Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Natural nit treatment

Our family doesn't have a lot of experience with nits. I remember getting them myself in the past - that hideous itchy feeling in my scalp and the overwhelming smell of the nit treatment shampoo - but my kids remained blessedly nit-free until last week when my eldest daughter, L, caught nits off a friend. The friend's mum helped me treat L's hair, meticulously working to clear away all the nit eggs and I'm so grateful to her for that.

Luckily we caught the nits early, while L had lots of unhatched eggs in her hair, so were able to deal to them quickly and effectively before they spread to the rest of our family.

Here's what we did:

1. Mixed up a small bowl of olive oil with several drops of tea tree oil. (Nits hate tea tree oil. I often brush it through my girls' hair before I send them to school and I think that has helped us avoid nits until now.)

2. Sectioned L's hair to work from the bottom up.

3. Brushed the oil mixture through the first section of L's hair with a regular hair brush to coat all the strands in oil.

4. Combed a nit comb through the oiled-up section, looking for eggs and pulling them off the strand, either with the nit comb or with finger nails. We wiped the eggs onto tissues, which I threw into the fireplace. Something we didn't do at the time, but that I thought of later was to dip the nit comb in a cup of boiling water after each stroke to kill any eggs on the comb.

5. Repeated steps 3 and 4 on all the sections of L's hair, working from the bottom to the top.

6. Once all the eggs had been combed out of L's hair (we didn't find any live nits), I rubbed the rest of the oil mixture into her hair, coating her scalp with it to suffocate anything we might have missed. Then I put L's hair up in a bun and left the oil mixture on all day.

7. While L's hair was up, I soaked the brush and nit comb in hot, soapy water to kill any nits or eggs on them.

8. I also washed and dried all the clothes L had been wearing along with her bedding.

9. Before bed I washed the oil out of L's hair with a couple of regular shampoo washes in the shower and then braided her hair to keep it tucked up tight in case any nits wanted to try and find their way onto or away from L's head. Her hair was still a little bit oily from the olive oil, so I didn't worry about conditioning it. (It was so luxurious the next day from the oil treatment!)

10. I kept checking and rechecking everyone's heads for days: In the morning I checked all of L's hair with the brush and the nit comb, but didn't find any eggs. This time I did dip the nit comb in boiling water after each stroke, just in case. I re-braided her hair to discourage any lurking nits from traveling back to her. I also rubbed tea tree oil into all our heads for the next few days to ward off nits. We all remained clear.

So that's how we got rid of nits, naturally.

I did have the option of washing L's hair in a chemical nit treatment my friend had bought and was using on her own children, but decided to try the natural option first because I've heard that chemical treatments are losing their effectiveness since the nits that survive them go on to breed immune nit babies. I thought suffocation and physical removal of the eggs was worth a shot, and am so glad it worked, especially since a disclaimer on the chemical treatment box said persistent use could cause neurological issues. Eek!

What are your nit treatment tips?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Frugal Fun No. 4

My kids are on their mid-year break from school so we're spending the holidays at the beach in my brother and sister-in-law's beautiful bach. It has sea views out of most of the windows and I've been loving cooking and doing dishes with views of the ocean.

Friends came up with us last week and stayed in our family bach just down the hill. My kids loved having friends to play and adventure with. Our friends left on Thursday and my mother-in-law joined us on Friday. Then Paul caught a ferry across from Auckland on Saturday morning and is spending the second week of the school holidays at the beach with us.

Last week was pretty frugal for a holiday week. Usually we do a big grocery shop on our way up to the beach, spending far more than normal, but this time I brought a lot of pre-made meals and ingredients from home and only needed to spend $50 at the supermarket on things I didn't already have. We shared meals with our friends and that helped stretch the food I'd brought further. Here's a breakdown of how I saved money last week.

1. I kept my eye out on petrol prices as we travelled and filled up when I found a station selling petrol for ten cents less a litre than anywhere else.

2. For one meal I served a pre-made lasagne for dinner and a pre-made apple crumble for dessert. My friends supplied garlic bread to go with the lasagne and whipped cream to go with the apple crumble.

3. We ate soup for several lunches: pumpkin soup on two separate occasions, since I had brought a batch from home and so had my friend; silverbeet soup I made using silverbeet and herbs from the bach gardens along with a base of lamb stock I made with lamb bones discarded from a previous meal; a chicken and vegetable soup that used a leftover rotisserie chicken for stock and meat, and lots of vegetables from my mother-in-law's garden. I served the soup with homemade buns on two occasions - I'd pre-made the bun dough in my breadmaker back in Auckland, frozen it and brought it to the beach for this purpose.

