Since my last post about the Dollar Diet and how to do it, I’ve been on fire this week, doing whatever it takes to save money and spend less.
We’ve returned from a much-needed long weekend in Dunedin. Although we had a few days ‘holiday’ in January on our way from our previous town to Pleasant Point, we were moving house, which isn’t a terribly relaxing thing to do. I get cabin fever if I’m stuck in one place too long, so a change of scene was definitely in order. A couple of days away does wonders for recharging my batteries.
We kept the costs down by choosing cheap, self-catering accommodation away from the CBD, and mostly stuck to doing free stuff – like playgrounds, bike parks and visiting Mr G’s aunt and uncle who live in the area. I cannot stress enough how much self-catering will keep your holiday spending at a minimum. I would much rather spend $40 on a fun outing with my family than on lunch at a cafe! Mr G and I read several books over the weekend – now that’s luxury!
Because we’re museum junkies, we did fork out money for the extra activities at Otago Museum. Most of the museum can be seen for free – and it’s well worth the visit alone – but you do need to buy tickets to enter Tuhura (apologies, I can’t figure out how to do a macron on here!), which incorporates the very interactive science centre, butterfly rain forest, and planetarium. I wouldn’t do the planetarium again, but the science centre and butterfly rain forest were totally worth the money.
Anyway, on to the frugal stuff!
- Mr G’s relatives gave us a huge bagful of golden delicious apples and feijoas from their trees. Paying for feijoas hurts, especially when we used to get tonnes from a tree at our old house. The free fruit means we don’t need to buy any for a couple of weeks. My daughter E is a fruit fiend and munches her way through an awful lot, so it’s a significant saving.
- I made applesauce from the apples. Unsweetened applesauce is a great substitute for oil or butter in recipes, and is a yummy porridge topping.
- They also gave us a stack of towels in good nick. It’s not often I regret getting rid of something, but I definitely regretted giving away some of our towels last year before we moved. I didn’t factor in the amount of visitors we’d receive in Pleasant Point (some of our friends have large families), and I should have hung on to them. As you can imagine, I was chuffed to get the towels from Auntie R.
- I baked a LOT this week. We had some mozzarella cheese that needed to be used up, so I made a margarita pizza, which is E’s favourite dish in the whole, wide world. I made cheese scones and a banana cake for my family (using up bananas that seem to have been in my freezer forever), plus several batches of biscuits (cookies) to feed a hoard of children during an impromptu playdate.
- I did a pantry audit – making a list of everything in my cupboards/fridge/freezer – and made a two week meal plan. (I shop fortnightly to save on petrol as we live 20 minutes away from the nearest big supermarket.) I won’t bore you with all the minute details, but I ended up with things like: a pack of sausages, a whole frozen chicken, leftover chickpea curry, two meals worth of home made soup, half a pack of brown rice, lasagne sheets, a pack of arborio rice and 10 pumpkins. Yes, 10 pumpkins. With a modicum of effort, it didn’t take long to work out a meal plan e.g. the sausages went into a very frugal hotpot (let me know if you’d like me to post this recipe, it’s really fast, easy and delicious), and the chicken went into a risotto one night and a curry the next. The combination of items in my pantry meant I only spent $123 on food this fortnight. $61.50 for a week’s worth of meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – is pretty awesome! Doing a pantry audit a few times a year means you no longer get packets of couscous/leftovers languishing at the back of the cupboard/freezer. You save money buy using up everything and waste waaaay less food, plus it’s also a good way to free up extra cash that you’d otherwise be spending on food that week. Give it a try the next time you’ve got an unexpected bill.
- I tried out a new recipe to use up some of those pumpkins (from our own garden), and made a pumpkin, spinach and lentil lasagne. Oh my word, divine! You can find the recipe here. It’s very time-consuming so best left to a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, but worth the effort. We eat several vegetarian or vegan meals a week, which helps to keep our grocery budget low – plus they’re healthy and delicious.
- Mr G sealed up two open fireplaces and a meat safe (our lovely house is from the 1930s) to reduce heat loss, using a masterful application of bubble wrap, tape and corflute. Open fireplaces are ridiculously inefficient at heating a room; it’s actually more cost-effective for us to run a heater in these rooms.
- We had a very quiet Queen’s birthday weekend. We had little on our social calendar – which was just as well because my son and I are a bit under the weather – so most of the weekend was spent mooching around the house. Just what the doctor ordered.
It wasn’t all frugal around here though. I had to admit defeat and recognise that I really, really do need more warm clothes, and that a woolly hat is a necessary item in E’s school uniform. I baulked at paying $10 for a plain blue,school-issued beanie, and I got one for $5 elsewhere. (FYI, I despise knitting, in case you wondered why I didn’t whip one up myself. Seriously, I’d rather stab myself with the needles…) I’m not a wuss when it comes to the cold; I’ve lived in much colder climates than Pleasant Point, but they were in countries that have embraced central heating and double glazing. Get with the programme, New Zealand.
Despite stocking up in merinos from op-shops last year and layering like the Michelin man, I needed some thick tops to wear around our icebox house. Having come from mild Whanganui, I didn’t already own that sort of thing. I couldn’t find what I wanted secondhand and had to resort to buying two brand new tops. Still, I figure the money I spent on them is offset by spending less on heating the house! With Mr G and I at home most of the time during the day – Mr G’s church office is in our house – our power bill gets quite high, so it all helps. Mr G is usually the type of guy to be found in shorts and t-shirt during a blizzard, but even he has succumbed to thermal underwear. Ergo, it actually is quite chilly in Pleasant Point.
What frugal things have you been up to lately?