Monday, December 11, 2017

Our backyard gets a water blast

When we moved into our house a year and a half ago, the backyard was a dark, damp, ivy-riddled spot that also happened to be the view out of my kitchen window. Every time I looked at it as I washed dishes or prepared food, I thought about all the things I wanted to do to improve it. 

I've shared in a previous post about some of the work I've already done on this corner, getting a dying tree cut down, pulling ivy, edging the garden with bricks, digging in mulch, and planting fruit trees, shrubs and flowers. 

There was still one thing on my to-do list though... water blasting and staining the fences.

This weekend I got the first half of that job done when I spent about seven hours water blasting fences. It was incredibly satisfying watching years of dirt and grime wash away. The fences looked like they had never been washed before, and that's probably right because there didn't used to be a tap around the back of our house. I recently had one installed when a plumber came to fix a leak in the toilet. 

Our neighbours, who we've just started to get to know since they cut down the privet trees between our two properties, lent me their water blaster to do the job. I'm so grateful to them for that as I had been considering hiring or buying one.  
Back garden with brick border and clean fences. 
Now check out these before and after shots of our backyard...

BEFORE: Back garden newly planted. Fences still dirty.                
AFTER: Plants growing in and fences clean.
BEFORE: Blueberry corner newly planted, fences still dirty. 
AFTER: Blueberry corner with plants growing in and fences cleaned.
(Also new tap and painted house walls on the right.) 
BEFORE: Newly crafted fairy table; Dirty fences. 
AFTER: Weathered fairy table; Clean fences. 
I would love to stain these fresh fences immediately, but need to wait to purchase fence stain as Paul will be finishing his current job at the end of this week and we're going to have a few weeks of no income before he starts his new job in January. 

But in the meantime, what do you think of the clean fences? Are you as in love with them as I am?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Frugal Fun No. 14 - Hot summer

Hey friends!

We're back from our holiday and I've been having so much fun tending my garden since we returned.

Summer has launched into crazy hot/dry weather right off the bat, so I've been out in my yard every day with the hose. On hot afternoons the kids love running through the hose while I'm watering, which makes me smile. Simple things.

J helped me sow several varieties of seeds in the garden last week - lettuce, kale, carrots, beans and snow peas, using seeds I ordered last summer.  I've mostly been bringing the hose out for their benefit. Unfortunately my cat thought one of the newly planted gardens made for an absolutely sublime toilet spot, so only a few seeds have sprouted there and I'll need to sow more.

I also went to Bunnings last week and bought a couple of zucchini plants, as well as some lettuce, spinach and coriander plants to tuck into holes in my garden, since all my spinach went to seed with the hot weather and turned bitter.

While I was at Bunnings, I did something I've never done before. I bought slug pellets. This felt like such a defeat for my organic garden, but I'm tired of planting things only to have the slugs and snails gobble them up before they get established. The pellets were super effective at killing the critters and I've been able to harvest strawberries all week with no slug holes in them.

To water around the back garden where the hose doesn't reach, I've been collecting my washing machine water each day in a watering can. I do have an outdoor tap around the back, but haven't purchased a hose for it yet. The washing machine water is working great and it's frugal to use it instead of fresh water because we pay for our water usage and disposal in Auckland. Also, I'm sure the plants benefit from all the extra nutrients in the dirty water too, and I use ecostore washing powder which is also good for the garden.
In non-gardening frugal news, I'm so glad I painted the bottom story of our house before summer started. The lighter paint is having a noticeable impact on the heat inside our house. We don't have any electric method of cooling our house and since it's north-facing (and we live in the Southern Hemisphere), we get all day sun. I'm really glad I've got light paint on the walls now to reflect that sun back away from the house instead of getting absorbed by the black paint that used to be there.

Down the bottom of Kitekite Falls. 
On our first day back in Auckland after our holiday, I took the girls to KiteKite Falls with some good friends of ours. It was spectacular! I hadn't brought togs, but I ended up going for a swim anyway because the water was just so inviting.

Up the top of KiteKite Falls - moments before my swim. 

I cooked up 1KG of dried black beans in my stock pot, which transformed into about 15-cups worth of cooked beans. I used one cup of the cooked black beans in nachos and froze the rest in 2-cup portions for future meals. 

I hand-sewed a birthday present for one of my nieces today. It's a couple of pillows and blankets for her Sylvanian Family dolls, which I made using some of the fabric I still have left over from when I helped sew sheets for NICU babies with my church ladies group. 

The girls and I spent an hour today purging the house of books and toys we no longer need. I'm keen to get our garage/office cleared out and organised for homeschooling, so the more stuff we can de-clutter the better. I also gave away our pram last week because it was taking up room in our garage/office and we didn't actually need it anymore. J went for one last ride in it to say goodbye on the way to the op shop. We are now a pram-less family, and boy does that feel weird. 

