Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Frugal Fun No. 7 - A weekend away

Frugal Fun is a day late this week as we got back from a weekend away on Sunday night and I spent all of yesterday catching up on the weekend's chores.

Here's what I did to save money last week.

I mowed our lawns using the electric lawn mower my brother gave us when we moved into this house. It's great because I can start it every time, unlike petrol mowers which have always been hit and miss for me. I also like that I don't have to buy petrol to make it run. The downside of an electric mower is that the cord gets in the way, so I have to keep moving it, but I guess I've got used to that because I don't really notice it anymore.

I pruned our hedge on the roadside to make it easier to see the footpath when I'm reversing out of our driveway. I hired a company to prune it last time, and they did a great job and were able to prune the top, which is hard for me to reach as the hedge is very high and wide across the middle. (I have pruned the top myself once, and it was precarious at times.) If I had electric hedge trimmers, I might be able to do the top myself again more easily, so I'll look into purchasing some of those.

I bought 16kg of apple seconds from an orchard in Oratia. I love these apples because they have never been in cold storage, so they are crisp and flavoursome. They also come sticker-free and I was able to cart them home in a box - so no plastic packaging. I'll dehydrate some of these apples in slices, stew some for apple crumble and we are already eating lots fresh as all the kids love them. L says they're the most delicious thing ever.

I made a photo book for L as a birthday present for her upcoming birthday and bought it with a Father's Day deal that saved me about $20.

I bought several books from the library's 3 for $1 stack for L and J for their upcoming birthdays. One of the books was Princess Academy Palace of Stone (affiliate link), the second book in a wonderful series I was planning to buy for L anyway, so I was stoked to find it for 33c.

We went to Te Puke for the weekend to visit family and remember my father-in-law, who died nine years ago. The kids had a lovely time with their cousins and got to go rock-climbing with them, which my mother-in-law kindly paid for. Everyone had a blast at Rocktopia. J even cried when our session came to an end.

We turned our hot water off at home before we left for the weekend, to save money on our power bill.

I kept my eyes open for good petrol prices as we travelled, and only topped up where we could get the best price.

I had been planning to buy L a bigger bike for her upcoming birthday, but the Te Puke cousins had one in the right size they no longer needed, so they gave that to L and she was stoked. It needs servicing to get a brake fixed and a more comfortable seat put on. I'll take it into the bike store before her birthday to get those things attended to.

I made a doll's bed for L's dolls house for her upcoming birthday, using some styrofoam packaging as the mould, a piece of towel as the soft filler and a pair of S's old stretchy pink and gold pants as the fabric to cover it. I'm planning to sew a pillow and blanket to go with the bed, so will take a photo of it when it's all finished to share with you.

I mended a dress and a cardigan of S's while I had the sewing kit out.

I did lots of baking last week - all with some variation of chocolate in it - chocolate brownies, double chocolate chip muffins and chocolate afghans.

A few weeks ago I bought six bottles of milk at a good price and froze several bottles to pull out when we run out of milk at inconvenient times. We've been using that up and it's saved us some expensive mid-week dashes to the dairy.

I read a library book - Joyride by Anna Banks (affiliate link) - and really enjoyed it.

I think that's everything. Now please share your frugal successes so we can all be inspired. I've been told that the comments feature on Craving Fresh is not working very well. I'm sorry about that. I've had a look behind the scenes and can't figure out why it's not working, so please share your money saving tips on Craving Fresh's Facebook page instead.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Frugal Fun No. 6

Last week wasn't all that frugal. It started off okay, but then I got busy so we ended up ordering Thai for one dinner and pizza for another. In the end, I think it was worth it though. I managed to finish a writing project I've been working on, which is a huge weight off my mind and will free up my time for other things in the coming weeks.

As much as I'm trying to be more frugal, I also need to balance that against the realities of life. There are only so many hours in the day. That said, here are some of the things I did to save money last week.

I sewed two doll's dresses out of the top my friend gave us a couple of week's back. I was able to make one doll's dress for each of my daughters.

I made a doll's couch and blanket for L's upcoming birthday. The couch took absolutely forever to make, but at least it cost me nothing. I used some of the styrofoam packaging that my new printer came in for the shape, hot glued cardboard packaging from a cracker packet to the places that needed smoothing out and then sewed on some scraps of fabric that were leftover from sewing sheets for premature babies in NICU a couple of weeks back. I also sewed cushions for the couch and a doll's blanket. I've got plans to make more blankets and pillows, which I'll share with you when they're done.

