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

This issue includes:-

  1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Switched Off
  2. August is Switching Off Month!
  3. Hidden Gems Competition Winner: MyFitnessPal.com
  4. Best Members' Blog: A New Journey
  5. Best of the Forum: Switched on Savers!
  6. Best of the Vault: How Low Can You Go?
  7. Cooking with Mimi: Dinner by Candlelight... Not Just for Romantics!
  8. Fifty Cent Indulgences: Pantry Delights
  9. Claire's Corner: July, You Sucked my Wallet Dry!
  10. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: A Pondering on Self-Sufficiency
  11. Homeopathy Corner: Fighting Colds and Flu
  12. From Last Month: Post Chemo Hair Care
  13. This Month's Help Request: Fire Surrounds
  14. Savings Story: Going for Gold!
  15. Goodbye for now!


I hope you are having a great month. Life in Simple Savings land has been fun. We have been preparing to open an online shop which will be devoted to goods to help you save. And, I mean SAVE!

If all goes well (as if!) the shop should be open with its first couple of products by the end of the month. So keep your eyes peeled. We have been very fussy selecting products because we want every item to help improve your lives. We want these products to be so good that when you receive them you will want to write us lovely compliments such as these ones:

"I just received The $21 Challenge for my birthday on the weekend and read it in one sitting - I love it. Your book has come into our house at exactly the right time as both my husband and I have been subject to pretty scary cuts in hours/income at the moment. I have written my 'streamlined' grocery list and I am ready to take up the challenge! Thanks again." (Kim M.)

"I love reading your fantastic newsletters. Over the years I have found the tips and tricks invaluable, and have turned my spending habits around for the better! Thanks for your wonderful service." (Karen Chapman)

"Love your newsletter! Makes for a positive start to my working day. Instead of thinking I need to earn more, which is a lie I tell myself after I spend and waste too much, your newsletter is a friendly reminder that I can make better aware choices with what I do with my money. Thanks for your newsletters, they are fantastic!" (Amy Dew)

"That was a very swift reply to my email and so lovely to get a proper personalised one as opposed to a computer generated one. My finances are very tight for the next eight weeks; getting together the last of the money I need for expenses to attend my brother's wedding in Sydney. I've got a daughter to pay for too, but with my skills of making a dollar stretch and knowing how to shop on the cheap I'll get there. I find the $21 Challenge book provides me with lots of inspiration! I shopped for just under only $10 this week and next week I have just $14 total to spend, along with what's at home in the cupboards and fridge, so even less than $21! I know I can do it as I have become very resourceful!" (Bridget S.)

All the best,

1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: Switched Off

"Morning! Fancy a cuppa?" smiled Chloe. "Love one - it's freezing out there!" said Sally. "Ooh - it's lovely and toasty in here though!" "I'll say!" agreed Pete. "Make mine a pina colada Chlo, it's like the Bahamas in here! What must your power bill be like?"

"Ugh, don't ask," Chloe grimaced as Sally smiled apologetically at her husband's lack of tact. "It was $600 last quarter. I can't believe how much it costs to keep this little place warm, especially when there's only me living here. It's just crazy," she grumbled.

"$600! That's crazy alright - ow!" Pete spluttered as Sally elbowed him. "Well if you have any suggestions on how I can make it less, do tell!" said Chloe. "Er - switch your heating off? Put on a jumper and some socks?" replied Pete. Chloe looked mortified. "Oh no - I couldn't possibly do that. I don't like wearing jumpers. They are so itchy!"

2. August is Switching Off Month!

Do you recognise Clueless Chloe? How many people do you know who claim they want to lower their electricity bill but are not prepared to put their money where their mouth is? Well, this month it is time to change that. It is time to take action. It is time to switch off the things WE CAN DO WITHOUT, such as the lights, TV and computer being on in every room of the house.

We are focusing on turning these off because it is a small and easy change that will make a huge difference to your life. It will not just save you money, it will bring your family closer together. And, that is very important.

With everything we gain in this world we also give something else away. When we gained the ability to light and heat every room, and be able to entertain ourselves in our own separate spaces, we lost something. We lost intimacy. We lost all the benefits of sharing the same room, such as entertaining each other and not just being entertained.

We lost the ability to tell jokes, to play games, to laugh and, in some cases, smile. We stopped reading to each other. We stopped learning how to resolve arguments. We lost all the wonderful things that being in the one room gave us.

So let's get them back. This month, switch off most of your lights after dark and only light one room so everyone starts hanging out together. And, only have one screen on at a time. This will help everyone relearn how to share and be intimate with each other. This won't just lower your power bill, it will bring the joy back to life.

3. Hidden Gems Competition Winner: MyFitnessPal.com

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

This month's winner is MyFitnessPal.com as nominated by Carmen Stobaus. Well done Carmen on finding such a great resource and thank you for sharing it with us.


