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.

 

 

 

Scrap Stock – Homemade Vegetable Stock from your Vegetable Scraps

Homemade Vegetable Stock is seriously simple, super easy, only takes a little prep and is about as zero waste as you can get. Unlike store brought varieties you control the ingredients, so NO ADDED NASTIES (you know, those ingredients on the packaging that are either unpronounceable or just numbers) and if you use vegetable scraps it’s also FREE!

Just save those little bits of vegetables that you’d usually throw in the compost, like the end of the brown onion you chopped to make pasta sauce, the stalk you cut off your broccoli, your carrot or potato peelings (but only if they’ve been really well washed – you don’t want gritty dirt stock). Basically almost anything you would usually throw away. I keep a bag in the freezer and as I cook just add all these bits to it until I have what amounts to about 3/4 of a 20 Litre  pot full, but you don’t have to wait that long, use an amount to fit whatever pot size suits you.

From there vegetable stock is as simple as throwing vegetables into a pot, covering them with water, bringing it to the boil and letting it simmer away for a while (30 minutes will do it but about an hour is better). I like to chop and saute off some of my veg in a little olive oil before I add the water just to kick start the flavour process.

When your stock is done simply strain it and keep in the fridge or freezer. I like to make it up in big batches and freeze in lots 1 litre/ 4 cups (those big yoghurt tubs or washed out milk cartons are good for this, anything where the mouth of the container is as wide as or wider than its base). When I make soup or casseroles I simply take some out of the freezer, run the bottom of the container under water until the contents start to free up a little and slide it straight into my cooking pot or slow cooker.

I use the ends of onions, broccoli or cauliflower stalks, those bits of green onion that are too wilted for salad, the tough outer leaves of leeks, celery leaves and the white end bits of the stalks, carrot tops and peels.. the possibilities are almost endless. I do find that the best stock includes onion, carrot and celery.

If you’d prefer a vegetable broth (clear- ish soup) all you do is add seasoning while simmering, usually its a little salt and pepper but you could try anything, chili, curry, garlic or ginger can be nice.

The flavour of your stock (or broth) will depend greatly on what vegetables you choose to include. I’ve made a list below of a few that good and some that are not so good for stock and broth. Feel free to comment with any I’ve missed or something you’ve tried that tastes great, a method that worked really well (or even something that completely ruined your stock).

 

 

What Vegetable Scraps are  Good (and not-so-good) for Making Stock or Broth

 

Acorn and most other kinds of Squash – The peels are great for stock, but the flesh is too starchy and should be left out.

Asparagus- Good in very small quantities.

Basil- Good in very small quantities.

Bay leaves- 1 or 2 leaves per quart of liquid is a good amount.

Beet Greens- Good in small quantities.  You may want to add greens toward end of cooking as they break down quickly.

Beets- Beets can be added, but they will turn the stock a very dark color, which may not work well for some purposes, such as pumpkin soup. Don’t use the skins, they give your stock a funky flavour.

Bok Choy- Foods in the Brassica family, such as Bok Choy, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Broccoli- Foods in the Brassica family, such as broccoli, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Cabbage- Foods in the Brassica family, such as cabbage, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Capsicum (Bell or sweet peppers) – Okay in small quantities. I don’t use them much as the Imortal Chicken loves the seeds so they always go in the chook bucket.

Carrots- Excellent !

Carrot tops (leafy part)-  Use only in very small quantities. Too many make stock bitter.

Celery stalks – Excellent!

Celery leaves- While the outer leaves can make the stock bitter, a small amount of the inner leaves can be used with good results.

Chard – Good in very small quantities.

Chives- Good in small quantities.

Cilantro Leaves (aka Coriander to us Aussies) –  Too strong for broth/stock. I can’t stand them, tastes like soap but if you really want to use it, use a very small amount. A very little goes a long way. The seeds are a little different and in small quantities can be quite nice.

Collard Greens-  Another one in the Brassica family.Too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Corn- Corn doesn’t really add any flavour and will make the stock/broth cloudy.

Cucumber- Good in small quantities.

Dill – Good in very small quantities.

Eggplant – Good in small quantities.

Garlic- Excellent! But I love garlic so may be slightly biased.