I finished drying the bay leaves I collected from a friend's house many weeks ago. I put them in the dehydrator on a low heat overnight. The leaves had been hanging from our clothes horse in the garage/Paul's office and were pretty dry already, but I decided to use the dehydrator to finish them off because I wanted to ensure they were thoroughly dry. I'm always nervous about mould sporing on food that hasn't been dried properly.

There were enough leaves to fill my bay leaf container, plus make ten packages of the nicest looking bay leaves to give away as gifts. I used cellophane bags I already had and tied them off with the twine I had used to hang the bay leaf branches from the clothes horse.

I also filled a container of slightly damaged bay leaves for my own use if I ever get through the initial container, and sprinkled lots of bay leaves in my pantry to deter bugs. I think I'm set for bay leaves for a while.

We ate one meatless meal - Quesadillas filled with homemade refried beans and grated cheese.

I baked another batch of ginger crunch for school lunch boxes. It got gobbled up, so I'll need to think of something else to bake for this week. Maybe muffins.

I gave our upstairs toilet a thorough clean underneath and behind using the spray cleaner I made out of vinegar, orange peels and thyme.

I bought a kettle and two bedside lamps from the Salvation Army store when I went in to drop off some clothes J has outgrown. The kettle replaced one that kept sparking out. The bedside lamps were for the master bedroom, since Paul's one broke several months ago. I moved my old one into J's room, as he didn't have a bedside lamp. Now we've all got reading lamps.

I watched the rest of Poldark series one with Paul for some at-home date nights. We ate blue cheese, crackers and my homemade chutney as we watched.

I babysat for some friends who regularly babysit for us too. We don't charge each other, just swap services and it works great.

I bought a new pair of shoes for J on sale. The toes of his old pair had worn through and his socks kept getting wet, so I decided to buy a more expensive brand with a leather toe cap this time. Hopefully they'll last until he outgrows them.

I mended a squirrel costume for S to wear to an animal dress-up day at school. I also face-painted L like a cat for the same dress-up day, using the black World Organics liquid eyeliner.

I read a library book - Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (affiliate link).

I printed a large document on my new printer and was so glad to be able to do it from home because I noticed a mistake that I was able to fix and easily re-print. If I had printed through Warehouse Stationary like I'd originally planned (before I discovered how expensive it would be) I would have had to come home to fix the mistake and then drive back to Warehouse Stationary to re-print. What a waste of time and petrol that would have been.

I think that's all my frugal doings from last week. Now I'd love to hear what you've been doing to save money.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Parenting - that nebulous task

My eldest when she was wee. 

I became a parent almost eight years ago, and boy did I not know what I was getting myself into.

When I got pregnant, all I really imagined was getting to cuddle a cute baby at the other end. But that cute baby steadily grew up, presenting a whole host of challenges along the way. Then we added two more children to the mix, each with their own unique strengths and challenges. That stretched me even further. Especially since I had to make parenting decisions from a position of sleep deprivation and exhaustion.

I was not prepared.

Sure, I did parenting courses and read parenting books, all of which claimed to have the absolute truth of parenting nailed down, but still I failed a lot. In fact, I still do.

Sometimes I parent out of a reaction to my own childhood. Sometimes I parent out of absolute frustration at having to explain the same thing again, or having to ask the same thing again. Sometimes I parent out of laziness. Sometimes I parent out of tiredness. Sometimes I parent out of distraction. Sometimes I parent out of love. Sometimes I parent out of enjoyment. Sometimes I parent out of hope.

Sometimes, I parent because I choose to be better than this. I choose to give my children a secure foundation to grow and learn from.

Lately, that's the choice I've been making more and more often. To try harder.

We're finally through the crazy toddler years and it's like we've emerged into the light at the end of a long tunnel. Our youngest is nearly four and our eldest two are at school, so I have a bit of space in my day to think, process and unwind.

A year ago Paul and I joined a parents' group that meets once a month for five years. The leaders are so wise and they've given me a parenting framework that's so much more powerful than anything else I've ever been given. And yet, I came home from the very first parenting group and cried. It hit me that night, all the ways I've been failing my children.

