Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Inspiration on a Monday: Budgeting

Rippon Vineyard, Lake Wanaka, NZ

This year the budget is becoming mighty important because I am no longer working.  This year I am going to be a SAHM.  I decided last year that I want to spend more time with our little one as he is growing so fast and changing so much.

When it comes to budgeting I love writing down figures and working out how to fit it all together in my special book.  I love making the plan of what is going where and it working of it all out given me enough of that “I can do this” to get me going well.

My husband and I are trying to work on a cash system - to avoid using credit cards essentially - because the budget we have works - but not if we have to make credit card payments - at all.  I have debits set up for the mortgage and food, and have all our bills coming out of an account (actually I do all of these manually rather than with debits as I think it helps to stay au fait with what you are actually spending).  The rest of our pay I draw out as cash and divvy it up into envelopes.  The envelopes cover all the non-essentials.  In the past it has been my pay that covered these things - so the goal is to find enough work to continue to cover them.

We also have some financial goals this year - which I really think help us to feel that we are not striving and struggling for nothing (not that we really struggle - we are going ok with what we have).  Our goals financially are:

  • Save enough money to have another baby (if we are lucky enough) with my lovely OB.
  • My husband to travel overseas for a conference and have enough money to enjoy himself  and not to have to put any of it on credit
  • To have no debt (apart from our home loan) throughout the year.

Great Grandma with her Great Grandson

The things that we struggle mostly with are:
  •  Spending money on take away/eating out

My husband and I (and our friends and family) all love food.  Whenever we get together there is food - we talk about food, swap cookbooks, watch cooking shows together, make each other food).  Before we had children and both of us were working - going out to eat every night of the week was not a problem - not was meeting friends for dinner - or spending a holiday in the vineyards - buying $40 bottles of wine.  But for know - that time is over.  To change our mindset with this one we are creating gourmet menus to try at home - looking online for recipes instead of buying cookbooks and inviting friends to our house for coffee etc (which works in better with our boys sleep anyway).

Enjoying cheese and wine at the Rippon Vineyard - see above for the view!

  • Being the one that pays for everyone else

Now here, I’m not taking about treating everybody to dinner or anything like that but my husband seems always to be the one who gets asked to organise the tickets, the bucks weekend, book this or that and so is the one who initially pays for everyone to attend the event etc.  Well, that also means that he is the one using his credit card and is getting charged the interest while everyone else gets their money to him.  On a few occasions it has even happened that people have pulled out and he has still had to cover their costs - so be warned - this is a tough love one.

The days of eating out at special restaurants are over for awhile - this is a Fleur's Moeraki, NZ

  • Going to the shops for something to do

This is something that we have been working on for awhile.  It’s that thing of being bored and not feeling like doing anything but spending money.  To combat this I have a list of things we need in my purse - or things I’m on the lookout for along with a rough idea of how much they cost at certain shops.  Keeping my eyes on the prize helps me to just look of we do go to the shops - or snap up a bargain with a voucher I have (I seem to get a lot of store vouchers as gifts).  I also find that if I’m feeling well-dressed and the home is clean before I leave I am less likely to buy anything.  I guess because in cleaning up I see how much stuff we have and how lovely some of it is.

Taking a ride in a light aircraft - not happening so much these days!

  • Buying water and snacks out
 I remember that when I was pregnant I always had something that I could nibble on in my purse because I would feel  a but yuck if I didn’t keep snacking throughout the day.  And then when you have a baby you are taking food and a bottle or similar around with you to pacify the baby - then when you have a toddler the only way to get anything done at the shops is to constantly feed them - my child is a bottomless pit.  It is just so much easier to know that I have drinks and food for us both.  Sometimes I try and leave the house just after we have had a big meal and this helps too.  In the mornings I have gotten into the habit of making coffee at home and taking it in an insulated cup.  Not only do I prefer my coffee but there is no waiting and it’s hot for ages.

Having portable food is a must when you travel with a baby - just landed at Hamilton Island Airport.

I realise that I could ramble on forever about budgeting as I read a lot and try a lot of things but I might save them for another day along with an update on how we are going with our financial goals.

