Every household has at least one lurking in the freezer to the back of a kitchen cupboard. It may come out in summer, but once the weather cools down it's forgotten again.
The humble ice cube tray can do so much more in the kitchen than make ice cubes.
Freezing your leftover food into cubes will save you a lot of money. Food cubes are all the rage at the moment (have you seen the frozen smoothie cubes and the frozen baby food cubes in the supermarket? Have you seen the price of them!) so save yourself time, and money and make your own with food you know you use.
But how can you tell how much gravy or tomato paste or lemon juice is in a cube?
Some measurements to make using your cubes easy:
1 regular sized ice cube compartment holds 2 tablespoons of liquid.
2 cubes is the equivalent of 1/4 cup of liquid
4 cubes is the equivalent of 1/2 cup of liquid
8 cubes is the equivalent of 1 cup of liquid
Knowing this makes it easy to pull out the right number of cubes for your recipe.
Make a Cloth Shopping Bag
Now the supermarket plastic bag ban is in place here in Victoria, shoppers are going crazy trying to decide what they're going to use, not just for the groceries, but for bin liners (that seems to be the biggest re-use of plastic grocery bags).
I've used cloth bags since Aldi opened. Don't get me wrong, I too use plastic bags for bin liners, but the come from other stores (fruit and veg, butcher, department stores) or they're given to me.
I also use cloth bags I've made. They're easy, cheap and usually very sturdy. Buy the calico or denim or homespun on sale, or recycle it from shirts, jeans, skirts, dresses you no longer wear to save money.
You can buy plain calico totes at craft stores, they're not expensive, if you don't think you can make them.
Here are the instructions for a couple of bags I made a couple of years ago. The instructions use bought bags, but by all means make them if you can.
Vintage Rose ToteYou will need:
Calico or plain coloured cotton tote
A picture to fit the tote
Iron-on transfer paper*
Step 1. Wash and dry your bag. I like to pre-wash the bags so that if they shrink they'll do so before the transfer is applied. Iron it.
Step 2. Find an image to use as the transfer. I found this image here: http://www.freeprettythingsforyou.com/ Make sure it is going to fit onto your tote. I usually print the image then use it as a template to work out the placement of the actual transfer.
Step 3. Follow the instructions on your transfer paper to print then apply the transfer to your tote.
And voila - in around 30 minutes (more if you can't make up your mind about the image) you have a lovely and unique tote to use or give as a gift for around $6.
This is a tote with an embroidered pocket. I embroidered the piece of fabric for the pocket (it only took a few minutes using the sewing machine) and then attached the pocket to the front of the tote. You'll need a sewing machine with a free arm for this or you'll need to unpick the tote, attach the pocket and re-stitch the seams.
*Spotlight and Lincraft sell iron-on transfer paper, but it's expensive. Buy it on sale (at least 40% off to make it cheap enough). You can also get it at Officeworks, where the packs are bigger, bringing the price per sheet down. Again, wait for a sale if you can. I have found it in some $2 shops too and it seems to be just as good a quality for a fraction of the price.
Kathy Miller asks
"Just wondering what other Cheapskates think of cooking with frozen vegetables instead of fresh vegetables, is it a healthy option? Frozen vegetables are much cheaper than fresh but do they have as many vitamins?"
If you have advice for Kathy, let us know in the comments below. We'll enter your answer into our Tip of the Week competition, with a one-year membership to the Cheapskates Club as the prize too.
This Week's Question:
"My husband and I have been married for five months, and are currently living with his parents. This is their wedding gift to us, so we can save as much as possible as a deposit on a home of our own. They offered us rent and utility free living for two years, which we are grateful for. The problem is grocery money (of all things!). Because of our work schedules, my MIL also does the grocery shopping and cooking (she's a great cook, I'm learning heaps) and we split the bill 50-50. Here's the rub: she does all the grocery shopping Coles and refuses to go anywhere else. She doesn't look for markdowns or specials, and flatly refuses to even consider generic brands. Last month our share of the grocery bill was $1,365 - even living rent free, we can't afford that! How can I , at 25 years old and a newlywed, tactfully introduce the idea of smart and frugal, budget shopping without any offence to my mother-in-law, who has been a housewife for 30+ years and has never needed to budget?
Do you have the answer?
If you can help Dianne let us know, by leaving it in the comments below. We'll enter your answer into our Tip of the Week competition, with a one-year membership to the Cheapskates Club as the prize. And keep an eye open, you may even see your answer in next week's newsletter.
My local greengrocer had a fantastic special on onions this week - 10 kilo bags for $3! That's just 30c a kilo - about an 80 per cent saving on supermarket prices.
I couldn't resist and before I knew it two bags had mysteriously made their way into my kitchen.
