Tag: Low Cost

How Scrap family reduces food waste and saves some $$$

9 ways the Scraps family has reduced food waste and saved some money

Australian’s throw away thousands of $$$ worth of food a each year. That’s THOUSANDS! I don’t know about your family, but ours definitely doesn’t have thousands of disposable dollars laying around to waste on food that we don’t get to eat.

We’re by no means perfect or even experts but we do manage quite well on what I consider a very lower middle-class income. I’ve had lots of questions about it lately via face-lurk,  especially when I post about saving on groceries or put up recipes that feed the fam for next to nix. So today I’m going to share the principles we follow to reduce (mainly food) waste and save a few $$$ especially when the budget’s a bit tighter than usual.

1. Know what’s in the pantry

By knowing what’s in the fridge, freezer and  cupboards—fresh fruit N veg , canned stuff, dry herbs and staples like flour or rice—the less likely we are to return from the shops or to get home and realise we’ve already got one (or more) of something. On weeks when the budget’s really tight shopping the pantry first can be a real lifesaver. We often find enough for at least half a weeks meals are already there. The teens are really good at coming up with creative ideas for whats in the cupboard….they’re not always great ideas, but they are creative….

2. The List Abides

Writing a shopping list based on what’s at home and what we plan to cook during the week means we avoid buying more than whats needed and don’t purchase items we can go without. (Although I  do try to include at least one small “indulgence” each week like a little chocolate or the extra ingredients for a special desert or Lunchbox snack). I actually loathe shopping (of almost every kind) so having a list makes this a much faster and less painful task and thankfully, our greengrocer delivers!

3.  Check the expiry date

We check expiry dates when we’re shopping and try to buy things like milk, cheese, dry and tinned goods, with the longest shelf-life remaining possible. We position older items at the front of the fridge or cupboard, so they get eaten first (actually Mr Scraps  is much more vigilant about this than I am). If fruit and veg start to go a bit soft, we also look at ways to incorporate them into soups, sauces and desserts. If we’re short on time, we freeze them for later (which reminds me …I have a bunch of squishy fruit in the freezer that we can use for smoothies this week).

4. Portion control

No, I don’t mean we put the family on a diet. But we’ve found out the hard way that if there’s only three of us at home on Thursday but my meal plan looks more like something for when there’s five or six  of us, we end up tossing A LOT of uneaten food to the Immortal Chicken. We try to buy and cook only what we need. And if I’m  making extra,that it’s something that can be easily frozen for later. Every now and then I do this on purpose so there’s some individual servings of whatever in the freezer for lunches or those nights when something unexpected crops up and we can’t cook (or I just plain don’t want to).

5. Storing food

Airtight containers,  fridges and freezers all play a part in prolonging the shelf life of certain foods. So, if we’ve got meat in the fridge that we’re not going to eat this week,we  put it in the freezer. Same for fruit and veg. For example green beans are on special at the greengrocer this week so I’ve ordered a box full to be delivered.  After work today I plan to blanch and freeze most of them for later ( unless of course Mr Scraps channels his inner kitchen fairy and has it done already by time I get home).

6. Leftover nights

If we make more food than we can consume, rather than throw it out, we pack it for lunch or save it for dinner the following night. The bonus is I don’t have to cook again the next day. I try to have a Leftover night written into our Meal Plan once a week.

7. Keep a Container

In the car, bottom of the pram or your bag. If Mr Scraps and I or one of the Scrap kids can’t finish  our  restaurant meal, we ask to take it home. If we can stretch one meal into two – we not only  reduce waste and the second meal is essentially free so we save a few $$$$.

8.  Compost or find a chicken…

We don’t actually compost because we have the Immortal Chicken. Chickens are great for recycling things like fruit and veg peels (except onions and citrus) and all manner of scraps. If you don’t have a chicken of your own (or a neighbour who does) compost bins  and worm farms will break down food scraps and at the same time create natural fertiliser for plants. If you’re lucky (like people in our area) your local council has commercial compost facilities, but also check out your local schools or community gardens if you can’t (or don’t want to) compost at home.