Here are some links to people that I find help me to stay on the right track

A Bowl Full of Lemons here

A Time for Everything here 

Wellness Mama here

Blissful and Domestic here

Mrs Happy Homemaker here

The Art of Simple here

My Pinterest Boards for DIY and style ideas here

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Menu Plan

Here is my new menu for this week and next week.

I a new format but with no pictures yet - still working on everything looking a bit more professional!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Inspiration on a Monday: Organisation

As I attempt to fulfill all of my goals and resolutions for the year there are a few particular bloggers and Instagrammers and other people that are helping me to stay focused and on track.  I thought that I would share some of them with you and hopefully you may find someone new to inspire you too.  I will share one each week.  This week I’m focusing on organisation (as most people are - or their diet - it’s probably pretty equal).


I find that I am tending towards minimalism more and more - not to say that my style is minimalist but my tendency to keep things “just in case” is starting to fade away.  I now am pretty ruthless when it comes to decluttering and will even throw out (donate) things that have emotional attachments.  It is so much less stressful when you have less stuff.  For example, I don’t have to pull out 20 mixing bowls, have four chopping boards fall over, move the gigantic olive oil I buy and then slide the plastic jugs over to get to the steamer basket anymore - much less frustrating.

The people keeping me on the straight and narrow at the moment are Coco from lightbyCoco,  Carrie from CarrieLeighAnna and FlyLady

Coco lives in San Francisco in a studio and doesn’t even have a bed (it took me awhile to figure that
one out)!  Her husband is also a minimalist and they have systems in place that allow them to spend time at home efficiently and happily without a whole lot of stuff.  Her videos also are great because she does tours of her whole home (which is tiny but you don’t realise it until the moment you see it) and it really does demonstrate how little you need to live comfortably.

Find Coco on Instagram
Coco's blog here
Coco on YouTube

Carrie is a SAHM who recently moved to Kentucky from somewhere (can’t remember) and she is also into being a minimalist but also into living naturally.  Since reading and listening to her I have begun to not use shampoo and will not spend anymore money on toiletries and half the things I buy probably.  There is also an extremely personal side to this blog which I like because even though Carrie looks pulled together and organised - she shares her issues with infertility and food - it helps to keep everything in perspective.

Find Carrie on Instagram
Carrie's Blog here
Carrie on YouTube

The other help I find is via an email subscription.  I have signed up to FlyLady in the past and found it very helpful to get me into a good morning routine that helps my day flow smoothly.  FlyLady is a website that has a lot of great (free) resources as well as encouragement's and ideas to help you get organised and stay that way so that again - life is less stressful.  But the best bit is that while you follow this basic pattern every day - there is also a focus area of your home each week.  The focus area is decluttered every day for 15 minutes until you are happy with the amount of stuff.  Then you can detail clean in that area for 15 minutes each day.  Who can’t find 15 minutes?  It’s amazing what you can get done in that time.

FlyLady lives here

There are about a zillion other great people to follow on Instagram and I'm sure there are more on Twitter (which I don't really do).  If you have someone you follow and find helpful please link it in the comments section.

Next Monday I will be focusing on health for my Inspiration on a Monday post.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2015 Goals and January

As we approach a new yaer I am thinking that it is time to think about new starts.

2014 has been a year that has been filled with love and trucks, wheels, mess, some sadness, changes and hopes. 

In 2015, I will no longer be working for anyone else.  I will be returning to some music tutoring and will be focusing on being a full-time mum. I don't think that it has really hit me yet.  In Australia, school breaks from mid December through to the end of January so it feels like I'm just on holidays.  However I have been feeling like it is time to start bringing a bit of structure back after Christmas and all the catch-ups we have been having with everyone.  When I have a plan I feel like I can fit more in, and accompllish more with less hassle so...

here are some goals for January in no particular order:

  • Have a proper stretch/yoga session every couple of days (toting around 14 kilos has not been kind to my back)
  • Take my boy outside everyday and do something physical (sandcastles/park/swimming/walking) to tire us both out.
  • Begin blogging again (check!)
  • Read a chapter of the Bible every day (I began this last year and I am following the suggested plan at Women Living Well - I also am part of an email accountability group for this)
  • Have more of a schedule for everyday as well as a weekly plan (e.g - Monday's we visit Mor Mor) so Jack feels more comfortable with the world in general (he is a little shy of everyone and worries about me going out).
  • Only have one alcoholic drink a night - and enjoy it sitting outside - not watching the television!
  • Read with my boy every day - not just at bed time.
  • Continue to declutter everything!
  • SMS three friends every week to organise some kind of catch-up or ask how they are.
  • Attempt for one week to get up earlier than the boy (which will be about 5.15am) and be showered and dressed before he is up and see how this impacts our schedule etc.
Hope you had a blessed Christmas!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

