happy easter break

Just a quick note to say I hope you have a lovely Easter break. I hope you enjoy any chocolate you might partake in and you spend some happy moments with your family.

I’m going to be taking a few days off blogging to relax with the family, cook a lamb roast, watch Ghost Whisperer reruns (every gal’s gotta have a guilty pleasure) and maybe find some time to fit some sewing in.

Melissa Smile

Category: miscellaneous · Tags:

10 ways to ditch disposables in the kitchen

Knitted DishclothAre you trying to cut the cost of groceries?

Make an instant impact on your weekly grocery bill by switching from  disposables to reusables.

Disposable products are designed to be used once and thrown away. Which means you’re pouring money out week after week to replace these single use items.

Stop that money drain with reusable alternatives.

The bonus is, not only are you saving money, but you’re reducing waste. It’s better for you and better for the environment.

Here are 10 common kitchen disposables and their alternatives.

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making chocolate for easter from {almost} scratch

Handmade Easter Chocolates from scratchMake food from scratch, I say.

It’s cheaper.

It’s healthier.

It’s better, I say.

Well, some things are just better off left to the experts.

Balsamic vinegar is one (did you know they age that stuff in barrels for at least 12 years?!)

Chocolate is the other.

You can make chocolate at home.

Adequate chocolate.

‘Healthy’ chocolate.

Just not great chocolate.

In the interest of good reporting, I’ve made several batches.

And put on 3kgs taste testing – it’s an essential part of the process!

Homemade chocolate is gritty. Commercial chocolate is ‘conched’ (ground) for hours or days, to get that silky, velvety texture.

I’m all for cooking from scratch when you can make a better product at home. And you can usually make most foods better yourself.

Chocolate is not one of them.

I’ll take Lindt over homemade any day.


…now that I’ve totally talked it up :) , if you would like to try your hand at making your own chocolate, and maybe you will have more success than me (please share your results, I would love to hear them!) the following instructions will show you how.

Also, check out Todd’s Kitchen YouTube videos, which is one of the sources of inspiration for the recipes (so I can blame him. No no, just kidding Todd ;) ). He’s an Aussie home cook, and his videos are great! He also has a Home Handy Hints channel.

Onto the chocolate making – here’s how:

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Category: basics · Tags:

wanted–READER’S FRUGAL TIPS AND QUESTIONS {and some Australian blogs}

Wanted - Reader's Frugal tips and QuestionsThere’s a large number of readers here on the blog that I know, from your comments and emails, are frugal experts with a wealth of frugal information that others would benefit from.

So I thought it would be a good idea to have a post a month (or more) showcasing YOUR frugal tips and experiences as well as your blogs or favourite blog posts that you’ve read.

Alternatively, if you have a question, I can also pose that to the Frugal and Thriving community for a variety of responses.

What do you think?

If you have a frugal tip or question, you can leave a comment, email them to melissa@frugalandthriving.com.au or share it on the Frugal and Thriving Facebook page. Ideas could include:

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DIY Oven Mitt {tutorial}

Oven mitt tutorialAn oven mitt is a great beginner sewing project or scrap busting project. It’s simple to make, and is good practice for quilting and making binding.

This oven mitt uses Insul-brite (no affiliation with the brand) – a wadding specially designed to be heat and cold resistant. I also added extra wadding to my oven mitt, just to be on the well protected side.

*Updated to say that I bought mine from Spotlight.

I’ve made cosies for stainless steel water bottles from this wadding before – the cosies reduce condensation in your bag and keep your water cold for longer. I also have my eye on making this casserole dish carrier with it.

This project has been on the to-do list for quite some time. My old oven mitts (pictured below) are over 10 years old and becoming more and more ineffective each passing day.

While it’s pretty cheap to buy oven mitts at the store, it’s free if you use up scraps from your stash, which I did for this project.

These mitts are quick and easy to make, so if you’re looking for gift ideas, you can whip up a few to put aside for gifts. Oven mitt tutorial 1

Old oven mitt, not so effective anymore.

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Category: tutorials · Tags:

what’s good for the child is good for the adult–four things that will make your life better

What's good for the child is good for the adultLike many 21 century parents, I spend a lot of time (way too much time) reading about parenting. We all want to give our children the best start in life, and there’s an over-abundance of advice (often conflicting) on what is best for kids.

