"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 (www.ccmeats.com.au) 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 (www.rivers.com.au) 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 (www.malenydairies.com). The best place to buy Thai is Thai Seasons (http://www.menufeast.com.au/info/16387/thai-seasons/mooloolaba/). The best place to get fish and chips is the Mooloolah River Fisheries (http://www.mooloolahfish.com.au/retail.htm). 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 (http://new.simplesavings.com.au/blog/Sarahs-Simple-Savings/) as she undertakes her first $21 Challenge, the crafty 'Chatterbox' (http://new.simplesavings.com.au/blog/the-everyday-chatter-of-chatterbox/) as she endeavours to make a year's worth of beautiful gifts and single mum Shelley (http://new.simplesavings.com.au/blog/Getting-out-of-debt/), 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 (www.artshed.com.au), save on baked goods at the Vietnamese bakeries and browse the clothing shops around Montague Road. Then there is Reverse Garbage (www.reversegarbage.com.au) 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