The recipe for Haystacks is one I'm often asked for (it's in the Recipe File, on the Vegetarian page). They are not only cheap, quick and easy but they can be really nutritious too.
This is a variation on the original haystacks recipe and it's delicious, especially in summer. It's a little lighter and using seasonal vegetables and fruits as toppings makes it a great summer meal.
1-1/2 cups rice
2 skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into small chunks, or leftover cooked cubed/shredded chicken from a roast chicken
3 tbsp butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 cup plain flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
cheese, shredded coconut, pineapple, celery, mandarin segments, olives, spring onions, grated carrots, diced tomatoes, diced cucumbers
Cook rice so it’s ready when you need it. In a large frying pan melt butter and cook onions and chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes. If you’re using leftover chicken that’s already cooked don’t add it now, we’ll do this later. Sprinkle flour over onion/chicken mixture. Stir and cook for one minute. Cooking the flour stops the sauce from tasting like raw flour, don't be tempted to skip this step. Slowly whisk in milk and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, add salt and pepper. If you’re using leftover chicken add it now. Simmer until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Ladle chicken over rice. Top with desired toppings.
One of the first things to go when we started living this Cheapskates lifestyle was paper products - paper towel, tissues and serviettes.
I hadn't realised just how expensive those paper products really were. With three littlies in the house, a messy cook (that would be me!) and a husband who worked hard and enjoyed messy hobbies I thought paper towel, serviettes and tissues was the only way to cope with the messes.
When our grocery budget went down to $200 a month they had to go. Even though I was shopping at Jewel (remember Jewel, the no frills grocer?) and had switched to no name paper products they were still too expensive.
Once the paper towels went I realised we were still using paper serviettes. While they were a little cheaper I was going through them faster because they made good paper towel substitutes.
An aunty of mine once told me she couldn't possibly eat a meal with out a serviette, sometimes two or three, depending on how “messy” the meal was. Unfortunately I am a bit the same, I like to have a serviette handy just in case and I used to go through a couple of packets of paper napkins a month.
While they weren't particularly expensive, 99 cents for 200, they did help to fill the rubbish bin and there were times they actually found their way into the washing machine and made my life miserable.
When we went paperless I decided enough was enough and fabric serviettes were the way to go. I did some research and found that they didn't have to be washed after each meal, but instead could be personalised to be used a number of times (unless they were particularly grotty). I was sold.
I worked out that I would need at least two dozen to cover accidents, washing, visitors etc. To buy twenty-four fabric serviettes was going to cost a bit so I started looking around the house for alternatives.
During my younger, richer, single days one of my passions was old linen and over the years I managed to gather quite a collection of tablecloths, serviettes, doyleys, pillowcases, antimacassars and tea towels. The tea towels, tablecloths and pillowcases were perfect to rejuvenate and turn into serviettes.
They were really easy to make, just fabric cut into squares and hemmed. Simple! In one afternoon I was able to make twenty-four serviettes and we have been using them ever since.
I calculate that using fabric serviettes for the last 19 years has saved us $451.04! That's almost six week's grocery budget or to put it another way three days Wayne doesn't have to work!
If you are not a confident sewer, try these instructions.
You will need:
*Fabric – pillowslips, sheets, shirt backs, tea towels, even your favourite dress can be cut up and recycled
*Sewing machine or needle
*Iron and ironing board
1. Measure your fabric into 40cm squares and cut them out.
2. Once you have your squares cut out, stitch around the fabric 6mm from the edge.
3. Fold the fabric over along the stitching line and press down.
4. Carefully fold over again, making a double fold.
5. Press and pin in place.
6. Stitch, either by hand or machine, all the way around the edge to hem the fabric.
And that's it. You have just made your serviettes.
The switch to fabric serviettes took a bit of work and a little getting used to but it has been worth it, on so many levels. Cloth napkins add a little formality to meals. We all seem to sit a little straighter, use our manners more and spend more time at the table enjoying each other's company. Will we ever go back to paper serviettes? No. I like the fabric napkins. I like that I can swap them around to suit the table setting. They are easy to launder, they just go in the wash with the whites and line dry. I fold them straight off the line and put them into the drawer immediately. They're not really any extra work.
From Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing