"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,