The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 1st January 2016!

Welcome to 2016! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.  We did. It was beautiful.  I got what I wanted the most... Dad had a great Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed himself. I took a heap of photos of him nursing Harper and holding her hand!

Thank you for all the Christmas wishes! I truly hope everyone was as lucky as me this year and had many blessings.
The weather was hot. Andy came home and have me two extra days at the farm. He watered the garden and looked after the animals. This was a real gift as I got extra time with my family and time to think and plan.
I did true Vicky style "revisiting" the whole year and made a lot of plans and changes.
The new year presents this opportunity for such a review. Being away from home and some quiet time really helped me to do that.

I started my new planner and wrote in all the big things of 2015 and things I have to be grateful for. Then I start my plans for the new year. I have big and small things. Focus on my health is one. Paint the house is another!

Some of the ways I saved money since last Friday post are:

We had days of amazing food Mum made and ate too much. This was Mum's beautiful Christmas pudding...

Mum makes many of these and uses some as gifts. They keep a long time too. Next year I should make a tutorial on these.

Mum gave me honey from the farm. It is beautiful.

A local fisherman gave Dad a crayfish. He shared this with Andy who loves it. Plus gave Andy some to bring home for that night. He ate a ton of it I think. Then I found out it had been $118 a kilo! This crayfish must have weight well over that maybe two kilos so I told Andy had just ate a hundred dollars worth lol.

There were a lot of us on Christmas Day. I was the only one wanting to collect the left over paper and ribbons etc. You should see how much ribbon I got! Some of it was gorgeous glitter ribbon and metres of it. Plus some lovely paper suitable to re use or use on cards etc.

I painted and decorated the big jar my Aunt gave me to add to my collection.

We continued to pick about a cup of cherry tomatoes a day. I was able to give away some too.

Some of the ways we feathered our nest since last post are:

A beautiful Christmas all together.

Andy pressure cleaned the whole yard front and back.

I packed away the Christmas decorations and tree etc as I always do before Jan 1 and had a big clean.

Then I started on re organizing the lounge room, having a re arrange and re painting the coffee table. Its amazing how a re arrange freshens things up. (except I haven't finished this yet!)

Some ways I got ahead are:

All the jars my aunt gave me have got me ahead with jar supplies for preserves.

From all my hand made gifts and also bargain gifts I ended up with left overs. I now have several birthday presents already organized for January and February. I love being ahead with gifts.

From collecting ribbons, cards I made and wrap Mimi made me I am way ahead on gift giving supplies.

This year I am going to talk more about ways to get ahead as little by little this is a big help.

This is Mum serving the Christmas pudding with her assistant, Georga.

I am excited about the year. New goals and aims and things to look forward to.  Many families are facing big challenges. I already know of quite a few who know they have significant income loss or large increases in costs. Or both. It seems a common theme. If this is you I can tell you there are several ladies who comment here regularly who we all feel are friends and the first to help anyone. They are also going through this. You are not alone. I hope to create a lot of support and friendship that I hope helps in some small way.
Next week I am starting two challenges to get things going. There will be a few posts to set the scene for the year.

What are your goals and dreams for 2016? Last year my main one was to fill my cellar and shelves with supplies and I did it! Now this year I will keep on that but I have many new projects.

How did you save money and build up your nest?

See you on Monday! If you can use the weekend to think over what you really need to work on this year we can hit the ground running on Monday starting the Vicky Challenge. If you feel you want to do this challenge you will amaze yourself! If not hopefully you will still notice just how much your work saves your family and feel very proud of it!

Wednesday we will start the Christmas Challenge. I am making a Christmas present a week (or so) from next week. As I go along I hope to provide motivation to get making things all year and save a fortune. Also provide ideas, how to use materials you have on hand or available to you for free and how to choose suitable gifts, present them well etc. At the end of each month we will have a show and tell to share what we have been doing.

Have a wonderful New Year and weekend! It is really nice to be back!

Tealady if you are reading I have been thinking of you and praying. xxx

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Christmas week.

I want to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and hope you have a good Christmas week. It is a busy time for everyone but an exciting time too!

This will be my last post until after Christmas as I will take a little break. It is a time when we can be too busy. We all know it. Too busy ruins things. I was feeling sorry for someone called upon to do ridiculous amounts of extra things making her Christmas cooking etc impossible and then I thought about myself and that I very easily do too many things and get overwhelmed!  So I am taking my own advice and slowing things down this week!

I want to savor the week we are in and the year we have had. The biggest event of this year was Harper coming into the family! She has added so much joy to the whole family and my parents becoming Great Grand Parents for the first time! Just wonderful.

When Dad was in hospital the sight of her lit him up!

Other things included some wonderful friendships I made through this blog, establishing "the shop" in my cellar, improving our preparedness greatly, making presents all year so I really did make most of my Christmas presents...

The garden came a long way. That is a gradual process but the roses I add each year are really paying off!

The birds in our backyard that built a nest eventually had a baby in a nest somewhere out the back of us. We knew they were feeding babies as they come for food and head off with it over the back fence! And a few weeks ago they turned up with their baby to show us!  There is only one. We call him Baby Baby.

We also got our chickens. They are like garden ornaments only cuter!

Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed with writing, photo's, comments and support. There is such a sense of a supportive and loving community that we have built up! Anyone could ask for any advice and there would be help. Thank you.

