Saturday, December 17, 2011

Greening my Fingers

A vegetable garden is an essential item on the Elastic Mom lifestyle list, no matter whether it consists of a few pots of produce, or a cultivated field.

A vegetable garden provides:

Therapy for  overstretched emotions.
Something to feed those ever hungry mouths for barely there pantries.
Healthy vitamins to nourish our human treasures.
A hiding place for peace.
Encouraging rewards, reaping relative to sowing.

When life is stretching your capacity as a mom, a quiet visit to your vegetables can feed your soul. The process of touching soil, digging fingers into cool, moist sand is soothing. Many summers ago, I assisted with a toddler enrichment program. Each week we provided tactile stimulation in the form of baths of seeds, sand, cotton wool, and more. Each week the toddlers' mommies would sit around the baths, unconsciously running their hands backwards and forwards through the calming yet stimulating textures as they chatted. My gardening gloves usually end up in a little heap somewhere as I relish that bare handed contact with my garden.

The repetition of weed pulling, trimming, digging or picking calms any frazzled nerves. My precious  mum once advised me, her busy buzzy daughter, to make time for reflection on a daily basis. Slowing down to gardening pace always sends my thoughts into helpful rhythms of reflection. While my hands create order in the garden, my jumbled thoughts settle and anchor into gentle perspective.

A stormy conflict, when taken to that green place, subsides into thoughts of forgiveness and reconciliation as the accepting soil absorbs the angry adrenaline. Judgement evaporates in my garden. Sorrows weep into the soil and feed my plants. Comfort comes in the form of blushing tomatoes, abundant beans, those delicate spears of asparagus that surprise me with their sudden arrival. The predictability of plants is safe when life is painfully unpredictable.

In times past I have opened the pantry door with dismay, racking my brain for inspiration. The three relentlessly grumbling bellies that appear in my house three times a day stretch my creativity and resourcefulness on a daily basis. Whether I am low on flour, eggs, energy or enthusiasm, my garden never fails to inspire and equip me for the next heaped up set of plates on the table. This week my energy levels were low, so low that I had skipped my religious Wednesday trip to town, resulting in a rather pathetic store of basic ingredients. A pleasant walk through the vegetable patch resulted in an almost gourmet pasta dish...  with thyme scented creamy zucchini sauce sprinkled with halved baby tomatoes and chunks of feta, eaten on the patio,  accompanied by cocktails. Who would have known the cupboard resembled Mother Hubbard's.

The enzymes and vitamins contained in food that was growing twenty minutes before eating, is incomparable to days old produce that has travelled home in a hot car and sat in the fridge for a while. You can taste the crisp, fresh life in it. A nurtured tomato is so much sweeter than one out of a plastic bag. Sweetcorn picked and eaten raw within minutes is indescribable. I love knowing that my family are being nourished with the best quality food that I can give them,

 I love people, and some people dearly. My family is so precious to me. Yet occasionally the voices and the music and the busyness, and the demands, and the life of being a wife and mom starts to suffocate me. An introvert is refreshed by spending time alone. An extrovert is refreshed by spending time with people. My vegetable garden sometimes serves as a hideaway for much needed solitude and prayer. Sometimes it is also a place for quiet connecting and communicating with my man, away from two sets of inquisitive ears. We weed and trim and chat and pick and crouch side by side, just two again for a brief interlude. Being just one, or just two, is good in the garden.

Sometimes, to my dismay, the sowing into my children, their home education, my marriage, or my friendships, produces unexpected results. In the world of people sowing does not necessarily produce equivalent reaping. But my vegetable garden is comfortingly predictable. That predictable outcome suits my mathematical brain. Vigilance, sustained effort, diligence and sowing results in joyful reaping of delicious rewards. A little care results in a generous response. My garden is forgiving and gracious and good for my soul.

