Sunday, 18 September 2016

Taking a break...

I am taking a short break from blogging. I've had mental health issues in the past and am currently struggling once again. I made the decision to go on medication a couple of weeks ago, and I am now working my way through the side effects which have me feeling exhausted at the smallest of tasks. Right now my only focus is to get well again.

Thank you to all my wonderful readers for your support and positive comments, it means a lot to me!


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

I have mentioned in a few of my frugal tasks posts, that I make a homemade hot chocolate mix. A few readers have asked for it, so I thought I would share it today. This is my version of a recipe found on which was not chocolate-y or sweet enough for my liking. I tweaked the ratios and am pleased with the result.

I have not worked out the exact price per batch, but it would be much cheaper than buying Milo and those sachets of hot chocolate!

We love drinking this in the cooler months and if packaged in a jar or cellophane bag, it would also make a nice gift.

1 and 3/4 cup of milk powder
3/4 cup of cocoa powder
1 cup of white sugar
pinch of salt

Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir through until well mixed.
Store in a sealed jar, tin or container. I store mine in an old medium sized Moccona coffee jar.

To use, add 2 heaped teaspoons of hot choc mix to a cup or mug. Add as much milk as you would like, I use the same amount as I would use in a cup of tea. Once the milk is added, stir well. Top your cup up with boiling water and stir again.

Adding the milk to the mix first, gives it a nice froth on the top.


Sunday, 4 September 2016

My Frugal Tasks 4/9/16

Frugal Father's Day gifts.

This week has been a super busy one in my house! My eldest son turned 15, it was also my stepsons girlfriend's birthday and then of course Fathers Day. Mr 10 has been really sick with tonsillitis so in between baking cakes and making gifts I've been snuggling on the couch with him.

Financially this week has been a great one. We found out due to an interest change our mortgage payments have gone down and thanks to buying things on sale, I saved over $200 on my sons birthday gifts. We set a budget of $100 for the kids birthdays, which when they are younger can buy a lot but teens, not so much! We gave him some cologne, a brand name jacket and a jumper which he was super happy with. It was so great to find all of those items on sale!
Thanks to in sourcing, this week we have saved over $800! I don't participate in the Vicky Challenge every week, but when I do I am always amazed at the savings.

So here are my frugal tasks for this week:

-Baked Mr 15's birthday cake. As requested it was a caramel cake. I made caramel icing, salted caramel sauce and some toffee shards to go on top. We have a tradition where the birthday person gets to choose what they want for dinner. He chose chicken, bacon and salad wraps with chips. These were really yummy and cost under $20 including drinks to make for the 5 of us. If we went out to eat this would have cost more than $100!

-Used my homemade bunting and decorations from our 'party box' to decorate the table for Mr 15. These get reused for everyone's birthdays! His gifts were wrapped with silver paper I bought in the post Christmas sales.

-Made another batch of garlic aioli and a jar of hot chocolate mix.

-Picked more kale, silverbeet and oranges from the garden and gave some to a friend who visited and also my parents in law.

-For my stepsons girlfriends birthday, I made a Harry Potter wand and hubby made a box for it to fit into. I also made her a chocolate frog in a box. We had most of the items on hand to make these, and I only had to buy the ribbon.  She is a huge Harry Potter fan and loved these!

-Used $22 worth of Chemist Warehouse vouchers I earned from completing online surveys. This meant our vitamins and prescriptions were free this week.

-Made hubby some chocolates and caramel nut popcorn for Fathers Day. We also gave him a toolbox which I bought ages ago from Kmart and stashed it away. The original price was $20, I paid only $1! He was so happy with this gift! Mr 10 made him a keyring at a Bunnings kids craft session and the teens both bought him chocolates.

-Cooked hubby a Fathers Day breakfast of bacon and eggs, clearly my boys miss bacon! I defrosted some orange juice we had to go with this too and also made spaghetti bolognaise and a chocolate cake  for dinner.

-Did the regular stuff like after boiling the kettle, storing the hot water in a thermos, hung clothes outside to dry and used my carpet sweeper and broom instead of vacuuming.

How was your week?

Mr 15 and the requested caramel cake.

Harry Potter wand, box and chocolate frog.

Cooked breakfast for Father's Day

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Op Shop Chic

The old pine cabinet was painted white and cushions were found cheaply on Ebay.

