Month: June 2017

Scrap House Bread

Mmmm Home baked  bread. 

Grandad Scraps  was apprenticed as a Baker in the 1950’s and he’s passed on a few tricks over the years. He taught us to make bread rolls when we were kids and since we started trying to find ways to reduce our sugar intake, our grocery bill and our household waste, I’ve rediscovered my love of bread baking.

Even if you’ve never really baked before, bread is really easy ( the only hard part is the waiting). There’s lots of basic recipes available on the interwebs but this one is my go-to because I only have to prove it (let it rise) once.

Scrap House Bread

(Makes 1 Large Loaf)



5 cups flour (you don’t need special “bread flour” plain/all-purpose white, wholewheat or wholemeal will do. I often do 2 cups rye and 3 cups wholemeal or wholewheat) 

1 & 1/2teaspoon dried yeast 

1 cup boiling water

1 cup cold water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon rice malt syrup (or sugar, honey or molasses to ‘feed’ your yeast) 

Measuring cups/spoons

A large bowl 

An oiled bread tin or tray.
Mix the yeast, syrup and 2 cups of the flour in a bow. Mix the boiling and cold water together and stir into the contents of bowl until well combined ( it’ll be a smooth goopy mix,  like paste). 

Leave it sit about 10 minutes in a warm spot to activate the yeast (it’ll go all bubbly on top). 

Stir in the rest of the flour and salt until it comes together then turn out onto a clean surface and knead for at least 10 minutes. You do this putting the heel of your hand onto it,  pushing it away from yourself  across the bench, folding it over on itself and squishing it down, turn it around ninety degrees on the bench and repeat. Keep kneading until your dough is smooth to the touch.

Pat it into the desired shape and place in an oiled tin or on an oiled tray. This is also the same tin/tray you will bake it in. 

Lightly cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm spot to rise. It’ll double (or more) in size. It usually takes about half an hour but can take a lot longer depending on the weather. 

HINT: If it’s a particularly cold day you can get it to rise quicker by boiling a cup of water in the microwave then popping your dough in and popping your dough in there for 20 minutes or so. (Don’t switch it on). It creates a warm moist environment which helps feed your yeast.  A hot steamy bathroom or  sitting a coffee cup of boiling water in a large esky also works.

Bake in a hot oven (200C) for about 30 mins or until it’s golden on top and sounds “hollow” when you tap on it. 

HINT: It bakes better if you pop a tin filled with hot water in the bottom your oven.

Turn out immediately onto a rack to cool. 

HINT: It slices best if allowed to cool completely,  but we can never wait that long so everyone here has just gotten used to jaggedy edges.

VARIATION: Divide your dough evenly and pop it into muffin pans to rise for cute dinner rolls.

To store just wrap in a clean tea towel or put in a cotton or linen bread bag and pop in your bread bin or a tin. It keeps quite well for two or three days. 

If we ever happen to have any that lasts longer than that it either goes to the Immortal Chicken or the bread container in the freezer to be used for breadcrumbs or puddings.

 You can probably make several loaves at once and  freeze  but I haven’t tried it with this particular recipe, because it’s so simple, I just make up a loaf a few times a week as we need it. 

Sunday Scraps – In the Scrap House this week & Not Little Bear Biscuits

Another big week here in the Scrap House.

I was asked to take part in the 2017 Act For Peace Ration Challenge. Basically, in return for donations you live on the same rations given to refugees. It’s not much and pretty hard to make palatable, but you can survive on it for a week. Long term I think you might have some pretty serious health issues unless you could find a way to supplement your meagre supplies with a few vegetables or a little meat. Especially if you have children. I’ll be blogging about it in more detail next week. Donations/ sponsorship runs until the end of June, so there’s still time to join in for anyone who’s interested. You can  donate here to my personal challenge page.

I got my Archaeology Degree in the mail on Thursday. I’m still planning on going to the graduation ceremony in October, but thought I’d get it sent out anyway, just in case I’m too awesomely busy doing archaeology to attend. I can now officially call myself an Archaeologist, granted an inexperienced one… but I have it in ink on a bit of paper now, so it must be true.

I also had a meeting about my first proper (paying) archaeology job. They offered me a contract. There’s probably still some details to work out but it’s really exciting to find that after slogging my butt off and driving the BHG, the Teens and myself mad for the last two and a half years that bit of paper meant something to someone besides just me.

The BHG and I saw Wonder Woman at the pictures this week. I LOVE going to the movies. You leave life at the door when you walk in and for an hour and a half you’re somewhere/ someone else, plus there’s popcorn (or if you’re lucky enough to have Gold Class tickets – wine). I’m a huge Wonder Woman fan (Whovians can love Wonder Woman too! Now wouldn’t that be a cross-over).

The Teens did the usual of teen stuff, but as Monday was a public holiday and Friday was report writing day at their High School, it was a short week for them. The eldest Teen spent two days working in a shearing shed and came home with what to him was a wad of cash (remind me to discuss that with Grandad Scraps sometime – I’m pretty sure that all those school holidays I spent as roust-a bout in the shearing shed means he owes me about seventy billion dollars plus interest).

