Ms Betterhome

Spring gardening: it begins
August 24, 2012, 2:46 am
Filed under: budgeting, city life, gardening | Tags: , ,

We had a little frenzy on the weekend, getting the first seeds in for spring/summer.

MrB planted his clumping bamboo seeds (we want it to screen our bedroom window from the street), and I planted 2 kinds of lettuce (Freckles and regular cos), some spinach (for the shady beds), and a punnet each of Tiny Tim and Tommy Toe cherry tomatoes. With our last two overcast/wet Sydney summers, we’ve had trouble getting larger tomatoes to ripen, but we’ve had good luck with cherries, so we’ll go with them again.

We’ve had bad luck with pumpkins, too, but being optimists we’ve started two varieties of non-running pumpkins in pots. We have lots of bees, so their problem isn’t pollination… they just rot on the vine. Maybe our luck will change this year.

I bought new rocket seeds, and some golden purslane for salads; and we’ve just ordered a replacement Fuerte avocado tree. The Hass tree has done well in the ground, but the Fuerte was never happy here… and finally died.

Our other trees are going crazy after nearly two years in the ground. The poor things were hammered by windstorms not long before we moved out of Newtown, and were a bit neglected last summer while I was recovering from my surgery. We gave them a big weed and feed a couple of weeks ago, and have started regular applications of EcoOil to start knocking down the leaf miners on the citrus trees. The multi graft stone fruit tree is starting to set fruit (though it needs some maintenance), and we’ve set out the fruit fly trap.

The multi graft citrus gave us 3 beautiful tangelos over winter, and now one of the other grafts is in flower (limes, I think). And the orange graft that was (accidentally) clobbered by the dog is recovering! The whole tree is looking much, much happier.

We’re still getting HUGE harvests of snow peas, broccoli, herbs, chinese greens and chills, though the lettuces are succumbing to the combined force of slugs and high winds.

And we’ve started our DIY Xmas gifts of mini herb gardens (in sterilised recycled pots). We bought premium potting mix, but very cheap punnets of sage, coriander, parsley, thyme and basil. We’ve added a cutting of our rosemary to each pot, and they’re lined up in the sun. We sound get 5 impressive home-made presents for an outlay of about 35 dollars (it would have been cheaper to start from seed, but we weren’t that organised).




Sydney Costco adventure
June 16, 2012, 5:31 am
Filed under: budgeting, food | Tags: ,

After much planning and plotting, my friend Fluffy & I went shopping at Costco this morning. We split the cost of the membership, and considered the trip to be part shop, part adventure.

We weren’t convinced that a DINK & a single girl would find huge savings in the land of Big Family Bargains, but we were pleasantly surprised. We were both determined NOT to buy anything that we didn’t need, wasn’t cheaper than elsewhere, and/or wouldn’t store well over a period of months.

My good buys included

– a 3 pack of Rinse Aid for the price of 2;

– 300 gm packs of Australian goat cheese for the price I’d usually pay for 200gms. These were good til October, so I bought 4.

– a catering pack of baking paper;

– a 4 pack of Calvin Klein Boxer trunks (for Mr B) for the price I used to pay for 1 pair;

Р organic salsa and small tins of Ayam Malaysian satay & curry sauces ( a good quick dinner option);

– a bulk pack of freezer bags;

– a 1.7 litre bottle of Smirnoff vodka for just $10 more than the cheapest 750ml vodka I could find locally ( this is the base for next year’s batch of Christmas Pudding Vodka).

Fluffy’s big bargain included big boxes of clumping kitty litter $5 cheaper than she usually buys, a BIG block of haloumi, a big tub of yogurt and a big bag of muesli, and some lovely ¬†new pillows. We split a big bag of walnuts between us ( I bought a big bag of pecans, too).

The verdict: we will definitely get our money back on the membership. We’ll go back, though probably not SOON. Mr B & I have discussed hosting his family Christmas this year. If we do, we’ll certainly head to Costco to stock up on party food.

Chickpea flour egg replacer
October 14, 2011, 4:07 am
Filed under: budgeting, food, vegan eating | Tags: , ,

A couple of months ago I bought 5 kg of chickpea flour from the magnificent Fiji Market in Newtown, source of all my great bulk legume purchases. I love chickpea flour, but I tend to use it in just a couple of recipes (specifically pizza bases, & homemade seitan chorizo), and I began to suspect I had overdone it with the bulk-buying thing. However, a bit of websearching revealed this fabulous tip – chickpea flour can be used as an egg replacer.

Since I was out of soy flour, and hadn’t yet opened the box of commercial egg replacer I had on standby, I decided to try chickpea flour in an experimental batch of pancakes. The results were great, so the next experiment was a batch of savoury muffins – superb. It adds a little extra protein golden colour, & an earthy undertone to dishes that I really like. And it makes gluten free, soy free, egg free baking much easier (if you’re into that sort of thing). And it’s cheap! So yes, three cheers for chickpea flour, a revitalised pantry staple.

Best ever bargain body cream
June 26, 2011, 1:45 am
Filed under: budgeting, enviro | Tags: ,

I have dry skin at the best of times, and in winter it can get super dry. I’ve had good results using macadamia oil as a body oil in winter, but it’s hard to get showered & dressed in a hurry in the mornings if I have to wait for the oil to sink in.

