Friday, 27 February 2015

Hula Hoop Tutorial

We recently went to an outdoor concert where we were entertained by a lovely Eco Fairy doing some hula hooping. There was a heap of spare  hula hoops for the kids to join in but Mr 8 was too shy, which got me thinking... why don't we make these at home? So that is exactly what we did!

I had a look online for custom handmade hula hoops and a large hoop which is ideal for beginners, retails for around $35! I made two hoops, one for Mr 8 and one for myself for a fraction of that price and still have leftover materials to make more!

To make a hula hoop you will need:

19mm poly drip irrigation tubing (mine was from Bunnings)
A 19mm barbed joiner for each hula hoop
Scissors or pruning shears
Coloured tape, sheet of silver book adhesive or washi tape for decorating

Unfortunately I could only find the 19mm tubing in a 25 metre length. But on the positive side, now I can make ALL the hula hoops! these would make great gifts as well.

First off you will need to measure out your hula hoop. A good rule of thumb is for a beginners hoop, the bigger the better. The hoop should come at least up to your waist when in it's on it's side.

Unwind the tubing and hold it up against your body so it reaches waist height. Mark  where you need to make the cut with a bit of tape.

Cut the tubing with some garden pruners or scissors.You will now have long length of tubing.

 In a medium sized container pour in some boiling water and hold one of the tubing ends in the hot water for about 20 seconds. This will make the end pliable enough to attach the connector. 

Push the connector into the plastic tubing. Then repeat the process with the other end of the tube so that both cut ends are now attached to the connector.

The join in the hoop should look like this. If you just want a plain black hoop, then your DIY hoop is good to go. But if you prefer yours a bit fancy, keep reading.

I bought a pack of coloured insulation tape from Kmart. I also had a couple rolls of silver adhesive book covering that I got for 50c each last year, so I used those to decorate Mr 8's hoop as well. The stuff I have is similar to this

Starting at the join, and at a slight angle, wrap the insulation tape carefully around the tubing until it is all the way around. I think it looks good just like this, but if you want to add some sparkle, cut the silver adhesive into 1-2cm lengths depending on how big your black gaps are. Mr 8 wanted his to be black, red and silver so I positioned the silver tape to go in between the black tubing and red tape. This part takes a while so just take your time. 

Because you know I'm all about being frugal, everything I buy has to be as cheap as possible.
Here is the pricing for a DIY hula hoop:

25 metres of poly tubing: $14.90- works out to be 60c per metre
Barbed joiners: 75c each 
Insulation tape: $2.50 for a pack of 5
Silver adhesive: $1.00 for 2 rolls on sale

With these materials it would cost around $2.40 per hula hoop. 

I've been practicing every day but still can't keep the hoop up for more than a couple of rotations. However, Mr 8 is becoming a pro!

Happy hooping everyone!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

February Meal Plan

Lemon and garlic chicken with cous cous and salad

I did not end up doing a monthly grocery shop for the month of January because we had heaps of extra food left over from Christmas. I diced the extra ham and turkey and put it in the freezer to use for meals and instead tried the $21 challenge which you can read more about here . It is essentially trying hard to stay out of the supermarket and use up what you have on hand to build meals for a week. The $21 figure is based on 4 people and should be used only to buy ingredients to add to the meals. It is a great tool to use occasionally when you just need to save a few extra dollars fast, or need to use up food in your freezer!

Because we still had lots of meat, frozen vegetables and fruit this was easily achievable. Plus I finally got to use up some random items of food lurking in my pantry.