I never thought of this as a Hidden Gem before, because I don't pay a cent for it and it is all online, but after reading about Claire's story with Weight Watchers I was motivated to tell you about a 'Hidden Gem' that helped me lose a staggering 35kg in 10 months!

MyFitnessPal.com is a 100% free online site that provides tools to help you set weight loss and calorie goals. You can also use their huge database to very easily track calories and find answers to all those curly weight loss questions in the forums. Plus you'll get support from people all over the world trying to get healthier too!

I have 15 more kilos to lose, and with the support of this fabulous online community I know I will make it... and maintain it! As well as diet, there is also a large focus on exercise with tips for everyone, from those who like to walk the dog for exercise, to those who like to Zumba or lift serious weights! A lot of members have stayed on after reaching their goal, and are a source of great advice.

This site is for everyone. If you have specific goals developed by a doctor or nutritionist, you can change the settings to suit. Plus there are heaps of recipe ideas for those on a budget, or those with diabetes or other special dietary needs. You can use it to maintain your weight once you get to your goal (yay!) and you can make lifelong friends in your city and all over the world.

Last time I went to Weight Watchers it was something like $15 per meeting (weekly). With MFP you get meetings daily or more often and it is all free! Over the course of a year you would save $780, which is precisely what my gym membership costs!

I challenge Claire to sign up for free and try it, and all the other Simple Savings members looking for support to achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle, I love it!

My Fitness Pal is completely free, all the time to everyone! The website is http://www.myfitnesspal.com/

If you know somewhere special you'd like to recommend, please write in and tell us. Send in your Hidden Gem here and you could be the next winner scooping the prize money. Thank you to everyone who entered and good luck for next time!

4. Best Members' Blog: A New Journey

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

This month's winner is Colleen for sharing her commitment to her challenging and rewarding savings adventure in her blog 'A New Journey':

At the end of 2011 I was accepted into university to do a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology. I was thinking of working part-time and studying part-time. Then reality hit - it would be impossible to do three really tough things well. I couldn't work in a stressful job, be a parent to three kids and be a uni student. Something had to go and lucky for me it was the job. So from February 2012 we dropped to a one income family. I feel a considerable amount of pressure to perform at university because of the decision to leave work to study, but also pressure to pick up more of the family responsibilities. One of my personal goals has been to reduce expenditure to minimise some of the impact of the loss of income. So I stumbled on Simple Savings in June. I started reading Penny's blog and that inspired me to join this month. One of my little changes so far has been to add a set of cups to my car - now when we go out I buy a bottle of drink rather than five separate drinks. It can be a substantial saving. On Saturday I bought a 2 litre juice for $2.50 (on special) and the attendant scanned it at $5.00. I checked my receipt after paying and noticed it wasn't reduced so I went back to ask for a refund of the difference and was given my $5.00 back. Previously I wouldn't have bothered because it was only $2.50 but not anymore.

I am looking forward to finding new ways to save.

Congratulations Colleen on facing your challenge head on. To read any of our members' blogs, click here

5. Best of the Forum: Switched on Savers!

Saving money on your electricity bill can be as simple as changing one or two small habits. For some people it can be a satisfying daily ritual of checking power consumption meters and installing power saving devices. However you choose to save those dollars, here are some great ideas that might help spark a 'light bulb moment'.

Make your own Wonderbag... a stored heat cooking insulator

Here's a fantastic thread all about thinking outside the box and cooking up great electricity savings!

To solar or not to solar? That is the question

Solar savings are on the house! Our members shed some light on solar energy as they discuss their different experiences.

Simple steps will cut your electricity bill by $715

This inspiring thread shares some great ideas for switching off appliances and switching on to savings.

Here comes the carbon tax - ways to save on your carbon cost

Have a look through this thread for some simple but effective ideas to lower your electricity bills. How many of these hints could make a difference to your next bill?

Candles - how to make the most out of your candles and extend their life

Sometimes you need to stop burning them at both ends and just enjoy them! Candles are practical, inexpensive, ambient and romantic - and can save you money!

6. Best of the Vault: How Low Can You Go?

You probably do many things in your daily life to save money, and hopefully a wander through the amazing tips in the Simple Savings Vault will help add a few more dollars to your savings. We are continually surprised at the wonderful hints we get - some of them are so simple yet extremely effective while others are just downright inspired!

Set your mixer tap to cold and save

My father always had his mixer tap handle set to cold. This meant the gas hot water system didn't fire up and waste gas every time he turned on the tap. When he really needed hot water he used it, but when you think about it, most of the time cold water will suffice. The main problem is that when the handle of a mixer tap is set in the default middle position, it draws hot water whether you need it or not. So by setting the handle to the far right you only get cold water. Since doing this, we have used approximately 200mJ less gas each quarter, and of course produced less greenhouse emissions.

