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What we don't buy

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Hello Dear Reader,

Today I thought I would tell you what we DON'T buy, I try and live a frugal, simple life and part of this is not buying all the "stuff" that is advertised each week in the supermarkets. I have written about buying some "good food" specials that are sometimes in supermarket catalogues, but alas, most of the foods advertised isn't what we eat, so we simply don't buy them.

As you will see from the list, I limit the amount of single use throw away items and household cleaners, doing this alone, saves us a fortune.

Household items we don't buy

Paper Napkins
Paper plates and cutlery
Air freshener
Fabric Softener
Laundry liquid
Toilet Cleaner
Shower cleaner
Glass cleaner

Cloth Napkins instead of Paper 

As I use up a cleaner I am replacing it with a homemade version 

Food items we don't buy

Breakfast cereals
Instant Porridge mix
Peanut butter
Pancake mix
Cake mix
Bread and Bread mix
Soft Drink (except in Summer, we buy Soda water, to make Cordial)
Marinated meats
Meal kits

Homemade White Bread Rolls 

Perennial Coriander 

Common Mint 

Lemon and Blueberry Cake made for Easter 

Seafood Sauce with a bit of a kick 

All pretty simple stuff really and once you start making something instead of buying it, it just becomes a habit. So give it a go, and see if it makes a difference in your shopping budget.

So, tell me, what DON'T you buy? And what do you make that is so much better than shop bought?

This weeks 5 Frugal things on a Friday

Friday, 29 April 2016
Hello Dear Reader,

Another Friday is upon us, the weeks are just flying by and the weekend ahead is another long weekend. This Monday is Labour Day/May Day in Queensland, and it's my Birthday on Tuesday so I arranged to have the Tuesday off as an ADO, so I have a four day mini break coming up, Woot!

On Saturday we are going up to see Rhonda from Down to Earth Blog at Rosetta's Book Store in Maleny, she will be there between 10am  and 11am. Rhonda has released a new book called "The Simple Home" I am a huge fan of hers and am really looking forward to seeing her. After, hubby and I will have a walk around Maleny and have lunch somewhere, any recommendations would be gratefully accepted. Then I have plans of sewing, cooking and gardening for the rest of my time off. It will be my idea of frugal bliss.

So, this weeks 5 frugal things on a Friday are:

1. I went to Coles on the way home on Tuesday afternoon and looked for fresh produce that had been marked down. Score!

2. I almost finished a baby Quilt I have been working on (just the binding to sew on). I think of Quilting as a frugal pastime, as you are making something from fabric that doesn't cost that much, and the end result is something that would sell for a lot more than the initial outlay for the fabric. And it is wonderful therapy!

3. Dried all the washing in the sun

4. Rode to work every day

5. Bought herb and veggie seedlings and planted them out,  hopefully they will supplement our needs in months to come

So, over to you, what frugal tasks did you achieve this week?

The easiest way to make Polenta

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Hello Dear reader,

I try and use a variety of carbs to serve with our meals, we do eat a lot of rice and potato but when I need a carb that will soak up the flavours of a Casserole, I reach for Polenta. Now you can stand at your stove, stirring for 40 minutes or you can whack the Cornmeal in a greased casserole dish, add some water, salt and butter and bake it for 40 to 45 minutes, give it a stir, then grate over some Parmesan cheese, pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes and it's done. So simple, never fail, no constant mixing at the stove and super soft comforting Polenta to enjoy. What's not to love?

Add cornmeal and salt to a greased casserole dish 

Add water and cubed butter to the cornmeal 

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, take it out and give it a good stir and grate over Parmesan Cheese 

Return to the oven to finish cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes. Not too long though, you don't want it dry 

Soft, Oven Baked Polenta with Red Wine and Mushroom Cassoulet

1 cup cornmeal
3 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 grams butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 175 C, grease a casserole dish (I sprayed it with Rice Bran oil cooking spray)
Pour cornmeal into prepared casserole dish, add salt, water and butter
Bake, uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven
Remove from oven and grate over 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and put back into oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is melted 

The purists may be clutching their chests in indignation, but this is a kitchen hack too good not to share.

So, tell me, what Kitchen Hack do you use, that strays from the traditional path?

What we ate and what we spent

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Hello Dear Reader,

On Tuesday afternoons, one of the tasks I do is make a menu/shopping list for the following week. I find it so much easier to know what is for dinner every night for the coming week. It also allows us to factor in any outings, social or otherwise, that need an easier/earlier dinner so we don't have to resort to takeaway, other than Pizza night and that is already factored in.

 As you probably know by now, we do have a takeaway dinner once a week, on a Thursday night, it's Pizza night and we always buy it from 8 Slices, they make a superb Pizza with plenty of topping and the base is not too thick and always freshly made with quality ingredients and it is literally a stone throw from our house. My late Father in Law started this weekly treat and we have kept it up, as we all look forward to having a night off.

