May newsletter: $21 Challenge


How are you going? The last couple of months have been challenging. I hope you are doing okay.

With so many dramatic changes in such a short period of time, you may be feeling swamped with emotions like worry and fear. Rest assured, that's totally normal!

Whenever I find myself just a little bit scared, I think of my grandparents, three of whom came to Australia in difficult times. Two escaped the holocaust and one stowed away on a boat from Greece. My Jewish grandfather narrowly escaped the Gestapo, twice. The first time they missed him and his mate by 15 minutes. The second time a patrol picked them up as they were climbing the Alps to escape. The Gestapo tossed a coin, shot his mate, and let my grandfather keep climbing. Their feats remind me how resilient humans can be, and that we will overcome this challenge. The threat of Covid19 will only last a short time and our economy will regrow.

There have been a lot of changes in a short period of time. But we are adaptable. We live in a land used to trauma. We have a well-equipped, free healthcare system. We are good at looking after our neighbours and loved ones. We grow twice as much food as we eat. Our welfare system is struggling, but there is a determination to fix it and take care of everyone. And, pretty soon we will be on the other side of this (and preparing for the next heat wave / flood / fire / cyclone / bad hair day!).

In the meantime, I hope our May newsletter provides you with some inspiring saving tips and handy resources for the weeks ahead.


PS. You may have noticed that we missed April's newsletter. With six of us working/studying at home over the last six weeks, we've had quite a bit of adapting to do! This month, we are merging April's Waste Not, Want Not challenges with May $21 Challenge newsletter.

May - $21 Challenge and Waste not, Want not

If you are new to this newsletter, each month we set some challenges to help inspire you to improve your habits, help your budget and the planet. This month's challenges are:

$21 Challenge:

  • Easy - Halve your weekly bill.
  • Moderate - Do a $50 Challenge.
  • Difficult - Do a $21 Challenge


Waste not Want not:

  • Easy - Reduce your waste.
  • Moderate - Cut your waste by half.
  • Difficult - Use everything you buy.

$21 Challenge eBook: Crisis Edition

A few weeks ago, while wandering through the shops seeing empty shelves and dazed faces, I thought back to previous disasters like Cyclone Yassi and the Christchurch earthquakes. Many people wrote to us to say thank you, and told us that when they could no longer buy food from the shops or eat the way they normally eat, the $21 Challenge became their lifeline.

Crises demand great resourcefulness. The $21 Challenge contains the resources people need to eat well in a disaster and make every shop count. It does this with:

  • adaptable recipes
  • teaches people how to stocktake
  • how to make a menu plan based on food you currently have.
  • how to substitute ingredients.
  • how to creating accurate shopping lists.

After thinking on this, I called Jackie Gower and together we revised the $21 Challenge book. Now it can be used two ways. If you want to save money, start at the beginning. But, if your ability to move and shop normally is restricted by floodwaters, an earthquake, cyclone, pandemic or whatever else, then chapter four onward has everything you need to eat well until the disaster has passed.

We have also made the latest edition a Kindle eBook. This way it can be downloaded in a hurry by every and any device.

If you would like to check out the revised version of the $21 Challenge. Here is a link to it on Amazon.

Make every shop count

Until things are back to normal, we need to make every shop count. This means being organised and following these 3 simple tips:

Before you leave the house to go shopping, do a stock take. Know what you have in your pantry, freezer, fridge, and garden. You can do this in a notebook or use our free $21 Challenge printables:

Make a plan

Plan out your week or fortnight's meals based on the food you already have in your home. There are loads of ways to menu plan. Jackie likes to keep it simple whereas Fiona's needs to nut everything out or things fall apart.

Jackie Menu Plan

Fiona's Life Plan

Write a shopping list

While you are writing your menu plan,list any ingredients you will need to buy. This will become your shopping list. Here's a handy shopping planner to make it easy

Leg Up program

For every full priced Vault membership purchased from Simple Savings we give one away to some who could do with a Leg Up. Here are some of the incredible stories from people you have helped us help in the last month.

"I was a member several years ago and loved Simple Savings. I have the cookbook and try to save money whenever I can. This year more than ever we are struggling with our finances and need to get an emergency fund together. Not having one causes stress living from paycheck to paycheck. I thought of renewing my membership to assist in helping me and my family save money. Due to finances being so tight I put it aside for when I can afford it. So it's a vicious cycle. I would love to be a part of the Leg Up program and know it would be a valuable tool in helping us stop treading water and start swimming. Also am very happy to pass on any tips I have learned while living frugally."