You can fill your home with lovely good quality furniture and accessories, even on a small budget. I'm not talking about flat packed furniture either, unless that is what you love! Unfortunately, styles come and go and I have succumbed to the luring cheap prices of stores like Ikea and Kmart for furniture in the past, but most items just don't stand up to the test of time. Nope. I'm talking about buying second hand.

Hubby and I have always bought second hand. Our first bed was from a second hand store, our first couch was given to us by friends of my Nan's. I used to wish we could afford new furniture, and as time went on we did. To my surprise, the items we did by new didn't last long. A new fridge and washing machine were both unfix able within 3 years time. Which was crazy to me! Our previous second hand appliances had lasted almost 10 years! With the exception of the recent freezer that broke. That was when I realised, just like we have been told "They don't make things like they used to." Now I try to buy second hand where possible.

Microwave found for $20 at the tip shop.

Op shop chic is how I describe my home. It is filled with second hand furniture which we have collected over the years on verge pickups, in op shops, on Gumtree and have gratefully accepted  some from friends. I love the eclectic style of my home it and it is so exciting to find a great piece of furniture and image how it would look transformed with a coat of paint.

Another bedside table found kerbside. The top had a scorch mark, so I painted it white. 

 I have seen many gorgeous items of painted furniture in little boutique furniture stores. Most of the prices for shabby chic style furniture is just colossal, considering how easy it is to achieve at home!

I love using paint, it is a great frugal way to transform almost anything. We had an old pine TV cabinet with cupboards underneath. You can see in the first photo. It looked very outdated, but still very sturdy and in good condition. Rather than get rid of it, I decided to paint it with a coat of white gloss paint. I also bought a couple of cheap bookshelves from Ikea which sit perfectly either side of it. Unfortunately the backing on the shelves is just made of cardboard, but I can take them off when they wear out.

I did the same thing with a pine cabinet a friends mum gave us 18 years ago. It had narrow shelves, with doors. I took the doors off and painted the whole thing white and when it was dry scuffed up some of the edges for a shabby chic look. Then we had an instant dining room dresser.  This has now become shelving for Mr 10's home ed bookwork.

You can even buy cabinet knobs very cheaply on ebay. I love the look of  these crystal look ones
sometimes hardware or specialty stores stock them as well, but they are much cheaper to buy online. A painted cabinet would look amazing with new handles.

Dresser with the doors removed and painted.

We once bought a cheap flat packed desk for $30 from a hardware store that was closing down. This lasted for about a year, until we needed to move it when we had the new carpet put in and it promptly fell apart. I managed to salvage a part of it and this is now a cupboard in Miss 17's bedroom. Which was good for her, but left us without a computer desk. I went looking in our garage and came across a lovely bedside table with a pressed tin insert that we found kerbside. For some reason I have found many bedside tables on verge pick ups! I asked hubby if he could use it as a base for a desk.
About $15 in materials and a few days later, he and Mr 10 had built a wonderfully sturdy desk, to last us many years. Of course I painted it white. Excuse the mess in the before photo, this was when I was in the midst of de cluttering! 

Computer desk made from a bedside table, pallet wood for the supports and 2 lengths of pine for the top.

The finished desk with a coat of paint.

Of course there are many other wonderful things you can buy second hand for your home, most of the time for a fraction of the cost. Vintage linen, curtains, sheets, quilt sets, pictures and trinkets.  I once found beautifully soft pillows for $1 each.

Our bedroom setting was bought very cheaply from a friend who was upgrading. The lamps are vintage, given to me by my Nan. The shades were very worn, so I painted the bases silver and bought new shades. The purple wall hanging was a table runner that I stapled on to a verge pickup canvas.

Our bedroom furniture.

Vintage lamps.

Miss 17's bargain bed.

Of course my latest second hand bargain was miss 17's $30 bed, which included the base, mattress, foam and wool underlays, sheet set, and quilt set. We will never find another bargain that good, I think!
Is your house furnished with op shop treasures?

Saturday, 27 August 2016

My Frugal Tasks 24/8/16

Salad greens from our garden.

Another week has gone by so fast. I really want to focus on getting the rest of my gifts made ready for Christmas!

-I made some lip balms with items I already had. I bought the ingredients and tubes a while ago with my last candle supply order and forgot I had them! These are now in the gift cupboard.

-Thursday was beautiful and sunny here and I was in a cleaning mood. I cleaned our upholstered dining chairs and put them in the sun to dry, vacuumed, mopped and dusted the chandeliers. The house feels so tidy now!

