Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Thrifty Christmas Menu Ideas

Christmas is a time for enjoying each others company as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Please don't stress about the Christmas menu or go into debt to feed the crowds.  Share the load and ask your visitors to bring a plate.

Providing two meats, a couple of salads or roast vegies and two or three desserts is all that is needed to satisfy the hungry souls at your table. The more you have to choose from, the more confusing it is for the eaters. How to fit it all on the plate ? There is only so much you can eat at one meal and many people travel from table to table ( famliy home to family home ) in one day.

Also, the more you provide, the more likely you are to be left with leftovers for a week. To avoid gastro most foods should be consumed within two days of cooking. You are also less likely to forget what is left in the fridge if it is consumed within a small timeframe.

I've cooked traditional and casual Christmas lunches in the past. Here's what I've provided for my guests


Roast lamb served in gravy
Roast chicken
Roast potatoes, pumpkin and carrots
Cauliflower and broccoli with white sauce and cheese on top
Mint sauce
Sticky date puddings in muffin size with caramel sauce, cream and icecream


Bbq steaks ( cut in half )
Mushrooms and onions
Bread stick
Green tossed salad
Potato salad
Pasta salad
Plum pudding ( no name ) with homemade custard, cream and icecream
Mini pavlovas ( homemade ) with cream and berries


Corned silverside ( cooked in the slow cooker )  or
Crumbed chicken drumsticks
Roast veggies  and / or
Bread stick
Apple rose pastries with custard or cream.

Both the traditional and casual meals have been hugely sucessful and everyone is full and satisfied. The casual meal had a lot more leftovers. We just ate salads and sausages for the next two days. The best thing about these meals is that I have most of those ingredients on hand already so there are no grocery blowouts. The only extra expense is the meat and a few vegies / salad things. The leg of lamb is bought in Spring when it's just over $7 a kilo and usually costs me under $20. Snacks are bought on sale in November and bon bons are bought at half price on Boxing Day the year before.

Roast lunch

Dressing the roast lamb for extra flavou

Apple rose pastries

Megan's custard tarts

Setting the table with all the finery

How are you going with your menu plan ?
Do you have any tricks to keeping your costs to a minimum ?

Saturday, 9 December 2017

This Week's Frugal Tasks Saturday 9th December 2017

Melbourne received lots of rain this week and some minor flooding in our area.  We are thankful for the rain on our gardens and have seen the benefits with increased growth.

Earlier in the week I surprised Darren with a two night stay in the city.  I booked this 13 months ago and saved like crazy by doing extra cleaning jobs,  selling jam and baking as well as trimming the budget here and there.  We had a wonderful time exploring the city and viewing all the Christmas displays and lights

Here's our frugal list for the week -

*  Picked three cucumbers from the garden.  This is a real bonus for us.  We've tried to grow them in the past but the plants either died,  the flowers fell off or the tiny cucumbers shrivelled up and died.   The punnet of three seedlings cost $3.  With cucumbers costing about $2 each,  we are already saving money.

*  Made yoghurt using a sachet that was given to us.

*  Mended a couple of fitted sheets.  The seams in the corners were coming apart.

*  Picked lots of loganberries.

*  Took up one pair of jeans and one pair of trousers for Darren.

*  Picked lettuce from the garden for three meals.

*  Used the last of a lipstick and eyeliner.  When I say " the last " I mean every last drop.

*  Darren bought his work shoes at the Rebel Sports 20% off storewide sale.  When he got to the counter he received a 40% discount because that particular brand also had 20% off.

*  Darren purchased some new shorts when Myer had 30% off.  When he got to the counter and swiped his Myer One card he got another 10% off.  He then used a gift card he got through Velocity Rewards so he really didn't pay anything.

*  Picked the first raspberries of the season.  I've started freezing them to make jam in a couple of months.

*  Sold two dozen eggs.

*  Sold two jars of jam with an order for a few more.

*  Sold lots of angel decorations and wreath decorations.

*  Gratefully received some glass jars.

