Thursday, February 27, 2014

Finding a Heathier Me.....It's Not Easy

I'm fighting a losing battle with my weight at the moment. In a 12 month window I have yoyo'd dramatically up and down the sizing scale, and not really because of anything I am doing wrong. My weight plummeted because of health issues, and the various things I have been through to reestablish my health (steroids, enforced weight gain for surgery...)

Just over 12 months ago, weighing less than I had since early high school
 We don't make specially healthy eating choices, but we also don't make unhealthy eating choices. There is little to no takeaway in our lives, no deep fried goodness, but plenty of veggies. What we don't do lots of is substituting our choices for something healthier. Because our food choices don't scream "I'm blatantly bad!", we think we are eating well. Steak, mash, and veggies isn't that bad, right?

My butt has something to say about that.

I have spent stupid amounts of money on clothes these last 18 months. I dropped 10 dress sizes suddenly overnight when Sebastian was born, and have been gradually putting some of them back on.

1 year later  exactly (Christmas 2013). You can't see my arms, but my
 plumper face tells the story

Every two months I'm wearing a different dress size. And a different bra size. I keep waiting for it to bottom out and find a happy medium, but it isn't happening. Which led me to make some determined, lifestyle changes this month.

Suddenly it was all about healthy choices. Healthy substitutions. 6 seed bread instead of white bread. A handful of nuts instead of a Freddo at 2pm each day. Water instead of juice/soft drink/cordial, and lots of fresh fruits, lean meat, with sides of my favourite veggies (pea's and corn). Some popcorn if I really felt snackish or wanted a treat.

Yeah. Turns out I can't eat any of that stuff. Except the meat. And the water. I landed myself back in hospital for a stay while the doctors cleaned me out and warned me off pretty much everything I was eating. Long story short, the Crohn's disease has left me short on body parts to deal with certain foods, and I have way more surgery ahead of me. Meanwhile, feel free to chow down on KFC and pancakes!

My butt does not thank you, Dr Good Looking (seriously my doctors are handsome fellas). Neither do my arteries. My specialist are really only concerned with how my Crohn's Disease is affecting me, they don't worry about my weight the way I do. With so many foods banned to me, I am floundering to find the compromise between healthy for me and my stupid diet needs, and actually appetising. I do not plan to give up on keeping my weight under control, but I can't do it at the sacrifice of my overall health.

So now it is about searching for substitutions that ticks all my boxes. I can minimise the saturated fat in foods. I can increase my protein, and make sure we are eating plenty of good meats (yay, more turkey, we are getting quite fond of turkey mince bolognaise). No pea's or corn, but I can have broccoli and peeled potato's.

And chocolate. I get to eat plenty of chocolate. Nothing is too bad when chocolate is allowed. Just maybe not a daily 2pm Freddo.

This post was partnered with Flora who offer products clinically proven to reduce cholesterol. Another choice I need to consider if I don't want other health problems to replace my focus on my Crohn's Disease.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Financial Pain - Time to Deal

I am an extremely debt shy person. We've made some huge (huge!) mistakes with debt over the years, and it took us a long time to get clear of it all.

These days we are battling with a credit card debt that just won't reduce. I throw every cent of disposable income we have at it each fortnight, and we spend about 3 times that each fortnight back again.

It's killing me. I was so proud to reach a debit free position last year (not counting the investment mortgage), and this is making it clear to me that real financial freedom is still a ways off for us.

I understand that alot of what we are experiancing right now is short term pain. Once husbands $5,000 worth of dentistry is done, he will be in good shape for many years (knock wood), the same goes for Madeleine's $7,000 worth of braces.

The $1,100 in car repairs came as a bit of a shock, as did the $200 for a new mattress to deal with Madeleine's back pain. 

You see what I mean? All that, plus more, PLUS our regular big bills means I am just going around in circles. While I actually have a pain account to deal with big unexpected expenses, so much all at once is a little more than I can cope with.