The Threenager and I did lots of cooking (including perfecting the Not Little Bears recipe I’ve included below) and sorting this week. It’s now definitely winter here and the increase in chill factor now dictates that its time for some serious winter woollies. Many of her clothes from last year still fit quite well, but we’ll be looking for a new jacket in the coming weeks as we discovered the sleeves on hers are almost up to her elbows and she could probably do with another cardigan and vest. A good excuse to get the needles out and sit in front of the fire and watch the next season The Walking Dead and maybe (probably) Black Sails too.

The BHG and I are also in the process of sorting through the two shed loads of stuff we’ve been carting from place to place for the last 12 years. I blame him and his “collectables” a lot, but secretly, I have to admit most of it is my junk from when I was running my own bricks and mortar business. Some of it comes from the houses of deceased relatives, but the majority is just the result of our (my) own  sentimentality. We’ve finally realised that if we’re ever going to go truly nomad sometime this century, we’re going to have to get tough on our “stuff”. I’ve sent a lot off to charity shops, but we’ll probably be doing a lot of eBay listing and free-cycling over the next few months. I really like the idea of minimalism, but getting there (mindfully, without just throwing everything we’ve accumulated in a skip and sending it to landfill) feels like an incredibly arduous task.

Speaking of going nomad, those who saw my Instagram posts about our pop-top “Miss Cara Van” will be pleased to know she is coming along nicely. It’s taken a while, but now most of the structural stuff is done and she’ ready for a new floor.  Then we can get onto the fun stuff (kitting her out and decorating).

Now to the promised recipe. I’ve had a few friends try this out with all the variations listed and they’ve been pretty successful. They’re quick, fairly simple (the Threenager easily helped with the mixing, rolling and cutting) and they’re lower in sugar than the store brought version and can be popped in a little container or waxed baggie in a lunch box, so no plastic packaging in school lunches.

 

Not Little Bear Biscuits

Makes 60 Little Gingerbread Man or bear shapes approx. 5cm tall.

½ Cup Softened Butter

¼ Cup Rice Malt Syrup

1 Cup Plain Flour

½ Cup Self-Rising Flour

1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence

Extra flour for rolling

Mix together butter and rice malt syrup until creamy consistency.

Add vanilla essence and flours, stirring until it forms a soft dough.

Refrigerate in covered bowl at least 30 minutes.

Roll out on a floured surface until approximately ½ cm thick.

Cut into small shapes using a cookie cutter or knife. (I used a little mini gingerbread man cutter  because that’s what I had in the  kitchen drawer).

Place on lined biscuit trays and bake at 180 C for approximately 5-6 mins or until lightly golden.

Leave on trays a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin.

These will keep at least a week

 (or more, but they’ve never lasted long enough in our house for me to test properly).

Note: You can substitute margarine for butter, honey or maple syrup for rice malt syrup.

To make chocolate biscuits simply replace 1& 1/2 tablespoons of the plain flour with cocoa.

Gluten free or Vegan Version: Gluten Free flour works as well but the consistency is more like shortbread and the dough is very delicate. It is best rolled out gently in small batches. To make them vegan friendly you could use olive oil spread (we tried some of the Nuttelex brand and it worked just fine).

 

 

Feeding Families – Week 1 Menu and Recipes

For the first  week, after unpacking the groceries (you can see what we already had and what I brought here), I made two small loaves of bread, a batch of Not Little Bear Biscuits, divided and cut the Ears of Corn into 3 portions and placed them in the freezer, reserving one whole ear for making Mexican Chicken Soup on Saturday. I also sliced 2 of the 4 bunches of Leeks and placed them in the freezer.

In addition to this the Threenager and I spent a lovely hour on the Monday morning making some sauerkraut from what was left of the red cabbage. I also made two more loaves of bread on the Sunday and brought 6 more litres of milk throughout the week at a cost of $6.

This brought our total grocery/cleaning/toiletry spend to $95.

You’ll notice that most breakfasts and lunches list more than one meal type. This is because 5 days a week the Teens are at school and the BHG, Threenager and I all sort of do our own thing even if we are home together all day. The youngest Teen does food technology at school and often eats what she cooks in class (this is paid for in her school fees so doesn’t come out of our household food budget) and the eldest Teen does a little farmhand work on weekends and school holidays. He sometimes (maybe once or twice a week) chooses to spend a little of what he earns at the school salad and pasta bar rather than bring lunch from home. They go to an awesome little country high school that provides some really healthy food options, so please no emails or social media messages or posts about not feeding growing teenagers properly.

