Recent Hints & Tips

Full access to the Vault of Hints is for members only, but here's a taste! Hints are contributed by both staff and members.

Scotchguard uniforms for extra protection
updated Yesterday
Here's a tip to help protect school uniforms and keep them looking clean and tidy. As uniforms are so expensive, the last thing you want is for them to look shabby after just a few weeks back at school. So to help keep them looking clean, I use Scotchgard spray on all of my kids' uniforms. This helps prevent stains from food, painting etc. I keep the bottle in the laundry and periodically reapply when the uniforms come out of the washing.
Brush up your shower cleaning skills the easy way
1 comment
updated Yesterday
I have found the perfect low cost solution to cleaning the shower! I have always struggled to clean my shower and usually have to stand in it to reach all the areas on the walls. However I recently bought new toilet brushes for both my two bathrooms. While the downstairs bathroom was being used by a guest, I had a brainwave and decided to try out one of the new toilet brushes to clean the shower. It worked a treat! The long handle on it meant I did not physically have to stand in the shower to clean it. I was able to reach over and clean the walls as well as the floor very easily. Needless to say, I am now two toilet brushes short so will have to go and buy some more, one for the toilet AND the shower upstairs!
Easy gluten-free pancakes make a brilliant breakfast!
1 comment
updated Yesterday
Our family is saving a bundle on expensive allergy-free breakfast food! We have a gluten free family, including children and it is always a challenge trying to reduce the cost while ensuring they have a healthy diet. I had started making gluten free pancakes on Sunday mornings as a fun family meal. Usually I had leftovers so I cooked them on Monday morning for the kids sometimes also. Then I noticed that when I called out 'pancakes are ready' in the morning the kids were getting out of bed faster and in a good mood, they were eating a good healthy breakfast with zero wastage, and it was MUCH cheaper than gluten free cereals!

So I started making a double batch and serving them EVERY morning. You may think it is time consuming, but it only takes a few minutes twice a week to mix the double batch and store it in the fridge and I find I save time not having to nag kids to get up. Mornings work a whole lot better. I serve them with home-made yoghurt, peaches, maple syrup and lemon juice.

Here is my recipe for healthy 'everyday' GF pancakes (double batch):

1 cup cornmeal flour (or fine polenta)
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup white or brown rice flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
2-3 cups milk or soy milk (you want a fairly runny mixture)
I also throw in 2 tablespoons of LSA and a teaspoon of psyllium for good health

Mix together. Rest for 10 minutes. Heat in an oiled pan to preferred size.

Hint - clean your pan with water and a brush (only) when it is hot to get a nice non-stick pan - you want to keep an oil-coating on it. Don't use detergent or dishwashers.

This recipe also works well if you add diced apple, diced peaches or mashed banana and a touch of cinnamon for variety. Give them a go!
Charge your kids board in relation to income
updated Yesterday
Deciding how much board to charge your children once they begin earning can be tricky but our family has come up with a way to make it fair. I have four children, three of whom have now finished school and live at home on and off. We decided to base it on a percentage of income earned, so that the child who worked casually was not penalised by having to pay a set amount as large as those who worked full-time. I charge each of them 10% of what they earn each week and they direct deposit it into a bank account I have set up. Little do they know that each account is just for them and I am saving what they pay each week! So when the time comes, each will have a nest egg of funds to pay for a wedding/house deposit or what they need most to set themselves up for life independently. It works so well and there are no disputes.
Delicious chicken bread perfect for cold weather
updated 24 Jun 2017
On Saturdays, when the kids play sport in freezing conditions, I bake chicken bread and it's the best thing ever! Here's how to do it.

I bake a loaf of bread in our bread maker and then prepare two organic chooks, some greens and some potatoes/pumpkin/carrots. I then roast the chickens as per normal, but place them in the oven on top of the whole loaf of home-made bread cut in half length-ways. The chickens cook normally and the bread is full of amazing chicken juices. While my husband carves the two chickens (enough for our family of seven, pizza topping for another night and two carcasses for chicken stock/soup) I serve up the root vegies and broccoli from the garden. I grill the bread under the griller for five minutes to make sure everything is cooked through.