I can, (and have) organised a payment plan with the orthodontist, but this is going to significantly reduce our disposable income, and our ability to resolve that credit card debt.

We have 2 choices.

1. Wipe our pain account in full to clear the credit card debt leaving us with no balance in the pain account, no balance on the credit card, but unfortunately still a fair amount owing to dentists and orthodontists.

This is pretty scary since I am always afraid of tomorrows unexpected expense. What if I have no money left in the pain account and something bad happens?

Maybe I can meet part way.  So 2. Reduce the owing money in part by the pain account, leaving a balance for emergency, but look at refinancing the credit card into a short term personal loan. Even though a personal loan feels so much more pemanent than a credit card, it will come with a lower interest rate which over all is going to mean we get to the bottom of it that much faster.

Rationally this feels like the right decision for me, but emotionally it's a tough one. I don't want to borrow money, but wallowing in credit card debt is the stupid choice.

There are times when borrowing is the right choice. When the alternative is neglecting your health, major bills, and basic neccessities is one of them. When paying a silly high interest rate on a credit card is another. Have you ever found yourself in my position?

This post was partnered with RedStar Finance who specialise in personal funding of all kinds including personal car loans & low interest car loans. This brand happens to have crossed my path right at a time when I need to consider taking out a loan. While cash will always be king, the fact is, sometimes we need that extra financial help in life to make the important things happen.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cash for Crap

Cash for scrap, cash for crap, same thing.

What do you do when a camera bites the dust? Your laptop or PC is dead and the techinician tells you there's no point repairing it.

Maybe it's your iPhone or iPod that has been cracked and smashed so many times that everything is barely hanging on by a thread and it really is just cheaper to get a new model than keep patching it back up.

Most people I know collect these things randomly around the house until finally they become obsolete and get thrown out. Or they throw them out straight away. After all, it's no use to anyone anymore.


Your rubbish technology is someone elses goldmine of parts! Husband is a technician and can repair just about any household appliance and many tech devices, but often the cost of parts make it pointless. Many technicians and handy people will buy up damaged electricals so that they can strip them for parts at a fraction of the cost.

Before you assume anything is only good for the rubbish bin, get online to eBay to see what you can get for your broken down tech.

Some tips for selling

  • Make sure you disclose exactly what is wrong. Case damage, failure to turn on, performance issues.
  • Remove any hard drives from laptops and PC's and disclose that it is not included
  • Plug items into your PC first in an effort to clear the memory from portable devices such as iPods and iPhones. Do NOT sell if you think there is any chance that it might retain any compromising information

Last year for Christmas, Husband used the parts from x2 TV's he found curbside to create a working 40 inch, LCD TV for Madeleine's bedroom. Total cost to us: $12 to buy a new remote online. Your crap is another mans treasure!

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Yard for The Whole Family

We built our first family home, which was both a wonderful and frustrating experience. Anyone who has built before will understand the agony, the surprise costs, things not turning out as expected, misunderstandings with the builder over what is included, and that frustration when everything is not perfect.

Building a house is a huge emotional investment. When handover day for our beautiful new home finally rocked around, we were devastated to see that the whole side and back of the house had not been turfed. After a lengthy and restrained conversation with our site manager about whether backyard turfing was included in our contract, they returned the next day to finish, only to run out of turf supplies before the side could be done.

More than happy to be an ongoing pain in the site managers butt, I insisted I wanted the side turfed. And finally it was done. It looked a little different to the front and back, better actually, but not knowing much about grass, we assumed it was just further developed somehow.

Weeks and months went by, and my neighbours and I met and bonded while watering our grass, each of us determined to end up with luscious, green, yards that would be the envy of all. In the end it was all right. I wouldn't call it luscious, but it was all right.

It was just OK. Nothing special.
Except for the side. The side was this gorgeous, dark green, thick and plush lawn, that was so delicious to sit on that my daughter and friends would always choose there to play outside. They loved that this patch never got bindi's and they could go barefoot.