I am not sure yet what will be the same and what will be different next year. I do know we will have The Christmas Challenge starting to work on gift making all year. This will be a massive money saver and should easily cover birthdays and other gift giving as well.

Also The Vicky Challenge which will be very motivating and show just how much our work at home contributes financially to our family. We know how much it does in many ways but a frequent thing I hear is women feeling pressure to "contribute financially". This infuriates me as the money we save is often far more than the money we could earn elsewhere especially when you deduct work expenses, tax, child care, travel etc. You will be shocked when you see how much you contribute financially by your work at home and we will find many new ways to add to that!

I know one of my aims for 2016 is to help us all feel encouraged and to be able to meet financial challenges as so many are facing severe income reduction through either job reasons or expense increases. Or both!  To do it we might have to learn new things, develop new habits and make changes.
I read this quote this week which I thought was perfect:

"If you are not willing to learn no one can help you.
If you are determined to learn no one can stop you!"

I am amazed how much I have learned this year! I have saved money in ways I never knew of! I made a lot of changes!  I had good days where I learned one thing that saved me hundreds. Sometimes one new tip that you can use saves you a fortune. It's just finding that tip. One of my good days was discovering that the discount chemist would save me over $600 a year. Yes I learned to save $600 that day alone! I had a few days with savings like that.

So I really look forward to next year and am excited about it.

But first lets really appreciate our blessings this year and Christmas time. A few weeks ago I didn't think we would have Dad here for Christmas. I have a lot to be grateful for.
I am going to take so many photos of our family Christmas and the farm. I am going to appreciate every moment!

I hope to be able to post on Facebook even when I am away. This is an easy place to share your Christmas pics and creations also if you would like.
This is the link to Bluebirds on FB.  The Bluebirds are Nesting.
I have benefitted enormously from following A Working Pantry via fb,  the weekly challenges and questions and answers... I have found lovely friendships through this too. Also A Tray of Bliss, The Cheapskates Club and My Abundant Life. And many others. It is a quick way to keep up with everyone and a great way to chat. I love how I am able to chat life (for free) to Vicky late at night!
FB is set up so that to see the things you wish to follow you need to like, share or comment on or after a couple of days you do not see what you are following anymore and wondering why. Once you know that you can have the most wonderful time!  Over Christmas I will post pictures as we go along there.

Have a wonderful Christmas! Every bit of joy you add for someone else will come back to you 1000 x With

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Feather your Next Friday, 18th December 2015.

This has been a busy week and a hot one. We are having days in the 40s and nights in the 30s (that's hundreds and eighties) so there isn't much relief at night. To get this is pretty normal in Adelaide but we didn't have a hot summer last year and it is a shock to go back to it!

I did lots of Christmas visiting and giving out presents too. But even though it was a hot and busy week I still have so many good things to report I am actually quite excited! It was a good week!

So some of the ways I saved money include:

I made Coconut Ice. This gave me small gifts to give on all my outings this week.

The recipe is easy and it is so pretty. Coconut Ice.

On my drying ladder I had pink rose buds already dried. From other years I know this is perfect for decorating this. I had picked them from Mum's pink rose bush. Well, they are lovely! Roses are great for decorating food, soaps and all kinds of things. This was an 100% free added touch!

After decorating all my Coconut Ice parcels I had a heap of rose buds left for something else. Truly dried flowers are so handy!  So I have these toward another project...

Last summer I sugared some roses to cover a cake. If you have roses and no sprays they are gorgeous on cakes, cup cakes etc. Nothing will beat them and it is free!

I made baby food for Harper. I want her to have bone broth in her vegies so I used a lamb shank and vegies and let it simmer all day. Then I froze it in muffin trays and turned them out into snap lock bags.

This was my little way of helping. Now, on The Vicky Challenge I would write down a saving of $70 on my days list as I worked out that my crock pot produces something like $79 worth of baby food if you bought it in little jars from the store. My ingredients were less than $9 to I will say I made $70 for this effort. Not bad as I guess cutting up vegies and fiddling around all up amounted to well under an hours work (not counting it's cooking time while I did other stuff!)
If you missed The Vicky Challenge it is a challenge starting in January which you can catch up on here.

I visited my Aunt and she gave me bags of jars! Amongst them were two huge old jars, one with a lid and one without. I am going to paint the lid and add a rose and keep that one for my storage collection.

The jars will be ready for jam and relish making which is coming up very soon.

My Aunt also gave me oranges from her tree. I am using them in salads and we had two last night this way.

Chloe and I hosted an afternoon tea for my Uncle. Since he lives alone we had an afternoon tea to give him his presents. On Wednesday it came up how expensive going out for lunch or coffee can be. Well, this is what we do. Being for a man it is not one of my pink china days though!

The Coconut Ice came in handy again and we told some hilarious family stories and it was really nice.

This is how many cherry tomatoes I pick each day at the moment...

They are really handy and we are keeping up with them!

Andy's workmate (who I keep sending Christmas cooking to) sent me this...

Don't you love the Christmas greeting? This is 120 metres of baking paper! He knows I bake and thought I would like this! And I do!

A friend of my Nan's Loris went into a nursing home. All her life she has been a prolific sewer. She made Chloe and Lucy layettes when they were born. Just beautiful. As her home and sewing room was packed up much of her material was saved for me! I couldn't believe it! A lot of it is suitable for baby clothes ie material for baby singlets that is a tube and you need no side seams. It is three large garbags full of fabric. I am already planning what to make. Piles of embroidered baby singlets for starters...