4. I brought chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies from Auckland to share with our friends for morning and afternoon tea last week. When we'd eaten all of those, I baked a batch of chocolate afghans.

5. We've been making use of the Kent fireplace at the bach to heat the main living room each night. For the fire we've been collecting driftwood, pine cones and twigs and also using logs from a tree my brother-in-law felled in the summer. The only expense was store-bought matches, firelighters and kindling, which I found necessary to get the fire going as I'm no fire-lighting expert. It's been fun experimenting with the fire each night and figuring out how to get it roaring.

6. My eldest daughter caught nits/head-lice from our friends' kids last week. It was our first experience with nits, but we were able to get rid of them quickly with a nit comb and a mixture of olive oil and tea tree oil. I'll do a separate post explaining how we killed the nits. It was mostly down to my friend's meticulous care, combing the eggs out of L's long hair.

7. I read three library books, Goose Girl and Princess Academy by Shannon Hale and Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. All three were excellent. I also emailed the library and asked them to extend the holds on a couple of books that I had reserved but am unable to pick up until I return to Auckland. Contacting the library saved me a $2 fine on each book. (I reserved the books a long time ago, but they finally came available now.)

8. I bought a pintuck duvet cover for my master bedroom from Bed Bath and Beyond that was heavily discounted. I've been looking for one just like it for a long time and was excited to find a 100% cotton one marked down to $50 (originally $250).

9. I bought an oil fin heater from The Warehouse for the master bedroom of my brother and sister-in-law's bach. The heater was discounted by 50%. Because the bach is so big, the heat from the fire doesn't reach the master bedroom and I kept on waking up cold in the night. The heater has made a big difference. I'll leave it at the bach for future winter guests as a thank you to my brother and sister-in-law for letting us stay.

10. I collected tangelos from a tree at the family bach and used them to make tangelo juice.

11. I gratefully accepted several bags of fruit from my mother-in-law when she arrived. The apples she brought were floury so I used them to make apple crumble (and apple tea for me). The oranges were a bit sour, so I squeezed them to make orange juice and added Natvia and water to sweeten the juice. The kiwifruit and mandarins were beautiful for straight eating.

12. I also accepted buns and bread from my mother-in-law which we've been eating with soup for lunches.
13. My children enjoyed the best free playground there is - the beach. Yesterday they made huts out of driftwood and spent an hour pretending to be blacksmiths.

14. As we are a one-car family and I had the car here at the beach, Paul had to catch a bus to the train, a train to the ferry and a ferry to us waiting for him with the car in Coromandel. We prayed for good weather for his ferry crossing and it was a beautiful, still morning. All would have been well if his ferry hadn't sprung a leak and started taking on water. The staff on board managed to bail the water out with buckets and them pump it off and seal the leak, but it added an extra hour to Paul's trip and he was glad to finally reach shore. My children played happily on the beach by the wharf while we waited for him. They clambered over rocks and found sea glass and other treasures in the sand.

What have you done to save money lately?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Frugal Fun No. 3

1. My lovely friend, Monique, let me cut lots of branches from her bay trees, which are due for a prune. I hung the branches upside down from our clothes-horse with twine to dry them. I'll give some of the dried leaves away as gifts and save the rest for my own use in soups, casseroles and chicken stock.

2. As I mentioned on Radio Rhema last week, I've been watering down our milk to stretch it further - and no one in my family has noticed. Win!

3. I made two batches of bun dough and froze it to take away on holiday. I also baked a chocolate cake, chocolate oat cookies and brought lots of pre-made meals from the freezer like pumpkin soup, lasagne and apple crumble for easy dining while the kids and I are on holiday.

4. I pruned a few branches from a tree in our garden and brought the branches inside for some winter greenery/brownery. I love these branches. They look even better in real life than they do in the photo above.

5. I made chicken stock using vegetable scraps and chicken bones, and then I made another big batch with the same bones and scraps, just adding fresh water, one more chicken carcasse and another 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the pot after I'd emptied out the original batch of stock. (I save empty Genoese basil pesto containers to freeze my stock in, as they are a great size for stacking in the freezer, the lids fit really well and the containers are strong.)

