Recent Hints & Tips

Full access to the Vault of Hints is for members only, but here's a taste! Hints are contributed by both staff and members.

Collect loose change from unreturned trolleys
updated Yesterday
My husband has made an easy $30 from unreturned shopping trolleys in his breaks. He works in a shopping complex and is often finding trolleys left around carparks. Some of the larger stores supply shopping trolleys for a deposit of a $1.00 or $2.00 coin. For those of you who don't know, the coin goes in the slot which then disconnects the trolley from the rest of them. Once you finish with your shop, the idea is to encourage people to return their trolley to the appropriate bay, then your coin will be returned to you. Apparently some people can't be bothered returning their trolleys (particularly on bad weather days). My husband just discovered this two weeks ago. It's amazing and so easy. He is enjoying going for a wander in his breaks so it's also good exercise!
One-pot chicken dish is a winner
updated Yesterday
This made-up recipe turned a few bits and pieces from the fridge into a real winner of a meal!

Chicken legs (however many you have)
Potato cut into one-inch cubes
Pumpkin cut into one-inch cubes
One leek, sliced
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Zest and juice of one whole lemon(throw in whatever's left too!)
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (thyme would be good too)
Salt and pepper
About half a cup of water (white wine would be good but I didn't have any!)
A splash of oil

Put your oven on to 180C to heat up. Throw everything in a big roasting dish and give it a good toss so the flavours are nicely combined. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes, then turn the heat up to 200C for another 10 minutes to get things nice and crispy! Give everything a good turn a few times while cooking, to make sure the chicken browns evenly.

My husband and I really enjoyed this as it is but some salad leaves and crusty bread would have topped it off perfectly - along with a glass of that wine that we didn't have!!
Immune-boosting chicken soup
updated 20 Aug 2017
Because my mum has an auto-immune disease, she is prone to colds, flu and pneumonia and takes an average of 12-18 tablets a day. As I don't want Mum to get sick or have to take more tablets, I needed to think up a way of boosting her immune system. So I started to make ordinary chicken soup, but it wasn't potent enough. That's when I came up with this recipe. I think that it tastes delicious and has plenty of flavour.

Becky's Kill Anything Chicken Soup

8-9 chicken lovely legs, skinless
8-10 chopped cloves of garlic
1 chopped onion
2-3 small red chillies (Remove the seeds if you don't like it too hot as they're the hottest part, or just use one chilli. But you must use small chillis because they loosen mucus.)
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 litres Continental chicken stock
2 finely chopped carrots
1-2 handfuls corn
1 cup macaroni pasta
2-3 handfuls baby spinich

Heat the oil in a stock pot and brown the chicken, garlic, onion, chilli and ginger.
Add the chicken stock, carrots and corn.
Bring to the boil, and if needed add water. Simmer for 15-30 minutes. Take out the chicken, pull the meat off the bone, break meat into small pieces and put back in the pot. Add macaroni and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until pasta is cooked. Add baby spinach, taste, add salt and pepper if needed, then serve.

Since I've started to make this recipe, my mother has had fewer colds. When she has been sick it has not been for as long and has meant fewer hospital visits - not to mention fewer doctor's visits. Between the savings on medical bills, doctor's bills and hospital visits, I cannot begin to imagine what our savings have been but I don't doubt that it's been in the thousands of dollars.

Home roasted capsicum
updated 20 Aug 2017
To add some variation to my husband's lunches, I went to the deli section of my grocery shop to buy some roasted capsicum. I nearly choked when I saw the price of $25 per kilo! I then went in search of the jarred variety but at $4.00 for a small 200ml jar I decided there had to be a better and cheaper way.

