Apple and Pear Pizza

Who says pizza has to be dripping with cheese and covered in spicy meats? Not Miss T!

We had some apples and a pear in the fruit bowl this morning that were looking more than just a little past their “best before date”. Someone also may have used them to play a game called “fruit skittles” (whole other story I may tell you another time). While this is an amusing pastime for some members of the Scraphouse, unless the fruit is eaten immediately it results in big squishy bruises.

Being a Sunday I was cleaning out the fridge and fruit bowl getting organised for the coming week and wondering aloud what to do with said squishy bruisy fruit when Miss T said “I have an idea, you could make a pizza”. So we did!

Apple and Pear Pizza

This recipe is not for a traditonal pizza base, its much quicker and a little more like a flat bread. It makes two medium sized (25-30cm diameter) pizzas but any size will work, just adjust your cooking time to suit.

Base

Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 355F/Gas Mark 4 and flour your trays.

2 cups plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

Pinch salt

Zest of half a lemon

3/4 cup water (or enough to make a smooth not sticky dough)

Mix these ingredients together and knead to a smooth dough. Roll or press out on a floured surface to fit your pizza tray/s.

Topping

You can get creative here but we used

3 apples sliced thin

1 large pear, also sliced thin

A handful of chopped walnuts

A teaspoon of coconut oil, melted (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons nut butter

The juice of half a small lemon (the one we zested)

Optional: 2 teaspoons rice malt syrup ( or honey /maple syrup if you prefer)

Spread each pizza base thinly with the nut butter. In a bowl toss the sliced fruit and chopped nuts with the coconut oil, cinnamon and lemon juice. Spread over your base. Drizzle each with a teaspoon of the syrup.

Bake in a moderate oven (180c) for approximately 15 minutes or until your pizza turns golden round the edges.

Slice and serve warm or cold.

As you can see above, Miss T ate hers in true pizza style, as is, but Mr Scraps and I added a great big dollop of yoghurt.

Lemon and Vodka Hair Spray

I actually loathe most commercial hair products these days due to their nasty chemical smell (yes even the “natural” and “organic” versions tend to have that weird chemical smell). These days I sport a “do” that’s a little below shoulder length. I like to wear it 1940s style when I have the time (think big smooth curls and victory rolls). Doing this with my fine, dead straight hair requires a little assistance, usually from one of the most environmentally unfriendly hair products out there, good ‘ol hairspray.

Hairspray with any sticking power can also be rather expensive at between $5 and $20 Australian (or more) and I’m totally pinchy (ie a tight wad, cheap ass, miser). Especially when it comes to spending our hard earned and limited income on stuff I’m sure I can make myself.

So I did some fishing about on good old Miss Google for alternatives. There’s lots, with varying reviews. I tried a few. Everything from sugar (attracts bees … go on, ask me how I know) to tea ( not great for lightened hair) to beer (worked great but left me smelling something akin to a pub carpet after closing).

I’ve heard of people using lemons to make hair rinses and to lighten their hair before but didn’t realise you could use them to hold your hair in place…till now.

Lemon Vodka Hairspray

1 large clean waxfree lemon (I used two small ones from the tree in our backyard. If you have dark coloured hair, use an orange instead).

2 cups Water

1 tablespoon Sugar ( you can leave this out if you don’t need much “hold” power or just want to use as a setting spray).

2 tablespoons vodka (or gin or white rum or if you have darker coloured hair try brandy. Whatever you use needs a high alcohol content, 30% plus)

A spray bottle (I just used an old plastic leave in conditioner spray bottle. Does the job)

To make

Slice your lemon (or orange) skin and all into rings of about half centimetre or so width. Don’t worry about taking out the seeds. Pop in a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Lower temperature and simmer at least 15 minutes (20 is better but keep an eye on the water level, top it up a little if needed.

Take off the heat, strain out your lemon and return liquid to pan. Add the sugar, bring back to boil stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Turn of heat and stir in the vodka.

Decant into a clean spray bottle.Allow to cool a little if using a plastic spray bottle… Plastic plus heat equals…ick.

Use as you would regular hairspray next time you style your hair.

If you’re worried about smelling like lemons or vodka don’t worry, you won’t, but you can add a few drops of your favourite essential oil when you add the vodka if you like.

Don’t chuck the lemon bits that you strained out.. I mince what’s left and freeze for cake/desert/jam making.

Does it actually work? Hell yeah!!

I usually style my hair in the early AM and providing I’m not out in terrential rain or hurricane winds this spray has been keeping my “do” in place until late in the PM. I just brush it out before bed. I haven’t had any problems with stickiness or build up.

