Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Being Flexible

Being keen as anything to get going on my challenge of cutting food costs, I made a menu plan and a shopping list, hah, that all went out the window when I got to the supermarket.  Normally, I would have used a brochure they stick through the letterbox in the weekend.  Somehow it didn’t arrive and I assumed that the usual specials would apply how wrong I was!

First of all I intended to buy lamb as that has been on special for ages, no it was up to $34 a leg!  No way! I cast my eye along the chiller, oh pork! Yippee!  A good price too.  Such a good price that I am seriously thinking of going to town after my physio on Friday, and get some more joints, as also (I discover that I can see the specials online) the legs joints are even a better bargain! 

There were quite a few bargains that weren’t on my shopping list such as avocados at 89 cents each; Jarrah coffee reduced down to $4.00, normally it is about $7, and potatoes they have been about $2.99 a kilo, I got a 2.5 kg (5 lb) bag for $4.00.  Maggi cup of sups for $1.99, (quite often I will just have a cup of soup and a piece of toast for supper.  Quite a quick and cheap meal, (there are 4 in a pack.) Tasty Cheese $10.00 instead of $12.00'

I quickly realised as I was going around the shop that my menu plan was not valid anymore and also that my actual needs for the next fortnight were only about ¼ my budget.  So I am able to replenish my stock as well.  Well mostly!  I did plan to make a quiche on Friday as I have a friend coming for lunch and she is vegetarian.  I would have used up the butter I have for the pastry, However I could not believe my eyes it was over $5.00 a 500gm block. (Normally you can get it $3.50, what happened?  So, I will make impossible quiche instead and save my butter!  I went on line and the other supermarket in town has it for $4.50, STILL!?!!

Here is my budget and menu plan, I promise, promise you I will not bore you with it every fortnight, I just wanted to list it to show that even when food is dear in your area, if you have a well-stocked store you can be thrifty. As a matter of interest Winz (state benefit people) calculate that when giving out a food grant to its clients, $100 for a single person a week is sufficient!  PLEASE I AM NOT SAYING IT IS TOO MUCH, THESE PEOPLE ARE VERY NEEDY and NEED HELP WHEN UNEXPECTED BILLS COME IN, THEIR BENEFITS DON'T MAKE ALLOWANCE FOR THE UNEXPECTED. (I have been there!) I am only giving this as a benchmark. Also I wanted to show that you can eat really well on my budget.  Yes there is an initial outlay to build up your store, but that can be done gradually during the weeks you have a surplus.

Fortnightly needs:

Pork 2 kg (4 lb) - $14.22
Chicken  1.3 kg (2 ¾ lb.)- $9
½ Cauliflower - $2.70
Eggplant - $2.49
Sour cream 250 gm (8 oz.) - $3.00
500 gm carrots - $2.22
500 gm Onions - $1.47

Total $35.10

Store cupboard

Potatoes $2.50 kg $4.00
Tin diced tomatoes - 80 cents
UHT milk 1 litre - $2.00
4 packets Maggi soup of soups - $8.00
1 Watties Tortellini Sachets 350 gm - 3.00 (stand by treat)
Jarrah Vienna latte coffee - $4.00 (treat)
Bread (el cheapo) -- $1.00 (I like to have a loaf in the freezer in case I don’t get round to making a loaf!)
Tasty cheddar 700 gm - $10.00, will cut it up into 4 pieces and freeze.

Total $32.80

This leaves $32.10 of my fortnightly budget of $100 (US $70) for perishables and replenishment of stores.

