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

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Going 'Cheep'
  2. Which Came First, the Chicken or the Veg?
  3. Naomi's 'Cut and Paste' Chicken Tractor!
  4. Best of the Forum: Backyard Farmers
  5. Best of the Vault: Get Your Garden Going!
  6. $21 Challenge - Read Chapter 2 Free!
  7. NEW! Cooking with Mimi
  8. Penny's Blog: Too Much Like Hard Work
  9. Homeopathy Corner: Snail Bait
  10. From Last Month: Share the House, Halve the Cost?
  11. This Month's Help Request: Affordable Office Furniture
  12. Savings Story: Get off the Merry-Go-Round and Get Ahead!


How are you going? Good, I hope! All is well here. I'm really excited about this month's 'From the Yard' challenge! This month, your mission is to lower your food bill by spending 16 hours of your time (four hours a week) transforming your yard from a useless space into a food producing asset.

Which leads to the question 'how?' If producing your own food is that easy, why haven't you already done it? I guess it is a bit like the $21 Challenge. It might sound hard at first, but once you have done your research, made a plan and given it a go, you discover it is actually easy and fun! So that is what we would like you to do this month - give growing your own food a go. Then you will be a able to share some of success these guys have already acheived:

"After being inspired by the $21 Challenge I have found a way to save a whopping $3120 a year on my groceries! I used to go shopping weekly and spend around $150 for my family of five. Regardless of how much I needed for the week I always managed to spend the same amount of money. I would then find myself throwing away unused fruits and vegetables and finding old tins in the cupboard months later.

"However, I decided that I would try to make my shopping last two weeks and do a 'mini-shop' on the second week. This involved buying only the bare necessities, such as bread, milk and a few top up vegetables. I now find I spend no more than $30 on the second week of shopping, I am being much more creative in the kitchen and spending less time at the shops. A win all round!" (Kellie)

"Not so good for the Simple Savings team but a saving for me - I BORROWED the $21 Challenge book from the library! I am unemployed at the moment and have really loved the tips. Also the children I look after love to choose which recipe to try. We have used up a lot of items from the freezer and cupboard which normally would sit there or be thrown out. With a house move imminent I now have less to pack too! Congratulations on a wonderful book and website, I have spread the word!" (Penelope Dawe)

"I would like to thank you for the Power Saving Calculator. Using this has helped our family save loads of money and be more energy efficient. I now apply this calculator to my other gas and water usage bills and it is starting to have the same effect on our savings." (Tracey Rowe-Tucker)

"Thank you Simple Savings. Six months ago I was informed my son would require braces. Although a payment plan was organised my first payment was to be a lump sum of over $1500. I am a single parent and was quite stressed at the thought of trying to come up with this amount of money in such a short time. After joining Simple Savings I used the Savings Diary to see where my money was going and how I could save. Using the helpful tips and recipes from this site, not only did I manage to make this payment, but I could also afford to move house after the units we were renting were sold and all tenants were evicted. Thank you again Simple Savings, I will continue to save with the help of your site." (Sharon Bennett)

"I really enjoyed the Double Dinner Challenge. It all started with me putting one pork hock into the slow cooker with three cups of water. Now our freezer is filling up and I never have to stress over meals. Tonight, we are having chops. I hope everyone is as successful as we have been." (Linda Stapleton)

All the best,
Fiona Lippey

PS: Simple Savings now has its own FACEBOOK page! If you would like your friends to be Simple Savers too, tell them about us by posting something nice on our Facebook page. We love compliments!

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Going 'Cheep'

'Just look at these!' Sally grumbled to Pete as she was cooking breakfast. 'We pay through the nose for 'high quality eggs' and what do we get? Paper thin shells, washed out looking yolks - and as for the whites - they just splat all over the place! I refuse to pay $5.99 a dozen for eggs like these. I want eggs like Hanna has!'

'To get eggs like Hanna has you have to have chickens, dear,' Pete smiled. 'Then that's what we'll do!' Sally replied. 'Just think Pete, we could be eating delicious, perfectly formed, golden yolked eggs for breakfast every morning from our very own chickens - instead of THESE,' she stabbed her fork in her runny egg, eyeing it with disdain.

'I know what's coming next,' Pete said drily. 'You want me to build a chicken run? Sorry love but you're going to be waiting a while. You've already given me 101 jobs to do! Nice idea though!' He gave her a kiss and got up and left the table. Sally fumed as she finished her breakfast. 'I'll show him! We WILL have our own chickens. I'll build them a run myself! There must be some plans on the Internet or something. How hard can it be?'

2. Which Came First, the Chicken or the Veg?

Like Sally, once upon a time I craved fresh eggs with golden yolks so high that butter could fall off the side the way a mountain climber slides off Mount Everest. But I thought owning chickens was too hard, so instead I tried my hand at growing mouth watering vegies.

