Grocery Budget Busting – Week 1 Report

Last week, I decided to attempt to save some money on my groceries. 1 week later, here is my progress report.

Money Spent: I took out $180 (my usual budget) and have only used cash. When it comes to tomorrow (“grocery day”), I will take out another $180 to put in my cash envelope, and what is currently in my envelope has been moved to my “holiday” envelope.

  • 4L Laundry Detergent – $13.00
  • 2x 3L Milk – $6.00
  • 1x Cucumbers – $1.00 (my kids eat these like they’re going out of fashion!)
  • 500g Nectarine’s – $2.45
  • 680g Granny Smith Apples – $3.40
  • 1x Iceberg Lettuce – $2.00
  • 1x Tub Philly Cream Cheese – $4.00
  • 1x loaf of bread – $3.00
  • 200g Feta Cheese – $1.65 (purchased from the Deli section is so much cheaper then the packets)

TOTAL SPENT: $36.50.

My biggest expense this week was obviously my laundry detergent. but it’s always allowed for in my regular budget. My biggest eye-opener was the thought of how much I’m spending “just because that’s my budget”. My family didn’t starve. I purchased items that probably weren’t necessary (Philly Cream Cheese & Feta Cheese for example) but overall, I was more intentional with my shopping and saved quite a substantial amount this week.

Recipes Cooked:

  • Lasagne & salad (used a large lasagne in my freezer, leftover salad ingredients etc, this meal done us for 2 nights)
  • Mixed Berry Crumble (1 bag frozen mixed berries and misc baking ingredients from pantry) – this actually done us for 3 or 4 nights.
  • Seafood Marinara – we didn’t have any wine, so just left it out and substituted 1/4 cup water and used spaghetti instead. This lasted us 2 meals, with the kids having Sausages and salad the second night (sometimes they just like a picking plate)
  • Chicken, Pumpkin, Quinoa, Basil & Feta “Salad” – I forgot that there was a pumpkin in the shed, and also discovered some unopened, still-in-date basil with cashew and parmesan chunky dip. We were also given a roast chook from a tournament hubby was involved in over the weekend – Bonus! So I had to use it up. Plenty leftover for dinner the next 2 nights as well.
  • Last night, because hubby had enough of just having the Chicken & pumpkin dish, I got out some steak and we had that with the chicken dish as a side. We could have easily had no steak as there was enough, but 3 nights in a row was too much.

Food Wasted/Thrown Out:

  • One bag of something from the pantry. It was possibly Buckwheat. It seems to ring a bell when I look at it, but no idea what it is or what I would use it for and because of this, I had to throw it.
  • 1 and a half bags of Almonds
  • Half a bag of Veggie Crisps – these last 2 were full of weevils, which I didn’t realise until I packed some for hubby and he called to let me know. Oops.

This Week’s Amazing Discovery: Well, did you know we are apparently lolly hoarders. I have discovered a PILE of miscellaneous lollies as well as 6 Pez Dispensers – yes, SIX!!! For 2 kids. That rarely get Pez lollies. I have no clue why we have the amount of lollies we do, but I removed them from my pantry and after discussing with hubby, we tossed up between a) throwing the lot b) making ice cream treat cups or c) cutting up the chocolates etc and turning them into Cold Rock style Mix-in’s. We will be going with b I think and purchasing a 2L tub of ice cream and some disposable cups with lids, mixed-in the chopped up chocolates and put them in the freezer. Then I will throw out the remaining / not very nice looking ones.

Did you attempt this challenge? How did you go after 1 week? So far, so good and I’ll be going for another week yet at this stage.

Christine xx

Spiderman Cake Tutorial

As you would have seen from my post yesterday, Thursday was Mr L’s 4th Birthday. He loves all things Avengers/Superheroes. He originally wanted Spiderman for his cupcakes, and with the effort this one took I’m so glad that I saved my effort for this cake.Spiderman Cake 1-4.jpg

