Monday, 22 May 2017

Making Do

Isn't life filled of 'I wants'? Often in this day and age our 'I wants' can be immediately obtained - money or no money, cash or plastic fantastic, our 'I wants' can be fulfilled at our wish or close to; but at what cost?

Made with love treats are the best!

When we moved into this place in the city we downsized in the size of the house and yard considerably from our house we lived in for the previous 5 years in the country but the rent of course up-sized, and quite considerably so!  The thought between us at the time of the move was that this little place would get us up to the city and the kids into schooling and a year or two down the track (and hopefully being back on two or at least one and a half incomes) we would look at finding a bigger place. Well we are at the two year mark now and for us to up-size in this rental market we would be looking at around $100 or so extra per week!  That is what we jumped up to by moving here and we could increase that much again (just) but at what cost?  We would lose any ability to save, be living month to month and we would definitely be on the back foot financially again.  So moving will not be happening at this point in our lives and so we find ourselves saying...

"We Will Just Have To Make Do"

Restraint on our part now will help us reap the rewards later.  It took us a while to learn this lesson in life but I feel we are there now (mostly) :) Have you been in this position? Gosh it's a really hard place to be isn't it?

Although it is a cute little place we now live, warm and reasonably dry, located near some lovely little beaches, close to both our workplaces and has a cosy homely feel in general, one of the things that really doesn't work in this house for us is the kitchen - it is tiny! No storage and a very small amount of bench space. I really needed to be able to make the kitchen function better to support the costs savings we need to start making again.  For the past two years it has been get in and get out as fast as we can, no stock piling groceries, only shopping weekly as that is all the space we had and I didn't enjoy being in there for hours on end like I did at our old place.

We have a lovely little deck to sit and enjoy the sun 

When we moved in we put our large fridge over an entry door and shut that off leaving the kitchen as one way in and one way out.  In the space beside the fridge we put a little storage cupboard so that we could fit in all our kitchen supplies.  This cupboard got me thinking about what we could do to help alleviate the lack of storage space for stockpiling.  So off I went down the Mitre 10 and purchased another storage cupboard for $70 - a $70 solution to saving on moving house....that's a bargain! ;) well in the least it will help us make do.

So after MrW worked his magic and put it together we placed it into the space we had in the laundry and it fitted perfectly.  We spent most of the weekend stripping the kitchen cupboards apart and re-organising everything :) Although it is now feeling a little more cluttered having the extra cupboard in the small space I am very thankful it has achieved the purpose! We were able to spread things out better, make each cupboard serve it's own purpose without overcrowding rendering it impossible to find anything and most of all we now have a cupboard that is just for stockpiling!

We went from this:

Our only food storage area and check out that jumble of plastic containers :/

To This:

A 'larder' again! Oh how I missed having one of these!

Ahhh nice and organised :) 

I can't do much about the available bench space but by keeping the benches as clear as we can of clutter it will help.  Now it's time to start shopping fortnightly if we can and begin stocking up on items we use regularly as they come on sale and lets start to reduce the grocery budget!

I celebrated by making Scones for lunch and a Banana Cake for the boys to take away on school camp this week - some happy time in the kitchen :)

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Left-overs - Lamb Shepherds Pie

Dinners - they consume quite a lot of the grocery budget! So when you are trying to spend less at the supermarket one way to do this is to plan meals around having leftovers that can be turned into another meal. Sometimes it is better to spend more on a larger cut of meat when it is on a good special (like a leg of lamb) and make it stretch into multiple meals. A dinner made of leftovers can be daunting to some that aren't as confident in the kitchen, but there really is no need to worry, a quick consult of google with throw you some ideas, also thinking about basic recipes that you could substitute fresh meat for leftover meat.  The key is just remember no matter what you are doing taste, taste, taste.  This is the basis of this yummy meal we had tonight.

We had this delicious Roast Lamb leg earlier this week for my birthday, it fed us that night, the next night and then sat for a couple of days in the fridge while I came up with something to make the last little bit of meat left on the bone into.  It was a prompt from a colleague at work that made me think of this recipe. So effectively four meals for a family of four out of one lamb leg is pretty good value!

This yummy succulent NZ Lamb became a delicious and very large Shepherd's pie :) I used my basic recipe that I would normally make with beef mince but instead made it with the lamb I processed into small pieces in the food processor.  This would feed us for two nights but the boys are heading away on camp this week so I will turn it into several lunches and my dinner on Monday night. 