With our shopping, we always look at the catalogues to see what is on special and base our Menu around those specials, however, lately these "good food" specials seem few and far between with lots and lots of convenience foods, lollies, biscuits and stuff that we just don't buy or use.

We also shop at the three different supermarkets in our area, to get best value for our money. We try to get all our fruit and veg from ALDI as well as some everyday basics (hands down best value for money), we get things like pure cream, my brand of tea, cat food and any other fruit and veg we were unable to get at ALDI, from Woolworths. We shop Coles for their catalogue specials and we get our meat from Nothing Brothers Prime Meats at Woody Point, they are competitive with their pricing and quality is fantastic. My Hubby does the shopping and because he has more time than me, is happy to go to the different supermarkets to chase the specials. We are also fortunate that all 3 supermarkets are in easy reach, being only 5 minutes away from our house.

From this week on, I will include how much we spend on Groceries over the space of a week. As we know Grocery prices differ immensely from State to State and even Suburb to Suburb. And also what we eat may be completely different from what your family eat, but I will put it in and maybe even photograph what we buy so you can compare what we buy in our part of the world and what we spend.

What we spent



Nothing Bros Prime Meats-$25.00

Coles Marked down fresh produce-$5.62
Coles Catalogue Specials-$20.48


What we ate (I have been very lax in taking photos this week, sorry)

Wednesday-Spicy Chicken wings with steamed rice and steamed Silverbeet

Thursday-Pizza night

Friday-Pan fried Reef fish with warm Potato, Rocket and Avocado salad

Saturday-Cuban Black Bean and Ham Hock soup with buttered toast


Monday-Honey Prawns, steamed Basmati Rice and Steamed Broccolini with oyster sauce

Tuesday-Thai Fish Cakes with Nam jim sauce, Steamed Basmati Rice and Steamed Beans and Broccolini

So, that was the eats at our house, what about yours?

Slow Cooker Cuban Black Bean and Ham Hock Soup

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Hello Dear Reader,

This is another, new to me recipe, for the slow cooker. I am an avid collector of recipes in all forms, bits torn from magazines and newspapers, old and new recipe books and word or mouth. I adapted this recipe from a Slow Cooker recipe book that I have had for ages and as the weather has been slightly cooler, it is the right time of year for cranking up my slow cooker.

I love to be at home with something delightful cooking in the slow cooker. There is a tiny bit of cooking at the beginning, but then it is just set and forget. Did I mention how much I love my slow cooker?

When you use your slow cooker, it also feels like a night off cooking as there is a whole meal prepared, ready to go at the end of the day, it is perfect for a busy family, large or small and I think it also prevents last minute takeaway's after a big day at home or work. I put this soup on at 10 am on Saturday morning as I wanted it to be ready for 6 pm in the evening. I don't go out much at all, especially at night, but my sister and I have decided to go back to Ballroom dancing, so we wanted to have something substantial but not too heavy on the tummy, before we went dancing. Enter this warming and wonderfully smokey soup.

Ingredients for Cuban Black Bean and Ham Hock Soup 

Finely chop the onion, grate the garlic on a microplane, and chop up the capsicum 

Sauce the Onion, Garlic and Capsicum 

When the onion has softened add the cumin and chilli flakes, stir until fragrant 

To the bowl of a slow cooker add the Ham Hock, 2 litres of water, can of Tomatoes, soaked, cooked and drained Black Beans, Oregano and sautéed Onion/Capsicum and spice mixture. Cook on low for 8 hours. When cooked, remove Ham Hock and take off all the meat, also remove 2 cups of soup and let cool for 10 minutes, then blitz until smooth. Return the shredded meat and pureed soup back to slow cooker 

Just before serving, add chopped fresh tomato, finely chopped Coriander ( I grow Perennial Coriander) and freshly squeezed juice of half a Lime

Super Delish, just a hint of heat from the Chilli and all the Smokiness from the Ham Hock. Finished with the freshness of tomato, Coriander and Lime 

300 grams dried Black Turtle Beans or canned equivalent
1 KG Ham Hock
1 medium Onion, chopped 
3 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
1 Red Capsicum, chopped
3 teaspoons Cumin 
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes 
Small handful fresh Oregano, stripped from the stem 
1 can Chopped Tomatoes
2 litres water
To serve soup-1 large Tomato-chopped, small handful Coriander-finely chopped, juice of half a Lime

Place beans in a large bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight
Drain and rinse beans, place in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to a gentle boil, boil uncovered for 15 minutes and drain again
Meanwhile preheat oven to 200 C and roast Ham Hock for 30 minutes, this intensifies the smokey flavour
Heat oil in a frypan and sauté Onion, Capsicum and Garlic until Onion has softened 
Add Cumin and Chilli, sauté until fragrant
In the bowl of a slow cooker add Ham Hock, Black Beans, Water, tin of Tomatoes, Oregano, Onion/Capsicum and spice mix
Cook on low for 8 hours
Remove Ham Hock from slow cooker and remove all meat from bone and shred with a fork. Discard skin, fat and bone of hock
Remove 2 cups of soup and blitz until smooth, add this blitzed soup and the meat back to the slow cooker
Just before serving, add Tomato, Lime juice and sprinkle with Coriander

This is an ultra warming and very economical soup. It is also better on the second night as the flavours really mingle.