I now buy six capsicums at a time, cut them into strips, de-vein and de-seed them. I then place them on a cooking tray with a light spray of oil and roast them for approximately one hour, depending on how many trays I have. I turn them once so they cook on both sides. Once the capsicums are out of the oven, I put them into a clip lock container, add some dried mixed herbs and chilli flakes and pour on a little vegetable oil; enough to coat the capsicum but not enough to drown it. I give the container a little shake and put it in the fridge. My husband takes the container to work and adds the capsicum to his roast beef sandwich at lunch time. The capsicum last two weeks and I even cook the roast myself!

The total cost is approximately $6.00 each fortnight, depending on the price of the capsicum. The cost will come down even more as we have just moved into our new house and once I have sorted out the gardens, I will be growing my own capsicums.
This free wild edible is fine and dandy!
updated 18 Aug 2017
If you want to save money and enjoy a nutritious free boost, look no further than the humble dandelion! This versatile plant can save at least $6 per week on fresh salad greens and an easy $3 per week on coffee. Dandelion can be used to make salad, pesto, green smoothie (add other leaves such as violet and clover) and roots taken in autumn and dried can be ground for a coffee substitute. It's healthier too!

Dandelions are one of the most health giving, nutritious and abundant wild edibles. To identify a true dandelion from the three look a-like plants of Catsear, Hawkbit and Hawkesbeard (all of which are edible, yet none are as beneficial), dandelions have a single golden yellow flower head on a hollow stem, containing white sap. The name 'dandelion' comes from the French dent-de-lion, meaning 'lion's tooth' - the leaves being deeply lobed with triangular teeth pointing towards the base of the leaf. Another distinguishing feature is to turn the leaf over and run your finger along the main vein of the leaf. If it is smooth with no hairs it is a true dandelion. Most other dandelion relatives have hairs on the veins and/or on the leaves.

Dandelions are perennials that grow in a rosette and are commonly found all over New Zealand, Tasmania and Australia mainland in lawns, pastures, roadsides, and wasteland. They originate from Europe and are known for their deep tap roots which easily break when you try to dig them up. They don't give up easily and will send up more leaves bringing up minerals from deep in the soil, benefiting the plants around them and us. In Autumn, when the plant is withdrawing it's energy into the root, it can be dug up, dry roasted and ground into a delicious coffee substitute, which was a practice during the rationing of the Second World War in England. (Find out how to make dandelion coffee below).

The root is well known for being highly medicinal for the liver, gallbladder and kidneys and has both laxative and diuretic qualities. The leaves contain high amounts of Vitamins A, B and C, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous, and other minerals. They also contain protein 19-32% in 100g, which is an impressive amount just from green leaves! Dandelion leaves are bitter which stimulates the release of saliva, and improves digestion. A dandelion pesto (Google for the recipe) can last for a while or be frozen. They are also a tonic, help lower cholesterol levels, increase blood and lymph circulation and are blood purifiers. The leaves and flowers can be used in smoothies, salads, pesto's and stir-fries. Don't overlook the dandelion, you'll be amazed how much it can do! If you have sun you can grow dandelion in a pot. It is hardy, strong and a survivor, treat it well.
Sticky sausages
updated 17 Aug 2017
Try this recipe! It's cheap to make and all my family enjoy it.


Serves 4


8 thick sausages
4 tblsp tomato sauce
2 tblsp dark brown sugar
1 tblsp mustard powder
2 tblsp soy sauce


Set oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Mix all marinade ingredients in a shallow ovenproof dish. Add the sausages and coat them in the marinade. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Serve with mashed potato.
Save money and your sanity with this teen tip that works!
updated 17 Aug 2017
This simple tip has saved me a fortune on dealing with demanding teens! Teenagers can be the toughest of children to negotiate with because they can be master manipulators at getting parents to do things for them that you really don't want to do. Which unfortunately can end up costing you a lot of your time and/or money. Fortunately I learned a great way to deal with this. I can't for the life of me remember where I learned it, but it saved me so much time and money that in turn I've passed it on to many other parents of teens that have the same issues (which most of us do)!

