Sunday, 9 January 2011

One Hundred Ways To Save Money in 2011 Part II

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Part one of this series can be found here! Hopefully people found some helpful suggestions in the previous post, today I'll be looking at another 50 suggestions!

51. Keep 15% to 20% of your weekly grocery budget for stocking up on items when they are on sale.
52. See what you can produce/make {hats, scarves, gloves, soap, jams etc} and organize a swap with someone else whose items you need, such as someone who keeps chickens/hens and has eggs to give away.
53. Search for local farms and see what they sell in bulk, friends of mine buy gallons of wheat & honey for 20% of the cost the shops by purchasing it in very large quantities.
54. Can produce in the summer.
55. Buy bulk produce from farms in the summer and make pies, tomato sauce, crumbles, apple sauce, pear sauce. One year I made 18 apple pies,18 apple crisps and 12 peach pies and froze them!
56. Get your pets from rescue centres, my local centre charges $50 and that includes all the vaccines needed as well as neutering/spaying and micro chipping!
57. Keep a large stock of pet food, if you happened on lean times it is one less worry!
58. Consider getting pet insurance!
59. Learn to knit
60. Learn to sew
61. Learn to make your own shampoo & conditioner
62. Learn to make your own soap
63. Keep a list in your purse of household needs and always pop into second hand shops and/or garage sales to see if any of your items are available at a reasonable cost, but be strict with yourself no purchasing of anything that isn't on the list!
64. Ask your friends if they'd be willing to sell you the clothing their child has outgrown.
65. Organize a clothing swap with friends
66. Attend mom to mom sales and twin sales
67. Start a baby-sitting coop
68. Search for any shops the specialize in second hand furniture - I bought a wonderful couch and a fabulous retro chair for less than $100 {and they both look new!} at a wonderful charity shop that specializes in furnishings!
69. If you are buying new, always arrange to purchase items during the sales.
70. Do your research on prices pre sale {so you know if you are getting a good deal!}
71. Don't be afraid to ask for discounts on large purchases.
72. Consider buying the store model - I did this today as I needed a table, the table was $199 on sale but the sales person gave it to me for $50! $50 for a beautiful new table that was the store model {and it was right at the back of the store with very little traffic so is in great condition!}
73. If you don't have a good rapport with a sales person, go find another one or go back another day!
74. Ask the shops if they have any sales coming up!
75. Buy yourself gift cards, I purchase a couple of cards and put a balance of about $20 on them, this means on the rare occasion I choose to purchase a coffee {usually because I'm meeting a group of friends at a coffee shop} it doesn't cost me anything.
76. Ask for gift cards for Christmas gifts.
77. Get your DVD's from the library
78. Join a wool co-op if you knit
79. Keep lights turned off
80. In the evenings light candles
81. Keep your TV & computer off when not in use {and ensure the power is fully off and they aren't on standby}
82. Turn the tap off as you brush your teeth
83. Take quick showers
84. If you go to the gym or swimming shower there
85. Learn to love simple meals, like a baked potato with salad.
86. If you eat meat, make it an accompaniment to a meal not the main part of the meal!
87. Use nuts, seeds and beans to get protein
88. Shop around for medication, prices vary greatly
89. Ditch the make-up {or at least use bare bones!}
90. Ditch the perfume {or keep it only for special occasions}
91. Hang clothes up after you've worn them, this helps keep them looking nice & reduces the amount of washing you have to do
92. Find a cobbler and see if your shoes can be repaired rather than thrown out
93. Buy plants instead of flowers, they last for years!
94. Keep a tally book in your purse/handbag with average costs of items, this helps you know when something is worth stocking up on
95. Only allow yourself to go to the shops once a week at most
96. Suggest pot luck meals when getting together with friends and family
97. Volunteer - a great social activity at no cost!
98. Do your taxes - you never know when you'll get a refund!
99. Pay yourself each pay day - put a set amount of money into a long term account that you don't touch!
100. Get rid of your sense of entitlement - just because you work hard it doesn't mean you have a "right" to buy what you want. I ran a series about how damaging a sense of entitlement can be, part one is here, part two here and part three here.

In thinking about it, I think the greatest way to save money is to: enjoy life, find joy, search for beauty, commit to reducing your carbon impact, live purposefully and be thankful! The simple, green & frugal life is a beautiful life!

What are your tips for saving money?

