $10 and so on. When I get home, I give the whole lot to our boys aged six and eight and ask them to 'do the budget tin'. We have a money tin with resealable plastic bags in it, which all have category names and amounts on them. The boys go through and meter the money out, putting, for example, $15 in the family entertainment bag, $40 in the Christmas bag and so on. They then give their father and I our allocation for petrol and groceries and they keep out their pocket money. When we want money for clothing, holidays, birthdays or DVD and pizza nights we go to the bags and get what we need. The boys are learning the value of money and we always have cash on hand. We now feel so rich because we are so much more careful when we can actually see the notes. It's the most successful system we have ever used!

Contributed by: Michelle

Avoid doing the Twenty Dollar Tango!

I am saving over $2,000 a year by placing visual reminders around the house to help me stop making spontaneous purchases at the mall.

I was spending $20 here and there on things that I didn't really need, telling myself that the blouse, CD, book or thing I was buying was a bargain at just 20 or so dollars. This habit was costing around $40 a week!

To break it, I dug out a couple of these so-called 'bargains' and left them out on the table to remind me of the money I had wasted. Then I stuck a photo of Fiji on the fridge to represent the holiday I could have spent the money on instead.

Since then, every time I am in a shop and find myself tempted to buy something I don't really need, I close my eyes and visualise the unnecessary items on the table, then visualise myself sitting by the pool in a Fijian resort. It's a simple trick, but the temptation vanishes with the blink of an eye!

I estimate that this saves me around $2,080 a year. Last year this was enough for my husband and I to have that holiday in Fiji, and this year we went to New York.

Saving in this way makes me feel so good that I have cut spending in other areas too. It's wonderful that without feeling deprived we've been able to enrich our lives with travel experiences we never thought we could afford.

Contributed by: Eve

6. Best of the Forum: A Little Determination Goes a Long Way

Is it a realistic expectation to consistently be able to spend less than we earn? These savvy Forum members all say YES! All it takes is a little effort and determination. Jump on in to some of these threads and be inspired.

Living on $20,000 per year or under!

Saffy is determined to do whatever it takes to live close to the line and achieve her dreams. Find out how she does it and gain heaps of valuable tips from other members too!

Reducing day by day

Knighty is absolutely horrified to see in black and white how much her household spends every day. She has adopted a new 'day by day' approach to getting their spending down to a minimum - and it's working!

Living the SS way to clear debt and live well

Simplymum is a super busy solo mum of three. She's got more than her fair share of challenges - but she also has plenty of goals she's determined to reach!

Building up that resilience to cope with what life throws

Seachange has many dreams for her family. There's just one thing she's worried about getting in the way of those dreams - it's called Murphy's Law! How do you get ahead when life has a habit of throwing a spanner in the works? This thread has some valuable suggestions.

7. Best Member's Blog: Same Time Next Year?

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win $100 cash each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top right, then 'Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's Blog winner is ValueEveryCent with her post 'Same Time Next Year?'

"When I was a child my mother took me to see the movie above.

It was basically a laugh at how this couple met for 20 years at the same time each year. The main lead made everyone in her life the same jumper to wear. The movie was a bit like 'Groundhog Day', doing the same thing day after day, year after year!

Anyway this is not the point but mainly stealing the name because nothing I hate more each year is to be the same, be it financially, physically, emotionally or spiritually!

I like change but slow change. Sometimes it doesn't work this way... just my approach.

I am asking you today, will I see you back on SS in another year's time, two years', maybe five, doing the same old thing, making the same old goals etc?

Is this your future?

We have all set our goals on various threads and so I am inviting you to please share any successes you have had so far this year. We made a lot of promises to ourselves and others but what can you tell me that will not be the same for you now and next year?

Please share any successes that you feel pleased about, doesn't matter how small or big.

For me, I know I tend to slow down throughout the year as my energy seems to go.

I made a lot of goals at New Year and I have started off well.

Completed Goals... Never to be the Same Again

  • I have de-cluttered the pantry at long last (this was such a big relief).
  • Recently lost half a kilo, that hopefully will lead to more losses and next year I won't be this weight again (this never ends, it seems like a life time job).
  • I have done two council clean-ups removing unwanted waste.
  • Started a blog, 'My Frugal Kitchen'.
  • Commenced re-reading books and giving away unwanted ones.
  • Changed my hair colour.
  • And a really big one for me was... I am hopeless at gardening and don't know where to start, so what did I do? Found someone's garden that I admire and honestly I copied it and it looks great. It was fairly easy to achieve and is low maintenance.
  • Did a re-styling of my house from op shop buys. This was a real budget makeover but looks great.

Currently in Process of Change

  • About to start a thread called 'Cut Up Your Credit Card for Good!' This I want gone for next year.
  • I want to have all my old photos printed. I was having a lot of trouble accessing them so now that I have worked out what to do, I will work through getting them printed and nicely filed away.
  • I would like to give more attention to writing up of daily meal plans and also better organise bills. I recently had time payment cards sent to me so I can do bill paying fortnightly. File everything neatly and in order.
  • That's it at this stage as I don't want to have too many that I don't do any!

Remember this:

What You Give Attention to Expands!

This is very powerful and I think you all know this.

So what will not be the same for you next year?

Hope this might be a good shake up for some and also hoping those who have not been able to brainstorm ideas or know how to obtain what they want might care to share. Perhaps others may be able to help!

I was floored recently when I read someone on the forum had given up smoking. Could you imagine that - the change to your life, health and financial situation? I was really blown away by that achievement!

Thank you for sharing, ValueEveryCent - and all the best with achieving your goals!

You can read more of our members' blogs here.

8. Best of SS Facebook: Overcoming the Elements

Love Facebook or hate it, the Simple Savers Facebook page is a great way to learn even more tips and enjoy reading of other members' successes. One of our favourite posts this month comes from Bec, who may not be the most successful vegie gardener yet - but she's not giving up!

"I have a confession to make. Despite holding a Cert IV in Horticulture and knowing a heck of a lot about gardening, pest control and landscaping... I can't grow vegetables!

Many years ago, I lived in NZ and had the most wonderful garden... tomatoes and potatoes sprouting randomly in my compost heap, a lush and green fernery, a herb garden planted with about 12 different herbs, a vegie garden full of cauliflowers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas etc. The yard was lined with happy native plants for the wildlife to scurry in... it was amazing.

Ever since moving to Australia the climate and bug life has thwarted me at every turn. The bugs are supersized, the sun is too hot, the rain too torrential. There are hordes of man-eating grasshoppers that destroy seedlings overnight. The humidity encourages all the fungal and bacterial pathogens to flourish. There are possums and birds that take anything remotely tasty before I've had a chance to harvest it. The 30m gum tree in our yard made the soil acidic and didn't let through enough sun for anything to grow other than weeds. Under that acidic soil is clay, and then rock, barely one metre below the surface. I have tried and tried and tried and just cannot keep anything alive. It's an embarrassment! We have spent so much hard earned money digging out the clay, adding soil conditioners, building raised beds, buying soil, buying plants, seeds, staking things, making protective covers/cages/fences... within a single season it all gets inundated with disease, destroyed by bugs or killed by a combination of weather and forgetfulness.

On the bright side, our yard does have abundant wildlife, birdlife and native bees.

I'm going to give it one last go. I have a watering system in place, am doing some soil testing to make darn sure the pH is correct and all nutrients therefore available to the plants. We have removed the offending gum tree (it was looking dodgy anyway according to the arbourist, and would have landed on our bedroom if it came down in a storm), I have a coop full of chook poo and it's the perfect time of year for planting.


Good on you, Bec, we wish you all the best with your mission!

Joining our busy Facebook community is super easy. Either search up 'Simple Savers' on Facebook or click this link and request to join. Once you're in, let the fun begin!

9. Savings Story: Confessions of a Stay At Home Mum

I can hardly believe it but we have an extra $2,000 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 vegies 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 $2,250! 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 six 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!

Contributed by: Rochelle Weston-Arnold

10. Goodbye For Now

We hope you have found this month's newsletter helpful. Don't forget to enter our competition with your favourite 'how I keep my money' strategy! Send your entries in to us to be in to win. One competition which never changes is our 'Hint of the Week' competition. Simply send in your favourite money saving tip (you can enter as many times as you like) and you could win a 12-month membership to the Vault. We really appreciate each and every tip we receive. That's all for now, have a fantastic month holding on to more of your money!

All the best,

August 2011 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - August 2011

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Elbow Grease
  2. September is Spick and Span Month!
  3. This Month's Competition: Calling All Cleaning Sceptics!
  4. Hidden Gems Competition Winner
  5. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner
  6. Best of the Forum: A Cleaning Frenzy
  7. Best of the Vault: Squeaky Clean
  8. Cooking with Mimi: Kidney Bean Kievs and Lemony Tuna Salad
  9. Penny's Blog: Everyday Triumphs
  10. Homeopathy Corner: Specialist?
  11. From Last Month: Old Fashioned Floor Polish
  12. This Month's Help Request: Life on the Move
  13. Savings Story: Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain!
  14. So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen and Goodbye:-D


How are you doing? It's Penny here, filling in for Fiona. You see, this month is Spick and Span Month and whilst Fiona is an unbeatable Miser Extraordinaire she does not profess to be a Cleaner Extraordinaire. In fact, she claims to be 'so useless at keeping her house spick and span' that she just didn't feel right contributing to a newsletter all about cleaning! What Fiona forgets, however, was that I still remember the first time I ever went to her house back in 2005. Not only was it spick and span but I didn't see a single commercial cleaner in sight; everything was completely natural and home-made. This is just what this newsletter is all about, so I think Fiona is better qualified for this newsletter than she realises!

Spick and span or not, we have both really enjoyed reading your letters this month. It's fantastic to see you succeed and overcome whatever challenges life throws at you.

"I'd like to thank you for all your ideas. I have gone from being in debt and not knowing how to budget to having food in the house, I make it from scratch and I do not waste a thing. I teach my seven-year-old niece how to cook and save when she visits and she is loving it. She is going home teaching her mother a trick too. I've gone from $30,000 debt (that's not my house loan) to $11,500 in three years but joining up with you I have saved much more and now I'm teaching my friend too. Thank you for all the help and keep it up." (Kathleen Nizeti-Panebianco)

"I do TRY to do the monthly challenges on the calendar; sometimes I am really successful, sometimes not so successful, but this month with the Free Food Challenge, I am confident I am fairly successful! I have been planting herbs from the bargain department of a nursery I visit and have been very pleased with the result, I have sweet basil, lemon basil, thyme, lemon thyme, parsley, garlic chives and oregano growing. When I cook up a casserole I pick a handful of each, chop them all up together and throw them into the pot; what a lovely flavour! Also, I have planted some potatoes and have about four different varieties and about 10 plants that are nearly ready for picking. Hopefully I will get at least a couple of kilos to stretch the budget!" (Ailsa Crane)

"I am thrilled. I will be completing a $21 Challenge week tonight with $9.00 still in my pocket. I just can't believe it. I have a family of four and we still have a freezer and pantry full of food. One of my boys is on a gluten-free diet so I thought I might struggle to provide him enough of his usual gluten-free food but it was fine. I have just lost my job. While I look for a new one, my job at home is to save the amount of my previous pay cheque each week so we are not out of pocket due to my job loss. I reckon I have saved $200 this week on food so I have saved more than my weekly pay this week. Thanks so much Simple Savings, you are a life saver. I am going to ask for a subscription to the Vault and a copy of your book for my upcoming birthday." (Jo Baily Gibson)

"I love this site! I lucked upon it about a month ago and tried the $21 Challenge. I spent a lot more than that for the week but made some big savings. I joined up as a member two weeks ago and have slowly been implementing changes to our grocery spending. Three days ago my husband arrived home with a bunch of red roses. I was a bit taken aback as it was out of character. He announced I had reduced the money we spend on food by over 30% in four weeks! Thank you Simple Savings. You guys are fantastic." (Caroline Wallace)

"Thanks, Fiona. I love your website and keep thinking that I would be saving $17 each year if I didn't re-subscribe but take a look at my budget goals and know that it definitely saves me a lot more than $17. It is very interesting to see what other people do to look after their families. A big thank you." (Michelle Ortiz)

Thank you for sharing your inspirational stories. We really appreciate every single tip we receive every week too, so keep sending them in. As well as helping other members to save money, you could also win yourself a free 12 month Vault membership (value $47) in our weekly Hint of the Week competition!

Before I go, check out Fiona's recent TV appearances! A Current Affair did a story on alternatives to buying meat and groceries at the supermarket. Watch Fiona in action as she shows how the experts shop smart, and meet her favourite butcher, Ian from Buderim Meat Hall here Also, who remembers the 'Debt Street' story on Today Tonight? It featured a group of families who all lived in the same street - and were all in debt. Fiona and the SS team soon got them on the right track to reducing their debt but how are they all faring three years on? Find out if they are still managing to save money here!

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Elbow Grease

'What have you been up to this time?' laughed Sally suspiciously as Hanna plonked a large, heavy box on her desk. 'Yet MORE bananas?!' 'No, not this time,' Hanna grinned. 'I had a huge clean up round the house this weekend with my own home-made cleaning products! It was so much fun. I got a little carried away though so I thought I would bring the extras in for you all to try. Come and have a look!'

The others quickly gathered around Hanna's desk, sniffing, spraying and sampling all the jars and bottles. 'What's this one? Eucalyptus Cleaning Spray - wow that smells really good!' 'Lavender Furniture Polish, just what I need, thanks Hanna!' 'Home-Made Laundry Liquid? You mean you can actually MAKE laundry liquid?' someone asked in amazement.

'You sure can! It's so cheap to make and lasts for ages. Honestly, they're all so easy. I got all the recipes from here,' smiled Hanna, waving a booklet. 'I printed off a copy for everyone if you're interested.' 'Ooh I'll have one! Does it have a recipe for elbow grease? I'm going to need a lot of that!' giggled Sally. 'Not with these cleaners you won't, Sal!' smiled Hanna. 'Take them home and give them a go - I bet you'll love them as much as I do!'

2. September is Spick and Span Month!

People are always impressed when you know how to make your own cleaning products. It's a fantastic skill to have and one which will save you money for the rest of your life! Unfortunately these days it is very rare. You're far more likely to find a spray bottle of 'Rainforest Splash' sitting on the average kitchen bench than a bottle of vinegar. Both bottles will do a brilliant job of getting your kitchen sparkling clean. However, your average 500ml bottle of 'Rainforest Splash' will set you back around $4.00, whereas a 500ml bottle of vinegar generally costs under a dollar. In addition, that same bottle of vinegar will last you around four times longer as you need to use so much less. This means, when you finally run out of your $1 bottle of vinegar, you would have needed to spend $16 to get the same amount of 'Rainforest Splash'. When you think about how many bottles of cleaning products like this the average household goes through in a year, the savings really add up.

Cleaning products are a huge industry - but think about it. Where did the manufacturers of today get the idea to add baking soda and orange oil to their chemical blends 'for added cleaning power'? From their old fashioned, non-chemical counterparts! So this month we want you to give them a go. Take control back from the supermarket and have a go at making your own easy peasy and effective cleaning products. After all, how much do you REALLY want to pay for water?

All the information you need to get started is right here, in this cleaning tipsheet.

Whenever Penny and Fiona give a library talk this is always the booklet everybody clamours after. Why? Because the recipes WORK. Because people want to save money and learn a new skill. Because they want to have natural products in their home and not have to worry about the baby getting hold of the toilet cleaner.

The cheapest way to feel really healthy and wealthy is to get your house spotless. Make everything shine. Making the home you live in look special makes YOU feel special. Give these recipes a go and you will never look back. They are so easy - and we promise you that cleaning with vinegar will not leave your home smelling like a fish and chip shop!

3. This Month's Competition: Calling All Cleaning Sceptics!

If you've never tried making your own cleaning products before, now is the time! We want to prove to everyone just how fantastic they are. So, take the bull by the horns, learn a new skill and you could win a cash prize at the same time! Choose a recipe (or more, as many as you like!) from our tip sheet or cleaning booklet, give it a go and share your experience with us. How well did they work? What was your previous opinion of home-made cleaning products? Has this now changed and if so, how? What was the best (or worst!) thing you discovered? There are cash prizes of $100 to be won for first prize and four runner-up prizes of $50 for the best stories. Happy cleaning - and don't forget to enter our competition here!

4. Hidden Gems Competition Winner

Our Hidden Gems directory is designed to help members find it easier to source the best deals in their area. Whenever you come across a real gem of a store, enter it in our Hidden Gems directory and you could be in to win our monthly prize of $100 cash! This is our way of saying thank you for helping other members save by sharing your knowledge. The more information you can give us, the better your chance of winning. This month's winner is Georgiou's Confectionery as nominated by Leah Howe****. Read her entry to see what makes them such a great example of a Hidden Gem.

Georgiou's Confectionery, 147 New Canterbury Road, Petersham NSW -

Georgiou's Confectionery is a family business with a real family feel. In this Hidden Gem you are surrounded by all of your favourites, old and new, of confectionery and chocolate at unbelievable prices. With super specials on for Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas this is definitely the factory outlet to visit to get inspired.

Georgiou's stock everything from old time favourites that my parents and grandparents used to have when they were kids, like aniseed chalks, to what I enjoyed as a kid - think sherbet lollipops and push-up pops - to everything new and international like Junior Mints, War Heads and chocolate liquors. Never short on the unusual confectionery items such as marzipan and carob, this Hidden Gem is a must visit.

I usually visit just because I feel like some Red Vines or Musk Sticks or to pick up a treat for my partner - such as $3.00 for a packet of Hershey's dark chocolate kisses, what an amazing bargain! But it is also a great place to pick up some fantastic birthday, Christmas and anniversary presents.

The owners are friendly and helpful and more than happy to talk about what's in stock and what's coming in.

Although it is a 1000 square metre factory outlet, the feel is of a warm, friendly corner store from that gorgeous time long ago when $0.20c bought you the most amazing array of lollies. Granted, these days you need more than $0.20c, but for $5.00 you can be walking away from Georgiou's with quite a variety of treats. They also have a free gift wrapping service!

Congratulations on being this month's winner Leah, and a huge pat on the back to Georgiou's for providing consistently outstanding customer service and value for money! You can enter your own Hidden Gems into our monthly competition here. Thank you and good luck!

5. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog', and get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Simply Blessed (Mum of 9) for this extract from her blog Saving Pounds in the UK. As you might guess, she and her family live in England where they are currently enjoying summer - including lots of yummy summer food!

Celebrating Free Food Month - A Month of Strawberries!

I would like to share with you about some of our free food this month. We receive a weekly delivery of several crates of organic strawberries every year 'free' for a whole month! I realise that this is probably cheating a bit as I didn't actually do the hard work of growing, weeding and harvesting myself. However, I did start the process by providing the very first strawberry plant.

It all started in the 80's at the 'County Agricultural Show' (gosh that makes me sound really old) I was given some pocket money to spend at the show and I found two things that I was interested in spending my money on. One choice was a punnet of strawberries and a small pot of clotted cream and the other was a very healthy looking strawberry plant in a black pot. So I stood there looking at my money and thinking out the pro's and cons of them both. I could buy the punnet of strawberries and pot of cream for a nice tea for my parents and myself to share which would soon be forgotten about. Alternatively, I could buy the strawberry plant and give it to my green fingered dad to plant in our garden and enjoy the benefits of it year after year.

I chose to spend my money that day on the strawberry plant. Right, now all I had to do was carry it around with me at the show for the rest of the day, then take it on the bus with me until I got home. I still remember that day very well, trying not to let my precious plant get squashed and the smell of the fresh soil and of course, the scorching heat that I feared would wither it, and my 'friend', (who incidentally had spent all her money on a fresh hot crepe which was gone in a couple of minutes), was very obviously sniggering at the sight of me when she saw me sit on the bus with a pot plant sitting on my lap.

Finally, I got it home in one piece, hurray! I showed my treasure to my mum who was pleasantly surprised by my choice and I waited excitedly for my dad to come home from work. He finally came and I proudly showed him my new purchase for our family garden, he looked then he LAUGHED! He laughed and said; "One plant? One plant! We won't get many strawberries from one plant, we will have to go to the garden centre and get some more." I was a bit taken back at his reaction, I hadn't expected him to laugh but at least he planted it and we soon got several more plants to keep it company. The strawberries were really yummy and we had several meals from them that summer, with cream of course.

They were so successful that Dad bought more plants the next year and even more the year after, until we were planting a whole vegetable patch just with strawberries. They lasted us a whole month and we gave lots away to family or friends too, as we couldn't manage to eat them all. Some years my mother made strawberry jam and we always put some in the freezer for the winter months. So how do we get our 'free' strawberries I can hear you ask? I do apologise for waffling on so but the answer is of course, my dad!

My now elderly dad still grows his strawberry patch in the same tradition that I helped him start in the 80's. Only, now my mum has grown old and has dementia, so she is unable to make jam or even freeze the strawberries. There are far too many berries for the two of them to eat and they don't want to fill their freezer up with strawberries, so they give most of them to us. Our family of eleven manage to eat lots of meals for a whole month, with sugar and cream of course, but not just clotted cream, actually we usually have single or double cream as it is runny and goes further to feed a crowd. We also give some to my in-laws and we make pots and pots of yummy jam which lasts us for several months just for the price of the preserving sugar.


I am including some pictures so that you can see just how large organic strawberries can be. They are so much bigger than most of our supermarket ones here in the UK. In order to demonstrate some idea of scale I have put on a picture of the strawberry in a hand and another one of a smaller strawberry beside a huge one. Most of my dad's strawberries were very large, juicy and really yummy.

My young daughter also likes to show her creative side and did some art with some of the strawberries before we ate them!

Congratulations Simply Blessed, what a mouthwatering blog! To read more from them, or any of our other members' blogs, click here

6. Best of the Forum: A Cleaning Frenzy

Our Simple Savings members are wonderful at saving on expensive cleaning products by using their own home-made equivalents. Have a look at some of these excellent Forum discussions to inspire you to don your rubber gloves and hunt out those dusty and neglected nooks in your home!

Come clean with me, let's clean, let's clean away

Onwards and Upwards has had enough! After a run of bad luck her house is a bomb - but she has a plan to get back on track. Join in her cleaning mission and get your place up to scratch!

Home-made cleaner is the HOTTEST stain-remover around!

If removing stains from clothing is an ongoing and expensive battle, this thread is a must-read! Find out how you can save a fortune on super clean clothes.

Musty smell in wool

Marilyn loves everything about the gorgeous hand-knitted cardigan she's been given - everything except the musty smell that is. Fortunately our clever members come to the rescue with some tried and true tips!

Soapnut powder! Yep, powder!

Who needs harsh chemical soaps when you can have a natural alternative made from the soapnut fruit? Find out more about this wonder product in this interesting discussion.

Natural solutions

Whether you want to clean stained coffee cups or remove sticky tape from your wallpaper, you'll find a natural and effective solution to this and much more in this gem of a thread!

7. Best of the Vault: Squeaky Clean

Everyone loves the feeling of a sparkling clean house. This feel-good sensation is simply doubled when you use your own, home-made, chemical-free cleaning products. Here are some brilliant tips from our fantastic Vault to help you get your home spick and span in no time!

Clean cheaply using these nine products

For all my cleaning requirements, I use generic dishwashing detergent, methylated spirits, bleach and olive oil, as well as eucalyptus and lavender oils, a glass scraper, newspaper and steel wool. I don't spend a fortune on fancy and expensive cleaning items, and I can't calculate how much money this has saved me over 30-plus years of marriage.

These are my tips for cleaning various items in the house:

Oven cleaning - use steel wool and detergent. You might need to leave it on for a little while, but it will still clean well.

Furniture polishing - use olive oil and lavender (or your favourite oil). Apply with a soft cloth, leave for 10 minutes or so, then buff with another soft cloth (old singlets are great for this).

Washing floors - a small amount of detergent and methylated spirits will do the job - the spirits help the floors to dry quickly.

Cleaning windows - use hot water and methylated spirits. Once the window is dry, polish with crumpled newspaper. The printing ink makes windows sparkle.

Cleaning shower recess - a glass scraper removes soap scum from glass (it won't scratch). Finish with a quick wipe over with a scourer and soapy water and then rinse. Mould can be removed by spraying with diluted bleach. Rinse after five minutes.

Toilet cleaning - use diluted bleach. If stains are bad, full-strength bleach can be put into the bowl and left for a short while before brushing.

General cleaning - eucalyptus is an antiseptic. Add a few drops to hot water and wipe over bench tops and vanities for a nice fresh-smelling room.

The list of cleaning ideas goes on and on.

The initial total cost of ingredients would be no more than $20, depending upon where you shop. The detergent is the main item I have to replace. With the others, I use such a small amount that I usually replace them only every year or even less. For example, I have used only a quarter of the olive oil that I bought two years ago. Even though I have timber kitchen cupboards and hutch, timber display cabinets and a timber dining table, I don't need to use much to keep them looking good.

Contributed by: Sheila Longden

Steam clean your microwave - no chemicals required

A jug of water is all you need to clean your microwave. Place it in the microwave and set it to high for six minutes, then let the boiled water sit for 15 minutes in the microwave. The steam build-up will loosen all the grime, allowing you to simply wipe it away. No chemicals required!

Contributed by: Kerri Ahomiro

Common sense cleaning will save you buckets

Save hundreds of dollars in cleaning around the house!

Here are some fun, clever and interesting ideas to help you save on four precious resources - your time, your money, our power and our water - while still having a reasonably clean house.

You can easily tie in these ideas with the many great ideas already in the Simple Savings Vault, and the money you save each year can be used for rewarding family members, or saved up towards a special night out. You really will save if you do some, or all, of the following:

  1. First, really lower your standards - if you clean the house once a week, go to once a fortnight. If you are already cleaning fortnightly, go to monthly. Don't feel bad about it either!
  2. Don't be as fussy - there will be dust under the bed long after you are dead and gone!
  3. Don't buy specialised cleaning products for every job - either go environmental (just use vinegar, bi-carb soda, methylated spirits or soda water) or choose a maximum of three cleaning products that will do all jobs. For instance, dish washing liquid will wash a tiled floor just as well as a specialised floor-cleaning product.
  4. Always sweep patios and verandas with a broom - never use the water from a running hose to clean these areas. If you need to clean an outside area, use recycled water in a bucket.
  5. Learn to dust as you go - use one of those polishing gloves or the sleeve of an old pyjama top, and dust as you talk on the telephone. Wooden furniture does not need to be highly polished every week or fortnight - buy a special wood polish if you need to, but make it last by polishing wood furniture only once every two or three months.
  6. Make your own polishing and wash cloths by cutting up suitable old garments - pyjamas or nappies for instance. This saves on buying expensive products like Chux.
  7. Always keep several small bottles of fizzy mineral water in the pantry for taking stains out of carpets. Much cheaper than stain remover!
  8. Use home-brand cleaning products - but only if they perform as well as the brand-name products.
  9. Tie in serious spring cleans around special events - involve everyone - offer rewards and incentives.
  10. Encourage family members to 'clean-up' as they go - offer rewards or incentives to make this happen.
  11. Assign children (if they are old enough) and your spouse one or two rooms (depending on age and work commitments) in the house each - rotate rooms for fairness -and make it their responsibility for cleaning and tidying these rooms using the saving ideas. Make this a competition, and offer rewards for the best room or rooms.
  12. Do not wash bath towels and face washers every day - amazingly many people do - this is a big waste of time, power, cleaning products and, more importantly, our precious water! Have two sets of towels and face washers for each family member - mark with their name and assign one set to last for at least a fortnight. Make everyone responsible for hanging their own towels on the line, every day, to dry. Also, have at least one set of towels marked 'guest'.
  13. In winter, change and wash the sheets/pillowcases on the beds monthly, in summer you might like to do it fortnightly - but weekly is definitely too often, unless special circumstances are involved.
  14. Learn to iron only the real essentials - that is, the clothes that show - this saves on power, distilled water and ironing sprays. Never iron items like underwear, socks, pyjamas, sheets, pillowcases, bath towels, or tea-towels. Only iron tablecloths for special occasions.
  15. Declare one day a week, a fortnight, or a month, as a bath/shower free day. Offer rewards for the family member who racks up the most shower free days over a period of time.
  16. Only wash the dishes once a day, or every second day if you have enough dishes - learn to rack and stack 'em either on the sink or in the dishwasher.
  17. If you are cooking or cleaning in the kitchen - fill the sink with a small amount of warm soapy water for washing your hands as you cook or clean.
  18. Encourage everyone to wash hands using cold water - this can be a hard habit to break but it's worth it. Again, use rewards if you have to - until it comes naturally. This saves power and water - especially in winter, as the inclination to linger over the job vanishes if cold water is the only option!
  19. Try to always clean using a bucket of water or recycled water - use buckets to collect the water used to get the shower hot enough or from running the kitchen tap to wash up. This fresh water is usually totally wasted! Never clean while running a tap.
  20. If you are going to clean the bath - put the plug in while you shower and wash the bath with the water saved, before you get out of the bath!
  21. Wash the car less often - once every three or six months say - and when you do, use buckets of water collected from the washing machine cycles. Don't buy expensive car washing detergent - dish washing liquid will do. And remember to park the car on the lawn and rinse quickly and sparingly with the hose or leave it in the rain to rinse!
  22. Clean the wheely bin once or twice a year - save up the dregs of cleaning products, add recycled water - tip into bin and use an old broom (keep just for this) to scrub out - turn it upside down to drain.

You might find some of these ideas a little confronting, but common sense is the key and there will be times when some of these ideas will not always be applicable.

I am unable to determine exactly how much I have saved over the year, but I estimate I have saved between $300 and $500 on the cost of cleaning products, power and water by following these simple savers. Good luck!

Contributed by: Jennifer Lydon

Making cleaning a family activity saves $1560

We have turned cleaning our house into a family event, saving ourselves $1560 a year on paying a cleaner. We decided we would spend one hour every Saturday morning doing the cleaning. We sit down at a family meeting on Friday nights with our home-made pizza and draw the cleaning jobs out of two jars, one for the adults and one for the children. We have already decided to spend $560 on having fun family adventures over Christmas, and the rest will go towards a holiday. As the whole family will benefit, we are all committed to it.

Contributed by: Anita Stokes

Cleaning the shower can be a team effort!

I'm saving on time and frustration when cleaning my bathroom by enlisting the help of the whole family! Cleaning the shower has never been one of my favourite jobs around the house and the longer I leave it the bigger the job becomes. However, I've now come up with two ways of making the job SO much easier.

Instead of enduring the weekly nightmare of cleaning all the walls and floors of the shower I have broken this 'big' job into smaller parts. Because a shower usually has five surfaces (four walls and one floor) for five nights a week when I have my shower I clean one part. For four nights I clean one of the walls and on the fifth night I tackle the floor. I keep a sturdy brush and a bottle of Jif handy in the shower and just scrub away for a couple of minutes. Now the shower is always clean and I'm no longer exhausted!

Secondly, to keep the glass screen sparkling and free of watermarks throughout the week I've asked all family members to wipe the glass dry using their towel once they've finished drying themselves. (I've stuck a nice note on the outside of the screen to remind them which they see as they're about to step out of the shower!) It only takes seconds and the results are amazing. The glass is now sparkling clean!

The 'dry while in the shower cubicle' rule has also had the knock-on effect of keeping the whole bathroom in a much more respectable state because all our family members are drying themselves inside the shower cubicle. We now no longer have puddles all over the bathroom floor and soaking wet bathmats!

Contributed by: Galligina

Extra tips for Vault Members

Our loyal and valuable Vault members are a source of inspiration to us. They are an absolute goldmine of clever tips, ideas and hints to help us all really stretch our dollars further. We'd like to say 'thank you' for joining and helping us make Simple Savings such a fantastic resource. Here are some extra tips just for you!

Use baby oil to clean stainless steel Contributed by: Lisa Barchard

Citrus savings are sweet! Contributed by: Erica Wilson

Clean dishwashers with tartaric acid Contributed by: Robyn Dundas

Clean oven safely with washing soda Contributed by: Trish S

Acidic orange gives concrete a run for its money Contributed by: Joan Mancuso

Bright and white washing Contributed by: Kaye King

8. Cooking with Mimi: Kidney Bean Kievs and Lemony Tuna Salad

There are three things that I find in the back of my pantry every single time I do a pantry clean out. Tinned red kidney beans, tinned tuna, and rings of black, sticky stuff of unknown origin. I have no idea what this sticky stuff of unknown origin is, although I suspect someone pouring honey or golden syrup straight from the jar when they're in a baking frenzy, and neglecting to remove any stray gloops from the jar's edge, might be the culprit. Is that me? I'm not saying, but let's just say the evidence is incriminating given I'm the only one in the family that actually bakes!

Okay, so the rings are removed with some lovely home-made eucalyptus cleaner and the pantry contents are replaced faithfully. But heavens above, what's to be done with all those tins of beans and tuna?

Well, these Kidney Bean Kievs are mouth-wateringly more-ish, and will forever banish Kidney Bean Fear (KBF) at your house. Serve them up with some leafy greens and keep everyone guessing on the main ingredient. Shhhh... I won't tell if you don't!

Red Kidney Bean Kievs

Makes 6 substantial serves


  • Large non-stick frypan
  • Large colander (strainer)
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Small mixing bowl
  • 2 small bowls, additional
  • Fork
  • Cling wrap
  • Plate for refrigerating the kievs
  • Food processor or potato masher
  • Thin egg slice/spatula
  • Paper towels or clean tea towels for draining the cooked kievs
  • Dinner plates for serving


  • 2 x 400g tins red kidney beans
  • 6 slices bread
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or 1/2 tsp dried garlic granules
  • 1 tsp smoky paprika
  • 1 tsp dried onion flakes or one small onion, diced
  • Seasoning to taste
  • 1 cup fine breadcrumbs
  • Oil for pan frying
  • Steamed rice and leafy vegetables to serve


Mix your butter or margarine with your garlic. Spread a sheet of cling wrap, about the size of an A4 page, on your bench. Pile the garlic butter into the middle of your cling wrap, and with the wrap around it, roll your butter into a little cigar shape. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pour your kidney beans and their liquid into your colander and rinse under running cold water until they stop foaming. Then put the colander full of beans on the sink to drain well for a minute or two. Once drained, put the beans into your food processor or large mixing bowl. Process or mash them thoroughly until they form a thick paste.

If you are using a potato masher, and not a food processor, you now need to cut your bread into teeny, tiny cubes with a sharp knife. This makes them easier to mash into your bean paste.

Add two of your eggs, your bread cubes or slices, smoky paprika and onion and mix it all well to combine. Use clean, damp hands in your bowl to really squish it and mould it into a smooth paste if you're not using a food processor. Season to taste.

Crack your last egg into one of the small bowls and add your fine breadcrumbs to the other. Beat the egg with a fork.

Set up your plate for refrigerating the kievs on the bench nearby.

Remove your garlic butter from the refrigerator, and cut it into six round discs.

Tip your bean mixture from the food processor into your large mixing bowl. Divide your mixture into six roughly similar sized balls and keep them in your bowl.

Take a ball of bean paste mixture in your clean, damp hands, and flatten into a patty the size of your hand. Take a disc of garlic butter, and place it in the middle of your patty. Then carefully mould your bean patty around the butter by folding the edges into the middle, and forming back into a burger like shape. Continue with your other bean paste balls until the mixture is used up.

Now take each of your patties, dunk them into the beaten egg, then into the breadcrumbs. Toss them around in the crumbs until they are thoroughly coated. Once they're all crumbed, you can pop the kievs into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, just to firm them up.

Heat your frypan over a hotplate heated to medium. Coat the bottom of the pan with oil. Pop the kievs in, and gently pan fry them, for about three minutes each side, turning once.

While your kievs are cooking, prepare your dinner plates for serving. I like to serve these with steamed brown rice and some beet or other green salad leaves.

Drain your kievs on some absorbent paper or a clean tea towel, and serve on your waiting plates.

The questions will come thick and fast... 'Mmm... what's this?'... 'Yummy, what's in these?'... 'Is this a new rissole recipe, Mum?'. You'll just give a Mona Lisa smile and keep that secret to yourself!

Lemony Tuna Salad

Now those tins of tuna are a bit trickier. I find that most times, unless I dress tuna up and call it 'chicken', nobody here wants to eat it but me! Thankfully this recipe comes to the rescue, often as a tasty lunch or light dinner, and has enough flavours other than tuna, that it's palatable for the whole family. It also uses up all those odds and sods from packets of nuts, seeds and dried fruit, so it's a real pantry cleanout winner! Be sure to make the extra effort with the presentation. As you can see, it's worth it!

Lemony Tuna Salad

Serves 4

Equipment required:

  • 4 serving bowls
  • Citrus zester or sharp vegetable peeler
  • Sharp knife
  • Non-stick frypan
  • Small saucepan
  • Can opener
  • Sieve or colander
  • Small bowl
  • 1 saucer
  • Juicer
  • Cup
  • Measuring cup
  • Jar with lid to mix dressing


  • 1 x 185g tin tuna
  • 1 x 400g tin chick peas
  • 4 handfuls leafy veg like lettuce, rocket or baby spinach
  • 4 tbsp craisins (dried cranberries), raisins or sultanas
  • 4 tsp pine nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup hot tap water
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp sugar


Put the craisins or other dried fruit into your cup. Mix the hot tap water with the honey, then pour this over your craisins. This plumps them up, makes them super juicy, glossy and succulent and enhances the colour.

Zest your lemon with a zesting tool or skim the skin off, leaving the white pith behind, with a sharp vegetable peeler. You'll then need to slice the peel really thinly with your sharp knife. Set this aside on your saucer. Now cut the lemon in half and juice it, pouring the juice into your empty jar for the dressing. Add your olive oil, lemon zest and your sugar. Shake well to blend and pop it into your refrigerator to chill slightly while you assemble your individual salads.

Half fill the small saucepan with water and put it on your hotplate heated to high. Bring your water to the boil and gently lower the eggs into it. Reduce the hotplate to 'low' and boil your eggs for six minutes. Now have a clean bowl at hand. Remove your eggs with a spoon and pop them into your waiting bowl. Drain the boiling water from the saucepan, refill it with cold tap water and pop the eggs back in to cool them. This maintains the yellow of your yolks, preventing that greyish ring around the edges of the yolks when you slice them.

Open your tin of tuna and tip the contents into the sieve or colander. Stand it in the sink to drain well then tip it into your clean bowl.

While your eggs are cooling, toast your nuts or seeds. Have your saucer at the side of your stove ready to hold the toasted nuts. Then put your non-stick pan over a medium-high heat. Toss your nuts into the pan and stir them for about a minute until they're just starting to turn golden. Yum! I love the smell of toasted nuts. Sort of golden and toasty and warm all at the same time. Tip them out on to your saucer.

Now, all is at the ready, and you've had no more than 10 minutes of preparation. So it's time to make your salads. Peel your boiled eggs and slice them thinly with your sharp knife or use an egg slicer.

Drain your dried fruit and pop back into the cup.

Open the tin of chick peas and drain it as well.

Into your waiting serving bowls, pile a handful of fresh, crispy, green salad leaves. Make a little hollow in the middle of the leaves and spoon 2-3 dessertspoons of chick peas into each hollow.

Pile about 2 dessertspoonfuls of tuna carefully on top of the chick peas.

Sprinkle the juicy succulent craisins around the edges decoratively.

Arrange the sliced egg around one section of the salad, overlapping the slices prettily.

Top with the toasted nuts or seeds and drizzle with the tantalising lemon dressing.

Now, some of my family prefers an all-in approach with this dish, mixing it all together before hoeing in ravenously. I prefer to delicately pick and choose each flavour individually. But no matter how it's consumed, this could quite possibly be the dish that will make your family ask 'Please, is it tuna night tonight?'

9. Penny's Blog: Everyday Triumphs

August 17th

Have just checked the bank balance and it's not going to be an easy month, to be sure. With $770 due to come out in rates and $2000 in tax before the end of the month there's not going to be much left in the kitty to pay even the usual bills. On top of that, what with moving house last year I didn't receive a notice in the mail like usual to say that my car registration was due to expire. Hence it did - back in June. I use my car so little that I had no idea until I parked in town for 20 minutes at the weekend and returned to find some horrible council man had attached a $200 fine to my windscreen. I know there's never a good time but WHY do these things always happen when you're really trying hard to save?!

I was really surprised to receive so many messages of support and encouragement from SS members after my last blog. It was very humbling and hugely appreciated. I mean, I'm only human and I thought it far better to be honest than pretend to be perfect - but I know there are people who expect me to be and understandably so. Take Alex for example - 'You're Penny Wise for goodness sake! I mean, you should have like $40,000 just sitting in the bank or something!' he berated me the other day when I admitted to getting declined. True, very true, and for a long time I did indeed enjoy the luxury of a nice, healthy looking bank balance. But then we bought a house - a more expensive one than the one we had, AND accepted a $100,000 drop on our own asking price. That sort of thing kind of eats up your savings. And, when you don't have any savings left and then go swanning around for a month or two like Lord and Lady Muck you soon find yourself up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

I'll admit, I'm kind of worried. I don't know if we'll be able to hold things together this month without going into overdraft - and if we do, by how much? I'm almost too scared to fill in my Bill Payment System to see! But sticking my head in the sand is not going to make it go away. We have to know what we're dealing with. And we have a good relationship with our bank. We have an exemplary record and I know they would help us if we asked. But I would really rather not have to, so let's hope it doesn't come to that. On the positive side I am REALLY enjoying pulling out all the saving stops! To be honest I thought I was already pretty conscientious at most of the everyday stuff but it's so easy to save much more when you really make a conscious effort. Every cent I don't spend, every light I switch off, every squashy apple I turn into apple muffins feels like a wee triumph. The savings are everywhere! OK, so the bank balance may not be looking the healthiest but at least I know I am doing my utmost to prevent it from dwindling any further, which makes the situation a little less bearable. It gives me great comfort to know that all these little extra things we're doing are really helping us to keep more money in the bank. Imagine what sort of state we would be in if we didn't know all these extra tricks!

One saving area I have been sadly neglecting is making my own cleaning products. Which is dreadful really because I've been doing it since 2004 so why stop now? No excuses really - if anything, just out of laziness. I remember when I stopped though, it was when we moved. Things were so hectic that when we arrived at our new place and I was cleaning up a storm I told myself it was easier just to go and grab a few cleaning products from the supermarket than take the time to make them. Excellent logic, Penny! Making them in your own home where all the ingredients already are takes approximately two minutes, yet you thought it was easier to get in your car, drive to the supermarket, spend a small fortune on chemical cleaners which smell so artificial and overpowering you have to vacate the room, queue up at the checkout and drive home again. Better still, you kept doing it for the next NINE MONTHS?! Sometimes I do have to wonder what planet I'm on (Noel stop nodding your head please, I know you are as you're reading this!).

So no more stinky bought cleaners for me. Best of all, I didn't even have to go out and buy anything whatsoever to start making my own cleaners again; everything I needed was already at home. It's back to my home-made 'spray n wipe' for the kitchen using a squirt of washing up liquid, a couple of teaspoons of baking soda and a few drops of whatever essential oil I feel like in a spray bottle filled up with water. For the bathroom, toilets and laundry I love the 'home mixed household cleaner' which to this day is one of the most popular all time SS tips with its lovely fresh smell and unbeatable cleaning power. Floors get washed with hot soapy water and a dash of methylated spirits in the bucket. Forgive me for sounding a bit weird but they feel like old friends after all this time! At least tea tree smells like tea tree and eucalyptus smells like eucalyptus and lemon smells like lemon. In comparison, after moving to the beach I can categorically say that the bright blue 'Ocean Breeze' stuff you get in a bottle (and to my shame I was using) smells absolutely NOTHING like a real ocean breeze!

August 2011

10. Homeopathy Corner: Specialist?

Fran is both a brilliant homeopath and a brilliant teacher. She regularly does seminars explaining how homeopathy works and one of the questions she is regularly asked is; do homeopaths specialise in certain fields? Are there fertilty homeopaths, digestive homeopaths or autism homeopaths?

In this month's article Fran answers this question in detail. To read it go to:-'s-story---my-weird-symptoms

11. From Last Month: Old Fashioned Floor Polish

Last month Denise asked: "Does anyone have a good old fashioned recipe for floor polish?"

This request proved somewhat of a tricky one! It seems these kind of recipes are few and far between; however, we hope the suggestions below will be helpful to Denise and anyone else wanting to give old fashioned floor polish a go!

The secret to a bee-yootiful floor!

For a real old fashioned style floor polish, try using beeswax. It's slow going, but it works!

Contributed by: Kaylene Holmes

Make your own floor polish

Ever wanted to make your own old fashioned floor polish? Give this recipe a go! Use this polish on resilient floor coverings - it dries to a shine without buffing and isn't as slippery as a waxed floor.

This recipe makes around a litre:

  • 910ml denatured alcohol - to make it 'keep'
  • 4 tbsp gum Arabic
  • 60ml turpentine or white spirit
  • 16 tbsp orange shellac

Place all the ingredients in a bucket and stir until the gum Arabic dissolves. To use, wash the floor and then apply the polish with a cloth, sponge or mop. Leave it to dry for 30 minutes before walking on it. After 2-3 applications, strip the old layers off with hot water and detergent and start afresh. Store the polish in a tightly covered jar.

Contributed by: Julie B

Give hardwood floors a lick of Tung

You don't actually state the type of floor but if it is hardwood I would recommend Tung oil. It is a bit expensive but gives a nice sheen without being slippery.

Contributed by: Rodney Munro

Easy floor polish recipe

This simple recipe for floor polish comes from the website

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 10 drops essential oil (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and apply to floor, then wipe clean. Easy!

Contributed by: Samantha Moon

12. This Month's Help Request: Life on the Move

This month Lynley asks:

"I am a single lady, just myself and my small dog. I am looking at buying and living in a 7m bus, I am too young to retire and want to explore my own country while still working at my chosen profession - funeral director. Do any of your readers/contributors live in mobile homes or buses and how do they cope, particularly if they are not staying in one place? Just a thought as this is quite an inexpensive way to live but you don't have the luxury of ground to plant a garden."

If you have any tips or suggestions which can help Lynley, please send them in to us here.

13. Savings Story: Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain!

The best tip that I would give Simple Savers is actually very simple and seems obvious at first. Become a fully paid up member and read other members' blogs! I know that we can get a lot from this site for free, as I also did at first before I finally opened my wallet. There was nothing to lose as the promise is there to get your money back if it isn't right for you. I can testify that it is well worth the money to join Simple Savings as a member because it not only gives you advice but is a key motivational tool.

I joined the members' blogosphere here in early July and I just love sharing things with other members that I have found save money - but even more to read other people's findings too. We are a proper community that has something in common and we leave encouraging comments or useful tips and advice on each other's posts. It is the first thing I look forward to in the morning when I switch my computer on and the last thing I check in the evening when shutting down for the night.

It doesn't matter how many books or tips you read or how great your goals are, if you can't put it into action and keep it up long term you will just give up and feel bad. Motivation is needed and that comes from within you but you will more than likely need support from other human beings. Who better to help than other Simple Savers who are trying to do the same thing that you would like to do and are actually succeeding!

The tips in the Vault are great, I still haven't read them all but have read many of them. I will keep reading them, as and when I have some spare time, as it is worth it. You never know when the perfect tip for your situation will come up.

The Savings Forum is great too. I look in there every day and add to threads and have even started a few - it's great fun and very relevant to our situations. We cried with The Wez's when they lost their baby girl and we rejoice when people manage a 'no spend' month, pay back their debts or buy a house. It is good to share life with friends.

Simple Savers are a community and we all need each other. If you join, you will enrich our lives too, as well as being supported and motivated by us. So that is my tip, to 'join Simple Savings as a fully paid member and use the facilities here to your advantage'. If there are any members who have paid but don't regularly use the site I would like to encourage you to try it again; read the tips, visit the blogs and look at some recent threads in the Forum because that is what you are paying for. :-)

Contributed by: Margaret White

14. So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen and Goodbye :-D

Wow! Didn't we manage to cram a whole bunch of money saving ideas into this month's newsletter? I hope you really enjoyed it and have been inspired to try something new.

I am always keen to receive your feedback about the kinds of things you want to see more of in the newsletter and those things you would rather we leave off. Drop me a line next time you're on our website. If you have enjoyed this month's newsletter, why not forward it to your friends to help them save money too? Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page?

Best of luck with your Spick and Span challenge. See you next month!

All the best,
Penny :-)

August 2013 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - August 2013

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Here's to a Mixed Salad!
  2. Take a Garden for a Test Drive!
  3. Penny Wise: Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back
  4. Best of the Vault: Home Grown
  5. Best of the Forum: Spring is in the Air!
  6. Best Members' Blog: And Then the SS Way of Life Just Clicked...
  7. Hidden Gems: Logan Food Gardeners
  8. Cooking with Mimi: Chilli Con Carne... Make it Light and Fresh With Greens From the Garden
  9. Claire’s Corner: Cashing in on the Spring Clean
  10. 50c Indulgences: Acres of Diamonds
  11. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Prepping the Patch for Spring


How are you going? Here is your August newsletter. What happened to July you may ask. It is [ducks for cover] still on its way. If you would like to find out what the mysterious new project is, drop in to the Simple Savings Forum where members are busy testing it ahead of the big launch.

We also love receiving your emails and Facebook messages. Here are a few of this month's favourites:

"Just when I think I have read, and tried, every money-saving tip, Simple Savings surprises me once again." (Jayne)

"I've just renewed for another year – keep up the great work." (Anne)

"Just wanted to thank you for all the great tips in the Vault. I needed to buy some new dog flea treatment but thought I'd have a look in the Vault first and found a number of great hints to try – natural and inexpensive. Thank you!" (Lee)

Have a great month!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. You can now use PayPal in Ye Olde Shoppe and to renew your Vault subscription.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Here's to a Mixed Salad!

"Good grief, haven’t seen you in gumboots for a while!" Pete stopped in his tracks at the sight of his wife. "What’s the occasion?" "I’m getting out in the garden this weekend. I’ve decided it’s high time we grew more of our own food. Do you know, when I went to Hanna’s yesterday, she was literally just grabbing things out of the garden as we were chatting, then just threw it all together for lunch? I want us to be able to have that too, Pete," Sally explained.

"Hey, no arguments from me!" said Pete. "I think it’s a great idea!" "It will be good to have a project I can really get my teeth into," said Sally. "I’ve got tomato, cucumber, zucchini – even a few seed potatoes to plant!" "Good on you, Love!" Pete grinned. "Would you like me to make you a couple of trellises for your cucumbers and tomatoes to grow up? I’m sure I’ve got some stuff in the shed that might do." "Oh thanks, Love, that would be great!" Sally beamed. She couldn’t wait to get started!

Pete returned a while later with his recycled masterpieces. "Here you go!" he said proudly. "Where have you planted them?" Sally looked around the patch of freshly sown dirt. "Oh heck!" she thought to herself, "I don’t know!" She had been in such an excited hurry to plant everything she forgot to mark each row as she went! Sally took one look at Pete’s excited face and did the only thing she could think of – lie through her teeth. "The cucumbers go over there and the tomatoes there," she pointed randomly. "But I don’t think we’re supposed to put the trellises in yet. We have to wait for the seeds to sprout," she said knowledgeably. "Whatever you say, Sal," Pete smiled. "My wife, a professional gardener! Who would have thought?"

2. Take a Garden for a Test Drive!

Sal might need to work a bit more on her garden know-how, but her enthusiasm is right up there! Sometimes that is the hardest part of any new project; getting motivated. You want to start a garden but the thought of deciding on your patch, making your garden beds, getting manure and deciding what to plant is just too much. It's not that you're not enthusiastic; you just need a bit of inspiration to get you going. Well, we have the perfect way to inspire you – take a garden for a test drive!

Now this doesn't mean putting on camouflage make-up and commando-crawling round your neighbour's pumpkin patch in the middle of the night – because that would be creepy – but we DO have something much more friendly and practical in mind. It's called Community Gardening. A community garden is a garden started and maintained by a group of people who want to share their love of gardening with their community. The first Community Garden started in Melbourne over 30 years ago. Since then, hundreds of groups have found a patch to call their own and started sharing their knowledge with others. Community gardens are a fantastic way to get a bit of dirt under your fingernails and see what all this gardening fuss is about. You don't need to take anything with you but your curiosity, a Thermos and maybe some bickies to share!

Besides the warm fuzzies you get from being part of a community group, community gardening is a perfect way to try out gardening for yourself. It is a fantastic way to meet gardening gurus who can guide you and teach you about gardening first-hand. Community gardens are perfect if you're renting, living in a unit or just don't have the space or ideal spot for a garden. They are wonderful if you are concerned about the upfront expense of building your own garden beds, which can be quite expensive. If time is an issue in your life, community gardening is a perfect way for you to get a bit greener without worrying about fitting planting, watering and maintenance into your busy schedule.

Community gardens are a fantastic resource for first time gardeners who want to learn more. Not only will you have new green friends to help you on your way, many community gardens have workshops and special events where you can pick up even more knowledge. Throw in the possibility of seed-sharing and making new friends – well, it's just a bit irresistible isn't it!

To find community gardens near you, just Google 'community garden' and your location – many are run by councils, community groups, co-ops and so on and it may take a bit of 'digging'. Ask around as well. Can't find one? Start your own:

3. Penny Wise: Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

Wow, I can't believe it's already been a whole month since we moved house! I have to admit, reaching the month milestone was a fantastic feeling. I guess my confidence is still a little shaky from the bank debacle - and there are always people out there who think you are doomed to fail. For the first month I was so terrified I was going to run out of money, I almost had a panic attack every time I spent anything. I lost count of the sleepless nights I had, worrying how I was going to pay this and that. Finally I plucked up courage to check my bank balance and almost fell over to discover I had a lot more money in there than I thought. What a profound lesson Penny - if you don't spend anything it actually stays in your account! Not bad, especially after both my boys' birthdays falling in the same month too!

For a couple of days I was on Cloud Nine. I was a home owner, a she-warrior, a financial whiz! Not only had I got through the first month, I even had savings! I allowed myself to get a little complacent, took the boys out for the day and bought Ali some new shoes, which was a big mistake because the very next day - BANG - in just two bills I was $3000 down. I thought that my legal costs had automatically been taken out by my solicitor at the time of settlement. They hadn't so it was a big shock to receive a bill for more than $1400 that I now had to find! In addition, when I checked my bank balance on the 14th of the month, I believed that my first mortgage payment had already come out on the 8th as was originally scheduled, so it came as another big shock to realise that it hadn't. The bank had moved my payment date to the 26th of the month without telling me. All of a sudden things were not looking quite so rosy - and there were still so many bills coming up!

So, as successful as the first month was, the second is going to be an even tougher challenge. The boys are great, they understand how it is. For the first time I'm really seeing the value of No Spend Month on a personal level and this is what we are going to have to do. I am so, so happy that I have all my Simple Savings skills to help me because it's these that are going to get us through and I am looking forward to making the most of them. I'm very fortunate that I have taken over a garden already full of food, with more to come and this is going to be a huge help. Currently I have lettuces, silverbeet, carrots, strawberries, tamarillos, oranges, lemons, lemonades, mandarins and enough parsley and rosemary to give to the whole town! Ali has always been interested in growing things. When he was tiny he grew tomatoes which were so delicious my friends used to pay him for them! But that was a long time ago and now he has taken on the position of Chief Gardener for the three of us, we both have a lot of learning to do! I'm looking forward to it - if only it would stop raining!

There are plenty of areas we can still improve, such as power. Being the hippy I am, I try and keep the lights off as much as possible once the dinner dishes are done and rely on my salt lamps for lighting at night instead. I've no idea how much it saves but it FEELS more economical! Plus they add a wonderful cosy feel to our little house at night that somehow brings us all together. Liam used to sit upstairs in his room all night but now we all hang out in the lounge together talking and laughing and watching movies and it's lovely. But I need to stop leaving the TV on as background noise to 'keep me company' when I'm working during the day! And getting washing dry in the weather conditions we've had since we moved is pretty much impossible. I've honestly managed to get no more than two or three loads dry naturally in the last five weeks! So frustrating having to use the dryer all the time, not to mention expensive. At the last house I used clothes horses with great success but this house is too compact to use more than just one small one without being a very risky fire hazard! It doesn't help that the washing line isn't in the best place, being stuck down the side of the house where no sunlight seems to reach. Things just HANG there, day after day! In the end I got fed up and bought a length of washing line and strung it up in a better place. Now it just needs to stop raining!

And then there's the age old issue of me just being plain old disorganised. I dread to think how much this dastardly trait has cost me over the years - but I have found something that helps! I had an epiphany at 4.30 the other morning while lying awake convincing myself I had no money. I was wondering how to remind myself how not to forget something important in the morning and it dawned on me - why didn't I download a free shopping list app for my phone? Surely there had to be one? Quite a lot more than one I discovered! I just chose one from NZ supermarket Pak and Save and this works really well for me. Because I'm never without my phone I can instantly add things as I remember them, no more forgetting to write things down or going out and leaving my shopping list still on the fridge! But a great bonus I've found is that not only does it stop me forgetting what IS important, it also helps me to evaluate what ISN'T important. Every time I have to make a trip to town now, I consult my phone list to ensure I'm making the most of my trip - and nine times out of ten I end up wiping off items that I thought were important at the time but on revisiting them, realise they actually aren't important at all!

So I guess you can say I'm trying my best and hopefully my best will keep on getting better. Oh, before I go I must show you one saving I'm rather proud of! Our town has a great 'Buy, Sell, Swap' group on Facebook, which I keep a close eye on. I was looking for a small table to go by the front door but didn't want to spend too much. Then a few days ago I saw a rusty old style telephone table come up. I wouldn't normally have looked twice at it, but something in the way the seller said 'Would look brilliant if it was done up!' made me perk up my ears. The table was only $12 but for me it was a risky purchase. I am the world's least arty-crafty person and the chances of this project going horribly wrong were extremely high! Still, I figured it was pretty hard for this potential piece of scrap to look much worse than it already did, so I handed over $12 and went ferreting in the shed for a can of black spray paint I knew I had. And whaddya know, it WORKED! In just one hour, I had transformed it into something I absolutely loved! Even Liam, who on seeing it said 'What the hell did you buy that for?' saw the new improved version and said 'Wow, that looks awesome, Mum!' Praise indeed from my cynical teen!

Here it is before:


And after!


I reckon that was $12 very well spent! But even so, that was before I was $3000 down. Now the pressure is really on to save harder than I ever have before!

You can now read Penny's blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page or in our Members' Blog section

4. Best of the Vault: Home Grown

Watching something grow is magic, and you don't have to be a Greenfingers OR a magician to make it happen! There are some wonderfully easy ways to get some greenery into your life so why not try some of the tips we've 'weeded' out of the Vault!

Grow your own herbal teas

I am saving heaps on delicious herbal teas by growing what I need to make my own! I love drinking herbal teas but I have found over time they can be quite costly, and more expensive than normal black tea. A closer look at my favourite tea bags revealed that all that is in them is dried herbs! So I planted a few of my favourite herbs in the garden, dry them, and use them in boiling water to make my own herbal teas. Here's how I make some of my favourites:

Chamomile Tea -

Pick the flowers of the chamomile plant, about two tablespoons, and infuse them in a mug of boiling water for five minutes. Strain into a mug and enjoy!

Peppermint Tea -

Pick about two tablespoons of peppermint leaves, and infuse them in a mug of boiling water for five minutes. Strain into a mug - delicious!

This same process applies to all fresh herbs that you would normally have in herbal tea. If you prefer to dry your herbs after picking them, use only half a tablespoon of the dried herbs. So much cheaper than bought tea bags and far more rewarding too!

Contributed by: Christine Croce

Grow your garlic

You know how expensive garlic is! Do you know that you can have enough garlic for the year if you follow this method? Buy a whole garlic bulb cluster from the supermarket, place it in a glass and fill till it covers half the bulb, wait four days for it to show a green shoot, break it up into individual cloves and plant in your garden. Wait till it falls over and you can even leave it in the ground till you want to use it. Saves you so much money. You can dry it, preserve it in brine or add it to your favourite preserves.

Contributed by: Catherine H

Shallots that last a whole year

I now buy only one bunch of shallots (spring onions, scallions) a year. As soon as I buy a bunch, I cut about 2.5 cm from the bottom of the bunch - the part with the roots on it. I then plant the roots either in the garden or in a couple of pots, and just snip off as much as I need for my fried rice, garnish curls and so on. They need very little water and will keep on growing throughout the whole year.

Shallots range in price from just under $1.00 up to $2.79. I used to buy one bunch at least every fortnight. Sometimes you can pick up a limp bunch from the reduced grocery section for around $0.30c. Plant the roots of these as soon as possible.

Contributed by: Liz Spencer

Tips for summer garden savings

I'm trying to grow more food this summer, here are a few of the things I'm doing to help save money along the way:

  1. Instead of buying expensive packets of seed and plants, I used saved seeds from last year to propagate runner beans, dwarf beans, chillies and tomatoes. I planted them in recycled trays from last year using a small bag of seed raising mix.

  2. A tip I got from a gardening blog - soak blue peas (green peas) in water for 24 hours. Fill a wide shallow tray with potting mix and sprinkle over the soaked seeds then cover with a layer of seed raising mix. Pea shoots will grow within days. Then, just cut them off with scissors as you need them in stir-fries, salads and so on.

  3. Use stems from shop-bought watercress and ong choi (an Asian vegie) to propagate new plants in pots. They grow very fast and are delicious in stir-fries and soups.

  4. Buy $1.00 or $1.50 six-packs of lettuce every three or four weeks and plant them. You will have a constant supply of lettuce for the entire summer for about $1.00 a week. Snip off the leaves as you need them. Even if you don't have a garden, you can grow lettuces in pots, grow bags or hanging baskets. It's even cheaper if you propagate your own from seeds!