Contributed by: Elaine Killen

Power up your savings with single remote

I have saved nearly $100 on my power bill after purchasing a Kambrook remote control power saver from Bunnings. It has three adaptors which plug into the wall, then you connect your power board and set it to the remote control. I have one in the family room, one in the lounge and one in my bedroom. It's great because you don't need to switch the power off at the wall by hand any more, and is especially great when I have told the kids to get ready for bed and they just sit there watching TV and not moving. I just use the remote and the TV turns off! At around $30 I think it was a great investment!

Contributed by: Lynette G

Keep your shower head close and save

Here's a small but effective tip to save on hot water. When you have a shower, move the shower head close as possible to your head/neck. This will minimise the amount of heat lost from the water before it hits your body. The heat loss is particularly evident in winter which is the very time when you are craving a hot shower!

To test this theory all you need to do is set the water to the desired temperature with the shower head in the normal location, then adjust it closer to your body and you will find that the water is now too hot! We have solar hot water with a manual booster and find that sometimes this tip is sufficient not to need to turn the booster on.

Contributed by: Fairy

Save power when cooking rice

Simply put rice in the pot and add water as normal then bring to the boil with the lid on. After it comes to the boil, turn off the hotplate, leaving the saucepan on the plate. The rice will continue to boil for ages. It may take longer than normal cooking, but it saves power, as you do not have the stove on all the time. I even use this for cooking macaroni and spaghetti.

Contributed by: Veronica Wilesmith

Heat your bed without electricity

If you're considering spending money getting or replacing a costly electric blanket - think again. I have discovered a much cheaper alternative! During a recent stay with a friend, I woke up in the middle of the night wondering why my wheat bag was still hot. I soon realised that in fact it was the BED that was hot, the entire length of my body. On mentioning it to my friend, I discovered the answer. She had been concerned the camp mattress I was sleeping on might be a bit hard and didn't have any spare mattress protectors or blankets, so she lined it with an old curtain, which had thermal lining. The thermal lining radiated my body heat back at me all night long - and unlike an electric blanket it didn't cost a single cent to run! Be sure to use the curtain only as an under blanket and tuck it well under the mattress. Try sewing elastic to it and making it a fitted under blanket. Don't sleep directly on it, place a sheet over it first and sleep on that.

Contributed by: Susan Korrel

Stop heat from rising with portable winter curtain

We have saved hundreds of dollars on our winter heating bill with our homemade curtain! We live in a two-storey house and because hot air rises, whenever we heat the living area downstairs the heat goes up the stairs and heats the bedroom area instead! In order to keep the downstairs area warm we used two 'trouser hangers' (the clothes hangers which have clips on them for hanging skirts or trousers) and clamped them onto a long piece of cheap polar fleece. We then secured this to the top railing and draped it down over the stair entrance, so it blocks the stairs trapping the heat downstairs. Now we use much less heat to warm the now smaller space downstairs. A huge saver for us and so easy!

Contributed by: Grace Byrnes

A couple of extras for our valued Vault members:

'Spin the power meter' game for visible savings Contributed by: Maya Linnell

Car phone charger saves power at home Contributed by: Donna Apro

Sensor light saves all night power use Contributed by: Toni O'grady

Thermos flask keeps water hot for hours Contributed by: Lynne A

7. Cooking with Mimi: Dinner by Candlelight... Not Just for Romantics!

We often eat dinner by candlelight, in fact in this household, the earlier the sun sets, the better, as we adore our candles! Winter and summer alike, at around 6pm the tea light candles come out, housed in recycled jars and lanterns of all sorts.

My 12-year-old daughter and I make a little routine of getting them out, lighting them and placing them around the living area. The TV goes off, cups of tea are made (or the occasional glass of wine for us grown-ups!), and we enjoy a half hour of chat before dinner preparations take over. This time is so important to us as a family. It gives our 12-year-old an insight into the grown-up world of bill paying and running a business or having a job, and she gets to tell us what's happened in her day. In connecting as a family, we all let go of the aggravations of the outside world.

We don't always eat dinner by candlelight, but the addition of candles can certainly turn a very mundane meal into a bit of an event. It also encourages Miss Twelve to appreciate setting the table and having a jug of water on the table along with nice glasses, rather than the free-for-all of busier evenings. This costs nothing to do, yet is such an important lesson in life. I've had many very ordinary meals, served beautifully, and some expensive meals served without much thought, and I know which ones I enjoyed the most!

Tropicana Soufflé Pizza Omelette (serves 4)

Tonight we're having Tropicana Soufflé Pizza Omelette. But served by candlelight with a bit of Michael Bublé in the background, it will become 'Parmesan Soufflé with zesty barbecue sauce and honey roasted ham, garnished with tropical fruits!'