Day

Breakfasts Lunches Dinners Snacks
Wednesday Toast with Butter & Vegemite

Weetbix & milk

Toasted Cheese & Tomato Sandwiches

Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwiches

Single Breasted Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry with Boiled Rice

Self- Saucing Choc Pudding (h/m) with Frozen Yoghurt

Peanut Butter on Bread

1 Banana

2 Apples

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Thursday Weetbix & Milk

Toast with Cheese & Tomato

Leek & Cauliflower Soup

Cheese & Tomato Sandwich

Nutella Sandwiches

 

Grilled Beef Sausages with Baked – ½ Sweet Potato, 3 Garlic Cloves, ½ Red Capsicum, 1 Large Potato and 1 & ½ Ears Corn boiled

Orange Jelly  Chocolate Self-Saucing Pudding & Eater Cheater Custard (h/m- Recipe Below)

 

2 Apples

3 Bananas

Not Little Bear Biscuits

handful of Choc Chips

Grapes

Friday Toast, Vegemite & Butter

Wheaties & Milk

Toast & Nutella

Nutella Sandwich

Can of Irish Stew Soup

 

Adults & 3-year -old lunched at grandparents’ house.

Everyone had main meal at grandparents’ house.

1 Banana

Leftover Custard

1 Apple

2 Bananas

Saturday Toast, Nutella, Apricot Cheese, Tomato slices, Peanut Butter

Oats

Leek & Cauliflower Soup

Toasted cheese sandwiches

Mexican Chicken Soup

Flatbreads

Coconut milk

1 Apple

Bread, Nutella

Choc Chips

Carrot Sticks

Slice of Cheese

Sunday Oats

Toast

Peanut Butter, Nutella

Mexican Chicken Soup

Bread

Savory Mince

Bread

Chocolate Nut Squares

Coconut Milk Custard

Orange Jelly

1 Apple

Chocolate Wheaties Slice

Molasses Men

Monday Toast, Peanut Butter

Weetbix & milk

Savoury Mince

Small can of Tuna

Bread & Butter

Homemade Coleslaw Dressing

Slamon Patties

Sweet Potato Chips

(with Red Dip Dip – Recipe Below)

2 Apples

Chocolate Nut Squares

Wheaties Slice

Molasses Men

Tuesday Weetbix & Milk

Toast with butter & Vegemite

Oats

Chicken Nibbles

Coleslaw, Cheese & Tomato Sandwiches

Savoury Chicken & Cabbage Stew

Apple Cake

Molasses Men

Mandarins

Oranges

Wheaties Slice

Beverages Cosumed During the Week Milk or Akta-Vite Coffee Tea – Black, matcha & herbal

 

Lemon Water (h/m)

RECIPES

These are a few of the things I made during the week. To avoid a massively long post and so they can be searched more easily, I’ll pop some others into separate posts and tag them in the table above as they are published.

 Red Dip-Dip

AKA: Low Sugar Tomato Sauce 

This is a staple in our house. The Threenager loves it and won’t eat any kind of meat or hot chips without it.

1 large (600g) Jar of  Passatta or equivalent in tinned tomatoes

(look for the ones that are just tomatoes, without anything extra added).

½ brown Onion (finely chopped)

1 Clove Garlic (finely chopped)

¼ Cup Malt or Apple Cider Vinegar

2 tablespoons  Rice Malt Syrup

Pinch of Cinnamon

Pinch of Nutmeg

1 Whole Clove or a pinch of Powdered Cloves

 

Salt & Pepper to Taste

Put everything in a saucepan, bring to the boil then immediately reduce heat and simmer gently until the Passatta (or juice of canned tomatoes) is reduced to half its original volume. Blend until smooth or push through a sieve. Pour into a clean jar or bottle.

Refrigerate between use.

Will last about a month in fridge.

It can also be frozen.

 

Single Breasted Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry

Serves 6 with rice as a main meal.

1 Large Chicken Breast

1 large Onion

Red & Yellow Capsicum

Curry Powder

1 Red Chilli

½ Large Sweet Potato (approx. 500g)

¼ Cup Milk Powder

2 Cups Water

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Boiled Rice to Serve.

Finely dice onion and chilli.

Chop Chicken Breast, Sweet Potato and Capsicum into small cubes.

In a pot or large frypan, heat olive oil and over a low heat sweat off onion and chilli until onion turns clear.

Add ¾ of water, chicken, capsicum, curry powder and sweet potato.

Cook over low heat until chicken is cooked and sweet potato is cooked but still firm (you may need to add a little extra water during cooking).

Mix milk powder with remaining water and stir through.

Cook until thickened.

Served with Boiled Rice.

 

Eater Cheater  Homemade Custard

Serves 6

2 Eggs

2 Heaped Dessert Spoons Cornflour (or Tapioca Flour)

1 Desert Spoon Rice Malt Syrup

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence

2 & ½ Cups Milk (or use milk powder)

In a medium sized saucepan whisk together eggs, cornflour, vanilla, essence and rice malt syrup until smooth and fully combined with no lumps.

Place over low heat and continue to whisk until thickened to desired consistency.

If custard is too thick, slowly drizzle in some more milk until desired thickness is achieved.

Variation: Replace regular milk with coconut milk.

Note: while this is simple and only takes about 10 minutes, it is not something you can walk away from at all. It needs to be continuously whisked/stirred to avoid burning or becoming lumpy.