*  Baked some biscuits to give as early Christmas presents.  They were placed in a cellophane bag and tied with a recycled ribbon.

*  Saved a couple of gift bags and organza bags from presents.

*  Made gift tags from recycled Christmas cards.

From the garden

Our new Christmas display

Cucumbers hiding 

The first raspberries of the season.

What was on your frugal list this week ?

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

An Easy Christmas Table Decoration

Due to a very busy week and Darren and I having a short get away,  I'm re posting this great yet thrifty Christmas idea from a couple of years ago.

Do you ever get stuck trying to work out how to decorate your Christmas table ? Here's a great idea for a decoration that won't cost you a cent.

Find a clear glass bowl or vase that you already have. It doesn't matter what shape or size although you don't want it to take up too much room on the table. 

Fill the bowl or vase with leftover Christmas ball decorations. You can take a few decorations from the back of the tree - no one will notice. In the picture below of the bowl with the blue table runner,  I used smaller balls to fill in the gaps made by the bigger balls.  If the balls still have hanging loops on them, hide them underneath.

All our decorations are bought on sale after Christmas and we have lots to spare.  Each year we change the color scheme of our tree.  This year it's dusty pink, mint green   and silver.  I've teamed the bowl of decorations with a beautiful champagne gold  table runner. and silver Christmas trees 

The second photo is of our color scheme we did a few years ago.  The table runner is one I made from velvet like material.  I added a few silver tea light holders and to complete the look.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

This Week's Frugal Tasks Saturday 2nd December 2017

The warm weather has continued this week.  We've tried to be wise with our water usage in the home and around the garden.  Thankfully we received lots of rain early in the week allowing us to take a few days off from watering our veggie garden and fruit trees.

Last Saturday's Community Helping Hand Day went really well.  Although we thought we wouldn't have enough toys to give out,  we ended up with plenty and some leftovers. As a church we are very grateful for the opportunity  to bless those in need.   It took about 4 days for Darren to recover and to start feeling like himself again.

Here's how we saved money this week -

*  Gratefully received a $100 gift card as compensation for the food we lost when our fridge / freezer played up.

*  Picked lettuce for a few salad dinners.

*  Made a batch of homemade soap.  Some will be for gifts and the rest we'll use ourselves.

*  Dried all the washing on clothes horses out in the sun or on the line.

*  Picked Loganberries each day and froze them.

*  Both Darren and I made the most of the Black Friday sales and gift cards to purchase a few items of clothes we needed.

*  Made a 2 litre bottle of double strength Miracle Spray.

*  Refilled all the foaming hand wash pumps with diluted shower gel.  I know it sounds like I do this every few weeks but we do wash our hands a fair bit due to all the work we do around our home.  We also stay fairly healthy by washing our hands on a regular basis.

*  Kept the curtains closed on warmer days.  I only turned the cooling on late in the afternoon.

*  Ate a couple of meals of leftovers from the freezer on nights it was just Darren and I at home.

*  Gratefully received the biscuit / cookie cutters I won.  Now to do some baking.

*  Poured the shower warm up water on a few plants in the garden.

*  Darren found three shirts ( some were good brands ) and a new pair of jeans at Savers op shop.  He also used his student card to get 20% off.

Darren loves his reindeer decorations

Princess guarding Darren's cherry tree from the birdies

The cookie cutter prize I won

Making soap

A few photos form last Saturday's Community helping hand day

What was on your frugal list this week ?

How are your Christmas preparations going ?

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Christmas Gift Tags, Bags, Wrapping And Crafts

Christmas can be an expensive time of the year.  There's no need to spend a fortune on wrapping and tagging your presents.  Infact,  you might have everything you need on hand and recycle at the same time.

Gift Tags

* Use and recycle your old Christmas cards.  Find the best part of the picture and cut it into a square,  oblong or tag shape.  Use a hole punch to make a hole and thread through a small piece of string,  ribbon or twine.