9. Grow your own

Okay, so I’m not so great at this (I’m told I have a “black thumb”) but saving money is one of the biggest reasons people grow food at home. Having a stash of herbs and vegetables means  always having access to fresh ingredients and just the right amount. I have had some success regrowing veg like celery and carrot tops from the scraggy end bits we usually cut off and throw to the Immortal Chicken, but it takes a while and I’m too impatient.

S

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Clean Up!

 

So for Day 3 of  International Zero Waste Week, let’s do some housekeeping!

The cleaning regime here in the Scrap House is much the same as everyone else’s I think. We tidy up, make beds sweep, vacuum, wash floors, windows, dishes, bedding and clothes.

Those of you that have been following this blog might remember me mentioning that our real journey to a low waste lifestyle actually began in 1995 after discovering that the Uni Student had mega-sensitive skin. I didn’t realise it at the time, but what I was doing to eliminate chemicals from our home was going Zero Waste!

It started with washing powder. The first thing we suspected when little baby Uni Student’s skin started to go red then blister and peel…yes it was that awful, I’m not exaggerating… I was willing to give anything a go to make our baby more comfortable, help her skin heal and stop it happening again.

For a while I just washed her clothes and nappies in bicarbonate of soda with a little white vinegar in the rinse and dried them in the sun whenever possible. It worked just fine, unless there was a stain. We needed something with a little more oomph occasionally.

That’s when Grandma Scraps sent me the book It’s so Natural. (I’m not affiliated with the author in any way and receive no payment for promoting his books, I just really like them). Ever since then I’ve been making our washing powder using a grated bar of unperfumed pure soap and some washing soda or Bicarbonate of soda. I still use white vinegar in the fabric softner dispenser (and for those who argue that vinegar will wreck your washing machine, our top-loader is almost 20 years old and still going strong and I have a friend with a front-loader who has been using the same formula as us for almost a decade with no noticeable damage to her machine. To make wool wash I use the soap, some metholated spirits and eucalyptus oil.

I’ve tried soap nuts/berries too and while they worked quite well and were on the whole one of the cheapest low waste eco-friendly options out there, there’s some suggestion that they’re not so good for those who grow them, plus there’s usually a lot of transport miles involved, so I might do a little more research before jumping on the soap nut bandwagon.

If you’ve read any of the other posts on this blog, such as the one about dishwasher tablets or the one about paste cleaner, you might be noticing a bit of a theme by now. White Vinegar, Bicarbonate of Soda, Washing Soda, Salt, Lemons and Eucalyptus and Tea Tree oil are staples in the Scrap House. We use them for just about everything. Lemons are usually free from a neighbours tree and everything else ia available from bulk stores, in really huge containers (brought in store or online) or in a cardboard box or recyclable glass bottle. The recipes for most of the homemade products are really simple too, just mix different amounts together and clean away, like the recipe for glass cleaner below.

 

Image result for vinegar and lemons for cleaning

Simple Recipe for Window/Glass Cleaner

1 cup of white vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 cups of water

To make up pour everything into a spray bottle, pop the lid on and give it a good shake. To use just spray on and buff off with a lint free cloth or scrunched up newspaper.

Okay, so you might have to take a little time to mix up your own cleaners, but at least you’ll know exactly what’s in them. As we found out the hard way over the years, just because something is labelled “eco”, “organic”, “earth-friendly” or “for sensitive skin”, doesn’t mean that it’s chemical free or even effective.Big bonus that overall they work out MUCH MUCH CHEAPER than the chemical stuff you get from the supermarket. I haven’t really crunched the numbers, but I’m fairly confident that the Scrap House gets clean for less than $10 AU a month.

So today’s challenge is to try it yourself.  Swap out one of your usual chemical cleaning products for a homemade version. You can use one of the recipes on this blog or there are a lot more on to be found on the internet (good ‘ol Dr. Google again). You could try cleaning your bathtub with bicarbonate of soda instead of your usual cream cleanser or use some white vinegar instead of fabric softener or rinse aid in your dishwasher.