So however you are stretching your resources, I believe that every elastic mom requires a vegetable garden to feed her family and her soul.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Moving House

So we are moving house again, the seventh time in seven years. This time we are not going far, just to a different house on the farm we are on. The truth is, that no matter whether one is moving down the road, or across the country, the process takes pretty much the same amount of effort, and it causes pretty much the same amount of disruption in our lives.

Thanks to Fly Lady, I have a very helpful printed list of Moving Tips which I keep on hand for times such as these. This list helps me to keep my head in the chaos of an upside down house.

I have allocated us a school-free week to pack up house, move, and unpack. I know that unpacking will take quite a bit longer, but on arrival day I will make sure that the beds are made, the kitchen is functional, the clothes are unpacked, and the current school work is readily available in the study, in that order. Then slowly over the next few weeks, I will find places for everything and sort and shelve books etc. My fun-loving husband will make sure that the music system and computers are up and working before the washing machine and dishwasher - he always does. My daughter will have her bedroom unpacked and decorated within the first two days, and my son will see to his bed and leave the rest for me while he explores, if I let him.

While I pack and prepare, my children are under instruction to use this time to catch up any schoolwork that they have fallen behind in, and give me at least two hours of packing time a day. It helps them to have the time boundary, so that they are free to play when they are tired. Both of them have willingly given much more time than this already. I start them in their own bedrooms and then they move on to their books. I find them much more willing to help when they are packing their own things. Ever since they were tiny tots, I have always kept them very involved in each move that we have made. I find that it helps  them emotionally with the transition and it also really helps me a lot. They also tend to be more ruthless than I am when it comes to tossing out unwanted possessions.

My favourite moving tip is to mark each item with a coloured sticker coded to each room of the new house. Then when the boxes and furniture are being carried in, they are taken to the correct rooms, each marked with a coloured sticker, immediately. This saves me a lot of back-strain later. It also helps me to visualize where each item will belong in advance. I am not so good at decision making under pressure. I also always draw a quick sketch of the layout of the house and "place the furniture" before the move. Again, I can direct the heavy furniture to exactly the right spot to save my back. We can always rearrange it at a later stage.

This time we are packing a lot of our goods into solid plastic crates from the farm - usually filled with freshly picked vegetables or fruit. Thankfully we are at the beginning of harvest time, so there are plenty of spare crates available for the week. The crates are wonderful because they fit into each other without squashing their contents, perfect for breakables. Their only snag is that the move will be on open vehicles on dusty roads and the crates are slatted. I am planning to cover the lot with blankets to prevent a lot of washing later. Soft goods, like clothes and cushions go into clear garbage bags so that I can easily see their contents.

I plan ahead for meals for the move. sometimes we are blessed with meals from kind friends, which are always much appreciated. Monday's lunch next door was very welcome when I was just getting started with the packing up.  I also like to clear the fridge as much as possible so that very few perishables have to be moved. Over the last two days I have cooked quite a few extra meals to help when the pressure is on. Firstly I made an enormous batch of muesli which will feed us for breakfast for the week. I had some leftover stir-fried vegetables which weren't all that tasty. So I used half in a pasta sauce and half in a quiche. I also had a half bucket of milk which needed using, so I made macaroni cheese and yoghurt. Then I found some cream at the back of the fridge - about a liter, so I made butter and then bread with the buttermilk. There was also some cream that was turning sour, so I used it up in a batch of scones which the many children gobbled up with great gusto. It may seem crazy to be cooking so hard while packing, but in doing so, I have freed up the rest of the week and don't really have to cook again. It also gives me a chance to leave the boxes for a bit.

Another thing that I have learned to do, it to pack an Arrival Kit which is the first box that I unpack in the new house. It consists of cleaning supplies, snacks, a set of linen for each bed, pajamas for everyone, towels for the bathrooms, dinner for the first night, some tea, and the kettle. If that is the only box to be unpacked on the first day, then that is ok. My husband will make sure the coffee machine is up and running before I have managed to make the first cup of tea.

