Dollar Diet Week 9: Of Plums and Pancakes

After our extravagant holiday to Great Barrier Island, D and I recommitted to tightening our wallets.  Our holiday was two years in the planning, but even so, holidays have a way of making money slip through your fingers like water.

We have some short-term goals, like a possible wedding in Australia to attend (I have my fascinator at the ready, R…), saving for further studies/possibly moving towns, and a long-term goal of, well,  just saving as much as we can.

Despite a dentist bill, we had a pretty frugal week.

  • I made plum jam, which we enjoyed on pancakes for Shrove Tuesday.  Easter is a big deal in our house, and it was a fun way to signal the beginning of Lent with my tots.  I keep seeing pancake mix on special at my local supermarket, and throw my hands up in despair that such a product is even required (okay, so my hand-throwing is metaphorical, lest I be known as the crazy supermarket lady).  I mean, come on, pancakes are almost as easy as making toast.

plum panccakes tots in tawhero

  • I went pine cone gathering at a local pine-treed spot for us to use as kindling this winter.  The pine cones are an excellent source of fuel for our wood burner, and are absolutely free.  For 15 minutes worth of effort (which including scrabbling up a steep bank) I netted two bags of cones.  I’ll be going back for more.

pinecones tots in tawhero

  • We packed our lunches and snacks when out and about, and entertainment was our weekly whanau night, and an impromptu BBQ (with the same friends) at the Bason Botanic Gardens which have free gas BBQ’s for the public.                                                   Bason gardens tots in tawhero


  • I attended my local free gym a.k.a. the great outdoors.  At the moment I am relishing my kid-free mornings, and after I’ve dropped Sausage off at kindy I take the top track at Virginia Lake.  It takes me 30 minutes and is just like doing a HIIT workout as the track has very steep sections, undulating sections and quite flat sections too.  I come home in quite a sweat.  I don’t meet a lot of people on the track – which suits me fine as I like peace and quiet when I’m exercising – but I’ve been stunned by the number of elderly people who are on the track too.  I hope to be as sprightly when I’m their age!  The only downer is my faithful running shoes finally gave up the ghost after long service, and now I have the task of finding some that are actually decent.  Quality shoes are so hard to come by!  If you have any recommendations, do let me know.

Island Time


Stone at Orama Oasis Christian Retreat

I’ve been to paradise and back since we last ‘spoke’.

My family has just returned from an incredible holiday on Great Barrier Island/Aotea (GBI).  Two years in the planning (and saving!), the trip was a 70th birthday gift for my well-travelled father who only had only two places left in the whole of New Zealand to visit: GBI and the Chatham Islands (Chathams, you’re next).

What an adventure we had!  Tiny planes, schlepping all the food we could, flooded and nail-biting roads, tropical downpours, pristine beaches, breath-taking views, and magic family moments to treasure.  I want to go back, the island is just so beautiful.

Great Barrier Island lies north-east of Auckland, and is a 30 minute plane trip or 4-and-a-half hour ferry ride away.  With a resident population of 800, and around 60% of the island being conservation land, GBI is a fantastic spot to get away from it all and recharge tired batteries.

I went with D, my two tots, my parents and my mother-in-law.  D took one for the team and drove our car to Auckland, and then caught the ferry over to GBI the next day.  The car was packed to the gills with food for the week, as being an island, food is expensive due to having to freight most things over from Auckland.  Meanwhile the rest of us flew to Auckland, and then caught a tiny six-seater plane over to the island.


Chip enjoying his first plane ride…for the moment

Sausage has been to Europe and looked rather bored with the whole plane thing, but plane-obsessed Chip was so excited to go on his first plane ride.  He amused us by asking if we were ‘ready’ about 30 times before we took off.  He did well, but we had a rough descent into Auckland so he screamed the plane down for the last 15 minutes.  Such fun!

Chip was a champ on the next flight however, because he could see out better, and the view of the Hauraki Gulf with all its beautiful islands, and our first glimpse of GBI is not a flight I will forget in a hurry.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, GBI is beautiful.  Lush rainforest, quirky settlements and golden beaches.