At the last minute, before serving up, my husband cuts the grilled bread into portions for everyone. I cannot explain to you how delicious this delicacy is. Beautifully crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. All the kids and adults fight over it. It's filling, completely delicious, cheap and all cooked at home.
Increase flexibility to help with fall risks
updated 24 Jun 2017
A couple of quick tips for ageing parents:

1. A major cause of misery can be a fall causing pain, expense and immobility. Falls do not have to be a part of ageing. Joining a Tai Chi class increases balance, flexibility and leg strength and will help prevent falls in the future. Classes are pretty reasonably priced (compared to pilates!). I have seen people who have done Tai Chi well into their 80s who look 20 years younger!

2. Watch out for slippery concrete drives and pathways - keep them water blasted.

3. Make sure steps are not slippery when wet - a covering of stair mesh will help give better grip.

4. If parents call your number last thing at night, they will only need to press the re-dial button if an emergency strikes in the night, and won't be struggling to remember a number in a time of stress.
Delicious fruit cocktail tempts the fussiest of fruit eaters!
1 comment
updated 24 Jun 2017
I was sick and tired of spending a fortune on fruit for kids lunches only to have it coming home either untouched or half-eaten in their lunchboxes. Today in desperation I took a hunk of water melon, some oranges, plums and a nectarine, added a 1/4 cup of water and blended them all together with my blender stick.
I then poured the concoction into two Mexican blue wine glasses over ice, stuck a slice of lemon on the side and announced to the kids I had made them a 'Fruit Smoothie Cocktail' as a very special treat! They drank them with great relish and promptly asked for more, so after dinner we had great fun concocting another fruit cocktail to share! It just goes to show it's all in the marketing and presentation isn't it?!
Mimi's Chicken Roll
updated 23 Jun 2017
You will give the deli people a run for their money with this rolled chicken meatloaf. It's cheap, relatively easy, and everyone loves it. I even did it for Christmas lunch one year when we had a picnic in the park instead of the traditional lunch.

2 chicken breasts, minced or ready-made chicken mince (500gm total)
2 eggs
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (plus 1 cup extra)
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp chopped dried fruit (raisins, apricots, mango or pistachio nuts or macadamias if you prefer - or even both!)
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme)
Baking paper

Mix the mince, 1 egg, the milk, 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, and the fresh herbs.

Take a sheet of baking paper and spread the mixture over the paper in a large rectangle about 20cm x 30cm.

Mix the other cup of breadcrumbs, the dried fruit and/or nuts, and the second egg. Spread this down the long side of the mince rectangle, closest to you.

Using the baking paper to start the roll, enclose the stuffing and then roll into a long sausage shape, finishing with the 'seam' underneath (it's a bit like rolling sushi or a swiss roll sponge). Press the ends together.

Place, seam down on a baking sheet, and bake covered for 45 minutes, then remove cover and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Serve sliced with relish or sweet chilli sauce, salad and crunchy bread.
Get a Domino's discount with some cheeky online help!
updated 23 Jun 2017
We all know how clever and sneaky advertising can be. I've found a way to use it and make a yummy treat a lot more affordable! If you need to order a pizza online from Domino's and do not have a discount code, type 'Pizza Hut Delivery' into your search engine and within the first few advertisements, you will see an advertisement for Domino's including a discount code of between 30% to 40% off. This applies to both for pick up and delivery!
A cheap mouse repellent not to be sneezed at!
updated 22 Jun 2017
I have stumbled across an unusual mouse deterrent which seems to really work! Mouse season is here, and as I live on the edge of the country, I tend to be popular as hostess of a mouse hotel. However I have been using pepper to deter them and it really seems to be doing the trick! I put generous amounts of it in places where they come in, like the bottom of the airing cupboard and in other places where I found mouse calling cards. A container of pepper is much cheaper than bait and is not cruel to the mice.
Cook dried beans in crockpot
updated 22 Jun 2017
We all know that dried beans save money. A packet of dried beans costs roughly the same as a 400g can but produces the equivalent of around five 400g cans. However, beans take a long time to cook from scratch - all that soaking and boiling, while a can is ready and waiting whenever you fancy a bean salad or tacos for dinner.