  5. Recycle containers whenever you can. I make grow bags out of old rice bags.

5. Best of the Forum: Spring is in the Air!

Spring is here! This beautiful time of the year brings beautiful weather and with it, new life – so get out there and start enjoying nature at her best! Here are some great discussions about getting 'green' this time of the year...

Mulching with shredded paper – advice please

It's cheap and easy mulch available to everyone – here are some tips.

Where can I buy a suitable marker for outdoor plants?

Don't do a 'Sally' – know what is where!

Broccoli not producing

Simple Savings members have answers for everything!

Community Garden at Mango Hill

Some more community garden ideas.

6. Best Members' Blog: And Then the SS Way of Life Just Clicked...

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Tinker for her blog on finally 'getting it'!

I came to SS a few years ago with around $28k in personal debt that my DH and I had carelessly accumulated. After reading this site and seeing how far people could stretch their money I went like a bull at a gate to lower our debt. Whilst this started working (went from $28k to $8k) the mindset in our household hadn't changed so we were inevitably on our way back to a downward spiral. I fell off the wagon and we put another $5k on the credit card and added $5k to our personal loan for renovations. Oh, and bought a $1k lounge on interest free.

I could never figure out why we couldn't get ahead - ridiculous I know. There we were with expensive take away in our hands, surrounded by new furniture and brochures for holidays we couldn't afford in front of us saying, "How are we going to pay the rates?"

I had my DD and through cabin fever, boredom, wanting to expand my mind from "What time did I last feed? What time is it now? When was the last time I showered?" I ordered a copy of the Tightwad Gazette. WOW. What a fantastic read. It changed my whole way of thinking about money. I then read books like "The Story of Stuff" and "G Magazine" and started to change my way of thinking in regards to the environment and consumerism. After my brain going into overdrive with excitement and motivation I jumped back onto SS and got hooked on the threads that KEEP me inspired on a daily basis.

We have been living differently for around a month now and I don't feel deprived - I feel inspired. I love to look for things second hand now before we buy anything new. Why put more pressure on the earth's resources for new things, put old things in landfill and waste money when you can pick up beautiful things second hand if you wait/search for the right thing? Just recently my second hand list comprised of dresses, kids’ clothes, dining table and chairs and a beautiful hutch. I wanted a feature wall of photos so I went to the op shop and purchased a bunch of frames in different shapes and sizes and came home and sprayed them all with black spray paint, put pics in them and hung them in a jumbled pattern on the wall. It looks amazing and only cost me around $20 for 13 frames that cover a good chunk of the wall.

I also want our kids to grow up appreciating things. I did a big cull of my DD's toys and will take the overflow to the op shop. DD3 hasn't even noticed the cull. She had so many toys it was out of control - 99% given to her from family and not us. I have stressed to people that I want this Christmas to be a simple one. It's insane in my eyes to give a 3yr old bags and bags of presents. She will be opening one and already looking at what's next. That isn't how it should be. I want her to appreciate every present she receives. I have a feeling I have my work cut out for me on this one.

So this is my first ever blog and it feels great to write this all down. I really feel like I've turned a corner personally and I'm feeling quite chuffed. Thank you SS land :)

Well done Tinker – keep up the great work! You can read more of our members' blogs here.

7. Hidden Gems: Logan Food Gardeners

Our Hidden Gems directory is designed to help members source the best deals in their area. This month's Hidden Gem is Logan Food Gardeners as nominated by Julie Faint.

As part of the Logan Food Gardeners' online community group, you can go to Crop Swapping Groups which happen every couple of months. This is where members get together and either purchase or swap home grown produce. It's brilliant as you can collect fresh home grown produce and also off-load surplus produce that you've grown. There are similar groups in all capital cities and membership to most of them is free.

A good tip is to price fresh produce realistically and also be prepared to swap items, and check what items each Crop Swap sells before you go.


Well done Julie on locating such a fantastic hidden gem and thanks so much for sharing.

8. Cooking with Mimi: Chilli Con Carne... Make it Light and Fresh With Greens From the Garden

It's almost that time of year when we put aside the warming dishes we've enjoyed through winter and embrace the fresh, crisp salads of spring.

But just before we do, I've made over our favourite Mexican meal and lightened it up with fresh herbs and crunchy green vegies. This is served without corn chips, rice or sour cream, making it a health conscious alternative to the usual Mexican fare.

Herbs and vegies like capsicum, chilli, and tomatoes are easy for even the garden novice to grow, and this dish makes good use of these and a couple of other herby favourites, so plant a few kitchen garden basics and you're off and running!

Mimi's Fresh and Green Chilli Con Carne

Serves 6-8

You'll need:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1kg mince (any kind)
  • 1 red capsicum, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tin beans or bean mix, drained and rinsed until it stops frothing
  • 2 large red chillis, deseeded and sliced finely
  • 3-4 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp smoky paprika
  • 1 1/2 cups water

To serve:

  • A handful of snow peas or green beans, topped and tailed
  • A couple of stalks of fresh coriander

Then just:

Spray a large frying pan or wok with the cooking spray and heat over a medium-hot hotplate.

Once hot, add your diced onions, stirring for a minute or two until they turn translucent. Add your mince to the pan. Break it up with a spoon and brown it well.

Remove the pan from the hotplate, and drain the liquids and fat carefully. Return it to the heat.

Add all of the other ingredients except for the snow peas and fresh coriander. Don't be frightened of the cocoa. It adds colour and a depth of flavour in much the same way as fish sauce to Thai food, or anchovies to Italian. It won't make your chilli taste like chocolate, I promise! Just make sure it's unsweetened cocoa and not drinking chocolate.

Stir well to combine and reduce the heat to very low. Allow the chilli con carne to simmer, until most of the liquid has disappeared. Stir regularly to prevent it sticking to the pan.

Taste test and add salt and pepper if you wish.

Serve in bowls, garnished with the snow peas or green beans.

Absolutely delicious and a real taste of spring.


You can discover more of Mimi's creations on the Simple Savings Facebook page.

9. Claire’s Corner: Cashing in on the Spring Clean

Dear Summer… I know that last time we spoke I was all like ‘Leave me alone, you’re smothering me. I need a change. It’s not you, it’s me.’ But I’m sorry. Truly I am. Come back, I’ve changed, I’m cold… I miss you! I just want to feel your warm embrace once more!

Ha. Ever have one of ‘those’ winters when you promise that no matter how hot it gets this summer, you’ll love every moment of it and not complain once about it being too hot! We had an absolute corker last summer. But it really did get too hot with the green hillsides turning brown and the poor animals all desperate for water. By March we were all complaining. However, after standing at the bus-stop in the rain day-in-day-out (and forgetting my umbrella far too often), I am ready to ditch my jacket, boots and wintery scarves to feel the sunshine on my face again!

Every time I walk past my kayak (which sits outside, woefully unused) I get wonderful flashbacks of being out on the water last summer (I kayaked for the first time ever in my life about this time last year… and was hooked!). I can’t wait to get into it again. But we’ve decided we need to get a second kayak (a double) for hubby and daughter. Unfortunately, as the trees round here refuse to grow money, we’ve had to put our thinking caps on about how to raise the funds. But after another weekend of lecturing the kids about cleaning their rooms, it came to me. Time for a spring clean/sell off!

My youngest is at that age where she now has toys and books that are far too young for her, but they’ve been so well-loved that it’s hard to let them go! But I also realise we’re never going to read ‘My First Ballet Class’ again, and that she no longer has an interest in that pony set that she used to love. It also occurred to me, while I was watching hubby do the usual grapple with the swing set as he mowed the lawns, that the kids haven’t actually used the swing set in years! We’ve just become so used to seeing all this ‘stuff’ around, that we forget that we don’t really need it anymore! But there will be someone out there who is looking for a terrific swing/monkey bar set in excellent condition, and there will be a little girl who loves reading about ballet. So this weekend, I’ll be photographing and writing ads for all our ‘loved, but no longer needed stuff’, in an effort to bulk out our ‘kayak account’.

Yep, I love spring. There’s just something about all that new growth and birdsong that makes you realise that there’s a sunny light at the end of the winter tunnel! I’m also chomping at the bit to get my gardening gloves on and transform my boggy, overgrown gardens and get the lawns looking decent again. Although, to be fair, this winter I did manage to keep my vegie garden in business. I planted it out with my favourite greens (silverbeet, spinach and spring onions). And I tried something totally new – kale. It seems to be the latest ‘superfood’ in all the mags, plus my Weight Watchers leader raves about it (oh, 9.3kg down since March by the way… not bad eh?). So I popped a few punnets in and away it went! And I love it! My fave is kale chips – just a little oil and salt on the leaves and bake for about 20 minutes. Even my fussiest child loves them! And considering it costs around $5.00 for a bunch of 4-5 leaves at the supermarket, I’m pretty jolly pleased with kale-growing self!

I even managed to keep a little salad garden going over winter. Rather than plant in the ground, I used some medium-sized plastic pots that had been sitting under the house from years gone by. They’re brilliant – I can move them around in the sun, and it’s much easier to keep the snails out. I’m going to plant four or five pots of salad greens this summer, we go through bags of it and it’s just so expensive. I’m also planning to plant tomato plants, some green beans and some potatoes as soon as summer stops sulking and comes back (I love you summer!). There’s nothing more delicious than home-grown beans and spuds with just a little butter and a nice slice or two of ham!

Summer is going to be so surprised with me when it finally arrives! Can’t wait!

10. 50c Indulgences: Acres of Diamonds

Our Indulgences under 50c thread theme for August has been ‘Acres of Diamonds’. It's about things we have around us, right under our noses that are just wonderful and so helpful or useful and we don't even know it! We covered at least one discovery every day and saw lots of things through fresh eyes. I love turning something ordinary into something fantastic and useful, all for pennies. For an enormous list of inspirational ideas, take a look through the thread and mine some diamonds of your own!

To get us going I'm going to take a look at frames. Many of us have old picture frames lying around unused. I like the old ornate ones but rustic ones are also lovely. Sometimes you'll find them in the shed, missing glass or backing. I have found lots in op shops or discarded by someone. They are so useful I never fail to grab them! My recent project has been to turn them into blackboards - I love blackboards! You can write something inspirational on them, use them to help get organised or just have them as part of your décor. They also make fantastic gifts. I have painted blackboard paint straight over glass or a hideous painting!

Inspiration boards or photo displays are another lovely idea. Why not put your favourite images where you can enjoy them every day? An empty frame is easy to turn into an inspiration board. This one I filled with small chicken wire and use little pegs to hold my pictures on. I found this frame, painted it and tacked in the wire myself. It has given me so much joy.

A nice frame becomes a tray so easily – trays are so handy! I did this one (below) filling it with pretty things and adding handles from the hardware store. These make lovely gifts as you can personalise them with photos or mementos. A tray on your coffee table or dressing table holds your bits and pieces and looks great.

I hope you will find some inspiration for using ordinary things in extraordinary ways and come and join us all next month when we will continue with our ways to make life lovely for a few pennies, or our favourite - free!

You can drop in and join Annabel, Helen and the Under 50c Army.

11. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Prepping the Patch for Spring

Home-made seed raising mix for some early spring sowings

I decided to save a bit of coin and make up some seed raising mix for the seedlings that were going in. As the soil from most of the garden beds could potentially contain the nematode beasties, mentioned below in the blog, I decided to use some soil mix left over from the asparagus barrels. Asparagus are not affected by the nematodes so have left a lot of the soil aside for this purpose.


As there were a lot of roots and pebbles in the mix I thought it best to make up a small makeshift screen to remove them. To add some nutrient and water holding capacity to the soil I decided to add some compressed coconut coir/coco peat. Compost or worm castings would work just as well. Unfortunately both of ours are full of various vegie seeds and we wouldn't really know if the plants we are growing would be what we actually planted. To hydrate the coco peat I used water from the solids filter in the aquaponics so there would be some added fishy nutrients in there. In the past I have used compost/wormcast teas and liquid seaweed/fish emulsions to hydrate the coco peat and found it worked really well.


To make up the seed raising mix I added one part hydrated coco peat and two parts screened soil then mixed it together well. I think this will be a great blend for the seeds that will be going into them. The seeds I decided to plant out this weekend included some small white egg eggplants, bulls horn capsicum, some black Russian, KY1, Tigerella and some mini yellow egg tomatoes. These will sit in a tray that will have a bit of water added to the base of it every few days to keep them well hydrated.


It has been a while since I have sown carrots so thought I better put a few rows down. Four rows were sown into the top two beds in the patch yesterday, three rows of the mixed colour heirloom (below) in the top bed and one row of the Kuroda short carrot in the next.


As they are such small seeds I decided to sow them directly on top of the beds then sprinkle some moist coconut coir/peat over them to help keep them damp. Two more rows will be sown when these have sprouted their second sets of leaves. Two rows of beetroot shall be planted out tomorrow hopefully. I hope to have a continual supply of carrots and beetroot from now on by planting out a couple of rows every few weeks. Hope to have the rest of the warm month crops seeds organised and ready to go over the next few weeks. Couldn't help myself and put in another order with a small seed company this morning that will hopefully contain a few interesting varieties ;)»

Nuking the nematodes

I have mentioned in previous blogs that we have a few beds infested with root knot nematodes. They are not a problem in all parts of Australia but are rather 'fond' of our warm subtropical climate. The nematodes burrow into the root of your plants creating the knobbly galls you only see once it is pulled from the ground. They stay holed up in there feeding off the nutrients and providing nothing in return.


Once they mate, the female will release her eggs to hatch on the outside of the root for the process to start all over again. These little pests have destroyed more than their fair share of crops for us and I have tried a few different methods of controlling them but none have worked terribly well. I have finally decided to heed the advice of more experienced gardeners and plant out French marigolds along with some mustard greens to try and eradicate them. Both plants contain chemical constituents that are toxic to the nematodes once they are released into the soil. The best way to do this is to grow the plants to about 30cm in height then chop them up and dig the green mulch through the soil. As the plant matter decomposes they release their chemicals, Alph terthional for the French marigolds and the mustard releases the chemical that gives it its kick, Allyl isothiocyanate.

Another bonus with using this 'chop and dig' method is that it will also help add organic matter back into the soil which I think the compost worms in there will love. So far I have only dug through the marigolds in one place. The mustard in the bed down the back needs another week of growth I think. By the end of the week I hope to have cleared out another bed and planted some 'Stinking Rodger'. This is also a member of the marigold family and was gifted to us by a generous local, thanks Deb :)» Jerry Colby-Williams (Gardening Australia) recommended its use for controlling root knot nematodes on his Facebook page so thought I'd give it a crack. It is known as Black Mint in some parts of South America and used as a culinary herb. I have seen a recipe for Black Mint sauce that I wouldn't mind trying, so will be saving some for the kitchen.

Hope you have all had a great weekend in the patch and managed to get some dirt under your nails ;)»

Have a great one all.

You can read more of Rob Bob's gardening adventures on the Simple Savings Facebook page or in our Members' Blog section.

12. Goodbye For Now

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for August 2013 and we hope you have enjoyed it. Don't forget to think about starting a garden or get involved in a community garden. It doesn't matter where you live, there is always a way to get some more green into your life!

Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...

All the best,

August 2015 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - August 2015

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Little Green Lies!
  2. August: Grow Your Own
  3. Best of the Vault: From Little Things...
  4. Best of the Forum: Get Your Fingers Green!
  5. Best Members' Blog: For Such a Time as This...
  6. Cooking with Mimi: Comfort Food... Cream of Winter Vegetable Soup
  7. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: How to Get a Green Thumb


I hope you are having a fantastic month. Pretty soon it is going to start getting warm so now is the perfect time to plan your spring garden. I hope this newsletter inspires you to get planting. Your emails inspire me to find new ways to help people save money.

Here are two beautiful emails we received this month:

"I received your latest newsletter and for the first time ever 'took the challenge'! I am so excited by what we accomplished that the whole family has decided to 'take the challenge' every month. Thank you, keep up the great work!" (Kez)

"I can't tell you how much your website has changed my life! I have been a member for a year now and we have cut back on our groceries, take our own coffee, cold drinks and snacks everywhere and I'm now looking at our phone, electricity and insurance. Thank you!" (Dee)

Have a great month!

All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. We still have $21 Challenge books for $5.00.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Little Green Lies!

"Pete!" yelled Sal, "Out of the way! I'm trying to take a photo of the garden." Pete stepped back and smiled as Sal took some photos. "Thanks, Sal. It's looking great isn't it?" Pete said proudly.

"It's beautiful, Pete. Just wait until my Facebook friends see these new photos," Sal squealed. Pete smiled, "Really? So they're really interested in my little garden?" "Yep, they love the garden," said Sal, "They think I'm a real garden guru!" Sal beamed.

Pete stared daggers at Sal. She smiled sweetly at him. "What?" she said, "I help! Now give me the shovel and take a photo of me helping!"

2. August: Grow Your Own

Sally and Pete are definitely inspired when it comes to gardening, even if it's for completely different reasons! Well, this month we want YOU to be inspired! We want you to get online and find some gardening inspiration... and then just do it!

Some of us have huge yards and space for chickens and roomy garden beds, while others have a small balcony or a sunny kitchen window. Everyone can grow something - you just need the information and the inspiration. There are some fantastic websites, blogs and free apps out there and we've narrowed down a few to help. And of course don't forget our own Rob Bob and his fantastic YouTube videos and informative website, Bits Out the Back

Here's some help to get you started...

For our micro-gardeners with only a small space, look at clever garden design, herb gardens, hanging baskets and container gardening.

For those with larger yards, go for broke!

For experienced gardeners, why not take that next step and look at aquaponics, hydroponics, bushfoods, sustainable gardening and so on.

We want you to get inspired and then just go and do it! Go on, get those gloves on and get going!

3. Best of the Vault: From Little Things...

This month, your challenge is to grow just ONE thing. It could be a single pot of delicious cherry tomatoes, or some herbs or plant a citrus tree. Here are some great hints from the Vault to help get you started!

Garden fresh is always best

I used to visit the supermarket, take one look at the price of lettuce, then buy a bag of cheap salad mix, which was never as nice. Now I grow my own lettuce and that salad mix is a distant memory.

When we moved into our new home, we dug the old soil out of the garden and replaced it with a bag of potting mix and a bag of vegetable mix. For $1.99, I bought a punnet of six lettuce plants, put them into the garden and watched as they grew like mad. I now take five or six leaves off various plants every night, and the more I take off, the more the plants grow. I have also planted seeds to grow my own seedlings. One $5 pack of seeds will keep me in lettuce for the next three or four years.

My lettuce is fresh and delicious, much better than paying $4.00 a head, not to mention that bagged salad mix!

Contributed by: Helen Ashman

Turn store-bought garlic into a bumper crop

It's easy to grow your own garlic from the off-cuts of your store-bought garlic. Simply cut the ends off the bulb (where the roots grow) and pop in the garden. You only need a small amount. I recommend buying only Australian-grown garlic for the best results.

Contributed by: Karen Beeche

Mini herb garden is a winner

I saved money on pot plants with my mini recycled herb garden. My friend had a handful of empty formula tins that she had no use for but didn't want to throw out. I knew exactly how they could be put to good use, so I took them off her hands! First I covered them with brightly coloured paints and drilled holes into the sides of the tins. Then I joined four tins together with nuts and bolts then drilled some extra holes in the bottom of each tin for drainage. Finally I filled the tins with potting mix and planted a variety of herbs in them. I placed my mini herb garden on the back landing outside my window, where I could enjoy the sight and smell of them. I now enjoy fresh herbs every day.

Contributed by: Suzanne K

Tasty free rockmelons in your garden

I enjoy a fresh home-grown breakfast every morning! I love eating rockmelon for breakfast, but I didn't love the price, so I planted the entire seed ball of a rockmelon that I bought to eat. I am now getting my own fresh and tasty, chemical-free rockmelons at a fraction of the price!

Contributed by: Katie Chambers

Watch your savings grow by planting vegies

We are watching our vegetables grow and at the same time watching our grocery budget decrease by planting one crop of seedlings each week. It takes minimal time and even if you only plant four crops in the next month, that is four vegetables you no longer need to purchase at the supermarket. As the year goes on you can save and dry your seeds, pop them in an envelope and write down the name, when to plant, when to harvest and any tricks you learnt when growing the last crop. To make it fun for the children, we allocate one crop each that they are responsible to water, weed and harvest.

Our first crop was silverbeet which reaches maturity from seedlings in just 8-10 weeks and will give us a year-round supply of greens. We have also grown cabbage, leeks, parsnips, beetroot, broad beans, cauliflower and swedes/turnips. It takes minimal space for a few crops and the savings are now ongoing - the savings you make can be used to purchase a fruit tree, thus saving you even more money in the future.

Contributed by: Squirrel

4. Best of the Forum: Get Your Fingers Green!

We often say our Forum members know everything - well, when it comes to gardening, they DO! Here are some great threads about everything green.

Which is the best tomato variety for home dehydrating?

There are some good ideas in this thread to help make the most of your home grown goodies.

What's the best thing growing in your garden?

Need some inspiration - look no further!

Growing a mushroom farm kit

An easy way to grow your own mushrooms.

5. Best Members' Blog: For Such a Time as This...

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win $100 cash each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's Blog winner is Jessica and her thoughts on savings:

I went into work this past weekend to get my schedule for this week, something I do every Sunday. I found out that I am only on the schedule for one day this week. Sales have been down at work so my manager can't afford to have as many employees on the payroll. I sent a text message/SMS to my manager to let her know that I was available if she needed me for any other days during the week.

Even though my hours have been cut at work, I'm not in a panic. In fact I'm not worried at all. Since I started my job a year ago I've been putting money into my savings account every payday. Having my 'slush fund' has saved my hide on many occasions. It has given me so much peace of mind, words can't describe it. One of my favorite finance authors describes it perfectly - "Having an emergency fund turns what would otherwise be a financial disaster into a mere inconvenience." Truer words have never been spoken. As a matter of fact I tend to get antsy if my savings account gets below a certain level so I try not to touch it unless I absolutely have to.

As another one of my favorite books says, "Who knows if you were put here for such a time as this?" (I'm talking about the book of Esther in the Bible.) I've adapted this particular quote to say that my savings are set aside for such a time as this. Work may pick back up or it may not, but I have my savings to get me through for a little while at least. Peace of mind is truly priceless, no doubt in my mind about that.

So for anyone who gets frustrated that your money is just sitting in the bank 'doing nothing', there's no need to be that way. In fact you will be grateful that you have that money sitting there if hard times come up. I know I am.

Well done Jessica!

You can read more of our members' blogs here.

6. Cooking with Mimi: Comfort Food... Cream of Winter Vegetable Soup... No Cream

This is such a versatile idea.

It can become any sort of soup you want really; pumpkin, cauliflower, broccoli, potato and leek, or a combination of all of those.

I tend to use it as a more appealing way of serving the less loved vegies here. Now for me, there are no less loved veg, but convincing the rest of the family is often a bit of a chore.

This week we had broccoli and cauliflower soup as both of those were surprisingly inexpensive to buy. A whole cauliflower was just $3.00, after being over double that price a little while ago, and the broccoli was only $2.00/kg, so it made sense to make the most of it!

You do need a food processor or stick blender for this recipe. You can mash it and push the mixture through a fine sieve, but that is laborious to say the least! It's a good idea too, to start this in the morning so you have time to allow it to cool if you have to process it. If you're using a stick mixer it won't matter.

The addition of the bread and potato gives it a thick creamy texture without adding cream. :)

You'll need:

  • Equal amounts (approximately) of cauli and broccoli. I just fill the crockpot up to the very top.
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 slices fresh bread
  • 3 tbsp milk powder
  • Seasoning to taste
  • Fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil or other flavour-infused oil to serve. Garlic infused oil is delicious.

Then just:

Pile the broccoli and cauli into the slow cooker and add the chicken stock, garlic, onion and potato.

Cook on High until the vegies are very soft, about three hours.

Turn the slow cooker off and remove the lid, allowing it to cool slightly if you need to process it in a food processor. If you're using a stick mixer then carefully blend the mixture until it's smooth. Add the milk powder. Tear the bread into small pieces and add that as well, to smooth the texture and thicken the soup without adding cream or butter or flour.

Turn the slow cooker back on and allow it to reheat the soup for about half an hour. Taste test and season if necessary. Sometimes I find I need to add another stock cube or two at this stage.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Add a drizzle of oil as fats do help carry flavour to your taste buds and this will just give the soup a little lift. Top with a generous garnish of lovely, freshly chopped herbs. Things like garlic chives, thyme, oregano and parsley are ideal.

This makes an enormous amount and it's fed us for a dinner and four afternoon teas so far. There's nothing better than a big steaming mug of creamy soup on a chilly winter's afternoon. :)

You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

7. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: How to Get a Green Thumb

Starting off a vegie patch, there's no time like now ;-)

Growing your own food can be one of the easiest ways to make a dent in the household budget. You have access to fresher produce than you could ever hope to find in the shops or markets, and you can whip up a salad quicker than it takes you to nip off down to the shops. Taking the first step can be rather daunting for some but I can assure you that once you sit down to a meal containing something you grew yourself you'll be hooked. I thought I'd run through a few basic gardening methods to give folks an idea of the ways you can grow your own.

Before you head off to the nursery to buy seedlings, or hop online to buy some heirloom seeds, the best thing to do is work out what plants you enjoy eating. There's no point in planting out dozens of kale plants only to find out the taste isn't to your liking.

How much space you need will depend on whether you wish to start out with a small potted garden or if you're willing to take the big leap and set up a garden bed of some sort. Position also matters as most plants do best with 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. Bianca and I first started off with a few pots of herbs in a sunny spot near the front door of the first house we rented. It wasn't much but it was great to be able to add some home-grown oregano to pizzas, mint to hot drinks and thyme to the casseroles. It was also in a spot that we passed a few times a day which helped remind us to keep the pots well-watered. These plants did well in this position so pots of sweet basil and salad greens were added to the garden soon afterwards.

Once you have worked out what you want to grow and where you want to grow it, the next step is to work out how.

Container gardens

Container gardens are probably the easiest way to get your hands dirty when it comes to growing your own produce. For folks that rent it is often the only option as many landlords may not be too happy with the idea of lawn being removed for vegie patches.

This style of gardening can also help people with small yards or in apartments with only balcony space available to provide you with some home-grown produce. Growing climbing plants like beans, cucumbers and tomatoes on small trellises along walls can also help you squeeze more pots and containers into a small space. This also allows you to have rows of progressively shorter plants growing in front without shading out the plants behind.

When it comes to sourcing pots and containers there is no need to spend a lot of money. When we were starting out, we sourced large pots from the weekend markets, family and friends. There are also online groups like Freecycle that allow people to list items they want to give away rather than have them end up in land fill.

We have made use of groups like this in the past to get gardening gear like pots and bathtubs that have been used to grow plants in. You can often find some bargains on sites like Gumtree as well as local trading groups on Facebook that will save you a bit of coin. We have purchased many of the IBC tanks that we cut down and turn into large container wicking gardens from Gumtree. I have already posted a blog in January on how we've used containers and pots to grow food, including a few ideas on soil mix selection for those interested in checking it out.

In ground gardens

Traditional garden beds are probably the preferred way to raise plants for those who have a bit of available space, with raised beds probably being the most popular method used in the urban setting. Having the soil elevated off the ground can help you create a soil structure that may give you better plant growth when compared to the native soil. This becomes very handy in situations where the soil drains too freely like the sandy soils around the coastline. In these areas you might need to add in a bit of organic matter or maybe even a small amount of powdered clay-based water retention products to help improve the water holding capacity of the beds. Other areas may have poorly draining clay soils so a nice compost-rich soil in a raised garden bed will offer better drainage allowing the roots of your plants to breathe and not get waterlogged.

To set up an in-ground bed the first thing you need to do is select a position that gets a decent amount of sunlight (6-8 hours as mentioned above). You next need to remove or suppress the grass where the garden beds are to be situated.

A lot of people like to dig out the top 40-50mm/1½-2" of grass. I think an easier method is to lay down a thick layer of newspaper (10+ pages thick) or a few layers of plain brown cardboard to suppress the lawn/weeds. As the grass won't have access to light it will die off fast enough and become added organic matter in the base of the bed.

The next step is to add in soil mixed with some compost. You can save yourself some money if you can use soil from your yard but that isn't an option for a lot of folks. You probably won't have a great deal of compost on hand either when you first start out so buying some in may be the best option. Buying a soil compost blend is something we have done before and it can be a relatively cheap way to start up a bed. Stay away from the commercial bagged compost for large beds as it will be rather expensive. You will find you can buy compost at a fraction of the bag price from landscape suppliers at the same time you buy the soil. If you ask nicely some suppliers will also mix the compost through the soil saving you a bit of work. One thing I would suggest at this point is to also consider starting off your own compost pile or compost worm farm. You will not only save money from buying in products to feed the patch but you will also be saving rubbish from landfill. ;-)

A few ideas for raised bed borders

Most folks like to have a border of some type around their beds to help keep the soil in place and to also help prevent the lawn growing into the beds.

We used roofing tin off-cuts and angle iron from old bed frames that were destined for landfill. I have seen raised bed borders made out of recycled materials like timber, old railway sleepers, besser/cinder blocks, reclaimed concrete, bricks, odd rocks and hay/straw bales.

DIY timber frames, like Ian uses in his allotment garden, as well as kit beds made from timber and tin also do a great job at holding in the soil and can sometimes be purchased rather cheaply.

Having the beds off the ground also allows people that might find it hard to get down into the soil to get involved with growing and tending their own food. Along with the raised bed gardens there are other low maintenance in ground styles like the "No Dig Garden" and the "Back to Eden" methods for people that might be interested. While these methods are normally used directly on the ground they can also be incorporated into a framed raised bed.

Other forms of gardening that might interest some are aquaponics and hydroponics.

Both tend to appeal to folks who like to tinker and both are very water wise. They also have the added benefit of being raised off the ground and require very little strenuous lifting once set up, making them ideal for people with physical limitations.

I could actually keep going on but should probably end it there methinks. ;-)

A look at the front yard vegie beds

With only a few weeks of winter left I thought it best to start getting the asparagus beds fed up in the front yard vegie patch. I also took the opportunity to squeeze in an extra crop of broccoli before the weather starts to warm up too much. Here's how the beds were fed up using home-made compost and locally sourced manures. (Video) I've also posted a clip on the aquaponics for those interested in a look (Video)

I can tell you that the system is doing very well with loads of greens and tomatoes still being picked.

Pickings from the patch

Despite the cooler weather we've been having over the past few weeks we're still getting some good harvests from the patch. The lime tree had a good pruning as I want to semi espalier the tree and add on a few grafts in the coming months so it can become a citrus 'fruit salad' tree. A couple of kilograms of fruit were collected during the pruning, most of which have been juiced and frozen and some given away to friends and family.

The tomatoes are still producing loads of fruit at the moment.

I have been very happy with the large fruit of the 'Wherokowhai' (top left) and 'Summertime Gold' dwarf varieties. Some have been saved for making sauces with most being eaten fresh with our lunches. The smaller fruiting 'Rum ball' (bottom left) in the aquaponics has been providing us with loads of fruit that we've been adding to salads. The 'Brain' tomatoes (bottom right) have been a bit of a novelty here. They are a very lumpy fruit with a fair bit of flesh that go well with salads but I have found the flavour a bit lacking which could be due to them not growing in the best conditions. I am hoping the next lot of plants will give us a tastier fruit.

I have harvested the first few lots of the purple cauliflower and three more are just starting to form heads. I have taken a fair number of broccoli heads off from the plants with the plants out the front starting to be harvested at the moment. The plants out the front are F1 or hybrid varieties so are not forming many side shoots unfortunately. Luckily the ones out the back are an heirloom 'Waltham' variety and are producing a small continual harvest of side shoots.

I have also been taking out a few Jade perch from the fish farm.

Most of these fish went into fish cakes made with some home grown chilli, turmeric and galangal. I think I minced some of the batch up a bit too much and will listen to Bianca next time and follow her recipe. ;-) They turned out very golden due to the turmeric and tasted fantastic. I am looking forward to harvesting all the fish from the fish farm so we can set up more vegie grow beds for the aquaponic system. Hopefully that will be done before summer.

That's it for this month's blog.
Hope you're all getting plans underway for the spring garden.

You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

8. Goodbye, Goodbye!

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for August 2015 and we hope you have enjoyed it. Don't forget to check the Forum and Facebook for challenges and inspiration to help you get growing your own and let us know how you go!

Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...

All the best,

December 2010 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - December 2010

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Can I Help?
  2. January is No Screens Month!
  3. Aussie Street Party Update!
  4. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner
  5. Best of the Forum: Square Eyes
  6. Best of the Vault: We Love No Screens!
  7. $21 Challenge Update
  8. Cooking with Mimi
  9. Penny's Blog: Tough Love
  10. Homeopathy Corner: A Day in the Life
  11. From Last Month: Singles Need Help Too!
  12. This Month's Help Request: Holiday Food for Hungry Teens


Happy New Year! I hope you are having a fantastic holiday and are ready for 2011. We have spent the holiday chilling out at home and have been having a lot of fun cooking, reading and playing together. It has been wonderful. I even like the rain because it means we are all inside in the one room bonding together. One day we entertained ourselves by making one of Oprah Winfrey's video assignments. It was so much fun! Tristan loves the video so much he has watched it at least eighty times! You can find out more about that in the $21 Challenge Update below.

Also, if you haven't got your 2011 War on Debt calendar yet, it's not too late! We will be following it all year, so download and print your copy here to get started.

We're really looking forward to hearing all about your savings successes this year. Letters like these ones really make our day!

"I just wanted to share the success in my financial situation with you. As of this week the personal loan - which I had started to regard as a regular bill - has finally been paid off! The Mastercard limit has been reduced from $1900 to $1000 (the lowest limit I could get). The cash advance will be finished in six more payments and Radio Rentals will be done by the end of March. This has taken me two years of hard work and budgeting but I am so close now to being debt free, it's thrilling. On remembering your advice to shop around and consider carefully, I found a second hand lap top with a large screen for $200 cheaper than the smaller, brand new mini laptop. With the money I have free now I will be starting a freelance journalism course by correspondence. If it wasn't for the help I have gotten from your newsletters and book I would still be struggling to get by. Now, no bill I get will ever be a problem to take care of. Thanks ever so much!" (Beverley Allen)

"After receiving your regular emails I was finally tempted to subscribe - great decision - I saved my subscription with one hint! Will recommend you to all my friends. Thank you!" (Carol Turnbull)

"I have been a fan of your site for a long time now and often direct people to you but it has taken me until now to try the $21 Challenge. Well, this week I did it. I fed my family of six for just $20.60. I was so excited that I told everyone! No one believed it would work and they thought I must have had ample supplies in my kitchen already. On the contrary, I had minimal amounts of several things but it forced me to be creative. My husband was skeptical (yet quite impressed) that I had spent such a small amount. But I could tell by the look on his face that he was doubtful that he'd be happily fed! Well, I have surprised everyone, including myself. We have had square, nutritionally sound meals, plus snacks every day for the week. Now for once I actually truly NEED to go grocery shopping. But it means I can include Christmas meals in my fortnightly budget this time and come out on top!" (Rebecca Zahra)

"I just had to write and tell you. Your $21 Challenge book saved me money even before I opened it! I have a loyalty card with Dymocks and as luck would have it, as I purchased your book I had earned enough credits to receive $6.00 off my purchase. I thought how apt it was that it was your book that I saved on. So I thought to myself that this must be an omen. For the next two days I sat and read it from cover to cover. My first real saving directly from the book was last night's dinner. I had forgotten to get any meat out and normally this would have me running to the closest take away. But remembering what I had read, I did a quick stocktake of my fridge and found that I had enough vegetables to make a stir fry. Having no sauce was not a problem, I made my own. Then to top that off, the apples I was about to throw away because they were past their best, I made into an apple and blueberry crumble. The kids thought I was the best cook out! Not only did they get a yummy and nutritious dinner, but dessert too. Now I have proved to myself that your system works, it is now time to do a serious stocktake and get down to business." (Narelle Fasulo)

Happy New Year!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

PS: Fly with Simple Savings! Well kind of *grin*. If you happen to be travelling with Virgin Blue, you can read all about us in their current Voyeur magazine for all in-flight passengers. If you're not flying on holiday anywhere, however, you can still read the fantastic article by Alix Clark online at

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Can I Help?

"Thanks for the cuppa, I'd better be on my way," Sally smiled as she made her way to Hanna's door. "Oh - thank you!" she said in surprise as a small hand quickly grabbed her empty cup, popped it into the dishwasher and turned it on. "Hey, I was going to do that!" came another voice in loud protest. "Mum can I empty the dishwasher when it's finished? She did it last time!"

"Yes, alright," Hanna rolled her eyes and grinned at Sally, who stood frozen in the doorway, mouth agape. "Did I just hear right?' she asked in disbelief. "Your kids actually WANT to empty the dishwasher? Are they sick?" "No!" laughed Hanna. "They just want to play computer games. They're earning screen time!"

"I told the kids there was no way they were spending the summer holidays glued to computer and video games," Hanna explained. "So we struck a deal. If they want to use them, first they have to help around the house. Emptying the dishwasher entitles them to 30 minutes screen time, taking the rubbish out gets them 10 minutes and so on." "Aha, now I see why they're so keen to do it!" laughed Sally. "Thank you, Hanna, I think you've given me the perfect cure for our family's square eyes. I really must be going!"

2. January is No Screens Month!

If you are wondering where the inspiration for this month's Sally and Hanna story comes from, it comes from my house. At the moment it is MY kids who are begging and squabbling over who gets to empty the dishwasher. Yes - they actually beg to empty it and think I am the best mother in the world if I sneak up behind one of them, quietly tap them on the shoulder and whisper. "The dishwasher is ready!" Then the lucky chosen child quietly stops what they are doing and sneaks over to empty the dishwasher before any of their siblings notice. I am not joking. This is really what happens! My children beg to do chores and I have last year's No Screen Month and my mother to thank for it.

You see, No Screens Month in the Lippey household last January was a disaster. My mum was visiting for the whole month and thought it was mean that her grandchildren were banned from watching screens. So, she ignored Matt's and my wishes and brought her laptop, a handful of 'new' DVD's and an iPhone and plonked my children in front of the screens for hours and hours and hours on end. After several weeks of this, I confess to having a little tantrum. OK - I had a BIG tantrum.

Luckily for my family, it was a very productive tantrum. After the steam coming out of my ears had cooled a bit I sat and thought, "Right - how can I make this work? How can I work out a system that will appease my mother, suit my kids, my husband, me and the rest of society before my cup of tea cools?" (OK I made up the bit about the cup of tea...)

The biggest problem last January was that Mum thought I was depriving my children by not letting them watch TV or play computer games for hours on end. However, I think leaving children in front of screens for hours on end is depriving them of life skills and vital experiences. We both want what is best for my children, so Mum and I came to a compromise. The kids could enjoy their screen time - as long as they EARNED it. If they wanted to spend half an hour playing a computer game or watching a DVD they had to do something to earn it first. We started by doing half an hour of writing practice to earn half an hour of screen time but over the past 11 months we have moved on from there and now live by the following rules:

  1. The house must be clean before anyone is allowed to use their screen time. (The reason for this is if the kids get settled in and start watching a movie I have no chance of getting them to clean up their mess. And, I am not going to scurry around them cleaning the house while they sit on their butts watching a movie. The house must be cleaned first.)
  2. If you want to use screen time before school, everything must be done. Breakfast eaten, lunch made, teeth clean, shoes on, hat in car, bag packed, homework finished and so on.
  3. If you want use your screen time in the afternoon, you must first have emptied your school bag, put it away and done your homework.
  4. Screen time for education or work purposes is free. Screen time for entertainment (games, movies, playing and so on) must be earned.
  5. If the children share the task, they have to share the time allocated to that task depending on how much of the actual work they did.

Here is how my children earn their screen time:

  • Emptying the dishwasher = 30 minutes screen time
  • Cooking dinner = 30 minutes
  • Making everyone's lunch = 30 minutes
  • Sweeping the floor = 30 minutes
  • Folding a basket of washing = 30 minutes
  • Bringing in the washing = 15 minutes
  • Cleaning and setting the table = 20 minutes

This system works brilliantly for us but you are welcome to work out different pay rates for your household. You may like to include screen payments for doing homework or taking out the rubbish, whatever applies to your family. The things you need to think about when creating your screen payment list is how much screen time you want your children to have and how many tasks you want them to be doing around the home, then work backwards from there.

Our new screen currency system has been fantastic, but it has had a few teething problems. You may find you experience the same when you first introduce it into your household. You may face some tough opposition from your loved ones; especially if they have taken their screens, Xboxes, computers and you for granted until now. To help with this period of transition we have started a Forum thread for advice and support. This is a place where you can share your frustrations and triumphs and ask Fiona and other members for help so we can band together and convert your resident couch potatoes into helpful house potatoes!

Here is a link to the thread: Creating Helpful House Potatoes

The Savings Forum is a members-only feature. If you would like to become a member and gain instant access to this and thousands of other threads in the Forum, it costs $47 to join for the first year and just $21 to renew each year. As an extra bonus for Vault members, we have also introduced gift memberships at a special price. From now on, if you are a current Vault member you can give your friends or family a full year of membership for just $21! Click here to order.

3. Aussie Street Party Update!

We had a fantastic response to our very first Street Party campaign, reaching a grand total of 112 parties registered to take place on December 5th! Thank you to everyone who supported us, we hope you had a fantastic street party. Don't forget to write in and tell us all about it! Kirstin from the SS staff was one of the first to register her street party and was really pleased with the results:

"When my neighbour responded to her street party invitation with 'But, I don't know anyone,' I knew we were doing the right thing. Even though there are only a handful of families in the street, we didn't all know each other. The Aussie Street Party was the perfect opportunity, and something I'd wanted to do ever since we moved into this new street five years ago.

"We all brought a plate to share and our own chairs and drinks and chatted about all kinds of things, from which lawn was being grown, our families, successes and failures in the garden and to the shared issue we all have with the drainage system in the street. It really was a chance to get to know each other and have a good natter.

"Since then, Brett has helped a neighbour with his computer and he gave us a bunch of garlic chives for our vegie patch. Now, when we greet each other we use names, it's not just a polite wave. As the spare blocks fill up over the years it will be terrific to see our neighbourhood grow. We're all looking forward to next year's street party and wonder how many more families will join our neighbourhood."

If you haven't entered the competition yet, don't panic! There is still time. You have until January 7th to tell us all about your party AND maybe win a cash prize! Simple Savings and That's Life! are giving away $1000 in prizes. All you have to do is tell us in as much detail as you can about your street party - before, during and after. How did you feel handing out your invitations? Were you nervous? How many people came to your party? What funny things happened? Has anything changed for the better in your neighbourhood since your street party? Feel free to send in photos too - the more the merrier! As a reward for your efforts in helping us to bring back the good old days, one lucky winner will get $500 cash, with five runner up prizes of $100. Simply email your party stories to Good luck and thanks for entering!

4. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner

Don't forget, if you're a Vault member you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Naomi D for her post "It's beginning to feel a lot like..." taken from her blog "A soft place to fall". Naomi has been busy this month getting her family ready for Christmas. We love her festive photos and will definitely be putting some of them into practice for next Christmas.


Long time no blog - where have I been? Enjoying life with my babies and all that comes with it!

Decorating the house...

Making a family activity advent calendar...

Front view:

Back view - excuse the flash!

Baking stained glass cookies...

Smelling the scent of Christmas from our pomanders...

And kissing the gorgeous husband because the moustache he grew for Movember is finally gone and he raised $400!

Love and light to you all at Christmas!

Congratulations Naomi, we wish you and your family a wonderful 2011! To read more from Naomi, or any of our other members' blogs, click here

5. Best of the Forum: Square Eyes

Just in case you need any further reason to restrict the screen time in your household, here are some great discussions on the topic in the Savings Forum!

Consuming Kids - The Commercialisation of Childhood

The best way to explain this thread is to watch the TV link given at the start! Compelling viewing.

War on Debt 2010 - January No Screen Challenge

You can always count on Claire M to keep our Forum members organised and on track with their calendar challenges! This thread is from last year's No Screens Month but is well worth revisiting.

How much television does YOUR child watch?

Princess Pauper asks the question and receives some quite varied answers in this interesting and thought provoking thread!

Television and children

If the much loved children's author Roald Dahl were still here, he would be right behind our No Screens Month! His poem 'Television' reproduced in this thread will soon have you reaching for the 'off' button on your TV! A must-read.

Playstation and a 4 year old

How young is too young for a Playstation? And once they get one, how the heck do you get them off it? If your child is obsessed with video games, you won't want to miss this discussion!

Nintendo games causing eye strain?

Are your kids too 'wired' to sleep? Read this thread and put an end to the headaches!

6. Best of the Vault: We Love No Screens!

Do you think you can't live without TV and video games? Think again! Here is a selection of some Vault tips from members who have discovered they can live very happily without screens!

Organise your life and save - turn off the TV!

I have discovered that pressing one little button is the key to a calmer, more productive life and is saving me heaps of money. All this has been achieved since I made the decision to turn off my TV! The TV used to suck up an extraordinary amount of time, but now we ONLY have the TV on if there is something scheduled we specifically want to watch. This means that evenings are no longer spent on the couch. Instead, the house is clean and tidy, there are home-made snacks in the cupboard and extra meals in the freezer. This has also put a stop to emergency trips for takeaway or grabbing something quick from the supermarket. I estimate that over the last year this has saved around $30 per week in junk food ($1560 per year) and living stress-free is nothing short of priceless!

Contributed by: Diane

'No screen' for 20 years

When our children were still young, our TV stopped working and we decided not to replace it. Instead the children got to enjoy more play time after school and we also took them to the library on a regular basis to borrow books.

On one occasion, in order to get through a mountain of ironing, I borrowed a combined TV/video player and watched videos while ironing. The children also got to watch something after school. After the video, they said they were going to go and play, but to their dismay they found out that the time allocated for playtime had been taken up with watching the 'box'. They were not happy!

It's been 20 years since we had a TV and our children have grown up. They are determined that when they have children, their kids will not have a TV either.

Contributed by: Galligina

A decade of 'No Screen'

My family has been involved in 'No Screen' sessions for the last 10 years! As my four kids are all still at school, we have no screens from Monday to Thursday, unless it is specific to homework, at which stage it becomes a half hour session. This ensures there is time for afternoon tea, playtime, music practice and homework. On weekends and school holidays, the screen times are limited to a half hour computer session for each child per day, while the TV is turned off at 10 in the morning and doesn't come on again until after dinner.

There are no complaints, as we've been doing this for so long. We borrow DVD's from the library, which cost us nothing to rent, rather than watch the commercial channels. The kids don't know what they are missing as we don't get a TV guide either!

Contributed by: Bronwyn Cartledge

Ban the gadgets and get your kids back!

I have saved on electricity and restored some balance in our house by banning the electrical gadgets! The habitual scene in our house when the kids came home from school was becoming a concern to us. As soon as they'd dropped their school bags the kids plugged themselves into the TV, computer, stereo or iPods; conversation died and activity was nil! So I took control back and put a ban on anything electrical being turned on within 15 minutes of returning from school. Wow! By the time 15 minutes was up, they were reading books, outside playing or helping me in the kitchen and had all but forgotten about the electrical items. I am not sure exactly how much we have saved, but the kids have definitely benefited from this. Being outside running around, sharing books or playing games together has made for a much, happier household and conversation is back! I look forward to seeing our next electricity bill because I know, even if it is just a little bit smaller, we are all richer.

Contributed by: Sharee Breed

Ditch the TV

One of the best things I have ever done is ditch my television. Here's why you should do it too!

  • You can earn some extra cash by selling your TV.
  • You no longer waste time sitting in front of the box every night. You can use the extra time to invest in personal development or to do things you enjoy. Save some cash by starting a home vegetable patch or free up your weekend by doing household chores at night, instead of watching television.
  • You are no longer bombarded by advertisements which make you want to buy more than you actually need.

Forgetting about the television has been a win-win-win for me!

Contributed by: Kendall Hurren

Pay TV takes a permanent holiday

We are planning a holiday so I phoned Foxtel and found out that you can take a break from your contract once a year, for a period of one week to three months, and only pay $5.00 per month.

We have decided to go one step further and use these three months as a saving, and then cancel the contract. We are currently paying $88 per month for Foxtel; this will save us $1056 per year. $88 pays for four tickets to the cinema every month or a live play every two months. We decided our money was best spent on quality rather than quantity, so we're happy to cancel our contract. We also found that we were searching for things to watch on Foxtel just because we had paid for it, and this was not a very good use of our time. Now we are eagerly planning our holiday with the spare time we have from not watching TV!

Contributed by: Denise Pastor

More hints for Vault members:

'No Screen' is a relaxing money saver Contributed by: Marie Chandler

'No Screen', no big loss Contributed by: Vicky Booth

A big yes to 'No Screen' Contributed by: June Davies

Changing children's TV watching habits Contributed by: Rosemary Downs

DVD rental money put to better use Contributed by: Jenny Davidson

7. $21 Challenge Update

This month the $21 Challenge book has been helping some lucky bank customers on their way to an even more prosperous New Year! The lovely ladies at a branch of the BNZ bank in New Zealand has been merrily handing out copies of The $21 Challenge as a special Christmas gift to selected customers in recognition of their sterling efforts to save all year. Good on you BNZ!

Warning - Super Cute Video Alert!

Last month we shared some adorable photos of three-year-old Master Tristan Lippey making his favourite jelly ice blocks. This month the whole family has been busy making the fantastic home-made pizza recipe from page 161 of the $21 Challenge book. If you thought making your own pizza bases was too hard, you've obviously never tried this recipe! It's so easy and delicious, once you give it a go, you'll never want to buy pizza again!

Fiona and the kids enjoy making pizzas so much they even made up a song about it! In fact, they went one better and made a video of them all singing it and sent it to Oprah Winfrey, so she could see how cooking brings their family together! If you would like to see the video, you can watch it on Oprah's brand new OWN channel here:

To view the video click the link or the image above.

They all loved making the video and hope you enjoy watching it too. If you like the video, please tell your friends, click the 'like' button on Facebook and pass it on! When you do this, you will be doing something really important. You will be helping us to get the $21 Challenge book into America. We hear so much about the poor eating habits in the US and know that we can help families over there learn to cook and eat cheaper, healthier food just as we have done in Australia and NZ. But it's hard to get noticed when you're half a world away. For the past year we have been trying to get a copy of the book to Oprah but so far it has proved impossible; nobody even responds to our emails *pout*. Making videos like these is about as close as we can get to getting noticed in the US, so if you like our video and the $21 Challenge, please help us by sharing it with everyone you know. The more people who hear about us, the sooner we can start doing in the US what we do best - helping people!

Also, mark your War on Debt calendars for February because Fiona is doing a library tour of the Sunshine Coast! She will be talking at the following libraries and would love to see you there:

IMPORTANT: Although they are free to attend, these are booked events. You will need to ring the library and reserve a seat.

  • Cooroy Library, Thursday 3rd Feb, 6pm - 40 seats - (07) 5454 9000
  • Coolum Library, Tuesday 15th Feb, 10am - 25 seats - (07) 5343 2000
  • Kawana Library, Thursday 17th Feb, 10am - 30 seats - (07) 5458 6500
  • Maroochydore Library, Thursday 17th Feb, 2.30pm - 40 seats - (07) 5475 8900
  • Caloundra Library, Monday 21st Feb, 10am - 30 seats - (07) 5499 5444
  • Nambour Library, Tuesday 22nd Feb, 10am - 35 seats - (07) 5441 8332
  • Noosa Library, Thursday 24th Feb, 10am - 25 seats - (07) 5442 4411

You can also book your tickets online from the calendar page of the Sunshine Coast Libriaries website. Here is the link:
Sunshine Coast Libraries Events Calendar.

8. Cooking with Mimi

Fiona and the kids have been having a ball these holidays cooking Mimi's recipes. Take the time this No Screens Month to get cooking in the kitchen with your children. These recipes are heaps of fun to make and delicious too!


This is very similar to the wicked looking slushies that kids love but much cheaper and far healthier. They won't believe how simple it is to make their own!


  • Food processor or blender
  • Sharp knife
  • Medium saucepan
  • Loaf pan
  • Fork


  • 600g fruit, chopped coarsely
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Blend or process your fruit until smooth. Place juice and sugar in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Stir in the fruit puree. Pour the mixture into a loaf pan and cover with foil. Freeze for two hours. Remove from the freezer, and using the fork, scrape to roughen and loosen the ice crystals. Cover and return to the freezer for around six hours. Stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before scooping into small bowls or cups to serve.

Twice Baked Potatoes

When you mention the title of this recipe to your kids, you'll see their brains going into overdrive trying to imagine what this could possibly be. One try and you'll have a hard time convincing them to eat potatoes any other way!


  • Baking tray
  • Large bowl
  • Potato masher


  • Sufficient large potatoes to allow one or two halves per person, scrubbed well until clean
  • Milk
  • Butter if desired
  • Selection of add-ins e.g. cheese, diced ham or bacon, corn kernels or creamed corn, baked beans

Wrap the cleaned potatoes in foil and bake at 180C for up to one hour or until a skewer goes in easily.

Remove the potatoes and allow to cool. Refrigerate if necessary.

Halve the potatoes lengthwise, and scoop out the cooked flesh, leaving enough clinging to the peel to form a little 'bowl'.

Mash the removed potato flesh with your add-ins.

Scoop the mixture back into the shells of the potatoes, piling it up generously.

Return to the oven to bake for a further 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve as a main with a side salad, or on its own as a snack or side dish.

Fruity Pancake Sauce and Syrupy Stewed Fruit

This is a great frugal recipe and yields two yummy dishes in one! Kids and grown ups alike will love this fruity sauce for pancakes, filled with the stewed fruit or over ice cream. Both fruit and syrup will last up to two weeks if kept in the fridge.


  • Sharp knife
  • Medium saucepan
  • Bottles with lids
  • Airtight containers


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 250g fruit, washed and diced. Any overly soft fruit is great.

Place your sugar and water in the saucepan over a low heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the syrup to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from the heat. Add your diced fruit and return to a simmer on a medium heat. Reduce to low and cook for three minutes or until the syrup assumes the colour of the fruit.

Strain the syrup and bottle, then store in the refrigerator.

Place the fruit in airtight containers and swirl through muffin batter to make delicious fruit muffins, or serve with softened ice cream. Refrigerate until ready to use.

9. Penny's Blog: Tough Love

December 20th

It definitely pays to live in the middle of nowhere! I can hardly believe it but I've made it to Christmas without experiencing an ounce of stress! No crowded shopping malls, no impulse buys, no standing fuming in queues or swearing under my breath at other fraught shoppers as we bash baskets and trolleys into each other. Almost every purchase has been carefully thought out from the comfort of my own home and personally delivered there too! Even the items I put on lay-by months before we moved were picked up without having to travel to the city. I just rang the stores, explained I had moved and asked if I could complete my order over the phone using my Visa Debit card. They happily agreed to post them out for a fraction of the price it would have taken for me to drive two hours to pick them up!

Speaking of which, I haven't put any petrol in my car for longer than I can remember! I'm not sure when I will get around to filling it up either, thanks to the fantastic birthday present I received from Noel and the boys. Check this out, is this the coolest bike in the world or what!

It's so sturdy I should never need to buy another one and will pay for itself in no time with the amount it will save me on petrol. I absolutely adore my bike! And, with its flowery design I don't have to worry about the boys pinching it either! So if you ever happen to be in Whangamata and see someone whizzing past, madly ringing her 'ding-dong' bell like an Avon lady, it will be me!

Obviously I can't reveal what Noel and the boys are getting for Christmas but one thing's for sure; they won't be sitting inside this summer. If Liam thinks he's getting a new swag of Playstation games he is sorely mistaken! We made an early start to No Screens Month by putting his Playstation away under lock and key. From now on he is only allowed to play it on rainy days when there is not much outside he can do. When we first moved here Noel and I were delighted to see that he was so busy having fun in the great outdoors that he didn't even turn his Playstation on for the first few weeks. However once the boys made new friends and they all started hanging out at our place, things changed. The Playstation would go on and they would waste away day after scorching hot day holed up in Liam's room trying to beat each other at being soldiers, zombies and goodness knows what else.

The thing I hate about Liam using his Playstation for long periods of time is that you can actually see the changes in him. He loses all motivation and you can actually see him withdraw into himself as he becomes lost in his own little world where nothing else matters except scoring a century or beating the bad guy. Conversation gets replaced by grunts and he just about needs a rocket under his backside to get him to actually do anything. The only way to get my big, beautiful boy back was to take the blasted thing off him.

When he first realised his beloved games were no longer accessible 24/7 he was far from impressed. He saw it as punishment - I saw it as helping him. 'I want a son, not a cabbage!' I pleaded. 'There's a big world out there - we live at the BEACH for goodness sake! Go and find something else to do!' And he did. And when his friends came round and discovered the Playstation was out of bounds, they all found something else to do too. The backyard cricket came back, the tent went up in the garden, they started going to the pool and the beach again and their laughter could be heard late into the night as they raced around the neighbourhood playing Spotlight, which is basically a game of hide and seek in the dark. The different was marked and no one was happier than Ali, who had also had enough of having a cabbage for a brother and a bunch of couch potatoes as friends.

Ali loathes video games. As far as he's concerned, they actually STOP people having fun when they could be doing much cooler stuff outside. Like catching fish on a hand line from the wharf or exploring the big hill at the end of the road. Or earning money. Back where we used to live, jobs for kids their age were hard to come by but when we moved here the boys saw that many of their friends had jobs. As soon as Ali spotted an ad for newspaper delivery contracts in his school newsletter, he picked up the phone. Five minutes later he proudly told me 'I've got a job! I have to deliver 135 newspapers twice a week'. Next thing we know Liam is also dialling the number and securing a job for himself too! The money isn't huge but as Ali says, at least they're not stuck inside. They get to ride their bikes around the neighbourhood and once all their papers are delivered, the rest of the day is theirs. The first day they got to grips with their delivery route, they were touched at the number of elderly people who came out to thank them and help them by telling them who lives where, which houses were empty and so on. 'It's fun!' said Liam. 'Yeah - better than playing Playstation', Ali said pointedly at his brother. 'And you don't get paid for doing that!'

I don't believe in forcing a kid to do anything they don't want to do but there is one thing that we have really pushed the boys to do and that is surf life saving. Not that Ali needed any pushing. From the outset he loved heading out to the waves on his kneeboard, getting bowled around in the surf on giant tubes and working as a team in the rescue boat. Liam however needed a LOT of pushing. Even bribing didn't work! The reason? None of his mates at school did it. They all preferred hanging around town or playing video games. He didn't want them to tease him for being the only one who did it. That, coupled with an acute case of shyness. I thought we were fighting a losing battle until we went to his school prize giving, where the speaker was an inspirational young woman who had spent the last six years working for Surf Rescue. She spoke of how she was the only one in her year who did surf lifesaving when she was at school but she didn't care because the moment she joined up, she became part of a family. She told the kids not to be sheep and follow the rest of the crowd but to do what they wanted to do. To take every opportunity that was offered to them. All the things Noel and I had been trying to tell Liam for weeks - honestly, she couldn't have said it any better if we had been paying her to say it! Although I think it helped immensely that the girl who was speaking now was absolutely gorgeous and not fuddy duddy old Mum and Dad!

So that weekend the boys went along for the first time and received a warm welcome. 'You can't be shy around here!' they told Liam with a grin. Ali loved it instantly and whilst Liam was more reserved to start with, he's learning it's much more important to be happy than be cool. The stunning girl who spoke at prize giving is now their instructor and from Boxing Day they will be spending every day of the summer holidays at the beach training to be lifeguards. They'll be getting fit, healthy and sea savvy and learning vital First Aid skills. What with that and their newspaper round, I reckon Liam will be so busy having fun, he won't even miss his boring old Playstation!

December 2010

10. Homeopathy Corner: A Day in the Life

Have you ever wondered what a homeopath actually does? Well wonder no more! This month, our favourite homeopath Fran Sheffield shares a typical day, helping to treat a wide range of cases from psoriasis to asthma and everything in between!

Read the full story here.

11. From Last Month: Singles Need Help Too!

Last month Anna asked:

"I am REALLY, REALLY struggling, especially after a prolonged illness. Currently I am regretting 'doing the right thing', such as having a mortgage, paying for health insurance and so on.

"Independent singles are such a marginalized group that nobody seems to care about. We are not eligible for any support, tax benefits and so on, and other saving techniques such as buying in bulk are not practical. Please, please, please help."

Thank you to everyone who responded with such fantastic tips and advice! Whilst unfortunately we are unable to print them all, hopefully terrific ones like these will help Anna and other singles to feel more positive and get back on track.

A winning formula for singles

As a single in a similar position there are a few things you can try first - look at all your providers from electricity, gas, insurance even bank rates and try phoning them and asking for a better rate because you are thinking of signing up with their competition - this worked for me with phone and electricity. The unhelpful car insurance salesperson said they couldn't do a better deal, so I found a better one myself with a quote on the Net. Just doing this can get you some extra dollars monthly. Do you really need all the Internet access you're paying for and are you over-using your mobile phone? Take a good look at things like these and try and make some adjustments.

You don't have to buy bulk food, just buy reduced wherever you see and bag and freeze them in individual portions. Speak to friends, colleagues and relatives and you may find they would like to share some items. Start growing your own vegies - just a few of the things you like. Experiment with low-cost foods like noodles and rice where you don't need huge amounts of proteins to go with it. Think about any money you spend on restaurant/cafe/takeaway/coffee or snacks and imagine how many groceries you could get for the same amount. Oh - and read everything you can find on Simple Savings and you'll come out the winner!

