Frugal Friday: garlic and ginger

Just after Christmas I realised we were running out of garlic, which is a situation that, in anybody’s book, would be an intolerable deprivation. The next time I went to Costco I bought 3 bags of it. Now, this would be Frugal Friday foolhardiness in the extreme if I was planning on leaving it in the cupboard. It’d go off before I’d even opened the second bag. But a couple of years ago I went to a friend’s place while she was cooking and she casually opened her freezer door, took out some already peeled garlic cloves and threw them into her thermomix and chopped them up, then continued on with her cooking. The whole thing took 2 seconds. How quick and easy was that?!?

It changed my life. Really.

In my defence: sometimes little things can change your life. It doesn’t always have to be earth-shattering events!

Don’t cook with a thermomix? Doesn’t matter. You’d just get the ingredients out from the freezer a few minutes before you needed them, let them thaw slightly on the chopping board and then chop them up yourself. It’s still a huge time and convenience saver. I hate throwing food out and this is an easy way to make sure that expensive ingredients like garlic and ginger aren’t wasted. You don’t think they’re that expensive? Check the price per kilo the next time you shop. Yikes!

To be fair, the preparation isn’t all that exciting. I set aside an hour or so, start a podcast running on the iPad and then set to work. The time passes quickly, I think because it’s one of those mindless repetitive tasks that let your mind free to wander while your hands are busy. I’ve seen that you can buy cryovac-packed peeled garlic from China, but I haven’t heard good things about the quality. I’d rather stick to the fresh stuff I can choose myself. (It was even better when I grew my own, but those days have gone… for now.)

Once I have a goodly amount peeled, I grab a container and pop them in the fridge. Since doing this I’ve never had to throw out any sad garlic. It’s a terrific way to still use fresh garlic in my cooking without the waste, while an added bonus is that I don’t have the garlic smell on my hands every time I need to cook with it. I get all of that over in one fell swoop.

I do the same with fresh ginger. I bring it home, chop it into coins and then freeze. On the shelf next to the garlic I have whole red chillies that a friend from work supplies me with. They last for months.

Doing this saves on food waste, but primarily it saves time. I know I have these staples on hand, so throwing together a quick curry or bolognaise is a no-brainer on those nights when you really don’t feel like cooking. It’s worth the short-term boredom of peeling for the long-term gain of the convenience.

Anyone have any other ideas for quick, easy and seasonal ingredients to use the freezer for? I’m sure there’d be more great ideas out there…?

 

 

 

 

Frugal Friday: Entertain yourself by using what you’ve got.

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Here at the Frogdancer house, we’re well into the summer holidays. The days are balmy and sunny, the hours are slipping past slowly and sweetly, while the nanna naps and long conversations are a highlight. At the moment we have our houseguests here. As anyone knows, holidays and guests are a recipe for endless spending, because your days are open and the hours need to be filled somehow. After all, when you’re at work for many hours a day, your time is taken up with things other than looking for entertainment, so expenses in this area tend to be lower.

I know for me, I always spend more money during the breaks, because this is the time when I can run around and Get Things Done. On Tuesday I bought a replacement dryer for the useless one that broke 3 months after I bought it last year. There went $380. I’m going to be booking a landscaper, to make the Best House in Melbourne even better. I’m pretty sure he won’t do the work for free, so that’ll be extra dollars out the door. I also stock up the zombie apocalypse cupboard, so that during term time I’ll always have food staples on hand to feed us. This means that the food bills go through the roof in January, April, July and September. But what about entertainment? How do I fill in the hours when I’d normally be working?

The picture at the top of the post is one way. I’m a firm believer in utilising any perks you can get at work.  You’re putting in your hours there anyway, so anything you can use to your benefit is a good way to leverage your time.