2018 Ration Challenge Survival

Warning: This is a long post about a week of limited food choices. I did this as a sponsored challenge to help raise funds to support the humanitarian works of Act for Peace who, among other things, provide food rations for refugees from places torn apart by things like war and famine. In no way do I recommend this as a day-to-day diet for anyone who has access to fresh healthy food.

Prep Day

Okay. The challenge starts tomorrow. I’ve raised enough through sponsorship to “earn” some salt, sugar, milk and garlic powder. I joined a team of other ration challengers and apparently we can share ingredients so I also have access to some other spices and an extra 100 mls of milk or 25 grams of sugar.

My rations for the week. There’s a few extra lentils and chickpeas in the jars as when I took this picture I was experimenting with a few recipes before the challenge began to see if I could adapt them for during the challenge week.

I’m going for the milk as we don’t usually even have white sugar in the Scrap House pantry, let alone cook with it.

I used some of my flour and oil rations to make some flatbread. That was easy enough but I had to then make some extras because Miss T will eat them all before I get any.

I actually remembered to soak some of my chickpea ration in water last night for a very basic hummus (just blended chickpeas with a little of their cooking water, some salt and garlic powder).

I’ll be at work through the week where there’s likely to be temptations (like the coffee machine and meeting cake, not to mention the smell of all my workmates reheating last night’s curry for lunch in the office kitchen) so I make some rice crackers with Rice flour, water and a little oil. To make the rice flour I ground up two cups of rice in the blender and finished it off with my mortar and pestle. I added some salt and garlic powder to half the batch so I could have them as desk snacks for work. They turned out quite well.

My Rice Crackers and Hummus turned out quite tastey

Day 1

It’s a Sunday so I got up and made congee for breakfast (basically over-cooked rice). I added 50mls of my milk ration and a sprinkling of sugar. It was a bit like porridge and quite delicious so I made some more for the next few days (and yes the challenge orgamisers provided everyone with information on safe food handling for storing and reheating things like cooked rice).

Lunch was flatbread with some hummus and plain rice and for dinner I made Lentil Soup using half my lentil ration, some more rice, some garlic powder and 1/4 of a red capsicum which I traded with a team member for half my sugar ration. I made enough for four meals, so was set for a few work lunches during the week. The hardest thing was watching the rest of the Scraps eat roast dinner while I slurped on my soup.

Rice and Red Lentil Soup.

Day 2

I’m not going hungry. Yesterday was fine but today I’m suffering from serious Coffee withdrawal. Congee for breakfast, soup for lunch, hummus and rice crackers for snacks and fried rice made with a sardine, a few kidney beans and garlic powder and a pinch of chilli powder (shared spice from a team mate).

Day 3

The coffee withdrawal headache set in big-time so when one of my team mates offered to give away one of her two teabags or two spoons of coffee I almost took the coffee, but (sensibly I think) I took a teabag. I didn’t actually have any teabags (we don’t buy them as many of the bags actually contain plastic) so I substituted a teaspoon of leaf tea.

Lunch or Dinner was quite often just rice and flatbread

Day 4

The headache still isn’t going away. I’m not starving but I’m very over rice. I had the last of my soup for lunch. I finally raised enough through offline donations to earn 170grams of vegetables. I chose a large brown onion, 1/4 of which I shared with the team mate who had so generously given me some capsicum and a handful of spinach leaves. I made the mistake of going to the gym as usual after work yesterday and am paying for it today feeling very sore, drained and blah. Someone reheated a casserole for lunch at work. I’m really missing food that isn’t beige.

Day 5

More rice. Sardine on flatbread for lunch. My rice crackers are all gone, so is almost all the hummus. Headache is gone but we’re going to the movies tonight. I made sure to put extra rice into my lentil soup for dinner before we left so I wouldn’t be tempted by popcorn. We usually take our water bottles and other snacks so I had roasted a handful of my remaining chickpeas but there weren’t many. I managed not to cave in to the delicious buttery, salty popcorn that Mr Scraps tried to tell me was disgusting and rubbery (as he shoved handfuls of it into his mouth).

Day 6

This morning I made piklets (little pancakes) with the last of my flour ration and the water I cooked my chickpeas in. The Younger Teen and I had them for breakfast with the last scraps of my hummus. They were delicious.

Chickpea Juice Piklets. These were delicious! The Chickpea Juice worked like a vegan egg and made them a bit fluffy. I’ll definitely be making these again.

I reused my tea leaves for about the hundredth time. They had no flavour anymore but the act of making tea is somehow satisfying. I had the last of my sardines and some lentils with onion and rice for the rest of the day. I made more rice flour for flatbread. Refugee food takes A LOT of preparation (soaking, grinding, portioning so you don’t run out). There’s definitely no room for waste.