Contributed by: Lisa Giselle Pastars

Tips from a happy SS single

I'm single, have a mortgage and a car loan and occasionally think 'What am I doing!?' Meanwhile all my 'couple-y' friends aren't quite sure what I'm so worried about! Some simple things I have done to cope include:

  1. Get a housemate! Not only does it take the weekly edge off your mortgage payment, but when those bills come around they can be halved - a whopping weight off your shoulders.
  2. Learn to love your freezer! Get some cheap takeaway containers and each weekend make up a batch of something and freeze into single portions. You will soon enough have a stock pile of foods so you can alternate meals for weeks. Think of meals that can be extended with sides of rice or pasta such as chilli con carne with extra kidney beans and beef stroganoff with extra mushrooms.
  3. Use eBay! Wait for the free listing weekends for smaller items and go for it. Be careful not to underestimate your postage costs though.
  4. Adopt a firm 'I can do it myself' attitude around the house, you can save a fortune on tradesman.
  5. Make a rule to never pay full price for any clothes or footwear. You'll save a fortune.
  6. Avoid hairstyles/colours and so on that need to be tended to every 6-8 weeks. Instead, choose ones that can be managed for a few months.

Stick at it and good luck; be proud of yourself for having a go on your own!

Contributed by: Afton Gooda

Speed up your mortgage payments and enjoy the rewards

I am a single independent female living on my own. I had a fairly large mortgage, but have mananged to pay it off. I realised that paying it weekly rather than monthly would save me lots as regards interest. I just switched my payment regime with my lender and treated the lesser amount I was paying each week like it was rent. Now I have no more 'rent' to pay I am saving the amount I used to pay for something I really want in the future!

Contributed by: Sally H

Tweak savings tips to suit singles

Singles, whether independent or not, need a support network. Friends, family and social/other organisations are vital. Immerse yourself with likeminded people, even if they are not single. You can make lots of savings; you just have to think outside the box - lose the 'I have to do everything myself' mindset and let your community or circle of friends help you.

Instead of looking at what you are not eligible for or can't do - look for what you ARE eligible for and CAN do. Look at each area in your life and make changes - make up a list or a picture board, whatever appeals to you to help organise your thoughts.

If you look at your mortgage, what can you come up with that is acceptable to you paying it off and what do you want out of life? For example you could sub rent out a section, take on an overseas independent student, a boarder, a working backpacker - not only will they help pay your mortgage but you can gain so much more. Community groups are great sources of help and you may well be able to help them at the same time. A lot of saving tips/techniques can be tweaked to suit you - you just have to be creative.

Contributed by: Angela Caballero

Make buying in bulk work for singles

Even if you are single you can still make buying in bulk work for you. The best way could be to get together with some other single friends or family members and go on a 'buy in bulk' shopping spree once a month or fortnight. You could try local markets where you can pick up boxes of fruit and veg cheaply and share the cost and the goodies. It could be a great day out with your friends while saving all some money too!

Contributed by: Deborah Jamieson

Get cooking with other singles

When I was a single, I got together with the other three singles in my apartment block and we took turns cooking meals once a week. Most nights were eat and run, or we would take our meals to our units to eat alone if busy with work. We each had a night to cook, and if people could not make it, we made up a takeaway for them!

Contributed by: Mel Smith

Use your single status to your advantage

Use the advantages independent singles DO have, such as being able to share accommodation costs in a way that families cannot. I suggest systematically eliminating all debt until you can once again position yourself financially strong and make headway. Although it may seem good, a mortgage can impoverish you if you can no longer easily afford it (after all, mortgage does mean 'death grip' in French!). A book called 'Total Money Makeover' by Dave Ramsay gives a good blueprint on going from financial mess to 'financially sound'. I found it a great help.

Contributed by: Sue Rumsley

Make individual food portions last longer

If buying in bulk wastes a lot of food through spoilage, then investing in a food saver could be a good idea. It is like vacuum packing all your foods into single meals/serves. The lack of oxygen available in the sealed bags means there are heavily reduced oxidation processes which are what spoils the food. A bonus of doing this is when these items are frozen, freezer burn doesn't take hold, but it can even lengthen the fridge life of an avocado by at least five more days!

Contributed by: Rebecca Skelding

12. This Month's Help Request: Holiday Food for Hungry Teens

This month Jennifer asks:

"Help! School holidays are here and I'm already being eaten out of house and home by hordes of active teenage boys! They are all great kids who love hanging out at our place and I don't want to make them feel unwelcome but constantly feeding extras is really hurting my food budget. I don't feel as though I can feed my own children and not the others when they are around so I always end up giving in and making food for everybody. If I tell them to fend for themselves for lunch they simply go into town and waste their money on takeaways, my kids included! Does anyone have any suggestions for cheap fillers I can have on hand or whip up quickly so we can all save money?"

If anyone has any advice which could help Jennifer, please send them in to us here.

December 2013 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - December 2013

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Get Stuffed!
  2. December: Old-fashioned Fun!
  3. Ye Olde Shoppe: No More Tiger Stripes
  4. Penny Wise: A Very Penny Christmas
  5. Best of the Vault: The Lost Art of Having Fun
  6. Best of the Forum: Simple Pleasures
  7. Best Members' Blog: Upon Reflection
  8. Cooking with Mimi: Luxury Gold Leafed and Embellished Coconut Ice
  9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Sweet Talking the Flowers!
  10. From Last Month: Digital Dilemma!
  11. This Month's Help Request: Christmas Sales Savvy

Merry Christmas!

Thank you for your kindness and wonderful support this year. To show our gratitude we got your calendar finished early :-) Click the image below to grab your copy.

I hope you really love this year's calendar and it inspires you to new heights. It is lots of fun working and saving together.

We received some wonderful emails this month. Here are our favourites:

"I received your latest newsletter and couldn't help but thank you for all the hints and tips. We are going overseas tomorrow, and after almost two years of saving here and there with the help of your wonderful website, we are flying to three Asian countries for five weeks! Here's a surprise - my husband Roger and I always save our loose change and the result is $2200.20! Roger and I save in our own little ways and still enjoy our life to the fullest! Simple Savings - the best website in the whole world. Thanks again Fiona and also to your wonderful staff." (Mell & Roger)

"Loved the last newsletter and wanted to congratulate Claire on saving long and hard for her kitchen - well done Claire, you're an inspiration." (Leonie)

"Christmas shopping DONE! I have given my friends and some younger relatives memberships as gifts this Christmas. I hope they get just as much out of this amazing website as I have." (Triscia)

Have a great month!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Get Stuffed!

"That was wonderful, Edna, I'm absolutely stuffed!" smiled Sally, patting her stomach at the Christmas table. "You're welcome dear, so glad you're all better. Sounds like a nasty virus that got hold of you all!" Edna sympathised. "It looks like James has made a great recovery anyway, look at him out there playing cricket, he's having a blast! Isn't it funny how the kids have all deserted their flashy toys for a bat and ball? Some things never change."

"The food is amazing Edna. Tell me, where did you buy this Christmas pudding? I must grab one for us next year, it's delicious!" praised Cousin Ruth. "Buy, dear? Heavens no, I made it! Have done for years. It's my own great-grandmother's recipe." Edna said proudly. "Wow, that must be REALLY old - OUCH!" giggled James, running in for a glass of water and getting an elbow from Sally. "Dad - will you come and play cricket with us?"

"Sure mate, just coming! Thank you so much for having us all Edna. It's been a really enjoyable day." Pete pecked her on the cheek. "Nothing like a good old-fashioned Christmas!" Edna smiled, "Well it's been lovely to have you here. I'm just glad you were able to make it after all. When Sally rang and said you were all sick..." "Yes, well if Sally had had her way - OOMPH!" Pete spluttered as Sally shoved a huge spoonful of pudding into his mouth. "If I had my way, we'd come to you EVERY year Edna!" Sally beamed. "Pete just can't get enough of your Christmas pudding, can you darling!"

2. December: Old-fashioned Fun!

Pete is right, there really is nothing like a good old-fashioned Christmas! Carol singing, cricket in the yard, silly hats and the traditional Christmas pud. Back in Edna's day that's how all Christmases used to be. Fun and relaxation was high and pressure was low - but sadly those kinds of Christmases are no longer the norm. These days Christmas comes with a hefty price tag, and the fun many of us have had marketed to us is in the form of computers, video games, movie theatres and theme parks, not something as low-cost and simple as a bat and ball or a pack of cards.

Not in Simple Savings land, however! This month we're encouraging everyone to bring back the Christmases of old. Forget all the hype and pressure, the fancy marketing tricks and hard sell and just have a good time! What do you remember about the Christmases of your youth? Let's try and re-create them this year.

The best thing about old-fashioned fun is that it's usually free. Remember the things you used to do and the games you used to play? Enjoy them this Christmas with your loved ones and show them the best games don't have to come from a store! Here are some ideas to jog your memory:

  • Get the board games out and challenge everyone to a game of Life or Monopoly
  • Teach your kids how to play some of the card games you played as a kid
  • Play charades
  • Make play dough and use Christmas cookie cutters to make fun ornaments
  • Have a water fight
  • Go for a walk on the beach
  • Play games in the park
  • Invite the neighbours around
  • Get a long sheet of plastic and make a Slip and Slide
  • Decorate a tree outside for the animals and birds
  • Make paper chains
  • Make mince pies or shortbread from scratch
  • Play Christmas music and teach the kids how to sing your favourite Christmas songs
  • Go carol singing
  • Take the family to look at the Christmas lights in your neighbourhood.

Remember any of the above? What else have you forgotten about Christmas? Bring it back this year. Stop looking at the lists, and the area under the tree and thinking it is not enough. Give the gift of time and love instead and enjoy some old-fashioned fun!

3. Ye Olde Shoppe: No More Tiger Stripes

We'd like to share this email we received from one of our Forum members, Tradies Wife, who has a new little baby to love - congratulations!

"I'm experiencing a very long pregnancy at over 42 weeks. When I was pregnant with my other two babies, stretch marks were part of the pregnancy 'glow'. However, during this pregnancy I ditched the commercial body butters and pregnancy creams you can buy for stretch marks. I made my own creams to begin with, then got a bit lazy and decided to just use straight macadamia oil from the SS shop.

"The result, well, I have very, very few stretch marks. To the point that when I went in and saw the mid wife she asked me what on earth I use! I was a little surprised that I didn't have more too!

"Not only has the macadamia oil worked brilliantly, but it is very cheap to buy at around $21 a litre. That is plenty for a whole nine months + as well as having some left over for massages and other beauty treatments.

"And it's saved me from gaining pregnancy tiger stripes!"

You can read more about macadamia oil in Ye Olde Shoppe here

New product: Pressure Cooker Saved My Life

This book will make you and anyone who reads it feel good about themselves. When Fiona first read it she loved it so much she bought another three copies and gave them to her family and friends. It is a must read book, and now it's available in Ye Olde Shoppe!.

4. Penny Wise: A Very Penny Christmas!

The Christmas tree is up, the lights are sparkling, the wreath is on our front door - and that's all I've done so far. It's our first Christmas in our new little house and to be honest, I'm feeling completely overwhelmed. Unlike Sally in the newsletter stories, I don't have to worry about impressing anyone this year. My present shopping list has got a lot smaller and this year it's just going to be me, my boys, my mum and her partner. Technically it should be a really relaxed and low-key Christmas! But the pressure is still very much on. You see, it's my boys' first Christmas without their dad and I want to make it extra special for them. I know they're going to be sad, I know they're going to feel it but I'm going to do my darnedest to make it as happy as possible.

We all know Christmas isn't about the presents and I have no problem filling our home with masses of Christmas spirit - the same corny carol CD's will be playing the same as they have every year for longer than the kids can remember. Ali and I will make shortbread Christmas angels as always, the house will be full of the aroma of mulled wine simmering in the crock pot and there will be crackers and daft paper hats. But what is really worrying me IS the presents, or lack of them. We've always had a great big pile of enticing gifts under the tree and while the boys know money is tight, they still have wishes for Christmas just like every other child and right now, I have no idea how I'm going to afford ANY. Every spare dollar and beyond is allocated towards paying bills and I don't want to start the New Year off in overdraft or struggling with credit card debt. Still, I know there are many other families in the same position and far worse off and I am NOT going to let this beat me. I'm going to make sure my boys have a wonderful Christmas no matter what!

Tomorrow I am going to devote the whole day to selling my worldly goods on Trade Me, or on our local Facebook Buy Sell Swap page. I've actually had more success with Facebook as there are no fees and everything seems to get snapped up pronto, rather than having to wait for days for an auction to finish. No mucking about with postage either, as everyone just comes and picks up their bargains! Putting things on layby just isn't an option this year as I know I won't be able to pay them off in time for Christmas so I just hope my items sell. I think I also have a good amount of Flybuys points accumulated which could be a big help - unfortunately I'm still a joint card holder with the boys' dad though so I hope that he'll be willing to let me use some for their presents (and that he hasn't used them all up already!). I guess no matter what happens, as long as I'm being pro-active and doing all I can, I can't do any more than that. I did have one huge flash of inspiration for a wonderful present which I know the boys will love and help to keep the mood happy and light on Christmas Day! But, I can't tell you what it is yet!

I don't mean to sound all 'bah humbug' but I can't wait to get Christmas over with. Let's face it, when you're trying to save it's a bit of a flipping great inconvenience! Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to spending a relaxing day together and being on hand for the boys to do whatever they want; it's the one day when I do really get to relax in my own home and stop worrying about the huge pile of ironing or all the squillion other things that need doing - but all I really want to do is get ahead with my finances. Just keep plugging away at those lingering bills and get them paid off - at the moment it feels like I owe EVERYBODY money! I really don't like having that hanging over my head. But from next week there will be no lunchboxes to make and I can make the three of us yummy lunches from next to nothing. Both the boys are job hunting - Liam had one and was loving the independence of earning his own money but unfortunately he got laid off a few weeks in after they took on too many staff and didn't have enough work. Ali is hoping to work at the local supermarket - with a population that swells in our town from 4000 to 70,000 over summer the hours are intense but it's only for a few weeks and the money is well worth it.

I have a feeling that 2014 is going to be a good year for us - I do hope so! Both the boys have been through so much; they really deserve a good Christmas and an easier year ahead. But they have also learned an awful lot and I truly believe it has made them stronger, better people. They know what it is like now to truly exist on nothing (as do I!) and although there are times their situation makes them angry or depressed, they have learned through the friends they have made that there are many of their peers who have had to deal with much, much worse and it makes them humble. As for me, it's been a bumpy old time indeed! But every time I feel as though I've reached breaking point a little voice inside my head says 'No you bloody haven't!' and eventually I come out the other side with renewed determination. Right now I may be feeling a little overwhelmed about Christmas but I know we'll have a good day no matter what and apart from that I'm feeling stronger now than ever. I just can't wait for 2014 to hurry up and arrive so I can show my boys and myself what we can achieve. It's going to be the year of Penny, just you wait and see!

You can get updates on Penny's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

5. Best of the Vault: The Lost Art of Having Fun

Sometimes it seems as if we've forgotten how to have fun that doesn't involve a screen or earplugs! Christmas is the perfect time to turn the clock back and start having fun the old-fashioned way with some ideas from the Vault:

Monopoly with a local touch

Move over Mayfair! This version of Monopoly is much cheaper and puts the home into home-made!

When I was a kid we made a Monopoly game using local landmarks and streets. We got an old games board, although a square of cardboard would work just as well, and covered it with white paper. We marked it out just like a Monopoly board but we put our local streets, shops and services as the stops on the board. We made up our own chance cards and used small toys as counters. It was great fun to play our own Monopoly, especially if anyone from the neighbourhood came over to play.

Contributed by: Su M

Enjoy the sunset

Find all the best spots in your area to view beautiful sunsets. Pack a nice picnic supper, take along some favourite music and stop letting the sunsets pass you by. These lovely memorable times with loved ones are truly priceless.

Contributed by: Lexie Walker

Low-cost murder mystery parties

If you frequently entertain, enjoy a low-cost night with a difference by hosting a murder mystery party!  A chance for you and your guests to be 'someone else for a night' and have some fun while taking part in some detective work. These are making a real comeback!  I enjoy having friends over and have run a few murder parties but they can be costly to buy, even second hand.  However, I stumbled upon a helpful website which has seven free games to download. It even gives hints as to how to write your own murder mystery game.  Take you and your friends into the heart of a Ruth Rendell novel and fill your evening with role-play, scandals, accusations, greed, affairs and murder!

Contributed by: LJM

Bombs away

During warm weather, we make origami water bombs by folding the pages from newspapers we have read. For instructions, go to

We spend the morning making them and then it's bombs away in the afternoon! We get a fun, if somewhat soggy, workout by throwing the bombs at each other. Once we've exhausted our energy and cooled off, we put the newspaper bombs straight into the compost ready to layer with the next lot of scraps. Green fun all round and it costs nothing to enjoy. Certainly cheaper than taking the family to the aquatic centre!

Contributed by: Louise Myers

6. Best of the Forum: Simple Pleasures

We Simple Savers already know that the simple things in life are often the best - and often free! Our Forum members have some wonderful ideas and inspiration to get more 'simple' back into your life this Christmas!

Elfing older people

Buttercup is on a mission to bring a little joy to those who might need it this Christmas - good on you Buttercup!

What I like about Christmas

Get your tissues ready - lovely Claire and friends talk about simple Christmas pleasures.

Being a Weasley at Christmas

Nik C. and her wisdom-wielding wizards give Christmas a 'Weasley workover'.

Stepping back and living a new life

Forum member RB shares the new direction her life is taking - watch out world!

7. Best Members' Blog: Upon Reflection

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a $100 store credit in Ye Olde Shoppe, or $100 cash each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's Blog winner is Karebear who is literally changing her life and we can only applaud her courage and conviction!

"I have been pondering the great mystery of life over the last couple of months. A couple of extended family members have passed away, one from cancer and the other from old age. Only this week my teenage nephew was diagnosed with Leukaemia and is undergoing chemotherapy as I write.

"I have been working so gosh darn hard these last few months, and I guess I've had a little wake-up call. Yes, I want to be debt-free and financially independent, but I do want to have a little fun along the way. I know of people who have put everything off - family, travel, life experiences - until they 'retire' and then within weeks something terrible happens (accident or illness) and they don't get the chance to kick back and savour the fruits of their labours. Well, I realise I might come across as wishy washy, but I want the best of both worlds!

"So, with this in mind, I have made some rather firm guidelines to get rid of the credit card, keep saving for the future and get the mortgage paid off within five years. Firstly, and most importantly, I have set some time aside for me which means I will make sure I have at least two days off from work, every week! I'm feeling light-headed as I type this because over the last five to six years, for about eight months of each year, I have worked seven days a week. One stint was 51 days of non-stop work. Next year I plan on taking some long service leave so I can build up the business I have started and then maybe, just maybe, I can reduce the hours of my full time job even more!

"I do have two major goals I want to achieve as well:

"Major Goal 1 - I really want to go to Europe! Once my new holiday account balance hits $5,000, I'm booking my flights and I'm off!

"Major Goal 2 - A little camper trailer! Australia is a wonderful country and I would like to see a lot more of it!

"On a personal level, my health is suffering because of the crazy hours that I work but I'm finding out about Tai Chi classes and going to continue cycling. With the days off, I can make up a few bulk meals to freeze to make life easier and I plan on doing a major spring clean on my house, a bit here and there.

"My finances will be healthy, I will be healthy and my house will be neat - bring it on!"

Well done Karebear - we look forward to following the rest of your adventures!

You can read more of our members' blogs here.

8. Cooking with Mimi: Luxury Gold Leafed

and Embellished Coconut Ice

Here's my Coco Chanel inspired luxury coconut ice, which I am gifting for Christmas this year. Who says coconut ice has to be pink!

It's a fairly standard coconut ice recipe that I've had for decades, and if you have your own version then, by all means use that instead. It's the decorating that makes this one special. It's also important to cut the coconut ice into slabs rather than the traditional squares just to make it look a bit more grown up.

Each slab costs around $3.00-$8.00 depending upon how much gold leaf and how many roses you use to decorate it.

You'll need:
(This will yield about six slabs, as pictured)

  • 125g Copha (1/2 a block)
  • 1 x 500g packet icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 x 250g packet dessicated coconut
  • 2 egg whites, whisked in a cup with a fork until they're foaming around the edges. This takes no more than a minute.
  • 2 tsp black gel food colouring (available at cake decorating suppliers for $6.00-$7.00)
  • 1 sheet edible gold leaf (also available at cake decorators for about $7.00 a sheet)
  • One large soft artists brush or a pastry brush
  • Small fondant roses, either made by hand if you're a bit clever, or purchased at the supermarket in the baking aisle or at cake decorators.
  • Greaseproof paper to wrap or you can use baking paper
  • Wide craft ribbon or satin or organza ribbon to tie around it
  • 1 cake tin or slice tin 20cm x 20cm, lined with baking paper, with some overhanging the edges of the tin so you can lift the coconut ice out easily

To make:

Melt the Copha in a small microwave bowl on 'high' until just barely melted and allow to cool slightly.

Put the sifted icing sugar and coconut in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the cooled melted Copha and the whisked egg white and combine well.

Press half of this mixture into a thin layer on the base of your lined tin. Clean, wet hands will help smooth the surface and a fondant smoother is great if you have one, just to really press it flat and into the corners.

Now add the black food colouring to the other half of the coconut ice left in the bowl. Make sure you mix it really well, stretching it out with the back of a spoon and stirring it back in, a bit like kneading with a spoon, to be certain there are no white flecks left.

Smooth this over the white layer with clean hands and the back of a spoon to even it out.

Chill for an hour, then loosen the coconut ice with a thin knife around the unlined edges, and carefully lift it out. Cut into six even slabs.

Tear off an 8cm wide strip of greaseproof or baking paper and fold it in three, finishing the seam underneath. Trim it to fit around your slab. Cut a length of ribbon about 15-30cm long and have it ready. Set aside.

Take one sheet of edible gold leaf and place it face down on the black upper side of your coconut ice. Using the brush, rub in circles on the back of the sheet of paper attached to the gold leaf to encourage the gold leaf to adhere to the surface of the coconut ice. Continue to do this, using up as much of the gold leaf on the sheet as you can, until you're happy with the amount on the top of your coconut ice.

Add the roses in one corner. If you've bought them from the cake decorator, they'll be on a stem which you can simply cut to length and stab into the top of the coconut ice. If they're home-made or from the supermarket, you'll need to adhere them with a bit of icing.

Wrap the folded length of greaseproof paper around one end of the bar of coconut ice and tie it in place with the length of ribbon.

You can now lay it on platters for the table or wrap it in lace, cellophane or a box for gifting.

Very pretty and even blokes love it!

You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Sweet Talking the Flowers!

Copious Curcurbits

Of all the plants we have grown this spring, we are most pleased with our melons, spaghetti squash, zucchini and pumpkin vines. :)» The pumpkin vine has proven to be quite a handful with its never-ending quest to conquer the front yard and we now think the spaghetti squash is trying to make a break for it through the corn into the asparagus bed. I think it might be time to make a counter-attack with the garden shears but shall see how far they advance before I make a tactical move.

Even though the plants themselves are going gangbusters at the moment they still don't always set the amount of fruit we would like. Un-pollinated/lost fruit is one problem we come up against even when the plants are well fed and watered.

This family of plants have what is known as imperfect, or incomplete flowers, meaning the male and female reproductive organs are on separate flowers. Perfect/complete flowers have both male and female organs in the one flower (tomatoes, eggplants, chillies, etc.). Imperfect flowers rely on bees and other pollinators to transfer the pollen from the male flower to the female.

Unfortunately, the bees do not always perform their duty so we end up with a fair amount of failed fruit. One way you can remedy this is to take matters into your own hands, put on the bee suit (optional) and do the job yourself. The flowers are only receptive to pollination for a short amount of time so it is best to get out there and pollinate them before 9am if you want the best shot at getting fruit to set.

First you need to select a freshly open male flower that has loads of pollen on the tip of the stamen (anther). Carefully remove the petals from the outside of the flower until the stamen is fully exposed.

Then all you need to do is dab the pollen onto the tip of the stigma of the female flower and the job is done. You can normally tell within 36 hours if the pollination has been successful as the fruit will start to grow. With zucchini in particular I have found that some days there will be no male flowers on the plant, but that is really no problem as the female fruit is perfectly edible at that size. There just won't be a lot to go around the dinner table.

Another way this can be achieved is to use a small soft bristled paint brush to collect the pollen from the male flower and deposit onto the stigma of the female flower. I have seen this method recommended when you may have a few female flowers to pollinate but only a single male. If you are growing more than one variety of pumpkin/squash and are still interested in saving some seeds, it is possible to tie off the female flower to ensure that the seeds will grow true to type plants.

Get out into the patch as early as you can, pollinate the flowers then tie off the petals around the female flower to stop any pollen from other varieties getting in there. Alternatively, if you felt like donning the mad scientist lab coat, you could try to develop your own hybrid varieties using the same technique. ;)

I would like to thank Sarah on the Share the Seed group for inspiring this post and all that contributed. I hope some of the pumpkins stick for you all. ;)

Rob : )»

You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

10. From Last Month: Digital Dilemma!

Last month Megan emailed us asking for help in organising her digital photos before she loses them forever:

"I really need some ideas on how to organise my digital photos! I have hundreds and hundreds on my camera, on my laptop and on my phone and I am very concerned about losing them. How do other people organise their digital photo collection? I really feel overwhelmed."

We got some fantastic ideas for Megan - you're going to be a busy lady! Here are some of our favourite replies:

Update photos regularly for quick sorting

I organise my digital photos on my laptop in folders by year and then month. If sent/given photos from friends these are saved in a separate folder marked accordingly.

I regularly download from my camera/iPad/phone to my laptop. When done frequently it is hardly a chore. This main photo file is then copied onto an external hard drive (back-up) for safety, as computers are notorious for crashing and losing/deleting data!

If you have hundreds and hundreds of photos this will be a lengthy project to undertake. However, if you commit to start now and move forward saving all future photos using tips such as this, but also incorporate a small amount of backlog with each download session, you will be organised in no time at all.

Contributed by: Amanda Walker

Create a personal cloud!

To solve my digital dilemma and keep all my precious files safe, I bought a network-ready external hard drive which I have connected to the router. Mine is a Western Digital (WD) brand. I then transferred all my pictures, music and videos to the hard disk. It took a little time and patience transferring everything over but I can now access my photos, music, videos and documents from anywhere in the world provided the router and disk is ON 24/7. You can access the files using Wi-Fi or your phone network. It is basically your personal cloud! Likewise, that disk will also work as a media server. As long as they are on the same network you can play songs and videos and watch your pictures from your computer, phone, tablet and even your PS3 and Xbox!

Contributed by: Sharav Shrestha

Storing photos old and new

We run a small computer group of retirees and their suggestions on managing photos came up at one of our meetings: There is a free software program called 'Picasa' which can be downloaded from the Internet and allows you to edit and modify your photos, and manage them into slide shows. Adobe Photoshop also does the same function.

We recommend the following:

  1. First of all, get rid of all second rate, duplicated, unwanted and poor quality photos.
  2. Sort what you have left into date order (you can make this easier by roughly classifying them into different years).
  3. This relates to photos in digital format - change the name of each photo to one which reflects both date and brief description of content or place. Note the date should be in reverse order - looks like this '2013/08/15' or '2013' if you don't know the exact date, followed by a short description 'Tony's 21st birthday', then save to a computer file. Open separate folders in your computer for particular activities where you have a lot of photos. Continue this way with all your photos, then do a sort and save them to a USB memory stick, DVD or CD.
  4. From experience, DVDs and CDs don't always maintain the quality of the picture and they have limited storage capacity. Whatever method you use, make sure that your storage device has a label specifying the contents.
  5. You may end up with multiple storage devices with your photos on them; file these in a suitable container in date order.
  6. It's always a good idea to have more than one digital record of the same photos, stored in a different place so that you don't lose your photos. You can also take advantage of websites on the Internet which will store your stuff for you, so that your computer memory is not filled up.
  7. When it comes to old photos in hard copy version, write the date and description in pencil on the back and place them in envelopes for each year, facing the same way so that they don't stick together, using tissue paper if they are really precious. For these you will need a storage box, and these are widely available in most $2 shops.
  8. At a later date, when you have time on your hands, it might be a good idea to scan all the older photographs and store them along with your other more recent digital photos.

Contributed by: Norma King

Round up all the gadgets once a month

As a scrapbooker and avid photographer of four active children (and a puppy), keeping track of my digital pics is essential. As soon I'm done for the day I transfer all from my camera or phone onto my computer. I have folders under 'My Pictures' for each year with subfolders for each month. I go through each pic and cull blurry or 'too hard to Photoshop' photos (I'm lazy!), then rename each photo using my trusty ACDSee program which batch renames using the format of year, month, day and brief event description. ACDSee numbers each picture sequentially so I only have to type the info and click the process button.

Once a month I round up all the kids' electronic equipment and transfer all their pics to my computer as well, sort by date, then rename and move into relevant month folder. I back everything up to an external hard drive once a week (sometimes more often as it can take a while - I set it for overnight so is not cutting into day computer use).

Every year for Christmas I burn DVD copies of the year's photos for the grandparents and send with a monthly collage/description 6x6 scrapbook which I *try* to do over the course of the year.

That way - heaven forbid - I know I have back-up copies of all my photos with the grandparents and as technology changes I will update to suit.

Contributed by: Mum2Five

Organise your pics and save with Snapfish

For those struggling with a mass of digital photos, I use Snapfish to organise all mine - You can upload them from your computer or your mobile phone (just get a free app for either an iPhone or an Android). I regularly upload the photos straight from my phone and my husband's. You can also upload them from your camera by plugging it into your computer. It's easy to create folders as you upload and add to them. From there, you can do all sorts of things with your photos - order prints or gifts, share the albums with your friends and relatives, or - and this is my favourite - you can make photo books. This is the BEST way to use digital photos. It's like scrapbooking but cheaper and neater. You could spend hours and hours putting books together if you are interested, but it is also simple to do very quick albums using their auto fill feature.

NEVER pay full price for any products on Snapfish - they are constantly doing discounts on one thing or another. You just need to keep checking to see if they are doing a discount on what you want. For example, just before Mother's Day they did a two-for-one deal on photo books, so for Mother's Day both grandmothers got a beautiful photo album of their newborn granddaughter, and they absolutely loved it. I have also done small softcover photo books for under $10 to send to overseas relatives and I have made elaborate 'yearbooks' with stories and captions and bright colours, which I then save until a big discount allows me to buy it cheaply!

Contributed by: Rebecca C

A USB works for me!

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to store and protect digital photos is to store them on a USB flash drive. My daughter keeps hers with her most of the time so that she can print one or two out cheaply when she does her shopping at places like Kmart. If you can get the storage devices on sale, you could probably use a few of them, for example, different ones for different topics, 'Family', 'Friends', 'Pets' and so on!

Contributed by: Gusta T

11. This Month's Help Request: Christmas Sales Savvy

Sophie has emailed asking for some help! She writes:

"I have gone to a few Christmas sales in the past but stopped going as there seemed to be more hype than bargains. How do you get good deals at the Christmas sales?"

If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Sophie, please send them in to us here.

12. Goodbye for Now!

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for December 2013 and we hope you have enjoyed it. We hope we've inspired you to enjoy some good old-fashioned fun - let us know how you go!

From our family to yours, we wish you a wonderful Christmas, and we can't wait to share an exciting 2014 with you!

Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on the Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...

All the best,

December 2015 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - December 2015

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Troll Blood!
  2. December: Make it Fun, Make it Funny!
  3. Best of the Vault: Festive Feasting!
  4. Best of the Forum: Countdown to Christmas
  5. Best Members' Blog: Zero Dollar Christmas
  6. Cooking with Mimi: An Extravagantly Decorated Table Saves on Food That Goes to Waste
  7. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: A New Pond for the Patch and a Fishy Update


MERRY CHRISTMAS!! I hope you have a lovely break. We have made you a Christmas gift (2016 calendar) and we will be sending it to you in a few days. In the meantime, we have some great last minute gifts that only cost pennies but look fantastic!

Thank you for supporting us for another year. And, thank you for kind emails. They inspire us to work harder. Here are our favourite emails this month:

"Thank you for everything Fiona and Matt - I have had great pleasure in buying memberships for my adult children for Christmas this year." (Tanya)

"Still loving my $21 Challenge - thank you! You have saved me hundreds of dollars every few months." (Mariah)

Have a great month!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. The calendar is almost ready and we will be sending it to you in a few days.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Troll Blood!

Sal looked at the list she had made and sighed. "I have 21 gifts left to buy and only have $120 to spend. That's less than $6 each. What on earth can I buy for $6 that says 'Hey, Merry Christmas! You're special!'?"

Hanna smiled at her friend across the desk and started to speak but Sally cut her off. "No Hanna, I know you're going to say I can make something. I did that last year remember and it ended up costing a fortune, way more than if I bought them something in the first place. No, I've got to think of something I can buy, and quickly."

Hanna tried again, "Sal, I was going to say I have the perfect idea. It IS home-made but it's quick and easy and cheap to make. The best thing is you can personalise it for each person which makes it extra special." Sal perked up. "Hanna, that sounds wonderful. What is it?" Hanna smiled, "It's 'Troll Blood'!"

2. December: Make it Fun, Make it Funny

'Troll Blood'? What on earth is 'Troll Blood' you may ask? Did we really capture a few internet trolls and turn them into chocolate sauce as the label says?

The answer is, "YES! Yes we did! And it was lots of fun!!"

OK, the real answer is no. Troll Blood is made from cocoa, water, sugar, vanilla and salt and it is part of my long-running quest for the perfect gift. For years I have watched to see which gifts people enjoy the most. These gifts are the ones that appeal to the heart, the mind and/or the senses. They are often:-

  • gifts that are hand-made
  • gifts that make them laugh or smile
  • gifts that taste good.

If you can find a gift that does all three things, then you have a hit! So I've combined all three to make the ultimate frugal gift to use for Christmas and birthday gifts. It is a killer chocolate sauce recipe, stored in easy to buy jars with a great selection of labels to match your friends' tastes.

We have had a ball making the labels and we uploaded them so you can do it too.

First I'll show you all the labels up close and then the all-important recipe.

We have 'Troll blood' for your friends who find internet trolls really frustrating.

For teachers and coaches with a wicked sense of humour, we have 'Essence of Revenge'!

For the friend who likes things simple, we have some basic Christmas labels.

For friends who like coffee, we have altered the recipe (see below), offering to blow their heads off!

Or, help them concentrate :-)

For your friends who love chocolate. We have..

Here is the recipe (and all important labels) to make two delicious jars of 'Troll Blood' (or whatever else you'd like to call it!) to give to loved ones and others who share your dislike for trolls!

Troll Blood

Makes 2 x 1 litre jars

Shopping list:

  • 2 x 1 litre jars ($6)
  • 1 box (380g) cocoa ($4)
  • 2kg sugar ($2)
  • Vanilla essence
  • Salt


Print out chosen labels

Glue stick



  • 2kg sugar
  • Box of cocoa (380g)
  • 1 litre water (or coffee)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs vanilla essence

Put sugar and cocoa in a really big stock pot. Stir together to remove all the lumps from the cocoa. Add liquid (water or coffee) and salt. Turn stove to high and stir continually. When it is boiling, turn heat to medium. Keep stirring and watching. If it gets too hot it will bubble over. Let syrup simmer until it thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla essence.

Pour into two jars. When cooled add your labels.

And now you have two awe-inspiring, home-made gifts for a tiny $6 each! It is the ultimate frugal gift.

Download the labels here.

Merry Christmas!!


3. Best of the Vault: Festive Feasting!

Say 'Merry Christmas' with love by cooking your own festive fare this year. With a bit of thought and organisation, you can create a delicious and inexpensive Christmas for your loved ones to remember. Here are some great ideas from the Vault:

Boozy strawberry syrup

This delicious strawberry syrup makes an ideal festive gift for sipping and slurping! It's so easy and only takes a week until it's ready. All you need are strawberries, sugar, vodka and a clean jar.

  • Put fresh strawberries into an elegant jar or bottle.
  • Drizzle with white sugar until the jar is filled.
  • Fill with vodka.
  • Turn daily for a week to dissolve the sugar.
  • Decorate the jar with ribbon and/or a festive tag.
  • Use as a drink with lemonade or over crepes, ice cream or strawberries. Yum!

Contributed by: Kathy L

Frozen Christmas Bombe

This Christmas recipe serves 6-8 people.

  • 1 cup mixed dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup sliced glace cherries
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 x 359g can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 x 300ml cartons thickened cream
  • 1/2 cup dark choc bits
  • 1/2 cup white choc bits
  • 1/2 cup flaked almonds, toasted
  1. Combine dried fruit, cherries and brandy in a bowl. Cover and stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Line a 1.5 litre (six cup capacity) pudding basin with plastic wrap, freeze whilst preparing ice-cream.
  3. Beat sweetened condensed milk and cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thick. Fold through the fruit mixture, dark and white choc bits and almonds.
  4. Pour the mixture into a prepared basin. Freeze for several hours, or overnight.
  5. Before serving, turn out pudding onto a plate; then smooth the surface with a wet knife.
  6. Decorate with fresh fruit/berries, and bottled sauce of your choice.

Contributed by: Vivien Wakefield

Minimal Cost Christmas

Christmas can be an expensive time of year but I have learned to make savings. I buy turkey and chicken pieces instead of a whole bird. This way saves time in cooking and preparing and if you want stuffing to go with it, make it up in muffin tins.

I make my own cake instead of buying one. I soak the fruit and nuts in black tea for 24 hours and make it up as usual. I don't make a cake with more than 2 eggs in, I find it unnecessary. I pour a tablespoon of brandy or whiskey over the cake daily for 2 weeks to keep it fresh; the taste does disappear after a few days of not doing it.

Mince tarts can be made with 500g of mixed dried fruit minced up fine in a blender to go further. I make sweet shortcrust pastry and put in about 2 teaspoons for each portion, then bake for 20 mins or until golden brown.

Using these methods, I have worked out that our Christmas dinner will cost under $20 to serve ten people. We make our own beer so for $11 we have 72 bottles of beer. I buy the beer kits when they are on special. I make my own hats, sweets and table settings. The library has lots of books on the subject, most items needed can be found in op shops for a minimal cost.

Contributed by: Kaye King

4. Best of the Forum: Countdown to Christmas

Christmas doesn't have to be a last-minute spending rush. Here are some great ideas to help you plan a wonderful Christmas without breaking the budget!

Secret Santa - how do you do it in your family

Secret Santa is a great way to do family gift-giving, have fun and save money all at the same time!

Mimi's under-$5-looks-like-more DIY Xmas gifts

Mimi shares her beautiful gift-giving ideas in this thread - they are so pretty you'll be making one extra to keep for yourself!

Hosting Christmas

There are some great ideas for surviving being the host this Christmas!

5. Best Members' Blog: Zero Dollar Christmas

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win $100 cash each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's Blog winner is Sandy for her blog about NOT spending on Christmas presents!

"I can't believe how fast the year is going, and how close Christmas is! We recently started a new business and while it is doing well, we are barely, if at all, actually covering our personal expenses, so I have started dreaming up Christmas and how I can make it work. My husband thinks I'll have to spend some money and I probably will but I am determined to keep it very close to nothing! I have been looking around and thinking what resources I have that I can use to make into gifts - not just something nice but also something that people will appreciate and use.

So far I have come up with the following:

  • a ginger plant (already sprouting)
  • home-made bags that can be used at the market, both light-weight net ones for individual vegies and larger ones for whole bunches
  • a peg apron
  • lemongrass plants
  • reusable fabric covers (instead of cling wrap)
  • Freecycle begging (hopefully I can get some bath toys for bubby)
  • home-made gift vouchers

The resources I am planning on using are the big stack of fabric I have, some large onion bags and some 20kg rice bags (some of which I am using to grow potatoes but I have plenty).

Although in some ways it is a bit of a struggle and we're feeling the pinch, for me it is a challenge to rise to. Unfortunately it is harder for my husband who doesn't have a lot of time, loves to give gifts and loves the luxuries of life. I am so proud of the way that he is coping with the tight finances though."

Well done Sandy - you are an inspiration - thank you for sharing!

You can read more of our members' blogs here.

6. Cooking with Mimi: An Extravagantly Decorated Table Saves on Food That Goes to Waste

This year, I'm focusing on setting a truly beautiful Christmas table, and serving simple food. I get that we don't feel right if the table isn't groaning with stuff on Christmas Day, but it's a special sort of crazy really, isn't it? We waste so much and I'd rather donate a little more to charity now that we have a family of adults. So, we're making it a feast for the eyes and soul, not just the stomach.

Our menu this year is a simple leg ham, two lovely salads, fresh stone fruit and nuts in the shell, and a dessert yet to be decided. That's it. But I wanted our Christmas table to be truly beautiful with a tartan theme, which I should probably explain!

I got this tartan at Spotlight for $2 a metre.

I already had the striped 'ticking' style fabric, the vintage blue and white toile, and the chambray remnant. They go together in that totally over-the-top mixed pattern style that I would never do for every day, but which I kinda like for Christmas :)

We have off-white china, silver candelabra and a small collection of blue and white ginger jars. I need more of those actually so I feel an op shop trawl coming on! I've been lucky to pick the ones I have up for $2 or thereabouts. New, they're actually really expensive!

Here's a first run....

That's all from things I already have. The beautiful roses were a gift from a friend. Aren't they a gorgeous colour? I had to giggle to myself when I did this though, because my eye simply won't allow too much busy-ness and I chose to include the rose, as well as my pink wine glasses, because of that touch of pink on the ginger jar. This is a more understated version, isn't it. I'll have to take my 'understated-ness' off, I think!

I think I'll fill the ginger jars with chocolate éclair lollies or something and just stress that the sweets are for eating and the jars for returning ;-) I'll do a long low floral centrepiece using some silverware I've collected over the years, and some similar coloured roses either from the garden or from the florist wholesaler a day or two before. You'd be amazed what you can create with a fruit bowl, some $2 florist foam, a bunch of inexpensive flowers and some greenery from the garden!

So in between all that prettiness will sit a couple of platters of cold food, beautifully presented and won't we all feel special. There's more to a celebration meal than indulging the stomach. What about indulging the eye as well.

Merry Christmas :)

You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page or in our Members' Blog section.

7. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: A New Pond for the Patch and a Fishy Update

The patch is flying along and I thought I'd include a few update shots of the taro, corn and Queensland Arrowroot that I post about on my last blog. As you can see from the picture above, the taro has taken right off in the wicking barrels. I was concerned that they might not like the full sun they're getting in this position but so far they look like it's not bothering them at all. I think it helps that these barrels are automatically topped up with water so the soil is always moist.

The mixed glass bead and gem corn plants have also put on a lot of growth over the past four weeks. We had a rather ferocious storm on Sunday and I was concerned they may blow over like a friend's did in West Ipswich, but I think the front fence took a lot of sting out of the wind. I think I will have to set up some sort of twine around them like I have with previous crops as they won't be so protected once they reach 2m / 6½' tall.

The Queensland arrowroot has totally blown me away. I know our compost was good but didn't think it was this nutritious ;-)

There is also a red Amaranth (grown for its seed by South Americans) flourishing in there that is the most vigorous looking amaranth we've grown to date. Not only is it the tallest amaranth we've grown (we can see it from the house over the shade house) but the base of the stem is massive. I've decided to leave this plant just to see what comes of it. Will definitely end up with enough seed to add into my date and nut cocoa balls methinks ;-)

A few other plants have done surprisingly well for us so far include this pumpkin, grown from some seeds shared with me by Ruben, an online friend I met through the Share the Seed Facebook group. It's growing up a small trellis and so far looks to be a great producer with five fruits already forming.

They're a smaller fruiting pumpkin that is a hybrid variety (so no seed saving unfortunately) that has proven to be fairly mildew resistant up until this week. I have noticed a few patches of mildew forming so will be removing the worst affected leaves and will use a fungicide spray on the other leaves to try and knock the infection off. Reuben was also kind enough to share some cucumber seeds with me as well. They were sown directly into the Root pouch wicking garden at the back stairs in August. Three months later and the little garden is looking just a tad overgrown ;-) So far we've picked about a dozen nice sized cucumbers from this patch which we've been enjoying immensely. I think Maya wants two of these left aside so she can make sliced cucumber pickles but she'll have to be quick, as we're eating one of these a day at the moment ;-) A few of the chillies have been picked with loads of mint and a few sweet potato leaves going into meals as well.

A New Pond for the Patch

Just over a month ago we set up a pond in the patch under the Tahitian lime tree so we could grow a few edible water plants. We are also hoping it will provide a spot for frogs to spawn in and to provide water for beneficial insects.

The pond is made from a 500L grow bed** we purchased with the aquaponic system a while back but we can't fit into the system the way it's laid out at the moment. Setting it up was as easy as levelling the ground and installing an overflow port that would run excess water off to irrigate the lime tree in times of heavy downpours. For the time being it's just sitting on the ground but its position may change in the future. Ideally some of the base should be dug into the ground to help keep the water cool during our scorching summer heat.

I decided to try using Root Pouches to grow the plants and filled them with a potting mix and compost blend. We sat these on top of some milk crates and an upside down plant pot. Two of the pouches were planted out with water chestnuts and the third with arrowhead/duck potatoes. The water chestnuts we've grown a few times now but the arrowhead is a new one for us. I've been told that they have a nutty flavour so it will be interesting to see how they go once they're harvested.

One thing we keep in mind when setting up ponds in the yard is to keep the mosquitoes from breeding in them. To make sure that we didn't have an explosion of wrigglers, we added some native fire tailed gudgeons.

They will quite happily polish off any mozzie wrigglers but won't eat any eggs or tadpoles. A water pump was also added to keep the water moving and well oxygenated for the gudgeons. I'm looking at replacing the 240V pump with a small solar pump but just haven't found one I'm happy with yet. On top of the water I added some small floating plants called azolla and duck weed (Thanks Adie & Tina). These two tiny plants are very nutritious and can be fed to the fish in the aquaponics, to chooks or compost worms if we want. I've also seen a few folks that eat both plants but I think I'll pass for now. ;-)

On the west facing side of the pond a small garden bed was made to help provide shade from the hot afternoon sun. It was planted out with some Queensland arrowroot to not only shade the side the pond but to also serve as a ladder for frogs that may want to use it to spawn in. So far I'm really pleased with how it's going and can't wait to see some tadpoles swimming in there.

** A stock tank would work just as well if you're after an above ground pond. They can be purchased from rural supply stores and also recycling businesses like Tilkey here in South East Queensland.

Aquaculture Update

A few weeks back we harvested the fish in the fish farm and pulled it down. It was always meant to be a bit of an experiment just to see if I could run a straight aquaculture system in the backyard and I found that it helped me learn a few things I hadn't yet come across running the aquaponic system. I am glad that it's all pulled down now as it was a shame to see all the nutrients go to waste instead of growing produce for ourselves. These were the last of the Jade perch from the fish farm. There was a 9th fish but I was in a hurry and had already dressed it before realising I hadn't taken a picture. The smallest weighed 450g/1lb and the largest 700g/1.5lb which I was very pleased with. They had been in the fish farm for about 18 months and were supposed to come out in 12 months at an average weight of 500g, but due to a few hiccups along the way their feed rations were cut a few times meaning they didn't grow as fast as I would have liked them to.

The tanks and barrels from the system will be heading over to my parent's place where it will be recycled into an aquaponic system for them to grow some silver perch in.

Aquaponic System

The aquaponics has been pumping out the produce of late, with around 80% of the greens we've been eating coming from the system. We are having a few issues with a caterpillar on the Okinawan spinach at the moment. These caterpillars have been devastating the plants in the aquaponics so I think it might be time to give the plants a haircut and spray with some Dipel to knock the infestation on the head.

The fish are feeding really well now that the weather has warmed up. The Jade perch are all ready to come out as we feel like a fish meal. A few of the silver perch are around the 500g/1lb mark now and ready to come out but the trick will be to pull them out rather than the smaller fish. The rest will be left in for a while longer until they grow out to harvest size.

There are some big changes coming for the aquaponics now that the fish farm has been pulled down. We are hoping to fit in around 3m²/32feet² of new grow beds were the fish farm once stood, with at least one large bed being a floating raft bed for greens-only production.

So there's a bit of a look at how things are going in the patch at the moment. I hope everyone's gardens are pumping out the produce now we're into summer.

Have a great one all.

You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page or in our Members' Blog section.

8. Goodybe For Now

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for December 2015 and we hope you have enjoyed it. Don't forget to check the Forum and Facebook for challenges and inspiration to help you with some great lunchbox ideas and don't forget to let us know!

Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...

All the best,

April 2011 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - April 2011

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Frugal Fatigue
  2. May is 50c Indulgence Month!
  3. Hidden Gems Competition Winners
  4. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner
  5. Best of the Forum: Indulge Yourself
  6. Best of the Vault: Affordable Luxuries
  7. Cooking with Mimi
  8. Penny's Blog: Dance Like Nobody's Watching
  9. Homeopathy Corner: A Gift to Mothers
  10. From Last Month: Which Laptop?
  11. This Month's Help Request: Sweet Treats for Diabetics
  12. Savings Story: Diamond in the Rough


I hope you are having a lovely month and this newsletter goes some way to making it even better. Because this month we want you to treat yourself every single day! All the tips and tricks in this month's newsletter are designed to make you feel special and appreciated - just as the following emails have made me feel.

"I LOVE Simple Savings! It is such a way of life for our household now. Recently we finally gave in and bought a second car that we desperately needed. Pre Simple Savings I would have thought nothing of taking out a $10,000 loan to purchase this car. Instead I asked around if anyone was selling a car. Well - my Mum told me she was getting rid of hers and I could have it for the bargain price of $3000. It is 20 years old but in brilliant condition. I have paid her a third already and have until November to pay the rest. I am so happy to have a car that I don't have to work day night to pay back a loan and be a slave to the bank for the next five years. Best of all, I feel like a real Simple Saver in it because it isn't fancy or flash; just clean and tidy and reminds me of who I am and what I can afford. Thanks Simple Savings for changing my mindset from 'I want, I need, it must be perfect' to 'I need what fits into my budget.' " (Tia Cherry)

"I must admit to being one of those people who, when hearing of the $21 Challenge, didn't think it was possible and didn't even bother making much of an effort to achieve this goal. However, this past week I did it! I went shopping with only milk, bread and fruit on the list. I have done this before but once at the supermarket I have been easily persuaded/encouraged to buy other things. Not this time though. I left the supermarket with milk, bread and grapes and whilst shopping decided I had plenty of food in the pantry and freezer that needed to be used. Fresh veg I would harvest from the garden. I had to go shopping again later on in the week but only for milk and bread again so I still managed to stay within $21! I feel proud of having achieved this. So, thank you for the emails and newsletter which are a constant reminder to me that with a bit of effort I can save money." (Aisha Ali)

All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. The $21 Challenge is being reprinted and we will have books in stock again by May 16th.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Frugal Fatigue

It was cold and wet and as Sally hopped off the bus she wished for her nice, warm, comfortable car. She was proud of herself for catching the bus to work each morning. After all, she was saving almost $100 a week on petrol and even more on parking. She knew catching the bus was the right thing to do and should have been feeling fantastic! So - why was she feeling so flat?

'What's up?' Hanna asked when Sally arrived at work. 'I don't know' Sally sighed. 'I mean - I know all this money saving makes sense, and I'm loving watching the bank balance go up but... it just feels some days like it's all work and no play,' Sally confided. 'I miss being able to treat myself to nice things. I miss my guilty splurges! Do you ever feel like that? Like maybe you're missing out?' she asked.

'Not at all!' Hanna smiled. 'I splurge all the time. Here, have one of these!' She ferreted around in her bag and brought out a sachet of 'Prince William and Catherine' bubble bath. 'I got this from the chemist for 50c, they're divine! Now tonight when you get home from work, run yourself a big, deep bath and soak in it as long as you like. It's my favourite indulgence. Guilt free and almost free!' Sally took the little sachet and was amazed to find she felt better already. She couldn't wait to get home to her right Royal bath!

2. May is 50c Indulgence Month!

There's nothing wrong with enjoying life's little luxuries. Even on the tightest budget you can afford to treat yourself on a regular basis - when you know how to do it right. This month we want to show you how you can pamper yourself every day with one of our favourite challenges - 50c Indulgences! This month is also Mother's Day but you don't have to be a mother, or even female to enjoy taking part in this month's challenge. We want EVERYONE to indulge themselves!

What exactly is a 50c indulgence?

This concept originally started in the Savings Forum when Helen began a thread asking for ideas which showed that truly enjoying life need not cost the earth. Before we knew it, the Forum was chocka with low cost and free ways to make each day just a little more special.

What's so indulgent about spending 50c? Don't you have to spend up big to enjoy yourself?

Not at all! Here are some of our favourite quotes from members who have discovered the joy of 50c 'splurges':

  • "It's easier to stay on budget when you have a little treat"
  • "We don't feel deprived with small indulgences. It's the reverse!"
  • "I have reached the point of realising that making anything special needn't cost much at all."
  • "It's the little things that are so meaningful and set up traditions in our life."
  • "It's amazing how much you become grateful for, when you observe the general discontent and haste of people around you."
  • "To live within our means in a way that celebrates what we have rather than what we don't have."
  • "It's non-retail therapy!"

Sound appealing? It is! There are countless 50c or free ways you can pamper yourself. To get you started and give you some ideas, here are 10 favourite suggestions from members in the Forum:

  • Put your feet up: Fill a container with hot water, add a little baking soda and soak your feet for 10 minutes. A heavenly indulgence for just a few cents.
  • Shop in your own wardrobe: Instead of splashing out on a new outfit, dig out all the clothing and jewellery you haven't worn in ages and have fun mixing and matching them up to make new, free outfits!
  • Put pen to paper: Write at least one proper letter on nice stationery every week!
  • Go bananas: Make banana splits with real ice cream (none of the 'lite' stuff!) and savour every mouthful.
  • Come out and play: When was the last time you played with your kids? Sometimes as an adult you forget how important this is to a child. It helps make good memories too!
  • Baking therapy: What better indulgence than the smell of fresh baking wafting through the house? Put on your favourite CD and bake up a storm!
  • Get moving: Exercise isn't only good for the body, it's good for the soul. Go for a walk, take a dip in the ocean (while it's still warm enough!) whatever you enjoy most. Yes you will get fitter and slimmer, but also happier!
  • Feed your face: Just a teaspoon of brown sugar and your favourite everyday cleanser is all it takes to give your skin a sweet treat every morning. Simply massage into your skin and rinse.
  • Pyjama party: What could be more decadent than spending a whole day in your pyjamas? Perfect for the colder months ahead! Get the whole family involved and enjoy a cosy day together.
  • A novel thought: Go to your local library, or your own bookshelf, choose yourself a novel and settle down and read it. All day!

You see how easy it is? There are thousands more suggestions where those came from but we're sure you can come up with plenty of your own. Life's little pleasures are so much more enjoyable when there is no guilt attached. Enjoy this month's challenge and don't forget to share your own favourite 50c Indulgences with other members in the Vault and Forum. If you're not currently a Vault member and would like to read ALL of our members' wonderful suggestions, you can become one right now here. A 12 month membership costs $47, which works out to just 13c per day over the course of a year. Much less even than a 50c Indulgence!

3. Hidden Gems Competition Winners

Our Hidden Gems directory is designed to make it easier for our members to source the best deals in their area. Whenever you come across a real gem of a store, enter it in our Hidden Gems directory and you could win our monthly prize of $100 cash! This is our way of saying thank you for helping other members save by sharing your knowledge. The more information you can give us, the better your chance of winning. This month's winner is Riverside Orchards, as nominated by Emmaleen Sarten. Read her entry to see what makes them such a great example of a Hidden Gem.

Riverside Orchards, 1346 Napier Road, Ashurst, New Zealand,

Hidden away in Ashhurst, at the side of the road is Riverside Orchards. It's a family business and it has that homely feel to it. The staff are both friendly and knowledgeable, selling top quality fresh produce (most of which is grown by the orchard). I frequently visit to buy "the cheapest milk in Ashhurst", which at $3.50 for 2L is also likely to be the cheapest milk in Palmerston North! Bread is also a competitive price at $1.70 per loaf. I picked up 10kg of Agria potatoes for $10 a few weeks ago and they were so fresh that I've been able to slowly use them without any going bad (a problem I have with buying supermarket potatoes in bulk).

Last time I visited the orchard I was looking for pumpkin to make my first homemade pumpkin soup. Not only did they help me to find the correct type of pumpkin for soup but they offered some helpful tips on how to make it a success (which I can report it was!) I left with a smile - and a free pear. Customer service is outstanding and quite often we leave with freebies - especially if the kids are with me.

For those of who don't want to travel out to Ashhurst or just don't have much spare time, the orchard also has an online service. It was a friend from Palmy who told me about this little gem - simply spend $15 or more and the delivery is free for Palmerston North and Ashhurst residents. Now I may only live round the corner from this orchard but I admit I have used this online service more than once - it's just so much fun having a package delivered to your door! Plus I found it an invaluable service after I had my second son four months ago and found it hard enough to make a cup of tea, let alone venture out shopping with the two boys!

The best thing about Riverside Orchards is once you know where to find them, anyone can get these great deals! Of course it does help to have time for a chat, and bringing the cute kids along helps to ensure a free sample of their home grown produce! Also if you live locally, look out for the special coupons that appear in the local Ashhurst paper from time to time - the orchard will offer specials to local residents to show they appreciate our support.

A big pat on the back to Riverside Orchards and congratulations to Emmaleen, you have won yourself $100! Well done also to our runners-up for sharing their Hidden Gems:

Shires Fruit & Vegetable Market nominated by Dianne Thompson

The Big Pot Nursery nominated by Lorraine Mcneair

Ivanhoe Pasta Deli nominated by Claire S

Cafe Agora nominated by Suz Boyles

You can enter your own Hidden Gems into our monthly competition here. Thank you and good luck!

4. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Pumpkin Patch for this extract from her blog 'Nostalgic Memories of My Childhood'. In this post she shares simple pleasures of days gone by:

Simple Pastimes

I was talking to my eldest daughter the other day and she remarked that she and her kids had been laying back relaxing on the old trampoline, just enjoying the peace and looking up at the sky, watching the clouds roll by...

Didn't that bring back memories - such simple pleasures. I used to love laying on the freshly mown grass, looking up and making fun shapes out of the clouds - and the other night, sitting on our back verandah, the cloud formations were amazing, so many different shapes and sizes and all resembling animals or people - it is still a fun thing to do although I haven't done it for so long.

I am guilty of taking heaps of photos of cloud formations though - they are fascinating, the way they swirl and change.

Another simple pleasure was rolling on the grass - and rolling over and over again - better still if there was a slight slope, then you could really get up some momentum. We would do this for hours, giggling all the time - we didn't need much to amuse us.

My brother and our cousin, who were best mates, would use any excuse to build a cubby house - anywhere, anytime - and I was always there, wanting to join in - they got around that by using me as their maid and I was a willing slave. Later, I too would be having great fun building cubbies under the trees - one particular one when I was a bit older was on top of Dad's shed sheltering under next doors mulberry tree. Another good one, I recall, was under the huge bullock's heart custard apple tree in the back corner, very spacious and there was room for at least ten children or more. How we loved our cubby houses, we had all sorts of things in there and would spend hours and hours in them, eating our lunch and having snacks - and no doubt our mums were happy knowing where we were and what we were up to.

Another favourite game was just playing 'chasey' - round and round the house we'd go, and we had plenty of places to hide behind the many trees and shrubs, or we'd race through the house, jump over the verandah wall then tear around the side and up through the window to do it all again - use to drive Mum crazy, all these kids flying every which way - but it was fun and kept us active. Needless to say there were no insect screens in my day.

Of course now and then we did get up to mischief - the time when my brother had just been to the pictures to see Batman or Superman and he climbed up on the roof and jumped off, his cloak flying behind him - he didn't realise he couldn't fly. And no matter how many times we were warned not to touch the birdseye chillies we couldn't help ourselves and then went screaming in agony to Mum because our lips were burning. She always managed to soothe us and away we would go again, none the worse for wear.

Kids will be kids...

Congratulations Pumpkin Patch! To read more from her, or any of our other members' blogs, click here

5. Best of the Forum: Indulge Yourself

Can you remember the last time you pampered yourself? Sadly, many of us get so caught up in our hectic schedules that we never quite manage to take time out for ourselves. If this sounds like you, head for our Forum right now and browse these threads for super easy ways to enrich your life without breaking the bank.

February - How to say I love you with a 50 cents indulgence

You don't have to wait for Valentine's Day to come around to show loved ones you care! Check out some of these gorgeous low cost ways to say I love you all year round.

50c indulgences... Nothing is worth more than this day

Feeling rich has little to do with money. Indulge yourself every day with ideas like these!

Homemade 2011

Home made gifts are a delightful indulgence for both the maker and the recipient! Check out this thread to see what our busy members are up to.

Something I did today to save a dollar

Every little bit adds up! In this thread, Tradie's Wife encourages everyone to share the savings they have made each day. Be inspired - and surprised!

Gratitude thread - Sparkles and chocolate

Writing down everything you are grateful for each day has been proven to enrich your life - and it doesn't cost a cent. Join the SS Forum online gratitude journal here!

Simple menu for children to cook

Rosie is helping two youngsters plan and cook a delicious meal to indulge their parents - but what to cook that is simple, yet special? These suggestions will get your mouth watering!

6. Best of the Vault: Affordable Luxuries

It really is easy to indulge yourself and the people you love every day for next to nothing. The Vault is absolutely bursting with suggestions you will love. Start pampering yourself today with some of these great ideas!

Give the gift of pure indulgence and wrap it up with love!

I created some gift baskets for my Mum, Step-mum and Nanna as a present just to let them know I was thinking of them. They took just an hour of my time and cost me absolutely nothing to make but were full of love!

