Bargain Betty

Bargain Betty’s money savvy tips

Nuromol gives me a headache

July24

Every time I see Nuromol advertised on TV I get a headache. Why on earth would someone pay a small fortune for this?  A six-pack costs $5.99 at Countdown.  That’s $1 a pill for 200mg of ibuprofen and 500mg of paracetamol.  When will people learn that Nurofen, Panadol, and other branded medicines are incrediby overpriced. If you buy generic paracetamol and ibuprofen from Countdown you’ll pay less than 50c for exactly the same dose.

Olive recipe

April29

Diana’s Devonport olive recipe

Every year I pick a bucket or two of free olives from public trees in Devonport. I then pickle them. Below is the recipe.

Initial pickling

 

For green or black olives

 

  • Once picked, take a sharp knife and slice each and every olive once down to the stone. This isn’t quite a time consuming as it sounds and I usually do it in front of the television
  • Place the olives in a bucket or container filling no more than 2/3rds full.  Fill with water and one cup of salt dissolved in it.  I buy a 15kg bag of salt, which lasts two years.  Otherwise it’s easy to use too little salt and the pickling fails.
  • Weight down the olives with a plate or similar to keep them under the water at all times.
  • Replace the brine daily for best results. If you miss a day here and there it’s not the end of the world.
  • Sometimes the brine goes a bit smelly, or forms a scum on top. This isn’t a huge problem, just replace the water. Also, it’s normal for little bubbles of gas to come up from the olives to the surface.  Again, this is normal. They haven’t gone off.
  • After about six weeks your olives should be ready. Taste them and if they are no longer bitter, then they’re ready for the next step.   If not, keep repeating the process until they’re ready.

 

The final pickling solution is as follows:

 

  • 1/3rd white vinegar
  • 2/3rds brine – made by boiling water in a pan and dissolving the salt and then leaving to cool. (The brine should be 1:10 salt to water ratio)
  • Place olives in bottles (or ice cream containers) and then pour the brine and vinegar solution over them until the fruit is completely submerged.
  • At this stage you can also add any of the following flavourings: grated or whole garlic, basil, oregano, chopped onion, red capsicum, lemon juice and lemon pieces.  Especially popular is a combination of garlic, basil and lemon juice.  I also use cumin, rosemary, peppercorns, cloves, star anise, or whatever I have around.  I tend to do a different flavouring for each bottle.
  • Top up the bottles with a little olive oil to stop air getting to the fruit. Screw the lids on tight.
  • Store bottles in fridge until use.

 

When you’re ready to use your olives:

 

If the strong preserving solution is too strong pour some of it out and replace with lightly salted water. Or if you don’t like the salty taste, you could poor all the solution out and replace with cool water, which will help leach the salt out.   Leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours and taste them.  If they are still too salty for your liking then refill the bottle with a fresh lot of water and return to the refrigerator for a further 24 hours.

Birthday cake topper

September2

I really should do a posting about birthdays.  It’s my son’s birthday today and even though the party is at home it’s cost a small fortune.  I do have to say I was very impressed with EasyCakeToppers.co.uk, from which I bought a Manchester United cake topper.  This is the company’s website: http://www.easycaketoppers.co.uk/

I phoned the company at 9.30pm UK time. To my complete surprise a real person picked up the phone at that time of night and the order went out in the mail the very next morning. The parcel arrived six days after the order was placed and the total cost including postage etc was NZ$13.40. That’s a bargain.

It is even personalised with “Happy 9th Birthday Milo” on it.  When I did a quick Google search last week  I couldn’t find a New Zealand company offering these – although there probably is. Even if I did, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been that reasonably priced.

Eating like a freegan

March15

This is a post originally written for my MSN column:

I’ve twice been accused of being a “freegan” — because I visit friends and family to raid their fruit trees. True freegans, however, shun spending money on anything. They find ways and means to get whatever they need for free.

Freeganism can be taken to real extremes, such as living off the land — or local landfill. You’d have to be pretty dedicated to go that far. Yet all of us can eat a bit like a freegan if we put our minds to it. Here are some suggestions.
Pot roast that bunny: I read once — with mild horror — about Christchurch resident Eng Tang, who checks out small ads for unwanted animals such as pet chickens and rabbits, which he collects for the family dinner.

Get to know your neighbours’ gardens: If your neighbour is a keen vegetable gardener, let them know you’re happy to take any leftover produce. Crops such as silver beet, capsicum, tomatoes, and fruit trees including guavas, lemon and apples may produce more than the property owner can eat. If you’re smart about this and spread your net widely enough you might never need buy fruit again. To thank your donor, pickle or bottle some of the free food they gave you and give it back to them as a present. That’s a sure fire way to be given more raw product.

Take advantage of public fruit trees: Within a 200m radius of my home I’m aware of a large number of olive trees, one apple tree and one feijoa — all on public land. “There’s bush tucker everywhere,” my wide-eyed Australian friend noted, when she visited. Within a kilometre there is a huge overgrown fennel patch in a Department of Conservation reserve and several parks that produce mushrooms. Check with your local council or DOC conservancy office if they’re happy for you to pick the fruit.

Grow your own: Plant fruit trees and other perennial plants, such as silver beet and rhubarb. Even better, get cuttings from your friends or harvest and save the seeds from last year so you don’t need to pay for the plant in the first place.