Day 7

Down to pretty much rice and a few kidneys beans, lentils, oil and precisely 9 chickpeas. I made it through the day. I made it through the week. My team members (all bar someone who had to stop a few days early for medical reasons) made it. We didn’t starve, but it wasn’t easy. Some people experienced stomach problems (bloating, constipation etc), some lost significant amounts of weight (not in a healthy way, I don’t recommend this as a weight loss diet). We all experienced tiredness and lethargy and most of us had headaches at one stage or another because of this (and in my case also due to caffeine withdrawals). I struggled days 3-5 at work because of it, and I was just sitting at the desk writing reports this past week, there’s no way I could have done it if I had to do any fieldwork.

Just Rice and and the last few Chickpeas. I actually like rice, but after this week it may be a while before I eat it again.

Collectively my team raised over $13,000 AU, which is enough to provide rations for 55 refugees for a year.

It’s been a seriously humbling experience and has opened my eyes to just how little we need food wise to actually survive and just how much excess we buy. While the Scrap House is fairly low waste, there was definitely no room for waste this week.

With a few modifications, some of the recipes I improvised may even make it into our regular meal plan.

While the challenge is now over, our team page my personal sponsorship page will remain open for donations until September. You can donate here: https://my.rationchallenge.org.au/meaghana

Rations and Refugees

Next week is refugee week and for the past few years an organisation called Act for Peace has been running a Ration Challenge to raise funds to supply much needed food resources to refugees from war torn countries like Syria. Ordinary people who were probably just going about their normal daily lives who were forced to flee to save themselves and their families.

In order to help raise a few $$$ for this organisation this year I’m joining in.

For one week I’ll be chowing down on the contents of this little box. It’s not much. Some rice, a few chickpeas, some lentils, a can of beans, a tin of sardines, a little oil and some flour. Definitely no room for waste.

This is what Syrian refugees have to live on.

If they’re resourceful ( lucky) enough, they might be able to buy or find a little meat or a few vegetables. Even simple everyday spices that can make such simple ingredients more palatable day in and day out, like salt and pepper can be hard to get. They pretty much have to rely on rations supplied by organisations such as Act for Peace.

I’m not going to sugar coat it…It’s going to be tough. Especially for a tea and coffee guzzling gal like me in an office full of coffee drinkers and chocolate biscuit eaters. But I’ll give it a go.

I’ll be sharing updates here and on my fundraising page here:

https://my.rationchallenge.org.au/meaghana

Vintage Cheese & Apple Cake

Today Miss T got a lesson in “never judging a book by it’s cover” or in this case, an apple by it’s skin.

We had some Granny Smith apples in the fruit bow. They’re Miss T’s favourite. But when she picked one up today it’s skin was discoloured.

Of course she refused to eat it…I can’t really blame her, as you can see from the photo, it didn’t look very appetising.

So what to do with it? It wasn’t squishy so probably wasn’t rotten at all. If it was bruised it was only on one side. We peeled it and found the flesh inside was pristine.

I threw the cores and unblemished parts of the peel into my freezer stash for apple jam and cider vinegar and we checked the recipe books for ideas.

After a few minutes we found an interesting recipe* using Apples and Cheese (which I just happened to have a dried out chunk of sitting in the fridge). We did a little tweaking to lower the (already fairly low for a vintage recipe) sugar and it was delicious.

Vintage Cheese & Apple Cake

2 large green apples, peeled , cored and sliced.

50 grams (2 oz) cheddar or similar cheese, grated.

2 1/2 cups plain flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder ( or just use self-raising flour)

1 tablespoon rice malt syrup ( or honey or maple syrup) for cake and about another tablespoon for topping.

75 grams (3 oz) butter for cake batter and a scrap extra for topping.

150 mls (1/4 pint) milk

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Grease a 18 x 25 cm (7 x 10 inch) baking tin (or thereabouts) and get your oven warmed up to about 190 Celsius.

Sift flour into a bowl and stir through cheese. Melt butter and stir in syrup. Cool a little and pour this and milk into flour mixing well until you get a soft dough. Pat into bottom of baking tin and top with sliced apple. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with a little more syrup and dot with butter. Bake about 30 minutes or until risen and apples are starting to brown and skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.

Leave cool a few minutes in the tin before cutting slices.

Enjoy as it is, warm from the oven or serve with cream, icecream or yoghurt.

*the original recipe we tweaked can be found in the book Cooking for Victory: Celebratory foods on rations by Marguerite Patton. 2012 edition published by Bounty Books

Easy Peasy Muesli Slice

I’m not a morning person. This surprises a lot of people because apparently I come across as “organised”. I’m usually the first one into the office. Since we moved into town (still not sure that I like being a townie) I’ve been walking the 4 kilometres to work four days a week and recently started going to the gym before work. But seriously, my organisational skill is all an illusion.

