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Saturday, 21 September 2013

5 tips for making your grocery budget stretch further.

I never gave much thought to how much my Husband and I spent on groceries or take away until I was getting ready to go on maternity leave with my first child. In order to prepare I decided it was time to look at where we spent our money, and make a plan for the following year while I was on maternity leave.

This was a painstaking process as we had never kept track of our expenses. We pulled out every bill from the past year, backtracked through our bank statements to find any reference to grocery shopping, and generally looked at our expenditure and catergorised it. What was most shocking was the sheer amount of money we simply could not account for. It had gone on miscellaneous items, eating out, and just general frivolity.

While I was on leave I really looked for ways to make our grocery shop stretch further, and since then I would say we do pretty well. I won't pretend that we have a super low grocery bill, there are certainly areas we could cut costs further, if needed. However, we are also aware of those choices we make that make the bill a little higher. Choosing certain brands over others, not always using the cheapest cuts of meat etc. I do know that we do one major shop every 2 months spending about $300 and then small top ups equaling maybe another $50 -100 a month. These are often for non bulk items suc as milk, fruit and veg. The big shop also includes items such as nappies, wipes, cleaning products, and the occasional 'I bought because we saw it' splurge.

So here are my top tips:

1) Have a 'Eat what you have' week (or two)

A week or so before a bi- monthly shop I go through the fridge, freezer and pantry. I check what meat and vegetables I have that need using and write them down. I then check what items I have in the pantry. Armed with this knowledge I wrote down as many meals as possible using up as much of the ingredients as I can.

This is a really great way of ensuring you are not wasting anything. It is surprising how many more meals you can actually get when you think you have nothing left. I aim to take any leftovers in the freezer for lunch that week, and use up and last bits of sauces that may be in the fridge.

2) Meal plan

Once you are ready to do a big shop, do a big brainstorm of what meals you would like to have. I make up a table with 3 columns. In one column I put the names of meals. In the second I put any ingredients; or in some cases if trying something new, I put the recipe. Once I have down a big brainstorm I then put the tiems I need to buy in the far column. I check where I use an ingredient more than once, I make sure I have the quantities of meat I need, and I remove any items I may have already.

When brainstorming I think about the following
- What are our favourite meals to eat?
- Is there anything new I want to try?
- What are some really quick, cheap meals. These are for the days you might be tempted to just get take away
- Have a mix of meals that need fresh ingredients (Fruit, Vegetables, Herbs) and some that can use freezer and pantry staples (Frozen Vegetables, oven wedges, canned corn etc)

3) Make what you can from a few staple items

I personally don't use many packet mixes. This is partly due to cost, and partly due to concern about what is in some things (preservative, salt, anti caking ingredients etc).

So many meal bases are actually really easy to make yourself, and last a long time. There are so many things I can make so long as I have the following items
- Soy Sauce
- Minced Garlic and Ginger
- Honey
- Olive Oil
- Spices ( I use paprika, cinnamon, tumeric, cumin, fennel, dried chilli and basil the most)
- Cornflour
- Tomato Paste
- Tinned Tomato/Passata
- Coconut Milk
- Cornflour

From the above items I know I have everything i need to make Asian marinades, Mexican spices, Italian sauces, gravy and curries. That means there are a lot of meals that can be made where I just add meat, vegetables and a either pasta, rice or wraps.

4) Reduce your meat intake

Being Australian, many of us have been brought up on the 'Meat and 3 Veg' meals. This is fine, except the serving size of meat is often too large.

My Husband and I noticed that when we ate meals such as stirfrys and curries we could easily use about 250g - 300g meat between us. This still often left enough foe either a second serve, or leftovers for lunch. We bulk up a lot of our meals with vegetables, and have tend to have a carbohydrate too. We will tend to only have a meal the requires a whole piece of meat once a week.

Another good idea is to have meat free meals. This might mean a vegetarian or fish/seafood meal. Frozen prawns and fish are not very expensive, and make quick, cheap meals. Some of our favourite meat free meals are:
- Spinach and Ricotta Canneloni
- Prawn Fried Rice
- Salmon and Vegetables
- Vegetable Frittata or Quiche

5) Use some cheaper items  and buy in season

You can use cheaper cuts of meats and this does not always mean fattier. I just cut off any visible fat and slow cook the meat, This is great for curries and stews, as well as roasts that you slow cook.

I tend to use a premium mince, which has less fat. It does cost more tat the super cheap mince, but I tend to think I get more out of it as there is less fat in it. Also, it is very easy to bulk up mince by adding carrots, celery and other vegetables to any mince mixture.

I also use canned beans. These can be added to mince for a mexican dish, can be made into a simple side dish (can of 4 bean mix, some vinegar dressing, a can of corn kernels, fresh herbs).

For fruit and vegetables if you look at what is in season you can have fresh produce that is very cheap. It is also worthwhile checking out any marked down items. These are often close to expiry, but if you plan to use them for a meal within the next few days they are fine. Or if they are an item you can cut up and freeze.

