A Frugal Mindset – 1


As promised yesterday, I plan to address the points from the link I posted one by one.

The first point is:

1. Frugal people plan ahead. Planning ahead may not, at first, seem like it has anything to do with money, but it really does. Frugal people plan ahead in many ways. They do things like plan out their meals for the week to save money at the grocery store, or more long term planning like knowing that they’ll need a new roof on the house in several years, and to begin saving for this expense now.

Frugal people live by the mantra that failure to plan is planning to fail. They’ve learned that taking steps now for anticipated future events helps make those future events easier to deal with. And typically those plans make it both easier in both time spent, and in money saved.

Question to ask yourself: What can I do today to make tomorrow and the future easier to deal with?

If you really want use this strategy to its fullest potential don’t just make those plans in your mind. Write them down!

I regard planning as one of my strengths and there is no doubt in my mind that it saves money.  It also saves time and my sanity which are equally important to me.

I plan our meals, plan to combine errands in a single trip, plan what I will wear to work, plan what to pack for a holiday, plan future projects at home – there is no end to what we plan.

An example of long-term planning was when we began looking for our current home.  This was over 10 years ago and I was still in my forties but one of the things that we considered was that it would have to have at least one point of ground-level access or be able to be relatively easily adapted to meet this requirement.  Although we have numerous stairs to reach the verandah we know that this can be altered if required – we have a plan.

We are also changing and adapting our large garden to reduce the level of maintenance which will be required as we age.  Putting in the effort now will reap rewards in years to come.

As a result of ensuring that we have sufficient rainwater storage as well as the installation of solar panels means that we are pretty well self-sufficient for water and electricity which minimises the ongoing costs of running our home.

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As GMan regularly quotes from Baldrick in Blackadder, “I have a cunning plan”.  The difference between Baldrick’s plans and ours is that ours are realistic and generally achievable.  Even if things do not go quite according to plan you have a framework with which to start again.


Flexibility is the Key

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Menu planning, like any other plan, has to have a degree of flexibility built into it otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure.

In this post I listed my menu plan for the week up until last Friday.  Everything was going well until midweek when I found that I needed to attend a funeral on Friday, therefore, I would not be home at 3pm to put the potatoes in the slow cooker.  I also knew that we had a relatively small window of time for dinner as we were going to the movies that evening.

Since the weather was hot, I decided that an antipasto platter would do nicely so this is what I put together when I arrived home.

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There is a selection of fruit, vegetables and cheeses.  Dried apricots and raisins, fresh pineapple, walnuts, olives, carrots sticks, strips of capsicum, cherry tomatoes as well as goats’ cheese and cheddar.

I also made some gluten free mini pancakes rather than opening a packet of rice crackers.

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We did not eat all of the pancakes so I had some for my lunch the next day.

The great thing about this kind of meal is that you do not need a lot of anything so it is perfect for using up little bits and pieces.

The baked potatoes is back on the menu for tomorrow night.

Living Life

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No blog posts for 5 days!  What have I been doing?

I have been doing the routine things that keep our life ticking over day by day and week by week.  This has been interspersed by a couple of interesting diversions.

A couple of weeks ago we managed to go to IKEA on a busy day trip to Brisbane.  Our mission was to buy some new chairs for our outdoor setting.  We bought 8 chairs as the table we have is quite large.  GMan has made a start on assembling them and did 2 the other night.  This is what they look like.

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The old ones are the director-style chairs and they are impossible to keep clean as our cat believes that each one of them is his bed and they end up covered in grey cat hair!  I plan to make removable cushions for the new chairs so that we can have padded seats with the benefit of being able to easily remove and store them when not in use.

I have mentioned before that I menu plan our evening meals.  It is difficult to emphasise how much easier this makes shopping for and preparing meals.

Here is my plan for this week.

Saturday – Dahl with brown rice and steamed carrots and broccoli

Sunday – BBQ eye fillet with sweet potato chips, roasted beetroot in caramelised balsamic and crumbled goat’s cheese and green beans with red wine viniagrette and toasted sesame seeds

Monday – Vegetable quiche (adaptation of zucchini quiche) and salad

Tuesday – Tumeric chicken with brown rice and salad

Wednesday – Stuffed mushrooms with side salad

Thursday – Hamburger patties with home-made tomato sauce, fried mushroom and onions and salad

Friday – Baked potatoes topped with refried beans and cheese plus salad

Salad will be lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and capsicum with the addition of cheese on Tuesday and Thursday.