  1. First I baked the cake. I chose a Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake and baked in a rectangle brownie pan which was nice and deep (about 5cm).
  2. Once cooled. I printed out a colouring in page from Google. I just searched Spiderman Face Colouring Page and chose my favourite. I then re-sized in Microsoft Word to fit an A4 page, printed and then cut it out.
  3. Placed the piece of paper on the cake and then trimmed the cake using a serrated edge knife.
  4. Do this to both layers (if using 2, which I did)Spiderman Cake 5-6.jpg.
  5. Chocolate Cream layer in between cake layers. To make this I put some thickened cream into my bowl (maybe about 200-300ml), 1 tablespoon each of cocoa powder and icing sugar and whipped until stiff. This was kind of an accidental genius moment as the result tasted like chocolate mousse and it was DELICIOUS!!!!! Put the second cake layer on top.
  6. Crumb Coat. I used Wilton’s buttercream recipe for my icing most of the time. Otherwise I just use regular butter in a packet and icing sugar with a splash of milk and play with the quantities until I’m happy with the consistency. The Crumb Coat isn’t supposed to be neat, and it isn’t supposed to be pretty, it’s designed to suck up and stick in the crumbs so that your top layer can be beautiful and smooth with no crumbs showing. Cover the cake and all the sides in icing, Spiderman Cake 7.jpgit doesn’t have to be a thick layer of icing, just thin enough to catch those crumbs, then put in the fridge for at least half an hour or so. Yes, it’s a pain in the bum step, but you’ll be glad you have done this when you get that perfect smooth crumb-free final look! You won’t regret it – I promise!!! I do this even if I’m piping on the cake instead of wanting a smooth finish, as it helps the piping stick to the cake.
  7. Now it’s time for your final icing layer – I use the angled spatula that you can see, it’s so much easier to get that awesome smooth look. See that beautiful finish…. isn’t it pretty?? Spiderman Cake 8-11.jpg
  8. To get the web placement right I used my wire cake leveller but you could use a knife, floss, clean fishing line etc to lightly mark your cake in sections.
  9. Now, here is where the hard work starts and your muscles get a work out. I used Wilton Black Sparkle Gel for the web. I used a skewer in the end to poke the hole as opposed to cutting the end off the tip for a finer result. Follow the lines you’ve made in step 8.
  10. Next do the little dips in between each part of the web Spiderman 11.1.jpguntil the top is covered. Mine isn’t perfect, but the end result is effective. This is the part where I put the cake back in the fridge because my arms were killing me.
  11. Next follow your lines down the side, start at the bottom and work your way up until you’ve finished all the way around. I kept telling myself it will be worth it in the end. My arm muscles certainly got a workout anyway 😉 Spiderman Cake 12-14.jpg
  12. Next is the eyes. I have made Marshmallow Fondant before and if you are completely covering a cake I highly recommend it! The taste is amazing and sooooo much better flavouring then the store bought stuff. Although, if you need black, purchase it. I have tried and tried again to successfully make black and it always turns out grey. I have been told to purchase the black powder, but am yet to try this. These fondants are purchased. I went back to my print out and cut out the eyes (but don’t throw out the face yet). Roll out the fondant (use icing sugar on baking paper and continue to move it as you’re rolling it out to keep it workable and not sticking to anything). Use a sharp knife to cut around the paper (I have a little tool that I use that is like a super small knife one end and a point at the other end)
  13. Trim the paper again and do the same with the white.
  14. Almost finished with the eyes…. Use water lightly on your finger to clean off the icing sugar and stick the white fondant to the black. Don’t use too much, it’s better to not use enough and add to it, you can’t take it back. Also, wash your hands after you touch the black – every. time. Trust me on this. It’s tricky to get black fingerprints off white fondant. It’s possible, but I prefer not to do it.
  15. Last step….. can you hardly believe it?!? Use the original face with the eyes to cut out to work out roughly where the eyes should sit. DON’T lay it down on the cake,  just hover it over and get a rough idea. spiderman-cake-completeEnd result – Mr L LOVED IT!!!!! (I also had to make him a Spiderman outfit to wear to dinner, he thought his Lego Spiderman was so cool!

I’ll do more step-by-steps as I do more cakes and cupcakes throughout the year. Hope these inspire you to make your own cakes, even if they aren’t perfect, the kids still love them and I bet they won’t even notice or remember the imperfections, they’ll just remember that super cool Spiderman Cake you created with love.

Christine xx

 

Cupcake Decorating #1

Thursday was my little man’s 4th Birthday. This time has just flown by, but one thing I do love doing every year is making my kids birthday cakes.

First is the cupcakes from Pre-Prep Wednesday. Spiderman was the request, looking back, I’m so glad that I didn’t go down this track. His main birthday cake was Spiderman and it took a LONG time.

I used my go-to cake recipe for all my vanilla cakes from the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book. I have the revised anniversary edition and it’s in a very loved condition hehe so I had to take a photo from google, but I remember my mum baking me cakes from this exact book. It’s full of memories and hope to pass those memories onto my own children! the-australian-women-s-weekly-children-s-birthday-cake-book.jpg

But, if you aren’t a make-from-scratch kinda person, then I have also used the 75c packets of Butter Cake mix from Coles or Woolworths, and these work perfectly fine (I also usually put in an extra 2-3 tablespoons of Self-Raising Flour just to bulk it out and be the consistency I prefer). Now, back to the decorating.

I use the Wilton Colour Gel as it gets an amazing colouring that I just can’t achieve with the Queens Colouring in those bottles (you all know what I’m talking about). For the cupcakes I’ve used Royal Blue for one batch and Leaf Green for the second, for the icing i used Christmas Red & Royal Blue. I decided against Spiderman as I had run out of time, so using my Wilton 2D piping tip I piped from the outside in going upwards as I went (Similar to a soft serve ice cream cone but nowhere near as tall). These went down well with the kids. Cupcakes.jpg

Tomorrow I will do an in-depth post on my Spiderman cake in step-by-step form.

