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

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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

 

Lunch Box Ideas

Now that Term 4 has started (here in QLD anyway, I know some states are still on holidays and some countries have only just started back at school not that long ago), I thought it may be a good opportunity to share lunchbox ideas. These are my personal lunchboxes I have made for my kids and ideas / recipes I have found to be popular choices.


Last year a friend had a “party” with Neat2Eat, it was what I wanted for my daughter who started Prep this year so enter the Bento Box (above). It’s mostly great, I just need to be very mindful of the size of things I bake/buy to go in there. Cutters are fantastic for this.


This lunch box is my son’s. It’s bigger spaces and a Tupperware one that I recently found hiding in the draws while I was decluttering. No idea where it come from or when I got it, I have a feeling it was probably in one of those “Spend over $75 and get this mystery pack worth over $100 for $25” deal type thing. I’m a sucker for those. But now I’ve re-discovered it – I LOVE it. It’s a really good size.
I mix it up and the kids often have different things in their lunch boxes. We are VERY fortunate not to have any restrictions at school, so please be mindful of your own school’s rules when preparing lunch boxes.

Recipes for some items I’ve included:

  • 100 Cookie Recipe – I generally divide the mixture into 4, freeze 3 portions and do the baking once a week making a variety of each.
  • Cupcakes – Usually I just do a basic recipe into mini cupcakes and ice. This recipe makes quite a lot of the mini ones so I usually freeze half (un-iced). Sometimes I bake blueberry, banana or choc chip but I don’t ice these.
  • Chocolate Balls – This is a treat and don’t usually add these unless we’ve had a party or a morning tea recently, then the kids get any leftovers (if there are any)

Sandwich fillings that my kids love:

  • Ham, Cheese & Mango Chutney (nan’s homemade stuff)
  • Ham, Cucumber and Philly Cream Cheese
  • Peanut Butter & Jam
  • Vegemite or Promite with or without cheese
  • Lettuce, Cucumber, Cheese & Ham. (No tomato, it will be soggy mum!)

Sometimes Miss S will have a salad, she loves wraps with ham, cheese & salami. I also make sushi with leftover rice and chicken, carrot & cucumber thinly sliced (her fave).

And of course, not to forget the regular inclusions (that always changes, they aren’t there every day or even every week, but these are fairly regular):

  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Seasonal Fruit
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cheese
  • Twiggy Sticks
  • Yoghurt or Custard
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Sometimes I will also add Cheerio’s (Frankfurters) or ham rolled up (they think it’s a huge treat to have rolled up ham, not sure why haha)
  • And yes, i do sometimes add Shapes/Savory Biscuits and/or sweet biscuits like tiny teddies.

This is what my kids eat and love. It changes every week. It’s certainly not as fancy as some of the bento boxes I have seen (seriously, you look up Pinterest and you certainly see some photo worthy lunch boxes that must have taken ages!!!) These lunch boxes generally take me about 5-10 minutes and make them in the morning while I’m sipping my (usually second) coffee.

Enjoy – Christine xx