-While a potato bake for dinner was in the oven cooking I also baked some muesli.

-Cleaned out my fridge and food cupboards. I found a packet of yoghurt mix in the back and made that up in my yoghurt maker.

-Made up another big container of kale salad for the fridge.

- I baked some red kidney bean chocolate cupcakes with some leftover kidney beans I had in the freezer and Mr 10 and I made meringues.

-Sold and couple of items on Gumtree and made $20.

-Collected the rainwater in buckets and tubs.

-On Friday night  I made a 'fakeaway' dinner of fish and chips. The fish was on sale for $5.50 a kilo and I bought frozen chips for $1.89. I also bought a bottle of lemonade for 65c .A yummy dinner for 5 people for $7.95. The last time we ate fish and chips out at a well known seafood eatery it cost us over $100!

-Had a movie night with Mr 10 and watched a couple of DVD's from our collection.

-Picked up 2 free loaves of bread and crackers from the op-shop. I also found a beautiful soft pink baby blanket, like new for $1. I was so pleased! A friend of mine is pregnant and doesnt know the sex of the baby so I've decided if I can find some lovely cheap items at the op shop I will have a girl and boy gift ready!

-Made another batch of hot chocolate mix.

I hope you have had a wonderful week. xx

Potato bake with a crunchy topping.

Potato bake with salad for dinner.

Lovely soft $1 baby blanket from the op shop.

Homemade meringues.

Lip balm labelled ready for gifting.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Debt Progress

Our cash envelope system.

I haven't posted an update of our debt reduction in a while. I used to do monthly debt totals on my Instagram account, but found I wanted to focus a bit more on my everyday like my simple living, craft projects, cooking and the fun stuff!

In January this year, our mortgage was $75 537. Currently at just over 7 months later, it is at
$55 000.  It isn't easy at times- we are only human and habit of consumerism can be a hard one to break- but now I can see the total going down and have my eye on the prize!

To anyone who is working towards paying off their debt, it can be done! Set a goal and aim high.
For us we have cut out any unnecessary spending and any extra money made or what is not spent on essential items goes towards reducing the mortgage. That means sticking to a pretty tight budget, buying only basic foods in the grocery shopping and I make all meals and cleaning products from scratch. We have a vegetable garden and fruit trees, buy most items secondhand and give homemade gifts. Even doing one of these things can save hundreds of dollars a year!

Here are our debt totals for the last 7 months:


4/1/16- $75 537

31/1/16- $73 166

Total of $2371 PAID


1/2/16- $72 976

29/2/16- $68 322

Total of $ 4654 PAID

1/3/16- $68 132

31/3/16- $66 215

Total of $1917 PAID


4/4/16- $66 025

30/4/16- $63 718

Total of $2307 PAID!

11th May 2015- $93 381

19th May 2016- $62 469

 $30 912 paid in 12 months!


2/05/16- $63 529

30/05/16- $60 713

Total of $2816 Paid


6/6/16- $60 523

27/6/16- $58 754

Total of $1769 Paid


4/7/16- $58 564

31/7/16- $56 143
Total of $2421 Paid

Sunday, 21 August 2016

My Frugal Tasks 21/08/16

Melting moments biscuits.

Sorry this is a day late. I did loads of baking this week and this is a big way that I got ahead and saved money.  Its been quiet here and I've spent any free time cooking, reading and crafting. The electrician came out and fixed the power issue. He only charged us $77 which was such a blessing! Here are other things I did:

-I baked some Chinese custard tarts and they turned out lovely. The pastry wasn't quite as flaky or buttery but the filling was pretty spot on. At my local bakery it is $18 for a dozen! I made 18 of them and had all the ingredients on hand. I also had enough pastry to make 6 cheese and onion quiches and 4 apple tarts which was dessert during the week with custard. Baking my own cakes and treats like this saves us so much money.

-We also had an afternoon of baking on Wednesday. We made brownies, melting moment biscuits, a mars bar slice and another lamb and vegetable pie. I was wanting to freeze the pie for later but we are only running one freezer and don't have the room. That was also the last of the meat! I won't be buying anymore unless it is a special occasion.

-Sweet tooth Mr 14 made some more homemade marshmallows.

-We had hubby's Aunt and cousin over for afternoon tea, so hubby made a choc ripple cake. I also gave them some kale, silverbeet and oranges from our garden.

-My dandelion oil was ready, so I made 6 jars of healing balm and 1 which was calendula and dandelion. I found some free printable labels, glued them on and put some clear adhesive over the top.