I took my kids and one of our neighbour's girls to the zoo last week after school for a couple of hours. We spent a lovely afternoon there. It was very peaceful because it was just before closing time. We have Friends of the Zoo passes, so it didn't cost us anything for my family to go and we got a discount on the neighbour's ticket too. I brought ice cream from home in our new Thermos Funtainers for the Zoo trip and that was a success. The ice cream stayed perfectly frozen inside the Funtainers and everyone loved it. (I'm not a Funtainer affiliate or anything, I just really like them.) We only have three Funtainers, so I shared one with S, L shared with J, and our neighbour got to eat ice cream from her own one. 

S has also been taking stuffed pasta to school in her Funtainer, and it's staying hot until she's ready to eat it. I'm really pleased I bought them, and kind of wish I'd got a couple more now so Paul and I could have one each too. 

I made Mexican Rollups last week for dinner using homemade refried beans and the ends of a couple of salsa jars, a little bit of cooked chicken, some sour cream, cheese and tortillas. I froze lots of extras for Paul to take for his work lunches. 

The kids got to perform three times over the weekend in a couple of different Christmas pageants - first as angels and then as stars. It was very cute. 

Yesterday I took L and J's bikes to the bike shop to get some repairs. I thought the repairs were going to be major, but it was just some screws that had come loose and there was no charge. Five minutes later, the bikes were back in the car and I drove the kids to Western Springs for a sunny mid-day bike ride around the lake. We saw lots of cute baby swans on our meander. For snacks we brought a homemade scroggen mix and water. 

Since our neighbours cut down the privet trees that divides their property from ours and we can see them now, my kids have been over to their house most afternoons for a play and a swim in their spa. Today I walked upstairs and found neighbour kids from three different houses hanging out in the girls' bedroom. It made me so happy because this is exactly the kind of childhood I've always wanted for my kids - popping in and out of neighbours' places in the sunny afternoons and evenings after school. It's what I had as a kid, but which seems so difficult for kids to have these days with all the after school activities and scheduled play-dates going on.

Tonight S told me she's going to cook dinner tomorrow night. She's menu planned and we're going to have sandwiches and cut-up vegetables. Looks like I'm getting a night off cooking. I'm going to enjoy that.

Now it's your turn to share your frugal successes. Tell us in the comments below or on the Craving Fresh Facebook page what you've been doing to save money lately so we can be inspired by you.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Frugal Fun No. 13 - Cashing in rewards

My guilty pleasure while on holiday last week was watching YouTube videos of house building, freezer cooking, lunchbox packing and house organising. Random, I know. But there's something nice about being on holiday, watching other people do work while I do... not much.
One of the lunchbox videos featured these cool Thermos Funtainers and I got all excited thinking about the hot meals I could pack in the kids' lunchboxes, either for school, Kindy or other adventures. But when I checked out all the local stockists of them, I was put off by the price - $30 for a small thermos seemed steep to me.

I checked out the price on Amazon and it was half the cheapest price here in NZ, but I wasn't sure what shipping would bring the total up to. Just for interest's sake, I decided to put an order through and progress it to the pay cart to see what the total would be. When I got there, I hit jackpot. Shipping wasn't too much and I had a $50 Amazon voucher I'd earned ages ago and never cashed in. My shopping cart already had a Victorinox peeler in there that I've been eyeing up for a while after using one and realising how good it was, so I put the whole order through - three Thermos Funtainers, one Victorinox peeler and the whole lot only cost me $16 of my own money, including shipping. I'm pretty happy with that.

Checking my emails this morning, I had a reminder to use my Flybuys rewards. I don't have a lot of points, because I rarely shop at stores with Flybuys, but I thought I'd at least check to see what I could get since a couple of years ago I was able to get Duplo for J for Christmas with Flybuys points.

Scrolling through the options, I saw this folding carbon knife...

I've been on the lookout for something similar to stow in our emergency kit, in case we ever have to fend for ourselves outside and need a strong knife to to cut wood/rope/flax/food. So that's what I'm using my Flybuys rewards on, at no cost to me. I'm really pleased with that. I've added a few other things to my emergency kit this year, which you can read about here. Ideally I'd like to get bug-out bags for each member of our family, with everything they need to survive a few days, so I'll keep working towards that.

As well as watching YouTube this week, I also watched the movie, Date Night, on Netflix after the kids were in bed. I laughed so much, I kept waking the kids.

In case you're interested, the YouTube channels I've been watching are:

  •  Ana White - So much building inspiration - I seriously want to get woodworking tools so I can make furniture now. My granddads both made things out of wood and I used to spend hours watching them work in their wood shops.
  • Jamerrill's Large Family Table - I've been watching the freezer cooking videos, getting ideas for having a freezer cooking day when we're back in Auckland.
  • The Family Fudge - I checked out the school lunchbox videos, freezer cooking videos and a homeschooling room video.
  • Clutterbug - Home organisation and cleaning videos.