First I rescued some small baskets from the back of a cupboard which have been lying around unused for years. Then I searched my present drawer and cupboards and came up with the following items to put in the baskets:

  • Bath soaks and guest soaps with gorgeous matching floral labels. I split the packets and put a few in each basket.
  • Bath salts, which I divided into three tiny recycled plastic bags and tied with pretty ribbon. I added a label made from my scrap-booking supplies.
  • Chamomile tea bags which I put into little plastic bags in the same way as the bath salts and added to each basket.
  • Tea light candles.
  • Empty hotel-sized shampoo bottles which I filled with pink shower gel from a larger bottle. I then covered the label with a pretty homemade label sticker from my craft box.

I added a note encouraging the ladies to take some time out and relax in a candle-lit bath, covered each basket and its contents with cellophane and tied a pretty bow around the top. All three ladies were delighted with their pure-indulgence gift!

Contributed by: 'Not your typical Gen Y'

Rainbow baths for just a few cents

I am saving $155 a year on bath time fun! Every night my four year old asks for a coloured bath. I was buying a small pot of colour tablets almost every fortnight at $5.99 a jar. Instead I now have several bottles of liquid food color which costs around $2.50. Just two drops in the bath water and they can have any colour they want. A bottle of food color lasts about 12 months, so this is a much cheaper, longer lasting option!

Contributed by: Katherine James

$21 Challenge keeps the 'budget nag' at bay

School holidays are more affordable with the help of the $21 Challenge! Money seems to slip away so effortlessly while out having fun with my teenage kids. Budgeting is something I am trying to teach them about but it is hard to make it relevant sometimes. Then I had a great idea that would make them pro-active with the weekly budget over the holidays, without me being a 'budget nag'.

It is the $21 Challenge week, with a twist. THEY have to go and log all the food in the freezer and pantry, and make up the meal plan for the week. Then all the money THEY save us for the week can go towards some guilt-free fun. It's a great incentive and my kids are learning important household skills.

Contributed by: Louise Blackmore

120 bickies for $4!

Make over 120 bickies for just $4.00! This fantastic basic bickie recipe is terrific value, makes loads and has lots of room for variations:

  • 500g margarine
  • 1 tin condensed milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 cups self-raising flour

Cream the sugar and margarine. Add condensed milk and flour. Roll into teaspoon sized balls and press down with a fork. Place on greased trays and bake in moderate oven until golden brown (approximately 10-15 minutes).

Before baking I divide the mixture into five and add the following ingredients for different flavoured bickies:

  1. Chocolate chips and glace cherries (chopped)
  2. Cornflakes and sultanas
  3. Hundreds and Thousands
  4. Jam drops
  5. Milo and coconut

You could add any number of other things like Rice Bubbles, Smarties, nuts, cinnamon and other spices and so on. The raw mixture can be frozen in balls, just thaw slightly before baking.

From this one batch we made 123 bickies and by my calculations using the cheapest possible ingredients the whole batch cost just over $4.00 to make!

Contributed by: Kristy Frahm

Add $5 notes to money tin and see savings soar

Add $5 bills to your money tin and save up to $200 a month! Most people have a money tin they throw their coins into but a few years ago I began adding $5 bills to my tin. This saves me $200 to $600 over a three month period, just in coins and $5 notes. I now purposely try not to hand over $5 notes at the shops so that I can put them in my tin instead. Try it - you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Contributed by: Darcy C

Your searching is over with these handy-bag inserts!

I've just discovered a 50 cent solution to a frustrating problem! I shudder to think about how many hours of my life I have wasted, ferreting around in my handbag trying to retrieve ringing mobile phones, combs, pens - or what ever I'm looking for but can't seem to find!

A friend had told me about handbag inserts - mini purses that fit in your handbag to put all the things you are always searching for in order and within reach. But these cost up to $60 - a price I wasn't prepared to pay. Today however, in my local op shop, whilst looking through a box of assorted purses, I found the perfect solution. An unused make up bag with two side pockets and one centre zipped pocket that fits perfectly into my hand bag. Its price? 50 cents! They always have purses and make up bags in great supply so, save yourself a whopping $59.00 on expensive handbag inserts AND hours of frustration and get down to your local Op Shop!

Contributed by: Diane Smith

Money tin pays for renovations

Our 50 cent money tin has paid for the landscaping of our new house in less than twelve months. I used to pay for everything electronically but my partner liked to use cash. This worked well until we bought our first home together and to maintain the peace, I reluctantly agreed to keep a money tin for our grocery purchases. We both contribute $200 every fortnight and from this we purchase all fortnightly groceries and any top up groceries such as milk, bread, fruit and vegies.

Because there are only the two of us there is always money left over and this has been the biggest bonus! We had a 12 month plan for a massive landscaping makeover which of course always reveals additional costs that you don't factor into the budget. The tin has been our saviour and we have been able to pay for the following using the extra cash:

  • Lots of concrete for retaining wall foundations.
  • Bobcat and backhoe hire for excavations.
  • Concrete for garden shed slab.
  • The garden shed (second hand) - we dismantled, transported and built it ourselves.
  • Pavers for the pergola from a garage sale.
  • Numerous garage sale and market purchases for the garden (pots, plants and so on).
  • Pest inspection.
  • TV aerial makeover by tradesman.
  • Installation of ceiling fans (bought from an auction) by electrician.
  • Timber garden edging.
  • Pump and fittings for the rainwater tank.
  • Numerous trips to Bunnings for the little extras you always need when landscaping.
  • Mulch, soil, topsoil, mushroom compost and sugar cane mulch for the garden beds.
  • Paint for different projects.

There was also enough in the tin to buy all the Christmas purchases (seafood, drinks, nibblies and so on) for a great Christmas Day with the family and we have also used the money for holidays and not contributed cash for a pay or two. We made a rule that we wouldn't take out any loans and now when the money tin builds up to a certain amount we know we have enough for the next project. I love the tin and we are now saving for the internal house renovations.

Contributed by: Cathy Baxter

7. Cooking with Mimi

Mother's Day is fast approaching and this year I'M taking control. I want a nice pot of tea and my favourite french toast ice cream for breakfast. Yes, you read right - french toast ice cream. And I'd like serviettes please. And a flower in a vase like they have in the movies.

For me however, that's only going to happen with careful planning... and nagging... lots of nagging. Oh, and written instructions.

So without further ado, here they are!

Vanilla ice cream with chunks of french toast

Equipment required:

  • Small saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Non-stick frypan
  • Small bowl
  • Sealed container, eg. Tupperware or recycled jar
  • Baking tray lined with baking paper
  • Spatula

  • Ingredients:

  • 2 litre tub vanilla ice cream. Generic is fine.
  • 2 thick slices bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 dessertspoon caster sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar made by combining 1 cup caster sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in the sealed container. Keep your unused cinnamon sugar for making cinnamon toast another day.
  • Butter for frying
  • Maple syrup or that stuff they call pancake syrup that tastes like it

Preheat your oven to 150C. You want your oven set to a low heat so that your french toast doesn't burn while it's becoming crisp and crunchy.

Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Set up your bowl for your sweetened milk and egg mixture

Gently heat your milk in a small saucepan. Add your sugar and vanilla, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Once it has all dissolved and the milk mixture is silky sweet, set it aside. Once cooled, add your egg and beat well until well combined.

Turn on your hotplate to medium-high. Melt about a teaspoon of butter in a fry pan. Once sizzling, quickly dip each slice of your bread into your egg and milk mixture, and pan fry on one side for about a minute, or until golden underneath. Flip your bread over with a spatula, and let it cook on the other side until 'done'. Set aside on the baking tray and repeat with the other slice of bread.

Once both slices are cooked, sprinkle them liberally with cinnamon sugar. Then pop them into the oven to crisp. Bake until it is deep golden in colour and hard and crunchy. Remove from your oven and allow to cool. When cool enough for you to handle, cut your toast into small cubes, or break it up into chunks.

Remove your ice cream from the freezer and allow it to soften at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Then tip your soft ice cream into a large mixing bowl. Add your crispy french toast cubes, pieces and crumbs to the mushy icecream, and combine well.

Add ¼ cup of maple or pancake syrup to your icecream. Mix well for a real maple flavour or simply swirl through with a spoon if you prefer a ripple type flavour. Return your newly flavoured icecream to it's container, put the lid back on and pop back in the freezer.

Leave for a couple of hours to return to a firm consistency and serve in dainty bowl... or a humungous one depending upon your appetite. Consume leisurely, propped up on silken pillows, with loving partner massaging ones' feet.

Well, I can dream can't I?

A real pot of tea

So you've done the domestic goddess thing, said hi to everyone on the Simple Savings Forum and actually managed to wrench yourself away, and are just about to put your feet up and have a nice cuppa tea.

Now here's the bad news. We're not going to dunk a teabag in some microwaved hot water for our cuppa. Granny was right. For tea to be truly appreciated, it should be brewed in a pot, and served in a cup, not a mug. And you want to make your pot of tea no more than ten minutes before you want to drink it.

These instructions are for normal old black tea. Variations for green tea or herbal teas are at the end. So read all the way through, choose your tea, and off you go!

Equipment required:

  • Teapot
  • Measuring jug
  • Tea strainer
  • Teacup of your choice
  • Kettle
  • Teaspoon
  • Tray for serving
  • Super clean teatowel to line the tray

  • Ingredients:

  • Loose tea leaves of your choice, NOT a teabag
  • Sugar and milk if you like it
  • Fresh tap water

How to do it:

Start making your pot of tea no more than ten minutes before you want to drink it.

First up, wash your teapot thoroughly, and wipe it dry on the outside. If there are oil residues in your teapot they will stop the tea from seeping properly. Now run your hot water until it's very hot and fill your teapot to warm it. Set it aside while your kettle boils.

A good cuppa should always be made with freshly boiled water. So empty your kettle, make sure it's clean on the inside, then fill it with enough fresh cold tap water to make your tea.

When the kettle is almost finished, empty the teapot (you did fill it with hot water to warm it, didn't you?) then put in one teaspoon of tea leaves for each cup of liquid the pot will hold, plus a half a teaspoon.

As soon as your kettle comes to the boil, pour your gurgling water onto your leaves in the teapot. Give it a gentle stir with a teaspoon.

Enjoy the wafting fragrance of your tea for a moment then put the lid on the pot. Let it brew for 4-5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. If you like to drink black ink (very strong) leave it for seven minutes.

Pour your tea when it is ready and add sugar and milk to taste. Sip and enjoy!

Different types of tea

The only difference when making green or herbal tea is that you should wait for three minutes after your kettle has boiled before pouring. This allows the water to cool enough to prevent scorching the more delicate leaves and flower buds found in green and herbal teas, which can make them bitter. Then proceed as for the black tea.

8. Penny's Blog: Dance Like Nobody's Watching

April 28th

It appears that Noel's doom and gloom is catching. I have declared every month a No Spend Month indefinitely. I knew that this month was going to be a bad one for bills when we received a lovely invoice of $900 to pay to our new district council for rates. Not that paying rates is anything new - it's just that they cost three times as much as the old place so that came as a bit of a shock! Still, I wasn't too worried. We've been making such a concerted effort to save on our food bill lately that I was confident we would have enough to cover it.

Until last week when I received a tax bill for $2,000 due May 7th. That in itself was a nasty surprise - but I only just forked out $1,200 for tax LAST month! Talk about adding insult to injury. Apparently one is provisional tax, the other is terminal. Ha - I can see why they call it terminal, it just about kills you to pay it!

Honestly, sometimes it makes you wonder how on earth anyone is supposed to survive. Two steps forward, ten back. Woe is me. And then something really cool happens, such as the Easter holidays. Whilst we didn't win the lottery (I'd have to buy a ticket and am far too stingy to do that!) we did have a ripper of a time filled with heaps of fabulous company and managed to escape with the bank balance almost completely unscathed. Not a bad achievement considering we haven't fed less than seven people for dinner in longer than we can remember and had no less than 14 people hanging out with us over the long weekend. We had friends, grandparents, godparents, the kids' mates, Alex came down from his uni home in the city to stay and we even had a surprise visit from an old farming friend I hadn't seen in more than 15 years. We didn't have much to offer but what we did have we shared and everyone loved it.

It's times like these that remind you of just what is important. Even when money is at its tightest you don't have to miss out. Friendship is priceless. Good food can be priceless too - we got just as much pleasure out of throwing together a massive pot of soup for the hordes at the weekend than running off to the supermarket for supplies or paying a fortune for a meal out. Being at the centre of such a happy, noisy, fun home has really made me think about some of the things I love to do best. No doubt you'll laugh at some of them and think I'm completely bonkers but we all have our little quirks so hey, indulge me!

  • Singing in the car. At the top of my voice, music cranked up as loud as it will go. Very important. This has been one of my favourite indulgences since I became a mother and spent years first tiptoeing around a Metallica-free house so as not to wake the babies, then several more years surrendering my car stereo to the likes of Hi-5, Teletubbies and whatever other story CD's the kids wanted to listen to. Even now we all like the same music, there is still nothing I like better than driving solo with the music turned up LOUD. Cost = nothing (except the petrol I'm already using to get me wherever I'm going). Happiness factor = 9/10.

  • Walking the dogs on the beach. This is obviously something which we have only just begun in the last six months but Noel and I try and do it every day. It's good for the body (we walk around 5km), good for the soul, good for our relationship as we can thrash out any issues on neutral ground (and a beautiful, tranquil ground at that) and most of all good for the sense of humour as you have never seen anything as funny as Hubble and Minnie racing around on the beach like the two happiest dogs on the planet. Cost = nothing. Happiness factor = 9/10.

  • Lounge room disco. Now this is one of my favourite indulgences! These are a fairly regular occurrence in our house and usually happen when there is nothing on TV and Noel and I are reduced to watching the music channel. All of a sudden a good song will come on and all of a sudden yours truly feels a dance coming on. We jump up, our tiny lounge becomes a dance floor and the two of us bop away merrily for a good couple of hours until we're exhausted or the wine runs out. By some stroke of good fortune our kids have never ventured downstairs and caught us or they would probably die of embarrassment but what the heck, we think it's pretty cool! Cost = nothing (wine optional but no more than $8.99). Happiness factor = 10/10. Hangover factor = extremely likely.

  • Running. What is it with me and music? Running is my ultimate indulgence. It's my 'me time', my thinking time, my problem solving time and my de-stress time but most of all it's my 'zone out and listen to music on my iPod really loud' time. Whilst getting fit at the same time which is a bonus. The faster the song, the faster I run! Cost = nothing. Happiness factor = 9/10.

So there you have it, my favourite low cost, feel-good indulgences. We're all different - some of us love nothing better than a really good coffee or a few squares of dark, 70% chocolate. Or a big, deep bubble bath. Or snuggling up watching a movie on TV with home made popcorn. One thing's for sure though; they may not cost a lot but when those horrible tax bills come along they are worth their weight in gold!

April 2011

9. Homeopathy Corner: A Gift to Mothers

Few people know that I divide my life as a mum into two distinct periods. First there was the hard period - the first three and a half years when the kids constantly got sick and we spent night after night walking with sick children. We used Paracetamol, a lot. Dymadon was a regular item on our shopping list. The kids caught everything and then Matt and I caught it too. We thought this was normal. After all that is what life is like when you have small children, or so people told us.

During the hard period I used to get very frustrated with my children. It felt like I was hitting my head up against the wall and asked 'Why is my child doing this?' Some of the questions that plagued me were:- Why won't my child go to sleep? Why do they seem to get an earache whenever we go out on a windy day? Why doesn't my child speak at childcare? Why does he hide in the corner of the room at childcare pretending to read a book when he can't read? Why is he so quiet at childcare and so noisy at home? Why does my child insist on dominating me, but not his father? Why does this child crave salt? Why does my child have big bags under his eyes? Why is he still wetting the bed? Why is my child so fat? Why isn't she sitting up? Why isn't she crawling? Why does she look so dopey, as if no one is home? Why? Why? Why?

I had a lot of questions. So many things did not make sense. Then I did Fran's free workshop and being a mum became a lot easier. Fran fixed my children and the homeopathy text books held the answers to so many of my questions. I now believe that homeopathy is the best gift to mothers ever. So this month, I asked Fran to show how homeopathy can make mum's life easier by making bub healthier.

To read Fran's article go to:

Of course my kids still do get sick from time to time. But now their illnesses are generally minor and short lived, fevers are rare, and the bottle of Dymadon in the cupboard is three years out of date.

10. From Last Month: Which Laptop?

Last month Crystal asked:

"I want to buy a laptop computer but there are so many around I'm finding it all a bit confusing. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can find the best value laptop? I would really appreciate any help! Many thanks."

Wow, we had a huge response to this request! Thank you to everyone who wrote in to share their knowledge and experience. Whilst unfortunately there are just too many to print every one, we hope you will find this selection helpful.

Check out computer warehouse stores for a good deal

Having recently bought a laptop I can see how there is the potential for a lot of confusion because everybody has different opinions on what is the best brand to buy. Various stores have laptops available at good prices but the amount of memory can really vary. Decide what you actually need the laptop to do and how much memory and/or extra features you require. A good idea is to check out computer warehouse stores. They may be able to make a computer to your exact specifications and could be cheaper than a regular retail store. I bought a DELL because I had heard positive feedback and it had a top rating in Choice magazine. I found the DELL staff very helpful and happy to answer questions. They also have twelve months of ongoing support to help you deal with any issues, which is handy if you aren't very computer literate (like myself!). It might pay to have a look at any special offers your work social club or union may have in order to take advantage of these savings as I received a discount on the model I chose through my workplace union membership.

Contributed by: Louise Deland

Avoid info overload - visit Whirlpool Forums

When looking to buy a new laptop, first make a list of all the things you will want to use your laptop for on a regular basis. Will you be carrying it around a lot or using it mainly at home? Do you only want to check emails and use the internet or do you want to watch movies or edit photos and videos? Take your list with you when you go to the shop. For great advice on laptops I always go to Whirlpool Forums:

Contributed by: Shannaka Beveridge

Ask the right questions and make the right purchase

When buying a laptop, a useful site to look at is The site doesn't tell you which product to buy - instead it provides lists of suggested questions to ask before buying various domestic products to help you make the best decision about your purchase. It's also really easy to navigate. Knowledge is power, and if you can start by asking the right questions, you're in a better bargaining position and less likely to buy something that doesn't suit your needs. Check out the page about laptops at There are also other pages on 'mini notebooks' and 'desktop computers' which could be helpful too.

Contributed by: Judy Cameron

Computer wholesalers will provide the best deal

My first piece of advice when buying a computer is NOT to buy from a regular retailer. Even when they have a really good sale going on, you can generally get a better deal at a computer wholesaler. Personally, I've found Asus, HP and Acer are fairly good brands. I would simply call the wholesaler and ask what is suggested for a basic laptop for whatever functions you require. I use which has stores in every state. Since you are unsure about what it is that you are after, I imagine that you only want your laptop for simple things such as Microsoft Word and the internet, not for complicated programs. Providing you only use your laptop for basic functions, I doubt that you will need more then 2GB of RAM (the laptop's short term memory) and more than a 500GB HDD (the long term memory - what you can save to your computer). If anyone tells you that you need more, they are attempting to upsell you and you simply won't use it to its full extent. (In saying this if you can get more memory without a huge price increase then do so). Also remember the larger the screen, the higher the price. Finally - make sure you get a warranty on your laptop.

Contributed by: Kirrilee Gerber

The 'best' price doesn't always get the best results

I've had several computers over the years, and have found that often the cheapest isn't the most economical! I have discovered that Mac computers, while not the cheapest on the market, last such a long time, and the Apple help team is terrific if you have any problems or issues with your computer. Some big stores are now selling Apple computers at a good price, and it always pays to ask if they'll give you a discount (especially if you are a student or have a child who is a student). Finally- don't go for the biggest screen or lots or impressive sounding characteristics - chances are you'll never use them!

Contributed by: Kay de Vogel

Ex-business computers could be 'just the business' for you!

The key to saving money on computers and laptops is to remember that new models are coming out every few months. That means two things for us money-saving folk; Firstly, take all advice with a pinch of salt when listening to people's opinions about the 'best' and 'cheapest' models to buy, because they are changing all the time. Secondly, when looking to find a great deals on a near-new laptop or computer, take advantage of the fast turnover. It's a bit like buying a secondhand car that has just been driven off the lot. Businesses are advised to keep computers for just three years, and their computers are often faster and fancier than what we need for home. Ex-business computers are being sold on sites like TradeMe or eBay for a fraction of the price in a store.

Contributed by: Paula Salisbury

Seek computer help from a nerdy friend!

When I needed a new computer, I entrusted my hard-earned money to my nerdy friend (and most of them don't mind being called that either!) Just tell them what you want it to do and what you will use it for, e.g. word processing, Internet, music and so on and they will hunt around online for you. Just make sure you give them a budget, otherwise they'll go all out with excitement getting you a fancy thing that is so much more than what you need!

Contributed by: Sonja Wilson

Bonus Extras for Vault members

The essential guide to buying the perfect laptop! Contributed by: Renee D

Laptop purchasing - points to consider Contributed by: Sue E

Get the right connections with Work Ventures Connect It Contributed by: Mel

Only buy what you need when choosing a laptop Contributed by: Jess B

11. This Month's Help Request: Sweet Treats for Diabetics

This month Carol asks:

"I am in my 40's and have recently been diagnosed with diabetes. I have two young girls who love cookies and cakes and I am desperate for recipes with sugar substitutes and almond flour and coconut as it means I can also eat the cookies and cakes that I bake for them. Please can you help with low carb recipes of any kind, but especially baked goodies?"

If you have any tips which can help Carol, please send them in to us here.

12. Savings Story: Diamond In The Rough

In desperate search of a partner for my scrapbooking supplies, I turned to the best dating website I know for this kind of thing... With hope in my heart and a conviction to stop at nothing short of perfection, I typed the address into my browser.

I clicked on the 'Savings Forum' and saw 'Scrapbooking storage solutions, help please'. Drawn in by this scrapper's desire for a perfect match I read on. Other scrappers were sharing their stories and before I knew it I was following links and viewing profiles. Desperately I searched for that one true love.

Cupid shot his first arrow as I came across one particular profile that stood out. It appeared to have all the qualities I was looking for. Sturdy, with its own transport - easier to get where we needed to go. Good looking - great bragging feature when introducing friends. Yet modest enough that I could be persuaded to drag myself away to go to work and take care of my kids. I wanted a committed worker, well-built, open and friendly offering easy access to their treasures within. I didn't want to get into a situation where we had to put on hold what we'd started just to search for the right toys... if you know what I mean? And my perfect match had to be multi-skilled, able to manage all of my needs...

Oh... that scrapbook storage cabinet was divine! It ticked all the right boxes. Plenty of shelves, drawers, and a pullout work space. On castors for easy movement to wherever I wanted to work. Attractive, but not overly done so it would suit any decor. Space for tiny embellishments, card stock and bulky tools. A perfect match. It was love at first sight! Cupid's arrow had hit its mark.

Suddenly my heart sank. This was one high achiever! I was seriously punching above my weight. He was out of my league! I'd need better cashflow to afford the transport just to meet him. Then there'd be the need to keep up with the whole package! Envy quickly set in... Why not me? Why are they always out of my reach? Why do others always get what they want? Oh how my heart ached...

Down, but not out. Spurred on by all that I had seen and with a strong conviction to find my one true love, I turned off the computer and cast a keen eye over my immediate surroundings. Searching for a glimmer of hope, a less demanding model, a hint of potential, an achiever closer to my world. I wasn't going to give up on my dream...

And then I saw him....

He caught me off guard, standing there, unassuming and alone. Waiting to catch my eye. He had potential. Sure he was old, but there were no wrinkles in the old dog yet. His structure was sturdy with everything intact. He had enough experience and was fully accommodating to satisfy my every need. I was willing to give this old flat-pack computer tower on castors a go. A second date, if you will...

Immediately, I grabbed a nearby storage basket and placed it on the bottom shelf to create a large drawer for bulky items. Just like the image I'd seen online! Heading up, shelf by shelf, I noted another shelf the same size, perfect for more bulky items. Could this old romance be rekindled? Cupid shot his 2nd arrow.

Next the pullout keyboard drawer - a sturdy work surface with easy access to all the shelves and drawers! I grabbed 2 small, but matching storage baskets and placed them on the next shelf above the pullout. These will make great drawers whilst giving him a fresh new look. A makeover. My eyes began to twinkle with affection. Cupid's 2nd arrow hit quick!

I wanted to see if distance made the heart grow fonder, so I drove to the hardware store and purchased a pack of 12 shelving supports $1.42. There were enough supports to secure 3 shelves in place-no need to get carried away and use all those pre-drilled holes. I wanted to leave this old dear some room for surprises once the honeymoon is over.

Still at the hardware, I found a sheet of Melamine for $4.96. Perfect size to make three shelves. My dream was within my grasp! Cupid 3rd arrow is drawn from his quiver... He takes aim...

Meanwhile, I was keen to reunite with my new love, but I wanted to ensure that my contribution to this relationship was equal. So, I located some small plastic craft drawers and a couple of plastic take away containers I had in another cupboard. These would hold the little things in life and fit perfectly between baskets or on a shelf. I couldn't wait to return. My heart had definitely grown fonder...

As our eyes met, I was shocked to see something that I hadn't noticed before. His crowning glory... like Fabio's flowing hair... a top shelf... bragging space for finished photo albums. The attraction was electric. I had fallen in love. Cupid's 3rd arrow sunk deep into my heart...

But like all good romance stories, fear raised its ugly head. I hesitated. Had I jumped in too soon? I could hear "Love is blind" ringing in my ears. I worried that I'd soon tire of this not so young yet comfortable old flame.

I didn't hesitate for long. He may not be as stunning as that international model, online. But, like most images of those out-of-our-league, rich, internationals; their photos are probably air-brushed! Besides, my rekindled romance holds fond memories of the past, shared together.

This one's definitely a keeper!

I'm ready to commit. But I'd best check his financial status before giving him an answer.

Cost $6.38. Great! No credit card debt looming ahead. No awful arguments about what could have been. $1,495.00 and that's just the model I saw. I forgot to mention, he's an American. So I'd have to add transport costs. Shipping just to get him to the edge of the U.S.A is $175.00 then there's the unknown expense of flying him to Australia and the costs of getting him from the airport to my door. Potentially huundreds, if not thousands of arguments to be thrown in my face somewhere down the track.

Yes. I'm ready to say commit. I'm happy with my diamond in the rough. Confident we'll live happily ever after.

Contributed by: Anne Shaw

April 2013 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - April 2013

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Share the Joy!
  2. April: 50c Indulgences
  3. Winners of the 'Get the Good Oil' Competition
  4. Penny Wise is BACK! It's Been a While...
  5. Best of the Vault: Just Breathe
  6. Best of the Forum: What is Your Indulgence?
  7. Best Members' Blog: Focus on Where I HAVE Got Money
  8. Hidden Gems: Lentil as Anything
  9. Cooking with Mimi: Apple Tray Bake
  10. Claire's Corner: A $0.54c Cure for My $4.50 Habit
  11. 50c Indulgences: Inspirations from 'Gone with the Wind'
  12. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Saving Some Seeds and a Treat for Dinner!
  13. David Wright: Saving CAN be Fun!
  14. From Last Month: Lose Weight, Not Dollars
  15. This Month's Help Request: Don't Let Clutter Get the Best of You
  16. Goodbye For Now


How are you going? April has been a huge month here at Simple Savings! We were very excited to launch our Beauty Queen on a Budget app called 'Simple Beauty Tips'. You can find it: here in Google Play for android phones
and in the iTunes app store here.

We're also putting the finishing touches on the Simple Savings mobile site to make viewing easier when you're out and about. You can have a look at the trial version at

We love receiving your emails and Facebook messages. Here are a some of this month's favourites:

"Oh how I LOVE Simple Savings. I even just love reading all the hints and my sponges and macadamia oil arrived yesterday. Thanks for a great site." (Liz)

"I just renewed my membership for another year with a little help from your free 30 day trial for the Simply Budgets software. I can't live without it now!" (Susan)

Have a great month!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. Special on Simple Savings Vault memberships - join the Vault for the first time for $27 (a saving of $20). The special lasts until Mother's Day (9pm, May 12, 2013).

P.P.S. Penny is back - Yay!

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Share the Joy!

"What are you up to this weekend, Sal? Got any plans?" asked Hanna as the two of them prepared to finish work for the week. "Nope, nothing at this stage - and I hope it stays that way, I'm exhausted!" Sally replied. "Good!" Hanna grinned cheekily. "How do you fancy a weekend of pure indulgence to get rid of those shopping bags under your eyes?" "Did you say shopping?" Sally's face lit up. "I like that sound of that! I haven't been to the malls in ages!"

"Ohh sorry, Sal, I don't think my budget will stretch to shopping, I'm still on my debt diet!" laughed Hanna. "But I CAN offer you a wonderful spa weekend. I'm thinking manicure, pedicure, facial, the works! My shout. We could probably squeeze in a movie too - and share a bottle of bubbly!" "It sounds wonderful Hanna, I'd love to - but I can't possibly let you pay. That lot would cost a fortune!" Sally said, disappointed.

"Not at all! I'm talking about a DIY spa at my place!" Hanna replied with a smile. "Everything we need is already at home - we can sun ourselves on the veranda while we wait for our face masks to work their magic," she giggled. "I've borrowed a DVD from my sister and the bubbly is a bottle left over from Christmas. It'll hardly cost a thing. What do you say?" "In that case, I say absolutely!" Sally beamed. "Thank you, it sounds wonderful. In fact, it sounds even more fun than shopping!"

Note: If you're planning on indulging in some macadamia oil, we suggest you order this week as we are expecting to run out soon.


2. April: 50c Indulgences

Hanna knew that the one thing better than spoiling herself was to spoil Sally as well! It is important to make time for ourselves - but it can be even more enjoyable to share a treat or special occasion with someone else. Having a little company to chat with, laugh with, relax with is all wonderful food for the soul. For BOTH souls!

The '50 Cent Indulgence' threads in the Simple Savings Forum have always been about sharing and gracious living. Helen and Annabel and the 50 Cent Army have taught us that there is so much to be gained from delighting in the small things in life, and that many life enhancing moments can be enjoyed for just a few dollars - or even no cost at all! So in the spirit of our 50 Cent Indulgence Month, we would like you to do two things. The first is to choose an indulgence - something that will only cost a few dollars but bring great enjoyment! Next, choose someone to share it with - perhaps a partner, family member, friend, neighbour or someone you may have just met. Your mission this month is to make someone's day - as well as your own!

To get you started and give you some ideas, here are some suggestions about sharing a 50c Indulgence with someone special:

High tea. Enjoy a right royal morning tea fit for the Queen, complete with home-made patty cakes, tiny cucumber sandwiches and pretty teacups. Spend a couple of dollars on... sugar cubes!

Movie night. Have a 'Gold Class' themed movie night using movies from your own collection, the library or the DVD shop. Spend a few dollars on... a bottle of bubbly!

Start your day with a smile. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so share a lazy one with someone special, complete with lovely linen, beautiful music and Granny's tea set. Spend a few dollars on... fresh croissants!

Candlelight picnic. Watch the sun go down and enjoy an easy picnic of chicken, salad and fruit. Spend a few dollars on... candles!

There are so many things you can do for just a few dollars so have fun using your imagination! How are you going to add the 'extra' to 'ordinary' and make someone's day? We'd love to hear how you go!

3. Winners of the 'Get the Good Oil' Competition

Thank you for all your wonderful beauty product recipes using macadamia oil - it was so hard to choose a winner! Congratulations to Sapna Sharma who won first prize and to our four runners-up:

First prize ($100 or $100 credit in Ye Olde Shoppe)

Home-made face cleanser

To make a beautiful facial cleanser, puree a peeled kiwi fruit in a food processor, then mix in two tablespoons of natural yoghurt, one tablespoon of macadamia oil, one tablespoon of honey and one teaspoon of ground almonds. Massage onto face and neck then rinse off with warm water.

Contributed by: Sapna Sharma

Runners-up prizes ($50 or $50 credit in Ye Olde Shoppe)

Rosewater and macadamia oil moisturiser

That list of ingredients on the back of my store-bought moisturiser was a mile long! When I looked up the names of all of those ingredients I found that I was buying oil, water and a whole lot of things to keep the oil and water from separating and spoiling. Now I just have one bottle of macadamia oil and one spray bottle of rosewater. I mix them together in my hand, then apply. I can change the ratio of oil to water whenever the season or my needs change and I am not paying for all those extra unwanted chemicals.

Contributed by: Cathy G.

Gentle exfoliator for all ages

Mix a small amount of macadamia oil and a small dab of bicarb soda together and gently massage into your face and neck for no longer than a minute. The bicarb acts as an exfoliant and the oil absorbs the nasties removed from pores. Gently remove with a face towel and warm water, working from brow to chin, then from decolletage up neck to chin. Finish off with a warm to hot (not too hot!) face towel to open pores and then whisk away any left impurities with some witch-hazel lotion. Leaves skin feeling fresh and clean. Repeat once a week for dry/mature skin and two to three times for oily/teenage/hormonal skin. On my **cough cough** nearly 50-year-old skin, I've noticed the impact on pore size and fine wrinkles and my skin feels more elastic. My 17-year-old daughter's face has shown a dramatic improvement of the scarring from acne since Christmas 2012.

Contributed by: Jo'Anne Spouse

Wickedly rich hand cream

For a wonderfully rich hand cream, mix:

  • 1 cup macadamia oil
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
  • A few drops of your favourite essential oils
  • A few drops of apple cider vinegar

Combine well and enjoy!

Contributed by: Rebecca D.

Sea salt exfoliant

Mix sea salt (or castor sugar) with macadamia oil. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil and you have a luxury exfoliant treatment. Wet skin, rub it in and then wash it off. Your skin will love you for it and feels so soft!

Contributed by: Marg Cross

4. Penny Wise is BACK! It's Been a While...

Well this is a turn-up for the books isn't it! I know, I know, I thought it was the end of Penny Wise too! But you know what? I missed her. And I missed you. Not that I've been idling about and resting on my laurels mind you! No sirree, it's been a busy old time but jings it feels good to be back. I guess I should let you know that things are a bit different in Penny's world than where we last left off however...

For starters, as you can see, I'm now the shortest in the family. But as you can also see, there are now only three of us - just me and the boys. Saying goodbye to Noel after more than 20 years was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I married a good man; a very good man and an excellent father. We went through some horrendously tough times and came out stronger the other side. And, we were finally living our dream at the beach - this was supposed to be the easy part! But when I met Noel we were teenagers - just a year older than Liam is now. We were still kids. Now we are 40. As you would expect, we've both done a lot of growing and changing during that time! But instead of growing closer together, we grew apart. We wanted different things; we weren't the same people any more. In the end, trying to stay together became more heart breaking than being apart.

So it's onwards and upwards. At the moment, the boys and I are still living at the beach. They have jobs, are busy with sports and are happy at school. They have grown into wonderful young men and we make a good team. We're living in the same house and for now we still have a vegetable garden and a freezer full of food. We've got it pretty easy - but it's not going to last. Our house is on the market and once it sells, who knows what the future holds. We'll be going from the freedom and security of owning our own home to trying to find a rental property and managing life and everything it throws at us on a single income. It's going to be one heck of a journey but I feel well-armed. Why? Because I have eight years' of Simple Savings knowledge up my sleeve and thank goodness I do because by crikey I'm going to need it!

Read more of Penny Wise's posts here!

5. Best of the Vault: Just Breathe!

That's right - next time you feel a bit stressed or busy or overwhelmed, simply stop and take a few long breaths. This simple action allows our bodies to release some of our physical tension and gives our minds a quick break. And guess what - it's free! Here are some other wonderful inexpensive ways to help you 'stop and catch your breath'...

Guilt-free day of pampering at home

I saved a fortune on a day's well-earned pampering! I had a rare day to myself and was wondering how I could best spend it. My initial plan was to go to a movie, buy a coffee and some chocolates and then get myself some lunch, maybe a neck and shoulder massage - money, money and more money!

So instead I pulled some home-made chicken and vegetable soup out of my freezer and put on a DVD which I had been given for Christmas and hadn't ever made time to watch. I got out the foot spa, essential oils and foot cream, put on a face mask and made myself an extra big coffee in the recently bought coffee maker (bought for half price). The total cost for my treats? $2.77! This was for a whole marked down wedge of Brie, with two days before it was due to expire! I had a wonderful day of peace and quiet and pampering and I didn't have to leave the house!

Contributed by: Annette White

Free online therapy

A recent Four Corners program about depression mentioned Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a learnable technique to tackle negative thought patterns. The Australian National University has an online program where you can learn CBT for free, called Moodgym (

With Moodgym, you undertake five online modules, each of which probably takes about 30 minutes to complete. The program was originally developed to help young people at risk of depression, and has been so successful the ANU has now opened it to the general public. The program is easy and enjoyable to use, and has a secure login so you can do the modules at your own pace anonymously.

You can learn CBT with a psychologist where you could pay around $120 an hour. Say you visit three times, that is a saving of at least $360. All Moodgym will cost you is your Internet charges and your time. CBT is not a cure for depression or anxiety, but can help managing these difficult feelings.



Four Corners:


Contributed by: Samantha Franks

Enjoy the sunset

Find all the best spots in your area to view beautiful sunsets. Pack a nice picnic supper, take along some favourite music and stop letting the sunsets pass you by. These lovely memorable times with loved ones are truly priceless.

Contributed by: Lexie Walker

Enjoy a friend's company without spending

To take your mind off going shopping and spending, organise for a friend to come around for coffee instead. It's a great way to catch up with each other and enjoy someone else's company - no spending necessary! You could also alternate between them coming over, or you going to their place, then you are still going on an outing!

Contributed by: Toni

Here are a few more ideas for our valued Vault members:

Pampering without wasting Contributed by: Michelle Corkery

Holiday week without the expense Contributed by: Cathy Carige

Health retreat at home Contributed by: Ruth M now T

6. Best of the Forum: What is Your Indulgence?

One of the reasons we love reading the 50c Indulgence threads is because they remind us to stop and enjoy ourselves. We have a huge variety of interests (and interesting people!) in the Forum. This means that we get to share all the different sorts of ways that people enjoy themselves - pastimes, hobbies or just simply reminders to have some 'time out'.

Maybe there is a new 50c indulgence just waiting for you to discover it!

Creative writers #11

Definitely the 'write stuff' going on in this thread! This wonderful group of members support and nurture writers of all descriptions.

Time for me: 15 minutes a day

We spend so many hours a day looking after other people, so why not take out just 15 minutes to spoil yourself.

Restarting life!

What would be different if you 'restarted'? And, what are you waiting for!

Nurture yourself - you deserve it

Everyone needs a quiet place of their own - where is yours?

You are more beautiful than you think

We are all unique and beautiful in our own way. Sometimes we just need a reminder.

7. Best Members' Blog: Focus on Where I HAVE Got Money

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Jude C. for her first blog AND first time doing a $21 Challenge! Good on you, Jude - keep up the great work!

This is the first time I've posted on here. After joining up in December and reading lots over the holidays, I've finally decided to give the $21 Challenge a go. I wanted to go away with my husband and children for the Anzac weekend but we don't have any spare money, and as a working and studying mum of two small kids I just don't have time for many of the ideas on here. I was glum about it for two seconds and then I gave myself a jolly good talking to, and told myself to think 'strength based'. Instead of focusing on not having money, I decided to focus on where we DID have money... thus the $21 Challenge has begun!

I realised I could save $200 by doing the $21 Challenge for a week. It took me all of two minutes to write a menu plan as I already have a stocked up freezer and pantry. I spent $40 at the store. We're midway through the week and I'm laughing, as the slow cooked meal I made on Monday was made into a pie on Tuesday and there is enough for another meal of wraps yet. Normally all the leftovers would have gone in the bin via a week in the fridge. I even picked the rhubarb from the garden, which usually just sits there until it wilts, and cooked it up to have with the Easiyo yoghurt in the morning (this is the Easiyo maker I found on the side of the road a few months back - yay to recycling people!) My daughter thinks she is having a real treat. So thanks for all the inspiration and ideas!

Thank you Jude C. for sharing your $21 Challenge journey and congratulations on taking the plunge! To read any of our members' blogs, click here

8. Hidden Gems: Lentil as Anything

Our Hidden Gems directory is designed to help members source the best deals in their area. This month's Hidden Gem is Lentil a****s Anything as nominated by Singespitter.

When I first moved to Melbourne, a friend told me about 'Lentil as Anything'. It is a not-for-profit community organisation where you pay what you think the meal is worth. I went for a meal at the St Kilda 'Lentil as Anything' to check it out! The restaurant is run by volunteers and it is a bit of an alternative/hippy restaurant with a Moroccan theme. I really liked it as it was something different and the volunteers were lovely and have been very attentive every time I have visited. I can take a seat anywhere I like and they will often bring me out a menu and a glass of water. The food is really good and suitable for both vegetarians and vegans, and they also serve food that is gluten free.

There are no set prices. They have a box on the counter and you put your donations into that. There is more information on their website.

Where: 41 Blessington Street, St Kilda, Vic 3182
1-3 St Heliers St, Abbotsford, Vic 3067
233 Barkly Street, Footscray, Vic 3011


Well done Singespitter on locating such a fantastic hidden gem and thanks so much for sharing.

9. Cooking with Mimi: Apple Tray Bake

We just love a good apple pie. However, our recent wrestle with gluten sensitivity, rules the bought version out these days.

Here's my solution - a big tray of steaming and fragrant fruity gorgeousness, all soft and pillowy and delectable.

And the bonus is that your house will smell better than any commercial air freshener, ever!

Apple Tray Bake

Serves 8-12


  • 1 cup yoghurt, any flavour
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups plain flour (I used gluten-free of course!)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 apples, cored and sliced thinly (a mandolin slicer is ideal for this)
  • Icing sugar or cinnamon sugar to serve


Preheat your oven to 160C.

Lightly grease and flour a large baking tray or large lasagne dish.

Now is the time to melt the butter in a microwave-safe jug and allow it to cool slightly. Once the butter has cooled a little, mix it with the yoghurt.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar. Beat this with electric beaters until creamy and pale. This usually takes about 60 seconds.

Add the yoghurt and butter mixture, and reduce your beater speed to low, mixing well until combined.

Use a metal spoon to fold in the flour, vanilla and apple slices.

Pour it all into your prepared dish, smoothing it out and making sure that the apple slices are evenly distributed. Pop it into your preheated oven.

Depending upon the size of your dish and your ovens idiosyncrasies, this takes between 40 and 55 minutes to cook. It's done when it's golden brown and firm and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Sometimes I find an extra ten minutes with the temperature turned up to 200, gives the Bake an extra crusty top.

Serve dusted with icing sugar or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar with a little cream, custard, ice cream or yoghurt on the side if you wish. One layer of Apple Tray Bake is yummy, a tower of layers sprinkled with caster sugar or cinnamon sugar is a sight to behold and hard to resist!

This is a great one to serve for a crowd or for one very greedy family... he-he!

You can discover more of Mimi's creations in our Members' Blog section at </blog/>.

10. Claire's Corner: A $0.54c Cure for My $4.50 Habit!

In the spirit of the upcoming $0.50c Indulgence Month, I am quite proud to have broken a year-long habit that was costing me around $30 a week, replacing it with one that costs just less than $4.00 a week (and appears to be helping my waistline reduce too!).

Last month, I shared how I managed to shave $188,846 worth of interest off my mortgage. The majority of this was by having my interest rate cut, but $23,200 of that sum was saved by increasing my fortnightly payments by the cost of a cup of coffee per day.

My daily espresso habit had crept up on me over about a year... since discovering THE best coffee in town. I used to limit myself to one or two 'bought' coffees a week, but then I discovered a café just downstairs from where I work part-time in the city. Their coffee is perfect, and somewhat addictive. And I love coffee... it's my only vice, without it, I get headaches, I get moody and I'm just not very nice to be around. But with great coffee just a short trip down the stairs, well, I had the perfect excuse to nip out of work for five minutes and come back with my little cup of happiness. But at $4.50 a pop, it was starting to add up. Perhaps not coincidentally, my waistline was starting to expand too.

So I took the stand and decided enough was enough. 'No more,' I said! 'I shall be strong,' I said! Yet there I was, Day One, teetering on the brink of withdrawal, dreaming of my perfect brew, imagining the soothing aroma... my inner-addict crying out for a hit of java. How was I going to get through the day, let alone the week, let alone forever? I tried having instant coffee powder... but my taste buds staged an immediate riot, followed by an uprising of my nerves... instant was not going to cut the mustard!

Then it struck me, I remembered the last time I had to go without my life support in-a-cup. It was back in October when I went along to Emily's school camp on Kawau Island. I took along a pack of Nescafe Cappuccino (extra strong!). And surprisingly, these little sachets of faux-coffee somehow got me through. It was a big ask, but I survived the week without any headaches or irritability (none that can be blamed on coffee withdrawal anyway), and quite enjoyed my instant, no-fuss, low-cost coffee alternative.

So a couple of weekends back, I popped in to the local supermarket and picked up a box of 20 - on special for just $10.99. That's just $0.54c each! And the wonderful thing is, I don't miss my $4.50 coffee at all! Yep, I'm now two weeks in and my expensive coffee habit seems to be a thing of the past! I can't believe I was spending so much when there was a perfectly good alternative at a fraction of the price! Hurruh for 50c indulgences!

You can read more of Claire's warm and wonderful words in our Members' Blog section at </blog/>

11. 50c Indulgences: Inspirations from 'Gone with the Wind'

Our most recent 'Indulgences under 50c thread' was called 'Inspirations from Gone with the Wind'. Helen came up with this theme to remind us of 'ingenuity', such as that used by Scarlett O'Hara when she had to use curtains to make a new dress. So this month, we are making over our wardrobes without spending any money.

I have gone through everything I have and tried it on, invented new outfits and colour combinations. My favourite of all colour combinations is dusty blues with browns which I once would not have considered. I borrowed this one from nature, a brown cat with blue eyes and it just works! Considering new colour schemes, a little bit of mending, a couple of alterations and a session of re-dying to revive some black items gave me lots to work with. I polished up my boots and handbags using my favourite trick, a little vaseline on a soft cloth. They look like new. Used on leather this also has the effect of waterproofing. It works so well, even concealing little scuffs and scratches.

Most of us have all sorts of lovely things in our wardrobes we never use as they are 'too good'. For me that included a collection of pretty little purses and evening bags. Many are just lovely but even in the evening I seem to need my phone, brush, lipstick and money and it's all too much for a dainty little purse. I've brought them back to life and they give me joy everyday as gorgeous makeup purses and handy travel purses.

An old Glomesh cigarette case I found in an op shop houses my camera just perfectly. A Glomesh glasses case is the perfect size for my make-up. A small purse carries emergency supplies like Disprin and Band-Aids that I take everywhere. An evening purse is now my bag to keep jewellery in when I go away on holidays and it makes up the prettiest part of my packing. Little purses serve the same function as a bag organiser, to change handbags you simply move your purse system from one bag to another.

I love scarves too but cannot seem to wear square ones well - but tied to my handbag, they look beautiful! I can then work them in with what I'm wearing.

Last year one of my best things for winter was a blue cardigan with a blue fur shawl collar. I wore it day and evening. I had bought a blue fur coat in an op shop for $12 which I knew was way too much and made me look like a blue bear! BUT the collar was gorgeous so I cut it off and stitched it to a cardigan. So my beautiful blue cardigan cost around $25 all up. This year my daughter gave me a similar cut-off fur collar and pinning it onto a cardigan has given me another fabulous item for very little. My daughter also cut up a fur to make herself one of the trendy fur vests seen at the moment and it turned out wonderfully. The remnants made edges for boots and gloves.

There is just so much you can do! So take a look at your things in a new way and maybe even your mother's, grandma's or great aunt's things! Don't think 'old stuff', think 'vintage'. Many older things are beautifully made and wonderfully stylish... which is why I can never say no to a Glomesh bag! I hope you find some possibilities in your own wardrobe for the cooler months to come.

Come and join us as we continue on our challenges throughout the year to brighten up our lives for mere pennies and cheer each other on. A little bit of encouragement and a lot of ideas can make so much difference to your day!

You can drop in and join Helen, Annabel and the Under 50c Army here: Inspirations from 'Gone with the Wind'. Under 50 cent indulgences April 2013

12. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Saving Some Seeds and a Treat for Dinner!

Saving and storing chilli seeds

We have been lucky enough to get a bumper harvest of the bih jolokia chillies. In fact, I think we have grown enough to provide us with sufficient tongue-blistering hot curries for at least the next five to ten years. As I am not a glutton for punishment I have decided to collect some seeds from them to share with a few people and freeze the flesh for anyone who will take it.:D»

Saving any type of chilli or capsicum seeds is fairly straight forward. All that is needed is a few sheets of paper towel and somewhere to keep them safe while they dry. A few precautions need to be taken when dealing with these little fellers and other hot chillies, so some rubber gloves were used due to the amount of 'heat' these guys have in their flesh/juice. These chillies are right up there in the top seven hottest chillies according to the chart in this link and I got a slight burn on my wrist from the juice while I was working with these guys.

Collecting the seeds is as easy as scraping them from the pith while preparing the evening meal and one chilli should give you more than enough to grow the next crop. I like to set them aside on some paper towel to dry for a week or so.

I find it best to use bulldog clips to hold the paper secured to the plate so you don't have seeds flying everywhere if knocked. I have also posted on some little paper towel envelopes that are easy to make up and handy for drying small amounts of seed in.

Once the seeds are dry they are ready to be packed up and stored in small envelopes, plastic bags or wrapped in foil then stored in a dry, cool dark place. Moisture is the biggest enemy of seed savers so be sure to make certain that they are all dried properly before storing.

I use cracker containers and keep the seeds grouped in larger bags according to varieties. These containers live in a bookshelf that gets no direct sunlight and are in a cool spot in the lounge room.

Wandering the patch

Still waiting for half of the garlic that was planted to make an appearance.

All but one of the garlic that got the fridge treatment have shot, so am most happy with that and the next lot should be ready to go in this week.

The raspberries are pumping out the fruit at the moment and make a great snack while wandering the garden. However, I think we will need at least another two barrels or a small bed's worth to get enough to preserve.

Bianca is planning on a beef rending curry tomorrow and it looks like we will be picking the first of our wing beans as a side

Have been looking forward to these guys for the past few months. **: )»**

I am happy with the way the jade perch are going at the moment. It's a bit hard to tell from the picture but I think we will be harvesting three or four in about a month's time. We are really looking forward to our first meal of home grown fish.

Treat for dinner

We were very lucky to get a gift of four large jade perch from a local grower and aquaculture specialist this week. He brought them over live in a large esky so they could be despatched, scaled and cleaned fresh for dinner that night. I was most impressed with the girls as they were present and interested in the whole process and they got to see first-hand how the fish were prepared. We cooked them up as he suggested with just some salt and pepper in a hot pan.

Not being a very big fish eater I was not sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised. They were slightly oily but I sort of expected that as they are said to be the fish with the highest omega 3 content. Was very happy to get at preparing and tasting them now, as ours will be ready to start harvesting in a month or so I hope. :

Hope you all have a great weekend...

Read more of Rob Bob's garden blogs in our Members' Blog area.

13. David Wright: Saving CAN be Fun!

I've been talking in previous articles about getting your finances to a place where you can pay your bills and your loans and start to save money. When you finally get there, it is an overwhelming feeling of relief to know that your finances are in order - I know, I've been there! Sometimes though, we are so busy herding every cent into this account or that loan that we can forget something very important - that life is supposed to be fun! It would be a very grim existence indeed if all we thought about was our bank accounts. So I'd like to let you in on my secret of how to save money AND have fun!

First let me share a story with you - back in 1986, my wife and I were living in a remote area in a cheap government house. We knew we would be transferred to a bigger city the next year and that once there, we would have to start paying much more expensive rent. What we did was 'pretend' we had to start paying that expensive rent a year earlier. We found all sorts of ways to put that extra money away into a special account and got a real kick out of watching it grow. When we were finally transferred to the Sunshine Coast, this money was a great start for a house deposit. And that is my secret - make a game out of motivating yourself to save money when you ordinarily wouldn't. We made a game out of 'finding' extra money and 'pretending' we actually had to pay rent. Of course we didn't - we knew that - but it was very satisfying finding ways to save money and reduce spending. Making a game out of it took some of the 'sting' out of not being able to spend that money!

Here's another example - if you want to buy a new car, do your research and go for a test drive. Fall in love with that car! But postpone the purchase for four to six months and START MAKING PRETEND REPAYMENTS ON A PRETEND CAR LOAN INTO A SAVINGS ACCOUNT. To keep yourself motivated and connected to why you are saving, make sure you drive past or pop in every now and then to look at 'your car'. You'll be able to save without the stress of a real loan, and if you find you are happy making the repayments you will have a nice deposit saved up when the six months are up and you'll be ahead! If you find you don't like making the repayments it will have been a lucky escape. It is important to note here that borrowing for anything that loses money is dangerous because if you decide AFTER making the purchase that it was a bad decision, you can't sell the item and pay off all of the loan with the proceeds. Pretending you have made the purchase is also a great way to make sure you really DO want to make the purchase.

So this month I'd like you to think of some 'games' you might play to achieve your savings goals and email them in so we can share them next month. It is amazing what tricks we can come up with to help us save money for something special.

14. From Last Month: Lose Weight, Not Dollars

Last month Jen Aitken emailed us about ideas to help lose weight inexpensively.

"I am looking to lose weight but I often find dieting can be expensive. Ironically, when you eat healthily with lean protein and fresh fruit and vegetables, it can be more expensive than filling up on cheap carbohydrates. Does anyone have any economic suggestions that they have tried and succeeded with (apart from the obvious of just eating less!)?"

We got some fantastic ideas - thank you for sharing your wisdom! Here are some of our favourite replies:

Fantastic, free weight loss website

If you're trying to lose weight without spending too much, I can highly recommend the website

This is a free service which provides fantastic eating and exercise plans. The recipes are all seasonal, nutritional and really tasty! There is even a plan for vegetarians. You can print off your menu plan, shopping list and recipes each week and can access old plans through the archive. The plan also gives a selection of snacks for in-between meals.

There is also an exercise plan which caters for beginners and intermediate fitness levels, they even have demonstration videos for you to check that you're doing each exercise correctly. You can input your statistics and update it weekly to follow your progress, and there is a forum to connect with others.

I have made a ring-binder with each of the plans and go back to my favourite recipes often. It takes a bit of planning and organisation, as any weight loss program does, but you can do it for as long as you like without paying for meetings or deliveries and the exercises can be done almost anywhere too!

Contributed by: Kath Wyer

Plan, shop and think your way to weight loss

Find a good fruit/vegie shop and a good butcher and only buy what you need. Buying 150g of lean meat means you are not paying for fat and buying boneless will save money. Buy only what you need in fruit too, for example, three pieces of fruit per day. Buy weekly so fresh fruit and vegies don't spoil. If your supermarket has a market day, make that your shopping day.

If you are time poor, shop around the outside of your supermarket to get your bread, meat, fruit, vegies and dairy so you miss out on the chocolate biscuit aisle and use some of the hints from Simple Savings for deodorant and house cleaners!

Change your thought patterns from 'eating junk food is so much cheaper than eating fresh fruit and vegies' to 'my health and well-being is worth every cent spent on food that is good for my mind, body and spirit'. You will save time and money on doctor appointments and on medication when you look after your health.

Do the maths too! Organising and planning your food can make eating well a lot cheaper! McDonald's Choc Frappe, Big Mac and medium fries is about $11. Over seven days, that's $77. A healthier option is:

150g of lean meat/fish/chicken at $10/kg over seven days = $10.50.
2kg fresh vegies (two cups a meal x seven meals) = $7.00 max.
1 tub of yoghurt x $1.50 x seven days for dessert = $7.50.
1 apple x $3.00/kg x seven days = $3.00.
TOTAL = $28

You have saved $49 which you can put into savings or pay toward your debt.

You can also swap recipes with friends and co-workers. Have a group of friends swap cooking for each other over the course of a month and you'll have plenty of good company and save money on electricity too!

Exercise for half an hour every day and you will sleep better, feel better and look after yourself better while encouraging yourself to keep losing weight. Save money by walking with an iPod or with a friend or your dog rather than using a gym. Another tip, Google exercises you can do at home using items from your kitchen as weights.

Contributed by: Tammy F.

Fresh, seasonal produce the key to weight loss

Losing weight needn't cost a fortune, it's really just a matter of knowing what to eat! Here are some of my suggestions:

Eating loads of fresh fruit and vegies is a good way to shed kilos and also to help protect you in the future from 'lifestyle' diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. It's best to buy whatever is in season - this produce is healthier because when it grows in season, the plant needs less chemicals as it is being helped by nature. You can get loads of fresh produce for a very good price by only buying what's in season.

I also recommend cutting down or eliminating all animal protein (including dairy and eggs) and loading up on beans - they're a nutritional powerhouse! Nuts are okay, but are high in fat so beans and pulses are best. As a bonus, cutting down animal protein will save you money at the check-out.

"Eat to Live" by Dr Joel Furhmann explains why this diet is the healthiest long-term. It's a super-quick way to lose weight and feel really great too!

Contributed by: Lois Nethery

Lose weight, not dollars!

My low-cost tip for weight loss is to eat fruit and vegetables with every meal where possible. For breakfast, try eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes or cereal with fruit. When snacking, choose a fresh piece of fruit or perhaps some vegetable sticks. It also helps to limit your carb intake at night. And finally, drink plenty of water!

Contributed by: Sue Keane

Practice mindful eating for weight loss

Losing weight can be difficult, especially when lean proteins are so expensive! A good alternative is to have beans and pulses such as lentils, kidney beans, berlotti beans and so on. These are high in protein and cost very little. And if you have a slow-cooker, try cooking cheaper cuts of meat for longer so they become tender and delicious.

Another great technique to help lose weight is to eat every three hours so you don't get too hungry and overeat. It also helps to eat from a smaller plate so you eat less. And of course, practice eating mindfully - this means you acknowledge, indulge and enjoy every aspect of the meal, so no TV or other distractions! Sit and look at the meal, see the colours and concentrate on the smells. Be aware of the texture and tastes and chew slowly and carefully. There are books on this method and mindfulness is a general technique used in behaviour change. I used it to quit smoking and it worked first time!

Contributed by: Nicole D

Less sugar, less waist!

I managed to lose two centimetres from my waist in just two weeks by cutting out sugar! I measured my waist when I first started, then went cold turkey for two weeks avoiding cakes, biscuits and drinks with more than 15 grams of sugar.

Admittedly, my sweet tooth is a bit of a problem so I allow myself to cheat once in a while, but try to stick to my no sugar rule as much as possible. I've also increased the amount of exercise I do, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift. By reducing my sugar intake, I feel a lot better, have more energy and my appetite has decreased!

I'm now having to buy smaller clothes, but plan to sell my old clothes to fund my new wardrobe! Cutting back on sugar has been the best thing I could have done and wish I had done it when I was a lot younger!

Contributed by: Danielle Oki

Walk your way to weight loss

I've found a fantastic, totally free way to lose weight, saving me the $650 per year it was costing to go to the gym!

I went to the gym four times a week for two years without losing any weight. I worked out for 45 minutes and was monitoring my food intake, but without success! So I decided enough was enough and stopped going. Since then we've moved house and I've started walking along the beach each day for 45 minutes. I weigh myself once a week only and record my weight on Pink Pad (a free app for tracking your period, but also useful for weight loss!). I am now regularly losing 500g a week! I walk at a quick pace to '60s music. It's free, and for me, it has worked!

Contributed by: Sue H

Hubby and I lost 17kg each on a budget

Eating healthily and losing weight can be simple and affordable! My husband and I each lost 17 kilos on a very strict budget by getting the right advice!

Two years ago we went to see a dietitian due to my husband's weight. The dietitian gave us the general principles of losing weight - which turned out to be low-GI. We were on a budget and only had $100 to spend per week on food and groceries. But we managed to plan five healthy meals a day (including snacks).

The basic principles include eating at least five serves of vegetables a day, two serves of fruit and following the correct number of protein and carbohydrates for your personal situation, plus a suitable number of dairy serves. Shopping at local fruit and vegie shops saved me heaps as I wasn't tempted to buy too much in the grocery aisles. I also set a timer when going to the supermarket so I only filled my list based on the specials I was there for. Sticking to the dietary serving suggestions will also save you money as the dinner plate should be half vegetables, quarter protein (lean meats) and low-GI carbohydrate.

We spent $130 on visits to the dietitian and then cancelled future visits after I borrowed a number of low-GI library books. We created our own menu plans and shopped buying mainly vegies and fruits, low-GI breads, and cereals (oats are healthy and cheap). I also stocked up on frozen vegetables and berries when on sale.

My snacks included wholemeal muesli slice, sliced vegetables and crackers and cheese. Lunches included vegetable soups, sandwiches or salads with protein. Breakfast could be low-GI bread with peanut paste or oats with fruit and yoghurt, for example.

Contributed by: Sarah Smith

Beans and legumes

These are great, cheap protein sources, especially if you cook them up yourself in the slow cooker. There are lots of great recipes online. Some of my favourites include dhal, red lentil and vegie soup, and bean and tomato soup. has excellent recipes with the cost per serve shown.

Contributed by: Jo Cook

Soup is the solution!

Try eating more soup! You only need a few vegies (the more the merrier) and a stock cube and you can make a variety of filling, nutritious, low-fat cheap meals.

Separate into batches and freeze. You can make it even cheaper by making your own vegetable stock and freezing what you don't use. If you're still hungry, try supplementing with an English muffin, piece of toast, or some low-fat crackers. Alternatively, throw your leftover bits of pasta, beans or rice into the soup as it cooks. It will keep you going all week!

I use a base of leek, onion and celery, then add garlic and whatever vegies and herbs/spices I want to. Pop in a stock cube and water, then bring to a boil and simmer until your vegies are cooked.