I have recently discovered that the crockpot cooks beans easily without pre-soaking. Simply throw a packet of beans into the crockpot with about five cups of hot water, set to HIGH and cook for two to three hours (check after two hours). This works for any type of beans except kidney beans, which contain an enzyme that can only be destroyed by boiling. Boil kidney beans for around 15 minutes before placing them in the crockpot, then proceed as usual.

Once the beans are cooked, drain and cool and then pack into ziplock bags and freeze. Into each bag, pack the amount that you would normally use for a meal. I find that half a cup (packed into the smallest size zip bag) is just enough for a salad or soup for one. I make up a new batch every couple of weeks or so, varying the types of beans so that I can grab a few different bags from the freezer and create instant three-bean mix!
From garden to plate and back again!
updated 22 Jun 2017
How does my garden grow? By making the most of 'throwaway' scraps! I've just retired and am a keen gardener, and want to grow as much of my own food as possible. Being restricted on the amount of money I can spend on compost and fertiliser, I have trawled the gardening websites to find alternatives. At the same time, because I'm a single household, a compost bin isn't realistic, although I hope to be given a free worm farm by my council after completing a free worm farm/composting course.

The most interesting and useful information I've found has been a way to utilise my food scraps while enriching the soil in the vegetable garden, thus saving money on the amount of compost ($8 per bag) and manure ($10 per bag) needed. The idea is to save the scraps in the refrigerator over the week then shred them in the food processor. I will dig a 30cm deep hole in the garden and bury the scraps in a different location each week. The scraps will break down quite quickly, encourage lots of worms to move in and multiply, I will not be sending food scraps to landfill, and gradually my whole garden will become very healthy with beautiful friable soil - all for free. Meat, rice, bread and pasta shouldn't be included though because they encourage mould and vermin. I love the idea - from the garden to the plate, and back to the garden again. And my worms will still get plenty to eat!
Cooking on our BBQ saves us $1000 a year on gas!
1 comment
updated 21 Jun 2017
We are saving a fortune on our gas utility since we began using our BBQ to cook with instead of the oven. I was shocked to see our last gas bill had risen significantly - especially as there are only two adults in the household! I was determined to reduce it as much as possible. Our past gas bills were between $250 to $300 every three months, which worked out to an average daily cost of approximately $3.33. So I put my SS thinking cap on and decided to only cook on our gas BBQ from now on. At $20 for a 9kg cylinder this has been such a saving! It has made such a difference, we now only cook on the BBQ for all our meals, including cooking for our family and friends when they drop by. The BBQ is fully under cover so it doesn't matter if it's raining, we are still able to cook as usual. We get to cook our meals at a cheaper rate, whilst still maintaining our nutrients and the BBQ actually gets the job done faster too! Our 9kg gas cylinder lasts up to six weeks or longer. So at $40 for 12 weeks, we are saving up to $260 on our gas bill every three months or $1040 per year! Definitely well worth considering!
DIY cat crate makes trips to the vet painless
0 comment
updated 21 Jun 2017
This quick and easy cat transport carrier is the perfect alternative to buying an expensive shop-bought version! My cat being an ex-stray, does not travel well in the car. For a simple and secure transport carrier, I use two matching washing baskets (low, squat style) and tie them together top to top with a heavy duty twine several times around the two baskets. The basket can have an old towel or blanket in it for comfort, and is easily washed out again after use. The vets have commented what a great solution it is and works a treat!
Living on less
updated 19 Jun 2017
I find it hard to believe I am the same girl who five or six years ago spent all my income and more, was always in debt, struggling to pay my credit card each month and frittering away my future. Three years ago, my partner and I left our jobs and opened our own retail business. We pay ourselves less than we were paid in our old jobs (and we both had 'normal' incomes then, not high at all) yet we are saving more. I have often asked myself how this can be, and friends are amazed to hear that we live on only one of our incomes, completely saving the other for our house deposit. I can only put it down to living frugally by planning ahead and keeping our eyes open for bargains, stocking up and being happy with what we have and valuing the simple things in life (cliched as it sounds).