This is a tiny glimpse of the huge pile as I just don't have time to fold it all up yet.

THEN my friend Wendy (not blog Wendy another one!) messaged me she had found a double bed sheet set with pillowcases for $5 and would I like it? She thought of me as it was pink flowers...

I can see this as little nighties for Harper.

Sheeting is a great way to get miles of soft cottons very cheaply. Vintage prints make wonderful Pyjama pants, pillowcases, little dresses etc. I am also thinking hankies...

The hot weather was useful for one thing and that was I washed out doona and it was dry right through and back on the bed. I saw locally a shop that cleans and refreshes doonas for $60. (seems crazy) so I will count that as $60 saving ala Vicky Challenge. In the hot weather I find I can wash things like the doona, the underlay and pretty much anything. I can also dry anything ie herbs, tomatoes, apricots etc. About the only good things about the heat!

This week I visited Kath in the nursing home. I took pink tinsel to decorate her room and presents for now and for Christmas Day. My soaps gave me gifts for other residents and volunteers. It was a really nice afternoon and I felt very Christmassy after this. You don't have to do very much to make someone's day that is for sure as her excitement was much bigger than my effort. I am really glad I did that. There are a lot of really lonely people. It is terrible. While I was there I discovered someone else who has no one that visits or gives them anything. My uncle told me that the nursing home where he visits there are many people who have NEVER had a visit from a friend or relative. Never once.  So this is a potential easy thing to do to make a huge difference to someone.
Because Kath is a fair distance away I find I can write a letter every week where as I cannot visit every week. But she loves a letter. Letter writing is also a great way to help someone who is lonely, if visiting is difficult to do. Letter writing could be a whole ministry of it's own!

I also picked up hair dresser brochures and price lists from two hairdressers I walk straight past on the way in to the supermarket. These are so I have a quick way to work out what I save per year on hairdressing for The Vicky Challenge. Oh my goodness I have had a shock! I have to work it out but this is the kind of thing I will only have to figure out once and I can put in a monthly figure for all of 2016. Lets just say it is lucky I do my own hair! This already is a very revealing exercise in what I save on this alone! In your case it might not be hair services it might be something else but when you see what is being charged for things you do yourself without blinking it is a shock!

How did you build up your nest and save money this week?
I hope it was a great week and that the last weekend before Christmas is a lovely weekend for you.
I am trying to have a quieter time for the next few days... and stay cool.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. Revisiting.

Vicky got me thinking about the word "revisiting" and I will include what she said about it.  I thought this is a good time of year to revisit lots of things! Normally about now I start thinking about what I did achieve for the year and the blessings of the year overall. And already I have a big list of both! After Christmas in some quiet times I will write all that down in my diary. It is great to reflect on the year and appreciate the good stuff. 
The two biggest things for me have been the birth of Harper and the fact that Christmas looked like it was going to be terrible as we were going to lose Dad. And now Christmas looks like it is going to be wonderful with the whole family together! I attribute this to the amount of prayer he had as I cannot see any other reason for this transformation.
This alone makes me cry to write.

This is a post of random photos I want to show you! My little birdie Christmas tree...

One of my big goals for this year was to turn my scary empty cellar into a store. And it is! Actually it is a shock how much you can do in a year. I think the key was I did SOMETHING every week. Usually it was something small. Sometimes I added six cans of something on special. One week we just added shelving that we found. But each week something.  
I really achieved that goal.

Also I added in other areas around the house... I built up the first aid kits, the torches and candles, the car kits, bathroom and laundry supplies in those rooms. 

Doing this I learned a lot. Glenda, Vicky and Teri came alongside me with lots of experience in pantries and preserving. It wasn't just knowledge and experience but encouragement! 
Patsy at A Working Pantry and participating in her facebook group helped me and inspired me every week! Wendy at My Abundant Life motivated me constantly.
Mimi and Helen supported me as always. 
There are too many people to thank especially those who have contributed comments, ideas, photos etc. Thank you so much!

During the year we covered so many subjects. Some that I loved the most where how to build our pantries for free or with very little money. But we covered a lot of subjects! In fact I need to revisit those too.

Now I need to begin to rotate and keep my goods up to date. That will be a new routine to introduce in the new year.

In revisiting the year we can take a look at how far we come, what we learned... and also what we want to do or need to change next year. A goal and a weekly plan make big things possible.

I notice both here and amongst the US girls many people are facing reduced circumstances next year and already know it.  I think there are big challenges to meet. I hope that through learning new skills, friendship, support and creativity we can meet these challenges! Not only that but have a happy time doing it!

Mimi just has written a series Orchids on a Budget. Inspired by a wonderful book by a vogue editor during the Great Depression when so many people had the most drastically reduced circumstances she brings to life beautiful and simple things that are stylish and uplifting. She and Mimi are very alike! Anyway I feel this series is valuable and timely as people increasingly need to pare back their budget just to cover necessities. 

So how can we do well and make progress next year? Well, one way is to revisit our successes and failures of this year. Already I know things I can improve and even drastically change. You know how things become habits? When you stop and wonder why you do this or that it is often habit.
I remember one year I thought about all the things I DIDN'T like and combined that with thinks I didn't like that also cost money. Although you would assume no one would do anything they didn't like that also was costing them you'd be amazed...
I dreaded a social get together of a group of ladies and it was a lunch date type of thing so it also cost a bit. I didn't enjoy it at all. I felt obliged as I was meant to enjoy it. I stopped going to this and I was much happier and saved a ridiculous amount each year. I could maintain the friendships I wanted without going to this. 
I can think of a heap of things I ended up quitting that I didn't enjoy but did cost money! I only freed myself of these things as I had a review. A review is a great thing! (I could spend pages listing stupid, unenjoyable, expensive things I once did! It makes you wonder...)