"We have been financially crippled after my breast cancer diagnosis in October 2017. The following two years of chemo, surgery, radiation and now lifelong drug treatments have taken all our savings and we desperately need to learn how to live frugally so we have a change to build up some savings. We have no savings left and I really want to build an emergency fund. We are all too aware of what life can throw at you unexpectedly."

"I've been sole parenting twins plus one, as well as studying towards a master's degree for the past couple of years so you could say money's been tight. When my Vault membership lapsed I wasn't able to renew but would love the chance to access it again as it's full of the good stuff!"

If you would like a Leg Up, apply here

Growing Veggies: Wicking bed update

Do you remember last year, we put in two wicking beds? The great news is, in the past 12 months, we have eaten something out of those garden beds nearly every day.

How exciting is that? At one stage it was 500 grams of snow peas a day. We have also eaten kilos of parsley, coriander, basil, beans, mint, lettuce, tarragon, chives, shallots, bok choy, and climbing spinach.

All the information you need to start your own is here.

$21 Challenge Hints

We have collected some choice hints from the $21 Challenge section of the Savings Vault:

$21 Challenge focaccia/pizza

Here's a yummy (and forgiving!) recipe for pizza or focaccia, it's great for lunches and dinners!


  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup shredded or mashed veggies
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese


Rub the butter into flour and salt then add veggies. I use grated zucchini, shredded silverbeet or whatever is left in the fridge. If the mixture is too dry, add a splash or two of milk until you have a dough. Press the dough onto a baking pan, I make it as large as needed to accommodate the toppings I have. Next spread on some tomato paste (I have also used dips such as olive or hummus, just use what you have). Finally, add your toppings and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 160 for about 15 minutes and enjoy.

By: Hound Girl

$21 Challenge is just the beginning

I paid off my credit card, thanks to the $21 Challenge book! I read it, filled in the sheets for the pantry, fridge and freezer inventory, planned my menu and was so excited to spend only $22.65 during my first challenge. No wonder people are rapt with the book! I love the recipes in the book, as well as my neat and tidy pantry, fridge and freezer. I adore the curry recipes and the weekly life planner. Sophie's Peanut Chicken and Rice is a real favourite, as are the bulk biscuit recipes. In the first month alone I reduced my food bill from $447 to $276, a saving of $171.

Feeling inspired, I cut up my credit card, paid off what was owing and cancelled it! I have a debit card which I can still use like a credit card, but as it uses the money in my account, I have to think twice before I buy something in case I overdraw the account and have to pay bank fees. Without the use of a credit card, I have a more defined limit which makes saying no easier. It is very exciting and liberating to know that I can have more control over my finances with a bit of forward planning!

By: Vivian Rudowski

Cooking with your favourite drop

I have just discovered The $21 Challenge, and after doing an inventory of the fridge, freezer and pantry, I was amazed at how much food we had stockpiled. I was also surprised to discover how much alcohol was sitting at the back of the cupboard. To use up all this liquor, I have been searching for recipes that require a drop or two of alcohol.

A dash of chocolate or coffee liqueur adds a decadent touch to a batch of choc chip muffins. Rum, brandy or whiskey, as well as port or sherry, can be added to fruit cakes. Sherry can be substituted for rice wine in stir-fries, while red or white wine is great in sauces or casseroles. Beer makes terrific batter, adds so much to casseroles or gravy and, of course, is an essential in beer bread. Or, when making up mustard, mix the powder with beer instead of water. Lovely!

By: Coleen Anderson

Labelling makes life easy

I recently purchased 'The $21 Challenge', and was so impressed that I emailed my family and friends to tell them about the Simple Savings website! I've been using the tips from the Vault for months; however, I've come up with one of my own.

After unpacking my shopping, I divided 750 grams of diced bacon into portions to suit the recipes I'd chosen for our menu plan. I put the bacon into small resealable bags and then labelled them, for example, 200g diced chicken for Chicken and White Wine Pasta Sauce or 125g diced bacon for Impossible Pie. This makes it so much easier to find the right bags in the freezer, plus my husband knows exactly what to do when I have a night off from cooking!

By: Casey Hopkins

No-spend recipe scrapbook

I've been trying really hard not to spend money this month and one way I've been doing this is to create my own recipe scrapbook.