Feeding Families – It really doesn’t have to cost that much.

So after my post about groceries and what people considered a “normal” expense last week, I did a bit of digging around. Okay, I admit it, I spent hours on Facebook stalking frugal living and parenting pages. All this digital lurking did, however, confirm what I was already thinking –  that there’s a lot of people out there spending the majority of their weekly wages on feeding their families when they probably don’t really need to and that these people, while they aren’t happy about it at all, just accept it as part of life.

It makes me so sad to think that all those people out there are making themselves miserable over food. The majority of us here in Australia are fortunate enough to have easy access to a wide range of fresh, frozen and refrigerated produce at (almost always) affordable prices. So why are so many of us unable to feed our families good healthy food without spending ridiculous amounts at the checkout? Is it the way we shop or the way we eat? Do we just not educate our kids (and ourselves) well enough in the practicalities of life? Should things like budgeting, shopping, cleaning and cooking be part of the school curriculum? Why is something that should be so enjoyable, sitting down to a healthy, home cooked meal with your family so financially stressful for so many?

For example, today I stumbled across a page called Cooking for Busy Mums (it is kinda awesome, go check it out). The page owner asked people what they spent on groceries per week. Prices varied, some people really do have grocery shopping down pat, some do way better than us (we’re pretty good at the whole frugal food while being healthy thing but there’s ALWAYS room for improvement). But so many were struggling, some spending $400 per week on food for their (admittedly in many cases, larger than average) families. One woman admitted to spending around $150 AU every couple of days for a family of 4 or five. If you add that up (assuming from her post she goes to the grocery store 3 times a week) it comes to $450 for what most of us would consider an average (or even small) family. It was heartbreaking.

It’s one of the few page posts like this that  I’ve commented on. I’m usually just a lurker on most pages, reading posts and hitting the thumbs up button every now and then. I didn’t say much, just that our weekly spend was usually $100 (sometimes up to $150) and talked about what I spent at the butchers this week. Some others made similar comments, then someone jumped on and called us all out. I won’t note their name here, if you’re really keen you can scroll through the page and find it for yourself (so you can read it in context), but this was the comment:

“Unless people are growing their own fruit n veg I call bullshit on the posts stating $130 a week           for 7. This is all household requirements? Toilet paper, wash detergent (even home made)? It’s misleading as they then go on to state they have a freezer full of meat or cupboards already                stocked. So that’s $130 for a top up. Fruit and veg for a healthy family that large is around $70 minimum a week but I probably spend closer to $120 on fruit n veg alone for 7.”

Now I know that (especially in Australia) there can be HUGE fluctuations in the cost of fresh food, but our (larger than many) family is living proof that $130 AU a week is very do-able, toiletries, cleaning products and all and without resorting to feeding your kids noodles of the 2 minute kind every night (Although have you seen all those pretty homemade noodle lunches in mason jars all over Pinterest? I’m dying to try it.)

I’m not being mean or judgemental , this person is more than entitled to their opinion and not knowing their exact circumstances, such as  where they live or what grocery prices are in their area, this might be the case for them. But just like us, there’s always room for improvement right? Besides I can think of much more productive/enjoyable things to do with our dollars than eat them.

I did promise last week to show people how we manage to eat healthily on a pretty tight budget. We’ve always eaten pretty well, lots of wholefood. Meals made from scratch etc. But when we committed to really reducing what we sent into landfill (and for recycling), it got even better. I kept a fairly detailed record at the time because I wanted to be able to show the BHG, the Teens and the Uni Student that we could do it, and that it would save us money (and once we had a bit of a routine going – a bunch of stress especially after I finished study and found full time Archaeology work). I did have an advantage in that they’d already survived my almost completely overhauling our diet to drastically reduce our sugar intake.

So over the next few weeks I will post our initial pantry, fridge, freezer, toiletries and cleaning stock take and then each weeks shopping list and menu ( I don’t get receipts if I can help it and pay cash for most groceries unless I order online so you might have to take my word on prices – but I’m sure if you’re determined you can find comparable items online to check my numbers).

What We Already Had

I encourage everyone to do this every now and then. I should do it more often.

Go through your pantry, fridge and freezer with a fine tooth comb, empty them out onto the kitchen bench if you have to, and make a list of every single item, including toiletries and household cleaners. Believe me you’ll be very surprised how much is actually  there. Despite what the person posting on Facebook said, it’s a pretty rare occurrence in most households that the cupboards are completely empty (although this would be the case if  you moved interstate, overseas or were cleaned out by natural disaster or plague). Considering this, EVERY shop is a “top up” in that we add new items (meat, dairy, produce etc) to what we already have available. By knowing exactly what you have already you have more chance of controlling just how big (and expensive) that “top up” is.

I found some impulse buys that I brought because they’re “healthy”  and leftover bits and bobs from birthday party and cake makings. These days I’m actually a little ashamed of how wasteful a few things were. Like those full plastic jars of spice I brought for a single recipe that no one liked and the expensive coconut flour I now have to find recipes for. Regardless, here’s our initial stock take,warts and all.