Sunday’s meal was actually lunch as we had guests.  It put a lot of restaurant meals to shame.

I had time this morning to prepare the mushrooms before I went to work so all I needed to do when I arrived home was to microwave them until cooked then top with a little extra grated cheese and finish them off under the griller.

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Any plan needs to be flexible and menu plans are no exception.  I try to make choices based on our activities and needs but sometimes those change.  I cook the baked potatoes in the slow cooker for 4 hours so I would need to be at home to turn it on at about 3pm.  This was going to be OK as I planned to work from home on Friday, however, I need to go to Brisbane and may not be home by 3pm so I have decided to make that meal for Sunday and we will have an antipasto platter and salad on Friday as we need to eat fairly quickly before heading out on Friday evening.

Remember KISS


We all know the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Sometimes I read things online or hear conversations that really leave me wondering if it is time to remind ourselves of this and, dare I say it, get back to basics.

Today I read a comment on social media from someone who wanted to know if there were any good Apps for menu planning.  I do have an iPhone and have several Apps on it but certainly do not need one to plan a menu for the week.

If you can make a decision on what to eat for dinner, make sure you have the ingredients, prepare the meal and serve it to your family then you are capable of menu planning – and it does not require an App or any other gadgetry.  A pen and back of a used envelope work quite well.

Some people plan for a month, others have a 4 week rotating menu or a set dish each week such as Monday night is pasta and so on.  Some make a fixed decision about what meal on what day or the opposite view is a list of potential meals and choose what suits each day.

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There seem to be as many ways to plan a menu as there are people but here is my take on it.

I plan meals for the coming week – 6 or 7 nights – and do it each weekend before I go shopping.  I know what staple pantry items I keep and the first step is to check for anything in the refrigerator which needs to be used up.  I also make a note of the types of meat I have in the freezer and take into account what is growing in the garden.  Basing our meals on what is seasonally available is important to me and nowhere is this more evident than what is in your own garden.  Take into account any family commitments eg: sports training, late meetings, social events.  I then make a list of meals using the ‘rules’ I have set up.  These are unique to me but I am sure you will have some of your own.  They may relate to pricing, type of food, preparation time and so on.


My ‘rules’ are that in a 7 day period there will generally be one fish, one chicken and two red meat dishes with the remainder vegetarian which will include at least 1 egg-based meal.  Also, I try to make sure I rotate the carbs in a meal and do not have rice on consecutive nights.  Our meals are gluten-free but that is really no problem for me – it is simply how we eat.  The weekday meals must be able to be made ahead and reheated or prepared quickly due to long days at work and commuting.  I generally prepare enough of at least some meals to freeze for another week.


Then it is simply a matter of roughing out a plan on a piece of paper.  From this you can then make a shopping list and buy only what you need for the week.  This will assist in eliminating wasted food and save you money.

I think the aspect of menu planning that people find the most daunting is actually thinking of meals to add to the list.  If you are struggling with this just start by keeping a notebook and writing down meals as you think of them and the meals you eat each night until you have at least 12 meals and use that as the basis of your plan.
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There is nothing particularly clever or high tech about menu planning.  It is simply a method of taking the angst out of deciding what to eat for dinner each night.  It removes the fallback position of “let’s grab a pizza/fish and chips/hamburger” and puts you in control.

Must Watch

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There is a relatively small amount of information and resources for Australians and it gives me great pleasure to share a link to a video which is made by Australians, about the Australian situation, using Australian statistics and information.  The video is titled ‘Waste Deep’ and was produced by the group at Sustainable Table.  The headline is “Waste Deep, a documentary that will change the way we cook and eat”.

This is not an over-the-top production designed for its shock value.  It simply and eloquently states the case for all of us to dramatically reduce our acceptance of plastic packaged, perfect food and the culture of convenience.

Please watch the video, preferably more than once.  Listen to the message and commit to acting to make a difference.  We all can make a difference.