I let all my friends know that I wanted their old magazines - I was given about 20 and I'm still receiving more! I go through the magazines and cut out all the tasty recipes that have few ingredients or ingredients that I already have in the house. I then put all these recipes into a scrapbook, categorised according to the dish. My partner and I now look through our recipe book and in the cupboards to see what delicious snack or meal we can make at home, rather than going to get take away! This is saving us at least $100 a month!

By: Corrie Bovenkamp

Our type of Challenge

When I first looked at the $21 Challenge, I thought there was no way it would work for our family. However, I do find a challenge irresistible, so my kids and I have devised a type of challenge that we think might work for us. We turned a one week $21 Challenge into a four week challenge, which would be more sustainable and work better for us over the long term.

On week one, we aimed to cut our food bill by $25. In week two, the goal was to reduce the bill by another $25. We'd reduce it by another $25 in week three, and in week four we'd actually try to live on $25 for the week! Our usual food bill is around $200 per week, so over four weeks, we'd save $325. We have almost completed week three and are on track for week four. Wish us luck!

By: Sandra Cattini-Schultz

Use it or lose it

As part of my $21 Challenge to use all the food in the pantry, I have set up a 'use up soon' basket containing items getting close to their use-by date. This way, I will remember to use things before I have to throw them out.

By: Justme

Turn dried beans into ready-made meal extenders

Don't leave valuable packs of dried pulses sitting in the pantry! It's easy to put them to good use. First cook the bag according to directions e.g. soak overnight (or during the day if you are working), then change the water and simmer in a pot for an hour for between 20 minutes and an hour depending on the size of the bean. Once cooked, simply divide into serving size batches (e.g. one or two cups) and put into the freezer. You now have instant cooked pulses without having to pay for the cost of canned. I love having lima beans, chickpeas, and adzuki beans all on hand as ready prepared meal extenders for soups, salads, stews and curries. Perfect for $21 Challenges too!

By: Jeni M

Many ways to meet the Challenge

There are so many small things you can do to make your $21 Challenge week a big success. Here are just a few:

  • Limit shopping trips and make do with what you already have.
  • Google for ingredient substitutes if you can't think of any.
  • Plan your meals so that you don't overspend or waste food.
  • Give your pantry and freezer a regular clear out and use up what's in there.
  • Look for recipes that use leftovers.
  • Learn how to joint a chicken on YouTube instead of buying individual pieces.
  • Buy a side of lamb, instead of more expensive individual cuts.
  • Hot water with a drop of detergent and some white vinegar cleans a lot of surfaces.

Just imagine the dollars you'll save by doing these simple things!

By: Dianne Barling

Three meals from five chicken breasts

I purchased five skinless chicken breasts on special. From these five breasts I managed to make three dinners!

On the first night, I was able to feed five of us by simply cooking all the breasts and cutting them in half to leave 10 pieces. Some of the pieces went in the fridge for later use - we used the other pieces, plus fresh rolls and salad, to make lovely chicken burgers.

On the second night, there were three of us to feed so I chopped up one piece of chicken, fried some bacon and mushrooms, and stirred this through some pasta with half a tub of sour cream. Yum!

On night three, I had to cater for four hungry mouths. I placed a sheet of puff pastry in the bottom of a pie dish, threw in three pieces of diced chicken breast and some bacon, along with mushrooms, capsicum, broccoli and corn. I topped this with dobs of sour cream and covered with a second sheet of pastry. Voila - another dinner! We even had a few pieces of chicken leftover for lunch!

By: Jo Miiller

Homeopathy and Covid-19

There has been a lot going on in the world of homeopathy in response to Covid-19. While mainstream scientists are hunting for a vaccine, homeopathic doctors are hunting for a successful Covid-19 prophylactic. The race is on and I'm looking forward to seeing who wins. The homeopaths have already started four large prophylactic interventions. Three are in India and one is in Cuba.

The first was by the Kerala Government who gave 4.5 million people Arsenicum Album 30c as a Covid-19 preventative in their state.