Contributed by: Jessica H.

15. This Month's Help Request: Don't Let Clutter Get the Best of You

Denise Partridge has emailed asking for some help! She writes:

"I would like some hints on decluttering. It is too easy to buy things cheaply and collect far more than we need. I'd like some ideas on decluttering and limiting waste so I can spend more time on what I want to do."

If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Denise, please send them in to us here.

16. Goodbye For Now!

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for April 2013. We hope you have enjoyed it and have been inspired by all the money saving tips. Don't forget to take some time out and indulge yourself just a little bit and gift some joy to someone else as well!

Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'. Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...
All the best

April 2015 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - April 2015

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: What a Waste!
  2. April: The $21 Challenge
  3. Best of the Vault: Take the $21 Challenge
  4. Best of the Forum: Waste Not, Want Not!
  5. Best Members' Blog: Cast Your Net Wider for Even Better Savings
  6. Mimi: Baked Ricotta Feeds Us for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
  7. From Last Month: Keeping Our Seniors Safe
  8. This Month's Help Request: Getting Saucy!


It's April! We hope you enjoyed a happy Easter with your family and friends. We had great fun making a few Create-aways in March and have added them to our regular menu plan. This month I want you to think about how much food we waste - I found this fantastic info-graphic which illustrates it perfectly:

It really makes you think doesn't it?

I always love hearing your savings ideas and stories and tips! Here are some of my favourites this month:

"I really enjoy reading your newsletters and particularly about how other members are putting all the tips and tricks into good use. A lot through necessity (unfortunately) but the importance and pride that they're taking in making ends meet is really lovely to read about. Kudos to you for sharing the tips and building such a community." (Kate)

"Hi Fiona. I'm a new Forum member and had to email and tell you how much I've learned, just in the last week. I am loving the information and support from your Forum members. Thank you!" (Saskia)

Have a great month!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. Our Simple Savers Facebook group has 5000 members and is getting busier every day. Come and say hello.

P.P.S. Our gardening guru Rob Bob is having a break this month but if you need a fix, you can find him here.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: What a Waste!

Hanna jumped up from her chair and slammed the newspaper on the table. The headline read, "We waste 20% of all food we buy!" She turned to Sally and started to rant, "Did you know that for every five bags of groceries people buy, they throw out ONE bag COMPLETELY UNEATEN! That's like throwing $20 in the bin every time you spend $100 on groceries. $20 in the bin! Can you believe that, Sal?"

Sally looked sheepish, "Yes, Hanna, I can actually. I used to throw out that much food." Hanna frowned, looking perplexed at Sal. "Really? What changed?" Sal looked embarrassed. "Well, umm... you changed me. You told me about the $21 Challenge and well, at first I thought you were slightly mad! But then I actually DID a $21 Challenge and it taught me how to use up everything I already had in the cupboard and fridge. I realised I was letting food go to waste and then going shopping to replace it! Who was the mad one?!"

Hanna laughed, "Sal, I think you have the answer right there. The whole world needs to do the $21 Challenge!"

2. April: The $21 Challenge

We think Hanna is on to something - imagine how much less waste there would be if more people did a $21 Challenge every now and then! The $21 Challenge is the ultimate way to ensure you have no waste in your kitchen. It's time to 'Face the Waste'!

Your challenge this month is to not throw any food away. This month we want you to do as many $21 Challenges as you can, but not just to save money; to avoid waste. We want you to use up every last scrap of food you have and stop taking it for granted. There is a huge amount of energy, time and resources going into producing our food so don't throw it away - eat it! If you focus on this for one month, you'll find your habits changing. You'll be using up the food you buy without having to think about it. No more throwing money in the bin!

Obviously you'll still have to buy groceries this month, but perhaps you might do a $21 Challenge your first week, then spend $100 on groceries the second week, $150 the third week and so on. The aim is to 'Face the Waste' and stop wasting precious food. For those of you who haven't heard of the $21 Challenge, click here for much more information.

There are hundreds of threads in the Forum and we'll post information, ideas and recipes on our Simple Savers Facebook page

We'd love to hear how you get on so please let us know! Good luck!

3. Best of the Vault: Take the $21 Challenge

The $21 Challenge is a fantastic way to save money, stocktake your fridge and cupboards - and have fun doing it! Here are some great ideas that will help.

$21 Challenge keeps the budget nag at bay

School holidays are more affordable with the help of the $21 Challenge! Money seems to slip away so effortlessly while out having fun with my teenage kids. Budgeting is something I am trying to teach them about but it is hard to make it relevant sometimes. Then I had a great idea that would make them pro-active with the weekly budget over the holidays, without me being a 'budget nag'.

It is the $21 Challenge week, with a twist. THEY have to go and log all the food in the freezer and pantry, and make up the meal plan for the week. Then all the money THEY save us for the week can go towards some guilt-free fun. It's a great incentive and my kids are learning important household skills.

Contributed by: Louise Blackmore

Simple system reduces food waste

I used to waste quite a bit of food as family members would move stuff around the fridge and freezer until it was hidden out of sight. So I bought two small magnetic whiteboards for around $7.00 each and put one on my fridge and one on my freezer. I now note down the opened items, fruit and vegetables and leftovers in my fridge and freezer - because of this I now know what is in there and I can make up menu plans accordingly!

Contributed by: Sue Brown

Cornflour makes an egg-cellent substitute

Next time you run out of eggs, don't panic! Due to the expense of buying eggs and not having any on hand, I recently decided to try using two tablespoons of cornflour per egg in a biscuit recipe. I then added milk and the biscuits turned out exactly the same!

Contributed by: Dana Grayling

Home-made gnocci

With a little effort, you can make fabulous meals with very humble ingredients. For example, home-made gnocchi requires less than a kilo of potatoes, some flour and two egg yolks to feed four people. Gnocchi can be dressed simply with some butter, herbs from the garden and Parmesan. Another tasty option is to puree some baked pumpkin and garnish with fried bacon and sage. Both meals are superb.


  • 800g potatoes - choose same sized potatoes so they cook at the same time
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100g plain flour
  • Salt


Bake potatoes in their jackets for about one hour or until tender in a 200C oven. Peel, then mash thoroughly. Add egg yolks, flour and salt. Knead well until the dough is elastic. Shape dough into small balls and make long rolls as thick as a thumb; it is best to do this on a lightly floured board. Cut into 2cm segments. Press each segment gently with a fork.

Place in lightly salted boiling water, in batches, until they rise to the top; about six minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. You may need to keep the cooked batches warm in the oven while you cook the rest.

Buon appetito!

Contributed by: Louise Saw

4. Best of the Forum: Waste Not, Want Not!

It can be hard to start your first $21 Challenge - but once you start, you'll be hooked! Here are some great ideas to get you started:

Go-to meals... instead of takeaway

Financially Fit Mum is on a mission to avoid expensive takeaway - and she wants to be prepared!


Sourdough could be an easy, versatile and tasty idea for your $21 Challenge week - what are you waiting for?!

Pizza scrolls

Our wonderful Forum members have some great ideas for pizza scrolls - great for morning teas, famished teens, lunches and easy dinners.

Recipes from 'How low can you go?' - #4

There are so many good ideas collated by Claire here, you're going to need a cup of tea, or two (!), to get through them.

5. Best Members' Blog: Cast Your Net Wider for Even Better Savings

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win $100 cash each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Leejay, our 'Urban Hunter Gatherer'!

"I am a serious Urban Hunter Gatherer. I stalk supermarket mark-downs and clearance items with a seriousness that borders on obsession.

There are four supermarkets within 3km of where I live and I thought I knew what to expect from each one. But yesterday I learned something. Just because a shop is part of a chain, doesn't mean that they all work in the same way.

For example, my local big name supermarket marks down meat approaching the use-by date by a dollar or two. Catch it the day before use-by and this can be as much as 25% to 50% off. Not bad. The same supermarket chain in the next suburb starts their mark-down process at a 50% discount, which reduces as the use-by date approaches. This can give a discounted price of 50% to 75%.

Here are a few tips for buying marked-down meat.

  • Always keep the receipt. If it is not fresh, take it back. Even though it is a mark-down, it should still be edible.
  • Freeze immediately. Don't drive around all day with your meat in the car!
  • Large cuts can be great value. Slice or dice and freeze or cook straight away for cold meat cuts.
  • Deli items close to use-by can also be frozen. I regularly freeze dips, yoghurt, cream, milk and whole luncheon meats like Strasbourg. (Note - sliced meats don't seem to do as well in the freezer in my experience.)

So don't pass a supermarket! If you have time, pop in and take a walk around the walls. This is where you will find your fresh items and the best mark-downs. And remember shopping Karma - don't be greedy! Buy what you need but leave one for someone else. That way next time you look for bargains they will be there just waiting for you."

Well done Leejay!

You can read more of our members' blogs here.

6. Mimi: Baked Ricotta Feeds Us for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Baked ricotta is the easiest thing ever. It's a bit like a cross between a quiche and a savoury cheesecake and is really versatile. I made one this week in a silicone loaf pan. We had it as breakfast the next morning, served on toast with rocket leaves and oven-dried tomatoes. The next day I sent it with my daughter for lunch, diced on top of some salad leaves, and my husband and I enjoyed it broken into chunks and tossed with rice noodles, wilted baby spinach and a drizzle of garlic infused oil. Then last night, we had it cubed and mixed with steamed sweet potato chunks, chick peas, corn kernels, fresh herbs and brown rice. All were pronounced keepers.

Now there are only three of us, one loaf has lasted us well. If you have a larger family it either won't stretch as far or you'll need to increase your quantities. You can double or triple quantities of ingredients to make a larger loaf or several small ones.

This makes a great addition to a platter of nibblies too, either as a whole loaf with ciabata or crackers and a knife to carve slices, or in cubes or ready cut slices atop anything from slivers of tomato and cucumber, to Melba toast and wraps. It's really economical compared to gourmet cheeses or bought quiche or other nibble type things too.

You'll need:

  • 375g tub ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp each garlic granules, dried onion flakes, dried chilli flakes, dried oregano and dried basil, or fresh or minced equivalent quantities
  • A silicone loaf pan or a Pyrex or bakeware one, sprayed with cooking spray and lined on the base with baking paper

Then just:

Preheat the oven to 175C fan forced or 180C normal.

Tip the ricotta into a large mixing bowl and add the other ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and well combined.

Scoop the mixture into your prepared pan and bake for up to 75 minutes, until firm and springy to the touch in the centre.

Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan. I usually leave ours in the pan at this stage, covering the surface with cling wrap to prevent it drying out in the refrigerator.

Carve slices as required.

Yum. :)

You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

7. From Last Month: Keeping Our Seniors Safe

Last month Jilly emailed us about ideas for keeping her elderly parents safe at home.

"Can I please ask your subscribers for help? I am trying to help my elderly parents stay at home as long as possible and wondered if people had ideas and tips to make their home 'safer' for them. I'm also looking for ideas so we can make life easier for them as well."

We were absolutely overwhelmed with your fantastic ideas for Jilly, thank you! Here are some of our favourites!

Call Home Assist for help at home

The Commonwealth Government funds a program to help anyone over 60 remain in their own home. It's called Home Assist in Queensland and something similar in other states. Through this service, people are able to have an occupational therapist come out and assess their home and make recommendations and the service will then assist in having the work done.

Through Home Assist my mother had grab rails installed in the shower, hand rails installed on steps and stairs, and smoke alarms installed. They will come out on request to change light bulbs that are out of reach.

There is a small fee for services such as the occupational therapist. For work done by the on-staff handyman, all we needed to do was reimburse them for the cost of the materials. If home repairs/maintenance is needed, they will recommend tradesmen who have been vetted so you can be confident elderly people are safe.

Home Assist Secure, Queensland

Contributed by: Jennifer C

HACC and for aged care help

You can get help for seniors from a website called which is run by the government. There is information on what services are available, hints for carers of aged people (through an organisation called HACC) and a telephone number where you can reach them. They will advise on what subsidised services are available, such as handyman jobs, lawn mowing, gardening, meals and transport.

My husband is a disabled pensioner and I am his carer. After a recent visit to hospital we had a consultation with an occupational therapist who advised us on safety at home - such things as a seat in the shower, rubber mats on bathroom floors and handrails for outside access to the garden. In addition to this it helps if you get your family to assist with decluttering your home. If you haven't used something for the last two years, then you need to dispose of it.

Contributed by: Norma King

Help for seniors starts with ACAT and HACC

Help keep seniors safe at home by getting them all the help they are entitled to.

An ACAT (Aged Care Assessment Team) referral would mean they get an assessment of their needs in the way of home care and from that the possibility of a Home and Community Care Package. This can be up to 14 hours assistance a week, dependent on their assessment. Allowing a small amount of time for admin, they could reasonably expect assistance with personal care (showers), shopping, household duties (cleaning, ironing), doctors' appointments and even meal preparation. All of this can relieve the stress of coping and make it easier to remain in their own home for as long as they can.

These packages are Home and Community Care funded and require a co-payment usually $5.00 per hour of assistance given. This is a lot cheaper than private assistance and Community Carers are police checked and are covered by insurance. An ACAT assessment may mean you can access a yearly spring clean at a reduced rate or free of charge. Also, your details are in the system should your needs change and this could expediate access to services in the future.

Contributed by: Glenys Smith(Gordon)

Free 'Fall Prevention' sessions in NSW

The NSW State Government's Department of Health is conducting free courses on fall prevention. The course I attended was called 'Stepping On'. It was two hours at the local hospital, run by physiotherapists and had lots of information on diet, hearing, coping with failing hearing and so on. There were many tips on how to improve the home environment to reduce the chance of falls. They will also come out to our home and assess safety issues and recommend improvements. I learnt a lot!

Contributed by: Barbara

Ask Volunteer Task Force for help at home

The Volunteer Task Force is a not-for-profit organisation that helps frail and aged in their own homes. They help with gardeners, cleaners, drivers for outings/shopping and also help to make the home safe.

Contributed by: Julie Buxton

Help for seniors starts at home

Here are a few things you can do to help elderly parents:

  • Cook meals ahead of time for them and freeze them in individual portion sizes to be reheated in the microwave
  • Install handrails in the bathroom and toilet to make it easier
  • Get non-slip mats for the shower, bath and any wet areas
  • Move furniture around in the house to make getting around easier and move any trip hazards such as electrical cords or smaller pieces of furniture
  • Get extra help from friends and neighbours (or an organisation) to do gardening or any heavy work around the house.

Contributed by: Clare I

Power of Attorney and PayPass can help seniors with paying bills

One of my big worries with elderly parents has been about them managing money. If you don't have a Power of Attorney for your parents, do it now. Even without a Power of Attorney you can become authorised to access your parents' bank accounts. Arrange an appointment with a bank officer for yourself and your parents, and once you have access you can arrange for all bills to be paid automatically.

Any occasional accounts such as those from tradespeople can also be paid from bank accounts which reduce the need to carry cash and reduces the likelihood that a dishonest person will try to overcharge them. Services such as GP, dentist and pharmacy will usually agree to send invoices to you so you can pay your parents' bills by bank transfer.

Next, teach your folks how to use PayPass safely. No more standing at a checkout unfolding bills from their wallet or standing there saying their PIN aloud because they have trouble remembering it. Sure, PayPass has its own pitfalls, but I think it's safer on balance.

These few steps have helped me to feel more confident about my mother's safety, and they have helped her to feel confident to go on managing as much of her business as she possibly can, which keeps her engaged and independent. Wins all round!

Contributed by: Kate Hitchens

Create your own alert system for elderly parents

I was recently worried about my elderly mum who lives alone. We have set up an alert system whereby if she doesn't email or phone her sister before 10am every morning, her sister will drive round to check on her (she lives close by, whereas I am an hour away).

We also moved the most-used items in the kitchen to the easiest to reach cupboards, same with bathroom and linen cupboards. We installed a gate across the entrance for extra security and got a personal security button in the event of a fall. She has large key phones and keyed alike door locks for ease of use. It was an easy process and only took a few hours, and I am at peace with what we have done for Mum (for now!).

Contributed by: Helen D

Adapting home helps elderly feel safer

For help in the home for elderly parents, their GP can refer them to either an occupational therapist or the Aged Care Assessment Team who will have many ideas on home safety. Some of those may include non-slip mats, removal of bath/stepped-up showers, adding handrails, removing trip hazards and so on.

Some of my favourite tips relate to adequate lighting. You can buy touch-sensitive bedside lamps that are very easy to turn on with no switches to fiddle with. Certain small lights can be plugged into power sockets to light the way to the bathroom and turn on automatically once dark. Lighting is very important in falls prevention as is removing excess furniture.

Multiple phone lines with handsets around the house might also be helpful. 'Emergency Alarm Pendants' such as Vitalcall that hang around the neck and can be pushed in an emergency are life-savers, and sometimes they are discounted if you order them online.

The Government has put quite a bit of funding into services coming to people's homes which are designed to keep them in their own home for as long as possible. If we don't use them we lose them!

Contributed by: Jenny W

Help for elderly with home security and Meals on Wheels

To help keep elderly people safe at home, make sure that there are sufficient railings near stairs or steps (and don't forget outside in the garden). Put locks on windows and doors if possible but otherwise get some dowel from a hardware store to put into the groove behind the window when closed. These are easy, as when the window is open the dowel is not in place but it reminds one to shut windows before retiring or going shopping - put the dowel on the table so it reminds them there are windows open.

Check with Meals on Wheels for possible visits if needed, and for home-made meals you can batch cook but make sure they know how to use the microwave safely! (Hint - when meals come out there is a large amount of steam, so leave for a few minutes, pry off one edge and then open lid or remove plastic.)

Contributed by: Judith W

Excellent tips to help keep seniors safe

I work for an ambulance service and hope these tips may help keep elderly people safe at home.

  • Look for a personal alarm system. They can be a button on a pendant or watch-style and can be as simple as a unit attached to their phone which calls five numbers until someone answers. There is also a monitored version (available through some home security services or possibly your state ambulance service). There are also organisations such as St John's who make daily phone calls to check on older people. If your Senior gets on well with a neighbour, maybe a signal system may work, for example, if the front blind isn't up by a set time, the neighbour can check on them.
  • There are services available to assess the home for falls risks like floor mats, steps and so on. Talk to their doctor or council to find these. They may also be able to help with things like rails in the toilet/bathroom, seat raisers for the toilet and blocks to help elevate lounge chairs/beds.
  • Ask their GP to regularly assess their mobility, especially after they've been ill as they may lose their health quickly, or if there's been any changes physically or mentally. Even medication changes can play havoc with people's well being.
  • Pharmacies will make up weekly blister packs (Webster Pack or similar) for any medications to make taking tablets daily a lot easier.
  • Set up a keybox or spare key hide and give the location/code to family, a trusted neighbour and the local ambulance service - it saves breaking windows or doors in case of emergency.
  • If getting in or out of a car is becoming a problem, a plastic shopping bag (and towel in warm weather) on the seat can make pivoting in and out easier. There are also 'hand grips' available that hook onto the door latch on the car's pillar for extra leverage.
  • Make sure smoke detectors are in good working order. They can also be set up with a flashing light for the hearing impaired.
  • Check any temperature controls on hot water systems as frail skin burns easily. Storage systems need to be hot enough to prevent Legionnaires Disease, but not hot enough to burn.
  • Review lighting in the home for those nocturnal trips to the loo.
  • Check the toilet door (if it's not in the bathroom) and see if they can be retro-fitted to open outwards for easy access in an emergency.
  • Look at cupboards and storage in the home and put regularly used items in easy reach to prevent falls, rather than too high or low. The best height is shoulder to thigh height, definitely no lower than the knee, and at a height that doesn't need them to climb or over-reach.
  • If arthritis is a problem, look into assistance products available such as those for opening jars, turning taps on and off and so on.
  • Meals On Wheels or assistance with weekly shopping is available. Check the fridge and freezer for use-by dates or food that's been there a while to prevent food poisoning.
  • If they use wheat bags (hot packs), beware that these can catch fire or scorch furnishings and fabric if frequently reheated - or worse, burn frail skin if they get too hot.
  • Take notice of unusual smells in the home, for example, a strong smelling urine may indicate a urine infection. Elderly people will very often display some confusion with this as well, but it's usually easily treatable with antibiotics.
  • Locum services are an option for short notice, unscheduled home visits for minor issues. If you are at all unsure, please ring your ambulance service for advice. They'll let you know whether they'll send a crew to them or if a locum service is a better option to help.

Contributed by: Caroline S

Increase flexibility to help with fall risk

A couple of quick tips for ageing parents:

  • A major cause of misery can be a fall causing pain, expense and immobility. Falls do not have to be a part of ageing. Joining a Tai Chi class increases balance, flexibility and leg strength and will help prevent falls in the future. Classes are pretty reasonably priced (compared to pilates!). I have seen people who have done Tai Chi well into their 80s who look 20 years younger!
  • Watch out for slippery concrete drives and pathways - keep them water blasted.
  • Make sure steps are not slippery when wet - a covering of stair mesh will help give better grip.
  • If parents call your number last thing at night, they will only need to press the re-dial button if an emergency strikes in the night, and won't be struggling to remember a number in a time of stress.

Contributed by: Tessa R

Simple ideas to create a safe home for elderly

There are quite a few easy fixes around the home to keep elderly people safe:

  • Get a cordless phone with a big number keypad and pre-program important numbers.
  • Make a list of contacts, for example, a trusted neighbour with a key that can check on them if needed, their doctor and list of medicines and so on.
  • Place seats in strategic locations such as next to the phone, in the bathroom and bedroom.
  • Check handles and change to quality suction cup ones in bathroom and toilet and near stairs.
  • Remove mats and rugs that are trip hazards, along with putting on 'grip tape' (available from hardware shop) on stairs or slippery areas (don't forget outside).
  • Replace door handles and taps with lever-style.
  • Improve lighting to assist reading and general vision.
  • If they aren't very mobile you may organise for home delivery of groceries and medicines and a mobile hairdresser or alternatively organise for someone to pick them up for regular outings.

Contributed by: A K

Pharmacy helps the medicine go down!

Pharmacies offer a dose administration system where medications are packed into breakfast, lunch and evening doses according to the days of the week. Essentially it is a week's dose of medication that is current, easy to follow and easy to see if medications are being missed. The pharmacist can also help chase up scripts with GPs and even deliver the packs to homes. This system helps keep people in a better position to maintain their independence.

Contributed by: Jen

Remove trip hazards to prevent falls, inside and out

The most important part of staying in your own home is to remove tripping hazards, since a fall will cause serious injury. Look at each room with fresh eyes; remove rugs as they can sometimes curve up at the ends and check each doorway to see if one floor surface is slightly raised above another. A home handyman can usually put a small angled piece of wood near the door so that there is no chance of tripping. Most importantly, check the bathroom and toilet, adding hand rails where necessary.

The backyard is also a concern, since there may be paving which has moved over time. Lift up pavers and re-lay them so they are flat. Consider getting a reliable person to do their gardening or hire a service so they don't feel overwhelmed by all the jobs that need to be done. A small, raised garden bed can be very helpful to avid gardeners so they still feel connected to their outdoor area and, if possible, next to a place they can sit and enjoy a cup of tea.

Contributed by: Amanda Pope

8. This Month's Help Request: Getting Saucy!

Teena has emailed asking for some help! She writes:

"My family loves sauce with their meals, all sorts of sauces! It occurred to me recently that I could be making my own for a fraction of the cost and they'd probably be tastier and have less sugar. So I'd love to ask fellow Simple Savers to 'get saucy' and share their favourite sauce, gravy and even chutney recipes - mint, tomato, BBQ, black sauce and so on. I'd love some tried and true recipes."

If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Teena, please send them in to us here.

9. Goodbye, Goodbye

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for April and we'd love to hear how your $21 Challenges went and how you 'faced the waste' this month!

Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...

All the best,

August 2010 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - August 2010

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: A Place for Everything
  2. September is 100 Item Challenge
  3. Fiona's Fab FREE Lippey Labels!
  4. Father's Day Gifts
  5. Best of the Forum: Declutter Your Life
  6. Best of the Vault: Clever Cleanout Tips
  7. $21 Challenge Confession
  8. Cooking with Mimi
  9. Penny's Blog: Great Expectations
  10. Homeopathy Corner: Jump Start Your Mind
  11. From Last Month: Affordable Office Furniture
  12. This Month's Help Request: Whittling Away Our Inheritance
  13. Savings Story: Confessions of a Stay at Home Mum


How are you doing? It's been an exciting month in our house. Tristan turned three and Elora had her first day at child care! Forgive me for sounding like a bad mummy but I am really relishing my one day of solitude a week. It's heaven!

Decluttering Month couldn't have come at a better time for me. Now I can sort through the house on my own (MWUHAAHAAA!) and clash and bang my way through boxes to my heart's content without fear of waking the baby (DOUBLE MWUHAHAAAA!).

How did you go with last month's From The Yard Challenge? We had a ball in the garden and ate something we grew ourselves almost every day. How cool is that?

Speaking of cool, a little while back we had the pleasure of meeting a very nice journalist called Fenella Souter. She stayed with us for a couple of days and got to experience living the Simple Savings way first hand. The result was a magnificent article which was featured in last week's Good Weekend.

There is one thing Fenella wrote that really stuck in my mind, "the shop 'til you drop philosophy is like fiddling while Rome burns" and this is so true. It made me realise how important Simple Savings is and how important YOU are. So thank you, Fenella for reminding Matt and I that Simple Savings really is about so much more than just saving money!

"I have just read through the latest newsletter with gusto as we are moving into our new house in November where I am planning on starting my first vegie patch. I also wanted to have a few chickens. My husband, however, thought this was crazy and impossible in a normal western suburb of Perth (rather than a large property/farm/rural area). Well! Have I got some news for him! Not only can we have chickens but he will never have to buy fertiliser for his beloved new lawn either! I've also always wanted my children to see where fresh food really comes from and I now feel I can give them that, along with a fun Sunday project building a chicken tractor with Mum and their first ever pets!

"All I can think now is 'Why ever did I let my membership lapse?' I must have been crazy. I love SS and thank you for such a timely reminder of how valuable you were in my life before, and still are now." (Tanya Dell)

"I just had to tell you a story which really made me laugh. I have five children, we shop only once a month and am careful to space all our food and treats out over the month. Whenever the whinging starts, that 'there are no biscuits, school snacks' and so on, I just tell the kids, 'we will just have to make do'. One day I arrived home to find my daughter (12) had been baking biscuits. They smelled delicious and I asked what they were. She said they were 'Doos'. 'What?' I asked. 'Doos!' she repeated. 'You always said if there was nothing in the cupboard, to 'make do', so I made Doos!' she told me. We now call these humble biscuits 'Doos' and I couldn't have been prouder. Whenever we think our parenting has a lot to be desired, remember - good things do rub off too!" (Jenny Cuffe)

"I was so excited to see Mimi in the newsletter as the new Simple Savings cook. I have always loved her recipes (I am a poached chicken fanatic) and have been an avid reader of her Fabulous at 50 thread in the Forum. Now I have seen Mimi's picture (in last month's newsletter), I don't consider that she needs any help in being fabulous - she is beautiful from her bright shining eyes to her gorgeous smile and I just love her hair! It's so lovely to put a face to a name and I'm really looking forward to reading more recipes in the coming newsletters." (Clover)

All the best, Fiona Lippey

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: A Place for Everything

Sally was glad to be home. It had been such a hectic day at work! She couldn't wait to get dinner out of the way and curl up on the couch. The kids were home; she knew that by the pile of shoes and school bags she had almost tripped over when she came in. That, along with the puddle of orange juice and the jar of peanut butter with the knife still sticking out of it on the kitchen bench.

It was the same every day. Sally knew what she would find. Towels strewn across the bathroom floor. Beds unmade. Dirty cups, plates and glasses all over the house. Toys and games never put away - and the washing! What did it take to get everyone to put their own clothes away? Sally didn't need this after the day she'd had. It was time to let them have it!

She found Pete and the kids in the lounge, surrounded by clutter. 'THIS PLACE IS A PIGSTY!' she shouted. 'Why can't you clear up after yourselves? Why do I have to do everything MYSELF?' 'Hey, calm down, love!' Pete put down his newspaper. 'You don't have to do everything! We'll clean up. Come on kids, quick smart!' he jumped up. 'Now Sarah, where does this go?' 'I don't know Dad!' she said. 'James, do you know where this goes?' 'Nope!' came the reply. Pete gazed at his children in alarm. 'Do you two know where ANYTHING is supposed to go?'

2. September is 100 Item Challenge

Parents are always growling at their kids to 'clean up after themselves' and 'put this or that away'. It's frustrating when they don't put things back exactly where we want but think about it for a minute. Do they actually know where their things belong? Have you ever shown them? Or like Sally, do you fly around like a whirlwind cleaning up after everyone else and just expect them to KNOW where you want everything to go? If you're nodding your head while you're reading this, maybe you need a new cleaning system!

Before I explain how this new system works I need to tell you about an argument my husband Matt and I have had for many years. And how, after many years of telling him he is wrong, I have to eat humble pie and finally admit he was right. There, I said it!

You see, time and time again, Matt said that we had too much stuff in our house and the best way to clean it was with a mini skip. He said we should jack the house up on one end and shake it so that all the stuff falls out the window and lands straight in the skip. I told him that he was wrong and that his expectations were simply too high. After all, we have four children and live in a two bedroom house. As far as I was concerned the amount of stuff we had was not to blame for our domestic chaos. The problem was that we hadn't done a good enough job of teaching the children how to clean up after themselves.

Which is where my argument came unstuck. The reason the kids were lousy at cleaning up after themselves is they got confused because - as Matt said all along - we had too much stuff! (I hate it when my husband is right.) I have watched the kids try to clean, they start by picking up an item and then stare around blankly trying to figure out where it should go. Before long the stress of this freezes their brains and icicles start dangling from the end of their noses!

Matt also says that the problem isn't just that we had too much stuff; it was also that every item needed to have a place. Whilst I did agree, I had tried doing this in the past to no avail. I would try giving items a 'place', only to find as soon as it was taken out someone else would spy a blank spot on the shelf and quickly fill it with something else.

But no more! Welcome to Matt's favourite month of the whole year - Decluttering Month! You see, Matt has the librarian gene. He grew up in an ordered and structured home. His mum is even a librarian! So for decluttering month, I have made a system to turn my house into a library. Just like a library, every shelf, box and drawer is being labelled. Everything will have a place. If anything doesn't have a place in the home, it will be given a place in our wheelie bin, or sold or given away. And, just like a library, we will set up and teach the kids a system everyone can follow. Labelling every shelf in our house seems so anal. But, I have started doing it. Because I love Matt and (on this occasion anyway) he is right.

If you would like to join us on this mission to regain control of the house and teaching other householders to clean up after themselves. This is what we are doing.

  1. Label every shelf, drawer and box. I went and bought myself a Dymo label maker from Officeworks on special for $39.
  2. Label items with labels EVERYONE in the household can understand. You will learn more about this in the next article.
  3. Show the kids how the labels work. The kids need to understand what is happening and why. You need to teach them how to put away just one item or one simple instruction at a time. Baby steps are the key here.
  4. Refuse to put other people's things away. This is very important. You see in the past, I used to pick up the kids' things and put them on the shelf. This taught the kids that they could be slobs without any consequences. Well, no more. We have introduced consequences! Now I simply stand next to the item, call the child, interrupt their day the way their mess is interrupting mine, make them come over, pick up the item and put it where it belongs. If the child refuses, I then give them the following explanation. 'By leaving the item on the floor you are telling me that it is not valuable to you and you are happy for me to find a new home for it'. (Code for Mum sends it to the op shop or wheelie bin. TRIPLE MWUHAHAAAA!) The first time I took an item and found it a new home it was VERY NOISY. Three children came to their item's defence! But the wonderful thing about children is they are fast learners and the second time I asked them to put an item away, they did it.

So this is how it is done. If you would like to start librarising your home we have made you some cool labels. So even the smallest munchkins can help clean up.

3. Fiona's Fab FREE Lippey Labels!

One of my important jobs as a mother is to teach my kids how to clean. Luckily I learned some very handy tips from a Montessori school, where my kids spent two years. The first is that youth is no excuse. Children as young as 12 months can clean. A two-year-old can put their own clothes away, empty the dishwasher and tidy up their toys if you make it easy for them. To make it easy for your children we have made you some free labels that the kids will be able to read and understand to attach to their toy boxes and clothes drawers. To help build your child's self esteem it is important to help them feel in control of their own room and of the cleaning process. So we have made them sheets of cool looking printable labels which they can colour in however they like. This way they can put their own personal stamp on the boxes, so it is not just you as a parent forcing cleanliness and order into their room. The labels we have created here have been dreamed up by the Simple Savings staff and their children. If you think we are missing any and you want others, please write in and tell us. Creating these labels was a pretty expensive exercise, so if you like them please tell your friends about them and how cool the Simple Savings Vault is. If enough people tell their friends and buy a Vault membership we will be able to pay for an illustrator to do more cool labels!

Here are the ones we have so far:

Kids' clothing drawer labels

I love these labels because they have trained my children into putting away their own clothes. Even tiny Tristan puts his clothes away. I put a label on the front of the drawer and another inside the drawer. This way, even when the drawer is empty he can still follow the system!

Click the image to download a 200Kb PDF

Kids' toy box labels

These are a lifesaver! We have tried to include a good range of generic toy labels so that they will work in everyone's home.

Click the image to download a 470Kb PDF

Just download the PDFs, print them off, get the kids to colour them in and put them up. Goodbye messy madness, hello easy-clean house!

4. Father's Day Gifts

Father's Day is just a few days away! Since it is Decluttering Month, the kids and I have made Matt something consumable that he will enjoy, consume and not need to find a place on the shelf for.

Here are some simple gifts the kids can make that Daddy will really appreciate.

Coffee freckles

This recipe was originally supposed to be a 'sophisticated' adult, 'after dinner' type treat for my brother-in-law. However, when Jacqui and Tristan caught me making them they insisted on adding 'sprinkles', turning this recipe into a perfect Father's Day gift! It's easy for the kids to make, looks fantastic and has a tasty twist to wake up Dad on Father's Day morning!


  • Bowl
  • Biscuit tray
  • Grease proof paper
  • Teaspoon


  • 250g block dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil (Macadamia is my favourite)
  • 1 tbsp finely ground coffee
  • 1/4 cup sprinkles


Start by putting your grease proof paper on your biscuit tray. Then grab yourself a bowl, break up the chocolate and throw it in the bowl with the oil. Melt the chocolate and oil in the microwave by cooking for 30 seconds at a time and stirring in between. When the chocolate is melted, stir in your ground coffee. Place dollops of mixture onto the lined baking tray. Sprinkle with sprinkles and pop in the fridge to set. Once set, put them in a container and HIDE THEM!

DIY gift bags

We also made little bags for the chocolates to go in. The recipe above will give you enough chocolates to fill three bags. Enough for Dad and both grandfathers.

Star bag

Click the image to download a 20Kb PDF

As before, just print, colour, cut, fold and glue. Be sure to glue the flaps to the inside of the bag so no one can see them!

5. Best of the Forum: Declutter Your Life

We've said it before and we'll say it again, one of the biggest keys to saving money is organisation - and with organisation comes less clutter! Simple Savings members are wonderful declutterers. Check out some of these great Forum discussions to get in the mood for bringing a little order back into your home!

The Most August Glorious One month Declutter

Welcome fellow chucker outers, recyclers, Freecyclers and obsessive cleaner outers! Join GoGo Goanna, Mrs Wez and many other enthusiastic members as they clean up a storm!

Has anyone scaled back to basic possessions?

As Rickety points out in this interesting discussion, there is decluttering (such as getting rid of five pairs of shoes when there are still 17 pairs left in the cupboard) - and then there is DECLUTTERING! As she and others learn in this thread, it is definitely possible to live with the bare minimum.

Motivation! Play the dice game to get things done!

Want to declutter but don't know where to start? This thread will help you on your way! There's never been a more fun way to get organized!

What have you FOUND by decluttering?

Once you start decluttering you not only get to enjoy a tidier home but you can also uncover lots of long forgotten wee gems, as Northen Gal and her hubby found out!

Is decluttering really worth it?

Why do people spend so much time worrying about having too much stuff? How much is really too much? And is it really worth getting rid of the stuff you have? All these questions and more are answered here!

6. Best of the Vault: Clever Cleanout Tips

Don't let clutter get you down! These brilliant tips from the Vault will help you make some serious headway in your decluttering - as well as deter you from acquiring any more!

Clutter-free home will stop you acquiring more

Curb your spending and spend less time shopping by focussing on decluttering your home instead. It will really show up how much you already have, and that you probably don't need to acquire more. Here are some tips that helped me:

  1. Don't buy anything non-essential until you have dealt with what you already have. When you do buy something, throw out or give away another item of equal size.
  2. Imagine what you want each room in your house to look like, and the life you want to live. Every time you want to buy something, ask yourself if it fits this image.
  3. Start by clearing away surface clutter. Set a timer for five minutes a day of high-speed tidying where you grab a bag and fill it with things you don't need, like unopened junk mail, empty containers etc. Set yourself a challenge to find at least 20 items.
  4. You can't own more than will fit in the space you have, so balance what you own with what room you have.
  5. Set yourself a decluttering plan, working through your house room by room, cupboard by cupboard. Try to set a little time aside for this every day for a month, and don't pull out more than you can sort through and put away within an hour unless you have more time set aside.
  6. Get your family to help with harder areas, such as the garage, and help each other sort your own personal areas.
  7. Once you have cleared the clutter, maintain this on a weekly basis.

Contributed by: Kym Maloney

Online help for new declutterers

For those who are new to decluttering, free expert help is at hand! Decluttering comes naturally to some people, but to some it does NOT. Even thinking about tackling the big mess that is our home is enough to bring out a panic attack! However, a few years back, I bought a book called 'The New Messies Manual' by Sandra Felton. I learned all about 'messies' and 'cleanies' and strategies for how a messie like me can not only organise the home but KEEP it organised. I have since discovered they have a website ( with all sorts of links to other helpful decluttering and organisation sites too. Check it out!

Contributed by: Clair Niven

100% effective 'No More Clutter' deterrent!

I have come up with a simple yet super effective way of making sure I never waste any more money on clutter! I'm a sucker for buying toys for my children. Consequently I am now drowning in broken toys, clutter and debt. But now when I'm in the department stores and see something on special or think, 'my girls would love that', I open up my bag and get out my deterrent! I look at the photos I have taken of my lounge covered in toys and clutter and remember that not am I only saving money by not buying more, I am also saving the planet - and my sanity! Works every time!

Contributed by: Jubes

Unnecessary kitchen appliances

Do you really need these house-cluttering, money-wasting, used once in a lifetime kitchen appliances?

  1. Pie maker
  2. Popcorn maker
  3. Hotdog maker
  4. Sandwich press

Of course you don't! Our mothers and grandmothers didn't have these appliances yet they still managed to make all of these things. Pies in the oven. Popcorn in the microwave or on the stove. Hotdogs in a pot. Toasted sandwiches grilled in the oven.

If you have already bought the kitchen appliances on my list, cut the clutter and earn a few bucks by selling them in a garage sale. Then, get back to real cooking!

Contributed by: Kimberley Headford

Avoid re-cluttering

I am busy decluttering the toys and clothing that belong to my four daughters and, at the same time, I am thinking how I can avoid re-cluttering!

With Christmas approaching, I have begun to compile a list of appropriate gifts that we and our relatives can give to the kids. Included on my list are gift ideas that are more than just 'stuff'. For example, we are heading to the Gold Coast for a family holiday next year, so we have asked relatives for tickets to Sea World. This will save us admission prices of $324!

I have also suggested vouchers for painting lessons from a talented grandmother. Ideas like this use the resources and talents in our family, and helps avoid dreaded re-clutter!

Contributed by: Kathryn Hartley

Clutter-free and organised

I have found a way to reduce clutter, which allows me to find exactly what I'm looking for in a moment.

I have assigned an A4 ring binder to each of my four children, and myself. The binder has about 20 plastic sleeves; in these I place paper work associated with the corresponding person. It could be things like bank accounts, medical or dental history and important school information. The older children and I also keep car registration details and insurance documents in the binder, as well as employment and taxation details.

The binders are filed away in a safe but accessible location, so everyone knows where to find their personal information. For tidy filing, I recommend cardboard cabinets which are sold at major retailers like Kmart.

Contributed by: Maxine Valentine

Purse-free - clutter-free Contributed by: Sonya Gibson

House for sale mentality keeps house clean Contributed by: Lew Harpelle

Paper declutter saves hundreds Contributed by: Clutterhen

A not so essential item Contributed by: Alisa Allison

7. $21 Challenge Confession

This month I have a bit of an embarrassing confession to make. I love our local library and confess to recently looking on their website to see if they had bought a copy of The $21 Challenge and if anyone borrowed it. You see, I had been secretly tossing and turning at night, convinced that if the library had bought one it was probably just sitting on the shelf unloved and unused, soon to head to the bargain sale table.

So you have no idea how relieved I was when I discovered our local libraries had bought six copies and they were all out on loan - with another six people waiting for the copies to be returned!

I can hardly believe that 12 months after the launch of the $21 Challenge book, every copy in the library is still out. That is pretty cool! And, very hard to believe.

If you don't want to wait in the library queue please ask your local library to order more, or ask one of your friends to buy it for you as a present. If you would like a signed copy please order it from here a week or two before you need it because with four kiddies in tow it is hard to sign books every day.

P.S. Two chapters of the $21 Challenge book are still available to read on the Simple Savings site, or you can also read them on our Facebook page. Check it out and tell your friends too!

You can read Chapters 1 and 2 here: (Chapter One) (Chapter Two)

8. Cooking with Mimi

This month Mimi has been busy decluttering her pantry and look what fabulous goodies she has created! It's time to stick your head in the pantry door and follow in her footsteps.

Prune and chocolate truffle slice

A decadent dessert or treat from prunes and daggy bananas? Impossible you say? Well try this one! This is rich and delicious. The fruit gives the slice a rich and fudgy texture which is complimented beautifully by the smooth, glossy chocolate ganache topping.

Serves 8 as a dessert. Must be started the night before you need it.


  • Food processor
  • Mixing bowl
  • Container with lid
  • Measuring cups
  • 20cm square cake tin
  • Large saucepan
  • Large bowl to sit on top of saucepan
  • Flat boxes lined with tissue paper if using as a gift


  • 275g prunes (to yield 235g prune flesh)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 small or 2 large overripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g butter, chopped
  • 75g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 150 ml cream
  • 150g chocolate melts

The night before you want to bake this slice, put the prunes in an airtight container with a lid, and pour over one cup of boiling water. Seal the container and leave the prunes to plump overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180C fan forced. Line the tin with baking paper.

Using clean hands, squeeze the pips from the prunes, retaining as much flesh as possible. If this is too messy, you can skip this step by using pitted prunes. You need 235g of prune flesh for this recipe.

Put the prunes into a food processor and add the butter. Process until well combined and as smooth as possible. Add the banana and vanilla essence and pulse until mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, pulsing until smooth. Add the plain flour and cocoa all at once and process until the batter looks like a thick cake mixture.

Pour the batter into the lined tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until there is no 'give' in the centre of the slice.

Remove and cool.

While cooling, bring a saucepan of water to the boil, turn down to a simmer. Put a bowl on the top of the saucepan, ensuring that it's large enough to sit safely, but not deep enough to be touching the simmering water. Put the cream and the chocolate melts into the bowl, and stir constantly until the chocolate has completely melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Carefully remove from heat.

Ensuring that the slice is cooled, pour the chocolate and cream mixture (ganache) over the slice while still in the tin. Refrigerate until cool and firm.

When cool, slice into thin wedges and serve with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

This is also delicious cut into squares and boxed as a gift, but requires refrigeration to retain the ganache topping.

Creamy risotto cake

You can use any rice, any sort of soup, and whatever other ingredients you like for this great versatile risotto cake. A fantastic frugal family meal that can be jazzed up for guests. Hot or cold, this one's a winner!


  • 20cm round cake tin lined with baking paper
  • Non-stick frypan
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Spatula
  • Saucepan
  • Measuring cups
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Serving platter
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 rashers bacon, trimmed of rind and diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, grated
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tin cream of chicken soup
  • 250g grated tasty cheese

Line the cake tin and preheat the oven to 180C.

Put the rice and the water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

When boiling, cover and switch off, but leave on the cooling hotplate. Do not peek for 20 minutes or the rice will not cook. After 20 minutes, remove the lid, fluff the rice, and tip into a large bowl. Allow to cool slightly.

While the rice is cooking, heat the frypan, spray with cooking spray (oil), and fry the diced bacon and onion until the bacon is lightly browned and the onion is translucent.

Add the bacon, onion, zucchini, eggs, soup and cheese to the rice. Mix well until combined thoroughly.

Tip into the lined cake tin, and press firmly to compact the mixture. The tin will be very full.

Bake for one hour. Test for doneness by inserting a knife into the centre. If the knife comes out clean, it's ready. If there is any wet mixture sticking to the knife, pop it back in for another 10 minutes.

When done, remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Run a knife carefully around the edge of the tin to loosen the risotto cake. Invert onto the serving platter by putting the plate on top of the cake tin, and quickly flipping it over so that the tin is upside down and the risotto cake falls from the tin onto the platter. Shake gently if it sticks a little, but it should just plop out. Gently ease the tin away from the cake.

Serve cut into wedges like a cake, with a green salad on the side.

This reheats well and is just as delicious cold, making it an ideal lunch or dinner.

Vary this recipe by using different types of cheese, grated vegetables, steamed frozen vegetables and other diced deli meat such as chorizo or ham.

Luxe version: Use shredded poached chicken and a round of camembert cheese instead of deli meat and grated tasty cheese.

Fragrant Middle Eastern rice

Serves 4 as a meal or 6-8 as a side dish

This is a great pantry clean-out dish. You can use any legumes, any rice, and the herbs and spices will bring it to life. I particularly love to use the yellow split peas as there are always some left over at the end of winter... one can only eat so much pea and ham soup, however lovingly prepared! They taste completely different this way and have a gorgeous more-ish nutty flavour.


  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli seeds or equivalent minced or fresh
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (juice of one fresh lemon)
  • 700 ml boiling water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 heaped tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tin diced tomatoes or 8-10 cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole (optional)
  • Chopped nuts and fresh coriander to garnish


  • Measuring jug
  • Large non-stick frypan or wok with a lid
  • Measuring spoons

METHOD: Put the peas into a large bowl and cover with 6 cups of boiling water. Cover and put aside for one hour. Strain after one hour and rinse until they stop foaming. Using a large non-stick frypan or wok, heat the oil and fry the onions and spices until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the drained split peas and rice. Stir thoroughly to coat the rice and peas with the spice mixture. It should be making your mouth water already. Measure the boiling water into a jug, and pour it over the rice mixture. Add the lemon juice. Mix thoroughly. Cover and allow to simmer gently over a low heat for 35-45 minutes. Check and stir occasionally to prevent it sticking to the base of the pan. Taste and season if necessary with salt and pepper.

You can serve this dish now and it will be a sort of Middle Eastern version of fried rice, or if you prefer, add the tinned diced tomatoes and garlic 10 minutes before the full cooking time. Stir well, and remove the garlic cloves before serving. This gives a more delicate flavour and texture. Turn your rice into a dish worthy of a dinner party by omitting the tinned tomatoes and garlic, and garnishing with roasted baby cherry tomatoes instead. While your rice is cooking, line a baking tray with baking paper, and spread the cherry tomatoes over it. Sprinkle with olive oil and season well. Roast at 200C for 20 minutes. Garnish your rice with the roasted cherry tomatoes, chopped nuts and fresh coriander, and wait for the compliments.

This looks spectacular heaped on to a large serving platter, steaming, sprinkled with nuts, and decorated with large sprigs of fresh coriander. It's equally colourful and appetising served individually in bowls. Delicious reheated the next day too!

9. Penny's Blog: Great Expectations

Aug 25, 2010

I am now the proud mother of a 14-year-old! Who has spent every day since his birthday bouncing around the house singing at the top of his voice in between telling me how mature he now is! Unfortunately for Liam his birthday was quieter than planned. Ali came down with swine flu so all visitors and outings had to be postponed! Whilst poor Liam was less than impressed, he still had an enjoyable day. As he headed off to bed that night he said 'Thanks heaps for my presents, Mum, they're really cool. This is the second year I haven't had any toys though!' To which I replied, 'Well, you're 14 now! What toys was I supposed to get you? I didn't realise you wanted any!' 'I know, I don't!' he chuckled. 'It's just when you're small you can get heaps of stuff for less money. When I was little I could get five action figures for $100. Now I'm lucky if I can get one pair of running shoes for that much!' I had to agree - but I can't say I miss the clutter that every birthday used to bring. All those new toys with a thousand detachable pieces which would inevitably get lost - or worse, tripped over or impaled in someone's feet!

Particularly at the moment, while it's so important to keep the house tidy. I shouldn't say it but it's lovely to have a few days' respite from people passing through. The last few weeks have been manic; almost every day we have had agents coming through or house hunters. Everybody says how much they like the place but we're still waiting for the right person. Lovely as the people are who we have met, they have all been retired couples or single women. What our house needs is a family! It needs kids running up and down the stairs and playing in the tree hut. It needs a pony or two or a couple of pet lambs. Our place is just too big for one or two people to rattle around in, but there's nothing we can do except sit tight and wait for our dream family to come along. I think we could be waiting a while though. From what I've seen so far, families just aren't buying at the moment. They're all too scared to move until the market changes. Everyone's waiting for everybody else.

Still, we'll do our best to be patient and in the meantime just keep up with the constant tidying! As anyone who has ever sold a place will know, it's a never ending battle - especially if you have kids! Liam, to his credit makes very little mess. The items he brings out of his room are minimal and he always likes his room to be tidy, with everything in its place. Ali, on the other hand is a nightmare. A hilarious nightmare, but nonetheless a nightmare! Always busy and moving on from one activity to the next, he leaves a constant trail of destruction in his wake. DVDs are watched and never put back. He's always making up some game or another and there are always BITS everywhere. Bits of paper, cardboard soccer players, imaginary rugby tournaments - and the latest is attaching his dad's new fishing reel to whatever takes his fancy (usually a bar stool or something equally large) and 'reeling' it in, pretending there's a huge fish at the end of it! I've lost count of how many times one of us has almost tripped and broken a leg on the blasted thing!

The other day I told them I had had enough and that all pocket money was going to be stopped until they lifted their game. With people coming through every day, the house needed to be spotless, yet I was finding I was doing the same chores and picking up the same things as the previous day and the day before that - just silly little things such as picking wet towels off the boys' bedroom floors or ridding the kitchen bench of cornflakes or coffee granules. 'A good chef always cleans up after himself!' I grumbled to the kids for what seemed like the hundredth time. Several years ago I thought I had the answer. I bought both the boys a 'mess basket' and every time I was tidying downstairs and came across something belonging to them that wasn't supposed to be there, I would put it in the appropriate mess basket and present it to them for emptying. There was just one problem. The mess basket never got emptied and the boys could never find anything because they would always forget about the mess basket!

Liam, having the misfortune of being both 14 AND six feet tall was read the riot act. 'Liam, you're a big - make that VERY big - boy. Now I KNOW you make your bed religiously every morning and I KNOW you fill up the wheelbarrow with firewood every day for me but for goodness sake could you try hanging your towel up for once when you've had a shower?! And why do you never EVER put your phone/book/school books/calculator/dirty dishes/contact lens solution/video games away?! Can you please help me out here? We're trying to sell the place for goodness sake!' I pleaded. ' 'FINE!' he retorted. 'I'll put them all away! Jeez! If it bothers you that much! Just tell me where you want me to put them!

And it was then I realised. All these years I have expected my children to be psychic. Every time we have acquired anything, whether it be for them personally or for the family, or for the house, have I ever once said to them 'Right, this is a good place to keep the thingummy-wotsit! From now on, it goes here?' Well have I? Er, no. Being a 'there's a place for everything and everything in its place' sort of person, I have simply taken it upon myself to find the new thingummy-wotsit a nice wee nook in our home, then expected everyone else in the family to know EXACTLY where it's supposed to go from this day forth into eternity, without ever actually telling them. And why on earth should they be remotely bothered about asking where things are supposed to go, when I'm so hell bent on putting things away first in my constant quest for perfection? I can't believe it's taken me 14 years as a mother to work this out but it has!

So now we've got to the root of the problem, the question is how to fix it? One of the main problems is washing. Dirty or clean, it gets everywhere. If Liam so much as dries his face with a bath towel it goes straight in the washing basket. Ali, being the active wee chap he is always goes through twice as many clothes as everyone else but I realised even he was going to extremes when we were going out for Liam's birthday dinner the other night. When I commented that his rugby jersey had got a bit shabby to wear out to dinner, he obediently went and changed. And put the aforementioned rugby jersey straight in the dirty washing basket, after he'd worn it for precisely 30 seconds! This led me to two conclusions - the first being that I was sick and tired of being overloaded with washing and realised the only way to cure them of this was to make them do their own. The next day I presented them with their own laundry basket each. When it's full, they have to take it to be washed and be responsible for drying it and putting it away. The second conclusion I came to was actually the same one I had come to previously - that my children are not psychic. Kids need instructions. Mine have been doing what they were told all along - the problem was that I was only giving them half the instructions. 'Put your dirty ice cream bowls on the bench when you've finished' does not mean the same as 'Put your dirty ice cream bowls on the bench, then rinse them out and put them in the dishwasher!' That may be what I want them to do and is what I am thinking - but it's not what I'm saying!

So it seems that I am no longer able to lay the blame for having a less than spotless home wholly with my children. On the whole they are pretty darn good. It's me who needs to clean up my act, if you'll pardon the pun! From now on I need to make my instructions clear and show or tell them where things need to go. I have a feeling the Vault can help me with this too. Have you checked out the Cleaning section lately? There are TONS of brilliant ideas and so simple too! One tip that jumped out at me and made me think 'that's what we need!' is this one, titled 'Hang the washing! Let's save it instead'. I think there's going to be an awful lot of new hooks being put up in our house!

August 2010

2nd - Are youse fullas rich?

4th - Against the grain

10th - Gut instinct

19th - Serendipity

10. Homeopathy Corner: Jump Start Your Mind

If your mind is foggy and you're finding it hard to think clearly and make decisions then decluttering is going to be a struggle. So this month Fran shows us some simple exercises and homeopathic remedies to clear your mind and give it a jump start.

Fran's article is here:

11. From Last Month: Affordable Office Furniture

Last month Ros asked:

"I am looking for affordable office furniture. We have a small business that we run from a single bedroom flat, but we need to move for more room. Does anyone know where I can get good office size desks at great prices? Student desks are just not big enough for what I need."

According to members there are more than a few ways to create or find wonderful office furniture to suit every budget. Here are some of the most interesting ideas we hope will help!

Custom-built desks for less

If you are looking to save on custom built desks, try asking your local kitchen/cabinet maker. They will cut a piece of Melteca to the size you require and edge it for you. All you would then need are some legs or existing desk ends to attach to the top. An additional space saving idea is to put filing cabinets underneath the desk (so remember to have the dimensions in mind when ordering your desk.)

Contributed by: Ann Foster

Great desks going, going, GONE!

You can find lots of cheap office furniture at auction houses. Sometimes you can get desks for just $10 or filing cabinets for as little as $5.00! Just make sure you inspect the goods properly before bidding. They are usually sold 'as is' and once you buy it, they don't accept returns. There are a number of auction houses out there and you really can grab some great bargains.

Contributed by: Samantha P

One man's trash is another man's treasure!

I got a fantastic desk for home which cost absolutely nothing. I contacted a number of large businesses in my area and discovered one that was being refurbished. Because they were upgrading to newer desks they were keen to find homes for all their 'old' ones and were more than happy for me to take one off their hands! I am delighted with my fabulous find!

Contributed by: Paul Phillips

Total office makeover for an unbelievable price!

A friend recently outfitted her home office with near-new office furniture purchased at very low prices from a Trading Post ad. The furniture included a large desk and return, filing cabinet, storage unit and shelves. It all looks brand new and is hard to believe it has been used before. She also got a computer, paper shredder and photocopier, all for ridiculously low prices, from the same ad and is now grinning from ear to ear!

Contributed by: Anne Shaw

Recycled door + filing cabinets = fab new desk!

For a funky, original and retro look for your desk that won't break the bank, use two drawer filing cabinets as bases and span the gap with lengths of plywood or recycled doors. If the plywood sags over a long span simply screw a pine stud underneath for plenty of support. The plywood can be stained, painted or just left unfinished.

Contributed by: Wayne Van Wijk

IKEA offers great deals on desks

I have found the best prices for new office furniture are Ikea and Officeworks. I have just moved interstate and need to start over and have been doing a lot of research into where I can find the best deals as my funds are very limited. I only have a laptop and so have purchased, new, a great little desk for just $29. Officeworks have a range of larger desks for just over $100.

Contributed by: Cecilie Lamshed

Ex-government furniture at excellent prices

I bought a drawer unit and a filing drawer from an ex-government furniture place for just $50, when they are often almost $300 new! Ex-office or ex-government furniture places are full of perfectly usable office furniture that has come from government and large corporations after a refurbishment. They get rid of all their furniture and it ends up in these outfits to be sold for very reasonable prices, second hand.

Contributed by: Carla Dunn

Dining tables are the new desks!

The best office desk I ever owned was a dining table I picked up really cheaply at an op shop. It was much sturdier than a flat-pack desk and, because it was slightly bigger than an office desk it had plenty of room. I gave mine a good scrub and polish, (sometimes they can be transformed with a quick coat of paint) and I had a desk that lasted me years, for a fantastic price.

Contributed by: Felicity Hubbard

Multiple options for outfitting a fabulous office

We have quite a large office and outfitted it all for around $1500. We are well known bargain hunters and have helped friends set up their offices as well! We set up our business with six desks my dad got us from an ex-government auction in Brisbane and were $1.00 each! They are great, solid, ex-drafting desks from a TAFE college. Equivalent office desks can be in excess of $500 each.

We also got some brand new, white, heavy duty metal shelving on eBay for $160 a bay. Sellers who are updating their office often have perfectly good furniture for sale that they just want rid of. We solved our filing cupboard problem (they are so pricey) by getting two four-drawer cabinets from the Salvation Army for $40 each. We then got them electro-coated for $200 for both. It may seem expensive, but good quality four-drawer filing cabinets are around $400 each.

A client of ours made their rows of desks from scaffolding framing and laminate tops (with black edging they ironed on). It suits them as they own a construction business and it saved them a lot of money. You can also use two-drawer filing cabinets as desk 'legs' and get tops made to fit, or large ply/MDF panels. (Ikea is great for home desks but we've found their office desks aren't sturdy enough for everyday use and are really not suitable for the work environment. I've had friends who had to replace their desks from Ikea within the year.) It also pays to broadcast your dilemma and make it clear what you're after. We asked everyone we knew whether they had any spare office furniture. We got given the names of a couple of office furniture places with second hand furniture (like Booths in Camperdown), and were given a board room table and some new office chairs!

Contributed by: Peta Zoubakin

12. This Month's Help Request: Whittling Away Our Inheritance

This month Catherine asks:

"This might sound a bit silly but I'm after some advice about how not to spend an inheritance. Whenever my husband and I use all our pay, we simply start using our inheritance money. Sometimes we just use the credit card as we know when we get home we can just transfer the money out of our savings account. Please help us to stop this nasty habit that will leave us with no more deposit for a house!"

If anyone has any suggestions or experiences which could help Catherine, please send them in to us here.

13. Savings Story: 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 vegies 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!"

Contributed by: Anonymous

August 2012 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - August 2012

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Playing Chicken!
  2. September is Free Food Month!
  3. Hidden Gems Competition Winner: Fossicker's Tip Shop
  4. Best Members' Blog: 'Stay-at-home'-itis
  5. Best of the Forum: Pick of the Crop
  6. Best of the Vault: Harvesting Hints!
  7. Cooking with Mimi: Moroccan Spaghetti and other Berry Funny Musings!
  8. Fifty Cent Indulgences: 50c R & R
  9. Claire's Corner: Playhouses are for Chicks
  10. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Worm Bathtub Farm & Spring Prep
  11. Homeopathy Corner: In the Yard
  12. From Last Month: Fire Surrounds
  13. This Month's Help Request: Variety is the Spice of Life
  14. Savings Story: Thank You to all the Members of Simple Savings
  15. Goodbye, Goodbye


How are you going? I hope you have had a fantastic month. We have had a ball this month with our one light nights. Keeping everyone in the same room has made a huge difference to our family. Before we used to sneak off to different rooms, Matt and I would do some work on the computers, the kids would entertain themselves and no one ever cleared the table. But, all that changed this month. The table got done and kitchen too, and we bought some guitars so each night we have been strumming away and finishing off the evening with a family game of UNO. It has really brought all of us together.

We also bought some very cute one-day-old chicks. The chicks are so cute I thought you might enjoy a photo.

Aren't they beautiful? Things are really coming together in the Lippey household and we are only one or two days away from launching Simple Savings 'Ye Old Shoppe'. I really hope you love the shop and send us in more fantastic emails telling us how cool we are. Like these ones - they always make us grin and inspire us to do even better next time.