Rosanne's Magnificent Christmas tree!

This is Vicky's story of some revisiting she did in her life... and also in part an answer to someone who asked a question in comments...

Revisit that is a good word for today.

Someone had asked because she is a little confused if we put the savings in an account or just keep track on paper so I wanted to revisit this and clarify a little better if possible.
To answer that question it is both, but if you are just starting out it may take a little time. Facing income loss can be daunting even if it is a small income. Again the first thing I decided was instead of spending a 40 hour work week paycheck if I could save it. Meaning could I be a better steward of our resources and not have to have that additional income. The little that I made didn't really get us that far ahead and we ended up in the credit trap. We had a lot of debt. We worked for that debt and would have to sacrifice to get out of it and I knew it would not be easy, but was up for the challenge! So this is where the revisiting begun,
I had to revisit what we did to put us in that debt?
I had to revisit all the bills and devise how I was going to manage it.
I had to revisit the budget and create a workable budget based on my husband's income.
I had to revisit our goals and determine if we really had it in us to achieve them?
I had to revisit with my husband on our spending habits and budget and get him on board with changes and how we would save.
I had to revisit all the useless items sitting around that I probably thought we had to have and the overspending at Christmas and birthdays.
And I had to pray for answers that I was doing the right things.
Budgeting can be the biggest homemaking tool we can use. I made mine as simple as possible, we really do have to be our own accountants
We have x amount coming in per month and x amount going out that is a given Example= mortgage, utilities, insurances  We have to pay these regardless. I did not add any overtime into the budget just base pay to see what I had to work with because overtime is not a given, nor bonuses.
As far as the saving goes the old adage a penny saved is a penny earned that is true because it is work to save. Annabel has hit the nail on the head and I'm sure everyone will agree that although those savings may not be actual cash in the bank we are living very well on the cash income we do have.
By keeping track of what you have saved by all of the different things mentioned in the last post it is a good way to see how much of that cash income you are not spending and by not spending it all each month at some point there will be a surplus even if it is small.
Since everyone's incomes and debts are different I can only say that for me it was a lifestyle change and a frugal mindset. A few of the ways that I shifted money towards debt is: Example: My husband wanted a new TV for the bedroom. I budgeted $150 for a new TV and he would have to find something for that price. A week before he was going to get a TV (researching prices and sales) someone set a nice TV with remote out  with a free sign on it since it's not a flat screen. I moved that $150 to debt payment since he no longer needed that item. If the electric bill was lower than I budgeted I put the difference for that month in the savings account.
Some months the money saving efforts don't necessarily equal a surplus of cash in the bank, but the most satisfying part is it is not taking cash out of the bank account and that money is still there for bills. Example: Since it's hunting season here we'll use this(just an example not a given if you don't eat it) ok , so I am almost out of burger and a friend got an extra deer and gave us 20# of deer burger and a few roasts, I now how the burger and a few roasts and spent none of my bank dollars to purchase it. Blessings come in many forms big or small we just have to see them for what they are Blessings. Gratitude not Attitude I say!
If you are reading Annabel's blog you will see all of the wonderful ways through herself and each and every lady that comments there are to make do, cut back, shop wiser, DIY, barter or negotiate to start getting ahead.
I hope this helps even just a little or even makes sense!

Leslie missed Mondays Show and Tell post as she needed her husbands help with this. But I want to include it anyway!
She and her husband made cutting boards and handmade dish towels. She added Bay Leaves, Cinnamon sticks, sea salt, Pistachios and then also was making fudge and snack mixes. 
What great gifts! Cutting boards are a fantastic thing to make especially if you have timber on hand.
(Thank you Leslie!)

This is the last Pantries and Preparedness Post for the year. Have a review of how your year was and revisit what are your goals, aims, needs and what would you like to try to achieve next year? I am thinking the same and think a new year is really exciting! Reviewing and planning can be an amazing exercise. It can result in great changes and progress. 

I know some of the new things I have planned for the new year. The Christmas Challenge and The Vicky Challenge for starters. In the next couple of weeks we will lay down the ground work so we can hit the ground running in the first week of January! Both will be fun and huge money savers.

Just now my goals are to enjoy and truly celebrate Christmas and have some spare cash to add to my freezer and pantry in the January sales. This gets me ahead for the year! 
With love and Christmas Blessings to

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Making our Christmas Presents. Show and Tell 3 (Last one!)

I hope after all these posts showing what everyone has been making that we all now feel YES I can make my own gifts, save money and still have a wonderful giving Christmas.

This week I realised how many people come out of Christmas with debt. Instead of getting to the New Year ahead it is getting to start the new year behind. All year I have been harping on about ways to get ahead, have an emergency fund, build up our pantries and preparedness. So when I see wonderful efforts to make gifts and stay within a healthy budget I feel happy!

There is still a little time too...  and in January we have the Christmas Challenge which will aim to have us making gifts all year so that next Christmas you have so many things made you have spares for Birthdays!

Thank you again to everyone who has sent me photos of what they have been making!

