Rise and Shine
I am not a morning person. No, let me clarify: I am not a sociable early morning person. I do like to get up early and you'll often find me at my desk or tucked up in my favourite chair reading or sewing at 4 am.
I love the peace and quiet of the house in the early morning. I can hear the kitchen clock ticking and the trucks rumbling down the highway 2 kilometres away. I know which neighbours leave for work early and I know when the garbage truck is coming and can run to put the bin out if we've forgotten.
The old saying "early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" is true. When I'm up early I can take my time getting my day arranged, getting the jobs that need concentration out of the way before the usual day-to-day chores and routine kick in.
Back in the olden days, it was normal to up at daybreak. There were chores to be done before the business of the day began. Chickens had to be fed, cows had to be milked, bread had to be made. With modern life and conveniences the need to be up with the roosters disappeared. There was no need to be out of bed so early, and I think it's a shame, because with that we lost the joy of early mornings.
Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you should be up at 4am, working flat chat. But so often I hear the complaint that there's no time to bake or tidy the house or get the ironing done, when in fact if you were to get up just 30 minutes earlier each day, how much could you accomplish.
When the boys were little and Hannah just a tiny baby Wayne was working at a feedlot. He would be up at 3am and leave at 3.30am to start work at 4am. I'd get up when he left and feed the baby. Then once she was asleep again I would start my chores. I could dust and polish and sweep and wash the floors without little boys running in and out. It was the perfect time to bake too. Much as I loved baking with the boys sometimes it was nice to be able to get it all done in a fraction of the time and without the mess. I'd even do the ironing if there was any.
I especially loved getting dinner ready. Meat would come out of the freezer and if there were any veggies to peel or wash I'd do them and put them into the fridge. As those of you who have had little ones in the house know, dinner time is not the time to be peeling potatoes and thawing meat. Getting it prepped and out of the way early in the day saved us from takeaway many nights, especially if Wayne was working late.
By around 5am I was finished - my household chores for the day were all done, bar making the boys' beds. The rest of the day was mine, mine, mine!
That's when I'd boil the kettle and make a cuppa and sit and relax until I heard the patter of little feet as they bounded down the hallway looking for their breakfast. And our day began.
I still love getting up early and getting the day underway. Having the beds made, dishes done and floors swept early in the morning keeps the house respectable. Getting a load of washing on the line saves me from spending the whole weekend washing, drying and ironing (or supervising the troops as they do it). It only takes a minute to check the meal plan and pull the meat from the freezer and scrub some veggies.
Actually none of these chores takes more than a few minutes each but they all have a huge impact on our home and the way I feel about it. When our home is clean and orderly our days are too. If I can walk out the door at 8:15am, knowing the basics have been done, the rest of the day is a breeze.
If you don't believe me, try it. Get up earlier. Try getting up just an hour earlier and see how much easier your day is. It may take you a while to get into the swing of things and really enjoy those 60 minutes, but remember it takes 21 days to create a habit. Once you've done it, you'll be amazed by how much stress one quiet, early morning hour can eliminate from your life.
Thank Goodness for the Slush Fund
Today is the Labour Day holiday here in Victoria and it is a perfect autumn day. It's the kind of day when you just want to be out in the sunshine. Which is not where I've been all day!
AJ had Uni today and of course being a holiday I decided to stay in bed and read. Oops! The poor kid set his alarm, but slept through it. It was 9.28 and I suddenly realised he hadn't stuck his head in to say good-bye. I fairly flew out of bed and down to his room. There he was, sleeping so peacefully - until I screeched "you've slept in" and he was up and out of that bed in 10 seconds! His first lecture started at 10, so Wayne drove him. Thank goodness he doesn't have too far to go and that he was home. I'm not sure the sight of me in a hurriedly thrown on tracksuit is something anyone should see in the morning!
Wayne was chuckling when he came home, turns out quite a few people slept in this morning, the queue to turn into the car park was miles long!
I have been busy. Hannah and I have been shopping for new clothes for her. She needed a black outfit to wear on Wednesdays when she does her VET course. The uniform is black - trousers, skirt, dress, jumper, blouse/t-shirt - she can wear whatever she likes but it must be black. So after breakfast and a quick tidy up off we went and we only had to go to one shop!
Kmart had a clearance sale on with racks and racks of clothing for just $5 a piece. She is now the very happy 15 year old owner of two lovely black t-shirts, a gorgeous skirt and a really nice jumper, all mother approved and for the grand total of just $20! That's the kind of clothes shopping I like.