  • Non-stick frying pan and lid
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Small bowl
  • Fork
  • Electric beaters or balloon whisk
  • Large metal spoon
  • Egg slice
  • Serving plates


  • 4 large eggs (I recommend free-range organic - they're worth it!)
  • Cooking spray
  • ½ - 1 cup diced ham
  • ½ - 1 cup finely diced pineapple
  • 1 cup grated cheese


Separate your eggs, putting the yolks in the small bowl and the whites into the large bowl. Using your electric beater or balloon whisk, whip the egg whites until they are light and fluffy. A pinch of cream of tartar will help them hold their form. Add a pinch of each of your herbs. Fresh ones are nicer if you have them, but dried are fine too.

Mix your yolks with your fork and dribble them into the whites. Using your large metal spoon, very carefully fold the egg mixtures together. You want to maintain the air in your whipped whites to give the best possible result.

Heat your non-stick pan over a medium high heat and spray it liberally with your cooking spray. Gently add your egg mixture into the heated pan, allowing the mixture to slide from your bowl into your pan. Spread it carefully and lightly so you have an even distribution. Allow the mixture to cook for about two minutes until it forms a firm base. Sprinkle your omelette with cheese and pop the lid on the pan for another minute or so. In the meantime, turn your grill to 'high'.

Lift your lid from the frying pan and sprinkle your other toppings evenly over your omelette. Add a little more grated cheese if you like - the cheesier the better here! Pop the frying pan under the grill and let it bubble away to lusciousness. Slice it up just like regular pizza and enjoy!

One Pot Thai Yum Yum

One pot cooking is a great, energy efficient way of preparing meals (for you and your power bills!). But it can be easy to get stuck in a rut with one pot meals and assume they're all about Mediterranean cuisine and stodgy comfort food, so let's dispel that myth here and now!

In the western world, we seem to consider it mandatory to have every pot, pan, dish and appliance, as well as a long list of expensive ingredients, to prepare our meals! Often, one pot, one knife, some serving plates and a few well-chosen ingredients are really all that's required. It's certainly an interesting and very Simple Savings kind of idea, isn't it?

My experiments with lighter flavours yielded this dish a few weeks ago. When I think of Thai food, I think heated spice, lush fresh herbs, lots of fragrant, yummy sauce to scoop up with rice or noodles, and that great feeling of being 'full', but not bloated to bursting! My daughter has dubbed this meal Thai Yum Yum!

To prepare your Thai Yum Yum, you'll need just one sharp knife and a big saucepan with a lid and your bowls for serving.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 fresh fillets of fish
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 tbsp Thai curry paste (use your favourite)
  • 1 cup stock (made by dissolving a chicken or vegetable stock cube in a cup of boiling water)
  • A few handfuls of green beans, topped and tailed
  • 1 tin of water chestnuts or baby corn (optional, but adds a nice crunch)
  • 2 tsp dried or fresh coriander leaves or minced coriander
  • Cherry tomatoes to garnish
  • Steamed rice to serve


Turn on your hotplate and pop the saucepan on. Add the curry paste and the onion quarters, and stir until fragrant. Add your coconut milk and your stock and give it all a good stir. Turn the hotplate down to low and let your sauce simmer for about 10 minutes.

While your sauce is simmering, cut your fish into even sized pieces, drain the water chestnuts or baby corn and cut your cherry tomatoes in half. Add the beans and corn or chestnuts to the sauce and simmer for 3-4 minutes to heat them through and tenderise them slightly.

Finally, add your fish or calamari and stir through. Cover and steam for around three minutes - any longer and your fish can become tough and overcooked. Thicker cubes of fish may require an extra minute or two. If you're using tinned tuna or salmon slices, you're really only heating them through very gently, otherwise they disintegrate and become mush. For this reason, I'd also avoid using plain tinned tuna or salmon.

To serve, spoon some rice into your bowls and scoop a generous amount of Thai Yum Yum over the rice, garnishing with coriander leaves and halved cherry tomatoes. This adds the appetizing colour that one pot meals sometimes lack.

As far as one pot meals go, this is an absolute corker, and worthy of serving to guests. They'll never forget what they had either, as it is absolutely yum yum!

Here are links to Mimi's other blogs in the members' area this month:

8. Fifty Cent Indulgences: Pantry Delights

Charm and delight abound in our 'indulgences under 50c' thread (aka The 50c Army!) where our resourceful members share their inspirational ideas for home, friends and family. During July, 'Pantry Delights' was all about making the most of our kitchens, from stockpiling to storage. And to prove that a pantry makeover can be easy and affordable. Here's how I made over mine:

My husband found an old baker's stand on the side of the road which we re-painted and decorated with op shop tins and glass jars. I love glass as it's easy to clean and doesn't leach chemicals into your food or affect the flavour of ingredients. I often add a personal touch by painting the lid. You could also add a transfer or cut out to match your kitchen décor.

Once I'd put the bulk items into tins, I suddenly had room in my kitchen cupboards to build up my supplies. I then painted the interior of one cupboard door with blackboard paint and wrote up easy, quick recipes for those times when I'm tired or just can't think what to cook!