Over the weekend I made some more small gifts (Coconut Ice) and I give these to the girls too for their own neighbours etc.  I make this every year. It is so handy to have small gifts to give. Truly, in many instances, a small gift and a note of thanks is all you need and is very appreciated.

Now over to you...
Firstly Melissa has been card making. I love seeing cards as there are so many ideas and it is lovely to see what everyone has come up with. These look gorgeous. (I love the birds!)

Sheila has been making felt food. I love play food! And all the pretend cooking and gorgeous things children do. My girls made play doh food and my Dad would pretend to actually eat it. You should have seen the girls faces! lol They would have loved this, then they could have watched him pretend to eat felt! ...

I totally love the fried egg and the Swiss cheese! Thank you very much Sheila.

Mimi has been making bouquets. They look so lush and professional and who knows what they would cost in a florists. But everyone would love one of these.

Flowers and foliage is suitable as a table centre or a gift of thanks and appreciation and look how luscious this looks! I keep my eyes open for things that are suitable. Just now I have my eye on a Holly Bush... thank you Mimi!

Martha has been wrapping match boxes as I did a while back on a post. Matches are something really necessary and yet easy to overlook in preparedness. Look how Martha made them over...

I love the bird! These look so festive and gorgeous.  Well done Martha. I also need to mention Martha is Vicky's Mum. As we have had Vicky's Grand daughter Emma also post crafts in this series that is three generations from one family!

Speaking of... Vicky has been making hampers. She has made several kinds but I loved this one...

This looks just beautiful.

Chloe's friend gave her a beautiful gift and Chloe told me I had to see it. Sue made biscuit (cookie) mixes in lovely jars. Truly Chloe was wrapped in this gift and knew I would love it. Now we have seen gifts in jar ideas before and I wanted to show you how nice this looks.

So nice and we could pinch the idea and make anything from hot chocolate mix to biscuits to soup mixes. Lovely.

Teresa has been making cards and making them into sets to give. I just love the deer design she has used. She placed glitter dots on as well and I love glitter so I loved this. I know this will be a well received gift. They look so professional.

Colette has been card and gift bag making. She has personalized some as gifts. ie her sister in law loves orange and is a cyclist so Colette makes sets like this for her...

Her SIL loves this and keeps requesting them! This is such a good point and we were talking about it last week... knowing your recipients personal interests, favourite colours etc is such a help. They are going to love your gift when it is in a theme and colour they like.

Colette makes the cards up into sets of 4 to 8 and sometimes includes tags also.

Thank you to everyone for writing to me, sending me photos and telling me what you have been doing.  I never knew this would turn into a series. Next year during the challenge I will have a show and tell at the end of each month as we fill our Christmas/present cupboards all year. It is really helpful to see what people are doing.

We can give beautiful thoughtful gifts and stay within our budget. It is possible to do both!

Have a wonderful week! I hope you can find some little ways to add some Christmas spirit to your week and for those around you. It doesn't take much. Today I sent two tiny prettily wrapped Christmas cakes with Andy to work. One is for his work mate. The other is for him to randomly give someone he meets. He said "I am really going to enjoy this!" and that was it. But it might make three days! (who knows!) Oh, and mine! It's that easy!   xxx

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 11 December, 2015.

It has been a busy week. I am pretty sure everyone has been the same, it's just like that this time of year!

I finally got all my parcels posted and now I just have a little wrapping to do.

Some of the ways I saved money this week:

I used a $5 voucher from Woolies for a few extra items.
I collected 600 points on Flybuys  (using a voucher that got me all these free points with a $30 purchase)

My friend Hilde took me out to high tea as a gift. That was beautiful. She also gave me lots of lemons. I filled this plus another basket.

I made Shortbread Biscuits. Last year I made it into large rounds, this year I made biscuits. It is a very easy non crumbly recipe. It's so nice!

This is the recipe if you would like it... Shortbread.

I gave biscuits as gifts to the neighbors and to Andy's workplace. Also to Chloe, my niece and others...

I went through all my ribbons and wrapping papers and have used up lots of little bits for these parcels. So they are all different but interesting!

This week I got a large turkish bread for $1 and froze it to use as pizza bases or toasties in an emergency.

In the garden I am picking a lot of herbs and a cup of cherry tomatoes every couple of days.  There are hundreds coming on so I will have supplies for just ages.

In the garden I have my first pink Lilly. This was given to me as potted flowers last year and when it finished I planted it and hoped. Then it disappeared and finally it shot and grew... but now it has just started to flower!

How did you save money and build up your nest this week? Today and over the weekend I am working on Christmas atmosphere. I have had wrapping paper etc on the dining room table. I am clearing all of that to do a nice Christmas table. Plus putting lights up out the front. There are lots of presents under the Christmas tree both to give and for us as well! It is coming together but I need to put some effort in now. There is a window of opportunity to feel Christmassy and build up the excitement.  Kids or adults it doesn't matter! I said to Andy last night does he think Father Christmas will come to him? lol
And I hinted he will NEVER guess what he is getting.  I feel so smug as I have got him a gift I know he will LOVE. It's two things, both he will be surprised and go crazy over. I love it when I can find things that are just perfect! (I will post photos after Christmas to show you). See... I am so excited!

There are little things we can do to just add to the magic of Christmas. One of the girls favorite memories is that they would sneak in under the Christmas tree at night when the lights were sparkling and eat supper there before bed. Like in a little sparkly wonderland.  Another is that we would have one late night and drive around and see the light displays on the houses. They LOVED this.  Truly a lot of the best things cost nothing.