This week I also read one library book, The Secret Fire. I have a few more sitting on my bedside table, but I haven't been in the mood for reading lately - which is very unlike me. Usually I watch next-to-no TV and read loads of books, so I've been a bit backwards this week.

For this holiday, we're staying in a bach that belongs to my brother-and-sister-in-law, Brent and Lisa. They are so kind and don't charge us anything to stay here (I married into an incredibly generous family), but I like to do things while I'm here to show my appreciation...

This week I've been working in their gardens, weeding, digging compost into the hard clay and planting a vegetable garden that Brent and Lisa will hopefully be able to harvest from when they come for their Christmas holiday.

A corner of the beach garden.
I planted cherry tomatoes, cos lettuce, snow peas, strawberries and a golden zucchini. I would have planted more, but the local shops didn't have much of a selection.
Zucchini ringed in seaweed.
I ringed all the plants in fine seaweed I collected from the beach to deter snails and feed nutrients into the soil.

A couple of days ago we took the kids to explore a beach they've never been to before. It's one that can't be reached by road, so we had to walk over rocks along the edge of the sea for a long time before climbing a hill to get to it. The kids were all troopers and loved the challenge of jumping from rock to rock. J took a few tumbles, but picked himself up and carried on without complaining, although he did wonder why he was the only one who ever fell. Sometimes it's hard being the little fulla.
The beach itself was glorious. Have I mentioned that I love living in New Zealand? I really do.

Last night for dinner we ate up all the leftovers in the fridge - a bit of Asian Mince on Rice, a bit of Pasta Bake and a bit of Fajita mix. I had planned to do that next weekend, but the leftovers were stacking up and wouldn't have lasted the week. It was the perfect amount to feed everyone, and so easy to prepare. I love leftover night!

We weren't planning to head back into town while we're here, but I forgot my moon cup and I've just got my period, so we will have to go back and stock up on disposable supplies. Gutted! This is the third time I've forgotten to bring my moon-cup with me on holiday. I think I'll get some of these reusable Thinx period-proof undies so that I always have something with me. If the Thinx undies work well, I'll get some for the girls when their time comes, as it seems like a simple way to deal with periods for young teens.

Another reason to go back to town is that we accidentally left a bag of groceries at the supermarket and didn't realise it till we'd got home. I'm going to take our receipt and see if we can retrieve the items.

I think that's all my frugal fun for the week. Now it's your turn? What have you done to save money lately?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Our family menu plan for 16 - 24 November

We went grocery shopping yesterday and are hoping the groceries will last us for the rest of our beach holiday so we don't have to go back to the shop.

Last night I drafted up a quick menu plan on my phone to increase our chances of using all our food at the right time - before anything goes bad - and to ensure we stretch things till next weekend.

Here's our menu plan for the next week and a bit.

B: Baked beans on toast. (Chocolate protein shake for me.)
L: Ciabatta with ham and salad fixings
D: Mince pasta bake

B: Baked beans on toast. (Chocolate protein shake for me.)
L: Ciabatta with ham and salad fixings
D: Red curry on rice. A side of broccoli and green beans.

B: Cereal / Chocolate banana smoothies
L: Hot dogs (defrost buns)
D: Crispy chicken wraps

B: Cereal / Vanilla smoothies
L: Wraps with ham and salad
D: Pizza and chips with vegetable crudités

Monday (make chicken stock)
B: Cereal / Hash browns, baked beans and fried tomatoes
L: Tortilla pizzas
D: Korma chicken on rice cooked in chicken stock. Side of green beans and broccoli

B: Baked beans on toast (Chocolate protein shake for me.)
L: Hash browns and fruit platter
D: Spinach soup and toast

B: Cereal / smoothies
L: Leftover spinach soup and toast
D: Asian Mince on Rice cooked in chicken stock (make double rice)

B: Cereal / Hash browns and baked beans
L: Homemade tortillas with random fillings from fridge
D: Chinese Fried Rice

Friday & Saturday
Leftovers - clean out the fridge, freezer and pantry

A note about protein shakes: I've been experimenting with having a protein shake in the morning for breakfast since I usually don't wake up very hungry and this is a quick thing I can easily mix up in a glass. I just mix two scoops of chocolate protein powder with half almond milk/half water. So quick and easy - and barely any dishes created. At the moment I'm working through a Healtheries protein shake, and after that's gone I've got a Red Seal one to try. I got both of them on special at the supermarket.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Homeschooling on holiday

At the beach this morning.

We are several weeks into homeschooling L and have taken the whole family away on a mid-term beach holiday. 