Leftover Lamb Shepherds Pie

Cooked Lamb
A glug of Olive Oil
Couple of Garlic Cloves
Veges of choice - I used a Carrot, a Courgette & four Mushrooms all finely sliced/chopped to preference
2 1/2 cups of Beef Stock (or as much as is needed)
1 1/2tbsp of Cornflour 
Soya Sauce
Worcester Sauce
Tomato Sauce
Salt & Pepper to Season

A tbsp of Butter
A little Milk
Salt & Pepper

  • Process the lamb until it is finely chopped (I did mine in two batches)
  • Finely dice the onion and garlic and cook until softened in the oil
  • Add the chopped vegetables and cook down for 10 mins or so until they are starting to soften
  • Tip the processed lamb into the vegetables and mix through
  • Season with Worcester (just a good sprinkle around the pan), Soya Sauce (about twice the amount of the Worcester), a good glug of Tomato Sauce and season with salt and pepper
  • Add the beef stock and add a slightly watery paste made with the cornflour and a little water
  • Bring to a simmer until it starts to thicken and deepen in colour
  • TASTE and adjust with seasonings if needed
Mash the Potatoes with the butter, milk, salt & pepper. Pour the lamb mix into a casserole dish and place the mash potato on top of the mix. Spread over the meat gently (so as not to make the lamb mix slop over the side), then top with grated cheese, sprinkle of breadcrumbs for a little crunch and season with a little salt and pepper.

Grill until golden.

Serve with a side of steamed veges.


I manged to get quite a bit of meat off the bone

Note: This can be made exactly the same with approx 450-500gms fresh beef or lamb mince if you don't have leftover meat. Just brown this off with the onions once they have softened and proceed from there.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Caper & Parmesan Crumbed Fish

Time for a recipe! This is the part of blogging I love - sharing posts full of goodness :)

We love fish and chips but as we all know the deep fried food is not that good for you and feeding a family of four with two growing boys the last few times have definitely been pretty pricey!

I can't remember when or where I came up with crumbing our fish with this combination but it is a family favourite and spices up the good old 'Fish and Chips'.

Fresh fish isn't always the cheapest option these days however it does form part of a balanced diet for young and old so I try to include it at least once every couple of weeks (or more) if I can.  Just keep an eye on the specials when they come up and make it stretch :)

I make mine Gluten Free due to my intolerance to wheat but it would work just as well with normal flour and breadcrumbs, these breadcrumbs do lend a little extra to the flavour profile but they aren't necessary.

Caper & Parmeson Crumbed Fish

White Fish Fillets - my preference is Terahiki or Gurnard whichever is on special. Use enough fillets to feed the mouths you have, I tend to get 3 good sized Terahiki between the 4 of us and break one in half for the boys. Or 5 fillets if I get the smaller Gurnard.

Plain Flour - Gluten Free or Wheat Flour
Breadcrumbs - Gluten Free or Wheat based
Parmesan Cheese - Grated or finely chopped
Lemon Zest
Salt & Pepper

Use your judgement with how much flour you will need; generally double this for the breadcrumbs.

  • Make a pile of flour on a small plate (approx 1/4-1/2cup).  
  • In a bowl whisk together the eggs and little salt and pepper (I use two eggs for the three or so fillets, 1 egg would do 2 fish fillets fine).  
  • On a big plate spread out the breadcrumbs, approx 3/4 of a cup for this amount.
  • Season the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper
  • Finely chop approx 1tbsp of Capers and add to the breadcrumbs (use more capers & parmesan if you have a bigger amount of breadcrumbs)
  • Add approximately the same amount of Parmesan Cheese and the Zest of one lemon.  
  • Mix this together well

Take the fish fillets, cover is flour, dip in the egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs creating a really good crumb.  You might find you need to press the crumb on in places.

On a baking tray lined with baking paper or sprayed with oil place the fish once crumbed.  When all the fish has been crumbed spray the top of each with oil and then flip over gently and spray the other side.  If you have left over crumb press these onto the fillets.

Bake for around 15mins at 180degC or until golden. I don't tend to flip them but you can if you wish to.

Crunchy Tasty Goodness!

Serve with your choice of sides :) A nice salad and some roasted kumara/pumpkin or oven baked fries are a nice pairing with the fish.


Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Big Adventure!