Menu plan

Tuesday Roast chicken, potatoes, kumara, carrots and peas, strawberries
Wednesday –Cold Chicken, potato salad, lettuce salad, fresh peach
Thursday – Broccoli and feta fritters, garden salad and fresh peach
Friday – Impossible Quiche, garden salad and fruit salad with yogurt
Saturday – Chicken Pilaf, lettuce salad, yogurt and berries
Sunday - Roast Pork and the trimmings, Bread and Butter Pudding
Monday - Black Bean`Quesadillas, Fruit salad
Tuesday – Cold pork, broccoli, carrots and Jacket Potato, rest of Bread and Butter Pudding
Wednesday – Chicken curry and rice, yogurt.
Thursday – Stuffed zucchini (mince beef), rice, carrot salad, preserved apricots
Friday – Sweet and Sour pork, noodles and stir fry vegetables, apple
Saturday – Broccoli/cauliflower soufflĂ© and garden salad, apricot crumble
Sunday – Chicken risotto, using last of chicken and stock made from the carcass, chocolate mousse  
Monday – remains of risotto made into a patty with a pocket of feta cheese, chocolate mousse
Breakfast is usually toast and vegemite or jam, or a cereal, such as cornflakes or weetbix, milk and preserved fruit.
Supper will be the cereal if toast is had in the morning or a cup of soup and salad sandwich. I will make ratatouille to have some days as a change.

Today’s main meal I had this evening as it was too hot to eat at midday!  I still haven’t eaten the peach, but will have it later perhaps.  I have planned for desserts but quite often I will miss them. They are there if I want them.
With this plan I have not used all my pork, I will have at least 6 meals lfor the freezer. And I probably will have some vegetables left.  There were only 3 meals that made heavy use of what was in store. 

The key to this is being flexible, go for the bargains and then plan your meals.  Take enough time when you are going around the shop to think what if I have that what else would I need.  This shop was done in only one supermarket; no doubt I could have pared it down even more if I shopped around more.  But we are in the middle of a heat wave and no way was I going to traipse down the other end of town!  I will check it out on Friday.

One bit of good news, the company that is fitting my heat pump in is doing it next Tuesday so if the heat wave is still here I will have air conditioning. Yay!

Crochet news – I have been working on a shawl from some wool I unraveled from an op shop jersey. I am using two strands and it is coming on well.  However I would love someone to tell me how to stop unraveled wool looking like spaghetti junction!

I fell in love with shawls last winter and I do have another one on the hooks, but have put it aside as it is too hot to handle wool comfortably, so, I have been making some doilies.

They are quick and fun to make.  This is made with no 10 cotton and a 1.75 mm hook.  I got the pattern from Ravelry, I must put a link to my project pages on the side bar.  I am not sure if you can see it if you don’t have an account with them, but for those of you that do, you can access the pattern links.

In the Garden

It is too hot to be in the garden much, but I have had to clear the bed against back of the house, so they can put in the unit for the heat pump.  I will start again as the plants are overgrown and rather shaggy.  The Geraniums had got taller than me!  So, a good excuse putting in a new plan for that area.
Tonight I will take some time out to read with a herbal tea, I am reading David Baldacci’s Zero Day, I love his books.  After I have posted this I will strip the chicken carcass and freeze the meat and boil the carcass to make stock. 

Life cannot get any better than this!

Thanks for visiting and have a lovely day/night.

PS I want to thank Jane over at Hope and Thrift for inspiring me to take the plunge.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

You are never too old to learn!

I have been taught some lessons this week.  The first one is how we can say something without really thinking about the meaning and how it affects the listener or reader.  For example, I know Jane over at Hope and Thrift was a bit miffed when various comments called her ‘lucky”, I don’t think I called her lucky but I think I implied it, and I should know better.  So, apologies, Jane.

I think when we use the word lucky today, envy is involved, it’s the grass is greener over the hill syndrome.  I think that there is a bit of laziness involved, people see something they would like but don’t want to put in hard yards.  The true meaning of luck implies unmerited fortune.  Living a simple life actually is hard work, hours gardening, canning, and sourcing bargains and so on.  It is enjoyable and very satisfying, but like everything in life you have to work at it.  So, from now on I am going to be mindful of what I say, that’s lesson no 1.