Roast beef with potato, pumpkin and peas

Which now brings us to February and here are the meals I planned:

1. Roast chicken with roast potato, pumpkin, peas and homemade gravy.
2. Chicken risotto (using leftover chicken)
3. Tacos with lettuce, cheese and tomato
4. Spinach quiche and green salad
5. Pan fried fish and vegetables
6. Potato croquettes with broccoli and carrots
7. Roast beef with roast potato, pumpkin, peas and homemade gravy
8. Slow cooked beef and barley casserole (using leftover beef)
9. Tomato and ham pasta bake
10. Tee hee min and rice
11. Cheese and onion pie with vegetables
12 Peri peri chicken and salad wraps
13. Vegetable fried rice and pork steamed buns
14. Pork roast with roast vegetables
15.BBQ pulled pork and salad (using leftover pork)
16. Meatball casserole and pasta
17. Coconut vegetable curry and rice
18. Spaghetti or beans on toast (mama cbf cooking night)
19. Roast lamb and vegetables
20. Hot lamb rolls (using leftover lamb)
21 Nachos
22. Chrorizo and lentil soup
23.Omelets and vegetables
24. Potato bake and salad
25. Curried sausages mashed potato, carrots and peas
26. Vegetable pizza subs
27. Lentil and potato pie
28.Stuffed potatoes and salad

 Being summer I try to avoid using the oven where possible as it heats up my house too much. I have learned to adapt the majority of these meals to be made in the slow cooker.

Slow cooker meatballs with pasta

For snacks I also made:

Homemade yoghurt
Banana bread (using frozen bananas)
Orange and cranberry muffins
Blueberry muffins (frozen blueberries)
Peanut butter balls
Anzac slice
Mango icypoles (frozen mangoes)
Sweet chilli dip (served with vegie sticks)
Rice bubble slice
Choc muesli slice

I always have a variety of fresh, frozen or dried fruit on hand for snacking. Also by making cakes, slices and lunch box bars from scratch really impact positively on the budget. I can make these things for only a few cents each compared to buying the processed, heavily packaged version available in stores.

What types of meals are always on your plan?

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Shopping Around For The Cheapest Groceries

I've had a lot of people ask how I manage to feed my family of 5 on a food budget of $400 a month. Especially in Perth. Most of it is just down to meal planning, knowing the prices of what I buy regularly and shopping around for the best possible prices. Before the month begins, I will do a food audit and try to make up meals using what I already have on hand. I wrote more about it here
Once I have a meal plan and a shopping list of all the ingredients needed to prepare these meals, including baking ingredients, snacks and other household items I will need for the month, I then spend the afternoon grocery shopping. I never shop on an empty stomach, as if I'm hungry I'm more likely to make impulsive purchases.

Coconut oil and Asian cooking supplies are much cheaper at Asian grocery stores.

I buy our meat from a small Foodworks store which has a butcher onsite. The meat there is great quality and so much cheaper then at the big supermarkets. I can get a 2kg roast of pork or beef for around $15. This will do us 2-3 meals.

At Coles, I buy the bulk of my pantry, fridge and freezer items and the odd bit of meat like mince or chicken thighs because it is cheaper here then buying at my butcher. I never buy fruit and vegetables from chain supermarkets due to the inflated cost, unless items are on clearance. By shopping here I also accumulate a fair amount of Fly Buy points. Last year, I saved them all up until Christmas and got $80 off my shop!

I shop at Woolworths for bi-carb soda that I use for cleaning, making the teens facial scrub and any other items that may be on special. I used to buy Mackenzies brand of bi carb from Coles for $2.64 for 500g, unfortunately Coles do not make a generic version of this. Then I stumbled upon Woolworths Home Brand bicarbonate of soda which is only $1.59 for 500g. A great saving of $1.05, which might not seem like much, but over the course of a year would add up to big savings!

We also have a Spud Shed which opened up a few months ago. I keep an eye out for the specials and stock up then. In the past they have had carrots and broccoli for 50c and free potatoes!

Mr 8 cutting up our free potatoes ready to mash for dinner

A local volunteer run op shop also have free bread and rolls for the community. We rarely have to buy bread, as I will pick up a few loaves and keep them in my chest freezer. This really helps the food budget as bottomless pit Mr 13 will often have a couple of slices of toast after dinner if he is still hungry.