One of the main tactics that teens use is the 'I need to have it/know it now, now, now' ploy. It's usually when they 'need' money to buy something or 'need' you to drive them somewhere or 'need' you to let their friends stay over. And they'll keep at you and at you until you make a decision which is usually a quick yes, that you didn't really want to say, just to get them to stop. Previously, I couldn't think quickly enough when they were harassing me mercilessly for an immediate response and I found myself saying yes all the time, when I really wanted to say no. But saying no immediately never stopped the verbal onslaught. However what I learned to say instead was,'If you want an answer right now, it's no. But if you leave me alone, I'll think about it'. I found that 100% of the time, saying this worked. It gave me precious time to think about whether what they were asking was really as crucial as they made it sound, and whether I really wanted to spend money or change my plans to suit their 'needs'.

My new response also stopped them asking for immediate answers because they knew what the outcome would always be. And the house and my bank account had peace at last!
Cake in a jar
updated 17 Aug 2017
Here's a really thoughtful gift idea for under $5.00 each!

Start by making a double vanilla cake mix. You'll need:
500g SR flour
400g sugar
5 eggs
1.5 cups of milk
2 tsp vanilla essence
250g butter or margarine softened

Sift the flour and sugar together. Add eggs, milk, vanilla and butter and beat together for five minutes. Next, separate the mixture into two bowls â€" colour one red and one green. Pour separately into two 20cm round cake pans and bake in a moderate oven (180â€"190 degrees) until cooked (25-30mins).

Once cool, crumble up the cakes (keeping the colours separate). Spoon the crumbled cakes into glass jars with lids ($2.00 from The Reject Shop) layering red and green for a rainbow effect. Top with piped frosting and decorate. Seal the lid and attach a plastic spoon or fork with a bow.

You can change the cake colours for different themes such as Christmas, Easter or birthdays throughout the year.
My 'hardship' saved me $350 of debt!
updated 15 Aug 2017
I saved $350 by not signing up to pay off a washing machine and paying cash instead! I was tempted. The sales person asked to look at my bank statements. Because I am in financial hardship I had put the word - 'hardship' - on the reference field on my Internet banking against another account I am paying off under a hardship arrangement. I then got a call from the appliance company saying I could not pay the machine off because of my hardship status. Rather than give up, I found the cash to pay for the machine outright. That $350 I saved was debt that I didn't incur on top of the washing machine purchase. Using the word 'hardship' on the reference field of Internet banking is a great deterrent to stop incurring further debt.
Weekly menu saves on takeaways
updated 13 Aug 2017
We are all set to save a whopping $1200 on takeaways this year! Every weekend we order a takeaway meal, which costs us an average of $30 with soft drink and delivery. Last week I decided to make up my own 'takeaway menu' of quick and easy foods that I could whip up faster than it takes to deliver a pizza or Chinese. The criteria for the menu was:

* Must take less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook
* Must be able to keep ingredients in pantry or freezer
* Must be food we like!