I get to work early and have time for the gym beforehand because I lay everything out and pack my gym bag the night before. If I take all the decision making out of the equation it’s all good.

But I often drop the ball on breakfast. To get going in the mornings I need to get up, get dressed and just go, otherwise I start to dither about and everything goes to pot. So sometimes I’m a bit naughty and skip breakfast but that means I end up eating whatever I can get my hands on at morning tea (usually not healthy choices) or feeling lethargic all day. So breakfast of some sort is a must.

I like simple, but I’m not really a cereal gal, plain old toast gets boring and despite being healthy smoothies somehow leave me feeling like I haven’t had any “real” food. Plus the blender wakes up the whole house (not good if you’re trying to sneak out before Miss T realises you’re leaving and starts leg clinging – apparently she’s perfectly fine as long as she doesn’t actually see me go).

I love an egg on toast, or sometimes avacado but avos are expensive and I have to cook an egg. That’s why these are great.. And not just for breakfast. They’re good for Lunchbox snacks or even as dessert warmed up with a little custard.

Muesli Slice

2 cups muesli (I use some fruit free, sugar free untoasted stuff with lots of raw oats)

1/3 cup rice malt syrup (or honey or maple syrup)

100 grams butter (or similar)

2 eggs

1/2 cup self raising flour

To make:

Preheat your oven to 170 Celsius and grease/line a baking tin approximately 16cm x 26cm or thereabouts.

Melt the syrup and butter over a low heat stirring until well combined. Let it cool then whisk in the eggs (make sure it’s cool or you’ll get scrambled eggs).

Combine the flour and muesli in a bow, stir through your butter, syrup eggy mix and pour/scrape into your prepared tin

Bake approximately 20 mins or until set and golden on top.

Let it cool in the pan and then cut into bars/squares or whatever shape you like (a 16 x 26 cm tin cuts nicely into 16 small bars).

Stored in an airtight container they last about a week.

I haven’t tried freezing these yet but will add an update when I do and let you know how they go.

For those of you who are into that sort of thing, made with butter, syrup and fruit free untoasted muesli these work out to about 153 calories per piece with 3 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat (1gram saturated), 21 grams carbohydrates and 2 grams of fibre. These stats will change slightly depending on which muesli, butter/butter substitute etc you use.

Bum Curry

Cheap as chips, made in a jiffy and would still taste good even if you threw an old boot in it. 
Great for when the cupboards are practically bare. This is one of my go-to fridge clear-out the night before grocery day meals that I know everyone in the Scrap House will eat.

This version used a tin of tuna, a soggy sweet potato and a bunch of broccoli stalks I had stashed in the freezer…

Bum Curry

So cheap and simple even a hobo could afford it

Essential Ingredients 

A small onion (diced), 2 cups of stock any flavour but we like chicken the best (brought liquid, homemade or powdered or one of those cubes made up to about 2 cups by adding water), a teaspoon of curry powder (more if you like it spicy), a teaspoon or so of oil ( to soften the onion we use olive or coconut oil for everything but use whatever you have in your pantry).

Ingredients you can vary

A large can of tuna. For this I used one of those  425g tins that costs less than $3 from Aldi. (Hopefully my cheap tuna didn’t cost too many dolphin tears- but when you’re on a budget some days you just have to choke on the guilt over sea creatures a little – at least here I know the tin gets recycled. Small compensation I  know but better than nothing. 

A small sweet potato (diced)

A cup full of chopped broccoli stalks.

To make

In a saucepan saute off your onion and veg until the onion is soft. Add the curry powder and stir through. Add stock and drained tuna. Simmer until veg are soft.

Serve by itself with a chunk of bread or on a bed of rice or pasta.

Good Variations

Okay, so we haven’t actually tried this recipe using an old boot, but at one time or another we’ve tried just about everything else… And so far, it’s never been bad..

Instead of of tuna try a tin of salmon, chick-peas, lentils or, if your flush this week, some chicken. 

Or you can leave out the meat or meat substitutes altogether and just use more veg.

Use any veg you have lying around at the bottom of the fridge, plain old white potato tastes good, so does pumpkin. Throw in some peas, carrots or corn. Celery and carrot always go well with onion. We save our broccoli, silverbeet, kale and cauliflower stalks for soups, stews and curries. The possibilities are endless.

One hint that does make a difference though is to balance out “bitter” veg, like cabbage with something a bit sweet or starchy or both  like carrot, pumpkin or potato. 

Pretty sure this cost me under $5 all up, it fed four of us a decent sized portion with enough for me to take a serve to work for lunch tomorrow and used up those bits of veg that would have otherwise been tossed in the compost (or worse – gone to landfill) … $1 a serve, can’t get much cheaper than that.