I trotted off to the nursery and bought punnets of seedlings and a box of Seasol. Then I took them home, planted and watered them, and waited impatiently for them to grow. Eight weeks later, I was rewarded with such a pathetic crop of vegetables that I came to the conclusion it would have been cheaper and easier if I had just bought them at the supermarket! The only plant that did grow beautifully in my garden was a cabbage. I worshipped that cabbage, my one true success like I had climbed Everest itself, without falling off. I was so proud of that cabbage! Until, (wheeee, over the side!) I found out it wasn't actually a cabbage, just an inedible weed.

It was very disheartening. The main thing I learned from the experience was how little I knew, because growing vegetables is hard - if you don't know what you are doing. Someone who really knows what he is doing, however, is Jackie's (Penny Wise's) husband Noel. He is a vegie growing dynamo! Over a three month period last year Jackie's family of four harvested and ate 50 kilos of vegetables Noel grew himself. That is brilliant! That is a real... Everest of vegies.

I want to be able to grow vegies like Noel can, so in order to be a savvy gardener like he is, I have been listening very carefully and doing what he does. For example, when Noel was planting his garden, he did something very clever. He didn't go to the nursery and buy seedlings first. Instead he put a temporary chicken run in the spot where he was planning to grow vegetables.

Then, he got the chickens to prepare the vegetable beds for him! He threw in mulch and food for them, then sat back and waited while the chickens weeded the bed for him, turned the soil over for him, fertilised the bed for him and brought the soil to life. All the while giving him fresh eggs too! (I think Jackie married a very clever man!)

You see, the thing Noel knew about growing vegetables that I didn't is, the key to growing vegetables is getting the soil right. And, the easiest way to prepare the soil is by building a mobile chicken run - or a chicken tractor, as many people call them.

Even though I had heard this several times, it didn't sink in until we finally got our own chickens . Only then did I discover a few secrets about chickens and growing vegetables! Here's what I learned:

  1. Owning chickens is easy. I thought it would be really hard, but they are a lot like keeping budgerigars, albeit very big ones! If you have enough skill to look after a cat or a dog, you have all the skills needed to get your own fresh, golden-yolked eggs every morning.
  2. Chickens are lower maintenance than vegies. I don't mean to put growing vegetables down, far from it! However, as beginner gardeners we found the time and effort required to get vegetables out of our garden to be huge, compared to the amount required to get eggs out of our chickens. The first year I tried growing vegetables we had more failures then successes and spent several hundred dollars but only ate about $20 of our own produce. In comparison, this is the first year I have been keeping chickens and already our six chickens have given us $1000 worth of eggs!
  3. Chickens will reward you faster than vegies. The wonderful thing about chickens is you can build your chook tractor in the morning, buy a couple of 'point of lay' chickens in the afternoon and when you wake up the next day, you will have eggs waiting for you! OK it is not always the next morning; it may take a week or two if you are unlucky but when you get that first egg, it feels like you have just conquered Mount Everest.
  4. Chickens get you out into the fresh air . They literally drag you out to the garden. Since our kids are noisy and our vegetables were silent, the vegies had a tendency to get forgotten for long wilting stretches while we were busy doing all sorts of things with our much noisier children. However, this changed once we got chickens! Chickens will not be ignored. Our girls are always so happy to see us, that their joy drags everyone out into the yard. Spending time in the yard has become much more fun and while we are out tending to the chickens, we now also use this time to tend to the vegie garden!
  5. Chickens won't tie you down . You can still go on holidays. Often if you own livestock you are always bound to your home and going on holidays is a huge issue. Not so with chickens. Many people who are reluctant about minding a cat or a dog will happily care for your chickens, because they get to eat the eggs. Egg-cellent! Speaking of neighbours, I don't recommend you get a rooster.
  6. Chickens reduce your food bill. Before we had chickens we ate 28 eggs per week. Now we eat 42 eggs per week! This means we enjoy virtually FREE eggs on toast for breakfast instead of having to buy cereal. AND virtually FREE egg based meals for dinner. AND the most delicious light and fluffy sponge cakes! Here is a link to a YouTube video of Miss Jacqueline demonstrating our gluten-free, dairy-free, sponge cake recipe, made with our own fresh eggs.
  7. Chickens are environmental warriors. They are a great way for you to reduce your food miles and carbon footprint. When you have all the eggs you need in your own back yard you don't have to drive to the supermarket to get them. Home produced eggs require no trucking, packaging or other resources which are harmful to the planet. We have also greatly reduced our household waste since we started feeding all our food scraps to the chickens.
  8. Chickens will even plant food for you! Not only are chickens great little workers in the garden, they are also great recyclers, turning food scraps into manure which fertilises the soil and in turn plants more free food for us! We have lots of tomatoes growing thanks to the chickens, not to mention pawpaw and pumpkins, and the banana plants went... er, bananas, when the chickens moved onto that patch and started their magic. If you don't have time to garden, get the chickens to do it for you!
  9. Chickens are trendy! Hard to believe I know but they have actually become 'cool'! This was something I wasn't expecting. Our chickens are quite a neighbourhood attraction. All the kids stop to talk to the chickens and feed them. Even at dinner parties or mothers groups you will find that people with chickens have a certain 'street cred'.