Build a chicken coop and beehive: My neighbour has both a chicken coop and two beehives, producing more eggs and honey than he can use himself. It costs money to set these up, and effort to look after both. If you discount his labour, then the ongoing cost is nil — providing you put the time in to get the variety of food your chickens need. I know one family that gets waste from the vegie shop for their chickens — although the somewhat eccentric husband, has been known to eat the outer leaves of the lettuce and cabbages himself instead of feeding them to the animals.

Barter: Exchange food or other items with your friends. You could even offer your labour in exchange for garden produce.

Have no shame: You could always check out what local bakeries, restaurants etc do with their waste produce at the end of the day. In the US it’s not uncommon for local freegans (sometimes called dumpster divers) to check out the waste bins at supermarkets. For the record, I could never do this unless life as we know it changes unrecognisably, which is why I’ll never be a true freegan.

Food banks: If you’re really and truly cash strapped, you could contact local churches, many of which have food banks. But these services are meant for the truly destitute.

Learn about edible plants and weeds: You don’t have to look far to find edible plants and weeds. Even weeds such as lambsquarters, dandelion and chickweed can be eaten.

Finally, freegans don’t believe in wasting food even if it was acquired for free. Many believe it’s their social duty to use food that would otherwise be wasted. It’s up to us as individuals as well to eat up all the food we buy instead of letting it go into the landfill.

Baked beans

February20

Way back when I lived in the UK I read an article about baked beans. It was a comparison between Heinz (Watties here in NZ) and Tesco (budget) brand.  It said that there were significantly more baked beans in the branded Heinz can.

I carried out an experiment to compare the contents of Watties and Budget brand beans.  The result was that

I counted 311 beans in a Budget brand can and 430 in a Watties can. That’s a huge difference. I also weighed the beans after they’d been drained for 30 minutes, but the results weren’t relevant. Budget brand has a thin sauce that runs off easily and Watties has a thick sauce that doens’t drain in a collander.  I guess I could have heated them.

We also had a blind taste test.  Both of my children and an adult relative decided they liked the taste of the Watties beans best.

I have since bought a can of Pams’ baked beans and will do a similar test when the time comes to open it.

Happy money saving.

Bread making on the cheap

October18

My article from the Herald on Sunday:

Bargain Betty: Breadmaker adds to culinary mix

I love good bread. In fact, a great baguette or fresh Turkish pide pretty much top my list of favourite foods.

The trouble is that I get indigestion at the thought of spending $5 or more on a loaf, which in reality contains little more than flour, water, yeast and oil/fat.

If I acceded to my children’s demands I’d be buying MacKenzie bread at $5.11 a loaf – just for half of it to be left uneaten in their lunchboxes.

Read more:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10681061

Sell-by, display-by and use-by dates

September7

Shoppers are often confused by sell-by, display-by and use-by dates.  I saw a programme on TV last night that discussed these dates and really put it into perspective.  Sell-by and display-by dates are dates used by retailers to ensure that the stock is correctly rotated. It’s only the use-by date that really matters. That’s the date when the goods may start deteriorating.  Having said that, many dried products (such as vacuum packed coffee), can last for years past that date. The presenter found, prepared and ate a packet of chowmein that was six years past it’s sell-by date and couldn’t detect any difference to the same product that was within its dates.

Sometimes I’m quite happy to buy short-dated products. You can save a fortune. Nor do I throw out food that is getting near it’s dates. I keep an eye on this in my fridge and simply cook and eat things rather than let them go off.

Check out these links below for more information on product dates:

http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/consumers/food-safety-topics/food-processing-labelling/food-labelling/fact-sheets/fs-2003-02-date-labelling.htm

http://www.consumer.org.nz/reports/use-by-dates-on-food

Baked Bean cassoulet

August24

Finally had the baked bean cassoulet last night, that was recommended by Virgil Evetts over at Foodlovers.co.nz

for my pantry project. You can read more about my experiences of not shopping for four weeks here: http://www.bargainbetty.co.nz/2010/07/16/how-to-cut-your-grocery-bill-1/

It was a budget meal to say the least. Only expensive ingredients were bacon and four small chorizo.  I do have to say that chorizos are pretty reasonably priced in the deli at Third World Devonport.

The dish was a real hit. Even with me – the great baked bean hater.  Definitely worth doing again. And I might cook some regular cassoulets in the near future. Bean-based meals usually go down reasonably well in this household.

Feeding our Families

August14

I’ve just discovered the Feeding our Families website.  Lots of great ideas for cheap, healthy meals.  I loved the one with grated vegetables added to pot noodles for an afternoon tea snack:

http://www.feedingourfamilies.org.nz/

There is a real Kiwi/Pacific flavour to these recipes.

Cheesed off at the price of feta

August11

Here’s a tip.  My local Foodtown sells cow’s feta in the deli section for $14.50 a kilogramme.  I’m always astounded at the price of feta in New Zealand’s supermarkets.  We’ve done a bit of cheese making at home and feta is one of the easiest and quickest cheeses there is to make. Much quicker and cheaper to make than cheddar. Yet our supermarkets charge a premium for it. I’ve often thought about this because I buy feta for $9.99 at times from the Indian shop that lives in what to be Sandringham’s old cinema. That’s more like the price it should be everywhere. It’s not a premium cheese.

I won’t get onto the price of cheddar, but Chris Barton wrote an interesting article on the topic in 2008, which can be found here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10510662

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