Monday, January 31, 2011

Frugal Grocery February -Week 1

A couple of weeks ago I had this idea that it might be good to look at challenging myself by living frugally for a month in February. I mentioned it in a post here , and since a few people said they wouldn't mind hopping along for the ride I posted about how I was going to do it here.

Welcome to Week 1!  In  the interest of being honest and real, I wanted to share with you what I'm dealing with here because it will explain why I absolutely need to do this. These  are two of my three freezers ...

300 litres of space

425 litres of space -chock full of food

And this is what 300 litres of food looks like spread out on a bench. Before you ask -those frozen  bananas are for cake. Waste not - want not.

There is enough meat alone there for over 40 meals. Ridiculous. I'm too ashamed to tell you what's in the bigger freezer.

Now that I've publicly confessed to being  a food hoarder (hey at least I keep it in appropriate places - not like some of those people on Hoarders that keep mouldy food on their lounge room floors -yuk) we can all move on. Admitting you have a problem is the first step.  Over the next month , I'm not putting anything more in those freezers. I'm only allowed to take stuff out of them. Not buying crazy meat bargains is probably going to kill me.

My menu plan is all done ....(see how truly anal organised I am? )

If you want to use the same menu plan you can download it for free here . I love this menu planner because I can write my grocery list on it as well.

I'm a little  freaked out about seeing my actual handwriting on the Internet . Like weird stalkers all over Adelaide will be watching now to see who buys just ham, pepperoni , tomato and milk at the shops this week so they can say "I know who you are"...

Becks Exploding Burgers will make an appearance. They don't really explode - they just did the first time I made them. It must have been the gunpowder. They still tasted fantastic and have become a regular meal at our house. Easy, Cheap and a crowd pleaser.

Kirsten's Yogurt Parfaits is on the menu because it just sounded so divine. I stewed up some apricots, peaches and apples a few days ago and chucked them in the freezer in preparation. I cannot tell you how glad I am that I met Kirsten. Her blog has provided an opportunity for me to try a lot of new recipes over the last year, most of which I make over and over.  I cheated and bought butternut snap biscuits to crumble up in place of her homemade ones. Hey -I'm back at work this week. Just keeping it real people.

Lots of sandwiches this week for lunches because I want to use up the bread  that's taking up scads of room in my freezer, plus it's going to be really hot here this week. It was sandwiches or ice blocks and my dental hygienist tells me sugar is bad for your teeth.

I budget $150.00 a week for my entire grocery shop which works out to $600.00 bucks for February.  I'm aiming to only spend $300.00 . That's my goal. Out there - in the open. I'm pretty confident I can do it. The beauty of this is that I don't really have to change my eating habits- I just have to use what I already have!

I can't wait to see what you do if you decide to join me.  Leave a comment so I can be sure to visit!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

All Good Things Must Come to an End -Quilts and Holidays

Back to work tomorrow. (insert hysterical sob here)  The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of activity in preparation because basically I sat on my bum for three weeks doing - I don't know what I did,  but  I could do with a couple of extra weeks of that kind of vague-ness. At 5pm tonight all I wanted to do was go have a Nanna nap.  At bedtime tonight,  I won't be able to sleep. Sometimes I think my name should be Mary Mary Quite Contrary.

The mail this week was lots of fun.

A surprise parcel from Erin at My Patchwork Life  arrived.   Erin knows I LOVE repro fabric. It's 400 degrees here today so all the curtains and outside shutters are down which is why this isn't the best picture I've ever taken. There is no way I'm venturing outside to take photos because there is a  very real danger I would spontaneously combust.


Thank you Erin! They're beautiful and were such a surprise.

I ordered some gorgeous Punctuation fabric a week ago for a quilt for Little P and it arrived within 7 days. Thank You Fabric Shack. (You cant beat $6.00 postage either!)

 Does anyone else think Jelly Rolls don't look half as alluring once they're unrolled?

Along with the fabric I received a parcel from Elizabeth.

An apron. Check out those fabrics. Very me.

A stack of quilty pink and brown fabrics.

Marshmallow Creme. Im going to have so much fun with this stuff.