Lesson no 2 is thinking outside the box.  I have been preparing my garden for the autumn and winter crops, lots of weeding and digging, it’s been a struggle, but I doggedly soldiered on.  Yesterday morning the ground was too wet to do any work (it been raining here 3 days), so I decided to do a bit of blog hopping.  I found some wonderful new sites and will add them to my sidebar soon.  On one blog they mentioned ‘no dig’ vegetable gardening and my fingers quickly clicked on the link to a marvellous video of a trial of traditional and no dig vegetable growing.  I struggled with the gentleman’s accent but got the gist very well.  Excited I googled ‘no dig’ gardening and then went on forest gardening and permaculture.  A wonderful morning spent learning.  I have decided to give ‘no dig’ a trial; I have 6 vegetable beds and will prepare 3 of them the ‘no dig’ way in preparation for next spring. Hedging my bets, ha ha!
Here is a link to some of Charles Dowding videos 

Lesson no 3. Always keep on challenging yourself.  I suppose all of us can get set in our ways, and don’t see that a change can beneficial to our goals in life.  I have been thinking over the last month or so that a mobility scooter would make my life a lot easier.  I don’t want the cost of running a car, as I don’t think the costs would outweigh the advantages.  But I want some independence, at the moment I rely on the kindness of friends and a limited bus service.  The friends I know are only too happy to help but I am conscious that it is awkward for them sometimes, the bus service is free and stops near my house but the times are not necessarily convenient.  Having a scooter would mean that I could shop around the stores for the necessities of life, I could visit friends or go to events without them having to pick me up and I would be free to leave at my convenience and not theirs. 

Anyways, the problem was I didn’t want to dig into my savings as they are earmarked for other things.  I have already started saving towards one but it was going to be a long road because they are about $4000 new or $2000 second hand.  Last night I went der….! I have been reading Jane’s challenge of living on $20 a week for 3 people.  I don’t want or need to so strict, but I could cut my food budget right down, my food larder and freezer are overflowing, I can barter with neighbours for the extras.  I worked out that $50 a week would enable me to live healthfully even if plainly.  It might mean more time preparing meals, but hey I am home all day.  I will also be able to save on electricity costs as I am having a heat pump installed, and also won’t have to spend so much on firewood.  I reckon that I will be able afford the scooter before next spring. Or, even sooner if I can find what I want second hand, which is ok as I wouldn’t want to use it much in winter.

I have decided to chart my progress once a week for this challenge on my blog as I hope it will keep me on the straight and narrow.  So here comes 6 months of tightening my belt, maybe figuratively and well as metaphorically, ha-ha.

Thanks for visiting an d see you next time,

Thursday, 16 February 2017

A forgotton Art

I have been reading a lot of “frugal” blogs lately.  All seem to agree that growing your own stuff is a big factor in paring down costs. 

As I have mentioned before I was unable to put in a proper summer vegetable garden due to my accident.  I do have stuff growing, that some friend planted for me when I was in hospital.  One of them was broccoli.  They put in 12 plants and now I have a massive glut.  I could freeze it but as I have a small freezer and I can grow it all year round, it seems a wasted effort.  But, it has worked out well...   While I was waiting for the bus last week, a neighbour popped out and asked whether I wanted any zucchini (my friend never put any zucchini in), would I ever, for some reason they are still expensive in the shops.  In the conversation, I mentioned I had a glut of broccoli, her eyes lit up.  So a swap was made.  She also mentioned that she only grew strawberries and zucchinis these days (she is in her 80’s), and that she was tired of eating strawberries every day. Well my strawberry patch was useless this year due to lack of attention in the spring.  But my blackberries are going to be a massive crop this year.  So we arranged that I will have some of her strawberries and give her some of my blackberries when they ripen. 