This was taken on a Tuesday ( I shop mid-week because that’s usually when our pays go through and if I shop at the end of the week, the Teens eat everything before Monday so there’s nothing left for school lunches). I now there’s a lot of staples here (flour, rice etc) but bear with me over the next few weeks and you’ll see how we keep it stocked without having to outlay a whole lot on bulk items all at once.

The Fridge, Freezer & Pantry Stocktake (h/m = homemade and h/g = home grown)

 

Already in Fridge/Fruit & Veg

In the Freezer In the Pantry Cont..
250g Butter 4 x 500g Butter 1 can of Akta- Vite
3 L milk ½ Tub Frozen Greek Yoghurt Vanilla Essence (h/m)
Jam Chicken Carcass Plain & SR Flour
Mayonnaise (h/m -1/4 full) Vegie Scraps BBQ Sauce
½ Red Cabbage Leaves – broccoli etc 18 x Chutney& Pickles (h/m)
½ Green Cabbage Bread – for breadcrumbs etc Cat Food – Dry (h/m) & 6 Cans
4 Apples A banana Bread Flour
Lard Misc Frozen Fruit Pieces Baking Powder
500g Cheese Apple cores & Peel Bicarbonate of Soda
A jar of Taco Sauce  2 marinated chicken thighs 1.5 kg Rice Malt Syrup
A Jar of Tahini Cooked Rhubarb (h/m) Stevia
Some Cranberry Sauce Pumpkin Soup Dark Brown Sugar
Chives (fresh) Turkey & Veg Soup Lasagne Sheets
French Mustard Bones for Bone Broth 12 x Baked Beans
1 banana Chocolate Icepops (h/m) Yeast
2 grapefruit In the Pantry Icing Sugar
2 oranges 4 x Nori Sheets Lemon Essence
1 kiwi fruit 6 x Rice Paper Rounds 1 x Can Irish Stew
¼ Jar pickled cucumbers (h/m) Matcha Powder Weetbix 1.4 kg box
Bottle of Fish Sauce ¼ bottle sushi seasoning Wheaties 750g Box
¼ Jar Shredded Beetroot ½ packet soba noodles Rice Bubbles (about 100g)
3 Sweet potatoes ½ bottle Tamari Oats (about 500g)
4 Onions Sesame Oil 1X Jar Passatta
 Garlic (h/g) Molasses vegemite
Red Chillis (h/g) 1 x Bottle Wasabi Sauce 2 Jars Peanut butter
1 x Bottle h/m chilli sauce ½ Bottle Whoster Sauce honey
½ Jar Minced Ginger Xylotol Dark Choc chips
½ Jar Apple & Mint Jelly (h/m) Roasted pumpkin seeds (h/m) Coconut flour
½ Jar Grape Jelly (h/m) Coffee Beans & Instant Chia seeds
Handful of green grapes Tea Leaves (loose) lentils
100g Apricot & Almond Cheese Herbal Tea(loose) Milk powder
 ½ a Tomato Cocoa 1x can coconut milk
1 leek Dried Chick peas 3 x tins sardines
1 lemon Coconut oil 2 x large cans tuna
2 Yellow Capsicum Olive oil 2 x small tins tuna
6 ears of Corn Shredded coconut 2 x cans salmon
1 Zucchini Apple cider vinegar (h/m) dates
Glycerine Rum Essence
In the Laundry Almond Essence Cochineal
Soap Nuts Malt vinegar 1 x can kids savoury mince
Eucalyptus Oil 1 Bottle Hot Chilli Sauce 1 Jar ACV (fermenting)
1 Bar Soap 1 x can Irish Stew Soup 500g Cous Cous
White Vinegar ½ Packet Vita Wheats Tapioca Flour
cornflower Rice Flour
Toilet Almond Meal Walnuts
52 x Toilet Paper Rolls Tabasco Sauce Gelatine
  Linseed Meal 2 x packets Jelly Crystal
Kitchen Cleaning Xanthium Gum Ready to Roll Icing
4 Dishwasher Tablets Sprinkles ½ Jar Nutella
1 Bar Soap Barley A tin of pineapple pieces
3 Jars Citrus Cleaner (h/m) Dried Herbs & Spices Dried Herbs & Spices Cont..
1 Tub of Gumption (h/m) Ras el Hanout Mix (h/m) Cayenne Pepper
Bay Leaves Tarragon Leaves
In the Bathroom Curry Powder Fennel Seeds
1/2 Bottle 2 in 1 Shampoo Mustard seeds Chicken Salt
1 Tube Junior Toothpaste Cardamom Pods Chilli Flakes
1 Tube Regular Toothpaste Chives Ground Coriander
1 Bottle Shampoo Mustard Powder Oregano
½ Bottle Conditioner Sumac Poppy Seeds
 5 Bars Soap Turmeric BBQ Seasoning
 Deoderant & Toothpowder (h/m) Sweet Paprika Ground Ginger
Misc. Other Items Cloves Sea Salt
15ml Lemon Essential Oil Peppercorns Cajun Seasoning
15ml Lavender Essential Oil Paprika Harissa
Bentonite Clay Basil Garam Masala
DME Dill Leaf Tips Ground Nutmeg
Beeswax Mint Leaves Pickling Spice
Activated Charcoal Dutch Cinnamon Thyme Leaves
Shea Butter Mixed Herbs White Pepper