What are your top tips for reducing your grocery shopping budget? Please share them below!!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Our Movie Themed 30th Birthday Bash!

My Husband and I share our birthdays approximately 2 weeks apart, so we knew that it was going to be best to share a 30th Birthday celebration.Neither of us have had a birthday party since our 21st, and will be unlikely to have another until our 40th, so we decided to go all out!

We actually settled on a movie theme almost a year earlier. It was the only theme that we deemed suitable for the both of us. Originally our plan was to have a backyard movie party. However we realised the weather was too unpredictable, and our guest list grew.

We hired a local hall, booked catering and wrote up a guest list.

Now was the fun part. Planning. We both actually really enjoyed planning this celebration and commented to each other that we hadn't put in this much effort since our wedding! In fact, my Husband thinks he put in more for this celebration!

The Food

I love to cook, and usually I insist on making everything for a celebration from scratch. Yet, this time I decided to get it catered. I looked around at different catering options and found you can have woodfire pizza, made fresh. They turn up with a woodfire oven on the back of a trailer, dough and all the toppings for a variety of pizzas. The pizza was unlimited for 3 hours, and included entree, main and even dessert pizza.

It was a huge hit, people ate until their bellies were full, and we had about 20 boxes of leftover pizza at the end of the night! (These were pressed on people as they left, so happily we only took home 3 savour and 3 sweet).

I also made 2 salads and had a fruit and cheese platter, although truthfully these were not really needed.

The Cake

I do a bit of cake decorating on the side, so I made the cake. I was pleased with how it turned out, and wasn't too difficult. Although it was meant to be two tiers, however one tier didn't look right so I took it off and just cut it up when serving cake later.

The decoration

I had pinned a variety of ideas for table centrepices using news reels and other movie items. However, I found that to buy some cheap plastic reels would be $13 a table, which I thought was too expensive given we wouldn't use them again.

Instead, I decided to use some large popcorn buckets, and have some helium balloons in the colour theme inside them.

Around the walls we had some Elvis and Marylin posters (We had actually won these a year ago at a work trivia night, along with some movie themed plates and some banners. It was after we had already decided to have a movie themed party). We also found on the internet some high definition movie posters, and printed them at my Husbands work in A3, then laminated them, These posters were scattered around the room.

Tables and chairs were part of hall hire, and we were delighted to discover the chairs were black,which matched the roll of black tablecloth we used on the tables.


My Husband is a movie buff, and knows so much movie trivia, so he decided he wanted to have a trivia competition though the night. We spent a few weeks coming up with questons, making the slideshow, downloading movie clips for some of the questions and making answer cards.

Despite some questions being way too hard, people seemed to really enjoy the novelty of the trivia and many laughs were had.

For prizes we made up mini popcorn tubs filled with chocolate bars and microwave popcorn. The winning table each received a tub. We were lucky because the chocolate bars were on sale when we bought them, so each tub only cost about $6

Candy Bar

I know lolly bars are being done to death, but it is with good reason! They are a crowd pleaser. We used jars that were left over from our wedding and filled them with popcorn. I then borrowed the rest of the jars from a friend and ordered lollies in bulk from an online shop.

We found popcorn boxes that fitted our colour theme, and hung some '30' strings behind as a backdrop.
It looked amazing, and adults and kids alike loved filling up containers through the night, and took some home too!

Kids Corner

We had a few kids attending, including our own daughter, so we decided to set up a corner for them. We put down some rugs, pillows and beanbags in a corner. We set up a mini dvd player, and some crayons with paper. The kids played happily all night and were well behaved.

Dress Up!

We asked everyone to dress up as either a movie character or movie star. Everyone got really into it and looked great! It was a bit of fun, and worked as a good conversation starter with people.

Wolverine, Cleopatra and Jessie!

Our 30th was so much fun. The best part of all was being surrounded by the people we love. It makes you appreciate all you have achieved in 30 years and understand that life is successful when you are surrounded by people you love :)

Saturday, 14 September 2013

$50 outfit - Aussie Curves

I think putting together a $50 outfit is a great idea. It shows you can look great for not much $$

However, I am only just scraping g in with this weeks post. I wore a few $50 outfits through the week, but me never managed to take a photo! I was determined this morning though, so I got dressed and made Hubby snap some shots before we went shopping.

I experimented with curling my hair too. I have never had much success, but I watched a few you tube videos, and went in armed with a comb and some clips for my hair. I pretty happy with how it turned out! 

Dress- Best & Less - $18
Jacket - Autograph - $20
Shoes- Target - $7
Necklace - Old & Fixed $0

This outfit is so bright and cheerful. A refreshing change from the darker shades of winter. 