An Abbey bag. I've been secretly envious of everyone who has won one from Elizabeth in the last year. Now I have my own. Thank You Elizabeth. (*Edited to add : Elizabeth has just posted a tutorial to make an Abbey Bag on her blog - so pop on over to see how you can make your own !)

While op shopping this week  I found two fabric panels for Little P - who loves "mo mo ". I'm seeing a mo mo quilt in my future.

I bought a BOX of batting this week. None of this namby pamby "I'll have 4 metres of that thanks" for me! Only truly serious quilters buy their batting in boxes. I had a 30% off coupon so this was a crazy bargain.  It would have been stupid not to buy the box right? Now I'm set until about September.

And....I pulled my finger out and finished the windmill quilt. Quilted, Bound and washed. Someone has christened this quilt "When Pastels Turn Sad" and I'm running with that because I thought it was the most perfect quilt name EVER. Thanks Becks.

 I'm  doing the happy dance because after a year - this one is DONE!

And finally, I gardened. This is monumental because these garden beds have been waiting for a year for plants. I finally bought some and put them in this week. Hopefully they'll survive and by this time next year we'll have lush greenery as you sweep up the staircase.  Look -I even mulched!

Lola left them alone for a whole 24 hours and then dug a few up just to remind me of how much I hate gardening and how pointless it all is.  The neighbours were treated to a plethora of minor swear words at 7am this morning when I discovered the plants/dirt /mulch all over my paving.

Anyone want to adopt a naughty dog? Going Cheap! 

My Goals for this week are :
To sew for 30 minutes each night
To survive the week back at work
To get Mr. P's quilt basted

Wish me luck - I have a feeling these are lofty goals!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Frugal Grocery February

I mentioned in a post earlier this week that I was planning to do Frugal February again. I’ve just inventoried my stockpile and we have so much food I can't fit anything else in my freezers.  Half of me is patting myself on the back and other half is horrified at how much I have.
Some of you expressed an interest in giving this a try.  There really are no hard and fast rules. Everyone’s grocery budget is different so I can't arbitrarily say what people should spend. You need to come up with your own goal for your grocery budget for the month.  A 30% reduction for a month ? 50% ? I did this challenge this time last year and spent about half of my usual budget. I'm going for the same target this year. Our weekly budget is less this year since our household size has halved but I think I can still do it.  
So here is my plan :
Armed with my freezer inventory I'm going to make a menu plan each week based around what food I already have. Then I'll only spend money on what is necessary to pad out my planned menu. That's likely to be things like fruit, vegetables, bread and milk.

My grocery shopping total will include everything I normally buy including cleaning items, toilet paper, toothpaste and other personal care items.  Since I already have 108 toilet rolls here we probably wont need to buy bog paper. I'm always planning for a gastro outbreak. And for the washing powder factory to go on strike.

I'll post my main meal menus each week so you can see we aren't living on canned spaghetti or two minute noodles week in and week out.

My goals are to save money, still eat well,  and start clearing out those freezers. I am a serial meat buyer and this is going to mean some significant change on my part for February since my plan is to buy no meat at all.

I'll report back weekly with a post on Mondays and the next weeks menu plan. You can link up if you're playing so other participants can see how you're doing.  I suspect this is going to make for some interesting and creative meals. Feel free to share recipes, frugal tips and whatever else you like! It's amazing what you can make with what you already have stashed in your cupboards /pantry and freezer if you engage in a bit of pre-planning.

The challenge starts February 1st and runs through to February 28th inclusive. To make it interesting,   I'm going to offer a prize to the person who saves the most percentage wise off their groceries for the month . If you're overseas I'll send you a little something Aussie to pop in  your pantry in March- how does that sound? And if you're Australian and you win, I'll send you something fabulously South Australian. We'll work on the honour system here - at the end of the month you email me the percentage you saved based on your normal budget and I'll take you at your word and announce a winner. In the case of two people getting the exact same percentage we'll let random number thingy choose the winner.

So who wants to play and how much do you think you can shave off your grocery budget for February?


Friday, January 28, 2011

Favourite Things Friday

Welcome to this little linky party we like to call Favourite Things Friday. It's simple to join in. Write a post about one of your favourite things and link up at the bottom of this post. Then people will troop around and look at your favourite thing. I never cease to be amazed by some of the favourites that pop up each week. FTF is all about writing about something you love. 