Fast forward 10 years later, and most of our lawn was brittle due to an extreme lack of interest in looking after it. Once again I say, except for the side. Just like the rest we had pretty much ignored it, but it was still beautiful and thick.

10 years later and it was horrible
Turns out the majority of the lawn was something cheap and nasty, but this side bit was a buffalo variety, something a little bit better. Had I understood what a difference it would make over the years, I absolutely would have made the decision to pay more and get a long wearing, better quality variety for the whole yard. What is the point of grass that can't be walked on?

How beautiful is this side bit of grass? You wouldn't think it
was the same yard as the photo above, taken 6 months apart
Now that we are saving and planning to build another new house, this time decent turf is on my must have list. I am not going to waste a cent on grass that is high maintenance and will end up being bindi ridden and brown. I'm not even going to pick a variety myself. I am going to go straight to the experts with the details of our yard, the times of day it gets shade, and the long term usage expectations to get advice on a decent turf. I'm no longer motivated by a desire for a yard that others will envy, I want a yard that I can roll on with my babies, and that they will want to play on.

What's been your experience with grass in the past? Will your kids play outside if there are bindi's, or do they avoid it like mine?

This post was brought to you in partnership with Active Turf who provide family friendly turf in Sydney. In addition to turf supplies, they will also give complimentary over the phone advice. Check out their website for heaps on information on lawn care, all geared towards families. If you are interested in the beautiful lush green Buffalo variety I photographed above, check out the Kings Pride Buffalo Turf.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Slide By Visit to Hospital

I landed in hospital again this week. Out of nowhere, minding my own business, suddenly the tummy pains started again.
So once again I was being checked in via Emergency, to deal with this latest symptom of my Crohn's disease, which is apparently not in remission as hoped.

All was not lost though. For the first time I whipped out my private health insurance and checked in as a private patient. 

A cheerful nurse read me out my benefits like it was a 5 start hotel I was checking into.

"If there is an excess, because you were admitted by Emergency the hospital will cover the cost. A newspaper will be delivered to your room each day, just let us know which one. If there is a private room available in your ward, you will be assigned a private room. You will be given a $4 voucher for the cafe each day for yourself or a relative. If your room has a TV it will be activated at no charge."

Um seriously? Hang on, maybe a night in hospital isn't too bad after all. You're going to deliver me 3 meals a day, I don't have to fight for a remote (normally I'm too much of a tight arse to pay for hospital TV), I'll get a room all to myself......OK, sold. A night in hospital was definitely doable. I blissfully kissed husband goodbye, enjoying both the effects of the morphine I had been plugged with, and the thoughts of fruits to come.

As I was wheeled off to my room, my ward nurse administered the rest of the news.

"You're going to be NIL by mouth, so no meals for the next 24 hours while we prep you for surgery. (For every one's sake I'm leaving out the details of the prep). Unfortunately our private rooms are being used for quarantined patients at the moment so you're being put with a lovely group of women."

As she wheeled me into my room, she handed me my first newspaper and $4 voucher.

"Oh, all our TVs were removed last month due to the change from analog to digital, we're just waiting for a new contract to be signed".

Wait, what? No dinner, no TV, but I get some lovely company and a newspaper? I took in my room mates for the next 24 hours. I kid you not, the combined room age would have been over 300. Not including me.

All 3 had dementia, and lovely though they genuinely were, there were only so many times I could have the same conversation. 

Yes, I have 3 beautiful children. No, I don't have any grandchildren yet. Well yes, I'm sure I will one day, but no, my oldest isn't really thinking about it yet. Yes, poor me, no grandkids.

Hallelujah I'm home again. But I will be back. The procedure yesterday has unfortunately just underscored that there is more investigation needed, and possibly more repair work. Fingers crossed all round that this time we can beat this Crohn's Disease into remission.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Beating The Whiff Backstage with Rexona #dancemum

Backstage fun
 As you may have noticed last year by the onslaught of #dancemum social media posts around concert time, I am an enthusiastic backstage mum. You want me to sew sequins? No problems. Glue together kiddy prop costumes? EASY! Manic quick changes backstage from one costume to another in 45 seconds including a change of stockings and shoes? Please, what are you, an amateur? I can do all that with my eyes closed these days.