I've been pondering the last few days whether or not I should start writing again for the blog, it was always really good at keeping us on track and accountable plus I love sharing my knowledge/successes (and failures) and helping others; be it with recipes, money saving tips, crafting, family ideas, budgeting and how to live a fun and fulfilling life on less. The reward for blogging about the exciting and mundane life of our household was getting to help others on their journey. Sometimes you just need to know you have someone out there that just 'gets it'.

mmmmm lunch I made at work today
I have been questioning though if it is right for this part of our lives, for the same but also very different journey we were on for many years....and I think the answer is yes, it is also a great way for my cherished friends and family who live near and far to keep up with the happenings of the House of Whitley! So we will see how this goes, hopefully I will be able to kick it off and keep it running :)

So Welcome officially to Journey #2, this requires a real conscious decision to commit. I hope to provide regular-ish posts about all kinds of things to do with leading a more simple life, 'frugalling' things up again, paying off the last of the debt/saving for the future with a busy family and of course Mama's kitchen will 'reopen' and I hope to have some yummy foodie posts to share. Some of my blogging you may find interesting and some you may not. As always please feel free to leave me a comment or share my blog with your friends and family.  I'd also love to hear any tips or tricks you have to share :) I have a treasure trove of information lurking in the older posts which I myself will be scrolling back over; I think I may even re-teach myself some valuable skills, tips and tricks that have begun to lay dormant!

Getting out and about with the Family

AND here leads me to the Catalyst for MrW and I sitting together a month or so ago and stripping back everything we have been doing.  We ended up realising this isn't working, there are no decent savings and we aren't paying off enough of the small debt we have. It was clear that we had reached the point where we've got to rein in the horses and get ourselves back on track to how we used to be before we moved back to the city. I owe my friend J a big hug of thanks for giving me a bit of a push; asking about my blog she made me realise 'you know what, we have done it once and we will do it again'!

Life doesn't need to be this hard, this expensive, this processed or this busy - Life can be simple and enjoyable, it is what you make it x

So you see this?

This Is Our Big Adventure!

This is my ticket to Qualifying to represent New Zealand at the UCI World Gran Fondo Cycling Champs in Albi, France!! Holy moly, never did I dream my cycling would take me to another country in such a special way. Both MrW and I qualified to go over to France in August of this year; what an honour it will be to get to wear a New Zealand Cycling kit and race internationally.

It would be right to insert the disclaimer *I have never travelled out of New Zealand before* yes yes my first overseas trip will be a massive adventure all the way across to France!
We are both loving our cycling and it's going pretty well for us (as you can see :) ) we don't race pro or anything crazy like that, but being able to hold it against our own with the top of our age group for amateur Masters racing is pretty damn cool!

After the buzz wore off we realised the reality of this, and that was that in amongst day to day life we had 6months to come up with the funds to make it work and the extra time training over winter which would normally be our 'down' time where we don't train as consistently and just give ourselves that mental and physical break.  The figures were crunched and they showed we could do it - just!.....if we significantly reduced our spending habits, cut down our grocery bill and hunted for the best deals, Oh boy oh boy! We have so gotten used to being back on two wages, but effectively we need to be able to save at least half my salary in order to do this! So it starts here and it starts now - lets get us to France Baby!

Doing his thing at the recent National Road Champs

MrW warming up for the World Masters Games Time Trial

This was a hard day - contrary to popular belief I am not a Supermum and it's a hard juggle

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Small Steps

Last night was a Mama night. MrW was away on a work trip and at 2am I felt the tap... you know the tap....the soft but persistent tap of a child that needs his Mummy. Poor little N. (Master 10)  has had a cold the last week and a bit and it's just lingering but in the wee hours of this morning his throat was hurting, the poor wee poppet. I haven't had the middle of the night wake ups for quite some time and it is a bit of a shock to the system!

N. playing Hockey last night. He started playing last year and loved it! Unfortunately I think it was the icing on the cake to set off his sore throat :/ 

So it was a bit of a bumble through the day today at work but we got there in the end :) I have been pondering since we re-set the budget to accommodate for our big adventure of where do I start to cut down our spending and ramp up our savings? 

I mean we have simplified before, made everything (and I mean everything) from scratch, sewed clothes, had a vege garden, shopped in bulk and stockpiled and so on to live as frugally as possible but I don't have much of an idea of how to fit that into our 'new' lifestyle. I wasn't working before, yet I am now so I am in comparison quite time poor. I had a larger kitchen and plenty of storage for stockpiling but now I have a teeny kitchen with no storage and everything seems that bit more expensive up here in the city - but we can do this! 

So we start as every journey does.... with small steps :)

I've been hanging out the clothes the last few days; see simple little changes :) the dryer has been working non-stop since I started working a year and a half ago because that is what was easy, we all know though that easy does not normally leave room for cost saving! I just need to allow 10mins each day to sort the washing and hang it out AND I have two more capable helpers to help now.