September Challange - No Take Away

I know that it is almost the end of September but I wanted to write about the fact that for 25  we have not bought take away for dinner!  I really didn't think that we would do so well, but there you go.

We (well I) decided that we would not buy take-away for the month of September for a few reasons. 

Firstly, was the budgeting.  I try to stick to a grocery budget which is not huge but workable and then I realised - why am I putting all this effort into this when some days we would spend a third (!) of our grocery budget on ONE meal! ? I know that you can get cheap dinner at the fancy Scottish restaurant but when you are trying to be healthy and get something that you want to eat - in Sydney you are looking at $50 minimum for two and a half people (remembering that because I'm pescetarian that we have to order different dishes - and we live next to a Thai take-away and can smell dinner).

Secondly - with the purchase of the Thermomix I have become more aware of all the preservatives and additives in food that are not necessary when you make things yourself.  So why undo all the good work that I have been doing by stuffing ourselves full of unknowns every time I cannot be  bothered to make anything?

Thirdly - you do remember my pantry don't you?  And that awhile back I was too ashamed to post a picture of the inside of my fridge?  Well - they are both bursting with jars of this, weird noodles and 12 types of flour and dried beans etc.  So it makes sense to try and eat our way through it.

Fourthly - I hate wasting food and I ended up throwing away food because I didn't use it in the recipe I intended because we got take away. 

To help with this whole process I have been building in some safeguards for those night when I just cannot cook. 

I have been making my meal planning a little more gourmet.  
I have been spending a little more money on ingredients to do this but nowhere near the $50 I would have spent on one meal.  For example, I find hot-smoked salmon to be a really great stand-by for dinner.  Put it on some crusty bread with Lesure butter and have a green salad alongside and I (and my husband) are happy.  I have also been buying things like feta and ricotta by the kilo when they are on sale.

Making Double
I make double of some meals and freezing half for another night.  Anything with mince works well, as do vegetarian burger patties, "croissants" (really just rolled up puff around some cheese or something).  Sometimes it also pays to have some "bits" ready in the fridge - whenever I roast veggies I always do double so I have some spare for soup, salads, fritatta's, toddler meals, pasta sauce or

There are also some great resources that I watch/read to inspire me.  The best ones in my opinion are: MamaBake (though I have not subscribed) and Save with Jamie (though he does seem to use every pan in the kitchen for one meal) on TV. 

Back up Dinner
I try to have something that I (or my husband) can make when the evening is going downhill because I was working late, the boy is sick, there is a mountain of housework to do still, it's later than usual, the intended dinner is disgusting or still uncooked (this happens more than I care to admit) etc.  My options for back up dinner are:
  • Basic Quesadillas (burrito bread, grated cheese, onion)
  • Scrambled Egg
  • Something from the freezer
  • Cheese on toast
  • Cream of tomato soup (passata and milk and seasoning) with toast soldiers.
  • Cheese plate (cheese, pickles, dried fruit, apple, pear, biscuits/bread etc)
  • Kippers on toast 
  • Anything on toast
  • Peanut butter sandwich and a banana (when there's only me to "cook" for)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Menu Plan

Week 1
Monday: Nachos (beef/bean)
Tuesday: Teriakyi Salmon, sushi rice and green beans
Wednesday: Grandmas' for dinner
Thursday: Vegetable Soup
Friday: Lamb Chops and Roast Vegetables and feta
Saturday: Quiche
Sunday: Meat/Nut loaf

Week 2
Monday: Laksa
Tuesday: Enchiladas
Wednesday: Grandmas for dinner
Thursday: Pumpkin Risotto
Friday: Baked Potatoes with fridge fixings
Saturdy: Leftover
Sunday: Pad Siew takeaway

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Chinese Chicken Wings/Tofu and Fried Rice

I feel that this heading may be completely fraudulent as I'm not sure if the wings are Chinese and the rice isn't fried but that's what my Mum called these when I was little and the name has stuck.