I know lots of people who swear by sorbolene, but I don’t want to use a petroleum-based product if I can help it. Luckily, Newton’s Pharmacy (a naturopathic pharmacy in the Sydney CBD) makes a veggie sorbolene that it sells in 500ml tubs.I stirred through a 30ml bottle of rose hip oil, and some rosewater to make the texture lighter (and add a little scent). The result was a big tub of very nourishing, rapidly absorbed plant-based cream I can use on my face & body, at a total cost of $30 for half a kilo. Not super cheap, but a bargain compared to ‘body butter’ sold in 200ml tubs at $10 a pop.
of $30

Moving & shaking
June 22, 2011, 10:33 pm
Filed under: budgeting, home & hearth | Tags: ,

The front two rooms are finished, thanks to the hard & meticulous work of the lovely MrB (he checks this blog sometimes).

I assisted with moving the bed & bedside tables in last night. I have 2 surprise days at home (I applied for leave in order to do some sideline work, but the job was postponed) so today will be spent getting the bedroom sorted, and tomorrow will be devoted to organising my study. Both the bedroom and study are beautiful, & I am SO looking forward to knowing where all my clothes & books are again.

Once the front rooms are organized, the next major house tasks (in no particular order) will be:

Wipe down futon/sofa bed frame with eucalyptus oil, & buy a new, mould-free futon so we will have a guest bed that doesn’t trigger anyone’s allergies.

Get an armchair sofa bed from ikea, so we have a single kid sleepover bed (and a comfy chair for my study).

Find a second hand dining table & chair setting that we both like. I ‘d like it to seat 8-10, so we can easily feed visitors ( probably using leaves to extend).

Setup the little room off the kitchen so MrB can put a desk in, perhaps with shelving for bulk storage (we’re currently using the laundry, but it is the worst inulated room in the house.

Install doggie door.

Get leak in roof fixed.

Most of these jobs involve spending $$ to a greater or lesser degree, but we are doing ok with our budget – we have been consistently ahead $500 a month, and we have just put an extra 10k on the mortgage principle. The sleepover chair & futon need to be new due to our guests assorted dust & mould allergies, but we’re more than happy to buy second-hand dining table & chairs.

More bulk shopping – and the world’s fastest ‘cheese’ sauce
June 22, 2011, 5:37 am
Filed under: budgeting, food, gardening | Tags: , ,

I recently discovered the Only Australian online grocery store, that stocks (as you might guess) only Australian owned products. Their range includes some of the main things we go to Coles or Woolworths to buy: recycled toilet paper (discontinued by Aldi), Sanitarium veggie products & greywater safe washing powder. They also stock my new favorite organic shampoo & conditioner (Sukin) in one litre pump bottles. Since then we’ve made two bulk purchases ( including 10 kilos of washing powder) & I’ve been very happy with their service. There are downsides: they are slightly more expensive than the local supermarket, and the order is sent by road from Brisbane. However, I have bought a 12 month ‘gold’ membership that entitles us to a 5% discount, so I believe I’ll keep using them for big purchases til the end of the membership, then reassess. It means we can pretty much rely on a big Aldi shop every 3 weeks, and our regular fruit & veggie purchases.

And as for the ‘cheese’ sauce. I am on leave this week, and had a craving for broccoli pasta for lunch ( I throw the broccoli in with the pasta for the last minute of cooking time). I wanted a vegan cheesy sauce to go with it, but didn’t want to go to the trouble of cooking a batch up. Leafing through Joanne Stepaniak’s Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook for the first time in aaaages, I discovered her ‘Minute Man sauce’. My version involved the juice of half a lemon, a teaspoon of tamari, two tablespoons of nutritional yeast, a tablespoon on tahini and just under 1/4 cup of water. Stepaniak’s recommends simply stirring this all up in a small bowl, but I used the stick blender to zip mine up with some basil, parsley, garlic leaves & shallots from the garden. I used just over half on my bowl of pasta & veggies, and mixed the rest with my leftover pasta for tomorrow’s lunch. Delicious, and very easy to adapt with different seasonings, herbs etc. An excellent find!


Mimi’s Limoncello Recipe
June 13, 2011, 5:22 am
Filed under: budgeting, gardening, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

I can’t take credit for this, it comes courtesy of the fabulous Miser Extraordinaire Mimi, from Simple Savings. I’ve copied her instructions below, though I am only using 700mls of vodka and 9 lemons to start off. This was a great way to use up the zest from the batch on lemon cordial I made thanks to our harvest from MrB’s auntie’s prolific lemon tree. I’ll collect an assortment of 250ml bottles between now and Xmas, and give the limoncello as gifts. We’ll drink the cordial.

Recipe for the Limoncello Sensazionale


1 litre vodka…cheap is fine
12 organic or home grown lemons (spray free)

For the sugar syrup used later:

4 cups sugar
6 cups water


Large open mouthed jar with airtight lid. A spaghetti storage jar with a swing top lid is ideal.

Sharp vegetable peeler

Saucepan for making sugar syrup


Peel the yellow peel from the lemons, being careful not to get any of the white pith as it will make the limoncello bitter. Pile these into the jar, and add the vodka. Leave in a cool, dark place for 14 days, giving the mix a swirl every couple of days. The liquid will gradually turn yellow and the peel will fade.

After 14 days, strain the mixture through a clean, damp Chux or some muslin, into a large bowl or jug.

Make the sugar syrup by bringing the 6 cups of water to a simmer and adding the 4 cups of sugar. Stir until dissolved and allow to cool.

Add the cooled sugar syrup to the lemon vodka, and mix well.
Rebottle as desired. You can put in a little extra vodka at this point if you like. This will increase your yield, but I would only do it to top up bottles, not to dilute it or you will lose the flavour.

This recipe works equally well with limes, blood orange or valencias.

Make sure you put a tag on it to say how it’s consumed.

“Limoncello should be stored in the freezer, and enjoyed well chilled. It will not freeze. Enjoy as a liqueur or mixed with soda or lemonade”