It's true! It's quite common to hear people say 'I wish I could keep chickens'. The great news is, you CAN. Anybody can keep chickens. All you need are chickens and a chicken tractor. 'A chicken tractor! Where the heck am I supposed to get one of those?' I hear you ask? You're about to find out!

3. Naomi's 'Cut and Paste' Chicken Tractor!

For years I had wanted to keep chickens but every chicken tractor design I came across online was too hard for me to attempt to build with wee kiddies underfoot. I did try nagging Matt to make me one last year when I was heavily pregnant. Unfortunately I got the same response as Sally did in this month's story. Apparently, I had already given him a million jobs to do, such as programming some obscure money saving website and proofing a book! *mock sigh and an eye roll* In the end, I bought a VERY EXPENSIVE chicken tractor out of desperation. By the time we had bought a few books and read up on the subject, got our chickens and had our chicken tractor delivered I had spent $1100!

Naomi also wanted to keep chickens but had gone through a similar experience. All the plans she came across online were too complicated and hard to understand. She came to the conclusion it was going to be impossible to build her own chicken tractor so ended up spending $500 on a flat-packed chicken coop from eBay. It was disappointingly small, heavy and in the end she got rid of the chickens and used it to house guinea pigs instead.

We didn't want you to make the same very expensive mistakes we did. So Naomi has designed a simple, lightweight, durable, fully functioning 'Cut and Paste Chicken Tractor' that EVERYONE can make for around $300. We called it 'Cut and Paste' because there are no screws and bolts involved. If you can cut with scissors and a hacksaw and glue a few bits of pipe together, then you have all the skills needed to make this very light weight chicken tractor.

The design is so simple you can make it in a day. You only need to read through the instructions, print out the shopping list, get the bits home and stick it all together. How easy is that! For those who are near a Bunnings store, we have even included their product codes and written the shopping list so you can find what you need in order as you walk around the store.

The above version is intended for keeping two to four chickens. Later on down the track if you think four chickens are not enough then you can easily get some more! All you have to do is cut the wire ties and add an extension. Later you can also change the design to suit your yard.

Note - This design is NOT fox proof. If you need to make it fox proof you will need to use chicken wire on all sides or make it a lot taller.

For Naomi's full instructions with step by step photos, shopping list and chicken purchasing tips, click here.

We have made these plans free because we want everyone to be able to make a huge difference to their food bill, their family and the planet. There is enough information here for you to get started. You can learn heaps more about keeping chickens by reading some of our many Forum threads on the subject, or through talking to our Forum members. You do have to be a paid member to do this but when you join the Vault you will enjoy an almost instant return on your investment - just like your chickens!

You can join the Vault here.

4. Best of the Forum: Backyard Farmers

Whether you're a first time gardener or a seasoned 'green thumb' the Savings Forum is always an excellent place to talk about the great outdoors. Check out some of these discussions for starters!

The best way to learn self sufficient living?

Do you dream of living 'the good life' but don't know where to start? Help is at hand! In this thread you will discover some great tips how to live a thrifty, self sufficient lifestyle.

How many eggs did you get today?

A fun and inspiring thread about counting eggs! This thread is also a great place to talk about what type of chickens you have, how many and how good they are at laying beautiful fresh eggs for you, your family and friends.

Chicken talk for those who have/want chickens

Chicken lovers unite! Whether you need advice on keeping chooks, want to cluck along with other members about your chickens or learn from their tales, this is the thread for you.

What are you growing this year?

Read this thread and prepare to be amazed! You wouldn't believe the variety of fruit and vegies our members grow. This discussion will inspire you, as well as pass on some helpful tips, such as which plants are suited for the tropics as well as the colder climates.

Backyard sufficiency for renters/people on small blocks

You don't need to own a sprawling property to enjoy self sufficient living. If you are renting or living on a smaller block you will find some fantastic tips here. Some members are even using mini greenhouses inside!

5. Best of the Vault: Get Your Garden Going!

More people have turned to vegie gardening as a way to reduce their food bills in the last few years than they have in decades. Join the trend and get growing, with the help of some of these tips from the Savings Vault!

Meet a growing family

Our family does the best we can to help save the planet, and save ourselves money, by growing our own vegetables and trading with others who do the same. I have a few tips for growing your own seedlings which can reduce costs in the garden and help you recycle household waste.