My tiny little tapper has turned into a graceful ballerina these days, but that's not the only thing that has changed. Our dressing room contains all the oldest girls, probably an age that doesn't really need parent helpers anymore, but we are all so used to being part of the action no-one wants to sit front of house.

Madeleine's first dance costume
 With a room full of a dozen teenage girls, can you imagine how whiffy we start to get a few performances into the show? We do our best to keep the room cool, with the air con on, and the mirror lights only used for applying makeup, but the room heats up and soon enough the girls are dripping with sweat as we pull costumes off them from one dance to another.

Frankly they stink.

Unfortunately the mums probably do too, It's a pretty high paced environment. Last year though, I came prepared. With deodorant. Not just any deodorant. One chosen specially to not leave marks on the girls costumes.

In between dances, the girls would stand panting, gulping down water, waiting for their next stage call, and I would move around the room, spraying each girls underarms as I went.

You better believe there is nothing classy or graceful about the backstage dressing room for a bunch of teenage girls who all do a dozen or more dances each in a 2 hour window.

But it is an insanely fun experience. Every year in the lead up to the concert we all start to get a little dance fatigue. There are so many rehearsals, so many late nights sewing, and we start to wonder if this is the final year. And then the concert rolls around, and we are all backstage together, and we remember why we do it. We love concert night. We love the performance, we love the spotlight on our girls, we love watching a years worth of their hard work culminate in a grand display.

And once again we are back again.

In thinking about this post, I did a shout out to our dancing girls to ask what they look for in a deodorant. Their top answers?

No White Marks
Smells Great
Battles BO
Nice Packaging

That's a pretty basic wish list. And it more or less matches what I would say myself, except I would also say that I am looking for a small bottle that I can fit in a handbag instead of in a large sports or school bag.

This post was brought to you in partnership with Rexona. If you are looking for a great deodorant that won't leave white marks, you can't go past the Rexona Crystal range. There's also some amazing research going on in relation to preventing excessive sweat over at the Rexona Clinical site with new, body responsive technology changing lives.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Big Splash - Party At Mine!

Peppa Pig is collaborating with Life's Little Treasures Foundation for their new campaign The Big Splash, a charity campaign to raise money for premature and sick babies. From March 1 to April 30 people are encouraged to sponsor children to 'Splash like Peppa' and participate in fundraising by holding splash parties at the beach, their homes or by attending a Big Splash event held by their local pool, creating as much splash as possible in five minutes. Parents can register their children at and get splashing just like Peppa any time in March and April!

“Each year, in Australia, around 45,000 premature and sick newborns require medical support in Neonatal Intensive Care or Special Care nurseries. Having a child that is premature or sick places a great emotional and financial burden on that family. With the funds raised, more families will receive the much needed support they require to ensure the best outcome for their baby.” Shusannah Morris CEO Life's Little Treasures Foundation.
My little premmie, in such a hurry he came 7 weeks early

Say what? I can get my kids splashing for a cause? And a cause that is so near and dear to my heart? What a GREAT idea! I don't know about your household, but we have 2 little splashers who love nothing more than jumping in muddy puddles, not to mention a tween and her friends who are making the most out of our  pool this summer.

Here's how you can get involved:

  • Talk to your preschool or playgroup about a BIG SPLASH event
  • Click here to see if there are any events you might be able to get involved with.
  • Consider hosting one yourself! You don't need a big pool, just a few wading pools along with some buckets of water will do the trick.
  • Talk to your local pool about hosting a BIG splash event.
  • Join the public BIG SPLASH event at Luna Park, Milsons Point.

I cannot wait to get some of my friends and family together for some water play at our house. Let me know if you will be doing this too!