I hit the supermarket today and stocked up, I plan to use what we have in the freezer as in the deep dark depths I'm not actually sure what we have in there. I plan to gradually make my way to fortnightly shopping again, I used to save money doing this and it saved on time - I could buy into that perk that's for sure.  I came home and started to unload the groceries and opened the fridge door to assess how it was looking and oh my goodness! How did it get so gross in there?! Do you ever realise that it seems fine but when you really look you see that it's not so fine after-all! Out went containers of goodness knows what forgotten leftovers, the last of the scrapings in jars that were dated 2015/16 and in I went with some hot soapy water and some elbow grease.  A wee while later I had a nice clean and organised fridge ready to start stocking it back up again.  

Ahhh clean and organised...looks a bit empty though!

I've formulated a plan for the stockpiling issue, there is a corner in the laundry that I can claim for a set of cupboards - just. It's only a wee space but I think I can make that work with the help of MrW's handy skills and a small investment. For the moment the pantry is a weeee bit full :) 

I baked some cookies for the lunchboxes, something that used to be taken for granted in our house.  I've often commented to MrW for someone who used to live in the kitchen I can't believe how little time I want to spend in there now. I do so miss my old kitchen but I just have to make this one a functioning space and find a way to enjoy it so I can start back the baking and from scratch cheaper meals. Don't get me wrong, I definitely cook each night but just not in the way I used to with spending hours pouring over recipes and creating lots of different tasty, nourishing meals and I certainly don't cook in bulk at the present time.  I have barely baked though and that is something I do yearn for, the bought bikkies just aren't the same! But that's ok, with a few adjustments I will re-ignite my kitchen passion I am sure.

Small steps and small changes and I hope that we can create a new version of our simplified more frugal life that we used to find so much contentment with.  

Let's call this Journey #2 xx

The yummiest cookies; Nut Brownie Cookies :)  you can find the link here

Monday, 15 May 2017

It's Been 2 years!


Would you like to join me for a cuppa and a piece of birthday cake :) (can you believe the Master 8 turned into Master 11 last week?!) I'd love the company x

Wow how time flies past so fast these days! I had a friend ask me the other day if my blog was still working as she wanted to refer back to some of my recipes. I found with surprise which soon turned to delight that my blog, my diary of time, my photos showing our adventures and my recipes I spent hours creating was just sitting in cyberspace quietly waiting for a view of a recipe or a read of a story.

Life has come a complete 360 since I last posted! We have been on a whirlwind adventure, and here I find us as a family coming nearly back to where we started all the way back in 2011; seeking a quieter life, saving money, living frugally, paying off debt and bringing up our boys to be well rounded and grounded individuals.

 Soon after I last said hello we made the decision that it was time - time to leave our slice of country paradise and move back up to Auckland so we could be closer to MrW's work. We all endured three years of his commuting a couple of hours each day and missing out on quality family time. The decision was also made in regards to the boys having more options in regards to later schooling. So off we moved in May 2015 to the North Shore of Auckland.

We have all settled in well, we live within 10mins of MrW's work, the boys are doing well at their new school and we will be seeing Master now 11 off to Intermediate next year with Master now nearly 10 not far behind!  I am now working 30hours a week so life is no longer the slower pace we once enjoyed but is quite hectic and it sure keeps us on our toes! My job is in my field of study (Accounting) and I'm now half way through my degree. We are still cycling and have completed some awesome events in the past few years and we have an exciting adventure heading our way which I will come back and share another time :)

We have both found ourselves recently overwhelmed with the speed of life and for me in particular I felt the yearning to slow things down, get back to enjoying life and the things that used to bring me so
much joy. baking, cooking, providing a safe and warm cosy home for the family and  spending time just chilling.  We have managed to decrease our debt significantly since we have gone back to two salaries which has been a real blessing but we still have a little left to nail. Aside from that with our impending grand adventure we find ourselves back to needing to watch the spending really closely, bring all our old skills back into use and save save save so we don't go backwards!

Can we do it? I'm sure we can! It will just take a little navigating to make it work in our new lifestyle, I no longer have a vege garden, I have a teeny kitchen I'm not all that fond of and I have no storage space for stockpiling - BUT - this is all part of the adventure right?

Watch this space. I've missed my blog and sharing our experiences with our friends and my wonderful readers. I hope to come back and document this new part of our journey, and if I can share a few ideas that help to others that find themselves in a similar situation to us, well, I'll be one happy lady xx

Mr W had some birthday cake fun for our big 11 year old :) 

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