Oh, and we always have music playing while we pack and unpack house. No one can be grumpy when they are singing. I am really looking forward to a bigger house. I love taking a house and turning it into a home.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Restoring the Stretch in My Elastic

At the moment, the main thing that this Elastic Mom is stretching, is my energy levels. I have been flagging a little lately. You know, colds, moving house, admin, wonderful visitors and also saying goodbye to friends leaving. 

I know my limits, and so, I have been looking at ways to restore my bounce. I tried running again to boost the endorphins, but my leg injury acted up. I tried cutting out sugar, but my friend bakes the best chocolate cakes. I was encouraged to take a tonic, but it tastes vile, and then I found the answer.

Best of all, it doesn't cost a cent. 

I bet you are wondering what it is. 

I feel better than James Brown after this pick me up. 

It doesn't contain caffeine, alcohol or any other harmful substance. 

Have you guessed it yet?

And it is fantastic, quite safe and effective for restoring for flagging energy levels from tiny babies to those more senior frail people, and anyone else in between. 

The only hitch is that you need to use this energy restorer when you are completely alone, preferably behind a closed door.

That's it you got it!

 A good, deep, long afternoon nap. 

I took one today and it has worked wonders. 

I might even sneak one somewhere between the box packing tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On My Mind Today ......Tutus and booties

My daughter an I recently made this gift for a friend who is expecting her third baby, but first daughter. The tutu, made by my talented daughter, now adorns the nursery. The booties are cotton, and I am pleased with how they turned out. 

It was so satisfying to give a completely handmade gift using materials that we had at home. I put the booties in a pink organza bag. Then we packaged the items in a box covered with marbled yellow and pink paper that we had made years ago, and my daughter made a lovely matching card. 

Visit Down to Earth for this Friday "On My Mind" feature.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dreamy Ice-Creams

It wouldn't seem as if making ice-cream fits into the Elastic Mom approach to life, but when the cream is skimmed off buckets of milk from the cow in the field nearby, then ice-cream churning is definitely an Elastic Mom pursuit. If I'm not too careful with my ice-cream passion, then Elastic Mom could rapidly become Spongy Mom, or Squishy Mom.

In the middle of Winter, on our frosty school break, I was gripped with ice-cream fever. I made four types of ice-cream in one week. The results were superb, ultra rich, creamy and smooth....

... definitely of the one-scoop a day to savour its goodness type of thing.

 Day 1: The best vanilla ice-cream in  the world. My discerning five-year old nephew gave it his rare stamp of approval. His mom likened it to a certain well known gourmet brand beginning with an 'H'

 Day 2: Chocolate fudge ripple ice-cream layered with peanut butter patties. Unbelievably scrumptious.

 Day 3: Peanut butter and 'Jelly' ice-cream. Not just any jam, but my home made apricot jam from last Summer. Oh my word! The best PBJ you could ever taste, so good that it was gobbled up before I could get a decent pic.

 Day 4: Roasted banana ice-cream with chocolate sauce. Sounds odd, but think of caramelized bananas roasted in brown sugar, then cooled and mixed with cream. Dense, but delicious.

Day 5: The grand finalé.... a scoop of each. Much bowl-licking happened that night. Votes were taken and the chocolate fudge ripple with peanut butter patties won hands down.

All credit goes to David Lebovitz and his awesome book, The Perfect Scoop. His superb vanilla ice-cream recipe is here;

oh, and credit goes to my generous son for the pocket-money-busting book voucher that he gave me for my birthday which bought the book;

and to my loving husband who heard my rather loud hints that an ice-cream machine would be a perfect birthday present;

yes, and credit to Daisy, Jasmine, and Clover, the pretty jersey cows who provided the creamy milk;

and, my sweet friend, Lisa, who owns the cows;

and our awesome God who thought of ice-cream when He created cows.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


With Spring in the air, something familiar has been rattling around in my brain for the past few days.

