Tuna Pasta Cheat

Some days food is a lot like hard work. And if you haven’t planned ahead, the work seems to multiply exponentially.

I had a cleaning day on my own, and the kids all had lunch at their respective school/kinder/daycare so the only person I had to feed was myself.

I looked in the cupboard for that elusive item to jump out and say ‘eat me!’, and for the first time ever, something did.

Tomato chutney.

Weird, I know, but pairing it with pasta, tuna and passata I got a really good tuna pasta.

And it was easy. I cooked my pasta, drained it and threw two tablespoons of chutney in the saucepan, half a cup of passata and some tuna. Gave it a quick mix to warm it through, dumped it on the pasta, grated some cheese and woo hoo! Lunch.

Simple, cheap and filling. Also pretty darn tasty.

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If you don’t laugh, you’d cry

Some days just do not go well. It’s lunch time, and I haven’t completely lost my marbles yet. I should have.

  • My two youngest broke the roller blind in their bedroom. Beyond repair. Now I have to find room in the budget for a new one.
  • They are each on their second outfit, mud puddles plus walking the dog equals wet fun (and extra washing I hadn’t really planned on).
  • Worried phone call from mum asking if I could drive to their place and turn off the stove as she won’t be home until late and doesn’t want the soup to burn.
  • Breakout the vacuum to clean the lounge, and it’s just not sucking things up. Half an hour later I’ve finally removed the hair tangled around the rolling brush in the bottom (am I the only one who never knew I had to do this regularly?).

On the positive side, I was so angry about the blind that I couldn’t even yell at the kids. Instead they got the “go and play, I’m too angry to be nice to you” while I collected myself. The dog got a walk, and he loves wet day walks. The soup mum is making won’t burn, because I did make the 20 minute round trip just to take the stock off the stove, and mum makes great veg soup (I plan on eating some next time I visit). The vacuum is now cleaning the way it should. I will have to actually take it apart and give it a proper clean soon, but it’s fixed enough to get the house clean.

Some days just don’t go well. It’s true, but it’s also a matter of perspective. I could let this series of inconveniences get me down (and I did, for about an hour), or I could realise that it could be worse.

The blind could have broken a window as the kids pulled it down. The dog could have been hit by a car as we walked (thank heaven for retractable leads). The kids could only have one set of winter clothes. Mum’s house didn’t burn down from leaving the stove on while she went out. I could have no vacuum and be using a dustpan and brush to clean the carpets.

In reality, these aren’t big issues, but when we let them build up, they can become big. Stress is something that I deal with every day. Big stressors and little stressors add up to physical ailments. But do I want them to? No. No, I don’t.

So today, while it may not have gone well (and there’s still time for it to go south), I’m choosing to fix what I can, work around what I can’t and know that tomorrow at least I can look forward to a walk to the library.

Water, water everywhere

It rained yesterday. Really rained. All day rain. It’s something we haven’t seen here in a while. For mid autumn, we’ve been fairly rain free, and I’m grateful it’s finally back on the weather agenda.

Most of my home is run on tank water, and if it doesn’t rain, we have no water. So behold my joy when we go almost two inches in twenty four hours.

Sometimes my crunch is only semi-crunchy, other times it gets extreme. When the options for water include carting it in at great expense or hooking a hose to the mains to fill the tank, extreme crunch is the option I’d rather take.

So here are my extremes:

  • catch water in clean buckets to use in the home or garden
  • use the water to bucket flush the toilet, feed the animals, half fill the bath or sink
  • use the water to rinse/soak laundry
  • use the water to wash the floors or car
  • use the water for cleaning around the house or bathing pets

Okay, some of it isn’t extreme and is merely sensible, but any water you don’t have to pay for is a bonus. For me, tank water is a great option, even if you only use it in the laundry, it’s a cost saving, and grey water can be reused in the garden.

So yes, after the rain yesterday, I now have buckets full of water roaming around my garden. Yes it looks weird, but I have dog water now that I don’t have to pay for, or empty the tank for. Yay me.

Frugality? Are you sure?

Being frugal is almost a catchcry these days. Who can be more frugal? Can I out-frugal the neighbours? Can I be greener, leaner, simpler than whomever?

Well, to be honest, I don’t care much about who I can be more frugal than. It’s important to me, so I’m going to be as frugal as I can without denying my family things that I believe to be important.

The reasons, for me, are fairly simple. At one point, I had nothing. I had no steady income, three small humans to feed as well as myself, and only basic benefits that didn’t go far enough to pay the bills.

I had to tighten the belt. If it weren’t for family who showed up with food, one of whom managed to get me a job, we would have struggled so much harder than we already were.

Then, I can tell you I used every frugal strategy I could lay my hands on.

  • I only bought the basics and made everything else from scratch
  • I used cloth nappies out of necessity rather than out of desire
  • I went reusable for menstrual products
  • I didn’t go anywhere I couldn’t walk to
  • I didn’t buy anything superfluous

It really hit home to me, not then, but later, that some people go through more than just twelve months of struggle like this. Some people spend their lives in this stressful situation. I don’t have words to explain how tough this must be, or even to truly comprehend this myself.