A year later, I feel so much more equipped for this parenting gig. Decisions and choices we made over the past year have had such a huge impact that parenting is actually getting easier. Unbelievable, I know.

One of the things I've learned is to not rest on our laurels now that we're through the crazy toddler years. These middle years are the time to feed into our children and grow a close relationship with them that will see us through the teenage years when our authority is removed and our influence will only be accepted if it comes from a relationship already built on trust.

That's what I'm working on now. Making the most of these middle years.

Here are three recent examples:

1. A couple of weeks ago I made the decision to ban screen-time during the week. I had previously tried cutting it down to 45 minutes a day, but that became difficult to monitor because children would ask to pause their screen time to go to the toilet or get a drink or whatever, and then we'd lose track of where they were up to and they'd inevitably go over time.

Now we have a blanket rule. Screen-time is only on the 'S' days, Saturday and Sunday. We may have a family movie night on Friday night, if we all agree to the movie and watch it together, but apart from that, no screen-time during the week.

I've noticed such a difference in the kids with this simple rule. I thought it would make my life harder, because they would call on me to play with them more, but the opposite is true. They have become so much more creative and willing to play with each other. They come home from school and play all afternoon until bedtime, in between the other things we need to get done. It's wonderful. They don't even ask for screen-time during the week now, because they know it's not going to happen. We're getting more time to read, do music practice and do chores. Just be. Life feels less rushed.

2. Another change we recently implemented was to buy a Star plate from the Parenting Place and use it to honour a child if he or she does something admirable. If I see a child do something I want to encourage, they get to eat dinner off the Star plate that night. We make a big deal out of it, congratulating the child, clapping for them and telling them why they've been honoured.

Already I've noticed my children copying the exemplary behaviour their siblings have been rewarded for at dinner time. It means that positive behaviour is actually flourishing. Since I rewarded L for getting up, getting dressed all the way to shoes and brushing her hair right off the bat one morning before school, S has done the same thing every morning since. Because of that, we've been getting to school a few minutes early, instead of rushing in right on bell-time.

3. I've never been very organised about getting my kids to do chores, apart from the occasional tidying of rooms. Usually it feels like more trouble than it's worth. But I've realised I need to train them or they'll expect to be waited on their whole lives. I've started by introducing a simple chore that is their responsibility. Every afternoon the children carry the clean washing up to my bed, where they sort it and put it away. They usually fold their own clothes themselves, since they know what belongs to them and where it goes. Then they divvy up the tea towels and parents' clothes and put them away if they're able to reach.

It's such a big help to me. No more baskets of washing for me to fold at night. The children seem to get a sense of satisfaction from doing the job and working together too.

I'll slowly add more chores into the mix as I find a way that works for us. I'm thinking toilets would be a good one to hand over to them.

I guess the point of this post was to say that if you're in the darkest of dark tunnels right now, please know that the light is approaching. Stay steadfast. Have hope. Do the hard yards now and you'll soon see the reward.

Also, please have grace with yourself. It's not an easy thing to be a parent. It's really not. But that doesn't stop us trying anyway.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Frugal Fun No. 5 - An unexpected blessing

If you read my last post, Not so frugal fun, you'll know we had a bunch of stuff break on us recently. One of those things was our dehumidifier. I went to check out replacement ones and was stunned by how expensive they were. Needless to say, I didn't buy one.

Fast forward a week and one of my lovely friends from church asked how the search for a dehumidifier was going. Another woman overheard her question and asked me if I needed a dehumidifier. She had one she no longer needed. I said I would gladly buy it off her, but she said I would be doing her a favour if I took it because it was just taking up room in her house. Such a blessing! I popped around to her place that afternoon and picked it up. It is perfect!
Our new dehumidifier. Totally free!
Other frugal things that happened last week...
I brought in branches from a tree that needed pruning and we've been enjoying watching them blossom on our dining room table ever since. They smell beautiful too, which is an added bonus.

I refilled all my spray cleaners with the orange, thyme and vinegar mixture that's been brewing for the past few weeks. I tested it out on the inside of my oven door and it cut through that grease like a boss.

I made an apple crumble using some of the frozen apples I prepared a few weeks back. This was to share with friends who invited us over for dinner. I also made fresh custard in the Thermomix to go with the crumble and a spinach salad using fresh spinach from my garden.

I accepted a bag of gold kiwifruit and a bag of grapefruit from J's Kindy. We are eating the kiwifruit fresh and I squeezed the grapefruit to make juice.