Green beans- Good in small quantities.

Greens- Avoid bitter greens and members of the brassica family (kale, cabbage, Bok Choy).  Other greens can be used in small quantities.

Jerusalem artichokes- Good in small quantities.

Kohlrabi- Another Foods in the Brassica family.Avoid using it.

Leeks- Excellent!

Lettuce-  small quantities only. Most lettuce varieties don’t add much flavor to the stock/broth so is just a waste of real estate in your pot.

Marjoram- Good in very small quantities.

Mushrooms- I love them! Not technically a vegetable but Mushrooms add rich flavor to vegetable stock. Some studies suggest they can contribute to kidney stones and other health issues so maybe avoid them if you have any issues.

Napa Cabbage – Another from the  Brassica family so like cabbage can impart a bitter taste.

Okra – We don’t get it much here unless I happen to be at one of the city markets but Okra can add body to broth.  Use in small quantities to avoid overwhelming flavor.

Onions – I would class them as THE essential ingeredient so excellent for making stock/broth. If you don’t have any though, leek does almost as good a job.

Onion skins-  Onion skins add a lovely colourJust don’t add to many of them unless you want your stock to be really dark.

Oregano-  Like all the leafy herbs Good in small quantities.

Parsley –  Same as Oregano.

Parsnips- Good in small quantities.

Peas – Also good in small quantities.

Peaa Pods- Same as Peas

Peppers, Hot Peppers, Chillis- Not recommended for stock but a tiny little bit can be good in broth.

 

Potato peels-  Can be used in small quantities. Potato skins add an earthy, but slightly bitter taste. Too many can make the stock cloudy.  Be sure the peels are very clean, otherwise you’ll end up with stock that tastes like dirt.

Pumpkin-  Pumpkin is a little too starchy for good stock or broth.

Radish – I don’t really recommended them.

Romaine Lettuce –  Can be okay in small quantities.

Rosemary – Some people like the taste but some find it  a bit bitter, so you may want to use it with caution.

Rutabagas –  Another in the Brassica family..

Scallions- Excellent.

Shallots – Also Excellent.

Spinach-  Good in small quantities Add toward the end of cooking because it breaks down quickly and can make your stock murky looking.

 

Sweet Potatoes – Sweet Potatoes don’t add much flavor to stock or broth and some are too starchy for good stock or broth.

Thyme-  Very good in small quantities.

Tomatoes-  Excellent for making stock/broth. Don’t include too many tomato seeds as this can give a bitter flavour.

Turnips – Turnips are too strong for stock or broth. They tend to overpower any other flavours.

Turnip greens-  Ok in small quantities. Like other greens you may want to add greens toward end of cooking as they break down quickly.

 

Zucchini – Also good in small quantities.

Apple Scrap Vinegar

How to make Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) from your Apple Scraps.

Don’t throw out your apple cores. I know some people eat the whole apple, core and all, but most of us don’t. Our youngest daughter eats at least one apple per day, that’s seven apple cores a week either going to the immortal chicken (I’ll tell you that story another day) or to compost each week. We also use a lot of ACV. I use it as a hair rinse, in cooking, as a salad dressing and in household cleaning products among other things and if you’ve been to your local wholefood store, health shop or even just your local supermarket lately, you’ll know that stuff can be expensive.Especially if you like to buy the certified organic brands.

Originally I went looking for a place that retailed ACV in bulk and at least a little cheaper than I could buy it in glass bottles from my local supermarket. Imagine my delight when I found you could make your own and all you needed was already right there in my kitchen.

What you need:

Apple cores (about half a dozen and skins if you have them)

Sugar

Chlorine Free water (if your tap water is chlorinated leave it sit out in the open air for a while for the chlorine to evaporate or if you can get it use rainwater).

A wide mouth glass jar that will hold about 1.5  litres of liquid ( you can use larger or smaller just adjust your quantities).

A piece of cotton cloth (a bit of old sheet, a hanky or napkin will do)

An elastic band or piece of string.

The Makings

Put your apple cores into your wide mouth jar.

Mix water and sugar at ratio of 1 teaspoon sugar for every 1 cup of water. Make enough to fill the jar. I like to use warm water and mix until the sugar is dissolved, but its probably not a necessity.