So this week  I was surfing the Internet for lack of anything better to do. (I really need to go back to work - I can just see that if I didn't work I'd turn into a complete Internet /couch potato ) when I stumbled across a  reference to a conspiracy theory and before I knew it - I was googling like a mad woman to see what other conspiracy theories were out there. There are heaps. I'd never really thought about them in depth before.

The definition of conspiracy is a secret agreement between two or more people to perform an unlawful act /a group of conspirators banded together to achieve some harmful or illegal purpose.

There's the kind of "out there " conspiracies. There are utterly ridiculous conspiracy theories. And there are some "there -could-be-a-grain-of truth-in that " theories too.

Did you know that Elvis didn't really die in '77? He's in witness protection because he got fed up with being famous.  Paul McCartney was replaced by a look a like in '66 when he died in a car accident, there  are photo's on the Internet that allegedly prove it, and apparently 20% of Americans believe the moon landings were fake.

The biggest conspiracy theory in Australia's history is that Harold Holt (Australian Prime Minister 1966-67) was murdered or became a communist spy for the Chinese when he allegedly disappeared off Cheviot beach in 1967, while in office. The likely outcome , that he drowned and was eaten by sea creatures, is too simple to be true apparently.

In Australia we have our own Area 51 and it's called Pine Gap. If you believe the conspiracy theorists we're doing all sorts of secret experiments /living with the aliens there.  Ditto Area 51 in Nevada US. That's where the Roswell UFO wreckage /weather balloon (take your pick ) ended up. The governments involved are keeping it from us because they don't want a mass panic or to share the alien knowledge with us just yet.

Two of the most well known conspiracy theories arose after the assassination of JFK and the 9/11 attacks.  If you google any either of those subjects it brings up a ton of references. One reference on the Internet states that over 50% of people feel Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. The 9/11 attacks have conspiracy theorists all in a lather for two possible reasons, did the government have advance warning and do nothing to stop it or were they involved?

Princess Diana's death was not an accident if you believe in conspiracy theory. Nup - she was done in by members of MI5 because she was too popular and might have married someone the Queen didn't like.

Some supposition is just downright wacky- like the people in power such as world political leaders and royalty are in fact lizards in human disguise, and bar codes are intended to control people.

So my favourite thing this week is conspiracy theories. Some of them may well have some merit- some are just downright ridiculous but whatever the case is they provided me with hours of amusement and entertainment this week. Some also stimulated a lot of thought.  

The truth is out there. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Post About Nothing

Oh good - you're all still here . It's been so long since I posted I wondered if when I came back you might have wandered off to read other more committed bloggers.  My only excuse for not being here is that  "I sat in the computer chair for 5 days until it moulded to my butt shape " isn't exactly a riveting blog post title.

It's Australia Day today so we celebrated the day by eating Aussie food in our pyjamas. Vegemite for breakfast- snags and sauce for lunch and roast lamb for dinner. I also spent the day talking in an Aussie accent. I'm really good at Aussie accents....

I had hoped to bring you Mr. P's completed Loungin' Around quilt a few days ago, but the quilting deities decided it was not to be.  I wasted 2 hours basting, then another two hours unbasting and attempting to stick the backing to the floor with 83 different kinds of tape and it just wasn't happening. If I could have used the staple gun I would have - it just seemed pretty extreme, not to mention detrimental to the tiles. Eventually I spat the dummy, cried and told the quilting gods what I really thought.  It wasn't pretty. It involved a lot of profanity. Bad profanity and 400 basting pins sailing through the air.  So  I decided to ignore Loungin' Around for a while. It's gone to the naughty cupboard. Mr. P confessed that  if I had dragged it out again today he was planning to go to a mates house to watch the cricket and he doesn't even like cricket.

I spent a few days pondering whether quilting and I are really suited to a long term relationship. What do we really have in common? Can we make this work?

By today I was going crazy with sewing inactivity so I decided to whip up some Dresden's since I have sadly neglected the poor Dresden quilt for a few weeks.  Dresden's  are mindless and repetitive and hard to stuff up. I got 6 done.  More than halfway home. I still like this quilt.