6. I turned the bones and vegetable scraps leftover from making the chicken stock into garden fertiliser, watering it down more than last time and pouring it around the dripline of several fruit trees. I covered the fertiliser with used coffee grounds I got for free from a coffee cart to disguise the smell and look.

7. I added fresh thyme from the garden to my orange peel cleaner mixture that's brewing in a dark cupboard, so that I'll end up with orange and thyme scented cleaner. (To make the cleaner, just cover citrus skins with white vinegar and let sit for a couple of weeks to infuse. I might add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to the final mixture too.)

8. We ate two vegetarian meals this week - leftover Dal Bhat and Tarkari and Spaghetti with Lentil Sauce.

9. We ate leftovers for dinner at the end of the week too. I pulled out all our containers of leftovers from the fridge and heated them up, then served them as a buffet on the table so everyone could choose what they wanted.

10. I found great deals on produce (although most of it was unfortunately packaged in plastic, which I will recycle): Pink Lady apples for 39c per kilo; 10KG of potatoes for $7.99; 10KG of onions for $7.99; A pumpkin for $1.99; An 800 gram bag of mandarins for $1.50; Bananas for $1.99 per kilo. (I'm glad I bought and froze lots of bananas last week when they were 99c kilo. The few I bought this week were just for eating fresh.); A tray of 20 size 5 free range eggs for $5.99; 3KG of Royal Gala apples (the kind L likes to eat) for $5. I bought two bags of them to bring on holiday with us. The butter was $5 per kilo, so not a great price, but I bought two blocks of it anyway since I use it in baking and on sandwiches and toast. (I refuse to eat margarine.) I bought five small fillets of Gurnard for $24.99 per kilo, which was $6 less a kilo than I've been seeing it lately. That was the only meat I bought this week as we've been using up our freezer stores.

11. I bought around 12 kilos of the Pink Lady apples at 39c per kilo and spent the day making dehydrated apple slices, stewed apple (I drank a lot of apple tea while I was making this) and spiced apple chutney (as recommended by my cousin). My husband and I have been eating the chutney with cheese and crackers. So delicious!

12. I used the last bag of Pink Lady apples to make another batch of dehydrated apple slices once the first batch was done, since Paul and L both like to snack on them. This time I saved the peels and cores to make apple cider vinegar - something I just discovered I could do. I'm so excited about it. Apple cider vinegar is expensive and I use it a lot to make chicken stock and just for drinking, so here's hoping it works.

13. I collected a bowl-full of windblown tangelos from a tree at our bach and used some to make juice.

What have you done this week to save money?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Frugal Fun on the radio!

Yesterday I caught up with my favourite radio presenter, Di Campbell on Radio Rhema, to talk Frugal Fun!

If you missed the live stream, you can listen again here as many times as you want: http://www.rhema.co.nz/shows-djs/mornings/item/9000-frugal-fun


Oh, and don't forget to share your frugal successes in the comments below so we can all inspire each other towards frugal greatness.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Frugal Fun No. 2

I'm really getting into the spirit of Frugal Fun and have found it so helpful reading through old Prudent Homemaker posts to get ideas of ways I can save money around here.

Here's what I've been doing over the past week. (And remember to share your own frugal successes in the comments below, on the Craving Fresh Facebook page or on Instagram with the hashtag #frugalfun.)

1. I washed all our bedding when we had good weather, so I could line-dry it and kill the winter germs that have been plaguing us.

2. I took note of all the specials advertised outside fruit and vege stores on my drive to J's swimming lesson, and then stopped back at all those shops on my way home, buying only the best deals from each store.

3. I collected a box of apples for free from one of the fruit and vege stores and spent the day turning them into delicious goodies.

4. I went to Bulk Foods and bought our often-used herbs and spices in bulk packets. From Bulk Foods I also bought Epsom Salts (for the garden and for soaking in the bath with), a large bag of baking soda (for cleaning and baking) and brown lentils to make Dal Bhat and Tarkari for Paul's actual birthday dinner. (I had some brown lentils, but not quite enough.)

5. I made orange chocolate chip muffins, orange juice and orange cleaner with some oranges my mother-in-law gave me that were a bit too sour for straight eating. The orange juice is a Thermomix recipe that uses all of the pulp as well as the juice. The discarded skins I put in jars and covered with vinegar to make a spray cleaner. I'll strain the liquid in a couple of weeks and decant it into spray bottles.