Having deer at the farm we have antlers. A couple of years ago I gave a giant one to a friend who has little children. I told her to toss the antler on the front lawn before going to bed Christmas eve....  the next day her little boy found it. He flipped. It was PROOF Santa had flown over and an antler must have fallen off a reindeer! He still has that antler in his bedroom from Santa's reindeer! She said it was the best present ever!

Make a little Christmas spirit for someone.

Our last Show and Tell for this year will be on Monday. Thank you for all the photos! If you have been making Christmas presents and would like to share I will include them on Monday, just email me  It is lovely to see what everyone has been making and I have so many ideas for next year now! It is very helpful to everyone to see what you are doing. And I think it helps us build up confidence to make our gifts. Even this week giving shortbread I was amazed. You would think I was giving gold. The humble biscuit isn't so humble. One person said they hadn't had a homemade biscuit since last Christmas when I made them! So they were a success. Even at work Andy's workmate said "your wife makes biscuits!!!" as if this is the best attribute going. :)

Have a lovely weekend! xxx

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Pantries and Preparedness with Laine. Part 2.

Last week I shared Laine's Letter about her pantry. This was a good foundation for me and still motivates me!

The photos in this post are Teri's Pantry. Teri sent me these pictures earlier in the year and I am still in awe of them! I have had so much help and friendship from so many ladies this year. Thank you

Today I am going to share Fearless Food Shopping. Now, do remember in regard to prices these letters are getting pretty old now! But the content is as wonderful as ever!

There are some gems in this that are very important...

Fearless Food Shopping.