I created a menu with eight different meals that fit the criteria and printed it off on glossy paper. I then put it on top of all of our other takeaway menus by the phone. When Saturday night came around, my husband was hankering for his usual takeaway, so I handed him our own menu! He chose Spaghetti Bolognese and I was able to whip it up in under 10 minutes using Angel Hair pasta and a can of Campbell's Beef Bolognese sauce. I even added some garlic bread for him and the total cost was just $6, saving $24 on our usual spend. We couldn't believe it when we added up the numbers and found that choosing from our own menu every weekend instead of ordering delivery would add up to a yearly saving of $1248! Not only are we saving money, but we both agree our home cooked 'takeaways' are hotter, yummier and much better for us than anything we could have had delivered!
Make your own re-useable shopping bags
updated 12 Aug 2017
My re-useable, eco-friendly and super cheap shopping bags are a favourite with family and friends! I have always been appalled by wastage. Single use shopping bags are on the way out, so I recently started making shopping bags from large sheets purchased from the local op shop. These are extremely cheap, wash brilliantly and can be made to any size. Have a go and making your own!
Get all the camping info with WikiCamp app
updated 12 Aug 2017
Wikicamp is a brilliant app for your phone which shows thousands and thousands of camping sites; not only ones that cost but better still, the FREE camping areas. It also shows where you are and the closest camp grounds to you, whether they have toilets, water, electricity, WiFi, phone coverage, BBQ's and if pets are allowed. You can also browse photos and comments that others have put there. We just used it for the first time this weekend to go to Woodside Beach so we knew we could take our dog but also discovered we needed to take our own drinking water, which we wouldn't have known otherwise and could have been tricky! I think the app costs about $4.99 but is well worth it!
Ensure years more use from baking tins
updated 12 Aug 2017
This simple tip makes my metal bake ware last longer and stay free from rust! I just wash all my baking tins as soon as they cool down to avoid food baking on. I then pop the tins back into the still hot oven to dry out completely. It uses no extra power as the oven is turned off, yet prevents any rust from forming, resulting in many more years of use!
Soothe dry lips in an instant at home
updated 12 Aug 2017
This simple tip is effective and can save both discomfort and money. If your lips are really dry but you don't have a lip balm available, a quick substitute is to rub something oil-based on your lips. You can use things like unsalted butter, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil - even mayonnaise in a pinch!
Free mulch from
updated 11 Aug 2017
Here's a tip for getting free mulch for your garden! As a single parent, I'm always on the look-out for things that are cheap or free. One of my recent great finds was a way to get a free truck load of mulch - delivered free too!

I got onto Mulchnet through a free seminar through the Water Corporation. Mulchnet has tree contractors that often need to unload mulch while they're out working. By registering with them (which is free) you may be able to get the mulch for free if they are in your area and need to unload. I registered and two weeks ago I received a phone call from a tree contractor who had a truck to unload so he delivered it onto my front verge. It actually costs the tree operators money to off load this mulch, so it's a win-win for them and us! You can also buy mulch from them too. Find out more at All I need now is plenty of time to get it onto my gardens before summer!
Split the bill in small change and save
updated 10 Aug 2017
I have come up with a handy method for paying my way in group meals without being too much out of pocket! I've learned to put aside $5 notes and $2 coins in a small purse and take the purse along to group restaurant dinners, such as birthday or farewell get togethers. If my meal and drink totals $24, instead of putting in larger $20 or $50 notes and hoping for change, I instead contribute six $5 notes ($30) to cover my meal. The small amount left over I am happy to contribute towards the guest of honour's meal and maybe provide a tip, rather than being out of pocket for a large amount, which inevitably happens in these situations. Sticking to $5 notes allows me to be a little generous and also allows other diners in the group to collect some change if they only have a $50 note!
Buying and storing olives in bulk
1 comment
updated 9 Aug 2017
My family loves olives but it was very expensive to buy them on a regular basis. So I was delighted to discover a great way to buy them in bulk.