-I sold some furniture and made $70. This pretty much paid for the electrical work.

-Our neighbour gave us a pet basket with a cushion inside for our cats to sleep in as her cat doesn't like it.

-I got a head start on a couple of homemade gifts for a birthday coming up next month, I can't share too much just yet! Also used gifts from the gift cupboard for a 16th birthday party Mr 14 went to on the weekend.

-Drove Mr 10 to his theatre group and waiting in the green room reading a book. He has this twice a week and staying there save me petrol!

-Only turned the heater on for a couple of hours in the evenings and put washing on airers underneath to help it dry.

-Used the thermos to store hot water for drinks after boiling the kettle.

-The teens and I went to see The Suicide Squad at the movies. We saved money by purchasing snacks from the supermarket rather than at the movie theatre.

-Because we have so much kale growing we made a big batch of salad for Mr 14 to take to school most days last week. Normally he doesn't like to take food and will spend his own money  at a nearby lunch bar, so this is progress!

-Had a movie night at home with Mr 10.

-Picked up 3 loaves of bread, Turkish rolls and ciabatta from the op shop.

-Made bean, rice and cheese burritos one night for dinner and made pizzas the next with the leftover flat bread.

-Mr 10 and I helped out at our local animal shelter yesterday.

Hope you have had a great week. x

Jars of dandelion salve.

Mr 10 at the animal shelter.

Kale, carrot and broccoli flower salad.

Lamb pie, Annabel style!

Chinese custard tarts.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Homemade Marshmallows

This is another recipe from my Dollars and Sense cookbook. I have tried making marshmallows in the past with unsuccessful results. Mr 14 gave these a try and they are perfect! This recipe makes over 40 fluffy marshmallow squares for $1.45. I will never buy them again! they are also delicious floating on a cup of hot chocolate

2 c white sugar
3/4 c hot water
1/2 c cold water
2 TBS gelatine
1 tsp vanilla

Put the sugar and hot water into a medium sized pot. Boil until it reaches 230 degrees if you have a sugar thermometer. If not, it needs to reach the soft ball stage which is when you drop a small amount of the sugar mix into a dish of cold water it forms a soft ball.

While the syrup is boiling, measure the cold water into a small bowl and add the gelatine. Stir to combine.

When the sugar mix has reached 230 degrees or the soft ball stage, remove it from the heat and add the softened gelatine and vanilla. Stir until the gelatine dissolves.

Cool the mix down by standing the pot in cold water.

when the pot is cool enough to be able to put your hand on the bottom of the pot, start beating the mixture with a rotary or electric beater. Add food colouring now if you like.

When the mixture is very thick, pour into a buttered or sprayed 20- 23 cm square tin.

*I actually used a silicone slice tray which does not need greasing. This worked very well.

Chill overnight before removing from the tin. Cut into cubes and roll in cornflour (cornstarch) or coconut and store in a sealed container in the fridge.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

My Frugal Tasks 14/7/16

It has been really cold and rained here most of this week. I used this opportunity to catch up on some housework as well as some indoor jobs done. This helped keep me warm! Thank fully yesterday was a sunny day so I did heaps of washing.

We also had a few strange things happening with our power. Our upright freezer had started making a loud grinding noise so we decided to turn it off and transfer everything into our second freezer. I was pretty annoyed about this because this freezer was bought second hand last year. We rely on our 2 freezer alot for stocking up when items are cheap. Then the TV and lights in our games room were flickering, which made us worried because the same thing happened a few months ago just before our neighbours house caught on fire.

Yesterday morning the boys were watching TV in the front room because they were worried about using the other TV and we heard a loud bang and the power in half the house was out. Hubby checked the fuses- we have the old ceramic ones- and that wasn't the problem. So we have an electrician coming out on Monday. We have run extension leads so we can still keep our fridge and freezer running. Hopefully it doesn't cost too much to get fixed!

Here's this week's frugal tasks.

-Cleaned the oven with bicarb and vinegar and soaked the racks in the bath tub. They did clean up pretty well, but not perfect.

-Cleaned the shower and bathroom.

-Hung washing indoors on clothes airers. Only used the dryer for 30 minutes to finish off our sheets.

-Turned the heater on only in the evenings to warm the house up.

- Ran out of stain remover so made another batch.

-Found a free double bed mattress on Gumtree for Mr 14. Now I'm looking for a bed base.