Since we don't have our printer with us, I'm hand-writing L's lesson plans and activities, but secretly I'm enjoying that. Here's L's task list from the past couple of days.  

It's a bit hard to read because I've been using different coloured gel pens to keep things exciting for her. Ha. But basically the list has a bit of maths, spelling, poetry reading, poetry writing, French practice, history and story writing. It changes slightly each day. 

The general plan was for her to do set homeschooling tasks in the morning and then have the rest of the day for beach trips and activities, but yesterday we did that and a rainstorm arrived in the afternoon so we missed out on outside time.

Today we woke up to sunshine, so I took the kids straight to the beach and then L did her homeschooling in bits and pieces over the rest of the day. I'm glad I did that, because it rained again this afternoon. 

Before we left for this holiday, I caught up with a couple of homeschooling friends so they could show me the curriculums they use and recommend. One of the friends, Geraldine, lent me stacks of resources, which is so wonderful because it gives us a chance to try them out before deciding whether to spend the dosh on them or not. 

The whole family has fallen in love with the Life of Fred maths series she lent us, so this is one I'll definitely be investing in. It's maths told in quirky, hilarious story form.  
Along with L, S has also been working through the first Life of Fred book, Apples (since we pulled her out of school for this holiday) and she absolutely adores it. J inevitably comes and sits in on S's maths sessions too, because he finds them so fun. The other good thing about the Life of Fred is it shows you how maths is used in real life situations, which is how most of us use maths anyway.

For a more traditional maths lesson, L has been trialling Primary Mathematics, which is the American version of Singapore Maths. (I think that's right). 
L is more reluctant to do this type of maths because it's straight maths without all the fun story, but I think it's good for her as it ensures she's learning everything she needs to in the order she needs to so she doesn't get stuck later on. I'm not a teacher, so it reassures me to know she's covering the whole curriculum.

Since we're just borrowing the Primary Mathematics books from Geraldine to trial, I've been writing out L's daily maths activities in an exercise book with gel pens to make it look fun. S helped me draw all the ovals in the following photo, and ended up answering all the questions as she went too. Sneaky maths is the best kind. 

My friend, Erin, lent us this gorgeous poetry book, A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson and L adores it. She reads a poem or two a day and then has a turn writing her own poem. I encourage her to write her poem out loud before she writes it down, so she can get the rhythm right. She fancies herself a bit of a songwriter, so poetry appeals to her. 
Today she didn't want to write an original poem like I'd told her to and asked if she could copy out one of Robert Louis Stevenson's poems instead. I said that was fine. I'm pretty flexible about how we do things, and like that I can be with homeschooling. 

My friend, Erin, also told us about The Story of the World history books and showed us her copies when I met up with her last week. I fell in love, and ordered them from the library. 
Volume 2 arrived just before we left for our holiday. We don't have the activity book that goes with it, so I'm just reading a chapter to the kids each day and getting them to draw pictures or act out scenes from the book. The first couple of chapters were about Rome and J acted out being a gladiator, while S strummed the guitar and made up songs to go along with the story. L drew pictures of the things I was reading. I'm planning to buy the whole series and its activity books because there are some really cool activities in there. I'm learning so much from The Story of the World. 

We brought our laptops on holiday with us, so L is also doing free Duolingo French exercises each day. I learnt about Duolingo from The Prudent Homemaker. It's such a good program and I'm glad I found out about it because I used to pay for French lessons for L, but she barely learnt anything with them. She's learning far more through Duolingo, and it's free. 

We also brought Lego and Duplo with us on holiday, so the kids spend a lot of time in imaginary play constructing things with that. It brings Paul and I so much joy to watch them play and create together. 

L checked out a big pile of Geronimo Stilton books from the library to bring on holiday and has already chewed through most of them. She's been reading so many more books since she started homeschooling. It's like she's finally got the mental space to read. Some days she gets through three books. 

We brought the board game, Dominion and two of its extension sets on holiday with us, so the girls have been playing that most days with Paul and I. It's an excellent game for strategic thinking, mathematics, reading and I'm sure many other things as well. We love it. It's different every time too, because we change out the cards, which means we don't get sick of it like we do with more static board games. 

All in all, homeschooling is going really well. I'm convinced we made the right decision to pull L out of school. Now S is saying she doesn't want to go back to school next year, so we shall see. We shall see. 

If you're a teacher or homeschooler, what resources do you recommend?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Frugal Fun No. 12 - Working hard

We planned to go on holiday Monday last week, but Paul's shoulder specialist booked a neck MR scan for Paul on Wednesday so we had to delay. Then Paul got called in for a work meeting on the Thursday morning so we delayed again and by the time he got back from that, we were both too tired to head off so we delayed once more. On Friday afternoon we finally managed to set off on our family holiday - the one we were meant to have been on for the last month already (until shoulder pain intervened).