I dehydrated 2 kilograms of potatoes and double-bagged them in ziploc bags to go in our emergency kit. I've been working on restocking our bug-out bag this week, because I realised I hadn't looked in it since we moved to Auckland (four years ago!). I also bought a new can opener, five new water bottles and five toothbrushes for the emergency kit.

I dehydrated 2 kilograms of onions, since I have a 10 kilogram bag of them that will go bad unless I find ways to preserve them. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with these onions yet, but at least I have them there for when we get through our fresh ones. Dehydrating the onions made everyone cry. I had to shut the dehydrator away in the laundry while it worked and leave the laundry window open all night to fumigate the house.

I made popcorn to share with L's class for her 100 days at school celebration. I made the some thing the week before for S's celebration and it was a big hit. It's also super easy to make and really inexpensive.

I planted all my strawberry runners out in different gardens around our yard.

I also planted tulip bulbs I bought a few weeks back that have been sitting in my fridge. I don't know how well they'll do, as some of the bulbs looked to have shriveled up. I may have left them too long in the fridge. Whoops!

I baked orange chocolate chip muffins for school lunch boxes and froze half so that they would last for the whole week of lunches.

I found a good deal on free range chicken drumsticks and bought 8 bags of them. I also found a good deal on whole free range chickens and bought two of them. I'll use the bones to make chicken stock and then whiz them up to make garden fertiliser, so nothing is wasted.

I made a spinach tart and ginger crunch for morning tea for my church ladies group. I didn't have basil pesto, which is a key ingredient of the spinach tart, so I used fresh coriander from the garden instead and was very nervous about how it would turn out. It was delicious! The ladies and I got together to pray and sew sheets for the premature babies in NICU. It was at this group that one of the ladies overheard my need for a new dehumidifier.

I took home some of the leftover fabric scraps from sewing the NICU sheets and am planning to use them to make dolls house furniture and bedding for L for her upcoming birthday.

There was a little bit of leftover ginger crunch from the ladies group, so I gave a piece each to L, S and J for afternoon tea. They LOVED it. I had never made it before, but immediately made another batch to use for school lunchboxes and afternoon tea treats the rest of the week.

I washed all our bedding and towels when we had fine weather, so I could line dry everything.

I thought my apple cider vinegar mixture was done because I could see a mother forming on top. I strained it, but when I tasted it I realised it wasn't vinegary enough so I drank it as apple juice and will have another go making some the next time I dehydrate some apples. Does anyone know how you can tell whether it's done, without disturbing the mother?

The children and I had a family movie night on Friday and watched Shrek on Netflix. Next family night we're going to watch Shrek 2, which is also on Netflix.

I caught up with my good friend, Becky, on Saturday. We went for a walk along the beach front of Mangere Bridge, which cost us nothing except the petrol to get there.

On Saturday night I sorted through J's drawers to take out all the clothes he's outgrown. There wasn't a lot left in his pants drawer by the time I was done. He's really shot up lately.

I baked chocolate brownies to take to J's Sunday school. There was a little bit leftover for the girls too. We had am impromptu Sunday lunch of waffles at our friends' Anna and Andy's house and while we were there, Anna gave us some hand-me-down clothes for all my children.

One of the hand-me-downs is a beautiful top that I'm planning to turn into two dolls' dresses for my girls.

I went shopping with Anna on Sunday afternoon and bought three pairs of track pants for J from Kmart, plus a hairbrush to replace one we recently lost. I also bought an electric haircutting kit for $30 in a 50% off sale at Briscoes and am hoping Paul will let me try it on him. If he does, it will save us a lot of money in haircuts over the years. I could use it on J, but he has decided to grow his hair long.

Paul and I watched the first two episodes of Poldark on Sunday night. It's hard to find a show that we both like to watch, but we thought we'd give Poldark a go. I liked it more than he did.

In between everything else over the weekend, I also managed to read A Court of Wings and Ruin (affiliate link) by Sarah J Maas. It's the finale in a trilogy I have absolutely adored. I reserved the book from the library and waited for it to become available.

What have you done to save money lately?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Not so frugal fun

When we got back from our holiday, I was itching to get into the garden. I missed it so much while we were away.