*  Tags can be made from any piece of cardstock, paper or craft paper.  just cut into a shape,  add a hole then decorate.

*  Do you have a cardboard box hanging around the house ?  Start cutting the cardboard flaps ( top ) off.  Cut into squares / oblongs with a craft knife then decorate.

Gift Bags

*  Do you have lots of department store cardboard / paper carry bags.  Glue a piece of wrapping paper over the top of the store name or brand.  Add a homemade gift tag ( see above ) to the wrapping paper panel then tie a small piece of ribbon or tinsel to the carry handle for extra style.

*  Brown paper bags can be decorated with a Christmas theme to use as a gift bag.  Stamp images,  add Christmas stickers or leave it plain.  Add your present then neatly fold the top over a couple of times,  staple then add a gift tag or a ribbon tied in a bow.  Glue the bow to the centre of the folded top with a hot glue gun.

*  Scraps of material are easy to make into bags.  If you sew,  just sew a hem around three edges. Turn over the top by 2 cm and sew a hem.  Thread some cord or lace through the top as a draw string.

Wrapping Paper

I buy all my wrapping paper on Boxing Day at heavily reduced prices.  If you haven't done this and are stuck for wrapping paper,  have a look to see what you have around the house.

*  Tissue paper makes beautiful wrapping paper.  Use a few layers to conceal the present inside.  Add a ribbon made from cut up sheer / netting curtains. 

*  Children's paintings could be used as  personalised wrapping paper.  I personally couldn't do this but some people have a truckload of Kinder paintings and this could be a way to keep the numbers under control.

*  Plain butcher / craft paper can be decorated.   Even simpler,  leave it plain and just add a colored ribbon.

*  If you are really stuck for wrapping paper,  use birthday wrapping paper and turn it inside out.  On Christmas morning when the paper is being ripped off,  no one will notice.

Christmas Crafts

*  If your old Christmas card looks amazing and too good to cut up,  consider framing it for a lovely present or to decorate your home.

*  If the image on the card is square or oblong,  cut it out,  put a layer of contact paper over the top and stick it to a jar of homemade goodies.

*  Make Christmas decorations by cutting out a shape from the card and threading a ribbon.  Tie the ribbon into a loop then hang on your tree.

Here are a few links to websites with more craft ideas

Gift tags made from old Christmas cards

Cardboard gift tags.  Just change the theme to Christmas

Use this layout to decorate bags for Christmas

Cut up netting curtains as bows.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

This Week's Frugal Tasks Saturday 25th November 2017

Only 31 more sleeps until Christmas.  The presents are all wrapped and under the tree.  Darren and I just need to finish making our Christmas cards which need a little decorating.  The calendar is starting to fill up with events and i'm surprisingly calm about it all.  Maybe it's the forward planning that's putting my mind at ease.

As you read this post today,  our church is holding it's big Community Day where we give out 200 food  hampers,  close to 1000 toys and offer a free sausage sizzle and rides to those in need.  Please pray for Darren today for strength, endurance and good health.  He works hard all year to get this event ready to bless others.

Here's our frugal list for the week -

*  Sold three dozen eggs.

*  Picked lettuce from the garden for two meals.

*  Started picking Loganberries for the first time.  I'm not sure if we'll like eating them fresh so I've been freezing them to make jam.

*  Sold a few cards and gifts in my blog shop.

*  Gratefully received lots of bread bags.  These will be used to wrap food for the freezer and to use as bin liners.

*  Bought a few chocolate treats at half price for our Christmas stockings.

*  Bought kitchen scourers for $1.00 a packet in Bunnings.  They had a few shopping trolleys with bargains at the end of the aisles.

*  Darren redeemed our Velocity points for a $100 Myer gift card.

*  I won a set of reindeer biscuit / cookie cutters in a competition.  I'll post photos when they arrive in the mail.

*  Made two sets of angels and wreaths for a customer order.

*  Combined a few errands in one trip to save on petrol which is very expensive at the moment.