Confidence restored I decided to tackle the windmill quilt this afternoon.You all know my history with this quilt. It exists to taunt me. It has been poking it's tongue at me for over a year. Today I dragged it out of the cupboard and hand sewed all the mistakes. It took me quite a while. There were lots.

Then I finished piecing the backing too...I was too lazy to smooth it out properly for the photo op...

On to the dreaded basting next. I'll wait for Mr. P to be at work since he's still recovering from my last attempt....

I bought some new fabric  (Sara made me do it )  She posted about these fabrics on her blog and I realised they would be perfect for Little P's next quilt.

Unfortunately I have vowed to finish 2 quilts before I start another new one. That'll leave me with two Phd's. I'll feel justified in starting something new. A girl needs a few projects on the go at once to stave off boredom. 
I'm back to work next week (where did that 3 weeks go?) so I am going to spend the next few days in a frenzy of activity doing everything that has been left undone.  I'm currently on the hunt for some turn buttons  that are proving to be the most elusive doodads on the planet. 

I'm making February Frugal Grocery Month....stick around for that! Since I cannot fit another single thing in any of my three freezers I doubt we're going to starve. Anyone else want to play along? Last year I got really creative by using what I already had and saved 500 bucks for the month. (That amount of money can buy a lot of sewing related items!)  

P.S. One more coat on the dining room table and it's done!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

This Week I Lost My Brain

The week started off with such promise. I had massive plans to achieve concrete and crafty things. House renovation type things. To look back and see a clean sparkling house.

I researched and bought a new printer. I think it has a higher IQ than I do. It scans, it prints, it photocopies. I’m fairly sure it’s working on a solution for world peace (or world domination ) as we speak.

I reupholstered another chair. Now I have a matching set of 4 which is always a bonus when you’re going for a cohesive matched look instead of the uni poverty look. The second coat of primer got done on the table. So far so good.

Tuesday it was back to the dentist (yay- I typed dentist without hurling !) which was frankly pretty darn brave of me. I have to have a wisdom tooth out which is a worry because I can’t afford to be any stupider. The hygienist worked her magic  and now I can’t stop smiling at my awesome white teeth. I'm doing a lot of mirror time.

The sparkly smile triggered something and all of a sudden I have started obsessively channelling my inner girl so this week has been  completely unproductive from an achievement point of view , unless you count spending bazillions of dollars on oneself productive.

I went and had my hair done . Three colours, a six inch cut, a blow dry and 230 bucks later I looked frankly amazing so I went and got waxed because the wild crazy lady of Borneo look is so 5 minutes ago and my Mediterranean look upper lip hair so wasn’t vibing with the oh so awesome hair.

Tragically , I then went clothes shopping. I bought this

and  this
and this

and this ...yes..heaven forbid I bought a dress...

Then I decided that the new clothes and my boobs deserved new bras.   Let me just say It’s a wonderful feeling to have boobs at boob level rather than waist level. My bra collection was looking pretty manky. Does anyone else hate bra shopping as much as I do? I just want to cry every time I have to do it. I see all these chicks pulling cute 12 B's and C's off the racks and just want to punch them. 14E/F just plain sucks.

I bought new makeup, earrings, hair doodads, handbags and shoes. I went a little nuts. Usually I think I'm rocking if I remember to get out of my pyjamas. This is not me at all..who the hell is this person who took over my brain?

Mr. P wonders where his wife has gone. He wants her back.

I'm stomping off to be crafty. This madness simply has to stop. Right after I moisturise and paint  my toenails.  

P.S. I'm wearing that dress tonight. In honour of my MIL's birthday. Watch Mr. P's family keel over. Last time they saw me in a dress was when we got married.

P.P.S. Happy 18th birthday Nephew of Pyjamas. I swear if you let me and your Mum come out on the town with you tonight we wont cramp your style...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Favourite Things Friday

Welcome to Favourite Things Friday for another week. I'm looking forward to seeing what creative and fabulous favourites people share this week.

Want to link up? Want to share your favourite thing this Friday? You can! It's as easy as writing a post  and linking up at the bottom of this post. Or you can just visit some of the other participants to have a squizz at their favourite things. Either way - you're in for some entertainment.

I'm late with FTF today . Little P and Miss P did a sleepover here last night so I'm up to my eyeballs in 18 month old distractions and vegemite toast and it was my nephew's 18th party last night  so all sorts of unusual things have been happening. Anyway ...