A 3kg can of olives from a bulk store costs about $10 on average. But then you have the problem of eating them up quickly. Don't panic. Freeze them! When I buy my large can of olives, I open it as soon as I get home and fill three or four glass jars with olives, then spoon the liquid to fill the jars to about 3 cm from the top. Be careful not to put in too much liquid as they will burst when they freeze. Then simply put them in the freezer. When you need some olives, take them out and defrost them, and you would never know they had been frozen. You can do this with sliced, whole or pitted olives. I have done it with all three, and it works like magic; I have never had a bad olive from the freezer!
Shop around for better health service deals
1 comment
updated 7 Aug 2017
I just saved $500! I was booked in to a local digestive health centre to have a gastroscopy. I received a phone call to confirm my appointment and was told that I would have to pay a $500 excess, even with private health insurance. I was really annoyed as I am currently out of work and don't really have a spare $500 at short notice. I honestly thought my private health insurance would have covered it (but this just shows it always pays to check). I rang a relative who had recently had a gastroscopy to find out where he went and he told me it only cost him $240 (with no health insurance). I decided to contact that clinic for a quote and, to my delight, they advised me that I don't have to pay any excess with them if I have private health insurance. So, the moral of the story - please shop around, even for health services. All I need to do now is ring my doctor to change the referral and I will have saved $500!
Check for discount on prepaid school fees
1 comment
updated 6 Aug 2017
Check your kids' school to see if they give a discount if you prepay school fees - my kids' school charged me 2016 rates for the 2017 year if they were fully paid prior to December 2016. That's $300 saved for me which was over half my son's uniform!
Make splinter-removal a doddle with this clever home-remedy
updated 6 Aug 2017
I saved on doctor's fees and avoided a taxi fare recently when I put a home splinter-remedy to good use. I had no car that day and was home alone with my twins when my young son stepped on a large splinter. His foot was red and inflamed, so I decided to try a home remedy of bicarb of soda and vinegar paste. I applied the paste to the splinter and covered it with a plaster, and then put him down for his morning nap. While he slept, the paste worked its magic and the splinter came to the surface as the skin swelled to expel it. When he woke, I gently sterilised the area with an alcohol rub then used a pair of sterilised tweezers remove the splinter. It came out with ease. Afterwards I wiped it again with an alcohol swab and simply applied a plaster. Job done!
My shopping list tells me what NOT to buy!
updated 3 Aug 2017
To help save money when shopping, we all know it's good form to write a shopping list; a list of what we need and want to buy. A shopping list helps us to stay within our budget, and therefore saves us from spending money unnecessarily.

But - how many of us go shopping with a 'DO NOT BUY' shopping list? What is a 'DO NOT BUY' list exactly? It's a list of items that you DON'T need to buy!

Are there four tins of Milo in the pantry? Put Milo on the DNB list! Got enough sausages to feed at least two Bunnings sausage sizzles? Put sausages on the DNB list! Why are there six jars of strawberry jam in the pantry, when only Great Aunt Ida has it on her toast on her annual visit? Put it on the DNB list!

I've just been through my pantry doing a clean up. I hang my head in shame. On my new DO NOT BUY list (along with sausages), I have -

- Vegemite (1/2 a 950g tub, 1/2 x 560g jar, 1/4 x 150g jar, nearly empty 455g jar and two half empty 145g tubes!!)
- Peanut Butter (1/2 a 2kg tub, nearly empty small jar, 1/4 x 796g jar, 1 full 796g jar, and scrapings in another 796g jar)
- Jams (way too many to list)
- Milo, hot chocolate, flavoured quik powders
- Coffee and tea
- Two minute noodles

These are things that we mindlessly pick up every shop, put into the trolley, because we USE them all the time. But do we really know how much we are wasting? I know I am wasting heaps of money. And food. I hope having a 'DO NOT BUY' list helps someone else too!
$13 mince mix makes base for 7 meals
updated 1 Aug 2017
This super basic mince recipe saves me up to $100 a month on takeaways, thanks to the convenience of having meals already 'half made'.

All you need are:
2kg minced beef
2 cups of red lentils
2 tbsp of vegetable stock powder, or four vegetable stock cubes
1 tsp dried garlic granules
1 dsp dried onion flakes
4 cups of water.

Place all the ingredients into a crockpot and cook on high for two hours, stirring every 30 minutes. It should be thick, aromatic and an unattractive brown colour (don't let this worry you!).

One batch costs just $13 to make and is enough to serve as a base for seven meals for our family (two children and two adults). This saves heaps of money and time too. I usually freeze the mince in margarine tubs, as that seems to be the right amount for one meal for our family.

The meals I made are:

1. Piemaker pies.
Allow one heaped tablespoon of basic mince per pie. Pour the mince into a small saucepan and add a large spoonful of gravy powder, or a dessertspoon of cornflour and some Vegemite for colour. Heat and stir until thickened. Spoon into pastry cases and cook in the piemaker.