-Mr 10 has is in another play and has rehersals at our local community theatre . Instead of dropping him off, I saved petrol by waiting there and took sewing to keep me busy.

-Tried Aldi teabags and we did not like them at all! I took them back for a full refund.

-Made vegetarian pizzas one night for dinner, with the free pizza bases we got last week.

-Lots of baking here! Mr 10 made a chocolate fudge self saucing pudding for dessert one night, we also baked a batch of gingerbread and a gingerbread Parthenon. I defrosted a loaf of banana bread that was in the freezer. Mr 14 made some homemade marshmallows, they turned out great and were really yummy. I'll share the recipe soon.

-Only ran the dishwasher a couple of times on big baking days.

-I still had $25 of grocery money left from last week so used it to buy some potatoes, onions, cabbage, capsicum, broccoli, carrots apples and bananas. I also stocked up on Bushells tea bags which were on sale at Coles this week.

-Got some more free crackers from the op shop.

-Made up more hot chocolate mix. With the cold weather we've been drinking quite a lot!

-Found some meat when cleaning out the freezer. Because this takes up a lot of room, we decided to defrost this in the fridge and cook it up to use over a few nights. I used up a few prok fillets we had and made steamed pork buns.

-Received some muesli bars, biscuits, chocolate and tomato relish from a lovely friend.

-Mr 14 made bread and jam at Youth Group.

Fruit and veg shopping.

Steamed pork buns.

Mr 10's gingerbread Parthenon.

Hot chocolate mix.

Bread and jam made by Mr 14.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

How To Make Sprouts

Sprouting seeds is really easy for anyone to do, even the kids or grand kids can do it. It is perfect for anytime of the year and produces some wonderful edible greens, for a fraction of the price of store bought sprouts. 

If you are doing a few varieties at a time you will need to use separate jars for each seed.

You will need:

Seeds for sprouting like alfalfa, mung beans, lentils or chick peas
A jar
Square of material like muslin or cotton, a hanker chief works well
Elastic band
Paper towel
Spray bottle

Fist place a couple of tablespoons of seeds in the jar and half fill the jar with water. 

Place the fabric over the top of the jar opening and secure it in place with a rubber band.

Leave to soak for at least 6 hours, then drain the liquid and rinse a few times.

Lay out some paper towels on a plate and spread the seeds out on top.

Keep the plate in a warm area and spray the seeds with water when the paper towel feels dry. 

Within a few days you will have some lovely edible sprouts. They can be stored in a container in the fridge.


Saturday, 6 August 2016

My Frugal Tasks 7/8/16

The bargain bed.

-I have been pricing new beds for the teenagers.  I ended up finding a double bed base and mattress for Miss 17 from Gumtree for $30. We had to hire a ute to pick it up and also petrol so with this included the bed was $90. Coincidentally the lady we bought it from had done volunteer work with my husband years ago and she kindly included and foam underlay, wool underlay, double bed sheet set, quilt, quilt cover and pillows. These would have cost around $200 to buy brand new. I also found the bed base is being sold at Super A Mart for $189 plus $150 for a mattress! We got $539 worth of goods for $90. We could have saved more if we didn't have to hire the ute. Never underestimate the savings of buying second hand!

-Made some more butter blend.

-I baked Annabel's golden syrup pudding, a chocolate cake and a berry and apple crumble using apples from the freezer and the free berries from our neighbour.

-Made all meals at home from scratch.

-Picked some rosemary which was growing in a car park. This has been chopped and is drying out to be used later on.

-Its been really cold here so I turned the heater on in the evenings. I'm making the most of it by putting the clothes airers underneath it to dry the clothes.

-Started sewing an Autumn page in the quiet book I'm making.

-Used the carpet sweeper and broom instead of the vacuum cleaner.

-Washed dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher.

-Used up some frozen baby potatoes and cooked pumpkin I had in the freezer.

-Picked some oranges from our tree and used some for juicing. Also picked kale and silver beet.

- Picked up some free rolls and pizza bases from the op shop.

-Hubby and Mr 10 started building a frame out of free pallets for our blueberry bush. This will be enclosed with netting to keep the birds out.

-Made some face scrub for the teens.

-Went to a few op shops looking for double bed sheets

Golden syrup pudding with cream.

Free citrus fruit.

Free bread and crackers.

Apple and berry crumble with homemade custard.

Hubby and Mr 10 making the frame.

The tea towel from the op shop.