We'd recovered from our trip away, and whilst the lures of South East Asia were enticing, it's always grand to be home. This is one of the life luxuries that insourcing assists us with financially. We save many thousands of dollars over the course of the year, by eating in, mending and repairing in preference to replacing, making do, and generally going against the grain of what the world around us does, day in day out. Travel is one of our great rewards, and when we travel, we go in style, friends. No inside cabin on level 7 for us. It's a State Room on the top level, thanks. Sigh....lovely....
Once the suitcases were unpacked and the souvenirs distributed, and a brief respite was had from racing here and there, my thoughts naturally returned to the routine of work, school and nurturing hearth and home. Memories of Mothers carrying toddlers on Vespas...
...and night lit Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), reminiscent of Paris...
...fade, as the normality of Aussie life reasserts itself.
It's an odd thing being on a cruise ship, without any capacity to cook for yourself. Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful to have your every whim catered for day and night, and we loved it! But being the homebody I am, I craved being able to fix my own cup of tea, just the way I like it, and eating something simple. Of course baking is a way of life for me too, so my fingers were itching to get back into it as soon as my own kitchen welcomed me!
This last Sunday was the first time I've shopped, prepped and baked in my usual fashion for nearly six weeks though. We were away for nearly four, and then we were caught up in the flurry of activity surrounding the return to school here in Australia. This is my daughters final year, so there were some heavy nostalgic sighs too, acknowledging that as she is my youngest, this was going to be the very last 'first day back at school' ever, for our family.
Gluten free buns were baked and these have done us as breakfast topped with ham, eggs and Hollandaise sauce as seen a bit further down this post, and as afternoon tea topped with Nutella and fresh strawberries for the woman-child. Gluten free buns or rolls work out at around $2 each, and I baked 14 from one batch of batter, so I'll call that a value of $28 on that batch of baking.
The breakfast pictured below, would have set us back $16 each in a café, so my value for the three of us, was $48...you see already, how this really mounts up and saves us so much money!
A belated Christmas gift awaited us upon our return home, and this cute little stack of side printed notepads, tied with a sweet pen attached, and embellished with grosgrain ribbon and a glittered snowflake ornament, sent my imagination into overdrive for Christmas gifts this year...yes, I start now!
Part of the secret to feeding your family well on a budget, week in, week out, is to make sure you plan for treats. Patting yourself on the back for a grocery shop under $100, then stopping in at a favourite fast food haunt for burgers and shakes every day after school at $3-$6 a pop, is not smart budgeting, nor is it clever eating. You'll have your own favourites of course, but for us, it's a yummy dip like this Cottage Cheese for Cottage Cheese Haters, which is a recipe circa 1982 from my Mums handwritten cookbook, and which I'm happy to eat sans crackers! Here's that recipe in four sentences...
Curried Cottage Cheese for Cottage Cheese Haters
To a 500gm tub of creamed cottage cheese, add 2 heaped teaspoons of yellow curry powder, the juice of half a lemon, a tomato finely diced, a single green shallot, sliced finely (or a pinch of dried onion flakes), Salt and Pepper, and a sprinkle of Cayenne Pepper. Mix well and refrigerate. Serve alone and eat with a spoon, inside lettuce leaves, or on crackers.
Saving on supermarket dips and cheeses...around $20.
I made café style breakfasts, including Eggs Benedict, served on the aforementioned home baked gluten free rolls. I made a Cheats Hollandaise in under a minute, and presto...we had our favourite café brekky for just $1.20 each, instead of $16 a head. That's a saving of at least $45 as I mentioned above. Here's that recipe in four sentences...
Cheats Hollandaise Sauce
Melt 2 teaspoons of butter in a small jug or cup. Add 1 teaspoon mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard and a tiny pinch of salt and pepper. Microwave till warm, and whisk till smooth. Serve over Poached eggs resting on a bed of ham or smoked salmon atop buns or English style muffins.
And I can't finish the week without mentioning the produce we harvested from our 1 year old fruit trees. This week that was four figs, a bowl of mulberries (the last of them I think), 2 lemons, 3 stems of Kaffir lime leaves (to dry and use in Thai dishes), and a Tahitian lime. Now that doesn't sound like much. But I priced those things at the supermarket, and here is their retail value...
Figs $2.50 each = $10 Value
Mulberries $9 punnet = $9 Value
Lemons $2 each = $4 Value
Kaffir lime leaves $6 punnet of about 10 = $120 (!!!) Value
Limes $3 each = $3
Total value of home harvest = $146!
So even the humblest of gardens can reward you well!
Additionally, as I unpacked the groceries on Sunday, I prepped the meals for the week. I diced Gravy beef for a Japanese curry, marinating in tenderising spices, saving $10 on a prepacked meal to go from the supermarket, and saving $50 on a takeaway. I made a turkey meatloaf, saving $7 on a bought prepped one. I popped a whole chicken into a Middle Eastern style marinade and stuffed it with gluten free stuffing and chopped preserved lemon, saving $15 on one already done. I baked saving at least $60 on bought treats. And I chopped and diced my veges for the week, saving at least another $15 on buying them already done. This took about 90 minutes, and means I'm ready for the week ahead, no matter what happens. It's lovely to come home, and know whats for dinner and know that it's practically done and ready to go bar heating, pan frying or baking. I cannot begin to tell you how much this saves on takeaways too!
We'll call that $157 saved on doing all that myself, as opposed to buying those things already done. So that's not to be sneered at. And once you adopt this habit (discipline, remember!), you won't think twice about it.
All up, I estimate my value in the home last week at around $396. Now that's a pretty conservative week for me. But to earn that value after tax, I would have had to have a part time job, been away from home for at least 2-3 days, and then we'd be throwing money away on all kinds of things. Transport to and from school for my daughter, a dog walker, a dog hydrobath, a gardener, a cleaner, ready prepared food or takeaway and so on. So if you factor all of that lot in, the savings are looking far more significant! Then we're talking around $896! Being at home, and making sure that the time I spend there is productive, really does make a difference.
Multiply those figures by the 52 weeks in a year, and we're talking big bucks. Certainly enough for a state room on a cruise ship once a year!
You can do it too.
How was your week?