Working in a school as I do, one really good way to get more bang for my buck is to use the school library. The books we have access to are predominately Young Adult or Adult, with teachers as well as students encouraged to make requests which the library buys. There’s also an eBook section that I’ve used quite a lot this year. A few days before the end of term I wandered down to the library to return some textbooks that I won’t be needing in 2018. When I left the library about half an hour later, I was probably staggering slightly under the weight of 13 books that I’d selected for my holiday reading.

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All for free! Assuming that a new book costs $30, then that’s $390 worth of reading I was walking away with. That’s not a bad perk from being at the school. The small pile to the right are the books I’ve already finished. Being a quick reader, I gallop through books, which is yet another reason not to buy every book I read. A book usually takes me a day to finish, so I’d go broke if I bought brand new books every time.

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I’m an avid podcast listener, particularly on my commute to and from work. I have a mix of financial, funny, informative and crime podcasts that I listen to, depending on my mood. How lucky are we to live in a time when all this entertainment is literally at our fingertips… for FREE? For the first couple of weeks of the holidays I left my iPad alone. I needed the peace and quiet to decompress from the year and so when I was on my own with the dogs there was just the golden sound of silence, (except when a dog had the temerity to blatantly walk past our house, inciting my dogs to protect the perimeter.) But over the last couple of days I’ve been working on a project here and I’ve been playing the podcasts in the background as I work.

Did I mention that this entertainment was for free?

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Here’s the project I mentioned. Readers of my other blog would know that a few weeks ago I went away for the weekend to a Craft Camp and rekindled my quilting hobby. That sounds like I set it alight, doesn’t it? Six years ago, when I started my side hustle of Thermomixing, I dropped my quilting like a bad habit. Do you know how much fabric, batting and thread I have stowed away in my stash??? HEAPS! It all came to the new house when we moved, and on the weekend away I dragged the stash up with me, spent about 3 hours going through it all, keeping most but also giving heaps away to people who liked what I didn’t.

Then I started a quilt. In my infinite wisdom, I started cutting out 2.5″ squares to make a quilt for Tom25. Putting squares together is an easy way to get back into the swing, I thought.

Of course, I didn’t stop to think just how many 2.5″ squares would be needed to cover a double bed. This is a project that will take a fair bit of time to assemble. But what a perfect way to spend holiday time! I already have all of the materials I need to make it – so I’ll be utilising things I already have and not letting them go to waste. Quilting takes up time, but it’s enjoyable because while you’re doing it your thoughts are free to wander. I’m being productive, making something useful, decorative and warm for someone I love, while I’m using things I have on hand, listening to podcasts and being so thoroughly entertained that there’s no need to scamper off to Southland or Chadstone and spend money in the shops there.

I’m positive that this is something that absolutely everyone can do. Well ok; maybe not the quilting part. But who among us doesn’t have things that we’ve accumulated over the years that we’ve never fully used? Imagine if, instead of going out and spending money on the next new thing, we actually sat down and read those books; learned how to play that guitar; actually finished those computer games; cooked some recipes from all of those cookbooks; threw those golf clubs in the car and went and played a game or two; rode that bike… you get the idea. I was going to include something about using a gym membership that you’ve bought, but let’s be honest – that hardly ever happens.

I know that some things we’ve bought and tried just don’t float our boats anymore. That’s ok – what would life be if we didn’t try on a few different activities for size? But if you look at them and find yourself going, “meh!”, then don’t continue to let whatever-it-is sit there gathering dust. Sell it on Gumtree or give it away. The empty space it once occupied is worth more than the clutter of having it still there.

I think that if you’ve spent your hard-earned on an item, you owe it to yourself and the hours of your life you traded to earn that money to use that item to its fullest potential. In my case, I made 24 quilts before I gave it up to go and earn money with Thermomix to pay off my mortgage and to go to Europe. But now I’m back, quietly picking up where I left off and enjoying the process all over again. I may have spent the money on quilting supplies 6 years ago, but it was still money well spent because I’m actually using the things I bought. And the added bonus is that I can keep more of my current earnings in my pocket.