The second is by Dr Ranjan Sankaran and billionaire engineer Rajiv Bajaj in Pune, India. There they have prepared 1 million vials of Camphora to protect six million people. Here is an interview between award winning journalist Barkha Dutt and Rajiv Bajaj about homeopathic treatment and prevention of the coronavirus in Pune, India:

The third is by Dr Kushal Banerjee in New Delhi. Where they have given homeopathic preventatives to 15,000 people and are busy collecting the results. Here is an article on Yahoo discussing his work:

The fourth is by the Cuban Government who are giving 11.3 million people the homeopathic preparation Prevengho-VIR starting with nursing

Of these four trials the one we can 'kind of' watch is Cuba. Their virus statistics are published daily on https://www.wo

From these statistics we can see Cuba's active infections are dropping which could be because the Prevengho-VIR is working or it could just be that isolation is working. The real test for the Prevengho-VIR prophylactic will be whether or not the numbers stay low when life in Cuba returns to normal. If it does, it is excellent news for everyone because the Prevengho-VIR combination is already available in Australia. The only trick is those wanting it will have to hunt it down themselves, because those who can provide it are not allowed to advertise their services.

WIN $50: Isolation tips

This month we are giving away 2 prizes of $50 to the best tips sent in for surviving Covid19, isolation and post lockdown period. Enter the competition here.

Competition Winners: Best tips

This month's winners of of tip competition are Jan, Shirley S, Kathleen McGregor, who each won $20.

Less paper with spray bottle

Was getting low on loo paper with no shops in sight to replenish supply so thinking outside the box I made my own portable bidet by using a simple spray bottle followed up by a towel dry. I have not used a bottle that previously had chemicals in it but one that I bought a while ago that has not had anything stored in it. I have thus halved my loo paper consumption.

I've come to the conclusion that if you are in short supply of anything there is always an alternative it may just not be as convenient.

Contributed by Jan N

Help others and save big with movie vouchers

We don't normally go to the movies because tickets cost $22. But, at the moment Event Cinemas are selling advance tickets redeemable till Jan 2021 for $8 each.

We bought some to help the cinema and will celebrate by watching movies when isolation is over. To get the vouchers you need to be a Cinebuzz member.

Contributed by Shirley S

Turn meaty leftovers into pizza

DH loves meat lovers pizzas. So each week now I make our own on a Friday night. The pizza bases which I buy from Countdown are 2 large ones from the bakery department for $3.20 but I wait until they are on special for $2. Then during the week any leftover meat I save and use it to top the pizza along with mushrooms, tomato paste and grated cheese. I have even put a little bit of raw mince aside when cooking the dinner to make spicy meatballs with them by adding a bit of BBQ sauce and seasonings. One week we had meatballs, bacon, salami and a little bit of roast lamb along with the grated cheese and mushrooms.

Pak n Save sell meat lovers pizzas using bits and pieces from the deli and they charge $14.99 for their pizzas. So our homemade ones are definitely saving us money each week and I feel they are nicer too.

Contributed by Helen Van Houtte

Citric clean makes loo sparkle

I recently discovered how valuable a simple little container of citric acid can be for saving me lots of money on useless cleaning products. Over the years, I've been watching both of our toilets getting worse with a disgusting yellow and brown build up covering the base. No amount of cleaning ever worked. I've even got all the water out in the past and scrubbed and scraped at it to only have it come back. This morning I've discovered that scrubbing is overrated and so are all of the other cleaning products for toilets for this kind of build up. Instead grab yourself some citric acid from your local grocery store, tell your family to do their last business in there and let them know you'll be leaving a substance in the toilet overnight. Pour the whole contents into the toilet. Have a good night's sleep cos you'll be cleaning without even working hard lol! In the morning, be prepared for it to look and smell like someone's peed in there overnight. That's the breakdown of the gunk in there. I seriously didn't realise this would work. Simply scrub with the usual brush, use a little bit of elbow grease and whala! A sparkling clean toilet bowl again! For only $2.50!

Contributed by Kathleen McGregor

Freezing your own Beef Wellingtons

I make individual beef wellingtons (mainly because I live on my own but is also great for just 2 of us).

When I am having a steak for dinner, I will cook up an extra 2 or 3 steaks. Allow the extra steaks to cool down then make the wellington and wrap in store bought puff pastry. I use the thin blue sheets that divide the puff pastry in the packet, to put between the wellingtons before putting them in Tupperware to freeze.

When I want to take just one wellington out, I find they have not stuck together and makes it so much easier (and I haven't used additional separating stuff).

Contributed by Jude Smith

Till next month...

That is all for this month. I hope you have a safe, healthy month.

Take care,