Seed Trays - Reuse seedling trays you had previously purchased, or be inventive and reuse something you may have placed in your recycling bins such as toilet rolls or plastic milk bottles, punched with several holes for drainage. Use soil from your garden or worm castings - these are very good for seedlings.

Sourcing Seeds - We get our seeds from heirloom catalogues; these have greater variety, are cheaper than hardware or nursery seeds and as they're not hybrids, the seed is always viable. We always let a few plants go to seed and collect them. Last year, one broccoli plant provided enough seed to fill a brown paper bag; that will last several years and all for an initial cost of around $3.00. A year's supply of broccoli from the shops would cost well over $100 for a family of three.

Making markers - To mark out which seeds are which, make your own markers from recycled materials. We use the coated cardboard from heat treated milk containers. They cut easily and are water repellent so they can be used over and over again. If you use permanent markers, sunlight won't fade the writing.

Starting seeds - To get seeds started in cold weather you can keep them inside, on top of the hot water heater, or make mini greenhouses from plastic cartons and bottles. I was lucky enough to get a plastic greenhouse which is small enough to fit on a balcony or veranda but large enough to produce enough seedlings for our vegetable garden year round.

All this planting, marking and watering might sound labour intensive but it only takes about one hour a week.

Contributed by: Kristy Faris

Never buy lettuce again

I'm never buying salad items again! For $2.99, the cost of one store bought lettuce, I bought a packet of lettuce seeds containing approximately 50 seeds. Add to that a $4.99 bag of compost, and a bit of muscle to dig up a patch of garden, and I now have fresh salad every day for only $0.15c a lettuce!

I can't eat it all, so I'm giving some away to friends and family which means they are saving from my savings! So simple, fresh and tasty and a huge saving of $141.52!

Contributed by: Lisa

Pay yourself for home grown fruit and veg

I save by paying for the fruit and vegetables I grow in my garden! As I harvest what I have grown I put some money in a box. I don't charge much, for example $0.50c for a large cabbage and $0.10c for enough carrots for a meal, but it's enough so that at the end of the month I have a reasonable amount of money for something I really need.

Contributed by: Nanna Poddy

Plant rhubarb, grow savings

Save money by growing your own rhubarb. It's so easy to grow, lasts for years and you can use it all year round.

A small bunch can cost $2.00 to $6.00 in the supermarket, but one or two plants will produce plenty for a small family. If you know someone who has several crowns of rhubarb, ask if they will split one or two for you. Don't bury the crown when planting and give it plenty of compost or some manure to start with. For longer stalks, plant it inside a wide pipe about 30cm-40cm high. This will encourage long stems as the leaves reach for the light.

When the stalks are thick and red, pull them away from the crown to harvest, rather than cutting them. To freeze, wash and trim both stalk ends - don't use the leaves, which are poisonous - then cut into pieces about 1cm long. Put into a plastic bag, sprinkle a little sugar over and shake before sealing and popping into the freezer. It's then all ready for a quick rhubarb pie, crumble or whatever you fancy. Keep harvesting whenever it is ready and you'll never run out.

You can use rhubarb leaves for cleaning the inside of a saucepan too! Just boil up the leaves in the saucepan with plenty of water and stains seem to disappear. Be sure to rinse well afterwards.

Contributed by: Val Solomon

Plant tomato seeds and sprouting potatoes

When using fresh tomatoes, put the seeds into a pot and you will save money by growing your own tomatoes. You will find they not only look better but taste better too. The same goes for potatoes. When you have them a little too long they will grow little eyes in them. Just plant them in the ground and you will have your own fresh potatoes. They take around six weeks to grow. When they start to flower put some dirt over the base of the plants to cover the growing spuds. When the plant above ground is dead it is time to harvest and enjoy.

Contributed by: Teresa Bloomfield

Sweet potato all year round

Many people do not realise this, but it is possible to grow 'seasonal' vegetables all year round! For the price of a single sweet potato, our family enjoys its homegrown produce summer and winter. It takes very little time and effort. First you need some large, empty pots - old plant pots will do. Next, put some shredded paper in the bottom, followed by either compost or cheap potting mix. Then, purchase one small sweet potato and cut it into four. Let the cut quarters dry off for a week, then plant into your pots. In a small area, these will grow and trail and make a nice display of greenery; in a large area they will grow against a fence and cover the area.

After six months we take out and use a sweet potato and always cut a little to dry. Then we simply put the newly dried pieces back into the pots and start again! I have six pots going and these keep us in sweet potatoes all year. You can do this with other vegetables too, using pots or whatever else you can find. I have converted an old plastic baby pool into a vegie garden and use it to grow lettuces, just picking the leaves as we need them. Even an old tyre in one corner of the yard has been filled with shredded paper and soil and grows beetroot, which are delicious served cold in summer, and hot in winter with a dollop of sour cream!

Contributed by: Betty Threlfo

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 back in the spring. I am now getting my own fresh and tasty, chemical free rockmelons at a fraction of the price!