"Having been a member of SS for a few years I let my subscription drop. Two of my daughters have just become engaged, one to a lovely boy with a very large family, big wedding. So back to square one, saving. I realised the only way to do this was to re-join SS. I am now on the road to NOT spending on anything unnecessary for the rest of the year and see how much I can save towards these weddings. Even though I am now in my 60s I realised that you should never give up the things that work for you, you never know when you will need them. Thanks SS for being there, it's great to be back!" (Margaret)

"I've been a Simple Savings member for a few years now and enjoy searching through the Vault. Thanks for a great service; I'm sure I've saved a fortune over the years." (Anni)

"I have been a subscriber for a little while to your site, but haven't yet purchased a Vault membership (trying to use the $ saving tips to get one!). I am really enjoying the email updates and the website. I recently borrowed The $21 Challenge from the library just to see how it works - I love it! Haven't put it to full use yet (need a weekend free with no husband or kids in the house!) but I have used some of the recipes and love them. The 5 cup loaf with chocolate chips and cocoa is so moist and such a - relatively - healthy treat, and the chicken curry - yum! Made some modifications to it as I didn't have cream of chicken soup or sour cream, but I DID have cream of chicken and corn and UHT cream. I added more curry powder and some cooked carrot slices and even my youngest daughter ate it! OMG! I am going to take the book back to the library and get myself a copy to keep!" (Danielle)

All the best,

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Playing Chicken!

"Tom! This is a nice surprise," smiled Chloe. "Come in. How's your day been?" "Good!" replied Tom. "I've just come back from the local show and - well - I've brought you something," he grinned sheepishly. "Really? Aw, you shouldn't have!" Chloe beamed. "How exciting!" She went to give the box a shake. "Oh no, don't do that!" Tom quickly stopped her. "They're fragile," he chuckled.

Tentatively, Chloe peered into the box. "Chickens!" she squealed in delight. "Oh Tom, they're adorable! Are they really for me?" "Yes, they're all yours," smiled Tom. "I hope you don't mind. It's just you were saying the other day about the shocking price of food and when the farmer said they were free to a good home I thought of you. Who knows, maybe there'll even be enough for both of us!"

Chloe's face immediately filled with horror. "Oh no, I couldn't possibly. I mean just look at them! Can't we just get a BBQ chook for dinner? I really appreciate you trying to help but they are much too cute to eat. What are you laughing at?" She glared at Tom who was clutching his sides. "Chlo - I didn't bring you these to eat. I got them for you so you can grow them into hens and have your very own eggs for free!"

2. September is Free Food Month!

Giving his girlfriend a box full of cute, baby chicks may be a sweet gesture on Tom's behalf but it's also a very smart one. If Chloe thinks the price of basic food items is already high, she's in for a shock. Wheat prices are set for a steep increase due to worldwide weather conditions pushing up the price of bread, pasta and processed flour products. In addition, the prices of chicken and eggs are also set to rise which means we, as consumers, have a choice. We can either sit around and complain about it or we can refuse to pay the higher prices and do something about it like Tom.

For example, we can:

  • Cut back on bread/pasta/processed flour items and include more easily home grown starches such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and corn. This not only makes for a better budget but better health too.
  • Get planting. Growing fruit, vegies and herbs in your own yard is as close to free food as any of us can get.
  • Get our own chickens. Keeping chickens is one of the easiest things you can do to make a difference to your wallet, your health and the environment.

We have been encouraging members to participate in Free Food Month in Simple Savings newsletters since 2008. The food prices may keep on rising but the ways to beat them haven't changed. Check out our newsletter archive for ways to get growing and keep your food bill at a minimum - for good:





If you want to know more about keeping your own chickens, be sure to read the newsletter from 2010. As well as containing heaps of reasons why they are so fantastic and will benefit your household, this is also where the amazing 'Cut and Paste Chicken Tractor' first made an appearance! It really is brilliant; so cheap and easy to make. Have a look and you will see just how simple and hassle-free keeping your own chickens and harvesting your own yummy fresh eggs really is.

If keeping chickens is really not for you or not possible, there are plenty of other ways you can think outside the square and enjoy fresh, homegrown food. You don't even have to have a vegetable garden. Herbs such as mint and lemongrass are easy to grow and make beautiful free tea. Or for something different, why not start a water garden? Edible water plants, such as water chestnuts, Lebanese cress and green taro can be grown in almost any watertight container in the right position.

Whatever you decide to grow - eggs or eggplants, try and make it your goal this month to pick one edible thing each day from your own yard. If Clueless Chloe can do it, so can you!

3. Hidden Gems Competition Winner: Fossiker's Tip Shop

Our Hidden Gems directory is designed to help members source the best deals in their area. Whenever you come across a real gem of a business, enter it in our Hidden Gems directory and you'll be in the draw to win our monthly prize of $100 cash! This is our way of saying thank you for sharing your knowledge and helping other members save. The more information you can give us about your special store or business, the better.

This month's winner is Fossiker's Tip Shop as nominated by Heather Brown.

Well done Heather on finding this Aladdin's cave and sharing it with us.

Fossiker's Tip Shop (Hanrahan Road, Albany, WA)

Fossiker's Tip Shop is a brilliant place to pick up second hand, pre-loved and recycled items salvaged from households before they end up in landfill.

People from all around go to this shop for bargains. I recently went there in time to help a painter unload tins of paint from his ute and managed to get more than 25 litres of white paint, (valued at over $70) for just $2.45! I also got a single bed, minus the mattress, for $1.00, 15 books for $0.20c and enough tiles to cover large amounts of my pathway for $0.50c!

Prices range from whatever small change you pull out of your pocket to about $10 (but that was for a round trampoline missing only two hooks, complete with the mesh protection and still in its original box!). One staff member (who works on a Sunday) is affectionately known as 'The Two Dollar Guy'. Nothing he sells is more than $2.00 - I think he likes to clear out as much as possible on his shift, so $2.00 is his catch cry.

One couple I met there has renovated their home with shower screens, doors, windows and more. They had been quoted over $20,000 to do this and managed it for less than $200! As you can imagine, they are still smiling! They are as keen as I am to encourage others to view this gem of a shop as an exciting place to start a creative savings journey!

The service is generally excellent, sometimes there are so many people and vehicles coming and going that you may have to wait a few minutes to pay the staff member on duty. Mind you this time is well spent comparing ideas and projects with other like-minded people.

Fossiker's Tip Shop is open from 8.30am - 4.15pm every day, including weekends. The website is and their contact number is (08) 9842 3415.

If you know somewhere special you'd like to recommend, please write in and tell us. Send in your Hidden Gem here and you could be the next winner scooping the prize money. Thank you to everyone who entered and good luck for next time!

4. Best Members' Blog: 'Stay-at-home'-itis

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings Blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Simple Savings member 'Living Without?' for her thoughts on 'Stay-at-home'-itis

I don't know if anyone else suffers from this elusive 'itis'. I find it pops up for a few days every two to three months. You know the feeling... when you are crawling out of your skin and wondering how on earth you ended up being a stay at home mum?

It's not that I don't love my kids... they're great! And, in fact, I find it such a privilege to be at home with the kids, when so many others are unable to. But sometimes it's just so boring! Does that washing really need to be done again? Does another cake need to be baked (in my case the answer is always yes!). Is it really time for another play group?

You can't win really, can you? I have friends who have to work for financial reasons and would give anything to have the time to wash another load of washing, attend another play group or bake another cake (or any cake at all really!). I know all this, and so I know that my 'stay at home'-itis will once again pass. But this bout of my annoying ailment has left me wondering what life would be like if I did return to part time work...

This year I have become a fully committed Simple Saver. Despite always being financially savvy, being a Simple Saver has opened my eyes to a different way of life. DH and I have made many changes and yes, we do reap the benefits in terms of lifestyle, but being a SS does take time. I do apply to the occasional part-time job in my field but if I were to take on a job, what would fall behind?

When I worked part-time after my first child was born we had a house cleaner and ate pre-prepared meals/take away once or twice a week. The SS (and nutrition freak) in me would no longer allow that. Baking would be diminished, although it will never disappear completely because I love it too much. Shopping at a separate butcher, fruit shop and various supermarkets would surely take too much time, and as such, savings would decrease. Would I have time to ring around all my providers when renewals come up? Would I stay on top of the best deals? I am pretty sure I could still fit in yoghurt and bread making (because let's face it, it's a breeze!). More washing would be done at night so I imagine the dryer would start to be used more frequently. My sewing would stop and so my nieces and nephews would go back to receiving shop-bought birthday presents. Then of course I would need more day care, after-school care and presumably there would be no family tax benefits. I find it overwhelming just thinking about it...

Of course, just sitting down and typing this all out seems to have broken my 'stay at home'-itis. Seeing it on screen makes me appreciate more all the things I get to do at home. Great! Next time I'm feeling 'over it' I just need to log on to Simple Savings once more!

Congratulations 'Living Without?' on working hard at home, to stay at home. To read any of our members' blogs, click here

5. Best of the Forum: Pick of the Crop

Whether we live on a bountiful plot of rich soil or a high rise city building, with a little thought and planning, free food can be ours. It might be as simple as a few pots of herbs and a trellis of cherry tomatoes on a tiny apartment balcony to spice up an ordinary evening meal. It could be as ambitious and adventurous as our own Rob Bob's garden of plenty. Here's how some of our members have managed to find free food in their gardens...

Herbs help please

Some great ideas to get your herb garden on its way.

Raised vegie beds

Dr Seuss would love this thread - make your own easy-to-use raised garden beds out of bricks and sticks, tins and bins - using pallets and mallets!

Advice on how many baby chicks to get

All together now - awwwww! Some fantastic advice on how to have your own delicious home-grown, fresh eggs!

Chook recipes, remedies, hints and tips

Great advice on keeping chooks happy, healthy and well fed.

Triple SSS - semi self sufficient

This thread is an inspiration to any of us who yearn for that little bit of self-sufficiency.

6. Best of the Vault: Harvesting Hints!

Our Vault is bursting with fantastic ideas to help your Free Food Challenge come to fruition! Here are just a few...

Growing communities with Landshare Australia

I recently discovered a fantastic, free community project called Landshare Australia. It is a brilliant new 'growing' initiative which enables people who don't have any land to grow their own fruit and vegetables by connecting them with people who have a spare bit of land they're prepared to share. It's community-based, open to anyone and best of all, it's free to join. Go to:

Contributed by: Flikka

High rise gardening

Even though I live in a high rise apartment block, I have still managed to create a fantastic garden - saving me money on fruit and vegetables. I have a small deck on which I grow potatoes, red onions, strawberries and blueberries, along with an assortment of herbs and flowers. They're all grown in pots and are thriving! All you need are some small to medium pots and a few bags of soil to enjoy your own spray-free produce. I cheat a little in that I do buy some plants ready to be potted depending on the time of year. It's great to come home and sit out in my garden and enjoy my own home-grown strawberries. Yum!

Contributed by: Barbara Martin

Save yourself some hard work and rent a chook

After about 12 months of hinting to my husband, we finally have two chickens in our back yard! We are actually renting our girls from a great online company called 'Rentachook' which is based in Ryde in Sydney. We went for the two chook package which cost us $380. This includes the chickens, hutch, straw, feed and containers. The deal is: if, after six weeks, it is not working for you for any reason, they will take it all back and refund you $280. This isn't a bad idea considering the chooks alone cost about $30 each. The company provide detailed fact sheets and have very approachable staff who will answer any questions you have, no matter how silly they seem. It's so easy - which is the aspect that most appealed to my husband; he didn't have to make a hutch or anything, we just picked up the whole lot in our trailer, brought it home and set it up. (They also deliver for a reasonable fee.)

Our new chooks have already laid four eggs and are busy fertilising, aerating and de-bugging our garden! I did some research on the website prior to picking them up and found the company recycle a lot of items and were in need of old stroller wheels for their hutches, and chaff bags and bailing twine for the straw they sell. I have a horse, so the bags and twine were easy for me to find. At the time we were having a council clean-up, so I checked the streets close to home whilst out walking and found a few sets of wheels to take along. They were really grateful and their way of saying thank you was to give me an 'upgrade' - one free chicken and full bag of feed instead of the normal half a bag! I have already started my next collection towards covering some of the cost of my next bag of feed or worming tablets. We are really happy with our chooks and thoroughly recommend 'Rentachook' to those of you who, like us, want to keep chickens at home but don't have the time or resources to get it happening on your own. Check out

Contributed by: Jodi Deamer

Pots of seedlings savings

I saved $36 on the purchase of a wooden Pot Pal, here's how! As a keen gardener who grows vegies from seeds, I found a way to use an empty spice jar to make seedling containers. I cut 10cm wide strips of newspaper which I loosely roll around the spice jar and then fold and tuck the ends of the newspaper under the base, pressing firmly. I then slide the paper pot off the mould and fill with potting mix.

I make a tray of these and pack them tightly together. The tray can be an old box, a seedling tray from the nursery or a Styrofoam box. Ensure whatever you use has holes for drainage. I add a small amount of my favourite 5-in-1 fertiliser to the potting mix, pop in my seed and cover with more soil. Once the seedling has grown it can be put into the garden bed, newspaper and all!

Contributed by: Elizabeth Symes

No cost gardening from recycled items

We created a wonderful new garden, made entirely from recycled items! My daughter and I love to grow our own flowers and vegetables but when we moved into a place with no area for a garden, we had to find a solution and decided to grow things out of pots and boxes. To start with, we made a list of all things we needed, then found out how much they would cost to purchase. To buy planter boxes and all the equipment for growing from seeds was going to prove a costly exercise!

So we visited some warehouses and were given some old wooden shipping pallets for free. We took them apart and reassembled them as wooden planter boxes! My daughter painted designs on them and we made boxes of all sizes. We even recycled the same nails from the pallets so we didn't have to buy any! We used old margarine tubs to create containers for growing seedlings and a friend gave us a large old glass fish tank. This was great - we simply placed it upside down over the seedlings to make a glass house! We even used the air pipes from the fish tank and connected this to an old drink bottle to create an easy watering system. The only cost left was for the seedlings and potting mix. Fortunately though, another friend gave us a bag of unwanted potting mix and their leftover seeds! Now we are having home grown salads with our meals and have lots of lovely flowers to look at. We didn't need to spend a cent - we just thanked everyone who contributed by giving fresh produce from our very own garden!

Contributed by: Jolon Taylor

Here are some more free food ideas for our valued Vault members:

Go bush for authentic Aussie flavour Contributed by: David J

Chickweed pesto free from the garden Contributed by: Jane R

'Grow your own' herbal teas Contributed by: Christine Croce

Four fruits from one tree Contributed by: Tanya Nehr

7. Cooking with Mimi: Moroccan Spaghetti and other Berry Funny Musings!

Did I tell you about my $28 strawberries? Actually, there were four. Four strawberries. Twenty-eight dollars each.

Well, you see, it was about this time one year ago, that I last got all gung-ho about growing my own produce. I'd grown garlic chives and sprouted spring onions and flirted with finger eggplants that no-one but me would eat, so I thought I knew a thing or two. Yes, I know this is about Moroccan Spaghetti... bear with me.

So I read along with Rob on his gardening hints and tips (Rob's being the garden I most admire), asked a few questions that made me sound like I was in the know, and off I went. I was raised on a farm and my maternal grandies actually grew strawberries for a living, so I thought that berries being in my blood, as such, I'd start there.

Course, being the fusspot I am, there was no way I was growing my strawberries in polystyrene containers, or hells bells, in the ground! I wanted those Frenchy looking white wicker basket things to hang fetchingly from my retaining wall, thus rendering my distinctly Aussie home a little more soignée (also known as 'noice' in true blue Aussie lingo).

A trip to the hardware store and $110ish later, I was home and ready to grow my own berries. At no stage, did I question how many punnets of said berries in season I could have purchased for aforementioned ridiculous outlay. Positively plummy with the anticipation of success, I loaded my white wicker hanging baskets up with commercial potting mix and organically inclined things, and in went the strawberry runners.

Frenetic watering and fertiliser with stinky stuff went on. We watched with bated breath as little pink flowers appeared. We applauded excitedly as a teeny weeny berry formed in the centre of each pink flower. Then it all went pear (strawberry?) shaped, and my memory is a bit hazy. I tend to block traumatic memories, you see.

We think the brush tail possum that resides in our roof ate a couple. Then there was that visitor with the inquisitive two-year-old who wanted to pick the flowers. And of course, the run in with our excitable little whippet, which resulted in one entire basket, contents and all, being spread all over the front garden. Whatever the circumstances, the outcome was the same.

Four strawberries.

Those four strawberries were unlike any strawberries we'd ever eaten, and how we wished there'd been more.

However, Husband was so traumatised by the idea of consuming a $28 strawberry, that he forbade me to try growing any more, fearing a cataclysmic outcome for the kids inheritance that we're madly trying to spend.

So, now I stick with herbs. Herbs I can do. I'm happy to hide herbs amongst the other stuff in the garden. I'm even content with plastic pots full of happy little herbs. Growing herbs actually saves me money, so Husband is happy too.

So, here's a great recipe that uses all of my favourite easy-to-grow herbs. It's vego, is easily adapted for gluten sensitivity, is dairy-free, and has the potential to turn you off traditional spaghetti sauce forever. It's an absolute corker and all you need is a couple of pantry ingredients and some home grown herbs. Not a $28 strawberry in sight!

You'll need a big pot of water to cook the pasta and a medium one for the sauce, as well as a non-stick frying pan for toasting the almonds. A couple of sharp knives and some scissors will be handy too.

Here's the ingredients list:

  • Pasta, any sort. We use gluten-free fettuccine, but just use your favourite.

  • 1 punnet tomatoes. If you're a more savvy gardener than I, then you might be lucky enough to have some cherry tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes or something equally impressive nodding in your garden. I don't, so I tend to use either a punnet of cherry tomatoes, or 4-5 big bought (insert long suffering sigh) tomatoes, chopped up, roughly. Please don't use tinned tomatoes for this one. It just won't be the same. This is, however, stunning with sun-dried or semi-dried tomatoes.

  • 2-3 big handfuls of herby stuff, snipped up with the kitchen scissors. So, shallots, parsley, garlic chives, coriander, mint, rocket, even a little bit of dandelion, nasturtium leaf and stinging nettle washed well and blanched if you're in to foraging, are all good.

  • A handful of nuts or seeds. Between ¼ and ½ cup is ideal. We like almond slivers, but you could use pine nuts if you're posh, or pumpkin, black mustard or poppy seeds if you're allergic.

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • ½ tsp each of cinnamon and turmeric

  • 1 tsp each of ground coriander and cumin

  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed till they stop foaming, or the equivalent amount of soaked and pre-cooked ones.

  • ¼ cup olive oil

Get out your medium saucepan and add the oil. Heat it over a medium hotplate until warm and add your onion and garlic. Stir it all around for a minute or two until it's soft. You don't want it browned so much, just tender.

Add your tomatoes and spices and turn it all down to simmer very gently while the rest of your meal is cooking. It doesn't need to fry. All you need is for the tomatoes to break down a little.

Turn on your largest hotplate and get the water boiling for your pasta. Cook as directed on the packet.

Put another hotplate on the highest setting and get out your non-stick frying pan. Toss the nuts or seeds around until they're roasted and smell warm and toasty. Tip them out of the frying pan onto a platter straight away or they'll burn.

By now, your Moroccan sauce should be coming along just fine and dandy, and it's time to add the chickpeas and toasted seeds or nuts. Taste it, toss it all around, and add seasoning if you think it's necessary.

Drain your pasta well, and add the sauce, tossing it all well. Add your herbs and turn the pasta over them gently. Ready!

Now Husband, not being a huge pasta fan, skips the fettuccine and says 'I'll just have the Moroccan thanks, hold the spag'. So be it. This is such a great flavoursome meatless meal, that as long as he can have it 'hold the spag', he's happy.

As for the strawberries, the bought variety will do me just fine, thanks very much. I've got my kids' inheritance to spend and it won't be on strawberry runners!

8. Fifty Cent Indulgences: 50c R & R

Hi Everyone,

This month the 50 cent Army indulged in 'A little Break'. Having some time to call our own is good for us physically and mentally and will often keep the wheels on our bus as we navigate this journey of life. There are many ways to enjoy a '50c R & R' - start with turning off your mobile! Plan easy 'holiday' meals. Save for inexpensive but enjoyable holidays throughout the year... such as ours in our little caravan.


Here it is - although it is 'snug', it is the means of so much fun and happiness. We go to a beach area two hour's drive from our home, and for the princely sum of $28 per night, we get to stay in a beautiful scenic caravan park with the sound of waves breaking as we drift off to sleep.

We take beautiful tea and delicious food, our favourite books and DVDs, board games, lovely linen and our beach gear. The slow cooker is a must for easy meals, and wraps, dips and salad fillings make delicious lunches and snacks. One of Annabel's great hints was to fill a 'holiday basket' with your favourite things including wonderful smelling lotions and potions to indulge in some holiday beauty - bliss!

If you find that a vacation seems to be out of the question, why don't you consider a 'Staycation'. This is where you use your own home as a holiday destination with you as the guests! You can still enjoy wonderful treats and spend time pursuing some delightful local attractions. The key to this is letting people know that you are 'on holiday' - you stop work and all your normal activities - you are on holidays after all!

Next month we get to explore the delights of an abundant Christmas where ideas aplenty will await us all for just cents. Drop in, say hello and share your '50c Indulgence' ideas at...

Gifts from the heart... Under 50 cent indulgences

We look forward to seeing you there,

9. Claire's Corner: Playhouses are for Chicks

When our son turned five, I bought him what I thought to be THE coolest birthday present ever. It was the one thing I badly wanted as a kid, and assumed he would also love... a whopping big outdoor playhouse. Cool right? When I told him that his mystery birthday present was arriving on the back of Granddad's truck he was wide-eyed with excitement and wonder. However, when it arrived, his wonder turned to disappointment. He was imagining Granddad might be delivering a new bike, a rocket ship, a dinosaur or some other exciting truck load of boy-type fun. My childhood dream, it turned out, was nowhere near his!

The playhouse spent most of the next 10 years as a storage shed for bikes, trikes, balls and other outdoor paraphernalia. Sporadically, I'd clean it out and encourage the kids to actually play in it. Which they did a handful of times, until a handful of rather large, long-legged, hairy spiders saw the untapped potential of this vacant real estate and set up their own home. And that was it. The playhouse was deserted, the kids actually feared it. So it sat, a home for unwanted toys and spiders with a taste for the indoors.

But that all changed about two years ago when we found the perfect tenants. Six feathery, clucky chooks. I'd wanted chooks for years - we had them when I was a kid and I have fond memories of my own baby chick that followed me everywhere, and of gathering freshly laid eggs and enjoying yummy, golden-yolked eggs.

The playhouse was the perfect chookie castle. It's super sturdy and totally watertight; we just needed to add a few roosting poles and nest boxes - a couple of second hand beer crates did the job nicely! Setting up the chook enclosure down in the back yard did take a bit of time, and money was particularly tight, so we mustered every ounce of ingenuity we had and used whatever we could recycle! We had a stack of metal poles and netting from the kids' trampoline enclosure that had broken months before. The poles were perfect for the frame, we just needed to buy some wire mesh (discounted of course!) and we used the netting to help block up holes in the bush and hedge that they could escape through when we let them out to forage. The end result was a fabulous, secure chookie area that has resulted in hundreds and hundreds of delicious, home-grown eggs!

Thankfully, this was one recaptured childhood memory that did not disappoint. I still love heading down to the chook house each morning and gathering up those freshly laid, warm eggs. Sometimes they're huge double yolkers! And the colour and taste - mmmm!

We've only had to buy eggs twice since we set up, and that's been during winter when the girls tend to lay fewer eggs. But that's okay because in the height of their production we were getting six eggs a day! Our friends, family and neighbours have been kept well supplied. We've even set up a barter system with a few of them - we've swapped eggs for all sorts of goodies; vegetables, babysitting time, fresh baking, bread and so on! And a carton of fresh, free range eggs is the perfect way to say thanks for those little favours that others do for us.

By my reckoning, it cost us a total of $300-ish to get set up, including the cost of the chickens, the wire mesh and the extra bits and pieces like new hinges for the playhouse door and so on. We were buying two dozen eggs every week (we eat a lot of eggs!), so that's around $16 a week. We now only pay around $4.00 a week for grain - and are getting an abundance of super fresh eggs from super happy hens!

And of course, the chooks offer so many more benefits than just yummy eggs! They love to devour scraps that would normally take up space in the bin, they keep on top of the weeds and they provide fantastic fertilizer! And with any luck, our kids will have wonderful childhood memories of baby chickens and fresh yummy eggs too (which may just make up for their bad memories about giant spiders in the playhouse!).

Read more of Claire's Corner in our Members' Blogs area.

10. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Worm Bathtub Farm & Spring Prep

Bathtub Worm Bed

Last weekend we finished off our bathtub worm farm which we'd started last week. We made it using bits we already had lying about the place... the bath was last year's water chestnut bed, we also used the legs from four metal chair legs bolted together, the rails from an old bed and a screen door that has lived under the house for over five years.

The worms harvested from the blue barrel went in on Monday afternoon. We spread them out nicely under shredded paper and worm slushy, which we added later in the week, and they appear to be doing fine. You can check out our YouTube clip, 'How and what we feed the Worms' if you are interested.

During the week I also harvested one of the 60L barrel farms from a Freecycle member but didn't find many worms in there. I am slightly disappointed in myself as the drum was left far too long before being harvested and I found a few dried out worms under the pavers where the drum sat. I did get a large amount of great looking castings, but only a fraction of the worms harvested compared to the blue barrel in the above clip. They were fed mainly horse manure with some whole vegie scraps every now and then. We also took some worms from the blue barrel farm down the back as well as the black farm to boost the numbers in the gifted tub.

Wormy Bits

Worms are hermaphrodites but mate with each other by joining at the clitellum (the band around the body). Sperm is exchanged and after a while a cocoon forms in the clitellum which is released after it matures.

We haven't found many cocoons this time round as I think it is the wrong time of the year and a tad too cold for these cold blooded squirmers. The cocoons can have up to three babies in each and are viable for long periods waiting for the right conditions before hatching.

From what we have seen, compost worms can handle very damp conditions. We have them living quite happily and thriving in our aquaponic grow beds where they munch on fallen vegetation, roots from plants that have been pulled, as well as any solid fish waste that comes through with the water. We have also harvested healthy worms from some very mucky clogged up farms in the past, I would even go as far as saying they were happier than pigs in muck!

Worms can eat from half to nearly double their bodyweight in a day if the conditions are right. Their healthy appetite allows them to convert nearly any kitchen or garden waste into nutrient rich, cheap fertiliser for your garden at a great rate. They also recycle valuable organic material that would normally go to waste in a rubbish dump.

I would greatly encourage anyone who has the space in their garden to consider getting some of these little fellas. We started off with just a top-up pack of worms (500 or so) and now have at least a few thousand - and those numbers will only climb when the weather heats up. They can set you back a bit when you first start out, but you could ask family and friends with a worm farm if they would be willing to part with some, so you can start up your own. You could also ask on Freecyle as there may be someone there who is willing to share some of their own.

Sowing Seeds for a Spring Harvest

This weekend I will be spending some time with my seed tins, a sketch of the patch, some garden books and my favourite online planting guide - Gardenate. I like this site as you can enter your climate and get a fairly good idea of what is ready to be planted out. I don't stick to it wholeheartedly as we can plant some things that our neighbours can't due to the layout of their block and tree coverage. It really is a bit of a guessing game with plenty of experimentation.

I am also trying to take advantage of a few shady spots to squeeze in some late cold weather crops like snow peas before it warms up too much. I noticed yesterday that a few had started to break the surface.

On Monday I planted some Nantes carrots into a barrel and decided to cover them with coco peat to act as a mulch to keep the seeds moist, time will tell if this will work though! Both lots of beetroot, Mini and Early Wonder, which were planted over the past few weeks, have started to show their leaves! (Happy dance!)

I had a great harvest of a few plants yesterday. We got some assorted peas, some strange sweet potatoes, a nice looking dragon carrot, just under 1.9kg of Roma tomatoes, the last full head of the second crop of broccoli and a few berries!

Happy Harvesting

It's great to see so many fantastic SS garden-oriented threads. There are some excellent gardeners out there with lots of valuable experience to share! Here's a few to help everyone find a little green-fingered inspiration!

SS veggie gardens... Downhill side of winter
How self-sufficient are you? #2
Triple SSS - semi self-sufficient
Kiwi gardeners - what vegies are you growing now?

I'm off to harvest some more worms and castings, happy harvesting and have a great week!

Rob Bob : )»

Catch up with Rob Bob in our Members' Blogs area.

11. Homeopathy Corner: In the Yard

We love simple solutions that bring great results and this month's article really fits that bill. In it Fran shows us how to use homeopathic remedies to scare away snails, get rid of aphids, scare off caterpillars and improve your soil.

Here is a link to the article.

12. From Last Month: Fire Surrounds

Last month Kaylene McGrath asked for our help:

"I live in Tasmania and most of us down here have wood combustion heaters (because it gets REALLY cold).

"I recently had some renovations done and have put my wood heater in the middle of the very large open plan living room so that the entire room heats evenly. Works great! My problem is that I can't find any four sided fire guard screens. The closest I have found was well in excess of $400 and I would have to buy two and connect them. I have cats, dogs and children and am clumsy so I'm constantly worried about someone burning themselves.

"I was wondering if maybe some of the amazing members might have some ideas I could try?"

Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in with their innovative and economical ideas for Kaylene. Here are some of our favourites!

Guard your fire with a pet playpen

Instead of buying an expensive fire screen, a folding pet playpen made of galvanized or powder-coated wire is an economical option. These come in various heights and lengths and cost $40-$80. If one playpen isn't big enough, you can easily join two together. Look for one with a full panel door so you can get in and out easily, as many of them only have a small access door for a pet.

Contributed by: Linda S.

Ask your local engineer or Men's Shed

You could try asking at local engineering shops if they could make a customised fire guard for you (or know of someone who could). My dad used to own an engineering shop and often had local people drop in with small jobs, he never minded. You could also try recycling depots to see if they have something that would work or could be made into a four-sided guard. Also, I often see stories in the local paper about the 'Men's Shed' who help local residents/groups with small jobs. The Men's Shed are retired gentlemen who like to be kept busy and feel useful, I think they are great!

Contributed by: Tracy B.

Fire guards from security door screens

When our children were little and we needed to screen a large slow-combustion heater, we found some old security door screens minus the fly-wire (try the recycling centre, roadside pick-ups and so on). Using hinges, we joined them together along the short sides to make a solid, firm and child-proof safety screen. As our fire was against a wall we used three and then secured the open ends to the wall for safety, but for a heater in the centre of a room, just use four. They are self-supporting and large enough to leave plenty of space between the screen and heater.

Contributed by: Suzanne Waters

Fab playpen fire guard, with bells on!

A friend of mine who needed a four-sided fire guard went along to a second hand shop and found an old playpen for just $5.00. Her husband undid one side, painted it black and fitted it around the fire. He turned the side that he undid into a gate so they could put wood in the fire but it had a padlock so the children couldn't open it. She also hung bells on the top part so if the kids climbed up on it she heard it.

Contributed by: Robyne Neal

Super sturdy fire guard from steel railing

We made a fantastic fire guard, which is by far the most secure fire guard I've seen on anyone's home, for just $75! And I have never worried about our children, or anyone else's, hurting themselves on our fireplace!

Rather than pay a ridiculous price for a flimsy store-bought guard, we went to our local recycling yard and picked up some simple old steel stair railing. The pieces that were designed to go up the stairs now create a nice diagonal feature on the side of the guard, and the panel that was originally on the landing has been cut down to make a gate at the front. The whole thing has been bolted to the wall, and is as sturdy now as when we first installed it.

Contributed by: Terri Adams-Munn

Versatile fencing screens from Bunnings

My friend bought some small, connectible stainless steel fencing screens from Bunnings which can be set up in any configuration. She uses them for mini duckling pens but they could go well around a fire place too. I believe they were under $60 for a set.

Contributed by: Kathleen Hughes

Home-made fire screen from weldmesh

For just $100, my partner made us a fire screen using weldmesh which he cut and hinged together. We used plastic tubing sliced open length ways to cover the sharp edges. The off-cuts also made a frame for growing peas and a pannier guard for my bicycle!

Contributed by: Ruth F.

Compost surround makes sturdy fire guard

For an economical wood burner surround, you can buy a four-sided square cage from Bunnings (creates a one square metre size pen) that is commonly used as a quick set-up compost surround. I recently bought one - they are only about $40 each and are very sturdy too. And if you no longer need the fire surround you have a compost bin ready for use!

Contributed by: Jenny Robertshaw

Transform gates and fencing into fire guards

For a great four-sided fire guard, a wooden playpen can be picked up cheap or free from Freecycle. Simply remove the hinges from one side to open it and use catches to act as a gate. If possible, it can be screwed to the floor to stop it moving. If you want a metal guard, you could check out the second hand stores for old gates that can be hinged together, fencing or even bed heads. We had some fantastic wrought iron railing that with a coat of paint would have been beautiful! As an added bonus, something like this can also be used as a clothes horse for drying.

Contributed by: Barb W.

Try plant climbing fences from Masters

For an economical alternative to expensive fire guards and playpens, Masters (the new competition for Bunnings) has outdoor climbing plant fences that only cost $8.00 and are about 80cm tall, 160-180cm long. If you bought a couple of these (depending on how much room you want to keep between the kids and the heater) and have some string or twine at home, you can make your own fire guards. And later you can use them in your garden!

We bought some and used them at an outdoor event recently to keep our toddler corralled (used long gardening stakes to secure them to the ground and twine to tie them together).

Contributed by: The B's

Safe and Secure with a Lindam Playpen

You could try the Lindam Safe and Secure Children's Play Pen from Target. We bought one recently on special for $119. It is a children's playpen that doubles as a safety guard to block access to a fire or another part of a room. You would normally change the configuration for a wall fire, but as it is six sided, it may go all the way around your fire in the playpen configuration. It even has a child safety gate that you can open to gain access.

Contributed by: Michelle R.

13. This Month's Help Request: Variety is the Spice of Life

Heather has sent in this cry for help:-

"I have a conundrum. We are both in our seventies. My husband has been seriously ill and is on chemotherapy. I am being constantly reminded that he 'doesn't like' stews or casseroles. He only likes grills or roasts. Consequently I am trying to cook something new and different every evening of the week, which I find thoroughly emotionally exhausting. He won't have a main meal in the middle of the day, which we should both have, as it's better for physical reasons. I would greatly appreciate some solutions!"

If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Heather, please send them in to us here.

14. Savings Story: Thank You to All the Members of Simple Savings

I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all the members of Simple Savings who helped me, gave me tips and supported me in my efforts to obtain freedom from debt. Our block of land has finally been sold and when we received the cheque in July we were at last totally debt-free. I didn't really believe it could happen but the patience, frugality and hard work have paid off and now my hubby and I can enjoy our lives knowing everything we do, eat, wear, buy and so on, will be ours and paid for with our own money. Thanks again. I couldn't have done it without you.

Pat Murphy

15. Goodbye, Goodbye

Phew! Well, that's a wrap on another Simple Savings newsletter. We hope you have enjoyed it and have been inspired by all the money saving tips. Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say, 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

We hope you have a great month enjoying your free food!

Till next time...

All the best,

August 2014 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - August 2014

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: How Green Does Your Garden Groan?
  2. August: Get Growing!
  3. Competition: Winner of Our Food Photographer Competition
  4. Penny Wise: Still Growing!
  5. Best of the Vault: Go Potty
  6. Best of the Forum: Get Into Some Gardening - Any Way You Can!
  7. Best Members' Blog: The Good, the Bad and Still Getting There
  8. Mimi's Rustic Roast Lamb Pie (can also be gluten-free!)
  9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Feeding the Patch and the Belly!
  10. From Last Month: Help Me With the Winter Blahs
  11. This Month's Help Request: Purchasing Safely Online


How are you going? We've had a fantastic July and are ready to get growing in August! Our members never cease surprising me and in July we were fortunate enough to work with one Simple Savings member, Rikki, who is involved with a charity called Fitted for Work. I was very happy to see 110 discounted copies of The $21 Challenge go to Fitted for Work, Melbourne.

Fitted for Work is a not-for-profit organisation assisting women experiencing disadvantage to get work and keep it. Since 2005 it has transformed the lives of 14,500 women. Here's a photo of Amanda Carlile (National Client Services Manager), Rikki and Anne Lennon (National Development Manager) with The $21 Challenge. You can learn more about Fitted for Work here:

We love hearing from you - your savings stories and tips make my day! Here are some of my favourites this month:

"I am a strict budgeter, obsessive meal planner and love to bake/cook as much as I can from scratch so when I read your $21 Challenge I was a bit skeptical and thought it would not apply to me. Well, I was pleasantly surprised! I decided to give it a go this week and managed to create a five-day menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts for less than $21 (and this included some deodorant for hubby!). I need to let you know that my pantry is highly organised, you will never find 10 cans of corn or more than two packets of pasta at any given time but I still managed to scrape some delicious meals together and save $200! Thanks for giving me the incentive to have a go and I will definitely be making this appear in my planning a bit more often!" (Kylie)

"I have been receiving your newsletters and Hint of the Week emails for quite a number of years now. The last hint hit home with me and I followed the suggestion of putting unwanted items on eBay and listing them for $0.99c on auction. Hey, guess what?! It worked! I already have a buyer and if $0.99c is all I get then that's great as I know the items have gone to a home where they are wanted." (Noeline)

Have a great month!

All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. Memberships on sale. SAVE $14

We are dropping the price of Vault membership from $37 to $23 until August 20th.
Click here to grab one.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: How Green Does Your Garden Groan?

"HEY! Watch my plant!" Sarah grumbled at James as they both burst through the door at the same time. "What have you got there, sweetheart?" Sally asked. "It's just her silly old basil plant from school. Honestly she treats it like it's her baby or something!" scoffed James, as Sarah glared back and clutched her yoghurt pot seedling protectively. "I reckon that's big enough to go in the garden," said Pete. "Shall we go and find a space for it in the vegie patch?" "Yes, let's go!" said Sarah excitedly. "I'm going to grow the BEST basil in my whole class!"

"Look at my crazy sister," James giggled a few days later as he looked out the window. "She's singing to her silly old plant!" "You leave her alone," chided Sally. "She's enjoying herself - and she knows the more you look after plants, the bigger they grow and the more yummy basil we'll have to cook with. Besides, her plant is growing better than all of your father's!" she chuckled. "Hey, hey, she's only got ONE plant to look after, I've got a whole garden full!" laughed Pete. "I'll give her credit where it's due though, she must be doing something right, bless her!"

The next afternoon Sally was getting the washing in when she stopped in her tracks. What was that noise? It sounded like someone was in pain! Quickly she ran around the side of the house in the direction of the noise to find Pete watering the vegie patch, singing at the top of his voice. "Good grief, it's YOU! I wondered what on earth all the racket was!" said Sally. "Well I remember reading years ago how Prince Charles said he sings to his plants and it certainly seems to be working for Sarah so I thought I'd give it a go. It's quite fun!" grinned Pete. "Looks like it!" chuckled Sally. "Although I hate to say it - but you might want to leave it to the professionals, love. You want the plants to GROW, not GROAN!"

2. August: Get Growing!

Poor Pete! Maybe he just needs to choose a different song to get his garden growing - perhaps a little Green Day would be more appropriate! Even if his vocal efforts leave a little to be desired, at least he's out there giving it a go and as Sarah shows, you don't have to garden on a big scale to get some terrific results.

There are all sorts of reasons why people don't feel able to grow their own food. Lack of time, lack of space, lack of money to get set up - but the biggest reason is lack of confidence. I have black thumbs. I don't know how to grow anything. What if I fail? The truth is, however, EVERYONE can grow SOMETHING! Even small children like Sarah can grow sprouts on a windowsill or a seedling in a yoghurt pot. And, no matter how young or old you are, the feeling you get from planting something yourself and watching it grow and flourish is hugely rewarding.

So this month, we want you to bite the bullet and grow something - anything! Herbs in particular are a fantastic start for the nervous gardener. They are inexpensive, don't take up much room and are very easy to look after. Better still, you will have instant and fresh flavour at your fingertips for your cooking, making all your meals even tastier. Here are the easiest ones to grow.

Don't pay $3 for a bunch of herbs, get the plant instead.

Flat Italian parsley is a strong sturdy plant you can add to almost any savoury dish. It doesn't need any attention - just the right amount of sunlight and regular watering. Use it in salads, dress up a sandwich or sprinkle over rice and noodles.

Basil is a quick-growing, easy plant to look after and nothing tastes as delicious as fresh basil in a summer salad or stirred through a pasta sauce or casserole. Make your own pesto and keep in the fridge for quick and delicious pasta meals.

Mint is fragrant and fast-growing and needs very little attention. Perfect with meat, vegies, salads and dessert dishes, what's not to love! A few sprigs make soothing hot teas or refreshing cold drinks. Try varieties like peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint or some of the 'fruit flavoured' mints such as apple or berries-and-cream!

Rosemary is another plant that once it is established, you will be able to enjoy for years. Dress up a lamb roast with lots of rosemary and garlic and use with poultry, casseroles, soups and vegetables.

Lemon grass needs NO maintenance and is an essential ingredient in many Asian dishes and delicious in soups, stews, salads, desserts and teas. Why buy a jar for $4.00 to use a few times when you can buy the plant for less, and use forever?

Echinacea is another tough plant people forget they can grow. Why buy capsules of dried echinacea for $30 when you can grow this hardy plant for years, for only a few dollars?

Your August Challenge is to get out and grow! Choose one of the herbs above and get growing - and saving! Singing is optional.

For more information, have a look here.

3. Competition: Winner of Our Food Photographer Competition

"Oh wow... this one is BEAUTIFUL... look at THIS ONE!" ...This is the sound of Fiona looking through the beautiful photos we received for the food photography competition. Wow! When we launched the competition we knew we'd get a few entries, but we never guessed we would get so many, and of such great quality! Some were quirky, some were rustic and some even had child stars in them! What stood out most was how much time and effort you all took with your photos.

These people get an honorable mention for their beautiful photos:

Rachelle Dudson
Sandra Rielly
Jodie Stevens
Caroline Kiwara
Mabel Pan

(Click here to see all of the runner-up photos.)

It was very hard to choose a winner - we'd like to congratulate Kylie Mibus as the winner of the $400 prize for her beautiful photo. Well done Kylie.

4. Penny Wise: Still Growing!

Why is it, do you think, that the universe always sees fit to bestow good fortune upon us with one hand, then take it away with the other in the blink of an eye?! Just as you dare to think life is finally going to cut you a little slack, along comes the hand of fate to slap you a big backhander and knock you down again. Apologies for sounding all doomy and gloomy but I'm not actually wallowing in self-pity - really! Whilst this has indeed happened to me in the last month on several rather unwelcome occasions, some of my dearest friends have also been going through similar trials, both financially and emotionally. It's always harder to watch people you love struggle than it is to go through it yourself, isn't it? The only good thing is, well, after all this time I'm used to it. All these months of trying to survive and deal with life's ups and downs on my own has given me so much valuable insight and wisdom; you don't realise how much until you find yourself using it to help others. Despite being wise by name, I've never thought of myself as wise by nature! I see it in the Forum all the time and am blown away by the amazing advice and assurance other members have to offer but I've never really thought about what people have had to go through in order to be able to give that amazing advice. Being able to use your own dark times to help others in a positive way really is a wonderful thing. As Noel often used to say, "There's always something good to come out of something bad," and there really is.

One thing I do know for sure is that my years of Simple Savings knowledge have given me a huge advantage over my friends. We may all have a lot of the same dramas - unexpected vet bills, mechanic call-outs, speeding tickets; you name it, just like everyone else. We may all lie awake at night worrying how to make ends meet, pay the bills and still afford new school shoes or birthday presents for the kids. But unlike them I have SS as my secret weapon, constantly encouraging me to think outside the square, get creative and find new ways to save. I don't have to buy cleaning products or beauty products or so many of the things other people do. They can't imagine not buying them because they've never known any other way. They don't know how to lower their food bill by cooking from scratch instead of expensive packets and jars. All these things we as Simple Savers do as second nature is still literally a foreign language to so many. Simple Savers know how to literally live on nothing when we need to. And when we run out of nothing, we still manage to find a way to eke out more.

Most of the time I find saving money is pretty effortless. Of course things will always come along to stuff up your efforts, such as getting a flat car battery two hours from home and all of a sudden having to pay $70 to renew the AA membership you weren't going to bother renewing so you can get home! But bills aside, it's actually very easy not to spend money, although sometimes you have to justify whether the savings are worth the effort. Take my vegetable garden. Several weeks ago I made the decision to get rid of the whole area and put it all back into lawn. It was a hard decision and one I struggled with for some time but as soon as it was gone I felt a weight had been lifted. The clincher for me came when a neighbour smiled kindly and said, "Gardening should be a pleasure, not a chore," - and that was exactly what mine had become. The vegie garden I had inherited with my house was 10 metres long by five metres wide, it was huge! And while initially I found growing my own food hugely rewarding, it soon became apparent that all my spare time was going to be required tending to it. When you're the solo parent of two teenagers, your weekends and after school times are not your own and before long I just couldn't keep up with the constant weeding and planting. It got to the stage that I had actually stopped looking out of the window as I couldn't bear to see how much it was getting away on me. Not only that; but once my Gilbert's Syndrome symptoms really started to make themselves known, I couldn't get out in the garden when I wanted to as I was too often stuck in bed. These days you would hardly recognise me as the same girl on the cover of The $21 Challenge book, my body weight has almost halved since then. When you only weigh 44kg you tend to run out of energy pretty quickly!

Not only that; keeping a vegie garden of that size constantly planted was proving expensive. Eventually it got so that I was buying plants I didn't even like to eat just to have some variety and to try and keep the weeds at bay. I also found that much of my spare time was spent driving around the neighbourhood giving huge amounts of food away. Don't get me wrong, that part was fantastic and so rewarding but it just became so time consuming and was actually costing me money, particularly in petrol! As soon as my garden was gone, I was able to look out of the window at my beautiful yard, still full of fruit trees and smile again. As I type I still have an abundance of lemons, oranges, mandarins and tangelos and locals will still benefit from my free produce. I also have two large half-barrels and a long wooden planter which I will use to grow food in from now on, in quantities we can manage, as well as many trellises to grow beans up and am looking forward to still being able to enjoy home-grown lettuce and tomatoes in summer. It's all about getting the balance right I guess; the main thing is, I'm still growing something!

Even so, I am finding not having a vegie garden is making a difference to the food bill and the amount and variety of vegetables we eat. Before, I was spoilt for choice and would simply create meals around what was ready to be picked. Now I find myself wincing at the cost of broccoli! It has also had an effect on the kind of dishes I cook, as I no longer base my meals around whatever produce needed to be used up. But I still feel the decision to get rid of my monster vegie garden was right. Ali, my littlest 'baby' turned 16 yesterday and Liam is 18 in less than three weeks. He'll be leaving home at the end of the year and Ali won't be far behind. Already the three of us couldn't keep up with the mountain of food coming out of it and our household is only going to become less. A Simple Saver I may be but I would rather spend what precious time I have left with them watching Liam flying round the rugby field or Ali wielding a cricket bat rather than at home on my own pulling out weeds. There'll be all the time in the world for that soon enough and when that happens, I'll probably be wishing for that enormous vegie garden again!

You can get updates on Penny's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page.

...or in our Members' Blog section.

5. Best of the Vault: Go Potty

Here are some ideas to help with this month's challenge and get some dirt under your fingernails! It doesn't matter whether it's a pot of herbs on the window sill or a bottle of sprouts on the kitchen bench - just do ONE green thing this month.

A garden that travels with you

We were planning to travel around outback Western Australia in our caravan but still wanted to enjoy home grown vegetables while we were on the road. No problem - we took a vegetable garden with us! It simply sits on a non-slip tray under the caravan table!

I bought a $2 plastic planter box and a $1.99 punnet of mixed lettuce, and then I picked some parsley and spring onions from our garden. I filled the planter with soil from our vegie patch, cut the tops off the spring onions, leaving about 20cm of green tops and 5cm of roots, and planted them at one end of the planter. The parsley went into the other end, followed by the lettuce. I recently bought another planter and we now grow spinach and celery as well. I share excess produce with fellow campers, who all make wonderful comments about our caravan harvest!

We plant everything close together to stop weeds coming through, and use leftover water to feed our thirsty plants. We just need to watch out for wildlife like goats, rabbits and kangaroos when the planter is outdoors.

Of course you don't have to be a traveller to benefit from this idea. If you live on your own or have limited space try growing vegetables in a planter. The results will be fantastic!

Contributed by: Shirley Turner

Boxing on through the frosts

I am a keen gardener but we have late, heavy frosts in our area - when we should be planting seeds or seedlings. I have overcome this by planting seeds in old plastic wrap and foil boxes! When the frosts are over, the boxes can be planted directly in the ground as they are bio-degradable.

Contributed by: Keeping Warm

Bucket loads of savings on tomato pots

I saved almost $40 on pots for growing my own food! Recently a friend gave me some tomato seedlings. I don't have space in beds, however, so they had to go in pots. I checked the price of ordinary 'cheap' black plastic pots at Bunnings and found they were $5.50 each. I needed eight pots; this was going to be an expensive solution! Then I had a brainwave - I could use buckets instead! So off I trotted down to The Reject Shop where they had just what I wanted for $0.78c. I bought eight buckets, drilled holes in them for drainage and my tomatoes are now growing happily in their new home. Best of all I saved $37.76 and my free seedlings will grow into delicious free tomatoes!

Contributed by: Trish

Basil faulty

Growing your own herbs can save you money, but you save even more if you don't have to replace dead plants on a regular basis!

I love basil but as I had no space to grow it outside, I had to grow a potted plant on the window sill. Invariably, the poor thing would wilt and die and I would have to fork out more money to replace it.

This year I purchased a new basil plant, but this time I put the pot into a clear plastic bowl and half-filled the bowl with water. It has worked brilliantly. I can immediately see when it has run out of water and I refill. No aphids and a very large, healthy plant so running out of water was a big factor in the past failures.

Moral of the story, look after your plants and they'll look after you.

Contributed by: Linda

6. Best of the Forum: Get Into Some Gardening - Any Way You Can!

You don't have to be a green-fingered expert to enjoy successful gardening - you just have to start! Grab a pot, hanging basket or any handy container and some good soil and plant something this week.

Share the seed Facebook group Australia and New Zealand

Join this Facebook group to share what you know, and learn what you don't!

Things that grow from cuttings

Don't waste your money buying when you can 'snap and pot'.

Vegie garden thread #2

There are some great ideas here to get you into your garden.

17 foods to grow once and regrow forever

So you think money doesn't grow on trees!

7. Best Members' Blog: The Good, the Bad and Still Getting There

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a $100 store credit in Ye Olde Shoppe or $100 cash each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is 'Lil ol me' for sharing her adventures in the kitchen. Lil has been blogging about her system of preparing meals to take them from the freezer straight to the slow cooker - here is how she got started:

I have to share my latest obsession. I came across a system of dinner preparation called freezer/slow cooking. It's brilliant! And saving me so much money. I now go to the shop once a week and I know I have everything for the week's dinners.

Essentially you plan every meal to be made in the slow cooker. You have to do a meal plan and then go and do your shopping. Once home, get out your re-sealable bags and fill them with ALL the ingredients for the meals. Label each bag and put them in the freezer. Each night I pull one of the meals from the freezer and let it defrost in the fridge. The next morning it gets popped into the slow cooker - Dinner DONE! How easy! It has worked perfectly for me and has freed up so much time. It took me about an hour and a half to prep all the meals and clean up, then I didn't have to worry about what to cook for dinner for the rest of the week.

It has saved me money as I don't have ingredients that I forget about in the fridge. I haven't had a meal I'd planned to make but one of the kids has eaten the ingredients for. It's given me extra time to prep/make other snacks for the kids instead. Now I will be honest enough to say a couple of the meals have been nothing short of bleurgh! One mouthful and I knew there was no way the kids would eat it (or me!) so I've made sure I have a really quick back-up just in case. Last night was one of those occasions but instead of a take away option, I quickly whipped up two ingredient pizza bases and the pizzas were ready 30 minutes later.

Here is the link which started my interest in this cooking system

With the extra burst of inspiration, I've been working on clearing out the pantry of all the odd ingredients. I've had dates floating round for months. I can't for the life of me remember what I bought them for. They quickly become a sticky date pudding one night, after I had spare time, since I didn't have to make dinner. OMG - delish! It's been made a few times since.

I've also made sure I keep home-made yoghurt and home-made condensed milk in the fridge, which is very helpful. A bit of a habit I've been getting into is having slices on hand for the kids to snack on. I haven't bought lunch box 'fillers' for three or four weeks now. I have so many ingredients on hand that I haven't had to really buy anything special to make them, and it's really helping me reduce pantry clutter. I re-discovered the slice recipe book in the Downloads section of SS and it's brilliant! I forgot how good it was. I have a large oven so I can fit four different slice trays in there at once and have four slices ready in 30 minutes. Sliced into 18 pieces each, that's 72 pieces of slices ready for the kids to grab.

Phew! So sounds like lots of cooking, but it really hasn't been, but I'm creating some wonderful habits in reducing my grocery spending and pantry clutter.

Well done Lil ol me - we're pretty sure your mum and dad feel exactly the same way!

You can read more of our members' blogs here.

8. Mimi's Rustic Roast Lamb Pie (can also be gluten-free!)

These little pies are simply divine and for a gluten-free family like us, a real mouthwatering treat. The pastry is so light and crisp and thankfully bears no resemblance whatsoever to that suspicious looking stuff wrapped around equally suspicious 'meat' that we call a pie these days.

I made these on the spur of the moment one afternoon when the leftover roast shoulder of lamb was begging to be used for something other than a toasted sandwich. Lamb shoulder, by the way, is a far more economical roast than the leg, and is in fact what many of us used to enjoy as our Sunday roast. Slow roasted with garlic and herbs for 3-4 hours, it's a worthy addition to the menu and yields an enormous amount of meat.

I've modified a recipe from a CWA cookbook written in conjunction with the Lady Mayoress circa 1938 and, like many of the old recipes, it worked like a charm.

You can use any shortening you like but for the sake of authenticity, I used beef shortening (dripping/supafry) as suggested in the original recipe. I figured in the quantities it was required for this dish we were still far and away ahead of the game compared to the fat content in either bought pastry sheets or bought pies. I found that it really did give a superior result, but we eat very little in the way of added fat and we all have good cholesterol levels, so I'll leave the decision on what shortening you use to your own conscience.

This recipe will work well for either gluten-free or normal flour.

I baked these in large (not Texas sized) muffin pan holes.

For three generous rustic pies, you'll need:

For the pastry:

  • 2 level tbsp shortening (beef dripping, margarine, butter, lard)
  • 3/4 cup plain flour mixed with two teaspoons baking powder (or use SR flour) and a pinch of salt. Note: I used Laucke Gluten-Free Bread/Baking Mix which comes in a white box with blue lettering in the health food section of the supermarket. That's why my pastry has little seeds in it.
  • 2 tbsp cold milk, plus a little extra for glazing
  • Extra flour for dusting the bench or two sheets of baking paper into which to sandwich the dough for rolling
  • Large scone cutter or egg ring to cut the pastry to size

For the filling:

  • 1 cup leftover roast meat, diced
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 stock cube
  • 1/2 tsp Vegemite (optional, for colour)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • Seasoning to taste

Then just:

For the gravy:

Add a cup of boiling water to a microwave-safe bowl and stir in the Vegemite ensuring it melts and dissipates.

Crumble a stock cube into a separate cup and add the cornflour and a tablespoon of water and mix to a paste.

Add the paste to the boiling water and whisk well with a fork or miniature whisk.

Microwave on high in 60 second bursts until it boils and thickens. Check the consistency. It needs to be a pretty thick gravy, but add a little more liquid if it's too thick.

Add the meat and stir well. Set the filling aside while you make the pastry.

For the pastry:

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Grease the muffin pan holes liberally with butter, margarine or a liberal spray of cooking spray.

Rub the shortening quickly into the flour with your fingertips. The key to good pastry is to keep everything cold, so don't stress too much about completely dissipating the lumps. A few tiny lumps of the shortening through the flour is fine.

Dust the bench with a little flour.

Add the milk to the flour mixture and stir with a knife to form a stiff dough. Bring the pastry together with your hands. If it's a little too crumbly to adhere, add more cold milk, a teaspoon at a time. It should form a firm ball when moulded with your hands.

Tip it onto the floured bench or place one sheet of baking paper on the bench, place the dough on it and cover it with the second sheet. This actually works really well as it prevents the dough from sticking to either the bench or the rolling pin.

Roll the pastry out to about the thickness of a twenty cent coin.

Cut three bases and three tops using the large scone cutter.

Gather the remaining dough into a second ball, roll it out again and cut long strips about 2-3cm wide to form the sides of your pies. Just do a guesstimate of the depth of your muffin pan or if you're particular, measure the depth with a ruler and cut the strips to the corresponding width.

Place a base piece of pastry in each muffin hole, then line the sides with a strip of pastry dough, trimming it to size. Press the dough against the sides of the muffin pans and press the edges neatly and gently together with your fingers at the bottom to make the base stick to the side pieces. Prick the base and sides a few times with a fork.

Fill each pie with the meat and gravy filling.

Cover the pies with the remaining circles you've cut for tops.

Use scraps of pastry to cut rough shapes or leaves to decorate the tops if you wish. Press these gently into place.

Glaze the tops of the pies by brushing with a little of the extra cold milk and place the pies in the oven.

Bake until golden brown on top, approximately 25-30 minutes.

To remove the pies from the muffin pan holes, run a sharp knife around the edges of the hole to loosen them and, using a spoon either side, gently lift them from the pan. If you've greased the pan holes sufficiently they should just lift out. I had two come out perfectly and one that disintegrated... clearly the cook got the messy one. I can assure you it was still delicious!

The great thing about these is whilst this looks like a lot of instructions, I actually had the filling and the pastry made in about 15 minutes and the pies in the oven five minutes later. Within 45 minutes we had a really delicious meal that would have seen us parting with anything up to $25 each in a bistro, café, restaurant or upmarket pub.

Served with a simple salad they really are guest-worthy and they need little more than a few scraps of meat, leftovers or even vegetables in a gravy or white sauce to be a truly scrumptious treat.

I've always considered myself an utter pastry novice and I've never yet made a successful pie or pastry dish from scratch... until now.

Give it a try. You'll never buy a frozen pie again. :)

You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

9. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Feeding the Patch and the Belly!

Feeding up the patch for next to nix

This month's challenge on Simple Savings is all about getting out there and growing your own food. Not only does it save you coin but you'll end up with some of the freshest and tastiest vegies you will ever eat. One way to make growing your own food even cheaper is to make your own liquid fertilisers.

Manures, worm castings and composts are a great way to feed the plants and soil in your vegie patch for no or very little cost. While a bag of manure can set you back a couple of dollars (if you don't know a friendly farmer that is), compost and worm castings can be made from the likes of lawn clippings, kitchen scraps, weeds, animal bedding (poultry, rabbit and guinea pig) and tree prunings. When applied to the garden they add invaluable organic matter to help loosen the soil, retain soil moisture, as well as provide food for compost worms and other beneficial life forms.

Manures, worm castings and composts can also be used to make up some tasty liquid fertilisers that will go much further than the compost/manure itself. When a fertiliser tea is applied to the garden you are providing the plants with an instant boost of available nutrients suspended in the liquid and are also feeding the soil with the beneficial micro-organisms that are also present in some of the teas.

Making up these liquid fertiliser teas can be relatively easy OR can be up scaled into a full-on liquid fertiliser 'brew' by adding air, molasses and other goodies to make up a tasty bacteria-laden treat for your soil and plants. To keep things simple I will be mainly talking about the basic teas that anyone can make with a bucket/drum and some rich organic matter and water. Just a note here on water, most town/city water contains chlorine which is added to kill the bad microbes in the water. If you are worried about killing beneficial microbes in the brew you can leave the water in an open top container exposed to the sunlight for a couple of days and that will help gas off the chlorine.

Manure teas

A big thanks to Puurrey Wife for asking a question on the Forum about manure teas - you helped me decide what to blog on this month. ;-) Manure teas are very basic and easy to mix up if you have a good supply of aged manure. The only manure teas I've made up for this patch involved worm castings but I will cover that below. Growing up on our small farm we had an endless supply of cow manure from our two dairy cows, which was collected and left to age in a pile. After the pats had dried out for a few months they were broken up and used as a top dress for vegie patches for us and my grandparents. We would also add it to the compost piles or tumblers, to break down before being dug through the soils. It is never a good idea to use fresh manure as it can be rather rich in nutrients and do more harm than good by burning plants. It is best to let them dry out or compost before using.

My mother and grandfather used to make up a very basic brew with cow pats in a drum of water. It was as easy as dumping a 10L/2½ gal buckets worth of well-aged, crumbled up manure into a 60L/16 gal drum then filling it with water. It would then be left to sit and soak in the water, breaking down the lumps over three to five days. It was also stirred whenever we remembered and often became slightly 'aromatic' (which I now know to be due to anaerobic decomposition). When it came time to use the mix it was bailed out into a watering can and mixed 1:1 with water for use on the garden. The remnants in the base of the drum were dumped into the compost heap, so got a second chance at making it out onto the patch at a later date.

Just a quick pointer - a lawn mower makes very quick work of mulching up sun dried horse and cow manure. Just be sure to take the washing off the line first or you might be made to do it all again. :-/

Other aged manures can also be used like horse, sheep, goat and even some pet manures like guinea pig and rabbit. We have also included fish waste from our aquaponics set up in a few different brews and I have read of a chap who makes up fertiliser tea from poultry manure but it is a much longer process that I am not familiar with. Might be something for folks to look into if they feel game. ;-)

Please note that manure from carnivores like cats and dogs should never be used to make up liquid fertilisers as it can carry pathogens that can cause diseases in humans. They need to be composted properly over a VERY long period of time.