*  Saved the shower warm up water and poured some on our hydrangeas bushes.  The rest of the saved  water was poured into the washing machine.

*  Recycled a few gift bags,  tissue paper and shoe boxes found in one of my daughter's room.

*  Received a voucher for a free sub meal at Subway.

*  Went to DFO Moorabbin with a group of friends to visit the Kaisercraft store ( card making supplies ) .  I used a gift card Jessica gave me for my birthday to buy heavily discounted supplies.  I also purchased a gift for my 2019 present list that was well under budget.

*  Turned standby lights off where possible.  Applied the two light rule most of the time.  Saved the washing machine rinse water for each next load.

Angel decorations for a customer order

Feijoa flowers



Mango tree in flower with little mangoes growing

Please visit my blog shop for teacher presents,  Kris Kringle presents or handmade greeting cards and gift card holders.  All are uniquely made and sure to delight your friends and family.

Magnetic pegs

Gift card holder

Hand towel and face washer set

Christmas tree decorations.

What was on your frugal list for the week ?


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Planning For Christmas

At the Gower Abundant Cottage,  we love Christmas.  We love the tree,  the decorations,  the present wrapping and giving,  the food,  the carol singing but most of all,  taking time to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus.

None of these things happen by chance.  I'm not a last minute,  wrap the presents and plan the menu on Christmas Eve type of person.  Christmas Eve is when I sit back,  relax,  watch the Carols by Candlelight or maybe even walk to the Carols celebration nearby.  Infact,  most of December I sit back  relax and watch people go crazy trying to get everything organised.

As you know,  I'm a list writer and planner.  I shop all year round to make the most of the sales and to help keep my gift giving budget under control.

If you haven't started any Christmas planning,  now is the time to get moving.  Here's how to plan your Christmas celebrations

Presents -

*  Make a list of everyone you are buying for.
*  Set a dollar amount per person.
*  Review your list and cut back
*  Write down gift ideas for each person
*  Put the list in your purse / wallet
*  Start shopping now and look for ways to save a few dollars.
*  Make any presents you can
*  Make biscuit / cookie dough now and freeze into log sizes for future baking to give as presents.
*  Sew,  knit,  crochet or make presents when you get a few spare moments.
*  Check your wrapping paper,  gift tag and sticky tape supplies and buy what's needed
*  Wrap as you buy and put straight under the tree ( or hide them if needed )
*  Keep all receipts in a marked envelope in case of future returns.

Christmas Cards -

*  Write a list of people you'd like to give a card to.
*  Write a list of cards to be sent
*  Make or buy your cards
*  Buy the postage stamps to send the cards.
*  Write a few each night as you are watching tv.
*  Send any overseas cards by early December.

Christmas Menu -

*  Write a list of how many people might be coming.
*  Write out a menu for lunch and dinner that caters for the numbers coming.
*  Cut back a little on the food.  There's always too many leftovers
*  Ask family and friends to help out with the catering by bringing a plate.
*  Write a list for Christmas Eve treats and Boxing Day grazing
*  Start buying the meat ahead of time to freeze
*  Watch the supermarket catalogues for sale items especially snacks
*  Clean out your fridge

Christmas Decorating -

*  Dig out the Christmas tree and check for damage / wear.  Buy a new one NOW if needed.
*  Check your decorations.  Do you need to update or buy new ones ?
*  Decide on a color scheme.
*  Decide how you'll decorate your tables.  Have a look at what you already have on hand and use that first.
*  Wash the table cloths ready for use.  Do your table runners need a wash ?
*  Buy candles,  serviettes, cutlery,  paper plates and bon bons.
*  Check your extra tables / trestle tables for damage.  Do you need to buy a new one.  Give them a wipe over.
*  Declutter your home.

Color schemes for the tree

Table decorations using what I already had

Leftover decorations make great table displays

Decorating the house

Christmas Eve platter

Making my own gift tags.

Here are the links to other Christmas articles I've written

Are your Christmas plans under control ?