Contributed by: Katie Chambers

A garden that grows and goes Contributed by: Shannon Dobson

Eggs-cellent idea for vegetable growers Contributed by: Jo Murphy

Four easy-to-grow herbs Contributed by: Julie Chissell

Nothing nuts about this home made pesto! Contributed by: Heather Mackay

6. $21 Challenge - Read Chapter 2 Free!

Just in case you haven't got round to reading Chapter 2 of the $21 Challenge book yet, here's another reminder! When we were writing the book, the second chapter kind of happened by accident. You see, in this chapter, families share their experiences of the $21 Challenge and why they love it. Once we read everyone's feedback, the many benefits were so varied and so great, we just had to put them all in the book - and you know what? It ended up being our favourite chapter!

It looks like we weren't the only ones who enjoyed it either! We decided to make the second chapter free because when Jackie was touring around libraries talking about the $21 Challenge, she discovered that people couldn't stop talking about the second chapter of the book. They said it really inspired them and made them want to save money. We thought that was fantastic but even more so, we thought it was really important that everyone could read that chapter, so that we can help as many people as possible.

So here they are! Both chapters are 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)

Oh - and don't forget (*shameless plug*) you can purchase the WHOLE $21 Challenge book here!

7. NEW! Cooking with Mimi

We are pleased to welcome a new regular addition to our newsletters. By popular demand, we proudly introduce one of our favourite savvy cooks from the Forum - Mimi!

For a long time now, Mimi has shared her delicious frugal recipes in the Forum; many of which have gone on to become regular favourites with members and their families. One of seven children, Mimi is a devoted mum and an unabashed 'foodie'. Having spent years in the catering business, she likes nothing more than whipping up new creations in the kitchen. If you can buy it in shops, or eat it in a restaurant, you can bet Mimi will come up with a way to make it - for a fraction of the price!

Each month from now on, we will showcase Mimi's recipes - and enjoy every minute sampling them too! Check out this month's yummy selection!

Creamy Egg Spread

My mum used to work at a posh city hotel. She learned this recipe from the chef, who used it for afternoon teas for the 'blue rinse' ladies. This spread is delicious on sandwiches with watercress (easily grown at home), toast or on crackers of any kind.

  • 4 cups water
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped onion
  • ½ tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 90g softened cream cheese or labna
  • Seasoning to taste

Bring your four cups of water to the boil. When it's bubbling, add the eggs, and cook at a rapid boil for eight minutes.

Remove from the heat, drain and run the eggs under cold water for a minute to prevent them discolouring.

Allow the eggs to sit in cold water for five minutes, then peel, and quarter.

In a food processor bowl or blender, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, onion and Tabasco sauce until smooth. Add the eggs, cream cheese or labna and pulse until combined.

You can also just mash this together, but you won't get the same creamy consistency.

Taste and season if necessary.

Transfer to a covered bowl. Keeps well, covered, for 24-48 hours.

Poor Man's Guacamole

This dip looks just like Guacamole - with one big difference. It's made with broad beans and not an avocado in sight! Broad beans are dead easy to grow but harder to convince the family to eat. They generally look unattractively grey once steamed, but pop them out of their little grey pods, and these ravishing little vivid green babies come to life. Their flavour is just as mild as avocado, and once pureed, the texture is similar too. The beans also retain their pretty green colour, unlike avocadoes which will brown once stored as a dip, so this is a great make-ahead recipe. These ingredients make the most enormous amount so this is a winner for those feed-a-crowd occasions.

Don't let your imagination stop at using this one as a dip either. Try it as a pasta sauce, a topping for baked potatoes, and as a sandwich or wrap filling with some crunchy carrots and sprouts.

If you don't grow your own broad beans, you can buy frozen ones for under $3.00 in the frozen vegetable section of your supermarket. You will need two 500g packets for this recipe.

  • 6 cups water
  • 1kg broad beans
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 60-100ml reserved cooking liquid
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp fresh or minced coriander
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated, minced or powdered
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small chilli, diced finely

Bring your six cups of water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the broad beans, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until tender. Drain, reserving the liquid, and cool. Pinch the beans to pop them out of their pods if you wish, otherwise leave whole.

Add the steamed broad beans, lemon zest and juice, coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic and chilli to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a thick paste forms. With the motor running, drizzle 60ml of the reserved cooking liquid and 60ml of the olive oil through the chute.

Check the consistency and flavour and add salt and pepper to taste. If the dip is too firm, add up to 30ml more olive oil and cooking liquid, checking after each addition, using the same method.

Use as a dip with vegetable sticks, or as a replacement for guacamole in any Mexican dish.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Almonds, Crispy Bacon and Feta

Think you don't like brussels sprouts? Think again! These little morsels are scrumptious as a side dish, or light lunch. We all know the benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables - they provide great roughage and have long been touted as a cancer preventative BUT - they are seriously in need of a makeover!