In any case, the extra week at home was great for me because it gave me time to move this hulking pile of mulch... various spots around my garden. My garden is well mulched now. Paul asked if there's such a thing as too much mulch, looking around our over-piled gardens. Never. I told him. It breaks down fast so that what looks like a huge pile reduces to a thin layer in no time. I'm happy with our current mulch levels. And I was careful to keep it away from the trunks of my trees so it doesn't cook them.

The extra days at home also gave me time to finish painting the bottom story of our house. I finished the back of the house after dark the night before we left for our holiday. I'll definitely need to go back and touch that up at some point, but I got two layers on there at least so it's looking pretty decent. Our house cladding is fibre cement so I didn't have to sand the walls first which saved a lot of time. We also have aluminium windows, so I didn't have to paint them either. Overall this painting job was a lot quicker than I was expecting.

How often does that happen?

I was so tired after shoveling mulch and painting the house that I limped into bed each night. Paul heated up our wheat pack for me, but I had trouble deciding which muscle needed it the most. In the end I just shifted it around from spot to spot, sharing the love. Heating up a wheat pack is the main reason we still have a microwave.

I was really glad to get the painting and mulch-moving done before we left for our holiday. I hate leaving things unfinished.

The frugal nature of those two jobs was that: the mulch was free and will help build up organic matter in my garden while suppressing weeds and retaining moisture in the soil that feeds all our fruit trees; the paint cost a couple of hundred dollars but I did all the work myself so I saved $$$ on labour costs.

Going back to the start of last week, we celebrated Guy Fawkes at our friends' house with a potluck dinner in their backyard next to a roaring brazier. I donated scrap wood from my yard for the brazier, which excited me because I'm trying to clear out all the wood left over from building our raised gardens. It's still sitting in a pile next to our garden shed, looking messy and annoying me every time I glance its way.

For the potluck dinner I contributed roast chicken and a large jar of stewed apples I'd made back when I got a box of free apples. We turned the stewed apples into crumble, which everyone loved. We bought fireworks for the night and they weren't cheap but it was worth it because it was one of those experiences I'm sure the children will remember their whole lives. I certainly remember the fireworks from my childhood.

I caught up with a couple of homeschooling Mums last week to get their curriculum advice. One of the Mums mentioned she and her son often whip up hummus at home and I got inspired to make some too. I had been feeling really flat and thought hummus and fresh vegetables might just give me the boost I needed. It did.

The great thing about the hummus was that I already had most of the ingredients in the freezer. I had bought a big bag of dry chickpeas earlier in the year and cooked then frozen all the chickpeas in one-cup portions. I used one of those portions for the hummus, along with roast capsicum I had bought on special earlier in the year and roasted and frozen. I didn't have any lemons and the hummus recipe called for lemon juice, so I scrounged around in my freezer and managed to find one ice-cube of lemon juice that I had juiced and frozen when someone gave me a bag of lemons. Most of the cubes had got used up for lemon honey drinks when we had winter colds, but luckily for me there was one cube left so I threw that into the mix. The recipe called for tahini, which I didn't have, so I substituted a mixture of olive oil and sesame oil. A clove of garlic, a bit of salt and pepper, twenty seconds in the Thermomix and we were in business. Fresh roast capsicum hummus, completely vegan, refreshing and cheap.

I caught up with the second homeschooling Mum at a swimming pool where her kids were having their weekly lessons. It only cost $1 for my children to gain admission to the pool too, and I just sat on the side and watched them play together while I discussed curriculum ideas with my friend. It was a lovely afternoon for everyone. I so appreciated having L there to swim with J and keep him entertained. She took her big sister duties seriously, but I was just a few steps away if anyone ran into trouble, which they didn't.

Kauri tree.
I've started a new assignment for the Certificate of Horticulture I'm doing free through the Open Polytechnic. This assignment involves studying trees, shrubs and climbers, so I've been wandering around taking clippings and pressing them. I got my last assignment back in the mail just before we left for our holiday and I passed (yippee!) so now I've only got five assignments to complete before I've finished the entire course.

Holiday bedside table. 
When Paul went to the US in September, I asked him to buy Melatonin because he hadn't been sleeping well and several of our friends had recommended it. You can get Melatonin over the counter in the US (I think Paul managed to find it at Walmart) and it's really cheap. For some reason you have to get it prescribed by a doctor here in New Zealand, which seems overkill to me.

Paul bought the Melatonin but hasn't been taking it so I decided to try it instead. I've always been a terrible sleeper and already I'm finding the Melatonin to be so helpful. It's the hormone your body naturally produces as the sun sets to help you wind down for sleep, but I think we interrupt that process with artificial lighting and gadgets. Taking a tablet of Melatonin is like triggering my body to sleep. It's way better than a sleeping tablet, which wipes me out in a different way. I can still wake with the Melatonin if I need to, but it's heaps easier to get back to sleep again if I do. I'm in love.