This list includes regular grocery items and  everything we use for homemade cleaners, deodorants etc. The Teens pay for any personal products that are non-essential ( things like hair wax, perfumes or make-up) from their own allowances/earnings. If the BHG and I buy wine or beer, which is fairly rare, that expense is taken out of our entertainment budget because it’s not an essential and something we consume purely for enjoyment.

Week 1

What I purchased to supplement this list – AKA: the shopping list

After checking out what was already in the house, I spent a little time (about 30 minutes) thinking up a few options for meals and snacks that would use these items. I try and stick to things I know everyone will eat. You can have the best est, most economical meal plan in the world, but if the kids won’t eat fried zucchini burgers, you may as well just forget shopping for groceries altogether and flush your $$$ straight down the toilet. Fortunately, my lot will eat (almost) anything, as long as there’s a little meat involved and maybe some chili or curry powder on it.

18 Beef Sausages (divided into 2 meals)                                               3 Litres Milk ($3 per Litre)

600g Mince Beef (divided into 3 meals)                                                 12 Eggs ($4)

250g Sausage Mince                                                                               4 Granny Smith Apples

2 Chicken Breasts (divided into 2 meals)                                             4 Pink Lady Apples

4  Lamb Chops                                                                                        8 Bananas

4 Medium Sized Beetroot                                                                       2 Red Capsicum

1 Bunch Dutch Carrots                                                                          2 Cauliflower (1.99 ea)

1 Bunch of Celery                                                                                   4 Bunches Leeks (99c ea)

4 Mandarins                                                                                             4 Large Brown Onions

680g Bottle of Passatta                                                                         6 Washed Potatoes

1 Whole Butternut Pumpkin                                                                  4 Tomatoes

This came to $89 AU. I also allowed $10 AU for milk throughout the week. Most of this was brought, package free or in paper through a greengrocer and our local butcher. The eggs were purchased from a local lady with free range chickens. Unfortunately, the milk is in a plastic bottle. The only recyclable  option available here at present.

Yes I know that’s a lot of toilet paper…

We buy on subscription through Who Gives a Crap?. 48 double sized plastic free  rolls arrive in a simple cardboard box on our doorstep every 16 weeks and costs us $56, yes we might find cheaper elsewhere if we really looked hard, but the 48 double rolls works out to $0.58c per regular roll  (48 x 2 = 96, $56 / 96 = $0.58c) which is more than comparable to other brands, plus we like their ethics, that it’s 100% recycled paper and the quality is fine.

A Note on How We Eat:

Except for cigarette smoke and skin sensitivities to artificial perfumes (myself, the Youngest Teen and the Uni Student), no one in our household has any allergies or special dietary requirements. We eat a fairly low sugar, wholefood diet. While we don’t eat what I would call a massive amount of meat, we’re not vegan or vegetarian (I  sometimes wish we were, but there’s no way the BHG or youngest Teen would go for it).

I cook. In a previous life I cooked for a living (at one stage for an army, literally) so family dinners most nights are a doddle.We do like simple food though. What I call REAL FOOD that tastes like, well, food and not the stuff with numbers for names. We’re not fanatical though, you’ll notice there’s some items on the stock-take (like Baked Beans in BBQ Sauce & a single jar of Nutella spread) that are brought purely because some members of the household REALLY like them. I figure it’s not such a bad trade-off to get the Teens & BHG to eat healthy the rest of the time.

We drink our fair share of tea and coffee. We all drink tea, mainly matcha or herbal blends I buy loose when we’re out and about. The BHG & I  drink the coffee. The BHG likes the Moccona brand instant stuff, but only gets it when it’s on super special, I prefer to grind my own so buy whole beans and keep them in the freezer. Otherwise it’s milk or water. The eldest Teen and I like to keep a jug of water with a few slices of lemon added in the refrigerator. We might have some juice if we squeeze it ourselves (but if you read some of the research around these days, fruit juice is the new evil, almost as evil as fizzy pop).

Next post I will share our menu for the week and some recipes.

 

 

Sunday Scraps – In the Scrap House this week & dishwasher tablets

This Week in the Scrap House

We’ve had a busy week. Mr Scraps spent the week sorting through the shed and packing up all our unwanted bits and pieces to sell at a friend’s garage sale. The Teens had the usual school week with football and netball training thrown in (the youngest Teen’s team won their game by a massive margin this week). The Uni Student popped in a few times and is off interstate for a few days with the Eldest who graced us with his presence for dinner Friday night. We also made the trek over to Grandma & Grandad Scraps for an afternoon tea on Saturday which turned into dinner.