Christine xx

PS: The photo’s in my feature image are all cupcakes I’ve done over the last few years. I’ll be slowly adding tutorials as to how I’ve created these effects over time.

 

Back to School Baking

After a 6 week break, today is Back to School! New year, new teachers and this year, 2 school runs. My son starts Pre-Prep 3 days a week over East, my daughter in Grade 1 over North. Fun times.

Yesterday, in leaving-it-to-the-last-minute fashion, I decided it was probably time to get a bit of baking done in preparation for the new year. I didn’t go crazy overboard, but I did manage to bake enough school snacks to last at least the next week or 2 and think this will be my new Sunday afternoon thing. Just one or 2 items a week will see us with a good variety before too long.

First off I hit google for inspiration (surprisingly not Pinterest this time hehe), made my grocery list and went shopping.

Rice Bubble Choc Chip Biscuits – These were delicious. They have Mini M&M’s (I chose
the ones from the baking section as they were slightly cheaper with more in the packet then the actual M&M brand (25c and 5g). The first batch probably needed an extra few minutes and the second batch a few less, but the kids definitely approved. I found the recipe here.

Milo Slice – this was another first for me. Kids are a fan of Milo, I bought a big tin, so why not. This was my favourite sweet recipe of the day and will certainly be added to my regular cooking rotation provided the kids like it. The Organised Housewife had some great ideas, and this is where I found this recipe.

Zucchini Slice/Muffins – everyone probably has their favourite Zucchini Slice Recipe. So if you have one that absolutely works for you, use this. But here is the one I used and it works beautifully.

  • 5 eggs
  • 375g zucchini (I just used 1 largish one and it was about 350g and still worked out fine)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 pieces shortcut bacon
  • 1 cup SR Flour
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I used Devondale Colby)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste (optional)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180c (160c fan-forced) and line lamington/slice pan (or in my case, use silicone patty liners in muffin tray)
  2. Dice bacon & onion & fry in small pan with a teaspoon of oil (I also added a teaspoon of crushed garlic in this step, again, personal preference, add it or leave it). Let cool slightly. (I prefer to add this step, as the kids don’t like the “raw” onion and I think it gives the dish a nicer flavour)
  3. Coarsely grate zucchini & cheese.
  4. In a large bowl crack the eggs, add the salt & pepper (if adding) and lightly whisk.
  5. Add zucchini, cheese, flour, oil, bacon & onion mixture to the eggs.
  6. Mix until well combined.
  7. Pour into slice pan or divide evenly into muffin tray and bake until brown on top. 30-40 minutes for slice or 15-20 for muffins.

This recipe made about 18 muffins (but as you can see, they aren’t large ones, so possibly 12-18 depending on how large you make yours) or the slice will make approx 12-18 slices, again depending on how big your pan is and how big you cut your slices.

 

Mini Pizza’s – this one is fairly quick & easy. You can customise this to make it your own.

  • Pizza Bases (I purchased 2 thin & crispy bases for $3 from Coles)
  • Passata (or Tomato/BBQ Sauce or Tomato Paste)
  • Grated Cheese
  • Topping of choice. I kept this batch simple with just 1 stick of cabanossi), but you could use your favorite pizza toppings, leftover chicken, veggies, the sky is the limit.

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180c (160c fan-forced) and line baking/cookie tray.
  2. Cut Pizza Bases into circles, I used my Tupperware Scone Cutter.
  3. Top with
    sauce, toppings of choice and cheese.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese has melted and slightly browned.

This recipe made approx 15 mini pizza’s and was quite quick & easy. You could add more toppings, make your own base or mix it up as much as you like. Next time, I might make my own base and then put them in the base of my muffin tray to make them slightly rounder to hold the toppings better. Would be a great way to use up leftover meats, or to throw together while making pizza for dinner.

In preparation for this week I have also boiled some eggs, so now I just need to make sandwiches, add some fruit and I’m done. I have kept a few of each of these baked goodies out, and have put the rest in the freezer, so I don’t have to worry about it going off and I have the variety started to be ready for packing the lunches daily.

Next week I will be baking the 100 cookie recipe and deciding on a cupcake flavour (still tossing up between plain vanilla or something a bit different like Apple & Cinnamon or Banana). You can find my other lunchbox ideas from Term 4 here.

Do you have a favourite lunchbox recipe? I would love to see it!!

For all you parents who are sending their kiddies off to school for the first time today: Good luck! My thoughts are with you as I know there will be tears shed (from you and/or them). For the returning mummy’s & daddy’s – we made it! Today, hubby and I are both. There will be tears & celebrations as this new chapter starts.

Lots of Love

Christine xx