Crushing on Food Show Hosts and Why I don’t believe in “Superfoods”

Warning – Kinda ranty post with lots of research-y link things where I pick on quinoa and kale (a lot). If you’re offended by this click away now…

A typical weekly Scrap House “Superfoods” haul from the greengrocers.

Okay, I’m going to admit it… I spend far more time than I tell my family binge watching Food Network. Not only that, I then go off and stalk the show hosts I like on the interwebs.  

In doing so over this past few months I have developed a huge crush on Anthony Bourdain. Not the kind of teenage-girly-mid-life-crisis-leave-your-husband kind of crush, but one of those crushes when someone out there just “gets” ( obnoxiously swearingly agrees with) the way you think about stuff and then takes it a bit further and more think-y-er. (His recent essay on sexist kitchen culture has made him just that bit more interesting and attractive).

In short, I have an intellectual food-crush on this guy (she says adding him to the ever-growing list of food crushes … Sarah Wilson, Rachel Khoo, Maggie Beer, Rick Stein and that River Cottage Guy are just a few others. It’s getting pretty long). He’s not more special than any of the other chefs, cooks or obnoxious opinionated food lovers I follow on the interwebs. I  actually don’t know that much about his foody history, but I do like his no-BS commentary on the places he visits.  In particular like the attitude he shows towards food in his TV shows.

Yes, he visits “classy” “trendy” places and tries out all the fancy overpriced weird crud they offer, but the best bits are where he eats “real food” (and compares it to politics and stuff). The kind of food street vendors and somebodies Nona have been making for centuries (sometimes longer). And guess what… none of the stuff he rates as awesome is over-processed food chain or trendy “superfood” cafe fare. 

I actually cringe a little every time some hipster -wanna-be food guru uses the term “super-food”.

I feel more than a little miffed that all the so-called “experts” have treated us “ordinary” people like we’re just a little dim. I also feel a tad guilty that over the years, I too have been known to succumb to the hype spouted by popular and scientific media (yes scientists are hype-y too… they want you to believe that their research is better and more right-er than the other guys).

Take for example kale.

Yes its good for you, but, and I hate to be the one to tell you, kale is not new. I remember it in my own Nan’s garden in the 1970s (yes I’m that old) and there’s a bunch of WW2 era recipes out there that list it as a major ingredient (check out this recipe for Kale and Potato Soup). It grows just as easily as spinach or silverbeet, has the same kind of nutrients (there’s a table with all the numbers here for those who like that sort of thing). So quite frankly you can cram your $7 kale smoothie up your proverbial jacksy even if it is delicious. And I’m not the only one who thinks this. Theres a whole bunch of bloggers out there that tell you how to make your own and avoid the ridiculous Cafe prices (okay I lied theres just that one ). Even so, last time I went to the local greengrocer a bunch of kale was priced somewhere around $5. That’s still an expensive smoothie.

Same goes for those trendy quinoa salads (pronounced in our house key-noh-ahh) and chia (Chee-ahh) seed pudding slops. Okay, so I’ve tried them both. I’ll admit I did kind of like the pudding, it wasn’t abhorrent and I’m actually trying to use up the last of the chia seeds I brought months ago today by adding them to a beef casserole- kinda weird but its working.

I will also admit that I do love almond milk (used to make the pudding slop) which is both easily accessible here and not expensive. Almonds are grown on a farm near our house so I make the almond milk, mainly because I have an intolerance for the regular cow stuff, I’m not allergic it just makes me gag most days.

Yes, quinoa, chia seeds or your fancy dried frankle-frugen-berries are okay. Yes, they’re nutritional dynamite, but so is just about any fruit or vegetable if you don’t process the crap out of it. If you have food allergies and such they’re fab, but things like chia seed or quinoa are hard (almost impossible) to get un- plastic-packaged here in rural NSW, and often are transported in from overseas. Even if they are grown here in Australia are quite frankly overpriced for a lot of us feeding families on a budget. Quinoa costs approximately $14 per kilo here. Its currently around $2 per 100 grams at Woolworths, as opposed to  brown rice which is around 27 cents per 100 grams. Yes, quinoa beats brown rice for protein and a few other things but really they’re not all that different nutritionally, there’s a comparison diagram here.

Even “ordinary” foods have skyrocketed in price since being given the “super” label. Berries are the best example I can think of… blueberries here are $5 for a 200 gram punnet on a good day. That’s Australian dollars which equates to about 2 pound 50 or somewhere around $3.50 US depending on exchange rates and that’s just your un-organic supermarket variety, organic is (as always) a lot more. Frozen are often a lot cheaper (not to mention convenient) but again the plastic bag and transport.

Yeah okay so I made the frankle-frugen-berries up earlier, but you get what I mean….