It is the urge to do a WARDROBE PURGE AND PLAN

Every Spring and Autumn, when my little ones were still little, we would pull everything out of their wardrobe. Then we'd lay out the clothes available for the approaching Summer or Winter, and assess what was needed. This was always a gleefully anticipated time, a time to see how much they had grown as they tossed garments into the give-away or throw-away piles depending on their state of repair. We then packed away the out of season clothes. It was an exciting time to anticipate the adventure of a shopping outing with Mum. It was also time to go 'shopping' in the top of the wardrobe.... trying on garments for size and squealing with delight when they fit...

... What did I just say?

Yes, the top little cupboard above the wardrobe. This was the storage hole for hand-me-downs from older children. My children, like true Elastic Kids, were never too proud to gratefully accept second hand clothing from family and friends, and neither am I.

As we planned what was needed for the new season, I kept a few basic principles in mind to keep me on track.

1. Look at the colours of the garments that fit, and are left for the coming season. Are they mostly blues, or pinks, or greens?  What other colours would complement what is already there. Note this on the piece of paper which is going shopping with you. For instance, I remember one season buying items in shades of beige, cream, pink and orange for my daughter. This allows everything to mix and match.

2. My wise mum once told me that a child only really NEEDS three of each type of garment - one on, one in the cupboard, and one in the wash. So that was my basic guideline for seeing to their needs.
eg, three pairs of shorts, three pairs of longs, three warm tops, 3 dresses etc.

3. NEEDS and WANTS are two very different things.

4. For some garments, ONE will suffice. eg. warm winter jacket, raincoat, belt, bathing costume, sun hat etc.

5. I then wrote a list of what to buy for each child, in order of priority.

6. For that month I budgeted a modest amount for clothing and then treated my child to a planned shopping day with me, often including a yummy smoothie stop to keep energy levels up.

7. Any items that were lower down on the priority list were then pushed on until the next month.

In this way, my children's needs were met and they also learned the art of delayed gratification, as well as an appreciation for careful planning and careful shopping.

Now that my daughter has her own allowance, she plans and buys her own clothes. My son is  in his last season with me buying his clothes. I still feel the urge to purge and plan, so maybe later my daughter will let me help her look through her clothes.

My own clothes are another story - they WEAR out. I have stayed roughly the same size for the past fifteen years so I seldom need to replace them.

This all said, there is nothing to create DESIRE, than going shopping in good clothing stores. My best way to SAVE is to STAY AWAY. Browsing and not buying is depressing, so unless I am planning on buying something, I seldom step into clothing stores. Just yesterday I made the mistake of browsing the new Spring fashions with my daughter - she was looking for a dress. Oh my, I drove home WANTING so much. But this morning, when I looked into my wardrobe, I realized that I still have much more than I NEED.

Cultivating the art of contentment is a necessary skill for any Elastic Mom.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pocket Money, Allowances and Piggy Banks

I am forever grateful to my parents for giving us moderate allowances during our teen years. I was one of four children in a doctor's family, so they could have given us more than they did, but they were deliberately conservative regarding the amount. We had to use our allowance for entertainment, clothing, toiletries and gifts, and it was never really enough for all of that. My wise parent's intention was to encourage us to learn to sew and / or work to earn the extra money that we wanted. Both my parents also have a strong work ethic, which I couldn't help but inherit too.

As a result, my eldest sister worked for many years at the cosmetics counter of Clicks stores, my second sister mostly earned money working as a waitress, and babysitting. As for me, I was a failure as a waitress, but I babysat, helped my dad's receptionist at his office, mowed the lawn, washed cars, assisted my art teacher in holiday workshops, and did whatever I could to earn a bit more. I also learned to sew. I remember taking old sheets, dyeing them and making dresses for myself. They were not well made at all, and when I met my future husband, a clothing designer, I tossed all my handmade clothes out. I also learned to budget, save, shop carefully, and I discovered factory shops. I believe that this wise decision by my parents helped me to be able to gain the skills that I still use now.

I have followed the same principles with my own children: pocket money until the age of thirteen, and then an allowance. I can already see the positive fruit in my daughter's life. She has started a little business, making beautiful tutu's.