Here's that photo of my side table again so you can admire the wild roses my children picked for me this afternoon. Aren't they darling? There's also a couple of magazines on there - one I got for free from SISTAS conference and one I bought for this holiday as a little treat to myself. I love Your Home and Garden magazine and have been blessed to read lots of them lately in medical waiting rooms as I've waited for Paul's shoulder appointments. I really ummed and ahhed about buying this particular magazine though. It cost around $8 and that seemed like such a splurge for a magazine, but then I thought about all the free copies I've read lately and decided this could be my way of supporting a magazine I love. I read it cover to cover the first night we got here and relished every minute of it. Now I'm going to leave it at the bach for my sister-in-law, who also loves home design magazines.

In good news, Paul's shoulder is mostly pain-free now. He does have nerve damage which means he has muscle weakness in his left arm, but he's up and about and off his pain medication. It's so good to have him back in action. As I type this he's washing the dinner dishes, and earlier today he took the kids to the beach while I chillaxed. We couldn't have dreamed of him doing those things three weeks ago. Hurray for mobility.

This post seems to be really long today, but I keep thinking of more things to say.

For those of you who are still with me, tonight I cooked Asian Mince on Rice for dinner, and made a double batch of rice so I can cook Chinese Fried Rice for another dinner this week. I also cooked the rice in homemade chicken stock I brought from home to add flavour and nutritional depth, which is something I've done for years now. I just throw the frozen chicken stock into the rice cooker with some water and the rice and let it thaw on the Warm setting. It gives the rice time to soak before cooking, which is also good for digestibility so it's win/win.

I watched a whole lot of freezer cooking YouTube videos today and I'm thinking the Asian Mince on Rice would be a good candidate for prepping and freezing. I'll do a blog post about that when I do it so I can let you know whether it works or not.

The first night I cooked here at the bach, I made a roast chicken and saved the leftover meat for future meals just like I recommend in this week's $70 menu plan. I also saved the bones and have been saving all my vegetable scraps this week so I can make a big pot of chicken stock while we're here. Yes, I even make chicken stock on holiday. It's so good as a soup base and helps stretch whatever other provisions we've brought with us.

I also brought flour and oil on holiday with us so I can make tortillas. We made them last week and the whole family loved them. They were much simpler than I remembered. It had been a while since I had made them.

One of my favourite things to do on holiday is to walk from one end of the beach to the other and back. The beach is 1.5km long, so the total walk is 3km. The last two days I've gone with my daughter, S, and it's been really lovely having one-on-one time with her. Since S is still at school and L is homeschooling, I've been feeling like S is missing out on family time. I know school is the right place for her at the moment, so I'm not tempted to take her out (yet), but it certainly is nice to spend time with her while we're on holiday together.

In other family news, the girls both really love the board game Dominion. We've been playing a couple of games each day while on holiday and it's been so fun. Paul brought the Adventure extension set back from his last America trip and we've been loving the way that changes the game. (We already had Prosperity and Seaside for those who know what I'm talking about). Dominion is a bit above J's attention span at this point, so he either runs around playing imaginary games while we game it out, or he sits and builds stuff with his Lego. He doesn't seem bothered by the fact everyone's playing without him, thank goodness.

And I think that might be all my frugal news for the past week and a bit. Now it's your turn. Share your frugal fun in the comments below or on Facebook so I can be inspired by you.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Week 4 $70 menu for family of five

This week wraps up my month of $70 menu plans.

As I planned the menu this week, I noticed I had more space in the budget for things like fresh vegetables and spices because of all the leftover ingredients from previous weeks. This is the first week the $70 menu has afforded things like garlic, onions, ginger and spices, so that was pretty exciting, especially since all of those ingredients will last for several more weeks and service many more meals.

I couldn't see any affordable red meat options this week so we're back to chicken, which we'll get every scrap of goodness out of by making chicken stock for soups and other purposes.

Chicken stock is a superfood in my books. There's a reason we're always feeding chicken soup to people when they're sick, so if you haven't got in the habit of making chicken stock out of your cooked chicken bones, I highly recommend you do so.

Like with the previous three weeks, I've based all my prices off this week's Countdown pricing, which gets updated every Sunday. If you can find any of these ingredients cheaper, like at a fruit and vegetable store, buy at the cheaper price to get even more wiggle room in your budget.

I hope you've enjoyed this series and found something useful to take away from it. I've certainly been challenged by making it, and discovered a few new frugal recipes for my repertoire. We really enjoyed the homemade tortillas last week, so I'll be cranking those out more often for the whanau and have included them again in this week's menu.