We stayed in the north-western part of the Island, at Orama Oasis.  Orama is a Christian community that has been based on GBI since the 70s, and they provide adventure holidays, spiritual retreats and run training workshops.  D had stayed at Orama before and loved it, and when I discovered we could get a sea view unit I was sold.

What a special place.

The top left picture is the view of Karaka Bay from our accommodation.  Most nights found us simply watching the sunset over the bay, revelling in the stillness and beauty.

Orama has about 20 staff and also has volunteers that run the retreat centre, the farm and work on their garden.  The Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre is also based at Orama, and a large group of home-schooled teenagers were having the time of their lives when we arrived.

On our second day, we were car-less (waiting for D to arrive) but it mattered not.  ‘Did you know we have a creche?’ said one of the workers to me.  No, I didn’t.  My jaw hit the floor when I saw it.


It is a mini-Playcentre with everything a toddler could want, including a playhouse and sandpit outside.

That day just happened to be play group day, so we got to meet several locals, including a family who live in a boat.  My tots had an absolute ball playing with the other kids, and we enjoyed chatting with the lovely mums who either lived at Orama or nearby.

We got some beach time in at Mabey’s beach before the rain came.  Golden sand, warm water.  We had it all to ourselves.

We were unlucky to get three days of tropical downpours, but the locals were thrilled to get rain after weeks and weeks of none.  We had one day where it poured all day, and we were extremely grateful for the creche room at Orama which kept Sausage and Chip happy and probably saved our sanity.

We checked out Claris and Tryphena, the main villages, and Port Fitzroy where D and I were given a night out by his mum.

The kids, D and I headed to Okiwi Park, next to the closest school to Orama (there are 3 schools on the island).  Okiwi Park has a cool bike track, and lots of charming information signs made by the local school children.


We had a brilliant play at Gooseberry Flat beach at Tryphena.


But the best bit was being together.  D and I loved having extra eyes on our tots, and the grandparents loved their shenanigans.  Having dinner with everyone at Orama, giggling at ‘The Man Who Knew Too Little’, heaving a sigh of relief at making it through a flooded road, and never getting tired of the view of Karaka Bay meant for one special holiday.  Little moments like this:

Grandpa was a very good sport about being ‘stickered’.

My folks and MIL flew back while D, the kids and I took the ferry back to Auckland.  We spent a couple of days there, taking the kids to attractions that we don’t have closer to home.  My sea creature-mad girl loved Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium, although I almost died at the price – $90!  Insane!  It is an amazing place, but the entrance fee puts it out of reach of many people.

We also took our machinery-mad boy to MOTAT, the Museum of Transport and Technology.  MOTAT was one of my favourite places to visit as a kid, and it was a joy to see my own kids scampering around excitedly.

I was reminded of how much I hate Auckland.  The traffic is diabolical, and D and I ended up in a shouting match due to the stress of navigating its busy roads.  It made me realise that visiting there is not my idea of a good time.  I have lived in big cities (including Auckland, London and Seoul) but I don’t think I could ever do it again.  I really value our lifestyle in Whanganui with its five-minute commute anywhere.  Much less stressful!

We definitely came home rejuvenated from our trip away, and are plotting to return to GBI one day.

Great Barrier Island, I’ll be back!


Dollar Diet Week 5: Love walks in

An unexpected expense hit our wallets this week – getting the house flea-treated.  Yuck.  Extremely frustrating as we didn’t have any pets (although we do now, more on that later).  It wasn’t a bad infestation or anything, but I react very badly to insect bites so we had to take action asap.

Aside from that, it was a relatively frugal week.


  • had friends over/visited friends
  • made bread and baked cookies with the children
  • made several jars of plum chutney, as our plum trees are fruiting nicely
  • passed on outgrown clothes to friends
  • packed lunch and snacks when out and about
  • hung out at home as much as possible

The big news is that my Dad won a girl’s bike in a competition!  The bike is really decent (it’s an expensive brand) and will last Sausage for several years.  She turns five next year so getting her a decent bike was on my radar, but Dad’s win has saved us quite a bit of money.


Happy girl!