The tutu's are as varied as her imagination.

She is also learning to sew, knit and crochet. Photography is a passion of hers and recently she recently was the assistant photographer for a local wedding. 

My daughter also adores babies and little people.  Sadly she can't really earn money babysitting as we live in a very small community with lots of older siblings and grannies that can look after the tots. Even so, the little ones gravitate to her and she spends many hours caring for them. Unexpectedly, one of the grateful families has offered to pay for her dancing lessons as a thank you for all her help with their toddler.

My son will be starting his allowance in November, his thirteenth birthday. He has already started a few money earning ventures. At Easter he very successfully made and sold bunny eggs and hot cross buns.

He worked really hard and I was proud of him. He showed a lot of determination in completing many orders in a short space of time.

So my parent's wisdom is now bearing fruit in my children. Thanks Dad and Mum.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What Do You See?

Look at this photo taken from the lounge in our cottage. What do you see?

Look beyond the bars.

Do you see the camellia flowering?

Do you see fields in the distance?

Do you see the herd of cows and calves in the fields?

"Managing the purse strings tightly can make one feel deprived," someone very dear to me commented this week.

But, really, it all depends on what you CHOOSE to see. 

Are you looking at the bars in your life, or are you choosing to look beyond them to the blessings in your life?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On My Mind Today...

This week I had fun taking something ordinary and forgotten and turning it into something extraordinary.

Ta Daaaaaa!

The results of my Pantry Purge Party (see my last post) were good enough to serve at a dinner party.

Delicious cardamon scented honey mousse.

Each drizzled with honey and topped with a pretty pansy. 

I will definitely be playing this game again. 

What's on your mind today. Join Rhonda at Down to Earth to be a part of this Friday post.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pantry Purge Party

Who's up for a fun challenge?

Go to your pantry. Find the item in it that you haven't used in the longest time. Something that has been lying forgotten in a back corner. Something that you seldom use. Why did you buy it?

Did you think I was going to tell you to throw it away. No way, that's not Elastic Mom style.

Now, here's the fun part:

We are going to USE IT AND NOT LOSE IT.

See how you can use it in the next few days by combining it with ingredients that you already have in your home. No shopping allowed for this challenge.

After you have used it, leave a comment below,  letting us know what it was and what you made with it.

My most ancient pantry item is gelatine. It has moved house with me a number of times. I bought it for some forgotten reason. After paging through my recipe scrap books, I couldn't decide between ginger mousse or honey and cardamon mousse. So my beekeeping husband decided for me - the honey one. Tonight I first need to make some yoghurt from the abundant milk that we have, and then I will make the mousse tomorrow, a special treat for my family.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Balancing the Books

Once a year I have to gather all those tiny slips and invoices and tie them together into a sensible record of my husband's business for the past tax year. I hate this job and tend to leave it until it all piles up into a rather daunting task. So, in shocking WABBING style, a while ago, I devised a much more important task for a Saturday than pushing papers.
(WAB = work avoidance behaviour)

I came up with a wonderful way of feeding our family of four using just two pieces of chicken - a breast and a thigh. It involved enough preparation to keep me away from the nasty papers, and required a fair bit of help from my husband. So this Elastic Mom thinks that it is a great recipe - it saves money, helps to avoid other nasty jobs that are begging for your precious time, and best of all, this recipe, if done right, can build your marriage.


 First, send your willing son to your generous neighbour to grind some wheat kernels, that were harvested from this farm, in their mini grinder. Dust off pasta machine that was given to you many years ago by kind cousins. Then put said wheat flour into pasta machine with water and salt. Encourage your husband to cut the strips of lasagna to size as the machine spits them out. Try not to break the machine in the process. No pasta machine? Use any shop bought pasta.

Initial financial outlay = R0.00 (Cost of salt is negligible)

Wash, steam and chop a large bunch of black kale that you picked in the fields yesterday with your reluctant daughter. Spinach will do just as well.
 Cost of kale = R0.00 + lots of sweet talking.