Better in my pocket than in Mr and Mrs Southland’s or Chadstone’s! 🙂

Frugal Friday: Fertilise your garden for (almost) free.

Before I geoarbitrarged my family and moved to the beach, I had a pretty sweet urban food forest going in Bentleigh. We had chooks, over 30 fruit trees, 15m of veggie gardens and it was all run on organic, permaculture principles. A huge proportion of our food came from the garden and life was sweet.

Then I looked at property values in the area, (thanks, local secondary school!) and decided to develop the block. The thing that most people do when this is their course of action is to rent somewhere until the units are sold… however at the time we had 2 cats and 2 dogs. Good luck finding a rental! So I decided to bite the bullet and get bridging finance and look for a house early. I admit, not the smartest financial move on the face of it but when you love your dogs more than your children then what can you do?

It worked out ok. For 10 months I was paying 73% of my take-home pay in bridging finance (you want frugality? I’m your woman!), which went down to only 57% when I went back to working full-time… but when I eventually sold the property, my house by the beach had gone up in value 100K, which was 34K more than I’d paid in the finance. Anyway, this isn’t the point of the post.

The house we live in now has no garden to speak of. It has a patch of lawn in the front with a few scrabbly fruit trees edged in at the sides, while the backyard is paved. I was able to bring my old herb garden with me, as I’d planted them in wicking boxes, so they live on the deck just outside the back door. We have an Aldi supermarket literally around the corner, so I’ve resigned myself to buying our fresh produce again, at least until I landscape the place and retire.

BUT… you can take the girl out of permaculture, but you can’t take permaculture out of the girl.

It started to KILL me that we were throwing away perfectly good veggie scraps and peelings. For years, we never wasted a scrap of food. The food line went as follows:  humans- dogs-chooks- worms- compost. Even if the humans let some lettuce go slimy in the fridge, at least the money spent on it wasn’t just thrown in the bin. It was going back to nourish something on the property, which would, in turn, give back and nourish us in the future, whether by affection (dogs and chooks), eggs (chooks), pest control (chooks) or fertiliser (worms, compost and chooks).

So I did what any sensible person would do. I bought a worm farm.

My previous worm farm was an old freezer that my dad adapted. It was far too big and heavy to move, so I left it at the old place. This time, I have a suburban, civilised one. It lives in a shady part of the deck, though I’ll have to keep an eye on it when temperatures get above 35C/95F. Under the spout I have my old Ikea watering can, to catch the worm wee. It’s excellent for natural fertiliser.

For much of the year last year I only had one son living with me, so we were able to use every veggie scrap we generated to feed the worms. Since then, I’ve had 2 Boomerang kids come back and the leftovers are too much for the farm to cope with, especially as one son left a carnivore but returned as a vegetarian. So we now start each Wednesday. We save our scraps in a bowl with a lid. (Ours is just a dinner plate perched on top.) We save all egg shells, veggie and fruit scraps except for onion and citrus. The worms don’t like these. Then, on Saturday, I tip the scraps into the thermomix, add water and blend on speed 10. I spoil my little slimy friends with nice easy food for them to digest.

The worm farm has been going for nearly a year now. I get at least one watering can full of fertiliser a week, sometimes two, and I spread it out between the herbs on the side deck and the pretty plants on the front deck. The plants absolutely love it. And I love that we’re wasting far less and we’re utilising the resources we have far more wisely.

This is something that pretty much everyone can do. It takes very little to set up, with the only expense being the cost of the worm farm. If you’re lucky, you may be able to score free worms from a friend’s worm farm if they’re happy to share. Then you can just feed them sparingly until the numbers catch up with the amounts of scraps you want to feed them. Me? I just bought a box of worms when I bought my farm. The smallest box, but I knew the worms would get frisky and they’d increase their numbers for free, so why spend the extra?

Speaking of which, it’s time to wander out and give the pots a watering. Summer holidays are the best! I’d normally be in front of my year 8 English class right now.