In 2014, one of my blogging resolutions is to make sure I use my blog to provide awareness and support to some great charities. Anytime I blog about a charity, please know that I am not accepting any payment, offered or not.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Raising a Financially Savvy Teen

I'm a huge fan of teaching kids how to manage their finances long before they get their first job. They need to understand how to make money stretch, and how to keep track of the invisible money in a bank account.

Early financial education is the only way we are going to raise a generation of financially savvy kids.

Maddy has always had pocket money, and she has always had certain expenses to go with it. As far back as

Kinder she knew that if she wanted canteen money, or money for school fundraisers, she needed to use her 50 cents. When she started high school last year, we increased her pocket money significantly to $25 per fortnight, but also increased the expected expenses.

Madeleine is now responsible for buying all her own clothes, as well as any birthday gifts for her friends. We will still buy her school and dance wear, as well as underwear, but anything other than the basics are up to her to buy.

This has been a great learning curve, and it is more than obvious that it is not over. She has very quickly adopted Kmart as her store of choice for clothes and shoes, being disgusted by the idea of spending an entire fortnights pay on just 1 top at the boutique stores. Following her first birthday party invitation of the year, she also downgraded her idea of an acceptable present from a CD + poster book costing over $50, to a set of nail polishes and a poster, generally coming in at $20. She is slowly but surely appreciating the intrinsic value of her belongings more, realising just how much everything costs.

As part of the upgrade to a higher amount of pocket money, we also opened her her first ATM card account. Despite her protests, we pay her pocket money straight to the account, and she is expected to withdraw cash from an ATM, or use the card at EFTpos terminals. Balancing invisible money is a skill many adults don't have, and those that do take it for granted.

In the very early days, before she really embraced the ATM machine as her friend, the pocket was adding up. And adding up. Eventually she had $150 in her account, and had been complaining that she needed new shoes. I took her shopping, and repeated the lessons on using the various machines, and this time the lesson stuck. She was hooked. I kept an eye on the account online, but didn't say anything. I just watched as the balance went down. And down. And down. The week I finally saw a declined ATM withdrawal on the account, I innocently asked her if she wanted to go shopping for a new winter jacket. After all, she had by far outgrown the old one, and of course she should have plenty of money in the bank.

She had to admit with very guilty eyes that she couldn't take any more money out of her account. That she had been spending all of it on junk at the canteen. I knew she was waiting for a punishment, for me to get angry. But I didn't. 

We sat down and went over her bank statement together. How much had she spent exactly buying treats at the canteen for herself and her friends. She was horrified to realise the amount added up to over $150. Somehow it had all spent so quickly and easily, using the ATM card made it seem like it was free, never ending money.

She had spent the amount of a gold pass to Wet n Wild. A significant amount of the cost of a second hand iPhone. More than the amount needed for Converse sneaker, a simple Pandora bracelet, 10 trips to the movies, all things she had hoped to save up and use her money for.

Why on earth would I need to set a punishment or be angry about this life lesson? The empty bank account was consequence enough. She has never again been able to accumulate such a significant amount without the help of birthday or Christmas presents. She has also never since blown so much money on junk food. She had to go without a new winter jacket until August, and I let it happen. She wore her old, far too small jackets and cardigans (thanks to a massive 12 year old growth spurt), and raged about it. Angry at herself (although I got the benefit) for not being able to have something nice and new as a result of her mistakes.

There is no point giving a teen access to money if there isn't responsibility attached to it. These are not lessons you want them to learn when they get their first full time job and take out a car loan. Far better that they learn the lessons when the worst consequence is not having access to desirable new toys, instead of basic necessities.

This post was brought to you by Stocks In Value. Just as our teens develop their financial savvyness, so too do adults continue to mature and develop our financial capabilities in line with our life stages. If you have ever considered investing in stocks, but don't understand how to establish the intrinsic value, Stocks In Value can help.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Doing Valentines Day Without Spending A Fortune

If my husband had 20 long stemmed roses delivered to my work I'd kill him.