So now that things are not so tough for me financially, I still do the frugal. Not because I have to, but because I want to. I want to make sure there’s a buffer between me and any more financial hardship, so I’m building an emergency fund. I want to make sure that when we need something important, we have the funds to pay for it. I want to make sure that I can pay for school fees and swimming lessons. I want to make sure we can pay the doctors fee if one of us should get sick.

So here’s a list of what I’ve been doing to make sure we stay with our heads somewhere above the waterline.

  • Meal plan, simple plus frugal. Only buy what you need, and plan it out so you know what you’re feeding everyone rather than having the dinner time stress of trying to decide at the last minute
  • Accept when people offer stuff. My dad gave me a huge tub of laundry detergent that was sitting unused in his shed. He wasn’t going to use it, so I took it and two months on we haven’t even used half.
  • Wear the kids out by taking the dog for a walk to the park. It’s free, everyone is getting out in the fresh air, and the littles are tired at bedtime after the physical activity
  • Use the library. We can get books, DVD’s etc for free. It’s a win for us as we have a DVD and pizza night with no rental fees
  • Dry the laundry on the clothesline. Winter is tougher than summer, but I’ve strung up lines in the shed so we can dry towels and bedsheets more quickly in the wet months
  • Substitute items on the grocery list. I LOVE Coca Cola. I know how terrible it is for me, but I’m not going to give it up anytime soon, or ever. But instead of buying two bottles, I buy one of Coke and one of the supermarket brand cola. It doesn’t taste the same, but it’s kinder on the budget
  • Buy in bulk. Things like toilet paper, nappies, wipes, rice, pasta, meat for the freezer. If you can store things you use often, buying in bulk is cheaper.
  • Accept hand-me-downs. Not just for kids, my sister cleaned out her wardrobe and since I had been complaining that I had no jeans that fit anymore, she passed some to me. The ones that were too small for me, my eldest daughter got and she was as stoked as I was.
  • Don’t buy what you don’t need. I had two saucepans, and needed a third to use for non-food items (body products etc). I told my mum I was going to visit the op shop and instead she handed me one of hers that she didn’t actually need. Then again, not everyone needs a non-food saucepan, so if you only need two, don’t buy a third.

So, I’m still frugal. And there are tons more little things I do to stay that way. I stretch mince dishes with kidney beans, I bake my own bread and cakes, and I never buy coffee when I’m out. I’m not as frugal by necessity now, but by choice. And by making that choice I can afford the school excursions, swimming and dancing lessons, occasional visits to the café with the kids.

I don’t feel deprived, and I still have fun. So do my kids. And hopefully the kids won’t even notice that we don’t have everything so-and-so has, but will notice that I was there, taking them to the park and the library, cheering them at swimming, doing their hair for dancing and making sure they were clothed, fed and educated. It won’t matter to them now, but maybe, when they have kids of their own, they’ll know mum tried. If nothing else, I tried.

Six different kinds….

It’s complicated. I don’t want to discuss it. I’d rather everyone didn’t know. It’s not something I like to bring up. Just don’t talk about it.

Life is a complex bowl of muesli. It’s got some good bits, the bits you like and are happy to eat. Then it’s also got the unpleasant bits, the bits that get stuck in your teeth, the bits you’d rather spit out. But it’s impolite to spit out your food, so we swallow it, good and bad, because you don’t always control what goes into the big ol’ cereal bowl of life.

And sometimes, just like muesli, life can be six different kinds of f****d up.

So what do you do? That’s the big question isn’t it? That’s the question for which, if we knew the answer, we’d be rolling in puppies (or money, your choice).

In my experience of the ‘six different kinds…’ the getting through it is all a variation on the theme ‘suck it up, princess’. Sounds harsh, I know. And some of the stuff that we go through, to suck it up and soldier on is not the easy answer some people seem to think it is.

It might be ‘suck it up, going to the shrink is not going to kill you’, or ‘suck it up, someone has to feed and clothe these kids’, or even ‘suck it up, go to the authorities’.

Sounds simple? It really isn’t. Anyone who has dealt with mental illness, divorce, widowhood, the death of a child, family violence, terminal illness or any other traumatic experience is changed by it. And the change can be fundamental, not only in the way we view the world, but in the way we view ourselves.

It’s an old adage, but it’s true, you don’t know how strong you are until you have no other choice. I know because I’ve been through some ‘six different kinds…’ moments that completely changed how I interact with the world around me.

I’ve become more sensitive to mental illness because I’ve suffered from post natal depression.

I’ve become more accepting of difference because I love a kid who lives on the spectrum.

I’ve become more solid because I am the stable place my children need to feel safe.

I’ve become more open because I refuse to be closed off by anyone again.

I’ve become more giving because I’ve had so much taken from me.

I’ve become stronger from having had to walk through fire to do what’s right.

So when some ignorant tool belt tells you to ‘get over it’ or someone who just doesn’t understand tells you ‘at least you’ve got your health’, you can tell them to get lost (even if only in your head).