Compost tea

The compost tea that we make is very simple and can be added to the patch immediately with no brewing required. About 15L/4 gal of compost is used per batch with the tea being mixed up in a 60L/16 gal drum. Many folks will have their own ratios but this one works for us and haven't had any complaints from our plants as of yet. ;-)

To begin with you add the compost into a drum and fill to the top with water. Next you need to give the drum a good stir to get all the brown goodness suspended into the mix. If your compost is like ours you will get some bits of undecomposed straw and other organic matter floating on the top. If you plan on using a watering can with a rose on the spout it is a good idea to remove these chunks and add them back into the compost pile.
Once the compost is well and truly mixed with water you can bail/pour out the tea and water the garden. I like to feed the heavy feeders like pumpkins/cucurbits, corn, tomatoes, capsicums, broccoli/brassicas and so on with this first batch from the barrel as it is the richest brew.

Once the barrel is down to the sludge at the bottom you can fill it back up with water and repeat. I continue to refill the barrel until the water starts to look like a very weak cup of tea then call it quits. We normally get about four to five batches out of a bucket worth of compost which easily gives all the gardens in the back yard a great feed. Any sludge left in the base can be put back to the compost pile or added to the garden beds.

I would like to do this at least once a week but unfortunately the compost pile just wasn't that large and we ran out last weekend. I've decided to bite the bullet and use a commercially bought compost blend we used when we first started the garden here and have had some great results with.

This will be the first time I've used a commercial blend in a tea so I think I will start off with only 4L/1 gal of compost in the drum and will see how the plants react over the coming week.

Worm castings tea

We now make up our worm cast tea in a similar way as we do the compost teas. The main difference is the amount of castings we add into the mix.

The main reason for this is that I think the castings are much more jam packed with beneficial microbes and nutrients, so are more valuable and deserve to be spread around the vegie beds as much as possible. To make up a batch of castings tea I add about one large handful or about ¾ cup of castings straight into the 9L/ 2 gal watering can, fill with water, mix well and apply immediately onto the plants.

I used to suspend the castings in a stocking or paint strainer bag overnight and massage the wormy goodness out of them by hand every few hours, but I now think the above method works just as well. I do think that the plants respond well to this quick feed just as they do with the compost teas. There is also evidence that some of the constituents of worm castings and teas made from it can help prevent disease and deter pests on plants. Click HERE for a word doc download from Soil Ecology Laboratory of the Ohio State University regarding tests conducted on various garden pests.

Weed/green manure teas

In a previous blog I posted details on one of the weed/green manure teas that we make up but thought it was worth going over again quickly as these teas would have to be the easiest, if not cheapest of all to make. Almost any weed will do but to make up a top notch brew it is a good idea to use some dynamic accumulator plants like comfrey, nettles or dandelions in the mix or even by themselves. These plants have very deep roots that 'mine' nutrients from deep in the ground, bringing them up to their leaves for us to harvest and make use of.

All you need to do is collect a fairly full 10L/2½ gal bucket of greenery, rip, cut or shred them up into smallish pieces then cover them with water and wait. If needed you can pop a brick or rock in there to help keep the greens submerged. After two to three weeks the greenery will be very decomposed with the mix resembling a very 'aromatic' sludge with some bits floating and others settling on the base. I like to strain the mix through a paint strainer so the solids don't clog the rose of the watering can. As this tea can be somewhat concentrated it's best to water it down before using it on the patch. Most folks recommend a one part tea concentrate to 10 parts water. I cheat a bit and add one part concentrate to around nine parts of water in the watering can and haven't seen any adverse effects on the plants.

Brewed teas

Brewed teas are another great liquid fertiliser designed to boost the amount of beneficial microbes in the brew before adding it to the soil in the patch.

About a year ago I did a blog called Compost tea & treats for the chooks where I went through a basic recipe I use for brewing up wormcast/compost teas using a small aquarium air compressor and molasses. The same treatment can be given to the green manure teas. It's not a necessity but it does help reduce the pungent aroma made by the steeping process and will help to increase the amount of helpful aerobic bacteria in the brew before applying it to the patch.

I hope that quick look at home-made liquid fertilisers helps you out in some way. That's about it for this month's blog. Hope you all have fun in the patch and shall catch you next time.

You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

10. From Last Month: Help Me With the Winter Blahs

Last month Treena emailed us about ideas for keeping cheery during winter:

"Please ask your members for some ideas for me! I get the 'winter blahs' all through winter. I hate the cold and the rain, and it is dark when I get up and dark as soon as I get home. I really need some ideas on managing this time of year and staying chirpy. I hate the winter blahs!"

We got some fantastic ideas - thank you for sharing your wisdom! Here are some of our favourite replies:

When it's dull outside, brighten up the inside!

It may be dull outside in winter but you can really lift your spirits by brightening up your surroundings! It doesn't have to be expensive; it can be as easy as:

  • Changing your quilt to a floral that makes you smile (or just change the cushions to a cheerful pattern such as pink stripes).
  • Finding a mug that makes your heart sing; one of my favourites cost $0.50c at a local charity shop.
  • Having a winter declutter, and deep clean. Check out Peter Walsh's books for inspiration.

Don't forget to brighten YOU up too! My sister gave me a pair of fake red velvet flat shoes one year and every time I wore them they made me smile. I only stopped wearing them when they fell apart! Wear red lipstick, a splash of blush, swipe of mascara - whatever works to make you feel good for the rest of the day. Pick up a couple of cheap and colourful bracelets or invest in some bold pink, flamboyant red or cheeky purple nail polish for your nails.

Finally, find something fun to do in the evenings:

  • Learn a new craft, join a class or find 'how to' videos online.
  • Join a community group such as a choir or local theatre group.
  • Buy or borrow an exercise DVD to keep you motivated and fit when it's cold outside.
  • Challenge yourself to cook a new healthy soup/cake/main meal at least once a week
  • And last but not least, invite people over to show off your new, brighter surroundings!

Contributed by: Lara D

Ensure a happy winter with Vitamin D supplement

A simple Vitamin D supplement has given me my happiest winter I can remember in years! A couple of months ago I went for a full skin check with a doctor I was seeing for the first time. He asked about my skin/sun habits and told me that, as I work in an office and cover up when I am in the sun, I probably don't get enough Vitamin D. He suggested I take a supplement as apparently the amount in a multivitamin isn't enough. I found some Blackmore's Vitamin D 1000 IU on clearance at a local supermarket and stocked up. Within a week I noticed a marked positive improvement in my mood! Before, I had been taking a low dose of St John's Wort for what I thought was mild depression but have tossed that bottle out now, as since taking the Vitamin D the black clouds of winter have lifted!

Contributed by: AHouseOfMyOwn

Rug up and get out there!

I love winter! One thing I love doing is using my slow cooker in winter. Just a few minutes to get organised in the morning and you have a lovely hot meal ready for when you get home from work exhausted! Knitting is also a lovely thing to do during the colder months. If you don't already know how to knit, set yourself a challenge to learn and make something you will use, such as a cosy throw rug. A walk with my dog also exhilarates both me and him, even if it's just a quick one. I love layering up to keep warm. Enjoy all those beautiful winter clothes, woolens, boots and hats we can only wear at this time of year and just rug up and get out there!

Contributed by: Julianne G

Bring the sunshine in with calendulas

A perfect low-cost winter pick-me-up is a bunch of fresh flowers to enjoy in your home. We grow Calendula flowers all year round and a vase of them in our lounge room really cheers the room up!

Contributed by: Simmy

Don't suffer the blues alone

My mother always knew the perfect ways to keep the winter blues at bay! We would often walk into the house to the smell of soup, which was a fabulous way to shake the cold out and always felt great to be home. You can create this yourself even when working by preparing soup or a warming dish in the slow cooker before you leave for work so it's ready when you come home. We also had simple meals around an open fire - with no lights by choice, but it was so nice we always went to this as first option whenever there was a power cut too! We would also wrap up warmly and go for a walk on a Sunday afternoon to 'blow the cobwebs away' and would choose an exposed walk beside the beach. Everyone would come back battered and windblown but utterly recharged! Also, my father couldn't take long holidays in the summer so we did windy beach holidays in winter instead. I can vouch for this being fabulous too.

Other things you can do to lift your spirits are splurge on some early season spring flowers with lots of scent; our local thrift shops often sell bunches kindly donated by those with plenty. This can be factored in as part of charity giving, so you're not exactly splurging! Invite friends over for an informal cuppa; this is an especially great way to get to know a few neighbours that you aren't really acquainted with beyond brief hellos and brief chats. I've held a couple of these now and it's been fabulous, just give yourself a week to contact your guests, keep the snacks simple and enjoy. As a result we now have a great community bond, I've got extra walking companions, more folks who are happy to look after pets when others go away and each person has commented on feeling that little bit isolated before but no longer!

Also, our phone plan allows for long distance calls to other countries at the one combined rate per month as phoning anywhere in our country. If you can do this cheaply it is a great way to say hi to extended family. I try to phone someone I think would appreciate knowing they're being thought of every couple of weeks. It doesn't have to be long but it's nice to make those connections and keep in touch with friends who have moved away. I was labelled extremely shy as a child but all it takes is a little courage and the company of others, or simply hearing their voice down the phone line can really help you through a drab time of year.

Contributed by: lari C

Leave the 'home fires' burning

A warm, cosy atmosphere can do wonders to keep the winter blues at bay. When I was living on my own, I left a lamp on a timer in winter so that I never came home to a dark house. Just having a light on made the house look so much more welcoming. Effective heating also makes a difference - I love my heated lap rug!

Contributed by: Judith

Day and night, there will be light

I have found that the key to beating the winter 'blahs' is to get enough light. I used to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder - if the winter was a bright sunny one I was OK, but a winter of grey skies really impacted, leaving me very 'blah'. Fortunately the solution was mind bogglingly simple! I bought a special needleworker's daylight lightbulb for my upright lamp, which I use for reading and crafting in the evening. Because the light waves are the same as normal daylight, your body and mind think they have been out in strong daylight - so your mood doesn't plummet. SO simple and not expensive! You'll be astonished the difference it makes!

Contributed by: Austerity Alley

Recreate the sun with 2000 lumen light

The best way to deal with the winter blues is to get as much sunshine as you can, but if that isn't possible, fake it! A 2000 lumen light has the same effect as the sun and will provide the light you need to produce the right hormones to give Seasonal Affective Disorder the boot. Search online or ask at your local hardware store for the best one to suit you.

Contributed by: Julie

Helping others gives winter blues a lift

A great way to give the winter blues a lift without resorting to expensive retail therapy is to spend a little time helping others less fortunate than yourself. Community organisations always need volunteers, especially in winter, so ask around your area for a charity or homeless shelter where you can help. It's so rewarding, yet costs nothing and I guarantee you won't complain that it's winter again!

Contributed by: Ford Prefect

Don't be SAD, go for a walk!

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately known as SAD) but find if I can force myself outside no matter the weather to walk around the block every day it helps. I try and walk without a hat or sunglasses to get maximum sun exposure but when it's wet a bright umbrella and gumboots really help to lift my spirits. People smile at me, probably because they think I'm mad but it works for me!

Contributed by: Roslyn

11. This Month's Help Request: Purchasing Safely Online

Donna has emailed asking for some help! She writes:

"How do people spend safely online? For the first time ever, my Visa was 'stung' when it was used online for a very small transaction in Chinese currency. When I rang the bank, they cancelled it immediately and told me that one scam was to put through a few dollars and then if it goes unnoticed, put through a very large amount a couple of weeks later. I am very careful online - but obviously not careful enough. What kinds of things do people do to spend safely online?"

If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Donna, please send them in to us here.

12. Goodbye For Now!

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for August and we hope you have enjoyed it. We hope you'll get some dirt under your fingers and plant just ONE something - a pot of herbs, maybe a small box of gourmet lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Growing your own food is a little bit of magic!

Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...
All the best,

August 2016 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - August 2016

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Everything She Wants
  2. August: Desert Island Dreams
  3. Super Dooper Bumper Best Of The Vault
  4. Best of the Forum: We're Not Going Without, We're Getting Ahead!
  5. Best Members' Blog: The Techno Age
  6. Best of SS Facebook: How to Stop Buying Things You Don't Need
  7. Savings Story: Tears Turn to Triumph for Happy Declutterer


The start of a new season is the perfect time to ditch old habits and replace them with shiny new ones instead. Over the years we have talked about 'wants versus needs' many times. While most people know what they are and can tell the difference, we don't always consider the effect they have on our lives and how they can trip us up. That's what this month's newsletter is all about! It's full to bursting with tons of brilliant and thought provoking tips to help you get closer to achieving your dreams. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.

Wishing you a wonderful month,

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Everything She Wants

"Brr, I'm sick of this cold weather!" Sally grumbled. "Lucky Hanna and John, sunning themselves in Bali!" "Yes, I know where I'd rather be right now!" chuckled Pete. "I wish we could afford a holiday," sighed Sally. "Fat chance of that though! Honestly Pete - first they're off on holiday, next they're moving to a beautiful new house. What next, a new Ferrari in the garage?"

"Ooh, do I detect a hint of sour grapes?" teased Pete. "Come on love, they work hard, they deserve a break as much as anyone else. Good on them I say!" "But we work hard too! You're right, maybe I am jealous but I don't understand it. Why is it Hanna always gets everything she wants?" Sally pouted. "I'm sure she doesn't get EVERYTHING she wants," Pete kissed the top of Sally's head. "I think she just wants different things than you do."

"What do you mean? I'd love a holiday and a new house!" Sally replied indignantly. "Yes - but Hanna earned those things by going without many things for many years. And when you don't waste money on the little things, you can afford big things like holidays. That's the difference, love," Pete explained gently. Sally glared at him with a look that could have curdled milk. "Well thank you very much, Peter. I said I wanted a holiday, not a lecture!"

2. August: Desert Island Dreams

Contrary to what Sally believes, Hanna doesn't get everything she wants. She has avoided wants and bought only what she needed for a long, long time. She didn't buy lots of clothes, lived with old furniture, went without a new car and fixed, patched, borrowed and mended wherever she could. Her patience and hard work has paid off and now she wants to finally enjoy her dream holiday; would you begrudge her that?

Like many people, Sally also longs for a tropical island holiday. She could get there, she's so close she's almost standing on the edge of it - but every cup of takeaway coffee, every pair of shoes, every new mobile phone she buys pushes her further and further away from ever setting foot on it, because she doesn't see them as a barrier. Until Sally recognises the distance that she herself is putting between her and her island, her holiday dreams and hopes for security will continue to elude her.

Is there a pile of junk between you and your dreams, like Sally's? Think about the things you frequently spend money on. Takeaway? Mobile top-ups? Cigarettes? Credit card purchases? How many of them need to be there? How many have you put there? These are your barriers. As long as you keep putting those barriers between you and your goals, you're never going to get there.

We all know the difference between a want and a need. This month focuses on identifying and eliminating all the things which are cluttering your path and getting in the way of what you REALLY want.

3. Super Dooper Bumper Best Of The Vault

When it comes to spotting the difference between a want and a need, our members are experts! We have so many terrific hints in the Vault on this subject that it was impossible to choose just a few. So this month we bring you a Super Dooper Bumper Best of the Vault, featuring no less than 25 of our favourite examples. Read on and see how easy it is to make a big difference to your finances by giving unnecessary wants the old heave-ho!

$66 saved in one caffeine-free month

I saved $66 in one month, just by giving up caffeine! I vowed I would not buy or consume coffee, chocolate or soft drink for a whole month and this was the result! Not only do I feel better for it I have an extra $66 to show for my efforts. I am convinced I can do even better next month and am planning a 'no sugar' month - no lollies, donuts or biscuits which I would normally buy. By doubling the challenge to include no caffeine AND no sugar, I believe I can double my savings to $120 per month! I have tried all sorts of ways to try and slash my grocery bill before this, but this has been the best I have come up with yet!

Contributed by: Meagan Widders

'Fish and chip philosophy' curbs spending

Our family lives by my 'fish and chip philosophy' which helps us put our spending priorities into perspective.

Whenever anyone in our family wants to buy something, we check if it's on special and then think about whether or not we really need it. To help us decide, I point out how the money spent on this item could be put toward fish and chips at the beach. We only have fish and chips occasionally, but it puts a concrete thought in our minds about how the money could be spent - on something frivolous now, or saved up and spent on a special treat for the whole family to enjoy.

Also, if someone comes home with something that they could possibly do without, I ask - 'how many fish and chips would that have bought?' This reinforces the point about being careful with money, without having to give a lecture about it!

Contributed by: Tanya O'Neill

'Grandma's Day' saves $30 a week on groceries

My husband and I have begun saving up to $30 per week on our grocery bill since we invented 'Grandma's Day!' When we go to the supermarket we ask ourselves, 'would Grandma have been able to buy this item in her day 60+ years ago?' If the answer is no, then we decide we don't need to buy it either! This saves us money on a whole range of items such as fancy dips, designer coffees and biscuits. We used to pay over $3.00 for a pack of 10 biscuits, now I can make 12 biscuits for around $1.00. Using plain yoghurt as a base we are even making our own dips; there are so many websites with great dip ideas. Now we are saving valuable money and our waistlines too!

Contributed by: Kitty

'Needs' and 'wants' jar system stops impulse buys

My 'wants' and 'needs' money boxes are saving me heaps of money in frivolous purchases. Every time I feel the urge to buy something I decide whether it is a 'want' or a 'need', write the item on a piece of a paper and put the paper into either my 'want' jar or my 'need' jar. At the end of the month I assess what's in each jar and decide if it really is a want or a need item. If it's a need I research the cheapest place to buy it, and it comes out of my weekly budget. More often than not I decide that I don't need the item, so the money stays in the bank!

Contributed by: Melissa

'Use what you have' - words to live by!

By having the words 'Use what you have' written as a reminder in your home (perhaps on a blackboard), it can help stop you from buying something you don't really need! Here are some examples of how this has helped us:

  • I had run out of soap, but as we had a stash of soaps from hotels where we had stayed, we used those up first. I also had samples of moisturiser which I used up before buying more, and will use up all my perfume before buying more.
  • When I wanted to buy a new pair of jeans, I used the ones I had until they were almost worn out. Now it is easier to justify a new pair!
  • I wanted to get a new doona for one of the boys. But after a rummage around in the cupboard, I 'used what I had' and found a couple of blankets. He now has a toasty warm bed.

The best part is you can usually create extra space at home while you use up what you have and save money!

Contributed by: Cor Quin

A little imagination can save a lot

Before I let myself buy something it has to pass the 'use it test'. I imagine buying it, taking it home and taking it out of the packaging. I think about where I'm going to put it and what I'm going to do with it. Then I imagine if I'll still be using it in a few weeks, months or years. If you find this hard you probably don't need it as much as you think you do!

Contributed by: Anon

Are evil muffins controlling your cash?

We control our cash by turning our spending weaknesses into our worst enemies! Whenever we get tempted to waste our money, we protect ourselves from what we call the 'evil muffins'. It's a handy little saying started by my brother and we all use it now to help us save. He used to love buying café-style muffins - until he realised his addiction was costing him $400 a year and stopping him from going on holiday. From then on, those tempting muffins became his evil foe! Whenever he sees them now, he refuses to let them ruin his holiday dreams. Instead of giving in and buying them, he thinks 'Ugh - what an evil muffin!'

Of course it doesn't have to be just about muffins; it could be Coke or a chocolate bar - whatever your usual preference! We often don't think about those 'small, insignificant' purchases each day - like a simple muffin. But add up all the 'muffins' you buy every week. When you realise how much they are costing you, you may find yourself looking at those small indulgences in a whole new light too. Don't let the evil muffins ruin your dreams!

Contributed by: Xenia N.

Avoid doing the Twenty Dollar Tango!

I am saving over $2000 a year by placing visual reminders around the house to help me stop making spontaneous purchases at the mall.

I was spending $20 here and there on things that I didn't really need, telling myself that the blouse, CD, book or thing I was buying was a bargain at just 20 or so dollars. This habit was costing around $40 a week!

To break it, I dug out a couple of these so-called 'bargains' and left them out on the table to remind me of the money I had wasted. Then I stuck a photo of Fiji on the fridge to represent the holiday I could have spent the money on instead.

Since then, every time I am in a shop and find myself tempted to buy something I don't really need, I close my eyes and visualise the unnecessary items on the table, then visualise myself sitting by the pool in a Fijian resort. It's a simple trick, but the temptation vanishes with the blink of an eye!

I estimate that this saves me around $2080 a year. Last year this was enough for my husband and I to have that holiday in Fiji, and this year we went to New York.

Saving in this way makes me feel so good that I have cut spending in other areas too. It's wonderful that without feeling deprived we've been able to enrich our lives with travel experiences we never thought we could afford.

Contributed by: Eve

Beat the winter blues

Since the cold season began I have spent a lot of money on unnecessary items such as hiring DVDs, instant foods, takeaway and junk food. Life tends to take a turn for the worse from warm, sunny, happy days to dark, cold and rainy days which makes you feel depressed and not want to do anything.

I have decided to try and overcome my depressing state and make better use of my time and money. Here are a few of my tips:

  • I have made and frozen different flavoured soups so when I feel cold, down or in a hurry I can quickly make a warm, delicious snack.
  • I have decided to bake once a week with a friend (while I cook my dinner in the oven). Not only will this help heat my house but it will save money on buying junk food and biscuits too. Also having someone else here with me helps with not feeling down and depressed.
  • I am doing one thing each day to make myself feel special and uplift my mood. This helps curb my need for spending money too. I do simple things like painting my nails, giving myself time-out from the kids and making jewellery - which is both relaxing and rewarding. I recently made a necklace and earring set which I gave to a friend. She loves it which in turn makes me feel happy!

Don't let the winter blues get you down, do something special with your time for yourself and for others, you'll feel a lot better about yourself and whatever situation you're in.

Contributed by: Simone Wright

Change of attitude

For many years I shopped with the attitude of - 'It's my right to buy whatever I want, when I want it'. Recently though, I have changed my attitude to shopping and now go out with purse in hand and the thought - 'It's my right to buy whatever I need, when I need it'.

It does take a bit of self-control but the savings are worth it, as I now only buy those items I really need. This change has brought about many other benefits too. It is now a lot easier to see what is in my pantry as I don't have five bags of pasta sitting there, or five different types of coffee. Even my once disorganised wardrobe is thanking me because I now think hard about whether I really need new clothes rather than buying on impulse.

I am thankful for the tips I have picked up on Simple Savings and my bank balance is thankful too!

Contributed by: Serendipity

Confessions of a shopaholic

Transforming myself from a shopaholic to a smarter consumer has enriched my whole life. Not only am I saving money, my life has become deeper and more meaningful since I decided to live by the following rules:

  • Keep away from the shops
  • Buy only what you need
  • Buy second hand if you can
  • Be stylish, not fashionable
  • Don't buy what you can borrow
  • Stop reading glossy magazines that encourage shopping
  • Borrow books and magazines from the library
  • Read about simple living
  • Do it slowly
  • Spend more time with your family and friends.

These rules may sound simple, but they have changed my life. For as long as I can remember, I have loved shopping. I could easily do it all day, every day and never tired of it. I enjoyed the quest to find bargains or something I had 'always' wanted or didn't yet have.

When I felt angry, sad, lonely, fat, old, poor, disappointed, rejected, embarrassed or simply 'not good enough' - I went shopping. It made me feel better.

When I felt happy, confident, rich, delighted, loved, appreciated and 'on top of the world' - I celebrated by going shopping.

Although I work full time, I had never paid off my credit card and financially I was always struggling. Then I heard about climate change and the impact my shopping was making on the environment. That's when I decided I would stop shopping all the time.

At first, this decision left an enormous vacuum in my life. I used to be very busy - 'Never enough time in the day' was my mantra. Then suddenly I had lots of free time! I didn't have many really close friends, except my mother and sister. We often used to meet for a coffee and a chat while we were out shopping. But with all the free time I now had, I realised I had been too busy to make other meaningful friendships because of my constant shopping.

I don't meet my mum or sister at the shops any more. We now get together in each other's homes and, although I have always enjoyed their company, I rediscovered a deeper connection with them. We talk, laugh and cry for hours and hours. I am learning so much more about them. I have started to deepen the friendships I have with people who were just 'acquaintances' before. Instead of shopping, I invite them over for a cup of tea or lunch or for a walk along the beach. I'm even starting a book club.

Due to the money I was able to save from not shopping so much and because I wanted to entertain more, I rented out my small unit and moved to a lovely old house. However, I soon realised I needed more furniture, so I bought it all very cheaply, second hand from eBay. Everyone who visits my home says how wonderful and stylish it is. I love making cheap, affordable meals for my friends. I had my first party on New Year's Eve and 35 people came, each bringing their own meat, drinks or salads. To any shopaholics out there like me, it IS possible to change - I'm living proof!

Contributed by: Jane

Do you really need it? Ask before you buy

I am spending less simply by asking myself 'I didn't need this yesterday, so do I really need it today?' For example, there are lots of tempting winter clothes in the shops at the moment but I got through last winter properly clothed with the ones I already have, so do I really need new ones? When I see that lovely ornament, picture, dinner set, quilt cover and so on, I ask 'will it really change my life for the better?'. I only have to look around the house and add up in my head what all my impulse buys have cost me to realise they were not necessary!

Contributed by: Leonie

DVD rental money put to better use

Changing one of my husband's bad habits has enabled us to pay our car loan off faster! My husband is a DVD maniac - I wouldn't be surprised if he has seen every movie in our local store. I calculated he was spending approximately $50 per week on movies! So we made a deal on January 1st this year that in order for him to hire a movie, he must walk the 500 metre journey to the store instead of taking the car. He is also no longer allowed to pay full price for a rental; he can only hire a movie if he buys it using a savings coupon. In just 16 weeks, this small change of habit has enabled me to pay an extra three payments on our car loan!

Contributed by: Jenny Davidson

Enjoy a friend's company without spending

To take your mind off going shopping and spending, organise for a friend to come around for coffee instead. It's a great way to catch up with each other and enjoy someone else's company - no spending necessary! You could also alternate between them coming over, or you going to their place, then you are still going on an outing!

Contributed by: Toni

Farewell Foxtel, I'm better off without you!

I've just saved $1380 a year by cutting Foxtel and my house has never been cleaner! Why? Because the time I was spending watching shows that I previously just HAD to watch, is now spent making my house sparkle instead. My husband has just been made redundant and all unnecessary expenses had to go. Foxtel was first on the list and now we're finally getting to those niggly chores that we kept putting off. Watching 'Extreme Couponing' has now become real life 'Extreme Cleaning'!

Contributed by: Claire the dancing Brizvegan Bear

Follow the $1 per wear rule

I manage my clothes purchases by asking myself just one question. 'Can I get this item to $1.00 per wear?' What I mean by this is if I buy a $30 top, I need to be sure that I will wear it 30 times before a) I get sick of it, b) it gets worn out, or c) it goes out of fashion. A $30 top worn only three times equates to $10 per wear. I wear around five items every day, so I aim to pay no more than $5.00 per day for my outfits. Spending any more than that sounds ridiculously expensive and it really helps me put a purchase into perspective.

Contributed by: Shantal Jones

Friendship and community a cure for shopping

I have put an end to my shopaholic ways for good by volunteering at my children's school. When my eldest two were young I spent an awful lot of time 'shopping for company' and got myself into terrible debt. My eldest two are now at school and my younger two started day care six months ago as I wanted them to socialise with other children and give myself some time alone. When they first started I found myself going back to my old ways and, although I never spent any money (thanks to sheer willpower), I would wander the shops aimlessly. I became frustrated with myself and realised that I did not actually want all this time alone and would rather be busy doing things.

Then I got a note in my daughter's school bag asking for volunteers for the canteen, and I haven't looked back since. I now volunteer every Thursday, my children are proud to have me around and I have made some great friends and really feel part of a team. Not only that, but I don't spend a cent! I have enjoyed it so much that this year I decided to take on the role of coordinator for the school's soccer teams. It just goes to show that saving your money and spending your time buys you something priceless, not just material.

Contributed by: Rebecca Z.

Girl power pact curbs spending and encourages recycling

My girlfriend and I have made a pact that is helping to keep our spending down and protect the world's resources. We have agreed never to buy unnecessary items and we both support and encourage each other to stick to it. Our new motto is 'nothing is cheap if you don't need it'. We now avoid sales, where once we would have been the first there, we stay away from shopping centres and we buy things second hand from garage sales and op shops wherever possible. I have found I rarely need to purchase things from a store any more, as long as I am patient and look at used items with a 'renovator's eye'. We now see this as a new way of living and have a monthly competition where we track our spending to see which one of us has been the most frugal and inventive. This has done wonders for our budgets!

Contributed by: Cheryl Haining

Happiness and honesty saves on splurges

The easiest way I have found for me to save is to be honest with myself. After becoming aware that I was saying 'this will be my ONE indulgence while I save' at least once a day (with savings going nowhere - strange that!), I had to face the facts. I am not happy with what I am doing work-wise at the moment; therefore I vent my frustration by spending money on trifles. This simply keeps me in limbo, just numbing the 'pain' enough to go on and on. I now have a choice - either I change my job or my attitude. Either way, all these 'deserved indulgences' will no longer be necessary. Estimated savings - $3.50 per day for my coffee, with shoes and designer hair shampoo thrown in, I come up with a way to instantly save an easy $300-400 a month!

Contributed by: Maienkind

Is your vice worth the price?

Almost everyone has a vice of some kind. It could be cigarettes, coffee, chocolate or energy drinks, the list goes on! Everyone deserves a treat now and again, but have you ever added up how much your vice is REALLY costing you, not to mention depriving you? Now you can find out in just a few seconds, thanks to an amazing Vice Calculator at

Just hop online and answer a few basic questions, and if your vice is not listed on the page, no problem, you can enter in your own to get a personalised result. The important thing is that you enter in your estimate for how much your vice currently costs you each week and the calculator will tell you in an instant how much it will cost you over a lifetime if you keep up your current rate. You will be amazed. You will be horrified! But you might just end up thousands of dollars better off. It is a fantastic and thought provoking tool for all ages, so get the whole family involved!

Contributed by: Summer Breeze

Look but don't buy

I am a very impulsive, visual person and I love beautiful things. Consequently, any time I'm near a shop, there's a danger of overspending on gorgeous stationery, home wares, ribbons, books and so on. I also enjoy the string handled bags many of these items are packed in and love to inspect my purchases when I get home from shopping.

Since I enjoy the experience of looking for lovely things, it would be counterproductive for me to try and avoid shopping. What does work for me, however, is to take a beautiful notebook in a string handled bag and write down everything I would have bought on these expeditions, along with the stores and the prices. That way, I can still look and imagine but without the price tags! And the total at the bottom of the notebook page is my saving for the day. Last month that amounted to $260, enough for health insurance for our family, which we always claimed we couldn't afford.

This little change has saved our family over $3000 this past year. It's amazing how powerful you feel just having a list of what you wanted, even when you didn't buy those things. After a few days, most of what is on the list is forgotten and those very few items that still stand out in your mind can be the odd treat to yourself, or ideas to give to family and friends as birthday or Christmas gift requests.

Try it! You won't believe it works until you do.

Contributed by: Nicol Morgan

Our profitable pact

My husband and I made a pact to reduce our spending and cut up our credit cards this year. We now have to pre-arrange all purchases with each other, either before we leave for work in the morning or by phone during the day. This works for many reasons:

  1. I rarely take my mobile phone with me so, more often than not, my husband can't reach me to ask if he can buy something. In the time it takes for me to listen to his message and get back to him, he has usually changed his mind about the purchase anyway!
  2. If I have to call my husband before buying something frivolous, I choose not to, simply because I don't want to justify buying a trashy magazine, a custard tart or an eBay bargain. I just do without and I don't give it a second thought once I leave the shops or go offline.
  3. We can give each other a second opinion on whether or not we really need to buy that item. One of us might know of a cheaper alternative, of someone who can lend us the item or even remember that we already have the item at home.

Our strict pact certainly works for us - we have paid $1500 off our credit cards in the last three weeks!

Contributed by: Science Nerd

Save by not buying 'stuff'

I found this very interesting video that can really help the way you think about buying less. It takes 20 minutes to view and you will learn, as well as laugh, as Annie Leonard looks at the way our production and consumption patterns affect our environmental and social issues.

Contributed by: Jan

Savvy saving or dumb debt?

Upon visiting one of those daily deal websites I saw that they had Frozen themed single duvet covers for $24.95. Before I knew it, I had four of them in my cart, one for each child, and was about to make a whopping saving of $167.52! My credit card was already in my hand when my brain woke up and reminded me that we don't actually need new duvet covers and that, while the kids would like them, it wasn't going to make anyone's life any better. That $167.52 saving was actually just going to be a new dumb debt of $112.44 running up interest on my credit card.

This is big for me - I think I may have turned a corner!

Contributed by: Maxed Out Mama

Stay loyal to your budget, not stores

I have realised that one of the best ways for me to save money is to leave all my store loyalty cards at home. While cleaning out my bulging purse recently, I realised that it was bulging for the wrong reason. Instead of being full of cash, it was full of loyalty cards! Over the years the marketers had worked their magic on me and as a reforming Sad Sally I was upset with myself. For example, if you are a VIP with Sussan, for every $500 you spend there they give you a $50 voucher - which expires in three months. I realised I had been shopping there for women's fashion to the exclusion of most other stores and over two years had spent a whopping $2500 to get $250 in vouchers! That's $105 per month and while good quality, I have since realised similar items in other shops cost less at normal price.

Even more annoying was the number of times I had gone there and bought garments at full price because I knew I'd get VIP points, only to find the same items a couple of weeks later on their reduced racks, making the justification of their points useless.

So I decided that from now on all my loyalty cards will be kept in a wallet safely at HOME. If I want something I will shop around for it. Most stores have hold times so I can always go back if it's in one of the 'loyalty' stores. So far I have saved two months of cruising the racks of Sussan and other stores. That's $210 I've managed to hold on to so far and still counting!

Contributed by: Olivera Sands

True wealth comes in many forms

I am richer than I've ever been thanks to my Simple Savings outlook. When I first joined SS I made a number of small but significant changes to my life and the savings and benefits immediately began to add up. Here are a few of them:

I almost halved my grocery bill in a month - it went from $815 in February to just $430 in March when I started shopping at Aldi and carefully tracked every cent. I discovered my 'inner baker' and instead of buying cakes and biscuits, I baked them from scratch at home. When my washing machine broke down, instead of having to pay out $700 for a new one my wonderful boss gave me an old spare machine they had and no longer used. I made two calls to my insurers, one for my car and one for my house, and found I could save $150 and $400 respectively on my yearly payments. I checked my mobile plan. Because I hardly use it, it was not working in my favour. I changed to a prepaid plan and now what I spend is what I use.

And, finally, I stopped looking for another job to earn extra money. Every dollar I save means time I don't have to work. I am now building my 'wealth' every day in more ways than one.

Many of my friends I used to envy have new cars, impressive houses, expensive clothes - and huge credit card bills. They holiday in Bali or Queensland but work 40 hour weeks in order to do so. They pick up tired and stressed children from after school programs and feed them take away foods because they're too short on time and energy to cook from scratch.

I have a 13-year-old car, a 1980's house, cheap clothes - and NO credit card debt. We holiday three times a year for a week at a time in our trusty 80's caravan and I work 20 hours a week, during school hours, for four days a week. I have one day just for me (or housework). My children walk to and from school and come home to baked goods, home-cooked meals and a happy relaxed household. I'm there to oversee and help with homework and I watch all their sports games.

Ask me again if I want another job to have the 'stuff' I once thought I wanted/needed and my answer will be a clear, precise, 'No way'. Thank you Simple Savings for helping me to step back and see what's really important in life.

Contributed by: Di P.

4. Best of the Forum: We're Not Going Without, We're Getting Ahead!

One of the best things about the Savings Forum is the motivation and encouragement you can find there. It's the perfect place to share all your savings triumphs and tribulations and stay accountable to each other. Here are just some of the excellent 'wants versus needs' discussions and challenges our busy members have been undertaking.

'We've got no money, so we must think'

When finances are short it is often necessary to get creative in order to achieve what we need to without spending. After reading this quote from Nobel Prize winner Ernest Rutherford, GoGo Goanna wants to know how other members 'think' their way out of spending money.

Not buying it!

No books, no takeaway, no new clothes - Happy Aspie has been inspired by Judith Levine's book 'Not Buying It' and has decided to apply its principles to her own life, one month at a time. Follow her progress (and feel free to join her!) in this series of threads.

Sacrificing now to be better off in the future

As her name suggests, 'Not your typical Gen Y' is just that and is not impressed with the media stereotype of her generation! She isn't scared to make sacrifices to reach her goals and wants to know what other members have also changed or given up in order to ensure a secure future.

The value of nothing - people know the price of everything and the value of nothing

As Oscar Wilde famously wrote, 'nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing'. But decades later, are we even further away from an understanding of the real cost of what we consume? This fascinating thread started by Donna is well worth a read.

My 2016 op shop clothing challenge

Farmer Susy made a great saving last year on her work clothes by purchasing them from local op shops. This year she is going one further by vowing to buy ALL her clothes this way and wants to know who would like to join her? Save the planet and save a bundle by jumping on to this thread.

Reducing day by day

Knighty was horrified recently when she calculated how much she and her hubby were spending on average each day. Since then, she has kept careful tabs on their daily spending and made non-essentials a thing of the past. Read how much of a difference it has made here!

Run your household like a business

'Think positive' and her family have the potential to save $400 a week - but it's going to take some staunch application! So from now on, they have agreed to run their home like a business and everyone is responsible for making it work - kids included! A great idea and a very interesting and enjoyable thread.

5. Best Members' Blog: The Techno Age

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win $100 cash each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top right, then 'Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's Blog winner is Bexta with her very well written and thought provoking post 'The Techno Age'.

The Techno Age

Sometimes I feel that my generation (I'm 27) have a hard task ahead of them when it comes to saving money. We live in an age where we are constantly viewing other people's life choices, without necessarily 'really' seeing what is happening. We have smart phones, we have tablets and laptops and PC's, these devices are almost like opening a portal between our lives and anyone else we come into contact with over social media. And often, what we see is only a snapshot. A small portion of time. One choice.

We get to see the purchase of a new car, home or lounge. We get to see holidays and fashion parades. We get to see a life as the owner of the profile has created in their digital world. What we don't get to see is the repercussions of a single choice. We don't see bank balances or inside closets. Often, we don't see the real truths that are staring us right in the face. Based on the snapshots we see, we form opinions and make assumptions.

It's a scary age really; there are so many outside influences to contend with. Going home after a long day and leaving the hustle and bustle behind isn't really what it once was. Because, so many of us go home and use our social media accounts as a way to unwind, relax and chill out. But what we are doing at that moment in time is opening ourselves up to how our car is getting a bit old, the guy down the road got a great deal on finance, he seems to be doing OK, we could do that. All of a sudden we 'need' a new lounge, the kids 'need' an over the top birthday party and we all 'need' a ritzy holiday. Because, well, everyone's doing it.

I call us the Jones generation. Because everyone is keeping up with the Joneses. I should clarify that I am being very general in saying that everyone my age is like this. Not all of us are like this, a lot are though. And fighting against that can sometimes feel like you are unsuccessfully swimming upstream.

We try very hard not to buy into the Jones generation, to the point where I no longer view Facebook. People's personal lives and their digital lives sometimes don't correlate, leaving an impression that doesn't actually exist. It's hard though, it really is all around us, constantly telling us ideals of your life could be simpler, mundane tasks could be gone, more time to enjoy the finer things, your children could play quietly together, it goes on and on and on. The real kicker is this though, we get these ideas of what we 'need' from the outlets we utilise in our 'free time', we buy these things to give us more 'free time', often we then have extra time to spend being exposed to all those things that we 'need', we jump straight back onto the ferris wheel of the Jones cycle...

Ultimately we are all in control of our own life choices, where we spend our money, how we live, what we eat etc. We have choices to make and blaming these outlets is unfair, we have our own responsibility to take where wants are merged with needs. It's interesting though, how times have changed, how I worry about what my children and my children's children will have to contend with. Hopefully minimalism continues to be hip and we will all be better off!

Brilliant stuff Bexta, thank you so much for sharing!

You can read more of our members' blogs here.

6. Best of SS Facebook: How to Stop Buying Things You Don't Need

Love Facebook or hate it, the Simple Savers Facebook group is a great way to learn even more tips and enjoy reading other members' successes. One of our favourite posts this month comes from Kylie, who draws our attention to an excellent and very timely read.

With spring very nearly upon us, now is the perfect time to get cleaning and decluttering. But even more importantly than clearing space and getting rid of unwanted stuff is ensuring that we don't make the same costly mistakes again. This excellent article will help you to identify and assess your shopping habits, steel your resolve and see through all those sneaking marketing ploys that got you to buy that stuff in the first place. Thank you for sharing, Kylie!

Joining our busy Facebook community is super easy. Either search up 'Simple Savers' on Facebook or click this link and request to join. Once you're in, let the fun begin!

7. Saving Story: Tears Turn to Triumph for Happy Declutterer

My new love of decluttering has finally got me on the road to a house deposit! For years I have had a budget and was very money conscious but still couldn't control my spending habits. I felt as though I had tried a million different things to stop impulsive purchases but hated not getting what I wanted. This led me into frustration and a hate towards everything involving money.

I finally found the answer when my partner expressed his concern with our lack of wardrobe space in comparison to the rate of growth of my wardrobe items. He made a rule that if one thing was to come in, I also had to take out one thing to donate. I had a rocky start and there were many tears but once I decided on a couple of items I seemed more inclined to get rid of more and more and I continued on to declutter ALL my possessions. Going through each item in my house I got rid of a lot of things but before I tossed them out, I first laid them out on my bed and just thought about how much money I had thrown away. How many hours had I had to work to pay for all these things that I didn't even love?

It hit me hard that I had blown all this money on impulse purchases and trends that I got over very quickly. Hundreds of hours of hard work, for me to essentially throw my money in the bin. I printed all my banking transactions for the 12 months prior to my breakthrough and highlighted all my purchases that I probably could have gone without. It all added up to over $8000, over 300 hours of hard work, the cost of my first two cars!

Now when I see something I want to buy, I stop and think back to how much money I've wasted already. And I can feel content in my decision not to purchase. I love fashion, I love shoes and I love bags. But I LOVE my new found freedom and the control over my finances that decluttering has given me even more!

Contributed by: Jaymee Hams

8. Goodbye for Now

That's another newsletter done and dusted! We hope you have enjoyed it and found it helpful, especially the Super Dooper Vault selection! Do let us know how you go with your 'Desert Island decluttering' too, we would love to hear how it works for you!

Until next time,

December 2011 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - December 2011

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Mother's Pride
  2. January is Screen Time Month!
  3. Hidden Gems Competition Winner
  4. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner
  5. Lin's Garden Diary
  6. Best of the Vault: Rediscover Family Fun
  7. Best of the Forum: Switch it Off!
  8. Cooking with Mimi: Almond Crusted Chicken Schnitzels
    and Choc Mint Rolled-Up Pav
  9. Penny's Blog: Happy New Year!
  10. Homeopathy Corner: I Thought I Was a Goner
  11. From Last Month: An Overabundance of Hankies
  12. This Month's Help Request: Healthy Lunchbox Options
  13. Savings Story: My $50 Christmas!
  14. So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye :-D

Happy new year!

I hope you have had a fantastic 2011 and you and your calendar ('The NEW, clever YOU!') are all set to make 2012 a great year! The first month we are helping you bring in a screen time currency to your household. I love 'screen time', it has made a huge difference to our household, as I'm sure it will to yours.

If there are any of your friends or family who you think will benefit from 'screen time' or a copy of the calendar, send it through to them. It is for everybody. You never know, you may just change their life and they will thank you.

"The $21 Challenge has changed my life. I never liked cooking and baked twice a year - cakes for my two boys' birthdays. Now I menu plan every week, cook a whole meal at least six days a week, with desserts two to three times a week, and I even bake once or twice a week. Cooking doesn't seem to be such a chore if you make things with ingredients you already have. My husband thinks it's great as he eats (always has eaten) huge amounts, one son likes the baking and the other is much better at trying new things than ever before. I have several new items of kitchen equipment and several new cookery books (three of which are Australian Women's Weekly)." (Nicola Hunt, UK)

"Today I went online to buy a gift membership for my sister and was so very happy to see that it was only $17! Thanks so much - you've just saved me money on gift buying while giving someone something very useful. It has made me think about who else I could give this to as a gift. Also, I was prepared for it to be tricky to sign up someone else as a gift and was thinking in advance of what passwords etc to put for them, only to find out that it was really simple and quick and I could finalise the whole process before my toddler even realised I had left the room. Thanks Simple Savings!" (Cassandra Walker)

"Wow, just wanted to say what an amazing place the SS Forum-land is! Having followed one thread in particular, the member's story is so heartbreaking and distressing, but by being on SS for just over six hours her mood has improved and her power to make a good decision seems to have returned. I am so impressed with the SS members who responded to her post and just wanted to share." (Nicole)

Happy new year! I hope you have a great one!

All the best,

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Mother's Pride

"This looks fantastic, Sal!" Sally's neighbour, Linda commented on seeing the beautiful table set for dinner. "You really didn't have to go to so much trouble though!" "Oh, it wasn't me - it was Sarah," Sally smiled at her daughter proudly, "she did everything - right down to the table decorations."

"Well, you've done a wonderful job, Sarah! Thanks so much for inviting me for dinner, can I help with anything?" "No! It's OK Linda, that's my job," piped up Sally's son, James. "Do you need a hand with anything Mum? Does the dishwasher need emptying yet?" "Not yet, darling, be patient!" laughed Sally. "Don't worry; I'll let you know as soon as it's ready." Linda looked around the house in amazement - she never thought having kids would be like this!

"I might not have any kids of my own but Sally, your children are like no other children I've ever seen! What's your secret?" Linda found herself asking. "I have found a way to motivate them," Sally smiled. "I don't pay them money for chores. Instead they get paid in screen time. Sarah gets half an hour to spend on the computer or TV if she does a good job setting the table, another half an hour for the dishwasher and so on." "Wow Sally! That is brilliant. Where did you get that idea?" asked Linda.

2. January is Screen Time Month!

My iPad is brilliant. It cleans my floors, sets the table, prepares food and even empties the dishwasher! This is pretty good considering when I first got my iPad I thought it was just a stupid toy - a mobile computer whose screen was still too small to do anything useful. But that was before my kids got hold of it.

You see, my kids love my iPad. It has cool, addictive games that they want to play again and again and again. So my children, my iPad and I have a 'Screen Time' agreement. The one who empties the dishwasher gets half an hour of screen time. If they share the task, they share the time. And that is how my iPad does my household chores!

Screen time rules in the Lippey household:

  • Empty the dishwasher = 30 minutes screen time
  • Set the table for dinner = 10 minutes
  • Set the table faster = 15 minutes
  • Set the table faster AND beautifully = 20 minutes
  • Clearing dishes from the table = 10 minutes
  • Wiping the table after dinner = 5 minutes
  • Vacuuming the kitchen = 15 minutes
  • Vacuuming under the table = 15 minutes
  • Vacuuming the lounge room = 30 minutes
  • Vacuuming the hallway = 10 minutes
  • Vacuuming the bedroom = 15 minutes per bedroom
  • Making a meal for the rest of us = 30 minutes
  • Tidying hard toys = 5 minutes
  • Tidying books = 5 minutes
  • Changing Elora's nappy = 5 minutes for #1, 15 minutes for #2 :-D
  • Folding a basket of washing = 30 minutes
  • Hanging out a basket of washing = 30 minutes

You get the idea! If you think offering screen time for chores instead of money is stingy, think again. We tried 'money for chores' but it didn't work. The reward needs to be instant.

How to implement screen time rules in your household:

  • You will need a partner in crime. This can be your life partner, best friend or family member but needs to be someone who will back you up if the kids start whinging.
  • Take the screens away. Remove any batteries where applicable, for example, from video game controllers and so on if you need to.
  • Hold a family meeting and tell them that you love them and want them to be the best people they can be. Tell them you also want your family to be the best it can be so you are going to completely ban screens for one month; lock anything with a screen away or loan them to Grandma.
  • Wait for the howls of complaint...
  • THEN offer them a second option - they can earn screen time. They will still be allowed to use their iPads/iPods/game consoles but they have to have done something to earn the time, such as putting the washing away first. Make it clear that if they say no all the screens are going to disappear because you love them and spending so much time in front of screens is shrinking their brain. The choice is theirs - lose the screens altogether or embrace SCREEN TIME! :-D

This system really works because the kids are given limits which they can control, so it gives them the independence and freedom they need while getting them to contribute to the household. Everybody's happy! Give it a go this month and write in and let us know how it went. We are looking forward to hearing about your hurdles and how you jumped over them!

3. Hidden Gems Competition Winner

The Hidden Gems directory is designed to help members find it easier to source the best deals in their area. Whenever you come across a real gem of a store, enter it in our Hidden Gems directory and you could win our monthly prize of $100 cash! This is our way of saying thank you for helping other members save by sharing your knowledge. The more information you can give us, the better your chance of winning. This month's winner is Grease Mechanic's Workshop as nominated by HappyHappyJoyJoy.

Grease Mechanic's Workshop
37 Lower King Street
Queensland 4510

Here's what makes this one such a great example of a Hidden Gem:

Ladies - if you're like me, you just dread the thought of taking your car into the mechanics! They speak a language I don't understand, they're usually all men and (gulp) I'm always just a little bit worried that they might try and rip me off. Well, this little hidden gem is a Godsend if you're a woman like me!

At 'Grease' (which is the separate garage/mechanic next door to Freedom Fuels) you do not need to worry anymore! Yes, they're all blokes, and yes, they still speak some kind of Klingon language from what I can ascertain BUT they will take the time to translate into English, they treat you nicely and with respect and *woot woot* they are not in the business of ripping you off! Hip hip hooray!

Seriously though, I needed to take my much loved Chrysler PT Cruiser in for a RWC and to have a couple of little bits checked out. I rang around and everyone else on the planet seemed to be too busy to see me, except for Grease. The chap on the phone said to pop down the next day and he would see if he could do my RWC on the spot.

When I turned up, there were quite a few cars there, so I parked up and went into the little office. Mr Mechanic chap asked when I needed my car back, and because I needed to pick up my cat from the vet, I asked for 'as soon as possible'. Anyway, Mr Mechanic chap went and removed another car from inside the garage, told me to take a seat in the office and he would do my RWC straight away.

Was I impressed? Oh, yes :)

So I sat in the office, which is teeny weeny, and because of the height of the reception, you could barely see that I was sitting there. I was able to hear the men who work as part of the mechanics garage, and I also heard how they treated their customers on the phone. And I am happy to tell you that they treated every single woman with respect and due care. The way they spoke to people on the phone is the same as the way they speak to people in person. Yes, the two head mechanics would sometimes call the customer 'darlin'' but it was in no way derogatory or mean. I felt that it was their way of being friendly and trying to put people at ease.

When it came time to tell me what needed to be done on my car, I have to admit, I did think I was in a Star Trek movie (e.g. mechanic chap was moving his lips and a Klingon dialect was coming out). So I asked him to write down his recommendations so I could get my husband to check them for me. He was more than happy to provide me with written documentation and possible costings and also when he thought things would need to be done by, such as my seat belt needed to be seen to asap. Based on this, I chose to have the more urgent things taken care of immediately. And once again, this was not a problem.

And once again, was I happy? Oh yes!

'Grease' is a busy little place. In the time I was there, it was bustling with customers on the phone and in person - some with appointments and some without. And you know the old adage "Go where the locals go", so obviously 'Grease' is a hot fave with the locals, and with good reason. The men who work there are decent people. They work hard, they're friendly and they are not in the market of ripping you off. If I'm going to have to fork out money for my car, then I want it to be to a place that treats me decently and who do a decent job. And it's kinda nice to support a local firm. *happy smile*

Congratulations HappyHappyJoyJoy for being this month's winner and a huge pat on the back to Grease for providing consistently outstanding customer service and value for money!

Send us your best restaurant Hidden Gem!

We want to know which is your favourite local or little-known restaurant! When you have the spare cash for a fantastic meal out, where do you go? Tell us about it and you could win $100 cash! You can enter your Hidden Gem into our monthly competition here. Thank you and good luck!

4. Best Member's Blog: This Month's Winner

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a cash prize of $100 each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Helenc for this extract from her blog 'Defining who you are'.

"I was just having a shower a few moments ago and was thinking about what defines who you are. Not only mentally, but physically. And not only a spiritual, airy-fairy 'who' you are, but also your 'look'.

I am a wife to my husband and a mum to a son and daughter. My life has taken a turn though, and I resigned from work a week ago. I have gone from being a full-time receptionist to a carer for my two Asperger's men - my husband and son. Being a full-time carer, it will be hard not to focus on them and neglect me.

So, apart from being a wife, mum and carer, what else defines me?

Where do I start?

I decided to start small. With appearances. I know, it might sound a bit superficial and shallow, but how many women often lament that they never have time to look after themselves because they are too busy with the kids and the house? I'm betting, a lot.

Thinking about different looks and clothes, I've discovered what style I really like. A slightly hippy, free spirit look. If you've seen the movie Twister, think of the older lady that plays Aunt Meg. I LOVE her. Now, I know that she is old enough to be my mum, but I love her look, her hair, everything. When I am in my 60's, I want to look exactly like her. Long hair (naturally grey), long flowered skirts, soft blouses, long dangly earrings and jewellery etc.

I know the look isn't really 'in', but I don't care. I LOVE it, and I feel that it is very 'me'. Problem though - my wardrobe is mainly work clothes or jeans and t-shirts. I do have one or two long skirts though, and a couple of loose floral tops. The best thing with the look not really being in though, a lot of clothes in this style will hopefully be hiding at the op-shops! Ooh, op-shop crawl! Bring it on! lol

My mum inadvertently started me on the path to my new look this afternoon. She gave me a gorgeous pair of dangly earrings! Very happy!

I also want to change my house to reflect the 'new me'. Unfortunately this will involve housework. Dang. But I want to make the house softer. It is a rental so we can't do TOO much, but I'd like some indoor plants (especially the ones that are supposed to clean the air around computers etc). I also want to get my candle collection out of the cupboard and actually start USING them. Start growing some herbs, fruit and vegetables in pots, and spending more time outside instead of in front of the computer (sacrilege, I know). Or at least I could get a notebook computer and take it to a park! lol

I also want to start doing something just for me every night, along the lines of the 50c indulgence thread. Last night after I washed my hair I sprayed it with colour shine spray. Cost was $0, as the spray was from a hairdresser sample bag that was given to me at the shopping centre. Tonight I plan on using toner and moisturiser that I've had sitting in the cupboard for ages and haven't used. It was Clinique so not cheap. I spent the money on it, I should be using it! I also received some Nivea samples in the post, so I'll be using them up too. I used to be an Avon rep and have so many samples and products lying around the house it's not funny. My mission will be to start using them up, and not buy any more until it is all gone. I could probably go for at least a two years without having to buy moisturiser or cosmetics!

Eventually I also want to get back in shape and lose the baby weight. My baby will be starting prep in January. So the baby weight excuse doesn't really hold water any more, does it! Instead, the baby weight is mainly holding fizzy drinks and orange juice. :S So, time to cut back on the fizz, and start drinking regular water. I'll try and eat my 2 pieces of fruit and some veges each day too. Note to self - popcorn does not count as a vegetable. Especially when cooked in butter and liberally coated in sugar and salt.

So in summary, a complete body and lifestyle overhaul. Hmm. That's a big challenge! One step at a time!

Off to have a glass of water and a nectarine!

Congratulations helenc and all the very best to you and your family for 2012!

To read more from her, or any of our other members' blogs, click here

5. Lin's Garden Diary

What a fantastic month it has been in the garden! Summer has arrived, which is when we eat lots of salads. It's an incredible feeling to walk to the back yard and pick our own freshly homegrown produce! I simply cannot wait until next summer when I can pick an entire salad from the garden. This month we have picked and eaten radishes, beans, beetroot, peas (they never make it to the plate, just straight in our mouth!), and it's only a matter of days before we pick our first corn and tomatoes! The regular weekly feed of seaweed juice or worm wee has proven to be a huge success. Our corn was looking a little sad, but a good dose of seaweed juice and 'voila'! I have since learnt that corn requires lots of feed. They now get a big drink of seaweed each week and worm wee every fortnight.

This month I wanted to focus on composting. This is when your food scraps simply decompose and return to the soil. My goal is to invest in a rotating tumbler bin, however, with our build underway I need to keep an eye on the budget, so we will have to save for this and make do with a trench compost in the meantime.

We have been throwing away our fruit and vegetable scraps and it felt like throwing away 'gold'. My 'gardening mentor' suggested we have a 'bokashi', the idea was developed in Japan, meaning 'fermented organic matter'. So we found a large bucket and a large plate to use as a lid, kept it in the kitchen and filled it with scraps. It's odorless and is recommended that you keep your bokashi in the kitchen for up to 10 days, then add it to your compost. Ours was sitting there for about three weeks as Christmas arrived and anything to do with 'gardening' went out the window! I did, however, manage to move it outside as it was beginning to break down, not that it was smelly, but it was beginning to look rather disgusting! 'oooohhh yuck'!

There are lots of different ways you can compost. Being the 'lazy gardener' I need things to be easy and accessible, hence choosing the rotating tumbler bin! I also figure it will allow me to dedicate more time to my garden, rather than my compost! Composting is a great easy system for recycling and reducing garden waste (us 'Simple Savers' like this idea don't we?!).

Why compost?

  • You recycle and reduce garden waste
  • It produces fungi and bacteria (which break down your waste)
  • It is a 'feed' for your garden
  • It helps fight off unwanted diseases and pests
  • By adding to poor soils it will improve the quality; improving drainage in clay soils and retaining water in sandy soils
  • It saves you money!
  • You know exactly what's in your compost

Now that I am getting into the 'garden thing' I am always looking at ways to keep costs down, save time and money. My first compost is going to be a 'trench compost'. There is no cost involved. It's easy. You just dig a trench! Ours is very small and what they call a 'dig and drop' trench compost. We dug a hole about 30cm wide and 60cm deep, then put our kitchen scraps bokashi into the bottom of the hole, including several weeds and leaves, then covered it with the soil. This will eventually break down and we can dig it up and add to the vegie garden.

Whilst I like this idea as it's free, easy and you don't have to aerate it or sift through it, I'm not so keen about having dirt holes dotted around my garden! So I look forward to our pennies being saved and getting our rotating tumbler bin!

Give the 'dig and drop' trench a go. It will be the easiest compost you have ever made!

My compost tip - However much 'crop' you take from your garden, replace it with 2-3 times that much in compost.

Happy gardening everyone!

I will continue to blog my gardening journey here between newsletters and would love any savvy tips from members. Happy gardening everyone!

6. Best of the Vault: Rediscover Family Fun

Put all your extra time not sitting in front of a screen to good use. Read an exciting book (out loud!), play outside with the kids or indulge your creative side by getting stuck into your neglected hobbies or crafts. Rediscover your family's fun!

Our 'No Screen' story

Much to my son's horror, we started a 'No Screen' month in early January. Since doing this, we have discovered that the local library has a holiday reading program about African safaris. We also entered all three children in a local art competition, so we spent our evening collecting materials and designing things - my two year old has even made a sculpture using toilet rolls and sticks and leaves.

We all agreed to keep going until the end of January, as the family was receiving much more of my time and attention. As a bonus, all my housekeeping was done before bed, when I would usually watch TV!

Contributed by: Jo Crookes

The TV turn off

I used to come home from work, make a quick dinner and relax in front of the telly. Sadly, not only were the ads a constant temptation, but a lot of the shows were a complete waste of time! So, I have made a recent effort to switch off the box and be more productive. The things you can achieve by simply switching off are endless. So far, I have saved money by doing the following:

  • Repairing clothes rather than buying new ones
  • Making biscuits, mayonnaise, muesli and jam
  • Making delicious, healthy lunches for work the next day
  • Making big batches of pasta sauce and muffins for the freezer

The sense of achievement is fabulous, and home-made food is always healthier, cheaper and more satisfying to eat. Do you really need to watch 'The Biggest Loser'? Turn it off and make a nice loaf of banana bread instead. You can then go to bed feeling wholesome, healthy and a little bit richer.

Contributed by: Samantha Rixon

Unplugged and loving it

There has been lots of talk about 'No Screen' month, so I thought I'd share our unplugged experiences!

About three years ago, my husband accidentally broke the aerial on our TV, and we never bothered to replace it. As we were without a TV, we picked out shows to watch on the Internet instead. A few years down the track, we have stopped watching all movies and TV series, other than the occasional documentary or news program. Not only do we avoid ads, but we have noticed that our swearing is drastically reduced! By the same token, our ability to stay focused during lectures or discussions has increased dramatically. We have also eliminated all violent computer games that contained profanity.

We used to worry about taking such a strong stance against regular forms of entertainment, but it's truly been a blessing in our life. Our family spends more time together, whether it's playing games or talking around the dinner table. By doing this, we are getting to know each other better than ever before, so I hope that more and more people take up your challenge.

Contributed by: Leah Jones

'No Screen' is a relaxing money saver

Turning off the screens in our house has not only made a difference to our power bills, but has made our lives a lot more relaxing. That may sound odd, but it's true!

Having a computer screen turned on for 10 hours a day can cost up to $12 a month. At one stage we had six computers in our house, so that was up to $70 a month! By simply going into the power options on any computer, you can set the length of time a screen stays active for. These days, some computers even have a preset PowerSaver option, so look out for that.

Next, we looked at every other screen in our house. Leaving a microwave on is the same deal as the computer screen - it can cost up to $10 a month when left on standby. That's a lot to pay just so you can see the clock on your microwave! We have two convection microwaves in our kitchen, so we turned them both off and save another $20 a month...and we tell the time using the clocks on the wall!

So, how did all this make our lives more relaxed? Well, apart from saving up to $1000 a year, we were all less inclined to use the computer because we didn't 'see' it when the screen was not on. We spent our time doing more relaxing things such as reading a book or talking. Plus, by not having so many clocks staring at us, we weren't focussed on time and worrying about fitting everything into our day.