In short, all these foodstuffs, and a whole lot of others are extremely un-family- budget or zero-waste friendly. Unless you have access to fantastic bulk stores locally, its hard to find most “superfoods” packaged in anything but plastic bags or other environmentally unfriendly containers. Yes they’ve got great nutritional stats, but so does almost every single unprocessed food (think whole grains, fruit, veg, dairy, meat). 

Add to that, the majority of recipes call for extra speciality ingredients that are equally ridiculous in price for families on a budget and get used once, thrown in the cupboard only to be forgotten and then thrown out next time you spring clean.

I have a suggestion for all of us that have succumb to the “superfood” hype at one time or another… it might not be a popular idea, but how about we forget it. Forget “superfood” altogether and eat “real” food instead. You know the stuff you can get at your local butcher, greengrocer, bakery or supermarket. If you have a green thumb or are lucky enough to live with someone who does, the stuff you grow yourself (hint-hint Mr Scraps, Grandad Scraps) and the stuff you can make in your own kitchen.

It’s better for you. “They” proved it in the 1940s (particularly in England) when people ate far less meat, less fat and less sugar than we do today due to rationing. It probably wasn’t the worlds most exciting diet most days (you had to take what you could get – there was a war happening) but on the whole people were fitter and healthier than they had been before or have been since. Give it a look-see on Dr. Google, most information is from England but here’s an SBS show about it . It was by no means perfect (nothing ever truly is, is it?) and food may have required a lot more preparation than today without our modern conveniences like refrigerators, microwaves and food processors, but it kept people, on the whole, fed and produced far far less waste than we do today.

For me personally biggest bonus to no longer buying into the “superfood” hype is that it saves sooo much time, mainly because its been done before. In the Scrap House we eat things like carrots, pumpkin, beans, mince beef and sometimes even…shock horror… white potatoes!

Why?

Because they’ve been done before. I don’t have to spend 14 hours trawling the internet trying to find out how the heck to cook that supa-dippity-do-dah ingredient after a day at work with a hungry 4-year-old at my feet. If you don’t slather most whole real food stuffs in fat or sugar they have nutritional values on the same levels as your expensive “superfood” varieties.  The biggest bonus is however, that NO ONE in the Scrap House turns their nose up at a humble baked spud or meatloaf full of hidden grated veg, they will however leave the kale chips to go limp on the bench  and that quinoa salad with laboriously extracted pomegranate seed embellishments to fester in the back of the fridge….

….. and it would of too, but I ate that stuff for lunch for a week just so it didn’t get thrown to the Immortal Chicken.

 

 

 

How we Clean the Scrap House Without Chemicals for Under $10 a Month

Feeding your family great food on a budget isn’t just about what you plate up and take to the table. It isn’t just about the produce you buy or your cooking techniques, it’s a reflection of your entire cooking environment. How you organise your space, prep your food and even how you launder you tea towels, will affect the quality of your final product. Here in the Scrap House we try our best within our budget to eat healthy nutritious food and avoid ingesting any unnecessary chemicals. One of the best ways to do this (besides buying pesticide free produce etc) is to eliminate the chemical cleaners.

I’ve posted a few times recently with recipes for homemade cleaning products, but I get so many emails and messages about them all I thought it would be nice to have them all in one place (ie.this post).

I also get asked about how much it costs to switch over, how much time it takes to organise it all and what extras I needed to buy to switch over.

The short answer is, it costs next to nothing and no special equipment needed. You probably already have everything you need in your house already.

The long answer is, it might cost you a few dollars to get going (I’m talking maybe $20 or $30 if you don’t have things already but if you divide it by 12 it works out to between $1.20 and $2.50 a month, although if you don’t have things like a mop and a broom it may cost a little more).

What you need

Not a lot. You probably have most of these things already. One of the great things about cleaning this way is that you can buy a few things in bulk and by just mixing them in different ways you can make lots of different “products”. 

For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume that your cleaning cupboard already contains cleaning cloths, a mop, scrub brush, broom, buckets and so forth. If you need to purchase any of these things it’s obviously going to cost a little (or a lot) more than $10 for the month.

White Vinegar we use approximately 2 litres per month ($1.20 for 2 litres in a recyclable plastic bottle or we use homemade Apple Scrap Vinegar but its not quite as strong. I have seen a few places online that sell bulk but they also come in plastic bottles and work out  more expensive at around $2 per litre so until we find a place that has bulk on tap we’re sticking to the cheap supermarket brand). 

Bicarbonate of Soda (500 gram homebrand at Woolworths is $1.59 but it comes in a plastic bag, the McKenzies brand (in cardboard box ) is $2.49 at most supermarkets, we buy in bulk 5kg lots for $20.50 through a soap maker and go through about two lots per year and reuse the buckets for various things before they go into recycling).