In the spirit of the 50c indulgence threads, the grand total for this entire makeover came to just $20!

Our thread is all about making each day special with small things that make a difference. For more inspiration and ideas, come and join us at 'indulgences under 50c'. We'll be talking 'Holidays and mini-breaks' in our August thread.

Hope to see you there!


9. Claire's Corner: July, You Sucked my Wallet Dry!

I can't say that I will be sorry to say goodbye to July. It has been a long, cold dark month - and an extremely expensive one in our household! Household rates, water rates, a higher-than-usual power bill, dog registration, school holiday programme fees, school camp payment, school fundraising, winter jackets... it has been an onslaught! Oh, and on top of all that it was our youngest daughter's 11th birthday, and thanks to a couple of forgotten promises, I ended up spending far too much!

Firstly, she reminded me that, many moons ago, I agreed that she and a friend could go to Paint The Earth (where kids can paint cool ceramic ornaments). No problem I thought, I have a 25% discount voucher, so it will only cost about $45 all up. No such luck! We ended up taking an extra friend (thanks to some last minute begging!), and the discount voucher was for an entirely different shop (my brain clearly needs a tune up), so it ended up costing $90! I was also reminded that I promised we could go out for dinner on her birthday. I did try and talk her into some delicious home-made meatballs, but she wasn't wearing it. There goes another $90+, groan. Oh and did I mention that Hubby has been off work recovering from knee surgery for the past few months, and will be for at least another month. He's on ACC but it is well below his normal wage. We should not be spending like this!

I've realised that overspending is very much like overeating. Once you've had a few extra nibbles here and there it becomes quite hard to hold on to your self-control - the lines between 'need' and 'want' start to blur and before you know it... oops, you've done it again! Speaking of which, I have not lost an ounce of weight in the last few weeks. I've only got four weeks left on my Weight Watchers' winter pass, and now I'm starting to think that's been a big waste of money too!

But with the beginning of a new month comes the opportunity to try a few new tactics. And it's going to start with some serious planning. It has helped that I keep a notebook for all of our bills. Every single bill, from school trips to rate instalments, goes in the notebook as soon as it arrives. I have four columns: Creditor, Amount, Date Due, Date Paid. It's really helpful for looking back to see where the money has gone, and how much I'm regularly spending on what. This month has taken up an entire page! I've realised that I'm paying for a few monthly subscriptions that I don't need and that June/July are our most expensive months. If I'd spent a little more time planning in May, I probably could have kept a tighter rein on our outgoings.

On the upside, with our 18-year-old being away for the past five weeks, at least we have seriously saved on our food bill! He comes home this Saturday - I can't wait to see him! He's been on a six-week course run by the army and it's been pretty full on! This week they're meeting with prospective employers, including recruiters from the defence forces (he's dead keen to join the air force), so I can't wait to hear how that goes. And I'm expecting him to be pretty lean and fit; they've been getting up at 5.30am and doing tramps, obstacle courses and fitness training (in the middle of winter!). Apparently he's lost five kilos! Hmm... I wonder if I could convince them to take me on...

Righto, I'm off to scan the Vault for all your wonderful tips on meal planning. If I'm going to save anything this month, and keep ahead of the lad's appetite, I'm going to need them!

Before I go, here's a little quote on the subject of self-control, it seems quite relevant to both saving money and losing weight (my two goals for this month!).

"Discipline weighs ounces, regret weighs tons." (author unknown)

To read more of Claire's corner or any of our members' blogs, click here

10. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: A Pondering on Self-Sufficiency

Last week I was asked what was I trying to achieve with our garden and to tell you the truth I was not sure what to say other than to produce as much food as we could from our yard... I have said before that we are trying to be self-sufficient; however, I don't think that is an honest response. Part of being self-sufficient means providing a continuing supply of food through the whole year, which is something I have not been able to achieve. There has never really been a long range plan implemented for the patch, instead we have only been focusing on the current growing season.

It appears that the subject has been on other people's minds of late as well. Last week Mankini started a great thread called 'Triple SSS - the Semi Self Sufficient thread' which for me has come just at the right time to help me reflect on where we are going with the veggie patch, as well as the other food production projects we have on the go. Add to this a post made in the SSS thread by Bev W, where she asked, 'And what is your main goal for this year? Is there something that you want to set up, learn, do... to help you with your SSS dream?' In order to get a continuous food supply for ourselves and the animals we care for, I realised that there is a fair bit of planning to do to make a decent system. There are some on that thread who are or are very close to living the lifestyle we yearn for and I think must be congratulated. As there is no time like the present, I have already made a start on it over the weekend by implementing one of the most overlooked planning methods... I grabbed a 'refreshing' drink and sat on my bum in the patch waiting for it to talk to me. Well, um, maybe not talk to me but I did sit for quite some time trying to see how I could arrange all the bits we have into an almost self-sustainable system where we rely on as few inputs from outside as possible. No doubt you will see some of these steps and projects as they are completed...

