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.