This made me think, in my childhood, I remember the neighbors swapping stuff with my parents, someone had lots of apple trees and we had lots of plum trees and so on.  So, as an experiment I knocked on a neighbour’s door who has a peach tree in her front garden with peaches rotting on the ground.  I asked her if she would mind if I took some peaches and I could give her some of my apples or plums when they were ready.  Well she almost gave me a huge hug!  The peach tree was there when she moved in and didn’t want to chop it down as it provided some shade in the summer, but she can’t stand peaches!  But she loves apples, so a swap was arranged, I have peaches and when my apples are ready I will supply (I have 3 apple trees so it will be no hardship!).  Now I have 3 baskets of peaches to preserve, and more to come.  She also told me that she had planted too many tomatoes, would I like some.  Yes I would, would she like some free range eggs as a friend from the country always brings me a dozen every week in exchange for some editing and graphic design of a newsletter for her business.  Yes she would.

The moral of all of this is even if you can’t grow something or your crop has failed for some reason the old barter system is a wonderful way to be thrifty.  It has a plus side, it is a way to get to know your neighbours and create a caring community feel that is fast disappearing from modern life.

Another thing I have learnt in the last week or so, where there is a will there is a way!  I have been desperate to get out into the garden and get on with preparing my Autumn and Winter vegetable plot.  Being on crutches has hindered that desire, not any longer I have discovered that spades and forks make wonderful crutches and I can garden after a fashion!!  It is tiring but I can do it and it is amazing that 10 minutes actually adds up quite quickly.  Luckily my hips are quite good and bending is not a problem.  I am also sure that it will be good for the healing process as well.

Well that is it for today, hope to see you soon.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

The 3 "C"s - Cats,Crochet and Cakes

It has been several weeks since I have posted!  I have been under the weather and had to rest up.  I took the opportunity to get stuck into my obsession – crochet.  One project which only took one hour or so and as a result have got hooked on washcloths!  This dish cloth has been in constant use and I will be making more.

When I was in the wool shop buying some cotton, I saw the many wonderful colours that wool comes in these days.  How I resisted I don t know.  Maybe it was the thought of all that wool in my trunk from my tapestry kit making days.  Needless to say I got some of the wool out and within a week had completed this small throw and a cushion cover  to match (Well to be honest I still have the backing of the cushion to crochet).  I draped the throw on the bed and went to get my camera.  Came back and what do I see my lovely cats firmly ensconced.  What is even more remarkable these two never sleep near each other.

Ever since it has been a battle to get them off it, Bro the black one usually spends the day outdoors, but for the last week he has been inside a lot on this little throw.  I have given up, it is theirs!

So, I fished out of my trunk some more wool, big hanks of Paterna wool.  There will be enough to make a proper sized blanket.  I have already made great inroads on it.  Crochet is so easy to do in bed or listening to the radio.  It is very addictive.

I am feeling a lot better now and yesterday was back firing on all of my cylinders.  But it was pouring with rain so I couldn’t get into the garden.  I have always wanted to make a teapot cozy, so trawled the internet for patterns.  I didn’t really want to do any I saw, I want a homey one!  There are some astonishing  tea cozies out there!  So decided to do a plain one and sew flowers on it.  How to do flowers?  Well I found a wonderful blog Attic 24 with instructions .  So I spent the morning doing Lucy’s tutorials with odd scraps of wool.  I feel quite chuffed; all I needed to do was make the cozy!  Completed last night.  Tah Dah!

So feeling pleased with myself this morning, I duck out in the rain to view what could be picked for dinner (I like to have my main meal midday,) and saw a few stalks of Rhubarb appearing.  Not enough to make a bowl full, but enough to make my favourite cakey dessert that my grandmother used to bake a lot.  The fruit can be varied according what you have on hand.  I didn’t really have enough rhubarb so added one apple.  (It is rather special if the fruit has a tang to it.)

Gran’s Fruity Cakey Dessert


1 ¼ cups s/r flour or plain flour with 1 ½ tsp BP
¾ cup sugar
120g melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
Topping – fruit of choice
2 tbsp. sugar


Combine flour, sugar, butter vanilla and eggs.  Put in greased pan and top with chopped fruit.  Sprinkle the sugar on top and bake 180 Celsius for up to one hour.  Serve with custard, cream or plain yogurt.  This really freezes well.

All in all a productive few days.
See you again soon.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Best laid plans of men and mice.....