This is an excerpt from Rob Bob's wonderful gardening blog. Don't miss the full version which includes progress on his aquaponic project - you can read it here.

Switching off for August

One of the things I love about the end of the day is getting out into the patch and switching off from our everyday routine. On the weekends it is even better when the whole family gets out there to work or play without any of the electronic distractions that we sometimes tend to get caught up in. A favourite past-time on winter weekend nights is spending it with friends around a fire in the yard. It's nothing special, just a small brazier with some dried up bits of pruned timber or split logs donated by family and friends.

It is very easy to entice the gathered children away from their gadgets and the TV with a promise of sparklers and a marshmallow or two on a stick to roast in the fire. It is so easy to switch off when gazing into the flames with great company and the garden as a backdrop. Hours are normally spent talking, feasting and having a great time but it never seems to last long enough.

Another switching off we try to do as often as we can is the garden tap. Although we have not installed water tanks as of yet we try to collect as much fresh rain water as possible. We have many 15L buckets and a small 500L rain water tank that we fill with water collected from a tarpaulin shade cover off the back of the house. This is mainly used in the aquaponics as top up water or to fill up the wicking barrels. I know it is not much in the scheme of things but every little bit counts.

That's about it for now. Have a great one all. **: )»**

Rob Bob's full blog on 'Aphid update, switching off and some planting out' can be read here. To get your fill of Rob's news, projects and tips, you can read his other blogs in the members' area this month:

11. Homeopathy Corner: Fighting Colds and Flu

Wouldn't it be fantastic if everyone had a Fran! A person they can call on when someone is sick who can make your child better the way Fran has done so many times for our household. But, unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Good homeopaths are few and far between and Fran is so busy that even I am hesitant to ask her to help me choose a remedy unless I am desperate. So I have been busy harassing Fran behind the scenes to write a series of books to help people who want to be able to choose the right remedy but don't have the time or the many thousands of dollars to do a four year homeopathic course just so they can get rid of a cough or a cold.

And, here it is... Fran's first eBook teaching everyday people how to get rid of common colds - for the tiny price of $7.00. Yeh! Three cheers for Fran. Hip hip hooray! Hip hip Hooray!

Fran has even released a sample chapter of the book for free on her website. You can find it here.

12. From Last Month: Post Chemo Hair Care

Last month Sandra asked for our help:

"Hi Guys. I would love to put in a request to your readers/subscribers...

"I have recently finished 5 months of chemo and my hair is just beginning to grow back. It is only stubble at the moment but as it grows again I'd like to use a natural shampoo with less chemicals etc but I don't want to pay huge amounts for the privilege of going 'organic'. Any suggestions on a cheaper option that will be healthier for me and my hair?

"Any suggestions on skin care etc are also very welcome as my skin is extremely dry from the chemo and radiotherapy...

"I did look at using baby shampoo, but aside from the no-more-tears formula (simply the same ph as your eyes) it still had all the chemicals... "

This is a question we hear often but one with no easy answers. Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in to share their tips and hints with Sandra. Here are the best of the bunch!

You don't need shampoo!

Ditching shampoos and conditioners has not only helped my hair and my health, but has saved me thousands! I have a dear friend who had chemo and when her hair started to grow back, her doctor told her not to use anything to wash it but water. Her hair was soft, shiny and wonderful - it just made you want to touch it! To keep her company and honour her, I decided to do the same. That was at least five years ago and since then I have only ever washed my hair with water! When I go to the hairdresser, I wash before I go and they are happy to just spray it with water before cutting. A saving of thousands of dollars at the hairdresser! It has also meant a saving of hundreds of dollars on shampoos and hair products, I no longer have migraines and my hair is shiny and healthy. Occasionally I pick some herbs, such as rosemary and sage, from the garden and simmer them and rinse my hair with the herb water. For my skin, I now only use products from McArthur Natural Products. They are all natural and I find them to be very good. Their website is shop.mcarthurnaturalproducts.com.

Contributed by: Dianne Page

Coconut oil and green smoothies for chemo recovery

First of all, congratulations on completing treatment. We have been down the same path with my six-year-old son so I know how hard it can be. He has been off treatment for nearly two years and still suffers from dry skin. I have found massaging his skin with coconut oil very helpful. It isn't too greasy and absorbs into the skin. You can use it all over, even on your hair. I bought a 750ml bottle of Fijian coconut cooking oil for about $5.00 and this lasts over a year. In winter the oil does harden, but microwaving the bottle or putting it in hot water melts the oil. You can buy it from health-food stores and also Indian grocery stores that sell island foods.