Saturday, 18 November 2017

This Week's Frugal Tasks Saturday 18th November 2017

My frugal list is very much on the slim side this week.  Both Darren and I have been busy with work and getting ready for our church's community day coming up.  We've packed 200 hampers and sorted out 500+ toys with a team of helpers.  Here's what else we managed to do -

*  Jessica made icy poles with some leftover juice.  She even diluted the juice due to it's strong flavour.

*  Fixed a necklace that was coming apart.

*  Used the trigger nozzle on the hose to water only the base of the veggie plants

*  Picked silverbeet for a meal.

*  Made a tuna pasta bake and froze the leftovers.  Megan also took some to work for lunch.

*  Picked lettuce for two meals when it was hot.  The lettuce grew to just the right size for picking this week.

*  Baked four loaves of wholemeal bread with extra goodness.

*  Collected small pieces of tissue paper that were between each recyclable bag we are using for hampers at church. 

* Darren filled up both our cars just as the price of petrol went up.  He got it for $1.22 per litre while other petrol stations went up to $1.49 per litre.

*  Donated more items to Savers op shop and received a discount stamp.  While I was there I had a quick look around and found a present for Darren.  It looks new too.  I can't say what it is because he reads my blog.

Letting the bread dough rise.

Cos lettuce in the garden.

Raspberries growing each day.

Silverbeet from our garden

Our Christmas tree this year.

Darren picked the " trendy " colors

Did you have a busy week ?  Did you get some frugal tasks completed ?

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Handmade Christmas

If your Christmas present budget is looking a little on the slim side,  no need to stress.  There are so many presents you can make for just a few dollars that look amazing and will be so well received.  I just love a handmade gift knowing the giver has spent time and effort to make something special.

Here are some ideas using what you might already have on hand.  Click on the purple writing to take you to the instructions / recipe on my blog.

Glass jars / bottles 

*  Fill with hot chocolate drink mix.
*  Make some jam
*  Make relish
*  Fill with homemade biscuits
*  Fill with chocolate truffles
*  Fill with handmade bath bombs
*  Make your own bath salts
*  Sewing kit with pin cushion on top
*  Biscuit mix
*  Iced coffee / chocolate syrup


*  Bbq apron for men
*  Kitchen apron for females ( or vice versa )
*  Child's handbag
*  Coin purse
*  Diary cover
*  A patchwork throw
*  A cushion
*  Coasters
*  Heat pack
*  Bow tie
*  Head band
*  Glasses case
*  Pot holder
*  Dress up skirt or veil
*  Nappy bag
*  Toy bag
*  Door stop
*  Door snake
*  Hankies

Timber off cuts

*  Make a timber planter
*  Make a spice rack
*  Chopping board
*  Tic Tac Toe game
*  Timber block calendar
*  Soap dish
*  Coasters
*  Bird feeder
*  Children's building blocks
*  House plaque

Plastic containers

*  First aid kit
Fruit crumble topping mix
*  White sauce bulk mix
*  Fill with biscuits 

Paper / Cardboard

Gift tags
Greeting cards
*  Bookmarks
*  Cover a diary or notebook
*  Lolly bags
*  Gift boxes


*  Air freshener
*  Handmade soaps.

Handmade gifts can look really elegant if some time and effort is put into the wrapping and presentation.  Dig into your ribbon bag and start using up those scraps.  Maybe you could make over a department store bag and decorate it with a strip of wrapping paper.  Add a handmade gift tag and write " made with love "  Include some instructions for the present if needed.

Cellophane bags can be used to wrap your present.  They can be bought from discount shops for about $2 for 50.  They come in a range of sizes.  These are wonderful for biscuits,  pita chips and greeting cards.  Add a ribbon bow 

Here is another article I wrote a few years ago about creating your own mini economy.  It's a great way to keep some of your money in your home.

Handmade soaps.
Peanut butter choc chip biscuits

Lemon butter

Air freshener

ANZAC biscuits

Bath bombs

Tote bag

Assorted jams and relish

What will you be making this Christmas ?