6. I cooked two meatless meals this week - Dal Bhat and Tarkari, and Pumpkin Soup.

7. I gratefully accepted a box of gold kiwifruit from my mother-in-law, who helped me peel and slice some of them up to dehydrate for future snacks. I gave her a bag of spinach from my garden in return.

8. I made Greek yoghurt using half an Easiyo sachet and half milk powder.

9. I hosted a birthday dinner for Paul at our house on Saturday night and served roast chicken, roast potatoes, roast vegetable salad (that my sister-in-law made), spinach salad (using spinach from my garden), broccoli, gravy and braided bread that my mother-in-law brought. I saved the chicken carcasses to make chicken stock and I picked all the leftover meat off the chickens and froze them in old takeaway containers to use in future curries. For the birthday dessert my sister-in-law made a sugar-free chocolate brownie which she served with whipped cream and grated 90% chocolate. Paul doesn't like cake, so for his actual birthday cake I tipped a container of Goodie Goodie Gum Drops ice cream onto a square plate and topped it with a party mix of lollies. It took all of one minute to make and the many kids at the party LOVED it.

10. I fixed all the items in my mending pile this week - two soft toys, a dress-up cape and a pair of stretchy leggings of L's, S's favourite dress and a singlet, a cardigan and a top of mine. I listened to music for free on Pandora while I worked. Good to have that mending done and the chair in my room finally uncovered.

11. I accepted some hand-me-down clothes for J from my sister-in-law.

12. I emptied half of my rotating compost bin and distributed the compost between three of my raised beds. I then topped those beds up with store-bought vegetable mix soil and free coffee grounds and then planted two kinds of kale seedlings, two kinds of lettuce seedlings, snow pea seedlings, garlic bulbs, lettuce seeds and carrot seeds.

13. I also planted a thornless boysenberry/blackberry cross and a raspberry cane in our back garden.

14. I plastered some dents in our walls and hope to sand them and paint the walls this week with some of the paint that was left here when we moved in.

15. I spotted a good one-day deal on petrol, so topped up our tank. (I always keep my eye on the petrol prices around town and only fill up where I can get the best deal.)

16. I harvested some of the outer leaves from my spinach plants to let more light in for the seedlings I've just planted. I cored and washed these outer leaves, then blanched them in boiling water for a minute before cooling them down under cold running water, whizzing them up in my Thermomix and freezing them in ice cube trays to pull out for future meals.

17. I started reading a library book - King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard. It's the final in the Red Queen trilogy.

I think those are all of my frugal successes this week. Now please share what you've been doing to save money.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Apples, so many ways

On Wednesday I popped into a fruit store that had cheap bananas advertised on a sign outside. When I got there, I saw something even better. Free apples! 

I think the light streak on the photo above really captures the glory that was the moment when I spotted that FREE sign. I asked for a box from the storekeeper and filled it with these beauties. 
My box of free apples. 
And then I spent the rest of the day peeling, slicing, dicing and preserving apples at my kitchen table. First up I got the dehydrator cranking, since that takes the longest to do its thing. I ran it overnight and L has been snacking on dry apple slices ever since. It's been a great lunchbox filler for her too. 
Apple slices ready for the dehydrator. 
I also cooked up many pots' worth of stewed apples in a dash of water, coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and brown sugar. I filled whatever jars and containers I could find with the stewed apples and placed them in the freezer to use later. I'm picturing lots of apple pies in our future.

With some of the stewed apples, I assembled apple crumbles in oven-safe glass containers that have lids so I could freeze them and bring them out to cook for an instant dessert when I want to.
Stewed fruit and apple crumble.
I was messaging with my friend, Angela, as I worked and she told me she loves drinking the liquid that the apples get cooked in as an apple tea. I poured off a cup of the liquid and, oh my! It was the best thing I've ever tasted. Picture yourself drinking a hot apple pie, and that's exactly what it tasted like. So, so good. I think it helped knock my cold for six too, because I woke up the next day feeling much better.
Apple tea, anyone?
Another good idea Angela gave me was to save the apple peels in the freezer and pull them out to add to smoothies for extra fibre and nutrition. I didn't do it this time, just composted mine since I hadn't washed the apple skins, but thought it was a great, frugal idea for a future apple marathon.