We also found green smoothies (made using lots of green vegies blended up with some fruit) worked to help the skin. A naturopath told me they are very alkaline which neutralises all the acid in the body (chemo and all the other medicines can be very acidic). And they taste surprisingly good! You can search You Tube to find out more info.

Contributed by: Leanne Toia

Safe shampoo and post-chemo skincare products

I would love to give Sandra some help as I've been through the same thing. I used a brand of shampoo called Gaia. It's an organic baby shampoo which is available in major supermarkets. It works really well and you only need a tiny bit. It is more expensive per 100mls than other brands, but you need less so it is pretty good value. My bottle lasted over nine months!

For dry skin, I used aloe vera and/or paw paw ointments. They are both readily available, reasonably priced and they are natural and work better than any chemicals. Use it straight on the radiation exposed skin and you get less side effects. Congratulations on finishing the chemo and I wish you all the best.

Contributed by: Rebecca D.

Cutting costs and chemicals in the bathroom

I haven't bought shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser or facial cleansers for the last two years! I've found much cheaper, easier and natural alternatives, so I'm saving money and getting lots of comments now on how good my skin looks!

Baking soda is my 'shampoo' of choice! I simply dissolve about a teaspoon in a cup of warm water and pour through my hair, letting it sit, then rinsing well before finishing with a rinse of apple cider vinegar diluted in cool water. I do this once a week, or twice if my hair seems particularly dirty. It seems to keep my hair healthy and shiny without the need for any chemicals.

I also use warm oil on my scalp once a month to keep it moisturised, the oil I use depends on what I have. Olive or coconut oils are both good. I pour it on warm, massage it in then let it work its magic for at least half an hour before rinsing well followed by my normal 'shampoo' routine.

For my facial cleansing routine, I use a mix of olive and castor oils. I massage this into my face then use a face cloth with hot water laid over my face to 'steam' open the pores. I repeat the 'steaming' a couple of times then gently wipe the oil and dirt from my face, followed by a splash of cool water as a 'toner'. I find this leaves my skin feeling soft, supple, clean and moisturised. I do this about three times a week at night and also use a baking soda and sugar scrub once a week.

My three kids have never used shampoo or conditioner and the only thing I need to buy is a very mild chemical-free body wash, which lasts my family of five at least a month as we only use a tiny amount. I also use baking soda as my deodorant. Making my own toothpaste is my next project! Going 'natural' has saved my wallet big time and also the health of my family as I know I'm not putting any nasties into my kids' bodies! Buying baking soda and olive oil in bulk makes this even cheaper.

Contributed by: Toni L.

Hair care tips for sensitive skin

I have extremely sensitive skin and find that even baby shampoos react with my skin, but many chemical-free shampoos nearly break the bank! However, I have had huge success using goat's milk or olive oil soap as a shampoo, followed by rinsing with diluted vinegar to get the suds out. And you don't need conditioner as the vinegar will do that. It smells vinegary when you do it, but by the time your hair dries the smell is gone.

Contributed by: Haffygal

Clean shiny hair with egg yolk shampoo

When my daughter was little she was found to be allergic to 49 out of 52 things, which made her chemical intolerant. One thing I found that worked very well as a replacement shampoo and conditioner was egg yolk. The method is as follows: Separate one egg and whisk the yolk together with half a cup of luke-warm water. I used to put a shower cap on after applying the yolk mix and leave on the hair for a few minutes, then rinse very well to avoid an eggy smell. This leaves the hair conditioned and clean and very shiny.

Contributed by: Penny Hughes

Hair care ingredient guide

For a great guide to shampoo ingredients I can recommend Paula Begoun's book, 'Don't Go Shopping for Hair-Care Products without Me', it should be available from your local library. She has years of experience in the cosmetics industry and it is her job to assess ingredients and rate products. The basics are to avoid any ingredient that will cause irritation like fragrances, perfumes and essential oils, sodium lauryl sulphate (note that sodium laureth sulphate is fine), and also ammonium (because it reacts with some other common ingredients in products). I can recommend the simple old fashioned Melrose range from the health food store. They sell a fragrance free shampoo at a very decent price.

Contributed by: musicalsay

Try mayonnaise for healthy hair

Store-bought mayonnaise makes a great shampoo alternative for thin hair if you are recovering from chemo. Leave in your hair for a few hours and rinse well. For skin care, try using vitamin E cream or real honey. Try a small amount on your skin first if you are worried about reactions or allergies.