Pour the water sugar mix into the jar all the way to the top.Make sure all your apple bits are submerged (or they’ll go mouldy).

Cover the mouth of the jar with your piece of cotton and secure with an elastic band or string.

Stick it in the back of your cupboard for about 3 weeks to ferment. You’ll know its ready when it begins to smell acidic and well, like vinegar. You can use it as is or leave it another week or two and it’ll have a stronger flavour.

Strain into a bottle, put the lid on and set aside for a few days to settle. You might want to open the lid every day or so for the next week to “burp” the bottle, just in case it hasn’t quite done fermenting. A vinegar explosion in your cupboard might not be pretty.

Notes:

You can give it a stir every few days if you like, but I usually forget.

You’ll know its ready when it smells really acidic,if it really smells like rotten apples, chuck it and start again.

Surprisingly, you’ll probably have to put your nose fairly close to the cloth “lid” to smell it. The first time I made a batch I was worried it’d stink out the cupboard because you need to leave the jar open (the little microbes in the water and apples need to react with oxygen- thats why you don’t use chlorinated water, it kills all the little microbes that make the vinegar), covering it with the cloth stops dirt, bugs or rodents getting in the jar.

If you get a white gungy looking thing floating about in the jar before you strain it, hang onto it. It’s called the “mother” and will help speed up the process if you add it to the next batch you make. You can either pop it in with your strained ACV or put it in a separate little jar of its own. I usually start the new batch fermenting as soon as I strain of the ACV, so just transfer it into that one.

Keep your apple cores in the fridge or freezer until you have enough. I keep an old bread bag in the freezer that I throw the cores into as soon as I’ve cut up the apple.

Banana Bread For Fresh or Frozen Bananas – Recipe

We love bananas but they can get rather expensive here when all seven of us are home and consuming them, so I tend to buy them in bulk when they’re “on special”. I freeze a few when the peels are still yellow and we eat them right up until they get a bit spotty (they’re much sweeter that way), but occasionally one or two will make it to that little bit past their “Best By” date, even by our standards. Fortunately this Banana Bread recipe works best with REALLY REALLY RIPE BANANAS. If you don’t have time to make it straight away, just pop your over-ripe bananas straight into the freezer with the skin on. No need to plastic wrap them or put them in a container.

When you want to use them simply leave them on the bench to thaw until the skin peels off (usually about an hour depending on the weather), throw the skins in the compost or straight on the garden and use for baking as you would fresh bananas.

This is a great recipe to make with younger children as it doesn’t require a mixer. It gets bonus points because if you use thawed frozen or over-ripe bananas they’re easy for little people to mash all by themselves.

I’ve included a few ideas for variations on the original recipe that I’ve tested on the  guinea pigs (aka: the family) in the ingredients list as well.

 

Utensils:

2 Bowls

1 Greased Loaf Tin ( approximately 8 & 1/2 x 4 inches  or an average bread pan – I grease mine with Olive Oil but you could use Butter or even Baking Paper if you wanted).

Wooden Spoon

Skewer or long Toothpick

Cooling Rack

Ingredients:

1 & 3/4 cups Plain Wholemeal Flour

1 cup Very Ripe Mashed Banana (about 2 medium sized bananas – the riper the better)

1 Egg (lightly beaten).

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda

1/4 cup Light Olive Oil

1/2 cup Rice Malt Syrup

3/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract or Essence

1/2 cup chopped Walnuts or Pecans (these are optional).

Variations

Replace Mashed Banana with Mashed Pumpkin or Mashed Sweet Potato. Replace chopped nuts with dark Choc Chips or Cacao Nibs. Replace Rice Malt Syrup with Honey or Maple Syrup. Substitute any other lightly flavoured oil for Light Olive Oil.

The Makings:

Turn your oven on and set it to 350F.

Combine the dry ingredients, including nuts if you are using them.

Combine the wet ingredients separately before stirring into your dry ingredients.

Stir with a wooden spoon until combined into a thick batter.

Pour into prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. To test if its baked insert along toothpick or skewer, its done when the skewer comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

This Banana Bread cuts easier and more cleanly if you let it cool completely before cutting, but who can wait right.