Luckily, this dish is so good, even people who don't like brussels sprouts will come back for seconds. It's about as un-sprouty as they come!

  • 500g brussel sprouts
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 2 rashers middle bacon, finely diced
  • 100g feta cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 220C.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Remove the tough outer leaves of the brussel sprouts and rinse well. Roll in a clean tea towel or paper towels to dry. Cut each sprout into quarters. Pour the olive oil and balsamic vinegar into a large bowl, and season well with salt and pepper.

Put the prepared brussel sprouts into the bowl, and toss until well coated. Pour the brussel sprouts, and the excess oil and vinegar into the lined baking tray. Bake for around 20 minutes until they start to turn golden.

While the sprouts are roasting, heat a non-stick frypan over a medium heat. When well heated, add the flaked almonds and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, until they turn golden. This should take no more than a minute or two. Remove the almonds to a bowl.

Reheat the pan, and add the diced bacon. Fry the bacon until cooked to your liking. I prefer it a little underdone and soft, but the rest of the family prefers it very crisp.

Remove the brussel sprouts from the oven. Sprinkle with the cooked bacon, crumbled feta, and toasted almonds.

Return to the oven to heat the feta through, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Silverbeet Coconut Curry

My mum used to grow silverbeet when we were kids. We ate it steamed with loads of butter and salt. Fortunately, I now know other ways to eat this beautiful leafy treasure! Curries are so popular these days and everyone has their favourite version. This one is full of iron. It's the perfect combination of healthy and deliciously flavoursome. Remember that the silverbeet shrinks down significantly with cooking so pile it in and let the delicious curry sauce weave its magic.

  • 6 leaves of silverbeet, sliced down the middle to halve, then into shreds about 5cm wide
  • 2 tbsp Thai curry paste
  • 300ml coconut milk
  • 300ml stock or water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, finely sliced (or equivalent from a jar)
  • 2 cups rice
  • 3 ½ cups water

Put the rice and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil, stir well, and cover with a tight fitting lid. Switch OFF, but leave on hotplate. Do not disturb and do not peek or the stored heat will be released and your rice will not cook. Leave for 20 minutes, then fluff the rice with a fork. Cover and keep warm while the curry is cooking.

Heat a large wok until smoking. Add curry paste, and stir fry until fragrant.

Add the coconut milk, stock (or water), bay leaves, fish sauce, sugar, ginger and lemongrass. Stir well until simmering.

Add the shredded silverbeet all at once. Stir to cover in liquid. Cover and allow to simmer for about 3-5 minutes until the silverbeet is tender. Serve with rice.

8. Penny's Blog: Too Much Like Hard Work

July 19th

Hooray! We have an abundance of broccoli in the garden again! Just in the nick of time too, as we had just run out of the stash we had frozen from the last crop and we absolutely refused to buy it from the supermarket, much too expensive! It's scary how expensive winter vegetables are to buy; it certainly makes you think twice about which ones you're prepared to pay for.

The latest statistics show the price of fruit and vegetables has risen by more than 9% over May and June so I was really impressed to see a couple of local places this week helping families to get more fresh produce for their dollar. The Glenview Fruit and Vege Market in Hamilton has been stopping traffic with their sign advertising their winter special. For $10 customers can get a broccoli, a silverbeet and a bag each of carrots, apples, onions, kumara, pears and potatoes. Or, you can buy $20 worth of freshly picked homegrown fruit and vegetables for $10 in Huntly, thanks to Kim Rangi; an enterprising Community Health Coach. Good on 'em and others like them I say!

Still, the cheapest way to save on fruit and vegies is of course to grow your own. I'm certainly grateful at this time of year for my little freezer full of broccoli, cauliflower, broccoflower, pumpkin and celery. I almost always freeze our celery as none of us like it raw but it's great in soups and stews!

Since his new job started, Noel hasn't had too much time for getting out in the garden but he's still been saving us plenty of money on our food bill - thanks to other people's vegetable gardens! He's been having a wonderful time pootling along the winding coastal roads and picking up all sorts of bargains from local roadside growers, saving at least 50% compared to supermarket prices. However, his best coup so far is the sack of about 60 avocados given to him by one of his new clients! Apparently they stay green as long as you want them; you simply put them in a warm place such as a hot water cupboard or by the fire and they will ripen over several days. We won't need to buy avocados for a VERY long time!

Because so many of the places he travels are in the back of beyond, we have to be really disciplined about making sure Noel always has plenty of lunch, drinks and snacks packed from home. It's great - he just pulls up at the nearest beach wherever he happens to be and tucks into his lunch, looking out over the sea. Mind you, almost wherever he goes on his travels his friendly new clients invite him in for sandwiches or home-made soup. How many jobs do you get like that these days?