Washing Soda is currently $3.85 a kilogram at Woolworths in town. This is the cheapest I can find it locally. There was cheaper online but by time I added postage it worked out closer to $5 a kilogram (if you can’t find it in the supermarket you can make your own from Bicarbonate of Soda if you scroll to the bottom of my previous post about dishwasher tablets you’ll find the instructions I shared with readers to make it in the comments). We use about 10 kilograms a year.

Bars of Soap (about $1 a bar. We average about one a month for household cleaning purposes (more if you count the ones we use for personal hygiene). We hunt around for palm oil free varieties when possible, if you wanted to you could make your own so you know exactly whats in it or if you’re not fussed you can get boxes of plain laundry soap in boxes of 5 or so from the supermarket laundry isle for under $3).

Essential Oils (Not strictly necessary but a nice addition. I like Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Lavender and Lemon for their anti-fungus properties, smell, they generally cost a little less per ml than most others and at a pinch are available from your local supermarket in decent sized bottles. You can currently get 200 ml of Eucalyptus oil for $10 at Woolworths ).

Citrus peels & Juice (orange, lemon, lime etc. If you don’t have enough peels save them in the freezer until you do). We don’t buy lemons as lots of people we know have trees and are only too glad to offload a few during fruit season. They freeze just fine whole so I always just throw a few in the bottom of the freezer for when we’ve got none fresh. You can also pre-squeeze them and freeze the juice for later but I’m a bit lazy, so I usually just throw in the whole fruit.

Total cost for all this is approximately: $12 soap + $41 bicarbonate of soda+$30 essential oils + $30.85= $113.85. If you divide this by 12 you get $9.48 (ie. less than $10 per month).

There’s other things you could add like citric acid, methylated spirit, borax, extra oils etc which can be handy for stubborn stains etc but you don’t really need them. A few recipes use salt and sugar (dishwasher tablets and vinegar for example) but they use very little and most of us already have these things in our pantry cupboard anyway. I try and avoid borax even though it can be great for stain removal and give extra omph to some homemade cleaning  products as I found when we used it the Uni Students eczema flared up, it might be coincidence but if we can do without it why take the chance.

I’ve previously shared a few of the recipes we use regularly in earlier posts (you might have to do some scrolling to find them….

Apple Scrap Vinegar

Dishwasher Tablets

Cream/Paste Cleaner

Glass Cleaner

I’ve shared some details about our Laundry Powder before which I make by mixing 1 bar of grated soap to 1 kilogram each of Bicarbonate of soda and Washing Soda. We add approximately 2 tablespoons worth to each full load in our 7kg top-loading machine. We don’t use fabric softeners at all, just 1/4 cup of vinegar in the rinse dispenser. If we want to add smelly stuff we drop in a few drops of essential oil or I make up lavender or rose water when the plants are in flower.

Lavender Water 

4 teaspoons of lavender flowers fresh or dried (if you have or know someone with a plant grab some flowers and dry them by tying a bunch and hanging them upside down somewhere dry and airy. Pop a paper bag over the flower heads while they’re hanging to catch any that fall off, when they’re dry you can just leave them in the bag in a drawer somewhere until you need them).

2 cups (500ml) Boiling Water 

Steep the lavender in the water like you’re making tea. When it cools strain it into a container  and add a little to your washing machine either in the fabric softener dispenser or during the final rinse cycle. To make it a moth repellent use 4 teaspoons of lavender and 2 teaspoons of rosemary (if you don’t have a rosemary plant handy the dried stuff from the supermarket will do).

Laundry Gel

50 grams of pure soap (any kind you like). Grated. I just use the finest side of an old fashioned metal box grater and do half a dozen bars at a time. I store the grated soap in an old Tupperware container for whenever I need it.

60 grams (1/4 cup) either Washing Soda OR Bicarbonate of Soda

4 Litres (16 cups) of water

A Big Pot  I use my 20 litre stock pot but if you don’t have a big enough pot just divide up the ingredients into smaller batches.

Add a few cups of the water and the soap to the pot and stir until boiling. Turn it down to a simmer and whisk, stir,mash until all the soap is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the washing or bicarbonate of soda, stirring well. Pour into a large container (this is where our bulk buy buckets come in handy) and stir in the remaining water until its well blended. When its cooled it sets to a soft jelly. We use two cups of jelly per full load if the clothes are really grubby, or one cup for smaller loads or things that don’t require heavy cleaning like cotton sheets.

Hint to prevent yellowing of clothes

I’ve had lots of people tell me their clothes either don’t come clean or their lights go yellow when they switch to homemade variety powders and gels. In our experience this isn’t the homemade product, its actually the residue from the old detergents stopping the cleaning process.