 

 

Homemade Paste Cleaner

Back in 1995 we discovered that the Uni Student, at the time a gorgeous little bundle of gurgling joy, was allergic to stuff. Things like washing powder, scented soap, perfume and other household cleaners caused pretty violent skin reactions. So we went on the hunt for alternatives.

In our search we found lots of “eco”, “natural” and “green’ products. Most of them overpriced and many containing just as many irritating ingredients as .their chemical counterparts. Big lesson here was that just because something is “natural” doesn’t automatically qualify it as “safe” or “good”.

Then my mother found a book and posted it to me for my birthday (we were living in Adelaide at the time and she was on the farm at Burraja in rural New South Wales). It was called It’s so Natural by a fellow called Alan Hayes. It’s still available I think. Give it a search through DR Google and see if you can find it. And that was how I started making most of our household cleaners and many of our personal care  products.

I did hang onto a few of my favourite commercially made products though and one of them is Gumption.


For those of you who’ve never come across it before, Gumption is a white paste sold in a tub that you rub onto dirty surfaces with a cloth. Its great for enamel stove tops, baths and basins, stainless steel pots and pans, dirty bathroom tiles and so many other things. It’s pretty low irritant too and all the safety and environmental information I can find on it says it’s completely safe to use.

So I kept using it, until recently that is. I went to our little local supermarket the other day to find that the price has jumped significantly. On “special” it was almost $6 AU a tub. Granted I hadn’t brought any for a while, I tend to stock up on these sorts of things when I find them at bargain prices and only replace them once they’ve run out, but that seems a little steep for a simple tub of goo.

Surely it could be made at home. While there are no ingredients at all listed on the tub, the information I can find on the interwebs informs us that it’s a mild abrasive with a surficant (soap) and a little peroxide or bleach (I think). I asked over on the Kitchenscraps Face-lurk page and a few of our followers provided links to either similar commercial products and a couple of recipes used by other bloggers. Armed with this info I did a quick rummage through the pantry and laundry cupboards, set to work experimenting with a few different mixes and finally came up with this one. It works a treat.

Homemade Cleaning Paste

1 cup bicarb soda (baking soda)

1/2 cup washing soda (the powdery kind, not the big crystals)

1/3 cup hot water

2 Tablespoons grated soap

1/4 Teaspoon essential oil

1 Tablespoon fine grained salt.(optional – great for tiles but probably not so great on delicate surfaces).

In a bowl mix together all the dry ingredients except the soap. In a separate bowl or jug dissolve the soap in the hot water. Mix the soapy water into the dry ingredients, adding the essential oil. Put into a  wide mouth jar or container (I used an old plastic honey tub) and when needed scoop a small amount out with a rag and gently rub onto surface in a circular motion. Wipe off with a damp cloth.

Note: It should be a thick smooth paste. If it’s dry and crumbly, add more water. If it’s really runny, add more bicarb soda, a little at a time. A 1/4 teaspoon of essential oil is about 20 drops, I used 10 drops each of tea tree and eucalyptus. You can use any oil you like or you could easily leave this out and it would probably work just as well, it just wouldn’t smell as nice.

I tested it out on our grubby stove top and one of my old cast iron enameled pots that had burnt custard stuck on the bottom. 


This cost next to nix to make, does a great job and gets bonus points because it eliminates one more piece of disposable plastic packaging from our household.
 

Web Errors, War Rations and BOB Cabbage Pasta

It’s been an interesting week so far and it’s only Wednesday!

Those of you who visit here regularly and follow along on face-lurk may have noticed that there are several post missing from the site.

It seems we may have been hacked (either that …or an update went wrong …or  I pushed the wrong button somewhere along the line…which is entirely possible) and Kitchen Scraps went down. I thought for a moment (well, a whole day) that I’d lost her forever. But a clever IT person showed me how to restore a website from old data, and we’re back online… minus a few recent posts. I’ll try and get those rewritten from my notes and re-posted.

It’s taught me a valuable lesson – BACK UP & PROTECT YOUR DATA!