I am always on the lookout for free or cheap things to do with my family, so when I spotted an article about ‘Wheels in Whanganui’ happening over the weekend, I marked it on the calendar.  It’s the first time this event was run, and was a collection of cars, trucks and other machinery for families to come and look out.  They also had bouncy castles, a merry-go-round, other rides and food stalls so there was very festive atmosphere.  It was run as a fund-raiser, with a small entry fee to get in ($2 each for D and I, kids free) and it was a fun and frugal way to spend the afternoon.


At the end of the week Chip and I spent the morning visiting his new kindy (more on that later).  A little calico cat was hanging around much to the delight of the children, but no one had ever seen her before.  She was obviously hungry and looking for company and it was love at first sight for me.  We only live around the corner from the kindy, so I thought I could take her home until we discovered who her owners were.

We knocked on doors and I put her picture on Facebook.  We found her owner within a few hours.  Only the ‘owner’ didn’t want her anymore as they are moving countries, nor had they inoculated  or spayed her.  Don’t get me started on irresponsible pet owners!  Anyway, she has a new name and a new home (Sausage’s bed…), and she’s a brilliant cat, so we feel like we got the better end of the deal.  She’s been with us a week now and I am besotted.


Seriously, who could resist that face?

Crazy Cat Lady, that’s me.


Dollar Diet: The cost of keeping feet shod

This week bought its usual share of expenses, most of which were not a surprise.  I went to the dentist for an initial check-up and will have some work done in a few weeks time.  Our dentist is very reasonably priced so it’s not going to blow up our bank account.

I bought some seedlings for the first time in ages because I just hadn’t gotten around to planting seeds over the holidays.  The weather has been so terrible that pretty much every good-weather day was spent out and about making up for the bad days.

I went to a cafe as a treat, and I must admit I find this a hard habit to break at times.  It’s really interesting though, because it highlights my ‘need’ to have a treat.  I’m working on where this may have come from, because it is a strong impulse.

I went with friends to the lovely Ashley Park (petting zoo, picnic area) , and had a great time feeding the animals and watching the children enjoy themselves.  I think Ashley Park is really cheap compared to similar places, and I thoroughly recommend it.

I bought Sausage a bookcase for her room, as she has more space now Chip has vacated his cot for his big boy bed.  Sausage, like all children, has various trinkets and treasures that seem to multiply overnight.  Due to lack of space they would invariably end up on her dressing table or the floor, but now they are nicely corralled into the bookcase.  I found a small, low bookcase which I think is made of rimu at a second-hand store for $45.  This is a bit pricey for the size of the bookcase, but I’d rather have that than the MDF options that were available.  It has the bonus of being low enough to fit under most windows, so it may come in handy if we ever move house.  Which looks likely in a  year or three.

Our biggest expense was shoes for the children.  They both outgrew their shoes at the same time, so inconsiderate of them.  Finding decent shoes in New Zealand is a problem.  I often have to source mine online, which I don’t like as I do prefer to shop locally when possible.  Most department stores here get cheap shoes from Asia which a) don’t fit properly and b) fall apart if you so much as sneeze in their direction.

Fortunately we can find good shoes here in Whanganui for children, although they are two or sometimes three times the price of the cheap shoes.  My tots trash their cheap shoes really quickly, so it is a false economy to buy them.  Buying the more expensive shoes saves us money in the long run as they withstand all that play quite well.

With Sausage, we’ve often needed to buy two different-sized pairs of shoes because she has a club foot.  Even though her foot has been treated successfully, it will always be smaller than her other foot.  In her case her foot is one size smaller than the other, and in some people it can be up to three sizes smaller.  As you can imagine, buying two pairs of $80 shoes that she’ll grow out of in a few months gets me right in the wallet.  Not to mention have to chuck out the two shoes that are perfectly fine!

Fortunately one of our local stores has a great range of Bobux shoes.  They are quality, NZ made shoes that are recommended by podiatrists.  At the visit this week, I discovered that they hold Sausage’s feet so well, I didn’t need to buy two sizes.  Her smaller foot is totally fine in a slightly bigger size.  Phew.  Oh, did I mention the shoes were on sale?

I got Sausage a pair of Mary Janes and a pair of sneakers, and Chip got a pair of boots.  He is almost out of his sneakers, so I’ll be back for more soon.  I reckon tots only need three pairs of shoes: a good, serviceable pair that they can play in and that might do for a special occasion, a pair of sneakers, and gumboots in winter/sandals in summer.  And that’s extravagant in many countries.