Friday, 7 January 2011

Use It Up

By Bel
from Spiral Garden

I menu plan every week, without fail. When writing my plan I always consider what's in the garden, the fridge, the freezer, the pantry and try to use what we have at hand first. But some weeks we just seem to have accumulated a lot of excess food. For those weeks, I plan what I call a Use It Up week. More than ever I plan the meals around the leftovers, the produce gluts and the tired things in the freezer and pantry, which really need to be eaten soon!

On Use It Up weeks I try not to buy groceries at all. We are blessed with some homegrown fruit and veg, and fresh milk from our house cow. I always have bulk flour to make bread, and other pantry staples are stored in bulk too (like rice and lentils).

Use It Up weeks occasionally run into a couple of weeks and not only do they encourage inventive recipes, very local eating habits and a good clean out of my kitchen, but they save us hundreds of dollars on groceries for our family of eight. I normally use this money saved for a bulk shop to replenish the stockpile of anything which is low.

These past two weeks were Use It Up weeks. We had a lot of family staying for Christmas, and they left behind bits and pieces of food to be used up. First we tackled the fresh food because we didn't want it to spoil, and then we moved on to the more obscure ingredients. But we ate so well!

Some of the meals we enjoyed were crustless quiches, pasta sauces and curries (with all sorts of vegetables hidden inside), jacket potatoes, salads and all sorts of 'peasant food'!

The crustless quiche has to be my favourite as we almost always have an abundance of eggs from our chickens. This week I made three shallow quiches one night when we had nine to feed in the evening, and some slices were enjoyed cold for lunches the next day.

One contained defrosted shredded ham, mozzarella and some herbs. Not many of us eat ham, but our visitor and those who do, thought it was delicious! The second one contained some very finely chopped mushrooms, cubed various cheeses and more fresh herbs - it was my favourite! And the third was a basic mixed vegetable quiche, with some mozzarella and herbs for flavour.

To make these crustless quiches, I rub pie dishes with butter and pour in the vegetables etc mixed together with herbs and cheese if I'm using it. Then I whisk together a lot of eggs (about 5 per pie), some yoghurt or cream, some stock powder or paste, any herbs or spices not yet added, a dash of milk, some plain flour (I use wheat or spelt, wholemeal or unbleached) and a pinch of baking powder. This mixture is only slightly more runny than pancake batter. I pour it over the vegetables etc waiting in the dishes, and top with sliced tomato if I have some.

The quiches are baked at 180 degrees C for about 35 minutes or until golden brown and firm throughout. How long they take depends on the size and depth of your pie plate. I prefer shallow, small plates so they cook faster and I can make more than one variety at a time.

We serve the quiche slices with a big green salad and homemade dressing.

Do you have a favourite Use It Up recipe? If so, please share!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

New year, new seeds: help!

by Francesca

salads 1

New Year, new seeds: that's is my motto for 2011. As I look forward to a brand new season in my garden, waiting for that magic moment to start working out there, I've started to plan what I want to grow this season. I've decided to have a go at growing some new crops, including a few that are a little unusual.

However, I'm in a bit of a bind, because I can't find these unusual seeds in local stores. Even the seeds for some crops that once were common in my area, are now impossible to find. Such as chickpeas, which are still very popular in the local cuisine (and with our family!), but which no one grows anymore around here.

So I started looking at gardening and seed catalogs, in Italy, Europe and beyond. I want to compile a list of best international gardening and seed catalogs, which I'll make available through this blog. It should be a useful resource to many gardeners who are trying to locate specific, lesser-known seeds, or to find the best sellers or prices.

And here I'd like to ask you readers for your help. Are you a gardener, anywhere in the world? Where do you buy your seeds? Please tell me! Just leave a link to your favorite seed catalog in the comment section below, or send me an email (fuoriborgo at gmail dot com).

Thank you!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Home Made Spaghetti

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

I am a difficult person to buy a Christmas gift, that I will admit.  For those who keep tabs on me on my personal blog, you will know I am not into consumerism, and only buy practical, long lasting items that will help us on our sustainable journey.  It must be either organic, fair trade, ethical, second hand or renewable or just damn useful.  So it makes it really hard for others to buy for me.

Well I am happy to say that my wife, Kim's present ticked the boxes this year (as always).  She bought me a pasta machine which is a great addition to our kitchen.  I love fresh pasta, and if made with local ingredients even better.  I dare say quite a few readers already know how to make pasta, but consider me as a late comer to this wonderful dish.  Here is my story that I posted about a week ago.  I had such a response that I had to share it here.

A week ago, we made spaghetti!  Here is me and my father with the pasta machine testing it out.