The more I read about what’s healthy for children, the more I realise that the guidelines are true for everyone – adults and children alike.

We don’t ever grow out of the need for play, for creative expression, for strong friendships, and for nurturing environments.

Here are four ways changes that you can make, direct from advice for children, that will lead to a more thriving life.

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Category: thriving · Tags:

super speedy, super simple tortilla pizzas

Quick and easy tortilla pizzasYou know those days.

Those days when you’re running late. Or run down.

When you want something quick and simple to make for dinner.

Something the kids will actually eat.

Something that resembles healthy.

This is one of my solutions – the tortilla pizza.

It’s not a gourmet homemade pizza, but it tastes pretty good anyway. And I like that it’s not overly ‘bready’.

We eat a lot of flat bread, so we always have some in the fridge. Wraps, Quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas and now pizzas – this are our go to bread.

You can put any topping you can imagine on pizza – it’s a great way to use up leftovers.

For our pizza pictured, I used tomato paste, some leftover frozen Christmas ham (that DH won – even tastier when it’s free), capsicum, mushrooms, fresh pineapple and cheese.

One of the reasons these pizzas are so quick and easy is that they are made under the grill. No oven = less time and less electricity. You can even make them in a sandwich press, which allows the pizza to cook from the top and bottom at the same time, crisping up the base.

Sandwich press pizza

If you make them in the grill, you might like to lightly cook the tortilla before you put your topping on, so that the base isn’t soggy.

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saving on birthday presents for your child’s friends

save on kids birthday presentsWe’ve reached the age where the Little Fella is now being invited to birthday parties.

While it’s exciting and fun times, I was a little blindsided by the whole gift giving thing.

Buying presents for other people’s kids is definitely not something I’ve previously been budgeting for.

Over the year, birthday gifts can add up. Just last week we had three birthdays to buy for.

And kid’s birthday gift giving can be a tricky thing: you’re trying to balance not buying cheap plastic rubbish and getting something the child will actually like, with spending as little as possible. And not coming across as cheap and miserly at the same time!

I’m new at this whole kid’s birthday present malarkey, so I’m hoping you’ll share your tips on saving money on birthday presents for your children’s friends.

Here are some ideas that I’ve come up with so far.

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how to live frugally part one: do a no spend challenge

how to live frugallyLiving frugally does not mean spending no money. In fact, sometimes it can mean spending more money on less things because you’re valuing quality and longevity over cheap and mass produced.

However, if you’re not in the habit of living frugally, a no spend challenge, one that lasts at least a month, is a great way to start your frugal living journey.

A no spend challenge helps you to look at your current spending habits and find alternate ways to meet your needs without spending.

You’ve heard the motto: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle. Not only does this motto reduce our environmental impact, it also helps us save money and live more frugally.

Doing a no spend challenge is the first step to refusing stuff. By challenging yourself not to spend for a whole month, you’re fostering the habit of living well with less.

In a way, it’s quite revealing that we have to challenge ourselves to not spend, so deeply ingrained is consumerism in our culture. And for most of us, we’ve lost the skills necessary to get by without spending money to fill our needs.

A no spend challenge is more than just saving some money. It challenges us to get creative and meet our needs (or more often, wants) ourselves, in a way we might not be in the habit of doing.

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simple roast pumpkin and feta frittata

Simple Pumpkin and Feta Frittata | Frugal and ThrivingPumpkin is in season: April, May, June, July, August, September.

Pumpkin has to be one of my favourite vegetables, possibly because it’s so sweet, especially when roasted.

Because of it’s sweetness, feta makes an excellent companion to pumpkin, giving this dish that delicious sweet and salty combo.

This frittata is incredibly simple to make, especially if you have pre-roasted the pumpkin. Just 4 ingredients and five minutes prep work.

We have a roast once a fortnight on Sunday and I roast extra pumpkin, then make this frittata on Monday night. This reduces oven running time (and cost) and makes Monday night’s dinner quick and easy to prepare.

Serve with a side salad and maybe some crusty bread, and you have a quick and easy, healthy and frugal vegetarian meal. And we usually have bonus leftovers for lunches!

Our greengrocer has been selling pumpkins lately for 89c each. We’re lucky that our greengrocer has acreage and grows some of the food that they sell. So not only cheap pumpkins, but locally grown!

What’s you favourite way to cook with pumpkin?

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Category: vegetarian · Tags: ,