And as for jewellery, well, UNLESS he bought it in the Boxing Day sales, AND it was a piece I had been looking at for a while, AND he had performed some miracle to find the money without taking it out of our usual budget, well, the same goes for jewellery.

I just don't want to see good money spent on an occasion that celebrates love. That money could be spent instead on some of our longer term family goals like buying a new house, contributing towards our super, going on a family holiday. All better things than flowers that will die. And cost a gazillion times more because it's Valentines day. Love shouldn't cost a fortune.

Here are some budget friendly idea's for showing the people in your life that they are loved and special, idea's that WON'T hurt the wallet.

Give their lunch a little Valentines twist! Cut a heart out of the top slice of bread before it is placed on the sandwich letting the bright jam or sprinkles show through. Or maybe cut their entire sandwich into a heart shape. Nothing says I love you like an organ waiting for you in your lunch box.

Cost FREE assuming you were making a sandwich for lunch anyway!

Use your favourite movie or TV show love quote in a text or email. Find one that will hit the mark with your favourite person, the smile comes from the shared joke.

Some of my favourites?

Cost FREE (or possibly up to $0.50 depending on the cost of your texts

Get all up and steamy in the bathroom on Friday morning and leave a love note. It's got to be worth a smile to be reminded over teeth brushing that someone adores you.



For something yummy for Valentines desert, try a pot of my delicious Toblerone Dip, some fresh whipped cream, a tub of strawberries and a tub a of sprinkles! A fraction of the cost of a trip to Max Brenners (mmmmm, Max Brenners) and something all the kids can enjoy with you. (Or not, send them to bed first and keep all the sprinkles to yourself!)

Cost $15 approximately to buy all the ingredients if you don't have any of them on hand.

And last of all, kick back once the kids are in bed with a romantic comedy - just make sure you choose one that won't bore the pants off him or her! My picks for the night:

COST $5 approximately to rent a movie, often less.

For more Valentines idea's, head over to my Pinterest board and while you are at it don't forget to follow Mummy Hearts Money!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Contact Me Via The Mob

At work the other day my team recieved an email from the boss. An email that was probably sent in a hurry.

"Working in the city today. Lots of meetings. Contact me by mob".

Within a few minutes the emails were flying thick and fast. The intended audience of a team of dry humoured IT professionals picking up the suggestion and flying with it.

"I didn't realise things were that bad. Do you want us to let your wife know?"

"Did you mean flash mob? I can have one there by lunch"

"Italian or Mexican? I don't think our work insurance covers ransoms".

The emails carried on and on, and I can imagine that as he surreptitiously monitored his emails throughout the meeting that he was in a hard position not to react. Probably torn between laughter and firing the whole team for being pains in the butt.

The reply came late.

"Working in the city tomorrow too. Turns out it's a two day training session. DON'T contact me by mob, smoke signals should be fine."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Getting Nowhere

There are days when I look at my budget and feel frustrated that we have not made any progression on saving for our next home.

We've actually gone a bit backwards. The balance of our savings account is about the same as it was this time last year, but we are now carrying a credit card balance of $4,000. This credit card balance makes me want to cry, and it's what it defeating me at the moment.

I hate debt. I hate, hate, HATE, debt. My life's ambition is to have nothing but healthy debt at any time. (Debt that was for the purpose of a growth or income producing asset).

Husband and I are on 2 reasonable incomes. We are by no means at the top of the middle incoming earning pool, but we are so much more fortunate than many other families. We rarely buy ourselves clothes, our bills are far lower than many other families I know, and there are few luxuries in our life. So why are we barely breaking even each pay and not really touching that credit card balance? I pay some, we use some.
I know if I want to turn this around, I need to focus on what we are spending money on, and not what we aren't. I've made myself a list of what is going well, what are my short term problems, and where are my opportunities.

The coming months are going to be all about focusing on our opportunities to free up more money to throw at that credit card debt. I need to keep going with the things that work well for us, and hang in there through those short term expenses.