I’m now getting to the pointy end of my Archaeology Honours Project (the bit where you have to actually do something with all the data you’ve collected and historic documents you’ve unearthed, scanned and photographed). As a result there’s been a fair amount of thinking, hair-twisting and pacing up and down in front of a blank computer screen. In between, Miss T and I managed to do some experimenting with bread recipes, planted out our celery and leek butts that have been sprouting on the kitchen bench, tried our hands at sauerkraut with some red cabbage (much easier than I imagined) and spent Saturday morning knitting at the local library for World Wide Knit in Public Day. She made and installed her first ever “Yarn Bomb”. and as a result the librarian has given us permission to decorate all the trees.I don’t know who was more excited, the Threenager or my friend who had neglected her own knitting project to help her craft her installation piece. She also proudly modeled a new prototype vintage fabric skirt from Vintage Bubs . She was allowed to keep it and we had to pries it off her to pop it in the wash after an afternoon in the park.

There was also a lot of experimenting with homemade cleaning products. We already have a few “go to” cleaners we make ourselves, but a couple of them have ingredients that are either a little expensive or difficult to get without ridiculous amounts of plastic packaging or trips into the nearest large town. I shared a post about experimenting with dishwasher tablets over on the Facebook page this week and a lot of people asked 1) How they went and 2) If I could please share the recipe.

Why I wanted to make our own dishwasher tablets

Dishwasher tablets are very convenient, but usually expensive (hard to pay less than 18-20 cents per wash) and although they come in a box they’re usually individually wrapped in little plastic packets inside it. The powder is better package wise with most brands only packed in a cardboard box, but still not all that cheap. Both contain chemically stuff or things I’m not happy to ingest, like borax.

Now while borax isn’t thought to be particularly dangerous, there is some evidence that it has the potential to cause skin irritation, stomach upset and may be a hormone disrupter. There’s lots of recipes for homemade dishwasher powders and tablets out there on the web, but most of them contain the stuff, so I’ve been on a bit of a mission to find a way to make my own without borax. This week I think we’ve done it. After two full dishwasher loads (I only turn our dishwasher on when it’s really full, about every second or third day) and both have come out clean as a whistle without any residue left on the glassware.

Lemon Dishwasher Tablet Recipe

Ingredients

1 Cup Washing Soda

1 Cup Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)

1 Cup Salt

3/4 Cup Lemon Juice.

2 Ice Cube Trays (or similar)

Mix all your dry ingredients then pour in lemon juice (make sure you use a fairly large bowl because it fizzes quite a lot for a few moments). Mix it really well and divide mix between the ice cube trays packing down really firmly. Leave to dry at least a few hours before popping them out and leaving overnight to dry completely. Keep in an airtight container and use like any commercial dishwasher tablet.

Notes:

This recipe makes 24 tablets (or more if you use a smaller mold). I used two 12 hole plastic ice cube trays because that’s what I had. They came out quite easily, but silicone might be even easier. Just make sure that your tablets will fit in your dispenser. To check just fill your container with water and freeze, take one of the ice cubes, pop it in the detergent dispenser and make sure it closes properly.

Be fairly gentle when you pop them out of the trays. They do harden up a bit more as they dry. There were a few crumbly bits (which is why they put the commercial tablets in plastic wrap). I just scrapped them up and will pop them in the dispenser like powder.

If you prefer powder, just omit the lemon juice and instead use 1 Cup of Citric Acid, mix together and keep in an airtight container. To use place 1 tablespoon per load in the dispenser.

Tip:

For sparkly glassware, pop white vinegar in the rinse aide dispenser.

If you find you have some residue on your dishes after the dishwasher cycle finishes, try making sure the water going through your machine is nice and hot. Pop a pot or bucket in your sink, turn on your hot tap and let the water run a moment until it’s flowing hot before switching your machine on (this can also help with store-brought dishwasher tablets or powder). I empty the water in the pot into my washing machine or use it to water plants or wash the floors so it doesn’t go to waste (it’s usually less than a litre but in winter when the pipes are really cold its more).

You Spend What? On Groceries?!! Does feeding families REALLY have to cost that much?

I won’t copy and paste it here so I don’t embarrass anyone involved, but on my personal Facebook wall today read a conversation between several acquaintances discussing grocery shopping for larger families.

One person was ecstatic because they came in under their $450 per week grocery budget by about $70. Yes, You heard it, $450 PER WEEK to feed a family with no special dietary requirements.

Granted, this was for a large family of what equates to 6 adult sized eaters plus 2 toddlers and $70 is a huge saving in anyone’s books, but HOLY COW BATMAN! What are you feeding those people that costs that much per week? Gold Plated Cornflakes?

I didn’t say that of course. I actually only read the conversation and didn’t join in at all – you can do that on the ol’ FB.(Yeah, I’m a total FB stalker and I’m okay with that).  I’m not being judgmental. I would hate for someone to tell me how I should shop or feed my family and wouldn’t dream of doing it to someone else.