I wouldn't normally make apple sauce with apples, but since Angela told me it was her family's favourite way to eat cooked apples and she hadn't steered me wrong so far, I thought I'd give it a try with the last pot of stewed apples. I blended them with my immersion blender directly in the pot and froze the resulting apple sauce in ziploc bags in the freezer. I also put a jar of the apple sauce into the fridge and have been using it as a dip at mealtimes for carrots - another excellent idea I got from Angela. I'm also planning to swirl it with my yoghurt or porridge the next time I have either.
Apple sauce. 
And finally, with the last couple of apples I made an apple cake, using a Destitute Gourmet recipe that has a lovely crumble topping. The girls had the apple cake as a treat in their school lunchboxes on Friday, and I've been enjoying the odd slice myself.

All in all, not a bad day's work. I'm so grateful for the provision of these apples.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A week's worth of dinners - eating up our food stores

We tend to eat the same kinds of meals around here and rotate them a lot, so this is a fairly standard week for us. However, I have just done a kitchen stocktake and planned a month's worth of meals based on what we already have in the fridge, freezer, pantry and garden, which means things might get a little more adventurous over the coming month.

For today's post I tried to remember to photograph our dinner each night, but didn't quite catch them all so you'll just have to use your imagination on the un-photographed meals. Also, please excuse the low-light in the photos I did take. It's the middle of winter here so the days are short and it's dark by the time we eat our dinner.

Because I do our grocery shopping on a Wednesday, I tend to plan our menus from Wednesday to Tuesday, which is why this post is going out today and not at the end of the week.

Dinner one
Panfried gurnurd and potato chips with cucumber, carrot and apple slices. We often have fish on a Wednesday night, since it's fresh from the supermarket that day. Usually I'd make the potato chips myself from scratch, but I had a headache so took a nap to clear it up. By the time I'd got myself back up, it was too late to get chips cooking so Paul picked up a scoop from our local fish and chips store.

Dinner two
Asian mince on rice
Asian mince on rice. 
This is one of the most popular recipes on Craving Fresh, and with good reason. It's easy to make, very accommodating of whatever vegetables you have on hand, and tastes so good. I used plain Basmati rice that I cooked in homemade chicken stock for added nutritional value. The vegetables I grated into it this time were courgettes and carrots. I also threw in some fresh coriander and mint from the garden at the last minute.

Dinner three
I made several portions of this in small oven-safe glass containers that come with lids, so that anything we didn't eat for dinner could easily get stowed away in the fridge for leftovers. I also made extra lasagnes to freeze straight away for future meals. We got through one and a half of these containers for dinner (my kids don't eat much) and then I had the other half for lunch a few days later.

Dinner four
A shared meal at our church. I helped prepare a chicken curry for it with some other ladies from my Bible study group.

Dinner five
Roast chicken, roast potatoes, steamed brocolli, steamed cauliflower and gravy.
These free range size 16 chickens usually retail for around $15 at Pak 'N' Save,
so when I saw them marked down to $9.99 recently, I bought five of them. 
My partner-in-crime, Paul, cooked this roast chicken meal for us since I was laid low with another headache. (Two headaches in one week! Very unusual for me, but I have been sick with a cold so maybe that played into it.)

Dinner six
Nonya chicken and potato curry on rice cooked in chicken stock and served with a side of green beans and peas
This featured leftover chicken from the previous night's roast. For the Nonya flavour, I used an Asian Home Gourmet Nonya packet. My sister-in-law recently introduced me to this delicious curry, but my children find it too spicy if I use the whole spice packet, so this time I only used half the packet and they were good with that. I saved the other half to make Nonya again another night, which is a frugal win since it means I get two dinners out of the one packet. We spontaneously had friends over for dinner, and they shared this meal with us. So fun.

Dinner seven
Refried bean quesadillas and tacos

I haven't made this yet as it's what we'll be eating tonight, but I took a photo of some of the ingredients for you. The beans are pinto beans I bought dry in bulk, soaked and cooked up before freezing in small ziploc bags. They'll serve as the main source of protein for tonight's dinner, which is our only meatless meal this week. It's not an entirely vegetarian dinner, as I'll cook the beans in homemade chicken stock to refry them.

Since there are only six tortillas in the packet, I've also pulled out a mostly-used packet of taco shells to bulk the dinner out.

I'm planning to use half the jar of salsa for tonight's meal, and will freeze the other half for a future Mexican meal. That's because it's the only salsa I have in the pantry and I'm planning to eat through everything I have over the next month before I buy more dinner staples.

What have you been eating this week? Let me know in the comments.