To prevent your clothes from yellowing and make them actually come clean when you switch to the laundry gel or homemade laundry powder put your clothes through a cycle using washing soda only. You only need to do this once,the first time you wash using your homemade products. Make up a bucket containing  2 cups of washing soda dissolved in 2 1/2 litres of water (about 9 cups). When you’re ready to wash just add 2 cups to a full load and run it through without adding anything else, then wash your clothes again using your homemade powder or gel. just do it as each batch of washing needs to be done. The clothes  already put through the washing soda only process just hold aside until the others have gone through,then throw them in and wash the whole load as normal.

For a good all purpose cleaner we use citrus vinegar. There’s heaps of articles on the interweb about it and I’m unsure where the recipe originally came from but I was told about it years ago (before we had internet – yes I’m that old, I can remember what it was like in the olden days without mobile phones or computers in every house) so hopefully I’m not plagiarising anyone here.

Citrus Cleaner

You’ll need.

A jar or jars (we usually have a few  batches brewing in the cupboard ready for when we need more).

White Vinegar

Citrus Peels. You’ll need to make sure there’s no flesh on them, you just want the peels. 

Fill your jar with citrus peels. Pour in the vinegar until peels are completely submerged. Put the lid on and put it in the cupboard or leave on the bench for at least 2 weeks  so the citrus oils out of the peels infuse with the vinegar. Give it a shake when you think of it to speed the process up. 

To use: Simply pour some into a spray bottle and dilute 1:1 with water. Give it a shake and use like any other spray on, wipe off cleaner. If you’re worried about it affecting your bench tops or anything, make sure you try a little in an inconspicuous spot first (the rim under your counter works well).

Note: You can leave this in the jar pretty much indefThe peels need to be fully submerged or you might find the bits that stick out go mouldy if you’re like me and shove the jar in the back of the cupboard and forget to shake it.

Saturday Semolina

We’re moving house soon so I’ve been trying to use up all those bits and pieces in the pantry so we don’t have to shop before we relocate. We’re only moving a few kilometres up the road but the fewer boxes the better. Our pantry is fairly organised compared to most but even I have some skeletons in my cupboard, or rather strange jars in my pantry. I’ve found all sorts of interesting and forgotten things in there. Half a jar of brown sugar from before we embraced a low sugar life, some two-minute noodles of death that came in a gift hamper I’m not sure when…they may have moved house with us more than once…scary. 

But there have also been some treasures, like the jar of semolina I had left from my last round of pasta making.

I have fond memories of semolina. When I moved to the big smoke (aka downtown Adelaide) in my early twenties with new baby in hand, hospitality job that saw me working unnatural hours and an often absentee and in hindsight, abusive husband (no, definitely not the current Mr Scraps) it was semolina that saved my sanity.

Or  was it the tiny Greek lady two doors down, the one with the knotty fingers and hearty laugh who brought it to my door in all its glutinous protein glory one Saturday morning. We’d met only  briefly a few days before when I caught her “stealing” the grapefruit from our tree that overhung the old pairing  side fence. She had thought I “looked a bit worn out”, so here she was pot in hand to make my day easier.

Saturday semolina became a thing. Sometimes  it was flavoured with nothing more than a little brown sugar, sometimes it swam in warm milk, others it was piled high with sliced banana or berries and their syrupy juice. And always there was thick, home-brewed black coffee. Sometimes we chatted and sometimes,  if my baby was sleeping we just sat silently slurping in glutinous goodness, washing it down with thick black goo. When we did chat,  we discussed nothing really,  the weather,  children, husbands and sometimes she went home with fruit from our trees,  sometimes she brought me olives from hers. They were some of the best conversations I ever had. It didn’t matter what time I crawled home after dinner service on Friday, or how many times the baby woke after I did,  I was always up bright and early Saturday morning waiting for the lady with the pot.

Eventually she showed me how to make my own as well as many other things. We eventually moved away, but I stayed in contact, if somewhat sporadically over the years. Sadly my Saturday Semolina lady passed away a few years ago at the ripe old age of 98. I’d like to think she’s out there somewhere, supervising ( and probably shaking her head, waving her hands and laughing) every time I make this…

Saturday Semolina 

This makes one really large serving or two small ones.

1/3 cup semolina
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp brown sugar (we substitute this for Rice Malt Syrup although if you use whole creamy milk you don’t really need any extra sweetener at all).
1/4 tsp salt

Put the semolina, milk, water, brown sugar and salt in a small saucepan.

Cook over a medium heat, stirring, until it is as thick as you want it. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes.

Serve in a bowl or mug with a little milk, and a sprinkling of cinnamon, sliced banana, nuts, a handful of  berries or whatever takes your fancy.