Shopping List (Total $70.04)
  • Apples Envy ($3.50/kg) 1.25KG = $4.37
  • Oranges Navel ($2.50/kg) 1.2KG = $3
  • Cucumber = $2
  • Carrots ($2.50/kg) 500g = $1.25 (Save all carrot peels and tops and ends to make chicken stock. Store in a bag in the freezer until you're ready to make stock.)
  • Broccoli = $1.50
  • Ginger ($8.99/kg) 0.10kg = $0.89
  • Lettuce Traditional Iceberg = $2
  • Onions ($2.00/kg) 400g = $0.80
  • Essentials Garlic Minced 250g = $2.29
  • Sun Harvest Gherkins Sandwich Stackers 670g = $2
  • Homebrand Mixed Frozen Vegetables 1kg = $2.29
  • Countdown Chicken Whole 1.5kg = $10
  • Farmer Brown Eggs 20-pack size 6 = $5.00
  • Homebrand Sandwich Bread x 4 = $4 (save the bread bags for storing/freezing food)
  • Countdown Shaved Ham 200g 2 for $5 = $5
  • Meadowfresh Sour Cream 125g = $1.40
  • The Good Taste Sundried Tomato Hummus 200g = $3.00
  • Countdown Peanuts and Raisins 200g = $1.80
  • Real Food Corn Thins Crispbread 150g = $1.99
  • Greggs Spice Ground Cumin box 40g = $2
  • Greggs Spice Ground Turmeric box 40g = $2
  • Essentials Diced Tomatoes 400g = $0.80
  • Homebrand Peach Slices in Syrup 415g = $1.19
  • Homebrand Baked Beans 420g = $0.80
  • Signature Range Salsa Mild 300g = $2.99 
  • La Costena Mexican Refried Pinto Beans 400g = $2.69
  • Sun Valley Foods Lentils Brown 500g = $2.69
(Items leftover from last week - tomato sauce, half a 1kg block of cheese, rolled oats, brown sugar, milk powder, high grade flour, rice bran oil, pearl barley, potatoes, Worcestershire Sauce, soy sauce, Raspberry Jam, .)


Day 1 Breakfast (Get two chickens out of freezer to defrost for dinner)
  • Poached eggs on toast. (5 eggs, 5 pieces of bread. Sprinkle eggs with a light dusting of turmeric if desired. I always do because turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory.)

Day 1 Lunchbox fillers and snacks for five people
  • Sandwiches - Cucumber, lettuce, gherkins, grated carrot. (Save carrot top and peel for making chicken stock with tonight's chicken.)
  • Apple wedges - Cut two apples into wedges and divide between five lunchboxes.  (Remove stalks and pips from cores and freeze apple cores to save for apple sauce).
  • Peanuts and raisins.

Day 1 Dinner - Roast chicken, roast potatoes, gravy and 1/2 head broccoli

  • Roast chicken in a large oven tray following these directions, which only use salt and oil for seasoning. Baste chicken two or three times during cooking, with fat drippings from the bottom of the tray. 
  • While chicken cooks, prepare and cook roast potatoes following these instructions. When draining the blanched potatoes, save the potato water for making gravy. 
  • Move cooked chicken to chopping boards or large plates to rest and use the chicken drippings in the bottom of the oven tray to make gravyfollowing these instructions and using the cooking water from the potatoes and half the broccoli you are simultaneously going to cook by cutting into florets and boiling for two minutes.
  • Serve chicken with tonight's dinner and shred leftover meat into two portions for future dinners this week.   
  • Like week's 1 and 2, save all the empty chicken bones to make chicken stock. Place chicken carcasse and the carrot scraps from lunch into a large stock pot or two large saucepans filled with water. Simmer on a low heat for several hours. Strain liquid into one ice cream container, a 1-cup portion and a 4-cup portion for future meals this week. Freeze any excess chicken stock for future weeks.  Place chicken bones back in the saucepans, cover with fresh water and repeat process to make more chicken stock. The goal is to make as much stock as possible out of the bones. (The chicken stock recipe I usually make also incorporates vegetable scraps and vinegar to draw out the gelatine from the chicken bones. Use this recipe if you have those ingredients in your kitchen, as it is even more nourishing and will stretch your bones further.)

Day 2 Breakfast 
  • Porridge made with rolled oats, water and milk made with a mixture of water and milk powder. Serve with brown sugar if desired.