We make our lunches most days (having a small kitchen and fridge at work helps, however I had that in my old job too) and buy our lunch for a treat, not every day as we used to. We also have saved a lot of money by stocking up on items we use when they are on special and meat specials from the supermarket which fill our second hand chest freezer. We always plan our evening meal the day before, take the meat out of the freezer and make sure we have all the ingredients. I often will design the meal with ingredients we have at home to use them up. We like a glass of wine and buy our favourites when they are on special at the supermarket. If it's a really good special we buy a case and put it away. That is another thing that has amazed me about our more frugal lifestyle. We have money building up easily in our savings account, always pay our bills on time and have the pantry, store cupboard and freezer fully stocked. It is thanks to Simple Savings and other inspirational sources like magazine articles, frugal living books (from the library, and I purchase with gift vouchers if they're a 'keeper') and staying focused on what we want (get married, have a baby and be a stay at home mother, buy a house). That girl from just a few years ago is no more!
Get shirty and make a new free nightie!
updated 19 Jun 2017
I have come up with a creative way to save money on buying new sleepwear. When my husband's business shirts are looking a little less pristine, I recycle them as nighties for myself! They are really comfortable to sleep in and my husband loves that I am wearing his shirt to bed!
Dressing daggy stops takeaway trend
updated 18 Jun 2017
I stop myself from going out for takeaway by changing into my pyjamas or 'daggy' clothes as soon as I get home! I often don't want to cook and end up going out to buy food. Now, I spend the journey home from work thinking about what's in the fridge, freezer and pantry that I can cook quickly. Then I change into my sleepwear as soon as I get in to stop me going out again. It actually works!
Where did all this soap come from?
updated 17 Jun 2017
I have saved $100 over the last few weeks by extending the $21 Challenge to my bathroom and laundry. With a handy whiteboard, I listed absolutely everything in my cupboard. As I take something out I alter the figures on the whiteboard. If it is the last of my stock I put a tick in the 'reorder' column. Apart from the first week when I spent $6.00, I haven't spent any money on laundry or bathroom products in the last three weeks! The only problem I have now is figuring out what to do with the 42 bars of soap I found!
I'm no poverty-stricken pensioner - I'm a Money Magician!
updated 17 Jun 2017
Living on a pension can be miserable or fascinating, choose your preferred option! Since I prefer fascinating I play a game with myself. How many days can I go without spending anything? My records so far is five days but I'm working to improve that. This means really judicious planning when I make out my grocery list! It means thinking very, very hard before a purchase, do I really need it? Do I have anything at home that I could use instead? Is it something I could borrow? Could I trade for it? I retired two weeks ago, having decided at 69 that I didn't want to sell one more day of my life, so it's game on! I'm currently on day three of my challenge looking to beat five days and set a new record. I'm planning on being a Money Magician instead of a poverty-stricken pensioner! Don't wish me good luck though - it's not about luck, it's about planning, determination, and finding frugal fun!
Getting creative saves $100 on family passport pics
updated 16 Jun 2017
We learned how we could save an easy $100 on renewing our passport photos! Our family of five needed to change our passports and were told to get a new photo at the Post Shop would be $20 each. We were looking at an investment of $100 for the photos alone - as if the cost of five new passports wasn't enough!

So we put our thinking caps on and approached this job creatively. Here's what we did - you can do it too!

1) Choose a plain off white background (we even used off white painted shop wall!) either indoors opposite a large window, or outdoors in a shady area,or on an overcast day. It is important that there are no shadows around the person on the photo. Take a photo from the chest of the person up, leave lots of space around the head.

2) Download the photos on a computer. Go to and follow the instructions on the website. Basically, you select your country, upload your photo, adjust the photo by fitting the head into an outlined frame to get the proportions right and download a JPEG image of 8 passport photos!

3) Copy the JPEG onto a USB stick and print your photo for around 20c at your nearest photo printing outlet.