So faced with 20 kilos of brown onions what was I to do?
Well first off I roped in all the family and had them take turns at peeling - a half a bag each. That was the worst chore over and done with.
Then I took out the food processor and, using the chopping blade, I processed half of them. Now that's a lot of chopped onion, and I did it in batches. With my trusty 1/2 cup measure I portioned those chopped onions into ziplock bags ready to go into the freezer.
Those bags of frozen onion will be used to prepare rissoles and burgers, meatloaf, pies, soups and stews, casseroles, pies and quiche and anything else that needs diced or chopped onion this winter.
The remaining onions were sorted and any small enough to roast were blanched, drained and put onto a baking paper lined baking sheet and then flash frozen. I'll use these for our Sunday roasts. When they are completely frozen they'll be bagged up too.
That left about 7 kilos of rather largish onions. Those were sliced on the mandolin. They will be great for hamburgers and steak sandwiches and crumbed they'll make lovely onion rings. The mandolin had them sliced up, into lovely even slices, in no time. And again they went into ziplock bags, this time in 1 cup portions.
Now there is a green bag in the freezer, full of packets of diced, sliced or whole onions.
It did take a couple of hours to process that 20 kilos, but it will save me a lot of time over winter. When a recipe calls for onion I will be able to just pull a packet out of the freezer.
And know that I've saved around $24 too.
What do you buy in bulk to prepare ahead and freeze? Leave a comment and inspire us!
This post was shared from Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing
This topic came up again a few days ago, so I thought I'd revisit it here.
Mountain Bread (that thin, flat wrap stuff) can be bought direct from Mountain Bread for 33% less than you buy it at Coles or Woolworths.
If you order more than 8 packets (and no reason you can't - it lasts for just about ever, no preservatives and very little in actual ingredients, and it freezes) then delivery is free.
There are a lot of different varieties.
I buy wholemeal and corn.
I use them for wraps, as lasagne sheets when I'm too lazy to make them, for quesadillas, to make "pita" chips and to make Australian sushi.
We take them with us when we go camping, as fresh bread is hard to get in the bush. Being light and flat packed they store easily in the food drawer.
They make great strudels when you don't have filo. I use three sheets, spread with melted butter, sprinkled with almond meal, and stacked. On the last layer i put stewed apple and sultanas, or apple and rhubarb, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and brown sugar, roll up and bake 30 minutes. Delicious with ice-cream.
Use them as pastry sheets in the pie makers or quiche tins.
Two sheets layered is great for sausage rolls when you don't have pastry.
You'll find ordering info here
You'll find the order form here (with prices and varieties).
Lots of uses - if you have another one, please share it.
This post has been shared from Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing
Organising Your Food
If it's been a while since you cleaned out your cupboards, you may want to give your kitchen an overhaul before your next shopping trip. You'll be surprised at how much easier meal planning and cooking is when you have a tidy kitchen. You'll also be surprised at just how much money you can save too.
When your pantry, fridge and freezer are organized, you will stop over-buying. Using inventories will show you at a glance just how much food you have on hand and what you need to add to the shopping list.
Here are some tips for organizing your food:
· Check the food in your pantry for expiration dates; if it is past its prime, throw it out.
· If an item isn't expired, but no one is interested in eating it, throw it out. Unopened items can be donated to family, friends or a local food bank.
· Group like foods together; for example, store all canned foods in the same cupboard and all dry goods, such as rice and pasta in the same cupboard. Designate a shelf to baking supplies. Store flours, dried fruits, coconut and other baking supplies in air-tight containers to keep them fresh. If you put new packets into the freezer for 72 hours before putting them in the pantry you won't be bothered with pantry moths and weevils. If you have the freezer room they can be stored in the freezer in air-tight containers permanently.
· Keep drink mixes, coffee and tea in the same area and keep breakfast cereals, breakfast spreads and other breakfast items grouped together. When you want something, you'll know right where to go to get it.
· Keep regularly used items front and centre. You'll save time by not continuously searching, reaching and bending for these items.
· If you pack a lot of lunches, designate a “lunch” shelf or cupboard. Place lunch bags, Ziploc bags, greaseproof paper, clingwrap, foil etc in a basket so they are all together and not falling all over the pantry.
· When you start packing the lunch, you simply open the lunch cupboard, grab your lunch stuff and start packing. Of course, you'll need to walk over to the fridge to grab meats, cheeses, jams, fruits, and so forth, but having most of the items in one place will save you a lot of time.
· Clean out the fridge each week. Leftovers have a short shelf life and you don't want to risk getting sick by eating something that should have been frozen or already been thrown-out.
When you don't have any clutter in your way, you may find that you actually enjoy cooking for your family much more than before. Not only that, your grocery bill will go down considerably.