I have also found that certain items are cheaper at some stores then others. Asian ingredients like coconut oil, sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, ketsap manis, sushi rice, nori and rice paper rolls are definitely much cheaper at Asian grocery stores than at a  regular supermarket. My local store also sells fruit and vegetables and have excellent specials as well as bags of seconds stock for only 50c a bag!

Spices, dried fruit, nuts, legumes and other dried goods I buy from Kakulas Brothers in Northbridge. This place is fabulous and deserves and entire blog post to itself! I buy all my spices and pulses there in bulk every couple of months for a fraction of the cost. I am also a salt snob and buy my glorious pink Himalayan sea salt from there.

Another thing I do to save money by making my own cleaning products. I make my own laundry gel, stain remover and use bi carb soda, vinegar and essential oils for cleaning instead. I also use vinegar as a rinse aid in my washing machine and dishwasher. Instead of expensive fabric softeners and rinse aids.

By spending a bit of extra time planning and shopping around you can save heaps of money off your grocery bill. If you go past a little independent store on your travels, pop in and check out the prices. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Homemade Laundry Gel

There is something really satisfying about making your own laundry gel. To me, it is reminiscent of a simpler life in times gone by, when household products were made from scratch. These recipes would be passed down through each generation, helping to keep family traditions and memories alive. I get vivid images of colonial times whenever I make this, and that makes my heart happy.

It is much cheaper to grate your own soap than buy soap flakes

I have been making my own laundry gel for a few years now and will never go back to buying store bought because making my own is pretty easy and I really enjoy doing it. Plus it is eco friendly, but the biggest draw card is how cheap it is to make. Each batch of  this homemade laundry gel costs $1.90 and makes a massive 10 litres. Working out only a meager 19c per litre! Because this recipe makes so much, you will need at least a 12 litre bucket for mixing and empty bottles for storing the gel once it is done. Glass or plastic both work well, I save our empty 1.25 litre soft drink bottles for this reason. Yay for repurposing!

Now, to be fair, you do need to buy all the ingredients at once, which in Perth costs me $15.27. However I see this as a frugal investment that will save me heaps of money later on as it will make several batches of gel and I only need to make it about once every 6 months. Yep, 6 months. Well... you must hardly have any laundry, I hear you proclaim! 

Unfortunately not. I wash my family of five's clothes 3 times a week and will do 2-3 loads each time. The trick is with this stuff you only need to use a quarter of a cup for each wash. I also use a tablespoon of vinegar in the rinse cycle instead of  a fabric softener. Vinegar is a great natural anti microbial and natural softener and despite my initial doubts it doesn't leave my washing smelling like a fish and chip shop either. Winning!

The recipe for the laundry gel I originally found on the Down To Earth website, which if you haven't checked out yet, please do. Rhonda's simple living journey is truly inspirational. for anyone who is looking to live well with less. I have modified this recipe slightly over the years, sorry for the lack of pictures I forgot to take some of the actual process. 

Only 3 ingredients are needed

You will need:

1 cup of soap flakes or grated laundry soap

1/2 C washing soda

1/2 C borax

1 and a half litres of water

Measure all of the above ingredients into a large pot and place on a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the soap has completely dissolved.

Let it cool down and then add this mixture to your 12 litre bucket, along with 8 litres of warm water. Give it all a big stir and leave it to sit overnight. 

In the morning the gel will appear slightly separated, so use a stick blender to break up any solid soap chunks and blend it all into a nice gel. 

I now use a ladle and a funnel to pour the laundry gel into each bottle, leaving a bit of room at the top. Because this mixture tends to separate, leaving extra room in each bottle allows you to give it a good shake before using. Any you are done!

Seven bottles filled and one given to a friend

With the laundry soap, you can buy Lux soap flakes and I have so so in the past, but have found the most cost effective way of making this is with laundry soap grated by hand. I will sit down and grate all 4 bars at one and store it in a container for ease of use later. I also add 10ml of Eucalyptus oil to each bottle of laundry gel for fragrance and it's anti bacterial properties. You could add any essential oil you wish as long as it is water soluble, or leave it as is. Adding the eucalyptus oil, does bump the price up by 28c, making a 1 litre bottle cost 38c which is still very economical. The cheapest brand of laundry liquid on the market is Earth Choice which costs $2.64 for 1 litre. You could make more than 10 times of your own for that price! Some people have reported that this recipe leaves their whites dull, but I have never had that problem.