But when someone tells you to ‘suck it up, princess’, you can choose to take it in a manner they probably didn’t intend. Choose to overcome, choose to ask for help (or beg if you have to), choose to be open about your losses, choose to be the bigger person, choose to do what’s right. Sometimes there’s really no choice at all. Life throws, and sometimes you’re catching the shit end of the stick.

But sometimes something that starts out ‘six different kinds of f****d up’ can eventually be something that helps to create something beautiful.

 

Losing Your Way, Finding Your Path

It’s easy to lose your way. Get side tracked, get busy, family drama, no time, no energy. All of these things can get in the way of that goal you’ve been working toward.

For me, it was a combination of all of the above. A new job that required so much of my time and effort, studying for a degree that I’ve wanted for years, a sick relative, another whose stress levels were affecting me and my family, lack of sleep and the demands of being a sole parent to three amazing kids.

For months I was lost in the mire. I was working, earning enough to allow for the occasional splurge for the kids, and then I let it all slide. I no longer had to budget every cent, I no longer had to be sure to turn the appliances off at a specified time so my electric bill wouldn’t run over my budget, I no longer had to deny myself the occasional pack of Tim Tams. And there it was, I loosened the reins in one area of my life, and all the other things slipped a little too.

It took me months to notice how far off track I’d gotten, and only a day of brooding to figure out that my slip was not a failure, but a normal part of life. We slip, we fall, we drift off the path we had chosen for ourselves, but we can get back up, turn ourselves back in the right direction and begin again.

Three things got me back on track.

  • Realising how much I was spending on disposable products. Baby wipes, paper towel, dish sponges, tampons, the list is enormous.
  • Realising that my trees were fruiting again, here is something free, natural and delicious for my family, and it just happens to grow in my backyard. With a little thought and effort, I could try this gardening thing again.
  • Realising that I missed the sense of achievement I felt when I was giving my family the best I could, even when it was on such a tight budget

So here I am, back at the starting line, picking myself up, finding my way back to where I want to be. And knowing that I may have drifted off the path, but that’s ok, I have GPS, I’ll always be able to find it again.

Winter Preparation

Winter is here, so I’ve thinking about heating. Staying warm. Managing not to freeze in a house whose draughts I haven’t worked out yet. And yes, I should have done this in May, but things can get crazy busy around here.

I have two major issues that need looking, and a small list of others that need to get done because we’ve been inundated with rain and wind.

And this isn’t just a matter of staying warm, it’s a frugal necessity. Electricity prices have increased so much that running the electrics for our household is enough to make me cringe. So in order to lower our heating bill, I need to fix some things.

A large hole in my bedroom wall. It was patched at some point, but the patch has fallen off and is currently sitting on my mantle piece. It not only lets in cold air, but the cat keeps watching the hole as if he’s expecting a mouse. Not cool.

There is also a big louvre window next to the back door. It doesn’t shut all the way and in order to keep any warmth in the house we have to keep the kitchen door closed at all times. Not possible with three kids going in and out.

And these are only the big things. When it comes down to really hunting out the issues, I’ve found at least three other ways that my house is losing heat that I will have to pay for. So while wearing layers and using extra blankets is fine, I want to make sure that the money I will be spending on heating doesn’t just float out the window or under the door.

So start the list. Check under and around doors, windows, cupboards housing plumbing and ceilings for draughts. Check for water leaks next time it rains, is it leaking in through the window? Do you need to replace the seals? Are the gutters running well? If you’ve noticed any mould in bathrooms or under sinks, clean it now, no one needs to get sick.

It sounds a little petty, but all these little things can cost you money, and it does add up. And when paying for winter utilities, every dollar saved is important.

Kick the Crappy Mood

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I, like everyone, can get caught in a bad moment. And dwelling there ends in a bad mood. A couple of quick ways I’ve found can help kick it quickly.

Brush your teeth. No one likes a furry mouth and minty fresh always makes me feel more human.

Have a shower. Wash the bad mood down the drain and use a sweet smelling body wash.

Quiet time. Just five minutes alone with a coffee and a book can switch my brain to a better channel.

Listen to a song you love. My current favourites are ‘Morningless’ by Paul Dempsey and ‘Wild Things’ by Alessia Cara.

Hug someone. Someone you love, or a pet. I don’t advise hugging strangers, it’s kinda weird.

Get out in the sunshine. Fresh air, vitamin D, what’s not to love?

And if none of these help, or you’ve got time on your hands, I suggest a Tim Tam Slam and a Nanna Nap.

Here’s hoping your day is awesome, and if not, you can turn it around.

Todays’ Treat

My kids are like any others, they love a treat, but I’m a frugal crunchy mum at heart, so I try to make treats I feel good about giving them.

Tonight we had a pizza picnic party sitting in the lounge watching Family Feud. And my kids loved it! For them, homemade pizza is fun and tasty. Yes they still request Maccas on occasion, but it’s neither in the budget or locality.

I’m still working on getting the refined sugar and processed foods out of our diet, and I don’t know that I’ll ever give up my caffeine or chocolate entirely. But that’s OK with me. My kids deserve a treat sometimes, and heck, so do I.