While we were out we decided to do the weekly grocery top-up a day early (I usually do it on a Tuesday morning) and popped into Coles. Apparently we arrived at just the right time because all the meat was marked down so we had a lovely time picking up packages of really, really cheap meat. Rump steak down to just $8/kg, whole fresh chickens (No. 20) for just $7 each, and more. I stocked up on the steak and the chickens, they were too good to pass up. Wayne sliced the steak for me as soon as we came home and it's now neatly packaged and in the freezer with the chickens.
I keep a "slush fund" for occasions just like this, when I find a bargain we can use. The slush fund covers the cost without having to go over my grocery allocation. I add the leftover grocery money to the slush fund and let it build up until I need to use it. On my grocery tracking sheet I have a column for slush fund so I know how much goes into it each month. And this helps to keep the grocery budget balanced too.
Last month I didn't use all the grocery money and was able to add $32.65 to the slush fund. The groceries don't always cost what I budget each month, sometimes the bill comes in under and occasionally they cost more. That's when the slush fund is really handy. I can go over my allocated amount for the month by however much is in the slush fund and still not go over the allocated amount for groceries for the year.
I also have a petrol slush fund that works on the same principle. I allow $75 a week for fuel, sometimes we don't do a lot of driving (long weekends and school holidays spring to mind) so it doesn't cost as much to fill the car. The excess is kept in the slush fund for those times we do a lot of driving (I may have to go into town or travel for stories, or we go to Shepparton to SPC etc) and our fuel costs increase. It also helps cover the fuel costs when we go on holiday or for train, tram or bus tickets when we use public transport.
At the end of each year I look over the grocery tracking sheet and the fuel column in our Spending Plan and decide whether the allocated amounts need to be adjusted. If the grocery bill is consistently lower by more than $10 per week, I lower it for the next year. Ditto the fuel bill, although the way costs are going up I don't think it will be dropped next year. I may find myself walking more and driving less so it can stay the same. Petrol was the same price as diesel here last week!
There is no point in allocating too much money to a category when it can be useful elsewhere. All it has to do is cover the cost for the week/fortnight/month/year. As long as you have the bill covered, you are right. For example it could be used to help build your Emergency Fund or to pay down debt (or both) rather than sit in the grocery (or fuel) categories and roll over from month to month to a slush fund, effectively costing you money (the interest you pay on the debt you carry).
Living the Cheapskates way gives you options and flexibility in your Spending Plan, that's why it works.
It's been such a sunny, pleasant day it seems odd to be making soup, but that's what I did this afternoon. I cut one of our pumpkins this afternoon and instead of dusting it with cornflour and putting it in the fridge I decided to make pumpkin soup. Did you know that if, when you cut a pumpkin, you take the seeds and soft centre out and then dust the raw surfaces with cornflour it will last for weeks in the fridge? It's handy to remember when you have an excess of pumpkin and don't feel like making soup.
Pumpkin soup must be the easiest soup to make. I just cut up the pumpkin and a couple of onions and cook it in either stock (from the freezer) or water with some stock powder added, until the pumpkin is cooked. Then I whizz it through the food processor. And it's done. My stockpot makes 8 litres of soup, so I put 2 litres in a Tupperware bowl in the fridge. This is my lunches for the week. The rest goes into Tupperware containers in either single portions for lunches and snacks later on.
While I was in the cooking mood I made some muffins too. Apple and boysenberry and some raspberry and white chocolate for a treat. The cake dome looks lovely full of nice fresh muffins. It won't stay that way long though. Tom just called and he's bringing some friends home for tea. They're actually coming to play games on the Wii, but they'll stay for tea, they always do. And we'll have muffins for dessert!
Everyone knows (or should by now) that most cheap food is if not entirely void of nutrition, at best borderline. It's the food that no health orientated person would touch. This is the stuff that often features on the first page of the grocery sale flyers - the chips, soft drinks, processed meals. What we tend to forget is that most of the healthiest food is also the cheapest. Stock up on in-season fresh fruit and vegetables when they are at their peak - and their cheapest. By remembering portion control you can buy better quality red meats, fish and poultry and save money too. Whole grains and legumes are cheap and good for you. They also make great meals on their own and are perfect for stretching others. There are plenty of inexpensive options when you look for cheap and healthy.