Bring on Winter, and all the warming meals that go with it.

So, tell me, what is your family's favourite winter warming soup? 

Sultana Scones with Mums Strawberry Chantilly Cream

Monday, 25 April 2016

Hello Dear Reader,

When we went on our Cruise in February, I went to high tea on a couple of occasions. They served the lightest, most incredible scones I had ever tasted. They were just crisp enough, not to be a "biscuit" on the outside and just soft and fluffy enough on the inside not to be a "cake" and I have been looking for a recipe that I thought would be close to them ever since. Truly, if dinner wasn't only 2 hours away I would have eaten a dinner plate full of these beauties, they were that delicious.

So for a scone to be crisp on the outside there would have to be plenty of butter (tick). For the belly of the scone to be light as air there would have to be baking powder and Bicarb Soda (tick) and for the texture to be "scone like" and not "cake like" there would have to be a more complex dairy element other than milk-enter sour cream(tick)

I also made the scones in my Thermomix so it was super easy to "rub " the butter into the flour. I just added all dry ingredients to the bowl, added the cold, cubed butter and blitzed the mixture for 20 seconds. I then added 1 teaspoon of the baking powder and 1 teaspoon of bicarb to the sour cream and let it bubble up, then whisked in the egg. Added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and kneaded the mixture for 60 seconds, and added the sultana's in the last 20 seconds. That's it, super easy and super delicious.

Ingredients for Sultana Scones 

To one cup of sour cream, add 1 teaspoons of the Baking Powder 

Then add 1 teaspoons Bicarbonate Soda and let it bubble up 

To the bowl of the Thermomix, add all dry ingredients, the add cold cubed butter 

Blitz for 20 seconds on speed 4. You will have the "resembles breadcrumbs" texture all scone dough asks for 

To the Sour cream mixture add one egg and whisk well 

In the Thermomix bowl, add "wet" ingredients to the "dry" ingredients, knead for 60 seconds, adding the Sultanas in the last 20 seconds 

Here is a hot tip-add the Sultanas onto the lid of the Thermomix, then remove the MC, the movement of the Thermomix, while kneading the dough, will disperse the Sultanas into the dough evenly 

This is what "Sultanas being dispersed evenly" looks like 

Beautifully kneaded Scone dough 

Turn scone dough out onto to a floured surface and divide evenly into 3 pieces 

Now shape 3 pieces into rounds 

And cut each round into 6 pieces (like a pizza) 

Place scone dough pieces onto a lined baking tray and place in a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown 

They are gorgeous served warm with my mums Chantilly cream
My Mums Chantilly Cream

Whip cream until soft peaks form 

Add 1/2 a jar of any Jam you like ( I used Strawberry) 

Mix on slow speed until Jam is incorporated into the whipped cream

Ingredients For Sultana Scones
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons Baking Powder, 1 is added to the sour cream and the other is added to the "dry ingredients"
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
4 cups plain flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
220 grams butter, cut into cubes
1 egg
1 cup of Sultanas

Preheat oven to 160 C, line a oven tray with baking paper
In a bowl add 1 cup of sour cream and add 1 teaspoon each of baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and let bubble up
In the bowl of the Thermomix, add all "dry ingredients" and cold, cubed butter. Blitz for 20 seconds on speed 4
Now add the egg to the, now-bubbly, sour cream. Whisk well
Add "wet ingredients" to the "dry ingredients" in the bowl of the Thermomix
Knead for 60 seconds, in the last 20 seconds of kneading, add Sultanas to the lid of the Thermomix and remove the MC, with the movement of the Thermomix the Sultanas will fall into the scone dough and disperse evenly through
Turn dough out onto a floured surface, gently form into an oblong shape and divide into 3 pieces
Shape each piece into a round and cut each round into 6 pieces (like a pizza)
Place scone dough pieces onto a lined baking tray
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Watch them carefully because you don't want black bottoms!
Serve warm with lashing of butter or my Mums Chantilly Cream

Chantilly Cream
500 mls Thickened cream
2 teaspoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 a jar of Jam ( I used Strawberry)

Whip cream, icing sugar and vanilla paste until soft peaks form
On low speed add Jam and mix until just combined
Serve with warm scones

So, tell me, what is your tried and tested Scone recipe?