Here are the price breakdowns for this recipe and the brand of each product I buy. I do mention Coles in this post but am not sponsored by this company in any way. I shop at a few supermarkets and choose the brands mentioned, simply because they are the cheapest in my area I have found. The washing soda was purchased at Coles and the borax from Bunnings purely because I heard that supermarkets no longer stocked it. I later found this to be false and all of these items can be purchased in the supermarket cleaning aisle.

Coles Smart Buy Laundry Soap 4 pack    $2.63
1/2 c per mix- 65c

Glitz Green Borax 1kg                               $8.40
100g per mix- 84c

Washing Soda 1kg                                      $4.24 
100g per mix- 42c

Would you ever consider making your own laundry gel?

Monday, 16 February 2015

Quick and Easy Broccoli Pasta Recipe

I've been taking things easy here lately. Summer holidays are now over and I've had a bit of a hiatus from writing and have really enjoyed the time off with my family.

Over the holidays we had a great break and enjoyed a weekend stay with friends in Busselton (free accommodation!) , and also an overnight stay in a city hotel (I got a really good deal on and will write more about that later) But mostly we've been relaxing at home and occasionally going to free events. It's been especially nice to spend some extra time with Mr 13 before he started high school this year.

Lately I have been cooking up a storm and have several frugal recipes I plan to share with you all, over the coming weeks.

First up is a quick broccoli pasta recipe which is so exceptionally easy to prepare yet full of flavour. This one was a favourite among the children when I worked in the kitchen garden, as broccoli always grew in abundance there. If you grow your own it is an excellent way to use up this versatile veg. It is so quick to prepare, which makes it prefect for those weeknights when time is stretched. 

This broccoli pasta recipe is a regular on my meal plan as it is vegetarian, filling and dirt cheap to make. I managed to get broccoli at my local Spud Shed for 50c each when they were in season, so I bought half a dozen, chopped then lightly boiled them and snap froze for later use making this recipe even quicker to prepare!

You can also substitute ingredients to suit food allergies, just swap the regular pasta for a gluten free version and the parmesan for a vegan cheese. This serves about 6 people and tastes great heated up the next day, however you can also half the quantities to suit a small family as well.

You will need:

500 g bag of spiral or penne pasta
4 cloves of garlic
1 head of broccoli
Olive oil
Parmesan or strong cheddar for serving 

First, bring a large pot of water which has 1 tsp of salt added, to your stove top and place on a high heat. 

Once the water is boiling, add the 500g of pasta and cook for around 6 minutes or until the pasta is still slightly firm.

While the pasta is cooking, cut up the broccoli into small florets, stem and all, and place these into the hot pot of pasta and water. Also peel and finely chop the garlic and set aside.

Remain cooking until the pasta and broccoli are both done.

Drain the pasta and broccoli in a colander and run under some cold water. Meanwhile place the same pot used to cook the pasta on a medium heat. Add a good glug of the olive oil to the pot and cook the diced garlic until lightly brown. 

Then add the drained pasta and broccoli to the pot and give it a good stir. You can add a bit more olive oil at this point if you like. 

Serve the pasta with a sprinkle of parmesan, strong cheddar or regular cheese is fine if that's all you have on hand. 

Here's a price breakdown of this recipe:

500g Coles Smart Buy pasta-          65c
Whole broccoli-                                  50c
4 cloves of garlic-                               20c
50ml Coles Smart Buy olive oil-     30c
50g Parmesan for serving-               $1.00

Making the total cost of this meal, which serves 6 people $1.65, amazing! Even if you paid a bit more for the broccoli, it would still be a great budget friendly meal.