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Some of the themes are menu planning, growing your own food, reducing the amount you buy at supermarkets, supporting bulk/loose food stores, taking you own containers to be refilled, buying direct from the farmer or Farmers’ Markets and reducing before recycling.

Although this is an Australian video, the message and actions are applicable wherever you live.

What are you already doing?  What are you going to do?  Please share your thoughts and ideas so that we can build an online network to follow these principles and make a difference.

Foodie Friday – A Takeaway Alternative


Friday is the end of the working week and it could be very easy to slip into the ‘routine’ of takeaway on a Friday night.  It was not a tradition at home when I was growing up but I know for many families takeaway is a Friday night staple.  In order to avoid succumbing to takeaway on a Friday (or any other night) it is important to have a meal planned.  As part of my menu plan I often factor in an easy meal for Friday night.


Tonight was no exception – we had nachos.  It is about as easy as you can get and there are only 4 ingredients.  There are no quantities – just use as much as you need.


Corn chips
Refried beans
Grated cheese

Layer the corn chips on a tray or shallow ovenproof dish, add dollops of tomato and refried beans then sprinkle with grated cheese.  Repeat the layers until ingredients are used.  Bake in the oven at 170C for 12-15 minutes.

To make things a bit fancier you can serve with sides of sour cream or good-quality natural yoghurt and guacamole.  A green salad is another option.

I make my own refried beans in the slow-cooker and freeze them in 500g tubs.  You can find the recipe here. I have used canned tomatoes, diced fresh tomatoes or home-grown tomatoes that have been cooked down to a pulpy mixture.  Some extra chilli can be mixed into the tomatoes if you prefer a spicier dish.

This recipe is vegetarian but you can add a small amount of minced beef mixture or shredded cooked chicken if you wish.  However, I would recommend that you try the vegetarian version on the carnivores in your household as the beans make a substantial and tasty meal.

Do you have alternatives to takeaway?

Planning is the Key


As I sat down at my desk on Saturday morning to write a menu plan for the week, I started to think about how much planning goes into keeping our lives running smoothly.

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I have always menu-planned to some degree but I have now developed a routine which works for us.  Every Saturday morning I write a plan for the next  7 – 10 days.  I keep in mind what food I have in the refrigerator as well as what is available in the garden.  From that I then write a shopping list.  This generally a few basic groceries such as milk and cheese as well as fruit and vegetables.  I buy meat every couple of months and pantry staples about every 3 months.

We have big plans, such as our overseas trip but also small, day-to-day plans that ensure things run smoothly and we work towards achieving our goals.  If this sounds like our lives are totally structured and regimented, think again as nothing could be further from the truth.

Over breakfast on a Saturday morning, either The Duke or I are often heard to say, “So, what are your plans for today?”  Then follows a discussion about what we have individually considered that we need to get done.  It usually centres around shopping, washing, lawn mowing and the like.  The next step is to plan.

On Saturday morning we had to take the dog to the vet at 8.30am so we decided to leave the shopping until Sunday morning and do some outdoor work.  We needed to finish by 4.30pm so we could be cleaned up and head off to dinner and the movies by 6pm.  We planned our outdoor work and achieved a real sense of satisfaction when the jobs were done.  All of the piles of mulch were collected from various spots around the yard, we weeded and mulched the garden bed beside the front steps.  The Duke lightly pruned the roses and we planted 5 more pineapple tops.  The remainder of the mulch was spread under the native shrubs on the front verge.

Since it was drizzling with rain most of the day we then adjourned under the house to start on one of the other jobs on the master list – covering the area which is bare dirt under the verandah with pebbles.  The original plan was to build 3 more low retaining walls to create stepped levels to hold the pebbles in place, however, we have decided to retain the sections using some timber sleepers.  We will also place some along the outside edge to separate the pebbled area from the garden bed outside.  We have calculated how many sleepers, how much weed mat and the volume of pebbles that we will need to complete the job.  The ground has been dug out and is almost at the levels we need so I hope we can get this finished over the next few weeks.