2. Mexican enchiladas.
I use Mountain Bread or make my own crepes. Lay the bread or crepes in u-shapes in a large baking dish. Mix the mince with an equal amount of tinned or home-made refried beans. Spread the mixture in a sausage shape down the middle of each crepe, fold each side of the crepe over, sprinkle with grated cheese and bake at 180C until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve on a bed of rice, topped with natural yoghurt and some salsa.

3. Stuffed capsicums.
Halve enough capsicums for half or one per person. Spoon the mince straight into the capsicums, top with some mashed potato, pumpkin or sweet potato. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 40 mins at 180C. Kids love these as the capsicum sweetens when baked.

4. Baked spuds with topping.
Allow one potato of appropriate size per person. Cook in the microwave according to manufacturer's instructions. Split a cross in the top and pile filling into the opening. Top with natural yoghurt or sour cream and chopped, sauteed bacon. Allow one large tablespoon of filling per potato. Mix the filling with one tin of baked beans and heat in a small saucepan before pouring on to the potatoes.

5. Spring rolls.
Mix about four tablespoons of mince mixture with a packet of cooked and cooled Two Minute Noodles, some shredded carrot, and 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice. Using filo pastry sheets or spring roll wrappers, fold a small handful of filling into each spring roll. Spray liberally with cooking spray and bake at 180C for 20-30 mins.

6. Greek pasta bake (Pastito).
Heat a container of mince mixture with a 400g tin of peeled tomatoes. Cook enough macaroni for your family and drain well. Mix with the meat mixture and spoon into a large baking dish and top with your favourite white sauce or cheese sauce. Sprinkle on some grated cheese and bake for 40 minutes at 200C.

7. Shepherds pie.
Add any vegetables of your choice to the mince mixture. Place into a baking dish and top with mashed potato, pumpkin or sweet potato then bake until heated and the potato browns.
Flannels make better value dishcloths than Chux
updated 27 Jul 2017
I am making great savings on dishcloths since I began using bathroom flannels instead of Chux style cloths. I got sick of spending money on these and then disposing of them. I also felt I was probably using them for longer than I should, just to get my money's worth. So instead I have bought several cotton flannels to use only in my kitchen. They are all white, so I know they are my kitchen cloths and not for the bathroom. I can wash them and re-use them as often as needed, without having to dispose of them or buy new ones!
I'm no poverty-stricken pensioner - I'm a Money Magician!
updated 24 Jul 2017
Living on a pension can be miserable or fascinating, choose your preferred option! Since I prefer fascinating I play a game with myself. How many days can I go without spending anything? My records so far is five days but I'm working to improve that. This means really judicious planning when I make out my grocery list! It means thinking very, very hard before a purchase, do I really need it? Do I have anything at home that I could use instead? Is it something I could borrow? Could I trade for it? I retired two weeks ago, having decided at 69 that I didn't want to sell one more day of my life, so it's game on! I'm currently on day three of my challenge looking to beat five days and set a new record. I'm planning on being a Money Magician instead of a poverty-stricken pensioner! Don't wish me good luck though - it's not about luck, it's about planning, determination, and finding frugal fun!
Minimum fuss haircut you can do yourself!
updated 23 Jul 2017
'Do It Yourself' free, layered haircuts are possible for those with medium to long hair! Try this, it does work (and as a student married to a student, I can vouch for it):

It's best to wrap a towel around your shoulders before you do this; that way you can just shake the towel outside to get rid of the excess hair.

Turn your head upside down and make a ponytail with your hand about 3-5 cm from your front hair line.

Tie a hairband around the ponytail, keeping your head upside down.

Then tie another hairband every 5 cm up the rest of the hair until you can't go any further and trim 2-4 cm of your hair (to get rid of split ends) with very sharp scissors.

Undo the hair bands and brush. There you have it - a new layered hairstyle with minimum fuss and no cost!

... and thousands more.

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