Cook up a tasty tomato and onion sauce with lots of herbs from the garden. Use frozen baby tomatoes that you grew last Summer. 
Cost of one onion = R1.00 max

Haul the mini cooker out of storage and find the hickory wood shavings that you have had for the last six years. Sweet talk your husband into smoking your two pieces of chicken. Entice your neighbours' senses with delicious aromas while the chicken pieces smoke.
 Cost of smoking = R0.00 + a big hug

Slice the smoked chicken off the bone, and swat your family's fingers that keep trying to snitch bits of fragrant chicken while your back is turned.
Cost of 2 chicken pieces from braai-pack = R10.00

Layer the tomato sauce, fresh wholewheat lasagne, kale and chicken in as many layers as you can, starting and ending with the sauce.

Sparingly sprinkle 1/4 block mature cheddar cheese over the top, and bake your lasagna at 180 deg. C until it bubbles and is golden.
Cost of cheese = R6.25 (That's why I use it sparingly)

Grin and agree with your husband when he says that the lasagna is excellent - gourmet restaurant quality.
Price of four servings of lasagna at a good Italian restaurant for the family = R65.00 x 4 = R260.00

Run out of excuses and get back to the books with a well satisfied tummy.

Total Cost for Smoked Chicken Lasagna = total cost of meal - price in restaurant
                                                                 =  R17.25 - R260.00
                                                                 = - R242.75

So, Elastic Mom saved her family R242.75, and gained some time with loved ones, smiles, hugs and happy memories.... and managed to spend her valuable time well while WABBING

That's what I call good financial practice.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Brilliant Bread Recipe

 Every now and then I plan to post a BACK TO BASICS recipe. These standby recipes give stretch to my Elastic Mom lifestyle.

I live too far from the shops to buy fresh bread regularly and so on most days I bake a hot, steaming loaf of bread for lunch. Lately, due to frosty weather, our daily bread has frequently been seen gracing the table alongside fragrant bowls of soup. My current favourite bread recipe is so easy and quick to make, and best of all, it is versatile. I vary the ingredients daily, just ensuring that I follow the basic pattern of ingredients. Baking this bread uses up all the odd jugs and jars of dairy products that are lurking in the fridge. I make my own butter and yoghurt, so often have buttermilk and whey, but you can use any milky thing really.

So, here it is:

Turn your oven on to 180 degrees celsius (350 deg. F) - your dough will be ready to pop in the oven before the bread heats up.
Grease a loaf tin. I keep a little oil and a pastry brush in a mug the fridge for quick tin-oiling.
Grab two bowls - one for the wet stuff and one for the dry stuff.

In the dry bowl, stir together :
31/2 cups flour - any combinations of flours will work. (Today it was white bread flour, yesterday it was half white flour and half freshly ground wheat. Just use whatever you have)
1 t salt
1 t bicarbonate of soda (or if using self raising flour, leave this out)
Now add your special ingredient of the day (see below)

In the WET bowl, whisk together:
2 cups yoghurt, or a bit of yoghurt and the rest milk, or buttermilk, or whey, or sour milk, or milk with a bit of lemon juice added to make it sour. (It needs to be sour to react with the bicarb ... to make bubbles ... to make your bread rise.)
2  dollops of honey, or sugar, or syrup. We keep bees, so I dollop the honey from two table spoons.

Pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff. Stir quickly, and spread evenly into the greased loaf tin.
Bake for roughly an hour.

That's it!


Oh yes, if you forget to make it in time for an hour of baking before lunch, (as I did this week) just spoon the dough into a muffin pan and your muffin shaped bread rolls will bake in half the time.

OK, now for those SPECIAL INGREDIENTS. This is what makes your bread brilliant, and keeps your family enjoying the same bread every day. I vary this part according to whatever I have plenty of in the house, or whatever needs using up, or whatever I am in the mood for.

Today I chose to add a handful each of wheat bran and raisins.