Day 2 Lunch - Leftovers from dinner or lunchboxes filled with:
  • Sandwiches - 1/2 pack ham, cheese, cucumber, lettuce, grated carrot, gherkins.
  • Orange wedges - Cut two oranges into wedges and divide between five lunchboxes.  
  • Corn Thins and hummus - 2 per person

Day 2 Dinner - Mexican rollups
  • Make 8 tortillas following this recipe (it uses 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup warm water and 3 Tablespoons oil).
  • Make 8 Mexican rollups following this recipe (use the tortillas you just made, baked beans mixed and smooshed with 1 teaspoon ground cumin, one portion of shredded chicken from Day 1's dinner, 1/2 the jar of salsa and grated cheese)
  • Serve Mexican rollups with a simple side salad of lettuce, cucumber and carrots.  

Day 3 Breakfast (soak 1 cup pearl barley for tonight's dinner now)
  • Poached eggs on toast. (5 eggs, 5 pieces of toast.)

Day 3 Lunch - Lunchboxes filled with:
  • Sandwiches - 1/2 pack ham, cheese, cucumber, lettuce, grated carrot, gherkins.
  • Apple wedges - Cut two apples into wedges and divide between five lunchboxes.  (Remove stalks and pips from cores and freeze apple cores to save for apple sauce)
  • Corn Thins and hummus (two per person).

Day 3 Dinner - Chicken Barley Soup
  • This is a double recipe - save half for Day 5's dinner. In the morning, soak 1 cup pearl barley in four cups of water and leave to soak all day, then rinse and strain. At dinner time, saute 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables in 2 Tablespoons rice bran oil for several minutes and then pour over the ice cream container of chicken stock and an additional 4 cups water. Stir in the rinsed and strained pearl barley and cook on a medium heat for at least an hour, or until the pearl barley is cooked through. Just before pearl barley has finished cooking, add one portion of shredded chicken from Day 1's dinner and simmer until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste if you have it.
  • Serve with toast cut into strips and sprinkled with a little grated cheese.

Day 4 Breakfast (soak 1 cup brown lentils for tonight's dinner now)
  • Porridge made with rolled oats, water and milk made with a mixture of water and milk powder. Serve with tinned peaches if desired.

Day 4 Lunch - Leftover chicken barley soup or lunchboxes filled with:
  • Sandwiches - Cucumber, lettuce, grated carrot, gherkins.
  • Orange wedges - Cut two oranges into wedges and divide between five lunchboxes. 
  • Corn Thins and hummus (two per person).

Day 4 Dinner - Dal Bhat and Tarkari
  • Make Dal Bhat and Tarkari following these instructions. (Use brown lentils, 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables, potatoes, tinned diced tomatoes, 1/2 head of broccoli, fresh ginger, minced garlic, onion, turmeric, cumin, 4 cups chicken stock, rice - make a double portion of rice and save half for Day 6's fried rice.)
  • (Save tops and tails of carrots and onions in a bag in the freezer for the next time you make chicken stock.)

Day 5 Breakfast
  • Poached eggs on toast. (5 eggs, 5 pieces of toast.)

Day 5 Lunch - Lunchboxes filled with: 
  • Sandwiches - Lettuce, carrot and gherkins. 
  • Apple wedges - Cut any remaining apples into slices and divide between five lunchboxes. (Remove stalks and pips from cores and freeze apple cores to save for apple sauce).
  • Peanuts and raisins.

Day 5 Dinner - Chicken Barley Soup
  • Chicken Barley Soup - use the other half of the soup made on Day 3. Serve with toast cut into strips and sprinkled with a little grated cheese. 

Day 6 Breakfast
  • Porridge made with rolled oats, water and milk made with a mixture of water and milk powder.
  • While porridge is cooking, make apple sauce out of the apple cores saved during the week. Simply place cores (which have had the pips removed) into a small saucepan with 2 Tablespoons water, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon if you have it. Cover and simmer cores on a low heat until soft. Mash with a potato masher and swirl through porridge if desired. 

Day 6 Lunch
  • Leftover chicken barley soup served with toast, or sandwiches
  • Carrot sticks
  • Orange wedges - Cut two oranges into wedges and divide between five lunchboxes. 
  • Peanuts and raisins

Day 6 Dinner - Chinese Fried Rice
  • Use this recipe to make the fried rice with the other half of Day 4's rice, rice bran oil, soy sauce, 2 eggs, 1 half packet of ham and 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables.

Day 7 Breakfast
  • Boiled eggs smooshed on toast. (Use remaining 3 eggs, 5 pieces of toast.)

Day 7 Lunch
  • Ham sandwiches (use remaining half pack of ham) or cheese pizzas made with tomato sauce, cheese, ham and bread. 
  • Use up any leftover snacks - apples, oranges, carrots, corn thins and hummus or jam, peanuts and raisins. 

Day 7 Dinner - Quesadillas
  • Make 8 tortillas following this recipe (it uses 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup warm water and 3 Tablespoons oil).
  • Make quesadillas using the tortillas you just made, refried beans, salsa leftover from Day 2's dinner and a sprinkle of cheese. Serve with sour cream and carrot sticks.