I think I need to consider catching the train to work (yuck!) since Husband I can't coordinate our start and finish times to travel together. My train fares would only be $90 per fortnight, not to mention the petrol savings. Working from home again is not an option right now, but I will snatch that opportunity up again the minute I can.

While a $1,000 per quarter for electricity isn't too bad, I'm sure we can do better. We have gotten pretty lazy about running chargers, computers, & TVs when they are not in use, and these days there is alot of activity in different rooms whereas we used to spend more time in one room - less rooms, less lights, more sharing of heat/cooling and devices.

It's also time to bite the bullet and get Lolly full time out of nappies. We give in to her stress sometimes and let her put a pull up on, she gets upset if she has an accident. I'm hoping now that she is at a new daycare next week 3 days in a room (instead of 3 days spread out) that she will improve her toilet skills. I'm the first to admit that day care does it better than anywhere else.

We can do this. Dentist costs will pass and the credit card will be paid. I just need to get my head back in the game.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Getting Out with Shopadocket

I'm a huge fan of collecting vouchers and discount coupons. I scour newspapers, search online, and clip dockets constantly, and keep them all in a tin ready for the next time we want to eat out or take the kids somewhere fun. I refuse to pay retail, I can't remember the last time I paid full price for anything. If there isn't a discount to be had somewhere, its probably not worth going there. 

Want to take the kids to pat a Kangaroo? Oh look! Shop a Docket has free kids entry to Featherdale Wildlife Park!

Maybe we want to stare at a shark, stroke a starfish, and find Nemo! Not a problem, 20% off at Sealife Aquarium.

Or maybe we want to eat out with the kids as a treat, the "kids eat free" restaurants can be PACKED on the eligible nights, but with a shopadocket discount to one of the many available cafes, takeaway joints, and restaurant, we can end up with a similar bill but try something new.

It's not unheard of for us to decide that Domino's is the way to go for dinner as a treat, and to use a Shop a Docket Domino's coupon to grab a cheap pizza to eat out at a park with the kids. They love it, and we enjoy leaving the "dishes" behind in the park bin.

We've used dockets for getting our car serviced, free trials at gyms, and I'm not going to tell you how many free cheeseburger meals from McDonalds we've consumed. Let me just say it explains why I'm in the market for a fashion partner for DPCON14.

We've all flipped over our supermarket receipts to check out the offers, but did you know there's an even better way to source your discounts? These days no matter where we are or where our dockets are good for, we whip out the iPhone and bring up the Shop a Docket website. 5 minutes later and we've figured out the cheapest place to get lunch and we manage to save ourselves a few dollars. We especially love this feature when we are away on holidays where EVERYTHING costs more. If you happen to find a deal that you know you will want to take advantage of later, whether you are on the PC or the mobile device, you can add the docket to "My docketbook" and find it easily later without searching! Too easy!

With a family 5 to feed and pay for entries these days I'll take every discount I can. Sourcing the best deal possible can make all the difference in whether the day out is affordable or not.

Do you take advantage of Shop a Docket discounts? What's the best deal you've ever found?

This post brought to you in partnership with the ever awesome Shop A Docket, source of the free cheeseburger meal.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hard Choices, Hard Conversations

We are not a family who like change. Or rather, I am not a person who likes change. I cling tightly to what I know, and value stability in our personal lives above all else.

For this reason my oldest daughter has danced at the same studio for 8+years. We hung in there at her primary school long after it stopped being affordable, and I've worked for the same company for almost 10 years now. Lived in our old home for 10 years, and driven the same car for 5 years. I don't change quickly, lightly, or easily.

This last week has involved some really tough decisions and conversations for me. We've made the choice to abandon the child centre we chose so carefully, the centre who has been involved in our lives for 11 years. Despite being a 20-25 minute drive from both our old home and new, away from the direction of work, we chose to take our babies there as we adored the staff, the same people who had looked after my big girl and my sisters kids. If the same people have worked there for 10+ years somethings right.