My food budget for the month is $260. This is for a family of six with three eating as men. (My teenagers eat the same amount as my husband.) And also my dad, who lives next door, stopping in at dinner time for a chat and a bite to eat. ~Smile~ I will be sharing with you many ways that I save money on food. I think it was meant to be quite a bit of work to save money as revealed in this verse:
"She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar." Proverbs 31:14
Notice, it is ships in plural. Not just one merchant ship, but many merchant ships. There is a lot of work going on here. A lot of learning and growing as well. I think these next verses that follow also show the wisdom of a frugal cook in the family:
"Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine, in the innermost parts of your house." Psalm 128:3a
"House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD." Proverbs 19:14
You can't find a wife like this without the LORD, and you can't be one like this without Him either.
"There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up. Proverbs 21:20
This verse comes right under the verse where it is better to live in a desert than with a contentious and vexing woman! I think a man can have precious treasure and oil in his house with a wise and frugal wife by his side. I have learned so much from such women of God.
It is a privilege for me to stretch my husband's paycheck as much as is possible. One of the ways I can do that is by my strength in the kitchen. The stronger that I get in that room, the more that I can save us. Not only that, but the better we eat and the tastier it is as well. It is blessing upon blessing upon blessing. With this in mind, I share with you how I save money on food up to this day:
1~ I do not spend a certain amount of money each week. Some weeks I might only need a couple of items at the market like milk or fresh vegetables. I do a major food shopping once a month. I pray when I go, while I shop, and at the check out. Everything in the store is set up to get me to spend more than I need to; so I never want to go shopping without the LORD Who has "eyes to see". At this time I buy most of what I will need all month. So far this month I have spent $190 on our food shopping. If I could not go shopping for over a month or more, I would still have enough food to feed my family. I have learned the value of keeping a well stocked pantry (as I shared before) and continue to learn how to do this better and better each year. I don't like to spend all my budget at once because there are usually some store specials that will come up during the month that I like to buy. So each week I check the ads that come in my mail to see what is on special. Sometimes there is nothing, and sometimes, like this week, there are pears for 20 cents a pound.
2~ I buy many things in bulk. It saves us money and time. I don't buy everything in bulk in one month, but rather stretch it out over the year. In that way my food budget is not overly stretched any particular month. I like to have dried as well as fresh on hand. So if I need it, I have dried milk available.
3~ I cost items out. This helps me to avoid buying items that I can make much more inexpensively. Take french bread, for example. I can make two loaves for 50 cents. ( This recipe was shared in a past letter.) So I am not tempted to buy it at the store no matter how good that hot loaf smells in the bakery. I can make a large pizza for under $3. So, again, I am not tempted to buy it. (This recipe was also shared in a past letter.)
4~ We have some meatless meals. I love to make a meatless meal that everyone likes. My husband was raised on meat almost every night. So it has been a slow process to change our dietary habits. I had to do it primarily for financial reasons, but I now realize that it is healthier for us. I also make meals from many different countries. Many other countries, such as China, use far less meat with lots of fresh vegetables for an abundance of flavor and good health.
5~ Our markets mark down their meat early in the morning, so once or twice a month I will go to the market at that time to see what I can find. It is a challenge for me to see if I can make a piece of meat work for two or three meals. Oftentimes I can do this by using a recipe from another country. As I shared before, I love to check out cookbooks from my local library, especially cookbooks from other parts of the world.
6~ I shop many different fruit stands and stores. I keep my eyes open for good specials. The wise woman in Proverbs 31 was likened to merchant ships, so there is no question that she was a keen shopper looking for the best in quality at the best possible price for her family. It is not uncommon for me to stop at seven or more stores when I do my first big shopping of the month. I run in to get what is on special or what is found at that store at a good price, and then I'm back out again. I find this easier to do in the early morning when there isn't too much foot traffic. It did take some getting used to, and I am pretty tired when I come home, but I only do this once a month, so it is a good workout for me. ~Smile~ Plus I save us hundreds of dollars in a year's time by this method. Yes, I have taken my children shopping with me since they were infants. Sometimes my husband and my children both are with me. Sometimes I shop alone or with my mother. It always varies.
7~ I keep my coupons with me at all times. I am not a big coupon shopper, and if coupons were stopped in this country, I would still be able to save money for my family by other methods. But since they are offered in our country, I take advantage of them when it is profitable. Take this month. I noticed that six dented boxes of Wheaties were marked down in one of the supermarkets. (I love to check the marked down section of each store when I shop.) I was able to buy all the boxes they had for 29 cents a box. I don't buy cereal often unless I can get it under a dollar a box, so this was right in my price range. (I don't buy the sugary stuff even if I can get it for free.) Where I save predominantly in this area is by making my own granola and such. So if I could never buy cereal with coupons, it would be okay, as I would make granola and other kinds of cereal for my family. I also found Ivory soap (packaging ripped) marked down in the same aisle, so I was able to get all twelve bars for pennies with my coupons.
8~ I try to buy "real" whenever possible. So I use butter, not margarine. I use bread flour or freshly ground wheat flour, not all purpose flour. I use olive oil, not all purpose oil. I am moving more and more into whole grains and such as we get more for our money and our health.
9~ My food budget does include paper products, cleansers, and such. The only thing that it does not include is our dog food. I have that budgeted separately. When toilet paper goes on sale, I buy a lot. I store it under my son's bed. Sometimes I do not buy toilet paper for months at a time. I do not use paper towels much anymore, rather a rag. Instead of paper napkins, I have switched to cloth napkins. As I shared with you before, I make many of my own cleansers which is much cheaper and healthier. I also use half the required amount of detergent when washing my clothes and just let it agitate longer.
10~ If it is profitable for me to send in a refund, I will do so. This past shopping trip I will get a free pair of rubber gloves for buying a rust stain remover. So I mailed that off the next day.
11~ I love to do things with leftovers. So often little pieces of meat and potatoes will be chopped up the next day and find their way into a burrito for lunch. Or some squash or leftover oatmeal will find its way into a batch of muffins. Or some mashed potatoes will find their way into a loaf of bread. I love to learn and I find that when you love to learn, you do! So I am learning monthly how to do more with what I've got in my kitchen. Many times I will buy a piece of meat that has been marked down and not know what I will do with it. This month a turkey leg was one such piece of meat. I bought it for a little over a dollar. I cooked it on low all day in the crock pot with vegetable and seasonings, then took the meat off the bone and chopped it up. I made some Chinese noodles. I took some of the noodles, put them in a bowl for each person with some of the turkey and broth on top, added a few dashes of soy sauce, and served it with a piece of homemade bread. It was a hit!
12~ Cooking from scratch is so important in my method of food savings. When I first began to learn to cook, I started in the "soup corner." Once I learned how to make soups, I progressed on to bread. And so on and so on. I am still learning. It is such fun! So I do not "menu plan" or cook ahead for my freezer too much (only a small one above the fridge) or count on the garden (still learning there, but hope to add more savings in the future). Rather I take out one of my pieces of meat or vegetables in the morning, then sit down with my cookbooks to see what I can make with it. I always ask the LORD to show me the way. It is never boring because I am always trying something new.
13~ This year I did a bit of canning because it was profitable to do so. Each can of peaches cost us under 40 cents. I have also been dehydrating. I am so excited to learn how to do this. I have started bags of mushrooms, chilies, bell peppers, peaches, pears, apples, carrots, celery, spinach, and tomatoes. Some are fuller than others. It is so nice to know that if I need a certain item and I do not have it fresh, I just might have it dried. It is like having a mini fruit/vegetable stand in my pantry.
14~ I love to collect recipes. I love to collect unusual recipes. Recipes that do not have eggs or oil or butter. The reason for this is there might come a time when I will be so glad that I have these kinds of recipes. Some of these ingredients might be hard to come by if we fell upon hard times, so I see the value in recipes like these. That is why I will make a cookie recipe with oil. I like to make different kinds of recipes so that I'll know a good one when I need it. Many times I will see something marked down at the store and a certain recipe will pop into my head as soon as I see it.
15~ I enjoy learning how to make things and stretching myself in the kitchen. Such as cheese. I have made ricotta, cream cheese, and cottage cheese. But I want to learn how to make cheese using rennet. I hope to do this soon. I remember how much fun it was to learn how to make sour cream and buttermilk (recipes shared in past letters as well). I make those without thinking now. So I hope to do the same with cheese soon. It is so helpful to know how to make things from simple ingredients. Then I do not need to go to the store, rather to my pantry. Take noodles, for example. If I don't have noodles on hand, it is very good to know how to make them. I might be out of noodles, but not out of the ingredients to make them. Within 40 minutes, I can have noodles ready for the boiling water and my recipe.
16~ There are a couple of stores that I go to every three or four months. They are an hour away, but worth the trip when I do make it. I always look forward to these trips. This is the time that I will buy some items in bulk.
17~Bakery cakes have never been in my budget. I remember when I was asked to be in my friend's wedding. One of the girls, who was also in the wedding, threw her a bridal shower. She asked me to buy the cake. I knew that I couldn't afford a big cake. So I told her that I'd make it. She looked worried and asked me if I had ever made a large cake before. I had to admit that I hadn't. But I told her that if it didn't work, I'd buy one. Well, I practiced and practiced. My family loved eating my efforts. ~Smile~ The day of the shower I brought a cake that looked like two wedding rings entwined with a cream cheese/whipped cream frosting and fresh strawberries. Everyone loved it. I saved us some money, plus learned a lot in the process about cake decorating which I have used time and time again.
18~ I am about a year ahead on my toiletries. What I mean by this is if I did not buy tooth paste, deodorant, shampoos, and such for a year, I would have ample supply. I have been buying them with coupons when they were on sale and free or near free, so I have stocked up quite a bit. They don't go bad as with food. And if I need to use something for a gift or a food basket, I have it there and ready.
19~ I buy most of my spices in bulk. Much more inexpensive this way.
20~ I have been training myself to do my cooking early in the morning. I find that I do a better job and feel so much more accomplished when my meal is well on its way early in the day. (As taught in Proverbs 31.) It is pure pleasure to pull out a meal that was made earlier in the day to share with my family in the evening. I am usually pretty tired by then, and so very, very glad that my meal is ready.
I hope these tips have been a help to you. I am still learning how to save money on my food shopping, and I am sure many of you could share so much more than I've shared here. May the LORD bless you as you serve Him in your kitchen.