My family has been eating chicken wings as long as I can remember - whenever there is a family thing on or someone needs to bring a plate to something these chicken wings get brought out.  I haven't ever seen a recipe for them either - I'm not sure if Mum made them up or they are from somewhere - maybe a luridly coloured 80's cookbook that my Mum still has somewhere (where all the food was harisprayed to make it shiny - yuck).

I make these chicken wings when people come over and I am unsure what they will like -everyone likes these (or the vegetarian version I have invented) and several poeple have asked for the recipe.  This meal is also pretty economical even for a crowd - I bought a kilo of chicken wings for $3 on special last week - and apart from the chicken I always have everything needed for them on hand.  I have given approximate weightings below but it is a bit about taste - some might not like the amount of sugar I used or would prefer to use all honey - so trust you eye and your taste.

The rice is my Mum's version of "fried" rice - basically steamed rice, seasoned with mixed veggies and omelette.  Again I haven't ever seen a recipe written down so I have kind of used the EDC method for cooking the rice and the veg and Quirky Cooking's method for the omlette all in the Thermomix - but it's easy to do without - just with a saucepan on the stove top with a steamer and a fry pan (for the omelette).

i make this meal also for my husband (carnivore), myself (pescetarian) and my todeleer.  I have included pictures dwn the bottom about how I served it out.

Chinese Chicken Wings

  • I kilo of chicken wings - jointed into 3 (freeze tips for stock or give them to your cat - you don't them for this recipe)
  • Soy Sauce - 2 tablespoons
  • Chinese 5 Spice Powder - 2 teaspoons
  • Honey - 2 tablespoons
  • Raw Sugar - 2 tablespoons
  • Sesame Seeds - 2 teaspoons

  • Place chicken wings in a roasting tray
  • Sprinkle over all the other ingredients
  • Use your hands to turn the chiken wings in the seasonings
  • Bake in a 180 degress oven for about 30 mins - turning them over half way
  • The sauce should be sticky and making the wings all glossy.


















Chinese Tofu

  • I packet of firm tofu
  • 1 tin of water chestnts
  • Soy Sauce - 2 tablespoons
  • Chinese 5 Spice Powder - 2 teaspoons
  • Honey - 2 tablespoons
  • Raw Sugar - 2 tablespoons
  • Sesame Seeds - 2 teaspoons

  • Place tofu and water chestnuts wings in a roasting tray
  • Sprinkle over all the other ingredients
  • Use your hands to turn the tofu in the seasonings
  • Bake in a 180 degress oven for about 20 mins - turning over half way
  • The sauce should be sticky and making the tofu all glossy.








  Fried Rice

  • Jasmine Rice - 400 g
  • I carrot - sliced finely into coins
  • Red Cabbage - shredded - 1/2 cup
  • I zucchini sliced into coins
  • 1 ear of corn - cut into 3.
  • Soy Sauce - 2 teaspoons
  • Sesame Oil - 1 - 2 teaspoons
  • 2 eggs
  • Soy Sauce - 1 teaspoon
  • White Pepper - to taste
  • Mirin - 1 teaspoon
  • Water - 1 teaspoon


  • Cook rice according to the method you would like to use.  For the Thermomix - it's rinse the rice in the basket, measure in 900g water and place the basket inside the bowl.  Cook on Varoma/16 minutes/Speed 2.
  • Place veggies in a steamer/Varoma basket and cook on top of the rice (I put them on at the same time as I wanted them quite soft for the toddler).
  • When rice has about 7 minutes to go, make the omelette (mix eggs, mirin, black pepper and water - line the Varoma tray with wet, crumpled baking paper and let the omelette steam).  When cooked slice into strips
  • When the rice is cooked turn into a dish Thermoserver and season with the sesame oil and soy sauce, then add the veggies and the omelette - or arrange all the elements separately for new eaters.









Serving Suggestions


The Meat Eater


The Vegetarian


The Toddler


The Toddler - the reality

He saw the bread rolls on the kitchen bench and was so not interested in what we had made (in his meal above I also offered a zucchini and cheese puff)

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