Top of my list was to take all the plants and trees out of the citrus garden and top up the soil, since it had sunk to below halfway. You may remember I filled this garden mostly using a layering methods of free gathered materials like dried leaves, grass clippings, homemade compost, wood mulch and coffee grounds. When I planted everything, the bed was almost full, but the materials lost a lot of their volume as they decomposed, which is why I decided to bite the bullet and buy garden mix to refill the garden.

J and I went to Bunnings and bought 11 x 40 litre bags of garden vegetable mix (two different kinds). I also bought a Raspberry Ivory cane that had been marked down to half price and a few flowers to add a bit of colour to my winter garden.
New flowers for a pop of prettiness.

I thought 11 bags of garden mix would be plenty, but by the time I had used half the bags, I had not even filled a quarter of the long citrus garden. Help!

Back to Bunnings I went and bought another 17 bags of garden mix. It was just enough. I got everything planted back in and I'm hoping the trees survive the shock to their system of being moved around. We got lots of rain in the days following their replanting, so that should help them settle into their new soil.

Replanted citrus garden.

After replanting everything, I was left with lots of strawberry runners, which I've been slowly planting in new spots around my yard, as I've had energy. (Shifting 28 bags of garden mix took its toll!)
Strawberry runners.

Anyway, the garden refill ended up being a lot more expensive than I was anticipating, but it was one of those things that, once started, needed to be finished. It meant I was already feeling like a frugal failure when I noticed an ominous hissing sound coming from our toilet last Tuesday morning. I went outside and saw water running out from the cladding behind our toilet. My expensive week got more expensive when I had to call a plumber in to fix a burst pipe. I decided to make the most of his call-out fee and get a few other things fixed at the same time.

New outdoor tap.

One of the things he did while he was here was put in an outside tap that we can access from the backyard. He connected it to the same bit of pipe he had to replace behind the toilet, since there was already a hole in the wall from repairing that. My main desire for this outside tap is to be able to waterblast our fences, which are in desperate need of cleaning as you can see from the photo above. Once they're clean, I'll stain them the same Rustic Oak as our deck, although I'm thinking I'll use an oil-based stain this time as the water-based stain on our deck is already starting to chip. (So annoying!)

I brought our dehumidifier into the toilet room to dry out the wall where the leak had been, but when I went to empty it, I some how broke the connection that tells the dehumidifier whether it's full. Now it thinks it's full all the time, which means it won't work. Argh.

To add insult to injury, our vacuum cleaner handle snapped the same day as the dehumidifier broke. I went back to the store we had purchased it from and found out the warranty had expired at the start of this year, which meant I needed to pay for the replacement parts myself. The store assistant I spoke to wanted to charge me a $110 fee just to assess how it broke. I said, "I know how it broke. It snapped while I was vacuuming. Just tell me how much the replacement parts will be." So she sorted that out and the parts have been ordered - another $118 I wasn't planning to spend last week.

While I was in the shop, I had a look at dehumidifiers and was stunned by how expensive they were. I was expecting them to be around $200, but the cheapest was $600 and the one I wanted to get was closer to $900. Whaaat? I've put that purchase on hold for now, but I'm really noticing how wet the windows are in the morning without a working dehumidifer so I will save up to replace it. Fortunately we have a window vacuum cleaner I bought last winter, so I'm using that to suck up the moisture off the windows in the mornings until I can replace the dehumidifier.

Last week I also needed to do some printing work, so I popped into Warehouse Stationary which was next door to the vacuum cleaner store and asked about prices. It turned out the job I wanted printed was going to cost $90. It wasn't a complicated job, just a large black and white document so I was shocked at the $90 price tag. I decided to buy a printer instead from the shop I was getting my vacuum cleaner parts from. The sales assistant gave me a good deal and I chose a simple black and white laser printer for $209. The toner cartridge in it will print 10,000 pages before it needs replacing, and I anticipate I will need to do quite a bit of printing in the coming months so this seems like a lot better value for money than printing through Warehouse Stationary.

Anyway, I was feeling disheartened by all the unexpected expenses last week until I changed my focus to the fact we do have money saved to deal with these things. It's one of the reasons I've been trying to be frugal and build an emergency fund - so that when emergencies happen, we can deal with them without breaking the bank. Sure, I would rather have let those savings grow and accumulate for better things (like a glass door to replace our garage door), but at least they were there.

Here's hoping nothing breaks this week.

What have you done to save money lately?

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?