Not long after my last post I was involved in a car crash and that turned my world upside down!  All my plans went out the window, my garden became a haven for weeds, and the simple life became very simple indeed – looking out at the world from my window!  If it wasn’t for my crochet, I think I would have sunk into deep depression.  Being disabled is not fun.  But I am a fighter and with the help of God’s grace I have been able to begin to have a semblance of normal life.  I am still on crutches, but on good days only need one and it will get better.

Hope and Thrift, a blog I rediscovered when I saw it in my sidebar (I hadn’t even visited my own blog as it seem to spell out all my lost dreams of retirement.) when I came to delete my blog.  Thank you Jane for giving me hope, your blog was the lightbulb moment that made me realize that I could still live a Simple life as I planned although with modifications.

With that lightbulb moment came help from some friends at my church, they made up a working party and set to and are in the process of cleaning up my garden and making it easier for me to keep tidy.  I am very blessed to have these people in my life.

The goal is to have everything ship shape by autumn (it’s too hot to plant new vegetables here now) and have some raised beds for a Winter garden and then reassess things in Spring, by which time hopefully I will have thrown my crutches away!

Meanwhile I decided to keep this blog going and chronicle my steps on this path, perhaps somewhere someone will be encouraged by my path.

Every day I plan to count my blessings, just the simple things.  So some posts will just state my blessings for that day and some will have a bit more meat!
So without further ado, three blessings for today:

1. It rained last night, real heavy!  The ground needed it as it is tinder dry.  It has also cooled the air and today feels fresh and invigorating.
2. My plum trees are laden with fruit, so I see a jam making and preserving session coming on.
3. I have enough provisions in the cupboards, and won’t need to go out till late next week. (Even enough sugar to make plum jam!)

So a happy New Year and may all that you hope for comes.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Taking Stock

It is a cold misty morning and I am surveying my garden with despair, so much work to do and it is so sodden!  Time to rap my knuckles!  These are the days when you take stock.  I thought about what I wrote in my last post about planning.  I must not be such a hard taskmaster.

I realised that I could, if I wanted to, survive off my plot now.  I did a quick accounting of what I have growing – silverbeet (Swiss chard), swede, carrots, celeriac, celery, kale, yams, leeks, red cabbage, some manky Brussels Sprouts and some tough as boots turnips.  Also some broccoli and spring cabbage lurking about in the flowerbed by the house!  This is not counting the beans (green and broad), sweetcorn and broccoli in the freezer the pumpkins in the wash house and a multitude of bottled fruit and jams and pickles.  I realize that my problem is that I am focusing on all the weedy bare patches and that I didn't grow enough potatoes, onions and that my succession sowing was a bit hit and miss. For example, it is an ideal time to be harvesting cauliflowers, but I didn't put any in.  So, time to stop being negative and concentrate on the positive.  Also, I am so blessed to be living in an area where we can have a winter garden.

Here the snow stays on the ranges and we only get snow about once every 20 years.  This view is about 500 metres from my home.

The mist seems to be dispersing so I am going to venture out there to sow my broad beans! No peas this year, when I went to the garden centre to buy seeds, I was told that the Wairarapa can’t grow peas till 2018!  Apparently, our area has pea weevil and as there are commercial growers in our area, they are banned even for home gardeners.  The broad beans are seeds I saved from last year and I think I will sow them in punnets as even the ground that is under plastic tunnels is so wet, I am sure they would rot.  I have a plastic greenhouse that should suit them, but I think I am going to move it to a more sheltered spot as last week’s winds tried to make a kite out of it!  I had to tie it to the fence!

Later, Beans in.  .Now some soup – my take on a Pumpkin Soup.   Like all Kiwis I love Pumpkin Soup - it is almost a national dish.  But I said I was going to ring the changes.  So, I am adding Bacon, Potato and some spices, and a sprinkling of Swiss cheese.