Remember to do a little research of the passport photo guidelines: facial expressions, hats, glasses and so on. It can take some time but if you need a number of passport photos for a family, this will save you money. Well worth the effort!
Giant bickies for kids!
updated 16 Jun 2017
My children love the 'Giant Choc Chip Bickies' available through their school canteen but at $2.00 per bickie I couldn't justify the cost so found an alternative to make my own for only 13 cents each! This recipe makes on average 24 giant bickies and they are so delicious. Each bickie is about 10-13cm in diameter, almost a meal on their own. To further increase my savings I only use Home Brand ingredients and have costed the bickies out at 13 cents each. Quite a saving from $2.00!

The best news is that these bickies now make me money. I was having morning tea with some friends who own a takeaway shop and as it was a baking day I took some of the bickies along. They were so impressed by the look and taste of them that they have me baking them to be sold through their shop on a regular basis. On this occasion my money saving idea has become a money making idea!

The recipe is as follows:-

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
250g margarine
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups SR flour
1 packet choc chips

Method: Cream together white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and margarine. Add eggs, self raising flour and choc chips and mix well. Leave for about 15 minutes before rolling into palm sized ball and then placing on Glad Bake (on a tray). Cook at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 to 25 minutes.

Hint: After 12 minutes I swap the bottom and top trays around in the oven to avoid the bottom tray of bickies burning.
Turn your foundation into face 'paint!'
updated 16 Jun 2017
I have discovered how to get at least a week's worth of make-up out of every supposedly empty bottle. I used to get frustrated trying to use cotton ear buds to try to get all the extra foundation out of my bottles. Determined not to be beaten and make it stretch even further, I brought a pack of cheap small paint brushes and tried using them instead. They work a treat and I'm now able to get every last drop out of the bottle!
Good threads come to those who wait!
1 comment
updated 16 Jun 2017
A little patience saved me almost $150 on a special outfit! I was looking for a wedding outfit online and found something which was perfect for me, but alas was over my budget at $348. Being a US site I thought I would take the risk of waiting until they had their next 'holiday sale'. Sure enough, before too long Memorial Day came up and the site had a sale. I got the outfit of my choice at the greatly reduced price of $200 with free postage! It is well worth thinking about and researching, the timing of both local and overseas sales when you purchase online.
Nothing to eat? Play 'Shop the House!'
0 comment
updated 16 Jun 2017
This family food challenge is a terrific fun way to save money on buying takeaway, whilst helping the family brush up on their cooking and planning skills! Next time the kids complain there's 'nothing to eat', get them to find a solution by playing 'Shop the House'. Each participant is given one ingredient to begin with, then it's up to them to put their thinking caps on to come up with the best meal proposal. Votes can be tallied to choose a winner, as well as marks given after the meal is cooked and eaten. Handicap points can awarded to younger family members to even the playing field. A lifelong skill can be fostered this way, and a sense of ownership encouraged. It's a great way to overcome the 'nothing to eat' teenage blues!

PS: Smart Mama's can help during early rounds of the game by 'seeding' the fridge with a few helpers, such as a bowl of cooked rice, leftover chopped vegies and so on, until the kids get a bit more proficient and imaginative!
Pure lanolin for hair and skin at the right price
updated 15 Jun 2017
I have discovered how to get the best possible skin and hair care at the best possible price! In my experience, the best skin and hair helper is pure lanolin. It is like our human skin and hair oils and so is completely non allergenic. It softens and holds moisture and penetrates. Unfortunately it is hard to find - but I have found an excellent source online.

I purchase my lanolin from

If you search locally first look for pure, not with additives. I buy the anhydrous version (without water) so it's quite firm, and I pat it in the container and then pat it on my face or wherever. It feels sticky for a bit, then melts and absorbs. It costs $7.80 USD plus shipping but it lasts for ages. I have had mine for about six years!

It is recommended for dry skin, dermatitis, eczema, and for breast feeding nipples, however I also suggest lips, face, hands and feet. Many decades ago as a science student, a pharmacist showed me how he mixed ointments using a lanolin base, some liquid like rose water and crushed tablets into it. Anyone who has seen a merino fleece after shearing will have seen the glowing oil droplets on the surface of the inner fleece - a beautiful oil. However I don't use any of that fancy stuff, you don't need rose water or anything additional, just that pure lanolin which is identical to our own oils. How much better can you get!

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