But I’m always amazed and a little sad that anyone believes spending that much on food per week is normal in a country where fresh food is abundantly available and for the most part, not too unreasonably priced. And the person who posted was not the only one ,there were five or six others with larger families confessing to similar food budgets in the same conversation.

It makes me wonder:

A) If they actually know how to shop (the person who initiated the conversation cooks/bakes a lot so it’s not like they were not buying all convenience foods). Were they ever taught how to do it? I wasn’t and it was definitely one of my biggest challenges when I first left home. I mean, I had seen my mother and grandmother do the grocery shopping, I had even gone with them, but no one had ever actually sat me down and said “Righto kiddo, this is how you work out what you need, what to buy and how to budget for it”.

B) How much of that $450 each week ends up in the compost or worse still landfill?

C) How can I, quietly and without being “preachy” help them find ways to lower their weekly food bill? (I do feel from the tone of the post and the online conversation that followed like this person may have actually posted as a way of saying that they were frustrated and need a little help in this area).

So how can I help?

By example is the best way I know how. I feed a family of  four adult eaters and one grazing preschool aged child each week, plus a university student who sometimes eats at home and the odd extra body (including the eldest Scrap Boy on those occasions that he deems us worthy of his presence). We eat well, we eat healthy (well I think we do, none of us has any food related medical or weight problems), no one ever goes hungry (despite what the teenagers may claim, there’s always snacks) and we manage to keep it all under $150 a week (most weeks it scrapes in under to $100).

It’s not always easy, and it does require a little planning and preparation each week, but it is very doable. Even when we’re all really busy.

We recently completed a pantry, refrigerator and freezer stock take as part of a food waste survey conducted by an environmental organisation. It wasn’t part of the survey, but we also took stock of all our regular toiletries and household cleaning products, just to see how much we were saving (or not) by shopping ethically and making our own instead of using commercial products.Over the next month or so I will be keeping track of everything we use/buy/eat (including recipes). We began this originally for our own benefit, but in after reading the discussion today, over the next few weeks I may publish a few posts with our results here so I can show anyone that may be interested just how we do it.

 

What do I do with these? 7 things you can do with Potato Skins

So we all know that there’s some awesome nutrients in vegetable peelings and that we should just scrub our veg clean and eat them whole, peel and all. But sometimes it doesn’t look so pretty, think brown bits of potato skin in your lovely fluffy white mash. Sometimes it’s the texture, the skin is often much tougher than the inside even if it is yummy. Or maybe you just have a fussy eater and you’d rather save the tears and  just remove the peel than spend an hour arguing at the dinner table.

But don’t toss your potato peels in the trash.
Even if you normally feed them to your chickens or put them in the compost, you might want to consider trying some of these ideas first.

1. Make Quirky Crisps

Heat your oven to about 150 C / 330 F and line a baking tray with parchment or one of those fancy silicone mat things.

Toss your clean, dry potato peels (and any other veg peels you may have laying around, carrot, beet, sweet potato and parsnip just to name a few) in about tablespoon of oil (olive oil or coconut work well) and whatever seasonings you prefer. Salt, pepper, a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar, Cajun spice and taco seasoning are all good options but you can probably come up with lots more.

Spread your peels in a single layer on the tray and pop them in the oven for about 40 minutes or so until crisp. Keep an eye on them.

Let them cool on the tray a little before eating. They’re great for dips.

They’re usually best eaten within a few hours of baking, but you can keep them in an airtight container a few days and re-crisp them by popping back into the oven for a few minutes.

2. Use Them as Croutons

Prepare as above and crunch them up on top of soups or use them to pimp your salads.

3. Use them to Colour Greying hair

Now I haven’t tried this one, but know someone who swears by it. Apparently The starches in the vegetable act as a natural colourant They have been used as a dye alternative for fabrics for centuries, so it’s not surprising that they would darken greying hair. Just boil some water, add your peels to the pot and allow them to boil for at least 25 minutes. Strain and use to rinse your hair a few times a week. The trick, I’m told is consistency.

4. Potato Peels for Puffy Eyes

Using your leftover potato peelings, place the underside of them on each eye for around ten minutes. The enzyme ‘catecholase’ is in potatoes, which acts as a skin lightener – say goodbye to dark circles!

5. Use them to Clean Your wood Stove

I don’t know the science behind it and I wouldn’t recommend burning potato peels instead of cleaning the flue of your stove, but burning potato peels does seem to extend the time between cleaning.

6. Use Them to Remove Rust

It’s the inside part of the potato that does it, so you need peels with a bit of flesh still attached, but you just dip them into some bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and rub away. You might need to pop your peels into a mesh bag of some sort first, perhaps a good way to re-purpose one of those awful mesh fruit n veg bags.

7.Remove Mineral Spots from Your Glassware

If your dishwasher leaves mineral spots on your glassware, simply use the flesh side of a potato skin and rub the spots on your glass. This should remove any grime that’s been left behind.

So there’s seven ways to use your potato peels. If you know of any others or have tried any of the above ideas and can vouch for their success (or failure) feel free to leave a comment and let us know.