Confession Time. In this house we are partial to cartoons which is kind of odd since we dont have any young people living here. We plead guilty to immaturity in the Pyjamas house.

I'm not talking about Bugs Bunny , or Magilla Gorilla (Does anyone remember the Funky Phantom and Great Grape Ape?) I'm talking about adult cartoons that are shown , sometimes questionably, on public television.

Way back in 1987 it all started with the Simpsons.

The Simpsons has give us some great catch phrases that have made their way into popular culture including D'oh! and Marge's "grrrrrrrrrrrrrr"

Then came South Park. I love South Park. Pure genius.

Favourite lines :"Those bastard's killed Kenny" , "Mmkay" and Cartman screaming 'Respect my authority!' Hilarious.
Futurama  - the story of a 21st century dude accidentally cryogenically frozen for 1000 years and then brought back to life.

American Dad - the story of an uptight CIA agent and his family, which includes an illegal alien (a real outer space alien - not the other kind )  Very funny.

Family Guy is the story of Peter Griffin, his wife Lois, their kids Meg , Chris and Stewie. They also have a talking dog who likes to drink cocktails, Brian. Stewie their one year old baby who is intent on world domination and is constantly plotting world domination and making death rays, and coming up with plans to kill his own mother. This family takes dysfunction to a whole new level.

Does anyone else love cartoons or do I have a serious problem?  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mrs. P Goes Grocery Shopping

I often grizzle when people post recipes because some of the ingredients aren't available in Australia. Never heard of Crisco before the internet exploded.   I have to rely on the generosity of people who take pity on my practically Oreo-less state since we have two kinds of them here , one of which I wouldn't touch with a barge pole.  Butterscotch chips - forget it. No such thing.

Shopping in other countries seems so exotic to me. You can get cheese in a pressure can, milk duds , and apple jacks.  You can buy Walkers crisps and Twiglets which are unheard of in Australia.

Mrs. Seams Inspired and I were emailing back and forth a couple of weeks ago when we got the brilliant idea to compare a weekly grocery shop. And then we got the even brilliant-er idea to share it with all of you. 

So today you're all invited to an international grocery shop. One post here about my shopping trip and another at Seams Inspired about shopping in her corner of the world. 

By the way,  I looked like some weirdo stalker walking round furtively taking pictures of my shopping trip. These are the lengths I will go to  in order to bring you hard hitting grocery information. Other random facts about Australian shopping include our 10% goods and services tax. With groceries this is built into the price of items. It doesn't apply to fresh foods or basics like eggs, sugar, flour, or coffee. It does apply to things like soft drink , personal care items, and cleaning goods.

Welcome to my local grocery store. This is where I drag myself when the Pyjamas household is in serious danger of starving. I worked out for this post that approximately $120,000 of my hard earned dollars has ended up in their coffers over the last 10 years.

First stop toilet paper. I paid $4.99 on special for a dozen rolls. That was a middle of the road brand.

Shampoo and Conditioner. I usually buy mine somewhere other than the supermarket . I think it's well documented in my blog that I am a shampoo snob.

Toothpaste - In the olden days before toothpaste was invented people used to rub their teeth with sticks. Toothpaste costs anywhere from a dollar on special for the generic  up to about 4.00 for a 170 gram tube of Colgate. You can get Colgate at the discount grocery stores here for about half that price but it has foreign writing on it. Is it the same toothpaste? Probably not but it's hard to make an informed opinion when you don't read Vietnamese.

Aussies love tomato sauce. That's about half the selection we have available.

This is the pitiful selection of Oreo's. The wafer sticks are dis-gus-ting. Thank you to everyone who has taken pity on me and sent me Oreo's. Now you know why this is necessary. By the way Tee Vee snacks are awesome and if you don't get them - you're really missing out. Ditto Tim Tams.   A box of Oreo's is about $3.11 I think. (I never look - I just buy them )

The meat section. I think I've mentioned we aren't that big on turkey here and to completely make me look like a liar they have a whole section of it . I'd just like to point out this shopping trip was less than two weeks after Christmas which is one of the few times turkey even gets a look in.