The recipe was extremely simple.  Place 250gms of white flour and 250gm wholemeal flour in a bowl, make a well and crack in 5 eggs (home grown).  Mix with a fork until most of the moisture is absorbed them kneed with your hands.  The dough should not stick to your hands, and should be even in consistency.  This took about 5 minutes.

Once the dough was nice a firm, I cut off a small piece and ran it through the machine as per the instructions to clean off any excess oil, which I threw away.

Then we cut off a third of the dough, and ran it thought the machine on no. 1.  We ran it though at this setting 5 times, adding a little flour each time, then folding the pasta in half,  and back through again.  It becomes very pliable.

Then we ran it thought once on no. 2 setting, then once on no. 3 setting.  It was about 3mm thick and about 90 cm long.  Just right for lasagne, but we didn't rest on our laurels. 

The manual suggested that we cut the sheets into 25cm lengths, but from trial and error we chose to make them about 45cm or about 15 inches.  Then we swapped the handle over to the spaghetti cutter and run a sheet through it.

It took two of us to make it work.  We got better at it as we progressed, and ended up with some very nice spaghetti.  We found the first run of 25cm too short.

Kim sat at the kitchen table, pulling the strands apart and laying them on a tea towel to dry.  However, this is where we came unstuck.  We put too much on top each other and only the top dried sufficiently to be used in dinner.

The spaghetti that did dry cooked to perfection.  I bought about 6 litres of salted water to the boil, threw in the pasta for 3 minutes, and it was done.  I served it with a home made Bolognase sauce which has the following home grown ingredients in it, onions, garlic, basil, oregano, and zucchini.

Everyone said that it was the best  and freshest pasta they had ever tasted, and I commented that it was a true family affair.  What other food do you know that could bring everyone into the kitchen to help out?

Since we made the initial batch, I sourced two old broom handles out of the shed, sanded them down and then finished them with olive oil.  I now use them as a drying rack between two chairs and hang the fresh pasta over the pole.  It dries evenly and is just right.  I have even made ravioli, which turned out perfect, but that is another story!

What a great present!  Thanks honey.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The return of the sun

By Aurora, Island Dreaming

Whilst all seasons have their charms and downsides, I think that most people have times of year that they prefer. My perennially pale complexion marks summer as my natural enemy and my feeble circulatory system sees winter as its foe, hence I thrive in spring and autumn. Winter here this year  has been dreary - one day of pristine, crunchy snow followed by weeks of slush, freezing temperatures, greyness and treacherous ice. The rest of the country descended into snowy chaos as we turned into Sweden for a few weeks, though without any of that nation's preparedness. This is one winter I will be particularly glad to see the end of.

I feel the transition from winter is very much a 'countryside' season that can fall flat in the city, with its evergreen shrub beds, annual planting schemes and general lack of wildlife. Nevertheless, now the solstice is past; the first signs of new growth will begin to appear, just as the harshest part of winter descends upon us.The days lengthen by a few minutes everyday, the sun rises a little higher in the sky, warmer days will eventually come. Whilst now is still a time to be hunkering down against the elements in temperate northern climates, it is also a good time to begin planning for the approaching season (if for no other reason than all this dark and cold is getting a little old for my liking).

For gardeners the tasks for the coming months are obvious - tidying, planning, seed selecting and starting. But I am also starting to look at how our menu will change, what produce will be coming into season and what wines and preserves I can make early on in the year. Open-farm 'lambing' days begin at the end of this month and continue through to spring, a great opportunity to get acquainted with local food producers. As we now have an allotment, we might visit a 'Potato day' to pick up some unusual tubers to plant. Most importantly, I would like to bring the season alive for our toddler son  - buds unfurling and baby birds chirping, the wonder of planting a seed and watching it grow - and need to plan as many outings and activities as possible to that effect, both in and out of the city.

The temptation, in the depths of winter, is to try and preempt Spring. Last New Year, in my eagerness to see something grow, I sowed tomatoes and aubergines on my shady windowsill - far too early, far too prolifically. By the time the initially weedy growth matured and got too big for the windowsill, we were still in the midst of frosts and biting winter winds. This year, despite my itching to get on and do something, anything, that affirms that greenery and abundance will once again be returning to my patio, I have not yet succumbed.  Instead I am quietly observing what is going on around me, waiting for the first signs of spring and tidying up a few stray ends in the garden, ready to pounce when the right day comes.

Wherever you are, in the midst of whatever season, I wish you a very happy and prosperous 2011.