It’s one we all know and should take heed of but in this techno-gizmo world, seem to ignore or just plain forget about. It was (only) a blog that I almost lost forever, but imagine if it was something really important or of huge sentimental value, like your entire collection of family photos, your next best selling novel or all your financials…

Sadly, one of the posts that went bye-bye birdy was the one I wrote about putting my family on War Rations. If you left a comment or saved the link, I’m sorry to say it’s gone now… but a big thank you. There were so many thoughtful and helpful suggestions, it really is a shame they’ve evaporated into the cyber-ether.

The gist of it was that a lot of my favourite (as in the ones I face-lurk and insta-stalk) food gurus and bloggers believe (like me) that we shouldn’t be wasting food. They also believe that it shouldn’t be as ridiculously difficult or expensive to feed our families healthy nutritious meals.

One of my favourite blogs is written by Carolyn Eakins who recreates authentic World War 2 meals. It’s called the 1940s Experiment (my all time favourite modern era) and uses the principals of English wartime rationing to help control her weight and keep herself healthy. She’s not the only one calling for a return to the culinary habits of our immediate ancestors either Sarah Wilson, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall are just three others that come to mind.

Leonora Green  1941. Coupons Required.
Leonora Green 1941. Coupons Required. Image from the collection of the Imperial War Museum London.

The short of it is WW2 rationing saw people eating less sugar, less meat, less fat and more veg. They had to use everything because there was only so much available.This went for everything, not just food. In short, people were healthier,were far more frugal and wasted very, very little.

It sounds almost exactly what we’re trying to do here, right?!

While we’re not at war (although I’m guessing there’s a few world leaders who’d like us to be) and there’s no shortages of food here, I’ve really been embracing the principals of rationing this past few weeks. More veg, less meat and making sure we stick to a meal plan, shop only when really needed and (except for staples like rice, flour and dried beans,peas and lentils etc) using things up completely before running out to buy more.

As a result, I’ve come up with a few new “BOB” recipes (BOB stands for – BACK OF BOAT – those quick, simple, inexpensive  yet  totally delicious meals that can be eaten with one hand or out of a high sided bowl with just a fork or spoon while sitting on deck and lazily drifting on the ocean).

BOB CABBAGE PASTA

This is my take on the old braised cabbage that your mum or grandma might have made. Cabbage was big in England in WW2 because it could be grown at home. The Ministry of Food even issued instructions to housewives on how to cook cabbage in the most economical way. It was pretty much a staple here in Australia too because its cheap, nutritious and like other veg, wasn’t rationed.

Ministry of Food How to cook cabbage WW2 instructions
During WW2 England’s Ministry of Food issued leaflets informing people of the most economical way to cook cabbage.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a recipe for boiled cabbage. In fact there’s no boiling water required. Except for some chopping of ingredients, this literally takes minutes to make. It’s economical too. This makes enough to feed 6 of us as a main meal (or 4 with leftovers). It uses very little meat and only a little oil or butter. You can add additional veg or change out the bacon or chorizo for chicken, pork or you can leave it out altogether.

1 head of cabbage. shredded to the thickness of fettuccine or spaghetti noodles.

1 Onion finely sliced.

2 rashers of bacon finely diced

1 chorizo sausage finely diced

2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter (I like to use a tablespoon of each).

A sprinkle of chilli flakes or one finely diced chilli.

Any other veg you’d like to add finely shredded with a grater (zucchini is great, so is carrot or capsicum)

Salt and pepper to taste.

A large pan (I make this in the 20 Litre stainless steel pot I use to make stock, soup and stew. It has a tight fitting lid and if there’s leftovers, it fits straight onto the bottom shelf of our fridge).

Heat the oil/butter in the pan and add the bacon, chorizo, chilli and onion.

Saute a few moments until the onion is a little soft and starts to go translucent.

Add the cabbage and stir over a low heat until well combined and cabbage has softened but still has a little crunch.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve just put a generous serving in a bowl.

 

 

 

 

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).

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.