Contributed by: Tracy Walters

Chemical-free shampoos and more

I have MS and am very sensitive to perfumes and additives in products, here are some of my tips for economical chemical-free products:

  • The Nature's Organics range of shampoo and conditioners is available at Coles and Woolworths (Safeway), and is regularly on special for $2.00 each. The products have no parabens or mineral oils and the company is Australian owned.
  • Sorbent Hypo-allergenic toilet paper is free from dyes and perfumes. They are usually $10 for a pack of 12.
  • Redwins Sorbolene moisturising cream, soap and bodywash are fantastic as they do not have any perfumes or smells to them. I have been using these products for years with no reaction. When my mother finished radiation for breast cancer I also converted her to these products as her skin was very sensitive.
  • Coles Face Moisturiser with SPF15 is the only face cream I can handle as all others have oils/perfumes in them. At around $2.50 a tube, it is a real bargain.
  • Another suggestion is Bio-Oil. For scars, very dry skin or just a bit of pampering it is well worth the money as a little goes a long way.
  • And for make-up, Nude-By-Nature was recommended for my mum.

Contributed by: Annemaree Upton

Cheap, effective and safe shampoo

Here's my tip for a cheap, effective shampoo and conditioner! My four children and I wash our hair with bi-carb soda and vinegar. I use one tablespoon of bi-carb to one cup of water. I then use two tablespoons of vinegar to a cup of water for a rinse. The bi-carb is good for the scalp and roots of the hair. Just massage it in and make sure you rinse it really well, rubbing your scalp the whole time. The vinegar is like a conditioner for the hair, so you put it on and leave it as long as possible. For best results blast in cold water to close the pores.

To begin with you may need to wash your hair as frequently as normal until your hair gets used to the change, but I've gone from washing it every day to just twice a week, or twice every ten days. Regular shampoos strip your hair of their natural oils, but using bi-carb and vinegar restores it to its natural state and keeps it clean and with plenty of body. Aluminium-free bi-carb soda costs around $6.00 for 350g from a health food shop, but it lasts for ages because you use such a little amount.

Contributed by: Kerry Alexander

Look Good, Feel Better

If you are recovering from cancer, you may like to contact an organisation called Look Good Feel Better. It is specifically for those who are recovering from cancer and chemo and is in all major hospitals. You'll find details about basic skin and hair care and workshop dates on their website, www.lgfb.org.au. At the workshops you are given hands-on opportunities and a free gift of goodies.

Clarins and Phytomer are both distributed by Trimex which started the program, and fifteen years on is still their major sponsor. I recommend Clarins Santal oil (one bottle should last 18 months) and Phytomer shampoo (100% plant based).

Contributed by: Cheryl Roberts

Redwin Sorbolene for lush hair regrowth

I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy (and lost all my hair) in 2008 following breast cancer. I started using Redwin Sorbolene Sensitive Body Wash and haven't looked back. It costs about $11 for a one litre pump pack in the supermarket and lasts me about six months. When my hair was growing back I used it on my scalp too. My hair grew back curly and lush!

Contributed by: Shelley P

Michael's Olivara for dry, post-chemo or sensitive skin

If you need a great product for dry skin, I can recommend a range called Michael's Olivara. The range includes skin lotion, body wash, shampoo and so on. The founder originally made it for his brother, a cancer sufferer who needed skin products during and after treatment. I have suffered with sensitive skin for many years and truly love this range. It is available from pharmacies and is produced here in my home state of W.A. The website address is www.michaelsproducts.com.

Contributed by: Joyce Streeter

13. This Month's Help Request: Fire Surrounds

Kaylene McGrath has sent in this cry for help:-

"I live in Tasmania and most of us down here have wood combustion heaters (because it gets REALLY cold).

"I recently had some renovations done and have put my wood heater in the middle of the very large open plan living room so that the entire room heats evenly. Works great! My problem is that I can't find any four sided fire guard screens. The closest I have found was well in excess of $400 and I would have to buy two and connect them. I have cats, dogs and children and am clumsy so I'm constantly worried about someone burning themselves.

"I was wondering if maybe some of the amazing members might have some ideas I could try?"

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

14. Savings Story: Going for Gold!

Four years of cut lunches = an Olympic holiday!

By taking our lunch to work every day rather than buying, my husband and I have been able afford to go to every Olympic Games since 1984! We are both currently in London volunteering in the Olympic Village and visiting London. People say we must be rich to be able to afford to do this every four years, but by not buying lunch, we can afford it!

Here's how...

Let's say you each spend $15 a day (including coffees) = $30

... do that for say 50 weeks = $1500

... do that for four years = $6000 - enough for airfares and tickets to some of the Games!

We also stay with a homestay family (found through word of mouth or from the Internet). I am at present writing from my host family's house in London. We have free accommodation and just pay for any food we use. Because we are out most of the time we often take a banana and some water with us and take a sandwich or buy a sandwich (from our holiday money).

We get to see the city through the eyes of a local family and they get to learn about a foreign family and what our lives are like, so it is a real win/win. We have done this since 1984 and every time we get back to Australia our friends say 'next time we are coming with you!' So we say 'start saving now!' To date we have never had anyone join us.

Yes, it takes discipline but it is so worth it!

Barbara & Laurie Smith

15. Goodbye for now!

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

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

We hope you have an awesome month and look forward to hearing how you 'switched off' in August!

Till next time...

All the best,