The dress is from Best & Less current season. It doesn't look like much on the hanger, but on it is perfect. Soft stretch jersey fabric, rushing at the bust and under bust. The colours are beautiful. Even better, this is a dress that will see me through the remaining 10 weeks of this pregnancy, as the weather heats up.

The jacket you have seen. The best Autograph bargain yet at $20. with amazi g cut and button detailing. It is just perfect and I find I am preferring to pop on a denim jacket rather than a cardigan. The shoes are $7 from target. They have a huge range of colours and styles for $7 My feet swell a bit I. Summer, and I seem to have gone up half a size in pregnancy. I a unsure it this will remain, so I wanted some cheap shoes to see me through. For $7 I couldn't resist and bought 5 pairs!!!

The necklace is an old one, but I remember it being less than $10. I. Fact, I a, almost considering g this free, because it actually broke Nd I had it on the throw away pile. However I love the colour, so I found a leather string for another broken necklace and retired it. Tadaa!!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Aussie Curves - Vulnerable Side

I think that as a plus size woman there are many things I could say I am vulnerable about. Hell, I think that applies for women in general. We live in a society where the bar is so high for what is considered beautiful & successful it is hard not to feel inadequate.

One thing that makes me feel so vulnerable is seeing photos of myself. I often see pictures after an event and think 'Is that really how I look?'. My eyes always look to small, my chins too many, my arms too flabby, but ass too big. It is difficult to see and I end up feeling vulnerable. Yet I don't think any of this would change if I was any thinner. In fact, I know it wouldn't.

This weekend my Husband and I hosted a joint 30th. In the lead up to it I put together a slide show with photos of us from childhood to present day. What was most sobering is seeing pictures of myself from my teenage years and through my early - mid 20's. I was dieting through most of that time. I never felt good enough. I hated photos of myself and felt every bit as fat as I still do to this day. Yet the pictures now tell me a different story

The pictures show me that I was never as fat as I thought I was. That I was beautiful. That I was fine the way I was.

Hindsight is a bitch.

Sadly, the photos also showed me slowing getting bigger. After years of pressuring myself I reached a point where I threw my hands in the air and started being unhealthy. I felt like I was never going to get 'thin' (Never realising I wasn't 'fat' in the first place) so why bother. Regrettably though, I punished myself with food, almost challenging myself to eat the things that I had spent a life depriving myself of. I especially blew up during my pregnancy with my daughter. I realised that I wasn't any happier eating this way though and went back to my usual mostly healthy eating habits, but by then the 'damage' was done.

 I avoided having photos with my daughter at first, partly because of my size and partly because of an awful case of hives I developed post birth. I still rarely take a photo with my daughter, and find that people often don't bother taking photos of me with her either.  I regret this so much though, as I am missing from the documentation of my daughter's life. My Sister in Law will feature more heavily in photos with my daughter than I will.

One of the few photos I have from the first few weeks of my daughters life

I am already taking steps to change this. Starting this blog was the first step. Thinking about how I look, and appreciating myself is the next. Each week I take part in a challenge I am pushing my own vulnerability. I am posting photos for the world to see. Yet I am seeing myself clearer than I ever have before.

Before I fell pregnant I went to see a dietitian, especially after a dangerous health scare where my weight was a contributing factor. I accepted that my problem with my weight was in my mind more than anything else. I have continued to see her through the pregnancy, with the aim of not putting on any further excess weight. I have made breakthroughs regarding my relationship with food, as well as discovering some medical reasons for why I have always found it such a battle to lose any weight once put on. I am feeling in control for the first time ever. 

I am shedding my vulnerability. I am becoming stronger and happier. I am starting to love the woman that I am, and am realising I don't need to punish, or soothe, myself with food.

I am loved, I am beautiful as I am, and I am starting to see myself more clearly than ever before.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Black & White - Mood Board Monday

It is another week of Moodboard Monday. I missed last week as I was crazy busy preparing for My Husband and Mine's 30th Birthday Bash! I was determined not to miss out this week though,

I had the idea of a black and white table setting. It is so simple and classic, and can make a dinner party look really special, just by using some basic items.

I went even further by deciding to put together my mood board using only items from Kmart. This makes it afforable and accessible around most of Australia.

Start by placing the floral tablecloth on the table. This makes a neutral base, but the pattern adds a bit of shape and interest. Then put down a  normal white dinner plate, a knife and fork, a wine glass and a water glass.

The dinner plate will act as backdrop for the smaller entree plate from the black rimmed dinner set.  You will use this plate for your entree or starter. You can either fold the black napkin into a rectangular shape and sit under the smaller plate, or fold it up and place on top of the plate.

Put a table runner down the middle of the table and use a couple of lanterns with some candles in them down the middle, or you might want to put a vase of flowers in the middle and have white platters of food.

The best part about this black and white table setting is that you can change it up by adding a pop of colour. Swap the napkins for some fun yellow ones, and put some lemons in the lanterns. Make it romantic by using a red table runner and some red placemats. Super simple, super stylish, super cheap!!