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Sunday was a different story.  I did the ironing early, before we went to do the shopping in a couple of different locations and came home with the intention of more outdoor work.  One simple message on the answering machine changed that.  A friend had left a message to ask us to come for drinks at 4pm, so I amended the menu plan as I knew we would have plenty of late afternoon/evening nibbles.  I then spent the rest of the day in the kitchen.  I made pizza bases, wraps for our lunches and a chocolate cake (all gluten-free).  I made 1 pizza and took that and the chocolate cake with us that afternoon.  The remainder of the pizza bases are partly pre-cooked and in the freezer.

So, to round off a fairly long-winded story, I think it is important to have a plan, otherwise things can turn into a disorganised jumble and you end up wasting a lot of time.  The organisation that results from these plans allows you the flexibility to change those plans to accommodate things that arise out of the blue.  What do you think?

Foodie Friday – An Introduction

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I have thought long and hard about this post as I did not want to start something that I could not sustain.  A couple of years ago I ran a series of posts called, “Friday Favourites” which featured tried and true recipes.  Some of them were ones that I had loved for many years and these posts continue to be some of the most enduring and popular posts on this blog.

A little over 18 months ago I chose to pursue a gluten-free diet which has proved beneficial for my health.  I tried a separate blog to document my recipes but that has not been maintained.

My plan is that each Friday will be a food-related post.  It may be a recipe for anything from a main meal to special occasion treats or about food storage, food preparation or new products.  The focus will be on affordable eating, simple recipes, menu planning and fresh, seasonal produce.  I will add links to the recipes in the ‘Recipe’ tab at the top of the blog.  This will help to find anything mentioned previously.  Please let me know if there is anything in particular that you like me to include.


Planning – Dinner and Dressing


As you may have guessed from my lack of posts recently, I have been rather busy both physically and mentally.  There is a lot going on at the moment and I had dropped the ball as far as menu planning went.  We have still been eating meals – almost all cooked at home but I have been throwing them together without a lot of thought.

Today I decided that I needed to refocus and get organised.  Here is the plan for the week

Sunday – Beef stroganoff with mashed sweet potato and green beans

Monday – Stuffed mushroom slice with coleslaw

Tuesday – Sausages and salad

Wednesday – Chicken and green bean stir-fry

Thursday – Nachos with refried beans and guacamole

Friday – Cheese omelette with bacon and avocado

Saturday – Rissoles and salad

We have green beans and avocadoes from the garden and the remaining fruit and vegetables that I need were bought this afternoon.  By having a plan I make sure that I use the food on hand, wastage is reduced (hopefully to zero) and I can do some preparation the night before.

The other thing that I like to plan in advance is the clothes that I am going to wear.  Here in south-east Queensland we are into some seriously warm weather with the maximum temperatures forecast for this week ranging from 26C up to 32C so my footwear each day will be my very comfortable strappy sandals with a small heel.  Here are my planned clothes for the week.

Monday – white cotton drill 3/4 pants and blue/white striped collared shirt

Tuesday – sleeveless cotton dress – black with white spots

Wednesday – skirt – cream with black spots and black sleeveless t-shirt

Thursday – Pink/red/white floral, sleeveless dress

Friday – skirt – navy with white spots and white sleeveless t-shirt

It can still be cool in the mornings and also the office is air-conditioned so I will wear a red 3/4 sleeve cardigan with all of these outfits as required.

I will try to take and post a photo of my outfit each day.

What do you plan in advance?

Time To Think


Sometimes I have a precise menu plan for the week and other times I make it up as I go along.  Today I had not even taken anything out of the freezer so spent a little time while I was on the train this evening planning what to eat for dinner.  I decided on grilled sausages with vegetable patties and fried mushrooms.  Of course we have home-made tomato sauce with the sausages.  This was all prompted by knowing that there was some leftover sweet potato mash and some leftover cooked rice in the refrigerator.


I picked some bok choy from the garden.

Bok choy

I chopped and lightly stir-fried the bok choy before adding it to the mash/rice mixture.


I added some herb salt, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin to the mixture along with a small egg and some chickpea flour.  The mixture was very soft so it was a matter of placing dollops of it into the pan and frying both sides.  Finally, I fried some mushrooms and dinner was ready.


A filling dinner and the verdict from The Duke was, “Yum”.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

How do you deal with leftovers?