Here are some other ideas:
- grated cheese and mixed herbs
- assorted seeds.... sunflower, sesame, poppy, linseed etc.
- grated apple and chopped walnuts
- half a teaspoon of ground cumin or coriander
- crushed garlic and some rosemary
- olives
-sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs

Use your imagination and have fun.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


So when the crunch comes and we need to stretch our resources even further, what do we do?

Here are some kitchen ideas:

When planning meals, try choose those that only use ONE protein. Protein is usually the most expensive ingredient in our meals. Either use cheese,  meat, eggs, nuts or legumes - not combinations thereof. So rather than a ham and cheese sandwich, make a toasted cheese, or  a ham and mustard one. Make a pasta dish with a cheese sauce or a meat sauce, not both. Give quiches a break as they use eggs and cheese, or if you just have to have quiche, make it a vegetarian one. Try to get used to meals without cheese sprinkled over them. Be inventive with herbs and spices for extra flavour.

Meat can be stretched a long way if you are creative. Most people eat far more meat than their body needs. We only need a matchbox sized portion of meat in a meal - roughly 100g per person. Use your meat in vegetable rich stews, casseroles, soups and pasta dishes. This week I took one piece of smoked pork neck that my husband had intended to serve in fat slices for one meal and I used it to make eight meals  - Boston baked beans, pea and ham soup (four meals worth), broccoli and ham quiche, ham and spinach lasagna, millet broccoli and ham salad with  my own sundried tomatoes. I know that I broke my own rule of not combining proteins, but I was scoring so much in using one cut of meat in so many ways that it was worth it. Best of all, each of those meals were absolutely delicious and, rather than feeling deprived, my family really enjoyed them.

Bulk out minced beef with lentils, soya, beans, diced vegetables or combinations thereof. I have a basic mince dish that I cook up with all the lovely yummy additions and then freeze in meal sized portions. Later I use those basic mince portions to make many different meals.

Most people know about rubber chicken: One chicken feeds my family of four for three meals. The first meal is a roast chicken meal where we each have a portion of chicken alongside rice / potatoes and lots of vegetables. The second meal is where I take all the leftover chicken off the bones and use it in a pasta dish,  salad,  pie or something delicious. The third meal is a hearty chicken soup made from the bones.

Need I even say that it saves so much money if you cook everything from scratch. Steer clear of packet or bottled soups and sauces, pre-prepared meals, baking boxes, frozen pizzas, tinned food and such. Not only are they expensive. They usually contain unhealthy additives too. I make an exception for tinned tuna fish and tinned tomatoes when my frozen tomato harvest is all used up.

Better than boxed breakfast cereals is a steamy hot bowl of oats, or fluffy pancakes, or even eggs on toast. Boiled, poached and fried  eggs are a better breakfast choice than scrambled eggs and omelettes because each portion only uses one egg. Served with plenty of toast, homemade jam and a cup of tea, who would  even notice that Elastic Mom is at it again. In our case, the eggs are organic, farm fresh from the chickens  behind our cottage.

Eating out is definitely out when the piggy bank is looking skinny, and away go take-aways, including chips, chocolates and cooldrinks from the local corner shop. Instead we treat ourselves with homemade  baked goods using ingredients that we have in the house. Adding candlelight to an ordinary meal can make it special, so can sending the children to a friend for the night. Sundowners needn't be complicated. This week we have replaced our usual monthly date night restaurant outing with a sunset glass of wine (from our stash) and a packet of chips. So date night now cost us 4% of what we usually pay.

And when push comes to shove, water tastes just fine when you are thirsty.

I could go on, but I think I have made my point.....

Soft apples that are unpleasant to eat fresh, taste great baked into muffins.

... see what I mean....

Try to use what you have in your pantry before you shop for food.

... I really must stop....

Popcorn is a great between meal snack. I don't mean the microwave kind. Old fashioned popcorn that pops in the pot is fun to make and tastes great.

... It's your attitude that counts in the end.