 Spicy Pumpkin Soup

800 gm small pumpkin, squash or butternut approx peeled
200 gm potato peeled
1 onion sliced
half leek sliced
2 rashers of smoky middle bacon cut into pieces
clove garlic crushed
vegetable stock cube crumbled, or your favourite stock
half teaspoon cumin and 2 teaspoons coriander both ground.
Salt and pepper to taste
chilly flakes or grated cheese for garnish

Fry onion and leek in tablespoon of oil, add garlic, then add spices and fry for a minute or so.  Add diced bacon.
Chop pumpkin and potato into small chunks add to pan, stir and then add stock cube and cover with water.
Cook at a slow simmer for twenty minutes; do not overcook as you want the pieces of pumpkin to stay whole.  That’s it.  You can add cream, or a sprinkling of chilly flakes or some grated cheese. Serve with chunky home made bread.

Tip: When cutting up the pumpkin cut into wedges and microwave for a couple of minutes, it will be easier to peel.

This weekend a friend visited and presented me with a huge bag of walnuts, my favourite nut, so I have been cracking them open and putting in storage jars. I will leave half of them in their shells as they stay fresher that way.  I love them, one of my favourite recipes is in an Apple and Walnut cake, maybe next time I will share the recipe.

That is it for today, so till next time have a great week and thanks for visiting.

Saturday, 6 August 2016


I have been thinking a lot about this blog, I have neglected it shamefully, it is a good time to make changes as I am a new stage in my life, I retired officially  at the beginning of the year, but have been foundering a bit lately, its seems I am busier than when I was working!  I realise that many friends and family thinking I was retired that I could be at their beck and call.  It has made me realise that I want and need a quiet life, not to be running hither and thither! So, I am starting to learn how to say no.  I want to have time to savour my garden, produce good food, and have time to reflect on and enjoy the simple things of life.  By doing this I hope I will be able to give my friends and family quality time.  So I have given my blog a face lift and made a commitment to myself to slow down.

We are in the thick of winter, and it is so easy to sit back and enjoy the warmth of indoors!  Not so, for a gardener who wants to be able to live of her small urban plot. 

My winter garden
 Spring is around the corner and it is time to think about and order seeds. Every year, I have made a promise to myself that I was going to try and be self-sufficient in Vegetables and Fruit.  Every year I failed.  Why?  I could blame the weather for a bad harvest!  I am sorry to say, however that is not the real reason – I am not a very organised gardener, I am haphazard and easily seduced by exotics!  I cannot go past something that is different and strange! I plant them in ground that should really be put aside for the basics.  For instance I need to grow more potatoes especially at the price they are now in the shops $3 a kilo, I ask you! You use to be able to buy 10 kilo bags, but as they are so dear now they probably know people won’t or can’t to afford to buy, even at a special price.

So, taking in account my weaknesses, I have decided to make my vegetable garden bigger, I can use my front garden, which I have tended to ignore, for a wonderful display of flowers.  Knowing me, a vegetable or two might pop in, well there is a grape vine already!  As to the problem of my bad organisation skills I am going to solve by posting more on this blog. I am hoping it will keep me focused. I have made a commitment to sustain myself with my garden. 

To whet my appetite - I am going to include recipes for my produce.  I love to cook, but sometimes get a bit lazy and just do the same recipes over and over, get bored and then end up throwing the surplus in the compost bin, which is not very thrifty.  So I am going to try to include recipes that are new to me or variations of the usual. 

Tomato Muffins and a Salad
To help me I have my three cats who supervise my activities very carefully and will provide necessary humour. . As any gardener will tell you have to have a sense of humour when gardening or you may well run inside screaming when your carefully tended crop has been pecked to pieces by the local birds, snails and slugs feast on your newly planted lettuces, cats scratch up your seed bed. Ambrose and Zana boss me about, and Lucy supervises from the window, making sure a spot for her toilette is provided!  They provide companionship and are so funny with their antics
Zana (in the chair) and Ambrose enjoying the shade in my quiet spot last summer

It is time to plant peas and broad beans, and if the weather forecast is correct for tomorrow it will just right for a yummy big pot of soup, I wonder.......