It's a standing joke in our family that if the sky were to fall in tomorrow, Noel and Ali would survive quite comfortably, whilst left to our own devices Liam and I would undoubtedly starve. One of my favourite sayings, which I've said before and admit to pinching from Fiona is 'Give a man a fish and he will have food for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will have food for life'. Ali is definitely living proof of that! He can grow his own food, he can hunt it and he can catch it too. Only yesterday he singlehandedly brought home enough dinner to feed u have to do is pick it and eat it - where's the hard work in that? Or would you rather drive to the supermarket to get your fruit and vegies?'

Of course I don't actually say it - I just smile sweetly and bite my tongue but I find it hard to believe that so many people truly believe they don't have the time to eat the cheapest, best quality food that nature can give them - or stranger still, that they don't have the time to SAVE themselves time going shopping! I would hate to think that our years of planting and nurturing all this wonderful food might be left to rot or feed nothing but the birds and possums when we leave here. There must be other mad people like us out there who enjoy nothing better than 'too much hard work!'

July 2010

13th - Times like these

23rd - That's my boy!

9. Homeopathy Corner: Snail Bait

Snails hate homeopathy - or at least Helix Tosta, a remedy made from ground up toasted snail. Fran Sheffield has been doing some research into its effectiveness and surveying some of her customers who have been protecting their plants from snails with Helix Tosta, and the first set of results are in. 83.8% of people who used it to protect their plants said they considered the results good or excellent. That is great news for us, but sad news for the snails.

If you would like to learn more about Fran's snail experiments go to:-



10. From Last Month: Share the House, Halve the Cost?

Last month Sylvia asked:

"I am a widow and have had a male friend for three years. We live in separate houses and take it in turns to cook for each other every other night. We go away on holiday together and get along fine. We are both on a pension and finding it is getting tougher and tougher to stretch our money from payday to payday. My friend keeps suggesting that we should live together as it would basically halve our expenses but as well as the thought of giving up my independence, I am a little concerned with the legal aspect of setting up home together.

"His idea is to sell his house and move in with me. However, I'm not sure what would happen were I to pass away first (I am 67, he is 71). My own house is left to my family and I am worried that after two years, he and his family could legally be entitled to half of everything should I die before him. Although we would be living together, our friendship is only platonic and neither of us would dream of using the other's money or assets to our own advantage. However, the savings would be so great at around $1000 a month that I am starting to feel it is worth giving some serious thought. I would really love to hear any advice members could give on how we could make this living arrangement work legally, as well as anyone who has possibly been in a similar situation!"

We knew that we could rely on our wise members to offer plenty of savvy advice! Thank you to everyone who sent in helpful suggestions like these:

Platonic friends can have a pre-nup too

Any legal worries you may have about sharing your home can be solved by getting a prenuptial agreement - even though the relationship is purely platonic. It will outline what each party wants at the outset and then will be clear to everyone should either of you were to pass away during the time you are sharing the same house.

Contributed by: Diane Fawcitt

Consult a relationship lawyer

Even if you are not in a 'relationship' as such, you need to discuss exactly how this will work with your friend and then both discuss this with a relationship lawyer. It would be best to have a Contracting Out Agreement drawn up (both will need legal advice) and this will make it clear as to who is entitled to what in the event of going separate ways or one passing away. This also makes it clear to the families that you have attended to this and made provisions for them. Also, ensure your wills are both up to date and the Contracting Out Agreement is kept with the will. Good luck!

Contributed by: Shelley Turnbull

Better neighbours than friends

You can get along with a person really well on a daily basis - but living together is a whole different story, as I found out! My neighbour and I both had four year old boys. With both of us receiving single parents pension we decided we would share a house to save on expenses. One of the things we had to do early on was answer embarrassing and intimate questions from Centrelink about whether or not we were in a relationship, which we were definitely not! On the positive side it ended up being financially beneficial, however, just because we got along great as neighbours, living together was very different and we only lasted about 10 months.

Contributed by: Russell Syme

Go halves on the house

I think it's a fantastic idea that you and your friend want to live this way, but you are right, it is almost impossible to protect your children's interests beyond the grave. Here is my suggestion. When your friend sells his home, get him to 'buy into' yours. By this, I mean give you half the money and put his name on the title. You then invest the money so that, if he dies before you, you are able to buy back that share and if you die before him, then he can buy your family out of their share. This way, you not only save by living together, but you can have a little investment on the side, earning you a small income. A win-win situation I think!

Contributed by: Janine Valbergs

Seek advice from Centrelink

Before committing to sharing a house, please seek information from Centrelink before making your decision. As your friend wants to live within your home, you would be best to set the arrangement up so that he is simply renting a room from you and you are simply sharing the household expenses as housemates. This protects your finances as he would have no ability to contest a will or have grounds for entitlement as he was simply a tenant within your home. The savings and the company would be well worth the effort of legally setting the situation.