One of the biggest things in our whole budget is food. How we manage that is so important to the whole budget and our health. But also to how much we can build up our pantries. If we never have enough or extra we can't really get ahead with the pantry. So getting ahead with food and supplies is a really important thing. The only way to do that is being pretty clever with cooking from scratch and making the most of bargains and what we can find. Saving in one area to build up another can work miracles. I would rather make a pizza than buy one. I would rather spend the difference on the pantry.

The other gem was pointed out to me by a reader.  Laine said she studies old cook books and also thinks of alternatives to ingredients. She says in tough times certain ingredients might not be available and we need to know what we could do then.  This is a very good idea. Do we know how to cook decent meals out of absolute basics? Without any fancy ingredients or pre prepared things?
These are skills worth learning and increasing. Knowing how to cook stock, soups from just about anything, basic bread and simple filling things is very important. Also knowing how to go to plan B when plan A just isn't possible.
The same with your pantry and storage. Can you make meals from what you have?  In a crisis or shortage very basic cooking is fine. Actually very basic cooking is usually very good! But those basics are really important skills to have.

Someone commented to me recently that in a crisis is no time to learn skills! Learn them now and as you can so you have the skills you need when you need them.

This series has been a big learning curve for me. You can take an empty space and turn it into a pantry in a year or less is one thing I learned! Thank you to all the ladies who helped me via comments, emails, letters, photos and guest posts. 

I still have a couple of Pantries and Preparedness posts for the year. Then we will see what the new year brings! xxx

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Getting ready for Christmas. Show and tell part 2.

This is another show and tell post! The last one showed lots of amazing things you all have been making as Christmas presents. That one can be found here.
If there are ideas right for you there is a little time left otherwise make a note of them for next year. We are starting a Christmas challenge in January to make things all year. So having ideas ready to go will be a big help.

Apart from the money savings making my Christmas presents means I can give to many more people. Even people I don't know. This adds a lot to Christmas!

Firstly Debbie has been very busy. I always knew she had many talents...
She made mini Christmas Cakes...

As Debbie did you do not have to buy special tins to make small cakes. If you have nothing suitable save tuna tins or others, wash them up and they make perfect cake tins.

Debbie has made up hampers...

And this is amazing...  she is giving her Grandson a train set. She painted a board green to set it up on. This can slide under his bed when he is not playing with it. How beautiful does this look? And can you imagine a little boy over this present!?

If I have a Grandson I am doing this!

Rosanne has been crocheting dish cloths in the shape of an angel. Lovely for Christmas...

Barb W has been making cards. Barb also makes packs of cards to give as gifts.

Leigh from A Chat Over Coffee has been making Candy Bouquets. These are a great gift for everyone from neighbors to teachers and nieces and nephews!

She saw these as an expensive item in a shop and made them up herself instead. You can find instructions here.

Thank you everyone! I love seeing what you are all making. It is brilliant.

As I said before making gifts and cooking gives me a lot more gifts to give. I have a basket of extra gifts to be able to give out at the nursing home to ladies I don't know. I love this! I couldn't hope to do it if I didn't make things all year round.

Last time we were talking about having confidence to give handmade gifts. It took a while for me to reach that point. This time I want to tell you something that has stuck with me for many years.
We have all probably had that time when time was short and we were desperate to get a gift and so spent way too much money. In part this is the gift and in part it is the desperation to rescue the situation.
For some people I guess all Christmas shopping is like that.

Making things and also spotting amazing bargains and putting them away all year helps prevent this last minute syndrome. But the biggest thing that changed my mindset was something Laine said. She was telling how she manages gift giving in her budget and how she had needed a gift and she had $3. What stuck with me was that keeping within her budget was more important than the pressure to get the gift.
To stay within the money her husband brought in (which was budgeted down to the last cent) and to not get into debt was the first consideration. And so she set about finding something with that $3.
Remembering this has stopped me from doing MANY dumb things over the years!

If you still have gifts to get before Christmas have pride in a lovely hamper of your cooking like Debbie's or a gift you assemble in a stylish way like what Leigh did.

We are all busy now. It goes without saying this time of year! But I hope we can all find enjoyment in it and spot people that we might not of thought of that we could help in some small way. Then we really feel the Spirit of Christmas. xxx