But unfortunately the longest lived staff have suddenly started dropping like flies, and it became more and more obvious that they were there for one another, and for the kids, but there was a definite workplace culture problem. With one after the other leaving, I found myself leaving my babies one morning with a junior staff member I had only recently met, along with someone else I had never seen before.

This makes me uncomfortable. My kids don't like strangers, and it takes them a while to warm up. Over the past few weeks we have seen new face after new face and I'm not even sure if these people are one-off casuals or new employee's. Regardless, suddenly the desire to add almost an hour to my journey each day is gone. If my kids do not have the comfort of familiar faces they love then there is no longer any point. Hard as it is, we made the change to move.

Tomorrow is their last day at their old centre, and I am so sad. Sad for the handful of staff we leave behind, who I feel guilty for leaving. I feel as though I am saying they are not enough to keep us, but the reality is I can see they too are unhappy, and I feel certain that the resignations are not over.

Adding to all this angst (I kid you not, I do not make these decisions lightly, this is not a simple change in service providers for me, it is as bad as breaking up with a great boyfriend who just isn't the one), Husband and I made the decision together that I should resign from my Saturday job.

Much as I love it and the benefits that come with it (free classes for my kids at the Gymbaroo I work at) we just need the time back more than anything. My blogging is taking off and I actually made more last month from blogging than I would from my Saturday job. I  think I need to be available for weekend activities with the kids more, so that I can "work" (blog) at night when the kids are asleep. Its a much more family friendly way to earn some spare cash so I handed in an open resignation. I will work for as long as it takes for them find and train a replacement for me, because I don't want to leave them in the lurch.

Do you struggle to have this sort of conversation or is it just me?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thats Alot of Cow - 45 Kilo's To Be Exact

Now that the blogging month from hell is out of the way (I made way too many plans and commitments in terms of blogging considering how busy the month was and how few of you actually read in January), I can get on with pacing myself. I have so much to write about, but I'll try not to flood you all with more than 3 posts a week. 4 tops.

Last month we took possession of a beef hind quarter again. We've done this before, and we went back to the same butcher again. He has upped his rate a little, he must have realised he wasn't charging me enough, but at $7.99 a kilo, I'm still not arguing.

My butcher orders me a 40-45 kilo hind quarter and prepares it all for me to my specifications. I'm not a fan of wasting good quality steaks on my kids who can't tell the difference between rump and T-bone, so he bundles all the steaks into lots of 2 for me. That way I can defrost 2 T-bones, and 2 rumps, and that is more than enough meat (with some leftover for a steak sandwich sometimes) for dinner for the 5 of us. We paid just under $360 for our hind quarter this time, but this meat will last us months, and will cost so much less to eat better meat than usual.

To give you an idea on how much meat a hind quarter yields, I took the time to document it this time.

3 good sized roasts, more than generous to feed my family + guests
4 kilo's of Mince
4 kilo's of Sausages
3 kilo's of diced Beef
10 Topside steaks
17 Round steaks
2 Skillet Steaks
12 T-Bones
6 Rump
2 gigantic bags of dog bones (gift to the inlaws)

These numbers are actually probably conservative as there's a good chance that there are 3 steaks in some of the bundles and not 2. But seeing as how the steak bill for Christmas (because I didn't get time to get out to MY butcher in December) came to $130 to feed 12 people, bulk buying your beef makes a lot more sense.

We transfer $40 per fortnight to a bulk food account, which gives me a fund to draw on for bulk meat, party foods, specials that go on sale outside of our normal budget (like coffee, when Moccona is 50% off, I will buy 4 of the large size). Having so much read meat on hand keeps my normal shopping bill down, and I can channel my normal grocery money towards chicken, turkey and lamb meat instead. That much red meat will probably last us 7-8 months, and in the meantime we can afford more lamb because our grocery bill is so much cheaper!

If you are thinking about buying meat in bulk, talk to a few of your local butchers to get the best price and make sure you have an empty chest freezer ready to go. That much meat fills up my big freezer to overflowing, and we have to eat only red meat for the first 2 weeks to get it down enough to buy other things.