Contributed by: Emma Beatson

For better or worse - or just better?

When two friends agree to share a house, you can make a legal contract to cover your worries, just as a married couple can have a pre-nup agreement. However, there are also other things you might want to consider. You would have to have a clear agreement about splitting the bills, especially the food bill - just in case he thinks you'll do all the cooking for him! Also, bringing two households together you will both probably have items to sell as there would be two of everything, so that will require some discussion. Yet another thing to think about is, if this man becomes sick, do you want to become his carer? This would need some careful thought and you would need to have an agreement between the two of you should this arise. However, if you get on well then you could do a lot to look after each other and live much more comfortably. Good luck!

Contributed by: Annabel Brinkworth

Sharing a home doesn't have to be complicated

Platonic friends can share a house and still retain ownership of their respective estates. Any good lawyer can draw up a will which still leaves each partner's estate to his or her own family and not revert to the more recently acquired partner. The second house could be rented and the income shared. Then, should the home owner of the house in which they live pass on first, the second can recover his or her own home and allow the deceased estate to be wound up.

Contributed by: Neville Crocombe

Both parties well cared for with legal agreement

I can vouch that sharing your home with another person can be a good idea. I was a carer for someone who lived with me. We were treated as separate people by Centrelink, not as a couple. I visited my solicitor and made an additional note to go with my will that stated we were living separately. I also made provisions for the person I was caring for to be allowed a set amount of time to continue residing at our shared home should I pre-decease them, and have made mention of items they were entitled to in order to re-establish themselves elsewhere.

By doing this I have made the situation clear, it is all legal and I feel I have been fair with the re-establishment clause and effects. This has also put the other person's mind at ease because they will not suddenly find themselves homeless should anything happen to me.

We have since had a change in our relationship and have married, however, I have still left these clauses in place as the home we have I had bought prior to our marriage, and upon my death goes to my children.

Contributed by: Glenys Gordon

Pay rent when sharing a house

I can highly recommend sharing a house! It really helps to keep the finances under control. My son and I currently share a house with a male friend and have done so now for several months to save costs. Our relationship is entirely platonic and he has a girlfriend. I moved in to his place and to ensure he was legally covered should anything happen, I pay him a small amount of rent ($100 per week) which he keeps in a log book. His accountant said that as long as I am a renter, my family has no comeback should anything happen. We both sign the rent book each week to say I have paid, so the evidence is clear. We go halves in all electricity and groceries and this has saved us both heaps. It is also great to have the household chores halved! I do the housework and he keeps the gardens and so on. He uses the rent towards his rates and house insurance/repairs so it benefits him as the home owner and it all works out great for both of us!

Contributed by: Rosemary Knights

11. This Month's Help Request: Affordable Office Furniture

This month Ros asks:

"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."

If anyone has any suggestions or experiences which could help Ros, please send them in to us here.

12. Savings Story: Get Off the Merry-Go-Round and Get Ahead

I never dreamed that saving money and paying bills could be so much fun! At the start of this year my husband and I decided that we were sick of living pay to pay. It seemed like all we did was pay off the bills, only to have more to come in and not leave enough to go round. We always seemed to be juggling what to pay on what payday. One day, after having a nice long chat with my mum, my husband and I sat down and worked out a budget. We looked really closely at every bill that we paid and how much they were each month. We then divided all the bills in half and started to pay them every fortnight instead.

We also analysed all the bills to see where we could save. We bundled our home phone, Internet and pay TV together and saved ourselves more than $100 a month. We also looked into our mobile phones and saw that we were paying for a high cap plan that we were not even using! I changed them and this saved us at least another $100 per month. From then on I began going over all our bills with a fine toothed comb. In the last four months alone doing this has saved us at least $900 on various bills because the companies had our charges incorrect!

After doing this for few months the bills started to come in and to our joy we found we were in credit. It's a wonderful feeling to see a bill where you are in credit for $30, or that you only owe $3.00 on your mobile phone bill for the month!

We budget ourselves $400 for groceries each fortnight (including takeaway and so on). Anything not used goes into a tin to put towards the following fortnight. We have the same system with fuel too - we budget for it, pay it and whatever is left over goes into the kitty for the next fortnight.

We now also have an allowance for ourselves. Out of this comes our luxury items such as waxing, hairdresser, shoes, smokes, coffee, work lunches and so on. If we don't have the money for the things we want, we just have to save up until we do!

We are finally getting ahead of our bills instead of the bills getting ahead of us. There is no longer a panic if an unexpected bill comes in. Any remaining money is put towards paying off our credit card and any extra money we get (e.g. child care rebate, tax refund and so on) also goes straight on paying off this card. Once it is paid off it we will finally be putting our money where we want it - into a savings account, instead of paying off debt!

Contributed by: Kerri Shepherd-Ashby