A happier family and cheaper bills - that's what this saving initiative is doing for us!

Contributed by: Marie Chandler

We don't miss TV

We're one week into 'No Screen' month, with no electronics between midday and 4pm, and then from 5.30pm until 7pm, including computers, game consoles, TVs and iPhones.

At first I thought no one would manage, particularly my husband who is always on the computer. A few times I have had to suggest that he not just read but do something with the children, but generally we have been working and playing as a family. Now, a week later, we have removed five garbage bags of rubbish from the kid's rooms and decluttered six garbage bags of clothes and toys from the house. We've also painted a bedroom, repaired a water tank pipe and learned new games.

We are coming together as a family, and most days the kids don't even turn on the TV, even when they are allowed to. As our son said yesterday 'all of tomorrow can be no TV day, as this is so much more fun.'

Contributed by: Cheri

7. Best of the Forum: Switch It Off!

Most of us know people who suffer from the dreaded 'square eyes'. This month is your chance to beat the addiction and reclaim those wasted hours. Switch that screen off and tune in to your real friends and family instead!

Creating helpful house potatoes

If you need some help implementing screen time in your household, look no further than this thread. Here Fiona has set up a support system where members can share their screen time challenges and successes. Be inspired!

War on Debt 2010 - January: No Screen Challenge

This motivating thread shows members committing to cutting back their hours plonked in front of screens. It includes some fabulous ideas of what to do with all your reclaimed time too!

2011 War on Debt - January: No Screen Month

More inspiration to help you meet the challenge.


Still stuck for fun things to do away from your screens? This thread is packed with creative ideas.

I'm banning all TV and games in our house

If you fancy going the full Monty, our members have some great experiences to share.

8. Cooking with Mimi: Almond Crusted Chicken Schnitzels and Choc Mint Rolled-Up Pav

It's No Screen Month AND it's school holidays. You really want to follow through on that promise to watch less TV, but how do you keep the kids occupied? When I was a child (back when there were dinosaurs, according to my daughter), my super creative mum forced a no screen night upon us once or twice a week. We actually looked forward to it, and it wasn't because the TV was awful back then! Our replacement was 'Not-Quite-My-Birthday Night'. There were seven of us, so this actually meant we went without TV for seven nights in the month.

Here's how it worked.

Our birthdays fell on the 4th, 6th, 11th and so on, of their respective month. So on the corresponding day of each month we not only chose what the meal would be, we'd prepare it.

Oh, the research and competition that went into Not-Quite-My-Birthday Night. We'd scour Mum's collection of New Idea and Women's Weekly for ideas, and draw upon our own history of birthday nights to recreate our favourites. This is a tradition that many of us carried into our adult lives and recreated with our own children. It's always fun and is sort of a countdown to the real deal.

Here are a couple of my daughter's favourites. Maybe they'll be become your Not-Quite-My-Birthday favourites too. Remember now, these are for the kids to prepare or at least assist in preparing. So, put your desires for a spic 'n' span kitchen on hold. You can't have everything!

Almond Crusted Chicken Schnitzels

Serves 4

Equipment required:

  • Baking tray
  • Baking paper
  • 1 dinner plate
  • 2 soup bowls
  • Fork
  • Sharp knife
  • Meat mallet


  • 1 boneless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (I just whiz up some whole almonds in the food processor for this)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cooking oil spray

To serve: You'll need about half a cup of your favourite dipping sauce. We love sweet chilli sauce or mayonnaise with a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of mustard added... yum!

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Line the baking tray with baking paper.

Transfer your almond meal to the dinner plate so you can dip your chicken breasts into it.

Crack your egg into your soup bowl and add the milk. Give it a good whisk with your fork. Be careful that it doesn't slop over the edges. A gentle whisk is fine, no need to beat it mercilessly.

Put the flour into your other bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a shake or grind of pepper to add some flavour. You could even add chicken salt or your favourite seasoning if you like. It's your Not-Quite-Birthday, remember.

Line these up on the bench in this order: flour, egg, almond meal and cooking tray.

It's best to have Mum or another adult supervise this bit as it can be a bit tricky.

Cut each chicken breast into two thinner pieces by slicing it lengthwise. Then cut each thin piece into half. You should now have four thin pieces of chicken breast.

Give each piece a bit of a bash. Go on, get that aggression out. Make as much noise as you like. That's part of the fun.

Now for the gooey part.

With very clean hands, pick up your first piece of chicken by the edge. Dip it into your seasoned flour, making sure it's thoroughly coated, and shake off the excess. Then dip your chicken into the egg and milk mixture and let most of it dribble back into your bowl. Finally drop the chicken flat side down into the almond meal. Flip it over and pat it down, pressing the almond meal into the chicken firmly. Carefully place it onto your baking tray. Repeat with your remaining chicken.

Spray the chicken with lots of cooking oil spray, flip it over and spray the other side as well.

Pop the chicken into your preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the almond crust is nice and golden.

While it's cooking prepare your plates for serving. Add whatever salad or vegetables you like best and make them look really decorative. Lots of colour is important. Don't forget to add a little side dish with your dipping sauce in it. If you don't have little side dishes, egg cups are a good replacement or plop a blob of sauce neatly next to your salad.

When the chicken is nice and toasty golden looking, it's ready. Again, Mum or an older brother or sister should probably supervise removing them from the oven and serving them up.

Now it's your turn to call out 'DINNER'S READY!'

Don't forget to have everyone sing 'Not-Quite-Birthday-to-You'!

Of course, the very best part of your Not-Quite-My-Birthday night was the dessert because you could have anything you wanted. Predictably for us, that usually meant some form of chocolate as ingredient. My little darling is a little more sophisticated. She is also gluten sensitive, so this recipe is perfect for her and everyone else.

In cooking circles, this dessert is known as a meringue roulade. My daughter calls it rolled-up pav... 'cause that's exactly what it is! Her most favourite version is a chocolate mint flavoured one.

It's surprisingly simple for something that looks so impressive and I'm sure you're going to love it too. If you can make a sushi roll, you can make this. The best thing is that the whole thing costs under $2.00 to make and looks a million bucks!

Choc Mint Rolled-up Pav

Serves 4-6

Equipment needed:

  • Electric beaters
  • Large glass or china bowl
  • Measuring cups
  • Swiss roll tin (these are like a baking tray with a bit of a curved bottom. About $7.00 in the cooking equipment section of the supermarket)
  • Baking paper
  • Sieve
  • Spoon
  • Long platter for serving

Ingredients needed:

  • 4 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 cup caster sugar + 1 tbsp extra
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint essence
  • Green food colouring
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Make a space in your refrigerator, large enough for the platter you've chosen to fit, so that your rolled up pav can chill before you serve it.

Line your Swiss roll tin with baking paper.

Kids adore separating eggs, so let them do this bit, but be prepared for a casualty or two! Cracking and separating them into a smaller bowl before transferring the whites to a larger bowl is a good strategy.

Here are the instructions:

Crack the eggs in the middle, tip all of the egg into one half of the eggshell and let the whites dribble into your glass bowl. Tip the yolk back and forth between the two eggshell halves to make sure that the white all separates properly. Pop the yolks into a sealed container to be used another day. We love making a rich custard with ours. Sometimes we use the custard as the filling for the rolled-up pav!

Using the electric mixer, whip the egg whites until they form a soft peak when you lift the beaters out. Make sure you turn the beaters off before you lift them out though, or poor Mum will be cleaning egg white off the ceiling for weeks.

Now it's time for the caster sugar, so add a quarter of a cup at a time, then beat until the egg whites look all glossy. Once all of the sugar is used up, beat in the cornflour and white vinegar. Finally add the peppermint essence and just a drop or two of your green food colouring. You're aiming for pastel green, not witchy green! Then again, it's your Not-Quite-My-Birthday, so if witchy green is your thing, so be it.

Spread the thick sugary meringue evenly over the base of the Swiss roll tin and into the oven it goes. Bake it for 15 minutes or until it's light brown on top. While it's baking, clean up your bowl and your electric beaters so you can use them to whip your cream.

After 15 minutes, ask Mum or another older person to help you remove the meringue from the oven, and allow it to cool in the tray.

While it's cooling, pour your cream into your bowl. Whip it with your electric beaters until you get those same soft peaks when you lift the beaters out... remember to turn them off first! Add your cocoa and extra sugar and beat until combined. Don't beat the cream too much now or you'll end up with chocolate butter.

Very carefully slide your flat pav out of its tray, leaving it on the baking paper.

Spread your choccy cream all over the meringue. None of that 'pretending I got some on my finger' so you can lick it either, please!

Here's the fun bit, and don't be too precious about it.

Grab the long edge of the baking paper closest to you on the bench and flip the meringue edge over onto the top side of the pav, to start rolling it up. Imagine you're making a sushi roll or rolling up your beach towel. Your meringue may crack in places, but that's okay. Keep rolling gently, using the baking paper to guide the roll over. Finish it with the edges of the roll underneath and slide it onto a long platter.

Pop it into your space you've cleared in the refrigerator and allow it to chill for at least an hour.

When you're ready to serve it, spoon your icing sugar into your sieve and use the back of your spoon to press the sugar through the little holes and over the top of your rolled up pav. Cover it well so it looks like snow.

Use a sharp knife to cut slices from your rolled up pav, and serve them on small plates.

See how pretty it looks? And it tastes even better!

Clever you!

If chocolate mint isn't your thing, leave the peppermint essence and the green colouring out and cover your pav with custard, plain cream and grated chocolate; jam and cream or pureed fruit and double cream. Heck, you could do thick Greek yoghurt and chopped jelly beans if you like that. Whatever!

Happy Not-Quite-My-Birthday!

9. Penny's Blog: Happy New Year!

Greetings one and all! Huge apologies for not posting all month, I guess Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a few dramas! They say things come in threes and I think we have well and truly had our three 'things' now. The first 'present' I received was glandular fever, which while rather inconvenient was a great relief to finally have an answer to my months of erratic health. By the time I was diagnosed I was spending every second day in bed. Makes it kind of hard to plan your festive season but it's certainly one way to save money on socialising! My only hope was that I would be well enough to cook Christmas dinner for mine and Noel's family. Little did I know that we would soon be two guests down when my mum was rushed into hospital for an emergency knee replacement! She was allowed home in time for Christmas but was understandably not up to travelling to our place, so numbers were now down to just the four of us, plus Noel's mum and dad.

Christmas morning arrived and it was nice to see the boys still up early, excitedly opening their stockings. The tradition of years gone by goes something along the lines of Noel cooking everyone a massive breakfast, then sitting down to open our presents. However, this year was a little different. Breakfast done and dusted, meat in the oven and vegetables prepared for lunch, we were just about to crack open the bubbly and get on with the present opening - and the phone rang. It was the neighbours who were feeding Noel's parents' dog at their home an hour and a half away. Apparently the 12 year old dog hadn't moved in 24 hours and was unable to get up and the neighbours said the poor thing needed to be put out of its misery. As Noel's parents weren't due back home for another four days the job fell to Noel to go to their house and dig a hole so he could be buried at home. With a heavy heart he set off for the 90 minute drive in horrendous traffic, leaving poor Liam and Ali desperate to open presents but not wanting their dad to miss out on the present opening ceremony. He arrived at his destination and duly dug the hole, which was a rather large, time consuming hole as Carter the dog is a rather large Labrador. He then went to find the dog. Who upon seeing Noel promptly got up, took a pee on his car wheel and proceeded to set off for a leisurely walk around the garden. Looks like he was just sulking as he missed his owners! Noel rang us in fits of laughter and told us the good news before setting off back home for another 90 minute drive and at 2pm that afternoon Liam and Ali were finally able to open their presents and we all drank a toast to Carter and his remarkable Christmas 'resurrection!'

Boxing Day dawned bright and sunny so we all headed off down to the beach for a day of surfing and beach cricket. It was lovely to see Noel's dad playing cricket with the boys as just a few months before he had come through a massive heart operation - one which there had been a very strong chance he wouldn't survive. In 20 years of being part of the family I had never seen my in-laws look so relaxed and happy. Call it a hunch but I wanted to remember the moment so I took heaps of photos of them that day, including this one on Boxing Day night.

I was so very glad I took those photos because the next morning the phone rang at 7am. It was Noel's mum, telling us that Noel's dad had suffered a stroke and was being rushed to hospital in an ambulance. He couldn't talk or comprehend things properly but he did still have movement in his arms and legs. We were stunned - how could this happen? Mercifully the doctors told us this was as bad as he would get and his chances of recovery were good. He is now at home and his speech is returning - although for a few days there he did delight in doing impressions of Liam, his 15-year-old grandson who talks mainly in grunts as most teenage boys do!

So I think that's three things well and truly covered. On the whole, 2011 has been a great year. The $21 Challenge is on sale in America, how cool is that! Last New Year's Eve 2010 I weighed 72kg. This New Year's Eve I weigh in at 54kg. Sure, having glandular fever and running a marathon has had an effect as you would expect but really and truly it's all down to the SS lifestyle. No takeaways, no processed foods - just good home cooking and daily walks on the beach. Two of my favourite Christmas presents were Jamie Oliver's '30 Minute Meals' and NZ's Annabel Langbein's 'Free Range in the City' cook books. They are awesome and we've been having a ball using all sorts of yummy home grown produce and herbs from the garden. Anyone who has read my blog over the past few months will know it has been a tough year financially for us but our vegie gardens have really come into their own now and are saving us money every single day. If you have never done it I really can vouch, hand on heart that trotting out to pick beans, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, basil - anything - in your own backyard is one of the most rewarding feelings you can have. At this time of year when Whangamata is crazy full of people it is a real joy not to have to queue in the supermarket for hours with all the holiday makers. As usual our house pretty much looks like a youth hostel at the moment and once again our garden is proving itself indispensable. We love serving up delicious, nutritious food to the never ending tribe of boys each night and listening to all the appreciative munching. The only problem is, I think we're doing too good a job of feeding them - they keep coming back! But we wouldn't have it any other way. Although it will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings. Yes, our household Screen Time challenge starts tomorrow! I can't wait to tell the boys!

Best wishes from us all for a very happy and prosperous 2012!

10. Homeopathy Corner: I Thought I Was a Goner

Sometimes patients are told their situation is hopeless and last ditch surgery is their only chance of recovery. This is what happened to Fran's patient, Max. Everyone thought he was a goner, including Max himself. Then Fran found the perfect remedy for his situation. To read Max's story in his own words, click here:

11. From Last Month: An Overabundance of Hankies

Last month Delma asked:

"Over the past two years I have lost a mother and mother-in-law. These two women were real 'ladies' and I have been left with boxes and boxes of beautiful packaged handkerchiefs - has anyone any suggestions on how I could use these individually? Incidentally they both did use hankies, but there were way too many for them! We travel in our caravan and I was wondering whether I could incorporate these in an appreciation gift? We often have someone do a kindness for us and like to repay them with a thank you gift. I am quite handy with a sewing machine and would love some ideas."

If you have ever wondered what you can do with your spare hankies, wonder no more! We received such a huge response to Delma's request that unfortunately there is no way we can print them all but we can certainly give you plenty of ideas, especially if you can sew! For example, you can stitch them together and turn them into:

  • Cushion cover
  • Table cloth
  • Table runner
  • Bunting
  • Herb or pot pourri sachets
  • Pillowcase
  • Quilt cover/bedspread
  • Heat pack
  • Apron
  • Plastic bag holder
  • Doll's quilt
  • Diary/journal cover
  • Coat hanger cover
  • A 'non-slip' cover for bars of soap

Or for some great no-sew ideas and gift ideas with a difference, how about these:

Beautiful baking

If you like baking you could use a hankie, lined with wrap (so as not to stain the hankie), gathered at the top and tied attractively, to present someone with a perfectly useful, wrapped thank you treat.

Contributed by: Robyn Barnes

Bag it up

Hankies make a gorgeous wrapping for a small gift if you are travelling. Depending on the recipient, some suggestions could be some Lindt chocolate balls inside a hankie, tied up with a pretty ribbon, some lovely tea bags or coffee sachets again tucked inside a hankie and tied up with a ribbon. You could wrap the hankie either like wrapping paper, or bundle the gift up and pull all the corners up together like a bag.

Contributed by: Sharynne Dubridge

Make someone's day

My friend gives home-made hankies as gifts to friends and strangers. She pops them in their letterboxes along with a note saying 'someone thought about you today'. Years ago she put one in each of the letterboxes in her street. The note read, 'Margery at number 9 is thinking of you and praying you are well' one recipient got it the day she arrived home from a stint in hospital. She felt so alone and that no-one cared. This brightened her no-end and they later formed a friendship. Random kindness through something simple as a hankie.

Contributed by: Phoebe Hicks

Discover the 'gami' world

Introduce your hankies to the 'gami' world - origami and kirigami. You can Google the Net for free patterns for folding fabric. I usually start with this site. I have seen pictures where the origami quilts have been added to a plain skirt or dress to make it look stunning.

Contributed by: Lani Dahanayake

Lavender parasols

My sister's mother-in-law, Nanna Cass is 99 years old. She is an adorable lady who had many great craft ideas. I remember her lovely idea for making (closed) lavender parasols using a handkerchief, pipe cleaner and some dried lavender. I hope my description does it justice.

Lay the handkerchief flat on the table and place a small mound of dried lavender in the middle, place the tip of a pipe cleaner in the centre of the handkerchief and draw the handkerchief up around the pipe cleaner about half way up. The lavender needs to be enough to puff out the hanky a little like a parasol.

Leaving some of the pipe cleaner sticking out for the handle, tie a ribbon tightly around the handkerchief to hold the lavender in and tie ends into a bow. Bend the handle end of the pipe cleaner into a hook shape for the handle.

Tie a little cotton or ribbon around the top of the parasol about one centimeter from the top to make the point of the parasol.

Parasols can be used in your delicates drawer, can be hung in your wardrobe with some ribbon attached, placed in your shoe cupboard or put in the car - anywhere you would like the lovely smell of lavender!

Contributed by: Susan Warren

Give a lasting keepsake

It may be a little bit late for Delma but when we cleaned out my mother's house as she was going into a nursing home we also found lots of unopened boxes of dainty hankies. When she died my sister-in-law washed and ironed them and had them in a little basket to hand out at the funeral. It was a lovely touch and made a nice little keepsake for us to take home.

Contributed by: Kathy Anderson


For a thoughtful 'get well' gift, purchase a small bottle of eucalyptus oil and wrap it up with a couple of the hankies. This makes a nice little gift to give someone with a cold.

Contributed by: Sharon Fergusson

Helpful hanky websites

Go to this link which has lots of ideas for using handkerchiefs. There are lots of things you can use them for!

Contributed by: Caroline Towers

I came across this website the other day and it has lots of lovely things to make. This was one that intrigued me and it seemed easy enough, you could also use them as part of the gift wrap - I also saw some banners that could be made from the hankies too, depending on the pattern could be festive at a party -

Contributed by: Vicky Baker

A huge thanks to everyone who sent in suggestions for Delma. We really appreciate your help!

12. This Month's Help Request: Healthy Lunchbox Options

This month Christine asks:

"Would it be possible to ask if other members know of some lunch box fillers that are healthy and don't need to be cooked? I am battling with some weight issues with my girls and would love to know of some successful healthy options from other parents, as well as any tips of how they combat their children just swapping what they don't like for 'junk' food!"

If you have any tips or suggestions which can help Christine, please send them in to us here.

13. Saving Story: My $50 Christmas!

After looking at the Forum threads on how much everyone was spending for Christmas, I thought I would do a quick tally and am overjoyed to report that I have completed a 'no spend/ low spend' Christmas challenge without even realising it. Thanks to mystery shopping, competition wins, surveys, freebie links from SS and some competitive shopping throughout the year, my total outlay for Christmas including food will be $39.95 plus about $12 in postage ($51.95). The food aspect is for my immediate family of five but gifts were for my three girls (including Santa), my 13 nieces and nephews and their parents, our four parents, my great auntie together with her two adult children and her one grandchild and my two close friends.

The $39.95 spent was for my sister who goes all out for my girls at Christmas and birthdays. I purchased an online voucher to buy an Italian Hamper worth $132 (including delivery). All other gifts and food were purchased using gift vouchers from surveys and store credits/bonus for previous purchases. In the last two months, I have attended a number of free fashion shows as a VIP and came away with goodie bags filled with cosmetics and samples. There were also a lot of freebies through links from this site which made a lovely hamper of goodies for my great auntie and my mother - although I'm not sure they were fussed on the little lace g-string but it gave them a good laugh!

I also had a number of competition wins throughout the year which I stashed away for various gifts for my husband and daughters. Some of my wins include an Enjoy flameless candle, various movie tickets, a bottle of wine, coffee, Jamie Oliver chopping board, DVD's, cosmetics, jewellery, clothing, Coles/Myer vouchers, Wish cards, $120 shopping centre gift cards, $40 Westfield gift cards and several other prizes.

During the year we needed to replace our washing machine, so after shopping around online, I had the Good Guys match the best online price but they also had an in-store promotion going which included a free iron, $100 store credit and a year's worth of OMO washing powder. The money I have saved on washing powder would easily be more than the $51.95 I ended up spending on the hamper and postage of other gifts. The $100 Good Guys credit was used to purchase iTunes cards in their 'buy 2 get 1 free' promotion, which took care of the older nieces and nephews.

Thanks to mystery shopping I was able to do a number of candle, tea, stationery, Body Shop, Freedom, cosmetics and grocery shops where I was not only paid but reimbursed for a purchase that I was allowed to keep. These purchases have taken care of the adults in the family. On top of this, I helped everyone sign up for free $10 Stockland vouchers, Banditfm $30 vouchers, Warners Bros DVDs and Snapfish photo blocks. None of my family have the time or the inclination to search out freebies online, so they were more than happy for me to organise this for them.

For myself I turned to Gumtree and found a trainee hairdresser looking for models for a full head of foils. I had not been to the hairdresser in over a year and this was a real treat and even better I was invited back for a second lot of foils six weeks later, all for free and then a further visit for a free haircut. All my cosmetic needs this year have been covered by mystery shopping jobs, including two full makeovers that came with $80 worth of products each.

I also signed up as an online VIP for every favourite store that I knew provided birthday gift cards for both myself and my husband. The best was Tarocash who provided a $50 voucher with no minimum spend and I waited for the sales to purchase two shirts for hubby for Christmas. My SS Secret Santa present (although this will be giving myself away) was purchased in the sales, using my $20 Sportscraft birthday voucher.

I think with the money I have saved or in this case not spent, I could justify buying the food processor that I have had my eye on and that has just been reduced to $129 and comes with salt and pepper grinders and a $10 store voucher! Of course the voucher will be used to start my Christmas Challenge for next year!

Contributed by: Raych Case

14. So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye :-D

Wow! Didn't we manage to cram a whole bunch of money saving ideas into this month's newsletter? I hope you really enjoyed it and have been inspired to try something new.

I am always keen to receive your feedback about the kinds of things you want to see more of in the newsletter and those things you would rather we leave off. Drop me a line next time you're on our website. If you have enjoyed this month's newsletter, why not forward it to your friends to help them save money too? Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page?

Best of luck with your Screen Time Challenge. See you next month!

All the best,

December 2014 - Simple Savings Newsletter

"Secrets to Saving Money" Free Newsletter - December 2014

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Dear Diary
  2. December: Needs, Not Wants
  3. Penny Wise: The Christmassiest Christmas Ever!
  4. Best of the Vault: I'm Dreaming of a Wise Christmas!
  5. Best of the Forum: Have a Spend-Spree-Free Christmas
  6. Best Members' Blog: Challenge Success!
  7. Mimi's Salted Caramel and Ginger Chicken Thigh Cutlets
  8. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Seed Saving Tips
  9. From Last Month: Caravanning in Comfort
  10. This Month's Help Request: Help Me Plan 2015


How are you going? Christmas is almost here and we wish you and your families a peaceful and happy Christmas!

We love hearing from you - your savings stories and tips make my day! Here are some of my favourites this month:

"I really love the Simple Savings newsletters and all of the hints I receive. I could not live without them. Thank you for the great work you all do. I can't believe that Simple Savings has been going for 12 years and I certainly hope for many, many more years to come." (Julie B)

"As a mum to a young family, and with the help of Simple Savings, we are learning to spend sensibly and live a different kind of 'normal'. Now it is 'normal' for us to have home-cooked meals every night and takeaway is a great treat once a month. It is 'normal' for my husband and kids to take lunch from home rather than buy it every day or have tuckshop. We are saving more money than I would ever have thought we could - thank you Simple Savings." (Mikki)

Have a great month!
All the best,
Fiona Lippey

P.S. The Simple Savings 2015 Calendar is now ready and we hope you love the changes we've made this year! You can download it here.

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Dear Diary

"Have you got a minute Chlo?" Sally peered round the door. "Oh hi! Yes of course," smiled Chloe. "I just wanted your opinion on this Christmas present I got for my stuck-up sister." "Sounds intriguing! Show me," Chloe grinned, putting out her hands. "I went Christmas shopping with Hanna the other day. I picked up this book in one of the local handy craft shops. It's just a notebook but..." Sally blushed, passing Chloe a pretty fabric covered book. "She told me she WANTED a Trent Nathan bangle but I thought she'd enjoy this."

"Nothing wrong with that, it's gorgeous!" Chloe said. "Open it," Sally nodded. Chloe carefully turned the pages and found Sally had turned the notebook into a diary for her sister - but it was no ordinary diary. She had lovingly filled each page with little cut-outs of photos of her children, her friends, thoughtful messages, jokes to make her laugh, favourite recipes - there were even quirky little extras such as a special teabag and a $5 note with 'Today you are taking a book to a coffee shop and just watching the world go by' written to accompany it.

"Sally - wow! This is amazing," breathed Chloe. "It must have taken you ages!" "It did," laughed Sally. "My sister is one of those people who always adds up the cost of gifts. Do you think this book is enough, or should I buy her something as well?" she frowned. "Are you kidding?" Chloe said, still thumbing through the book in wonder. "Sal this is a gift to be really proud of! It may not have cost much but anyone can see the amount of love and effort gone into it!" "Thank you," Sally smiled in relief. "And do you know something else? This is the first year EVER I haven't had to resort to the credit card!"

2. December: Needs, Not Wants

There are many different beliefs and traditions surrounding Christmas. However, one thing is for certain; right from the very first Christmas ever, it was intended to be marked as a time of joy and celebration, not a time of sadness, stress and debt. It's pretty doubtful that after bestowing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh on the baby Jesus, the three wise men would have had to run off to their bank manager, caps in hand and say, 'Sorry, we got a little carried away!'

If the thought of more debt or the threat of overspending is already putting a damper on your festive spirit, now is the time to take action and make this year different. Christmas after Christmas we allow ourselves to fall victim to marketing, to peer pressure, to buy more than we can afford, when in truth, all we need to do is be like the three wise men - choose our gifts with meaning, give them with love and give only what we can. When you think about it that way, it's ridiculously easy!

Here's what we want you to do - grab a pen and paper and write down everyone you bought presents for last Christmas. Now you're going to have to put your big girl pants on - are you ready?

  1. Cross off those people that you haven't seen this year - really. If you can't be bothered actually catching up with them, why are you buying them a gift? Send a Christmas card today and wish them a merry Christmas, and that you're looking forward to catching up in 2015. You've let them know that you don't expect to be exchanging gifts this Christmas.

  2. Now you're going to look at the families you usually buy individual gifts for. No more worrying about trying to find that FANTASTIC gift for that teenage boy or the ten-year-old girl who has EVERYTHING because you are going to get something thoughtful for the WHOLE family. A beach hamper, a movie hamper, perhaps a moderately priced 'family adventure' somewhere. A quick email lets the other party know you're giving them a joint gift this year so they can change their own plans if necessary. A new tradition has to start somewhere!

  3. Now you're going to look at your own extended family and think of ways to lessen the burden of giving everyone a gift. Think of ideas such as buying only for the children under 18, a $10 lucky dip for each person, secret Santa or devise your own unique raffle/auction! In fact, this might be the BEST Christmas yet!

  4. For the elderly people in your family, nothing is better than something from your heart. These people know what a true 'gift' is - it's your time, it's memories, it's photos and words that mean something. Enlist the help of the younger members of the family to make some new memories for Nana and Pop.

  5. For the gifts you simply have to buy, just stop and think. Just because someone wants a $100 bottle of perfume or an expensive watch, doesn't mean YOU need to buy it for them. Take a moment to think of something they might need that is within your budget - we bet you'd be surprised at what you come up with!

So be kind to yourselves this year. Buy only what you need to. Spend only what you need to. And relax this Christmas, safe in the knowledge that you are doing the very best for you and your loved ones.

For some fantastic ideas to make you feel all warm and fuzzy and show how you can create a wonderful festive atmosphere and an unforgettable Christmas, please check out our newsletter archive HERE and HERE

Make this year the Christmas for change, just like Sally!

3. Penny Wise: The Christmassiest Christmas Ever!

Good grief, where to start?! What a hectic few weeks it's been. Overnight I seem to have turned into the stereotypical suburban TV 'mom', working three jobs to put shoes on her children's feet. Not even kidding about the shoes part! Life is busy and there is/has been so much going on I couldn't possibly write it all in one post but hopefully I will get a chance to catch up over the course of the week as some of it is quite special, at least in my mind.

But for now, I must turn my attention to the present! Going out to work has been very good for me, I think. After years of being the eternal cruiser, working from home and doing whatever whenever, I finally have to have some semblance of organisation in my life and get the most out of each precious hour. Turns out I'm actually getting quite good at it too! Mind you, with the crazy hours I work, it would cost me a lot of money if I wasn't organised. I also really appreciate my days off and endeavour to make the most of each one, whereas when I was at home all the time, one day was very much like another. Even the boys have noticed the difference and we all seem to appreciate the times we are all together more. Financially it's still a struggle and will continue to be for some time but we are pottering along quite happily and the main thing is, we are all trying, we are all doing our bit. Liam has got a job as a 'jack of all trades' at a motel in town and is working for a lovely couple and their staff six days a week doing whatever needs doing - groundsman, painting, cleaning the pool, gardening, laundry just to name a few. He's learning heaps, enjoying each challenge and it's a great way for him to learn and become confident in a lot of new domestic skills for when he goes away to uni in February! Ali finished school last week and is about to start his summer job as a waiter and barista in one of the local cafes. The three of us are a little like ships in the night and it's only going to get busier over the next couple of months but the times we do get to see each other is lovely.

It's funny how your mindset can change in the blink of an eye. This time a couple of weeks ago I had decided we wouldn't be having Christmas this year. I was feeling so hopeless, so despondent and a terrible parent and provider. How could I give my beloved boys a decent Christmas when there is no money in the kitty for presents or even for a decent Christmas dinner? What changed my mind? That's a whole other blog and one I intend to share soon but all of a sudden I realised that it didn't matter if we didn't have many presents. It didn't matter if we didn't have a traditional Christmas dinner. We could eat what the heck we liked! The important thing was that we had each other and that we had FUN. One of my favourite Simple Savings newsletters ever is from a few years back and talks about creating the perfect Christmas, how it is all about the festive atmosphere, the sounds and the smells. I realised we didn't need money to have all that; we already have everything we need! We have the tree, we have the decorations, we have the lights, we have the oranges and cloves, the angel and Christmas tree biscuit cutters to make shortbread and the hideous but hilarious array of corny Christmas CD's. These are the things which make Christmas Christmassy, not the presents! So what if we can't afford a traditional dinner; we'll cook a barbecue instead and all be chefs, it will be way more fun! This year is Liam's last official 'kid Christmas at home' and I'm determined to make it the best one ever! If anyone has any ideas they would like to share to help us make our 'low-cost or no-cost' Christmas extra special, please let us know!

I'm even getting organised with presents and have a couple stashed away already, which is unheard of for me! I also have set a budget and am sticking to it - well, I have to really, when it's gone it's gone and there's nothing else! But I think the boys will be happy. Apart from one ridiculously impractical gift for Liam, which I know he will love and have pride of place in his room at uni, everything else is things they either need or can use. Now they're young adults that's the way they like it anyway; their days of having rooms and shelves full of meaningless 'stuff' are long gone. Even Liam's Christmas 'stocking' has a use! I wasn't going to do stockings this year but then I spotted someone selling steel Corona (beer) buckets for $2.50 on our Facebook Buy and Sell page and I thought I would fill it with goodies and it would make a rather stylish rubbish bin for his room at uni!

We have a family wishlist for things we want or need which we pin up in the kitchen and have been having a good chuckle at the things listed on it. Far from being extravagant or whimsical we have things such as 'NEW TOWELS!' (almost all of ours are worn into holes, I will definitely have to get Liam some more presentable ones to take away with him!) 'NEW FRYING PAN!' (we hate our frying pan with a passion; for some reason these days any food you attempt to cook in it refuses to stay in the middle and rolls or puddles around the outside. Makes for some very interesting shaped fried eggs I can tell you!), 'NEW BULB FOR SECURITY LIGHT' (at $18 a pop we never seem to find it important enough to replace) and my personal favourite 'FIX THE LEAKY BATH TAP!' What an exciting bunch of crazy kids we are!

I guess we do at least have our photo board, which is one fun family project we want to work on for Christmas and will cost very little. These days when everyone has cameras on their phones, everyone is always busy snapping potshots of everything from hilarious photos of each other to endearing pics of family pets and goodness knows what else. Some of these can be classics or truly beautiful but they rarely make it off the phones to be enjoyed anywhere and by anyone other than the photographer. On looking through our phones last week the boys and I realised we had amassed a wonderful collection and decided we needed somewhere to display them. A friend of mine was giving away a huge pinboard for free on (where else!) Facebook Buy and Sell and I signed up to an online photo printing store who were giving away 40 free prints just for signing up. Now all we have to do is choose our 40 prints and wait for them to be delivered. Putting them all together with the boys is going to be fun! I'm also going to check out the op shops for board games and puzzles we can do together and Liam is excitedly downloading karaoke songs on his Playstation. Last time we played Singstar together the boys' voices hadn't even broken! I can't wait to hear the difference when they attempt to sing the same songs from over a decade ago, I have a feeling it's going to be hilarious!

Who knows what else Christmas Day is going to bring but at least now I'm totally relaxed about it. We have nobody to please or impress except each other and because of that I am finally going to get the opportunity to do something I have always wanted to do. Every year our local Lions Club organises an enormous Christmas dinner at the club where I work for those who are less fortunate or on their own. I've always wanted to volunteer my time on Christmas Day to help someone else enjoy the kind of Christmases I was lucky enough to grow up with and this year I've put my hand up to help out. If the boys are not visiting their dad they'll be coming along too. I can't think of a more Christmassy thing to do!

For the next few months at least, life is only going to get busier, so I apologise in advance if blogs are a little few and far between! Should you have a burning desire to know what is going on in the chaotic world of the Wise clan, you are very welcome to follow the 'real me' on Facebook (hint: it's the same name as on the $21 Challenge book). Otherwise I shall attempt to bring everyone up to date on all the news here soon!

You can get updates on Penny's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page.

...or in our Members' Blog section.

4. Best of the Vault: I'm Dreaming of a 'Wise' Christmas!

With every purchase this Christmas, stop and ask yourself, 'Why am I buying this?' If it's to impress someone or because of guilt about giving a 'GREAT' present, well, maybe you need to think again. Try some of these great ideas from the Vault - remember, the (reindeer!) buck stops with you!

Make heart-shaped cushions for little girls

I came up with this lovely idea for a low-cost birthday present when money was tight. My daughter was invited to a birthday party but we couldn't afford to buy a present at the time. So we looked through my old material scraps and found some silvery stretchy material and some Dacron and made a lovely heart-shaped cushion. We decorated it with buttons (spares that came with new clothes) that I had saved in a variety of girly colours and lastly added a ribbon (saved off another gift).

With all the materials already at home it cost me nothing, but even if you had to buy the bits and pieces, with careful shopping for offcuts of material it would still cost well under $10 to make. The pillow looked fantastic and the six-year-old recipient loved it, saying it was her favourite present of all that she had received! It was a great lesson to see that those handmade personal gifts are appreciated much more than shop-bought mass produced items. We now plan to repeat this exercise at Christmas, when we will make more personalised cushions for our family and friends!

Contributed by: Kerry Pope

Stylish wall art from Wordle

I decorated my daughter's room with some fantastic new wall art, without spending a cent! Wordle is a website where you can type in whatever words or phrases you like and it will then put them on a page randomly. I typed in the word 'dance' and Wordle turned my words into word art. I printed it out, then stuck it onto a piece of cardboard to fit inside a picture frame I already had. I then got various photos of my daughter dancing in costume and stuck them around. I popped the finish piece into the frame and it looks terrific! Have a go at making your own super cheap wall art by going to

Contributed by: Miss A

Funky denim bag from old jeans

Bring new life to an old pair of jeans and make a funky denim bag! Cut the legs off and sew the openings together inside out, then turn in the right way. That makes the 'bag'. To make a long handle, sew the two legs together then sew to the bag, or sew one leg to each side for two shorter handles. Put some Velcro or a button on the inside to clip together. You can add a scarf or a belt for a more personal touch. Jeans can also be used to make cushions.

Contributed by: Wahine

'Practical Santa' gets back to basics and eases the pressure

Last Christmas Santa gave our four kids practical presents that they could use all year round! He realised that mums and dads have a lot of expenses leading up to the new school year and that the Christmas period can actually be quite a stressful time. So he helped out by getting our kids some lovely new lunch boxes, flash new drink flasks, fancy looking containers for their litter-less lunch, cool new Band-Aids, and some brilliant new bathers! There wasn't a toy in sight and our kids certainly didn't miss them. This meant there was no need for another big annual clear-out of all the unwanted clutter! I'm grateful to Santa, and hope he can find some other handy things for the kids this year. Christmas isn't about expensive gifts; it's about spending quality time with the special people in your life.

Contributed by: Kylie Parish

$60 sandpit not a money pit

We built a sandpit for our boys for just $60 with some free planks of wood from the local dump, black plastic from the hardware store ($30) and a trailer load of sand from the quarry ($30). The pit is built under their swing set and has made a great cheap alternative to the expensive ready-made sandpits, bringing my boys hours of fun.

Contributed by: Melissa Roos

5. Best of the Forum: Have a Spend-Spree-Free Christmas!

There is still time to organise a stress-and-spend-spree-free Christmas! Here are some great ideas from Forum members that are big on thoughtfulness and small on price.

Christmas at home - ideas please

Christmas at home without extended family doesn't need to be second best - now's the chance to create new traditions to enjoy.

Zero budget Christmas challenge

Look no further than GoGo Goanna's thread for some fantastic ideas for your own low budget Christmas.

Stocking fillers for older boys - free or very cheap

Some great ideas on how to fill those stockings for the young men in the family!

What can I buy my 82-year-old grandpa for Christmas?

It can be hard to buy gifts for elderly relatives but here are some great ideas to help make Christmas Day special.

6. Best Members' Blog: Challenge Success!

One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win $100 cash each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.

This month's winner is Lil ol' Me for doing a successful $21 Challenge AND for her delicious home-made Christmas gifts!

"Yay! Challenge achieved! We did it...and easily. My weekly shopping last week for our family of six was $50. I'm quietly thrilled! The kids had no idea what was going on and went about the week as normal in complete ignorance.

I was inspired after using the Coles online shopping tool to check on prices and in particular, unit pricing. So I created an Excel sheet one night and checked all the items I usually buy and went searching for the best prices on these. I found a few gems, and hopefully this will reduce our spending even further.

I've just come back from shopping for this week and spent $93.55 which has included everything we need for the week to feed six of us.

Here's our dinner menu:

  • Tacos
  • Cottage pie topped with potato gems
  • Baked potatoes (with ham, cheese, tomato, pineapple and beetroot)
  • Vegie and bacon pasta bake
  • Quiche with oven fries and vegies
  • Home-made pizza
  • Fish with oven fries and vegies

Everyone will have sandwiches for lunches and I'll be making yoghurt for use in smoothies, ice blocks and snacking. I'll bake blueberry muffins and white choc & raspberry muffins, some choc fudge biscuits from the $21 Challenge book, and we have lots of fruit both fresh and tinned. I have ingredients for more baking if needed but all up, it should be another great week to top up our savings. I never considered us one of 'those families' that could feed ourselves on so little but we're getting there!

My BF planted out our vegie patch two weeks ago so hopefully over summer that will keep the spend low. His sister gave him a Bunnings voucher for his birthday recently, so the vegie patch has cost us nothing except for TLC.

Christmas is fast approaching and I found myself with a little spare time and inclination last week so after searching on Google and Simple Savings, I whipped up the following as gifts for teachers and friends. A big thank you to Mimi for your posts last year for gift ideas - I used a lot of them!

From left to right, limoncello, vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, salted caramel pots, boozy choc jaffa liqueur and after dinner mint liqueur. I can't wait to box these up closer to Christmas with some additional shortbread.

Lots of big ticks all round!"

Well done, Lil ol' Me. We think you have done a fantastic job with your Challenges and Christmas goodies!

You can read more of our members' blogs here.

7. Mimi's Salted Caramel and Ginger Chicken Thigh Cutlets

Chicken thigh cutlets are so inexpensive and delicious and vastly underrated as a family meal.

A tray of 6-8 thigh cutlets on the bone rarely costs more than about $6.00 where I live.

They look a little more substantial when served than a lonely thigh fillet does and the bone adds a bit of flavour oomph too.

This recipe is one I came up with when I had run out of honey and wanted to do a marinade for the cutlets that night. The old combo of honey, soy and ginger is pretty hard to beat! I'd been browsing salted caramel sauce for Christmas gifts and thought that a similar combination of flavours would probably work. After all, it's just brown sugar, salt and cream or butter... how could that not be awesome? Add the ginger which marries so well with chicken and we're onto something.

If, like us, you find that idea of honey, soy and ginger appealing, then you'll find this as yummy as we do. It's not something you'd eat every day given the combination of the sugar and butter, but as a special meal, it's a winner.

It's best to start preparing these at least an hour before baking them, and the night before or that morning is even better to give the flavours a chance to permeate the chicken.

You need:

  • 1-2 chicken thigh cutlets per person (one is enough for my daughter and I, but husband prefers two)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3tbsp butter or margarine, softened
  • 1dsp minced or grated fresh ginger
  • Pinch of salt

Then just:

Line a baking tray with paper or foil and set aside.

Lay the chicken cutlets on the tray and poke holes in the flesh with a sharp knife to allow the marinade to really flavour the meat.

Run your fingers between the skin and the flesh to loosen the skin slightly, without separating it from the cutlet.

Combine the softened butter, brown sugar, ginger and salt to a smooth paste.

With clean hands, take a small ball of the paste and push it under the skin of the chicken cutlet. Smooth it with your fingers so it covers the surface of the thigh cutlet, sitting between the skin and the meat. Blot the skin of the chicken dry with a paper towel and press a second ball of the paste over the surface of the skin. So now you have the mouthwatering salted caramel and ginger paste between the meat and the skin, as well as on the surface of the skin.

Place the tray in the refrigerator and let the marinade paste do its job.

When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C fan forced or 190C normal and place the chicken cutlets in the oven. Bake for about 45-60 minutes depending on your oven. I bake mine for nearly an hour in a fan forced oven so that they're all brown and bubbly. Brush the marinade back onto the chicken as it dribbles down the sides.

The butter and sugar will caramelise as the chicken cooks, creating a gorgeous sticky coating that is a treat for the senses.

Serve with a crunchy coleslaw and steamed baby potatoes or steamed rice.

Very, very YUM!

You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

8. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Seed Saving Tips

Seed saving tips

We've had a lot of plants go to seed in our various gardens over the past month or so and I thought some folks might like a bit of a look at the seeds that have been collected. More importantly, I would also like to pass on a few tips and information on saving seeds to those thinking about saving seeds for the first time. All the varieties we're collecting at the moment mature on the plants and require very little processing. To begin with, saving seeds is a very straight forward process; however, a few basic guidelines need to be followed when it comes to some varieties. This is to ensure that plants will provide seeds that will grow true to type and with vigour.

Cross breeding

In some plant families different varieties will easily cross pollinate with others resulting in hybrid seeds that will not grow true to type (the same as the parent plants the seed came from). If you intend on saving seeds for the next growing season, it's a good idea to only let one member of the family flower at one time. The cucurbit family (including cucumber, melons, squash and pumpkin) is a great example of this with many commonly grown plants easily crossing with each other. These plants have both male and female flowers (called imperfect flowers) and require pollen from the male flower to be delivered to the female flower. If you are looking to save seeds from plants like this it's a good idea to either grow one variety at a time to ensure seed purity or to cover them with netting and hand pollinate until you have some fruit set that you can save seeds from for the next season. Below is a look at how to hand pollinate the larger cucurbit flowers such as squash, pumpkins and zucchini for those that are curious.

Another tip for the larger flowers like zucchini, is to tie the female flower closed with a bit of wool or twine after hand pollinating. This will stop bees and other insects from delivering pollen that might have come from a different member of the family. I haven't tried this method myself but have been told that it does work.

Inbreeding depression

One other thing you need to be careful with when saving seeds from some plants is 'inbreeding depression'. Simply put, inbreeding depression is where the gene pool of a given plant type is limited and mutations/lack of vigour can start to occur in subsequent generations. There is a great PDF download from "The Siskiyou Permaculture Resource Group" that includes the number of plants you need to grow to prevent inbreeding depression in vegies commonly grown in backyards, as well as other information you might find useful. Some plants like tomatoes, capsicum/peppers, cucurbits, beans, peas, lettuce and radish show no inbreeding depression and it's fine for the home gardener to save seeds from a single or small number of these plants for the next crop.

The cabbage family of plants (Brassica oleracea which includes cabbage, cauliflower, kale broccoli and brussel sprouts) is one family we grow and is susceptible to inbreeding depression.

To guard against inbreeding depression we let a group of six 'Waltham' broccoli plants go to flower to ensure that the genetics would be varied. While this was the minimum number recommended by many I think if we introduce a few plants grown from another source every few years we will be able to keep the genetics varied and strong enough to continue to grow vigorous plants.

Corn is one plant that is very susceptible to this with mutations in some varieties starting to show up two or three generations down the line if insufficient numbers of plants are grown. Most recommendations I've read for corn say a minimum of 200 plants to get seeds that will continue to be strong and show no defects in following generations. Other articles I've read recommend 100 plants minimum.

Last summer we grew two types of coloured corn; Aztec and Glass Gem.

We only grew 40-50 plants of each variety so the genetics are probably only good for another generation before defects will be seen. One way to counter this is to introduce some new genetics from other seeds of the same varieties or to even cross the two to see what happens. ;-)

Saving the seeds

As I mentioned before, the seeds we have been saving lately are all left to dry on the plant which makes saving them a lot faster to process than some others.

One of the easiest plants to harvest seeds from would have to be the Warrigal greens/New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides). The seeds appear where the leaves join the stem of the plant after the small self-pollinating yellow flower has been fertilised. The seeds are ready for gathering when they turn brown and fall off easily when touched. As this plant is native to Australia you can find it growing in coastal regions and you may be able to acquire a seed or two from a wild plant as long as the local authorities don't mind. ;-) We found the best way to get these seeds to germinate was to soak them for 24-36 hours in water before planting them into small pots, where they could be kept moist until they germinated. I don't think we will ever need to sow another seed as we now have volunteer plants popping up around the patch.

Other very easy seed to harvest would have to be those of the bean and pea families.

Beans and peas are self-pollinating plants that don't cross pollinate very easily. To save the seeds we leave four to five beans/peas on each bush as it comes to the end of the season. Once the pods have dried out it's just a matter of picking, giving the pods a twist and collecting the seeds.

Chillies are a fruiting plant that you can let dry out on the plant and then collect the seeds.

These cayenne chillies/peppers have been left to dry on the bush before being removed for seed saving. The dried flesh doesn't go to waste either and is kept in a jar to add to cooking. One word of warning though, it is a good idea to wear gloves if you are handling particularly hot chillies.

More than once I've rubbed my face after dealing with some of the super-hot chillies we grew, only to regret it for half an hour or so later. :-/

Lettuce is also a very easy plant to collect seeds from. It is capable of self-pollination and it is possible for a single plant to provide you with enough seeds for a few seasons.

Each small seed within the flower head is topped with a bit of fluff which I have found comes in handy when it comes time to collect the seeds. It is really as easy as pulling on the bits of fluff and the majority of the seeds will come out leaving very little chaff to clean from the saved seed.

A good way to collect smaller seeds like those from the amaranth and the brassica families is to use a few basic utensils most folks have around the house. There are a few steps involved but it doesn't take long at all.

First step is to remove the seeds from their pods or flower heads. The easiest way I found to do this is to simply rub them between your hands over a bucket.

If the seed is small enough, like the amaranth, you can run the chaff and seed mix through a sieve to remove the larger bits of chaff allowing the seeds to fall into a second container.

The next step is to winnow off the small bits of chaff that remain mixed with the seeds. An easy way to do this is to pour the seed and chaff mix from one bucket to another allowing a gentle breeze to blow the chaff away while the seed falls into the container below. A house fan on low will do the same job if there is no breeze and for small amounts, I have also blown through the seed and chaff as it falls between two cups.

Repeat this process until all chaff has been removed from the seed.

For seed storage I like to use small Ziplock bags to keep the seed dry. I try to keep all seeds from the same family in larger bags to make finding specific varieties a lot easier. These larger bags are then stored in Bianca's old sewing toolbox and kept in the coolest spot in the house.

Types of seeds

Just a quick word on the types of seeds you can buy and the benefits they may have.

Open pollinated seeds come from plants that have been allowed to be pollinated by natural means like wind, insects, animals or man. Older varieties of open pollinated seed that have a history spanning many generations are often called heirloom seeds. Open pollinated seed are suitable for seed saving as long as precautions are made to keep different varieties from the same family isolated from each other so they don't cross pollinate.

Hybrid seeds are made from a cross of two different plants of the same variety to produce an offspring that will have genetic characteristics of both its parents. These are called F1 varieties. Some F1 plants are developed to provide an increased yield in faster time than their parents (often called hybrid vigour). Other reasons for creating an F1 is so plants can tolerate extremes in climate, uniformity of shape/quality and the ability for all plants in a crop to become ready for harvest at the same time.

One type of F1 fruit I'm interested in growing this season is the parthenocarpic cucumber. Parthenocarpic plants are able to produce fruit without the need for pollination and can often turn up in nature as a mutation all by themselves. I think these cucumbers would be great to grow in the hoop house where there are few pollinating insects. Due to the Queensland fruit fly, many fruiting plants need to be grown under protection here.

The big downfall of F1 hybrid plants is that the seeds generally will not grow offspring that are true to type. Some plant breeders have persisted and stabilised some hybrid varieties but it can take many generations and a lot of dedication. I have spoken to a few folks that have bred their own tomato varieties this way. I was lucky enough to be able to purchase some seeds and am looking forward to growing these dwarf varieties to see how they go here.

GMO or Transgenic seeds, are a different kettle of fish altogether. These seeds are created by taking genes from one species and placing them into a different one to provide them with herbicide resistance (Roundup ready Canola), toxic properties that will kill pest insects (BT Corn), fortify with vitamins (Golden rice) or even just to produce a uniquely different colour flower like the blue rose. The main reason I am mentioning them is that they are not available to the home gardener here in Australia and many other countries, contrary to little info graphics posted on some social media sites. If you are interested in saving seeds from store bought produce here in Australia you don't need to worry about GMO produce either. All produce that is a 'GMO' needs to be signed as such and I am yet to see any make an appearance. You can also check out what varieties are approved to be grown here on the "Current GM Applications & Approvals" page on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) website.

That's about it for this month's instalment. Hope the seed saving tips help a few folks out.

Cheers all & have fun in the patch,

You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page

or in our Members' Blog section.

9. From Last Month: Caravanning in Comfort

Last month Gabriel emailed us about ideas for holidaying in a caravan:

"We are taking our family (three kids) away in a caravan for the first time in the Christmas holidays. We haven't done this before but I want to make it a great holiday for my family. Can you ask your readers to share their tips on caravanning, cooking, storing, cramped living and keeping kids entertained at night/during bad weather or any other clever ideas they have. Thank you."

We got some great idea - thank you for sharing your wisdom with Gabriel. Here are some of our favourite replies:

Keep them busy with bikes

You can make a cheap camping or caravanning holiday even more fun and active by packing bikes for everyone. We go camping regularly in caravan parks and camp free in National Parks. Not only does this entertain the kids from arrival, it also helps them make friends and they can have fun playing games like cops and robbers or making their own jumps. If you don't have room for bikes, scooters and helmets will do. Also make sure you pack a torch for each child - 'Spotlight' is a popular after dinner game and they love it. Both these items you usually already have at home and ensures hours of free fun for the kids!

Contributed by: Ruth Hills

Flat food is the answer when travelling

We have found a way to eat well and transport food easily when camping and caravanning. We freeze meals flat in large plastic Ziplock bags before the trip and store them in either an Esky with ice or in the car freezer and reheat them as necessary once on location in the caravan. This way the cook gets a bit of a holiday (or at least less work) without having to spend more money on takeaway!

Contributed by: Ms Moneypenny

Survival tips for camping with kids

We have just returned from our first caravan holiday with three kids. The best tips we found are:

  • Stay in the caravan park for at least three days. There's nothing worse than setting up and packing up frequently.
  • Pack plenty of books/colouring-in pages (depending on ages). A jigsaw puzzle with a roll-up mat was a great idea. Board games were pretty fun too. Movies/DVDs were a must for rainy days!
  • Keep meals simple: Salads, fruit, yoghurts, sandwiches and BBQ in the evenings. Camp fires with marshmallows (even a contained one using park facilities) was always a hit.
  • We had great weather but the occasional rainy day was spent in local towns/shops/cafe as a treat and even doing the 'tourist' thing in museums (was more fun than we thought!).
  • Also try to limit driving time to sight see as kids would be too tired for a hike once we got there! Our best times were spent stopping unexpectedly at a lake or river and going for a quick fish and just sitting under the trees for lunch.
  • Ask other caravanners and locals what to see/where to go, they give really good advice!
  • Get the kids involved in trip planning, get them to do a basic town history and choose what they would like to do/where to go for the day.
  • I gave each of my kids $50 before the trip to spend on whatever they liked: lollies, books, whatever. It's amazing how much time they occupied trying to figure out how to stretch that further!

Contributed by: Sal Costanzo

Remember to relax!

When camping or caravanning together, above all remember to just relax and enjoy the time together! With food, stick to basics, but take some fresh herbs to enliven meals. Pasta, couscous, rice or barley all can make good solid bases for filling salads or warm meals. Some butchers can vacuum pack meat for you, or can freeze it very flat, so it will defrost quickly. Use a tin of beans to bulk up meat dishes. Tinned tuna or salmon can be used when fresh meat runs out. Vegetable curries or stews with rice and sides such as raita, nuts, chutney or yoghurt can be a treat. Kids love tending a fire and cooking baked potatoes and stuffed apples in foil, as well as damper. As a treat a wine or juice and cheese, or a few nuts, after setting up camp, and before cooking dinner is a real relaxer. I always have dinner pre-cooked for the first night out, while everyone is getting used to being on the road. You never leave on time or get as far as you planned on the first day.

As for keeping occupied, we play cards (even a five-year-old can play poker), Monopoly and Scrabble. At a new camp site the 'alphabet game' is good! Kids have to find an item beginning with 'A', then 'B' right through to 'Z'. A good tactic for stops and car travel too! Another is trying to count the number of different types of animals seen when travelling.

Remember that children can help plan your trip too, follow maps and guide the driver. Letting them research potential towns and their attractions can give children ownership of the holiday. Change the seating arrangements now and then too. As extra back-up each child also takes a back pack of individual games, for example, Solitaire, as well as books, music, DVDs, small sketchbook and pencils, pad and pencil for dot to dot, noughts and crosses, a diary to write up, toys, water bottle and any other essentials or ways to pass the time. Some wonderful caravan parks have adventure playgrounds and bouncy pillows, pools, billiards, BMX tracks, bike hire and more. If you are free-camping, staying at one of these parks now and then can be a treat.

Don't try to travel each day. It is boring and tiring for children in a car every day and setting up each night and packing up each morning. Stay at least a few days in each place to get settled, go and do things locally, fish, swim, walk around town, visit museums and other historical points of interest. Less is more. Have fun and get to know each place.

When on the road keep snacks simple. Fill a flask so you can make your own tea, coffee and cordial. Dates, prunes, fresh fruit, home-made biscuits or raisin bread all make snacks which are cheaper and healthier than service station fare. Keep these in the car for easy access/quick stops. Use a cooler bag for milk and sandwiches.

One really valuable tip is to make sure children all have jobs to help get unpacked and pack up the caravan each time you move. Even the youngest can check the pop is locked down, the gas cover is on, the windows closed, drawers locked and so on. They get bored waiting around for you to do it all!

Contributed by: Karen Murdock

The cheapest entertainment - sleep!

You don't have to worry about finding cheap ways to entertain kids when camping or caravanning. If the kids are as active during the day as they no doubt will be, they won't need entertaining at night as they'll be asleep! But just to be sure, throw in a deck of cards for good measure!

Contributed by: Summer Breeze

10. This Month's Help Request: Help Me Plan 2015

Iris has emailed asking for some help! She writes:

"I am so glad to say goodbye to 2014 - I have wasted so much money and time and energy because I CAN NOT get organised! It's almost the start of another year and I have some time to sit down and plan 2015. Can you please ask your members for their best tips on getting and staying organized? 2015 is going to be the year that I stay on top of things - please help!"

If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Iris, please send them in to us here.

11. Goodbye for Now

Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for December and we hope you have a wonderful Christmas - we hope you can try to make it all about needs and not wants!

Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!

Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.

Till next time...
All the best,

December 2017 - Simple Savings Newsletter

Simple Savings Newsletter - December 2017

This issue includes:

  1. January Calendar Topic: Eat Together at the Table
  2. The Savings Vault
  3. Competitions, Competitions, Competitions!
  4. Funky, Affordable T-Shirts
  5. Free 2018 Calendar
  6. Hint from the Savings Vault


Merry Christmas! I hope you are having a lovely December and you like your Simple Savings calendar for 2018. We made a slight error in the calendar on the month of December. If your December doesn't start on Saturday the 1st, please download our revised calendar.

All the best,

1. January Calendar Topic: Eat Together at the Table

Did you know that eating dinner in front of the tellie makes you fat, and eating dinner around the table together as a family makes your kids smarter, healthier and wealthier? That may sound hard to believe but it is true. Researchers have found that children who enjoy eating dinner at the table with their family:-

  • Have a lower Body Mass Index
  • Get higher marks at school
  • Are less likely to take drugs
  • Are more likely to be wealthy
  • Eat more nutritious meals

But these are not the reasons why my family eat dinner together every night. We do it because it is FUN! We laugh. We tell jokes. We play games. We tease each other. We chat. Eating dinner together is our favourite part of the day.

I believe encouraging others to spend more time at the dinner table in 2018 is the simplest way we can help each other have a happier and healthier year.

There are many reasons why 36% of Australians admit to eating most of their meals, when home, on the couch while watching their favourite TV programs. 33% of teens and 50% of people aged 20-34 never eat together.

Some of these reasons include: they live alone, they are busy, and they don't see eating together as a priority. We want you to make it a priority. Eating and meeting at a screen-free table for an hour each night is the most important thing we can do.

But how can you go from never eating at the table and always having the tellie on during meals, to screen-free table time? Start by making it fun to eat dinner together. We are helping you do that by making some printable games, jokes and conversation starters for you to use at the table.

Download them and give it a go!

2. The Savings Vault

Remember us? A Savings Vault membership is your entry ticket to nearly 19,000 hints, our fabulous Forum and our premium Downloadables. Membership gives you access to all of this, and more, for 12 months.

Vault memberships are our only source of income. We do not accept money from advertisers because we want everything we do to be in your best long term interests. If you like hearing from us please show your support by getting a Vault membership.

3. Competitions, Competitions, Competitions!

We have many competitions planned for you in 2018. Starting with these three:

Show us your shirt!

We would like to see more of the funky, affordable t-shirts everyone has been making. If you have made a shirt with an iron-on transfer and an inkjet printer, take a photo of it and email it to us and/or post it to our Simple Savers Facebook group.

The best photo sent to us before 15th January, 2018 will win $50. The competition terms and conditions are here.

Photos at the table

We would like you to share photos of your family and/or friends at the table in January with our Facebook group. We are giving a $50 prize to the most popular photo/post at 10pm on the 31st January.

The competition terms and conditions are here.

Hint of the Week

We give away one 12-month Savings Vault membership per week to the person who sends in the best money saving hint. Everyone can enter. If you are already a member you win an extra 12 months added on to your existing membership.

Enter your hint here.

4. Funky, Affordable T-Shirts

In case you missed it in last month's newsletter we have started making t-shirt transfers so you can make your own funky, affordable t-shirts.

T-shirt transfers are a great way to have funny shirts for an affordable price. This is how they work.

This week we have added...

Two New Designs

See all the other designs here.

5. Free 2018 Calendar

Start 2018 organised, happy and ready to go with The Simple Savings 2018 Calendar

To any early birds that have already been there, done that, please note there has been a correction to December 2018 (the calendar version, not the actual month in real life). Thanks to one of our eagle eyed members, we discovered December started on the wrong day. Please download the amended version.

6. Hint from the Savings Vault

Thank you to Allen, just in time for Christmas:

Perfect pork crackling

Rescue cast iron crackling easily and quickly by using the microwave. When the roast comes out of the oven, remove the crackling, wrap it in paper towel and pop it into the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove it and check. If it needs more, repeat until the crackling is all puffed up, but be careful not to overcook it because it will burn if left too long. The finished product is perfect crackling every time.

7. Merry Christmas

Thank you for your support this year. I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Many grins,
Fiona Lippey