This is what Americans call ground meat . In Australia it's known as mince, and it costs anywhere from $7.00 a kilo to $13.00 a kilo for beef mince.($3.20 to $5.90 a pound) Pork, lamb and chicken mince start at around 10.00 a kilo.   

Cereal anyone? I am rather partial to the occasional bowl of coco pops. A 17 oz box of cereal here will cost between 5 and 8 dollars. Weetbix is a lot cheaper than the sugar laden variety. I bought a kilo box a couple of weeks ago for about $4.00.

In my part of  Australia this stuff is called bung fritz. Everyone else calls it Devon. I'm led to believe this is similar to baloney . It costs $10.99 a kilo. (for manufactured meat ) Only God knows what's in it.

Australia has awesome cheeses. This is the mass manufactured stuff.  The better the cheese the higher you pay. You're looking at around $10.99 for a kilo (2.2 pound) block of middle of the road type/popular brand cheese. A 16 oz block of Kraft Cheese ( Australian Velveeta) is about $6.50.

Fruits and Vegies. Loose apples were $5.99 a kilo. Our prices fluctuate from week to week. 5 kilos (11 pounds ) of spuds cost me $5.99 which is about average.

Sometimes you'll get strawberries for $1.99 for a 250 gram punnet .Other weeks you'll pay $3.99. Mangoes were $2.99 each this day.

My fruit and vegie bill included watermelon at $3.59 , truss tomatoes at 5.99 bananas at 2.89  and peaches at $5.99. All prices per kilo.

 That's an aussie trolley. Nothing exciting there.

That's my shopping bill being rung up. It ended up being $267.00. I'll probably spend another 50 bucks or so until my next big shop. I'm trying fortnightly shops at the moment since it's just the two of us.

See how green and ecologically aware I am? I bring my own reusable bags to the shops because if you don't,  they make you pay for biodegradable bags because regular plastic bags are illegal in this state.  If you don't bring your own bags people look at you like you're an environmental murderer. That's some serious peer pressure.

So here is some of my personal damage. Gyspy ham and silverside for sandwiches $13.99 and $7.99 a kilo respectively.

There is enough meat here for 9-10 meals (27 loin chops, 6  chicken boobies, a kilo of mince and a chicken rolled roast ) and it cost me $55.00. The lamb chops were about 7.99 a kilo and the chicken breasts were 10.99 a kilo. I noticed lamb roasts were on special today for about $9.59 a kilo. You can buy a 2 kilo fresh chicken here for around $11.00-$12.00, or $9.99 on special.

Milk - the biggest container you can get here is 3 litres which is 780 mls short of a US gallon. As far as I'm concerned milk is milk. It's not like some farmer is out there milking a snake to sell you the cheap stuff. It's all from cows.  Butter 2.99 for 500 grams, milk 3.74 for three litres, philly cream cheese  3.77 for 250 grams. The yoghurt was $5.02 for a kilo tub.

Eggs vary hugely in price here . Free range. cage eggs, grain fed, different sizes. You can pay anywhere from about $1.99 to almost $5.00 a dozen. These were on special for $1.99. I usually won't pay more than about $3.50 a dozen.

Washing powder- 500grams 1.84 (huge special )
Panadol 24 capsules $3.48
Spray and Wipe- $2.99

The cheapest bread is about $2.29 for 680 grams ( a normal sized loaf ) up to $4.50 for a high end loaf that has actual seeds and taste.  I pretty much go the cheaper version for toast and the good stuff if I'm making sandwiches. Bakery breads are a better option most of the time in my opinion.

I cant believe I didn't take tea and coffee pictures! 100 tea bags will cost around $4.00. 200 grams of decent instant coffee (Moccona or Nescafe Gold ) is around $14.00. I got Nescafe for just under 10.00 on special with this trip.

I have shopping down to a fine art. Shopping with me is a bit like ram raiding without smashed glass and all the illegal behaviour. I know what I want. I know where everything is. I get in, get what I want  and I'm outta there. I can do my fortnightly grocery shop and be home unloading the car in about 45 minutes flat.

However when I take Miss P this little junket extends to a two hour shop-fest.  Because she still has to touch and play with everything....

Don't forget to pay Larri a visit to see what she got up to with her groceries. I bet she didn't have to wrangle an unruly 20 year old.