So yeah, buy quality.  You know this.  A good pair of shoes will outlast several cheap and nasty pairs.  I think it’s getting harder and harder to find goods that quality these days as brand names are no longer an indication of something well made, but that’s a rant for another time!

This week I saved money by:

  • Staying home a lot.  I pottered around the house and garden with Chip.  He spent an hour and a half playing in his sandpit or watering the plants the other day!  Which is 2.7 years in toddler time.
  • Packing lunch and snacks when out/at work
  • Having an at-home date night
  • Baking (I made a THM cheesecake, which was terrific, hooray!)
  • Meal planning
  • Inventing whanau night.  Our friends hosted this week’s dinner, and we bought a side and dessert.  It’s a fun and simple way to catch up on a weekly basis.

Next week will involve lots of jam and chutney.  I have a surfeit of plums and grapefruit.  Yeehah!



I am not affiliated with Ashley Park or Bobux shoes in any way.  All opinions are my own.  They both rock.


Dollar Diet: Week 3, a binge

Last week was in no way frugal as the kids and I took an impromptu trip to Wellington.  I needed a change of scene, and D needed some peace and quiet, so when I found a decently-priced holiday home on-line, I went for it.  We had two nights away and had a great time.

I’d been thinking about taking my tots to Bug Lab, an exhibition on right now at Te Papa.  I wasn’t sure if it would be too scary for my tots – who love bugs and insects – but the entry fee wasn’t too pricey ($20 for Sausage and I, Chip was free) so even if they hated it I figured it was worth a try.  The exhibition was amazing.  My tots did get a bit scared as it’s not every day you see insect models that are the size of a small car.  Sausage still enjoyed it and we spent a good half an hour looking around.  Chip got scared, but was content to play with the interactive stuff outside of the bug ‘lairs’, and of course he loves the rest of the museum.  If you’re an NZ parent who is thinking about taking your kids, I wouldn’t recommend it for under 4’s.  School-aged kids, heck yeah.

I’m looking forward to travelling by bus to Te Papa in the future so I don’t have to pay for parking.  At the moment my tots are too little to walk from the bus stop to the museum (a reasonable distance), and the thought of taking our stroller, backpack and two tots on a bus gives me a panic attack.  Anyway, another time perhaps.

We caught up with several friends on the first night, and it did my soul good to see some of my favourite people all at once.  We kept it simple, fish and chips from the local takeaway, and had some vigorous Donald Trump discussion around the dinner table.

We took my plane-obsessed son to Wellington airport.  It cost a little for parking, but it was worth it to see his excitement.  Even Sausage enjoyed it.  We followed it with a trip to Lyall Bay beach.


I got little sleep the first night, as it was Chip’s first night ever in a bed.  He fell out twice.  Fortunately there was a spare mattress I was able to put down on the floor beside him.  Anyway, the upshot was I was so tired the next evening I was too knackered to cook, as had been my original plan.  I couldn’t face greasy takeaways again, but I managed to find a local Indian place that delivered.  Chip slept just fine that night.

In fact, once we got home he decided he wanted to sleep in his ‘big boy bed’.  He’d been rooming with his sister, and we’d been using his bedroom as a playroom and spare room for guests.  I’m delighted that he’s transitioned smoothly from his cot to his bed, but it has meant springing for a new duvet/sheet set so there is a spare in case he wets through/when one is in the wash.  I have bought second-hand bedding in the past, but it ended up having fleas in it(!), and I can’t bring myself to give it another try.  I managed to get him a duvet, duvet inner and sheets for $60.  Chip fell out again once this week so we used the pool noodle trick from Pinterest as a bed rail.  It was only a few dollars.

We’ve been enjoying all the sights and sounds of Whanganui’s best event: the Vintage Weekend.  Our city is host to all things vintage – cars, fashion, music, boats, a soapbox derby, planes…you name it.  I was feeling in rather a party mood – it is my favourite time of year – so we bought lunch there rather than take it with us.  D and I got some expensive sandwiches, but as they were pretty much the best sandwiches we’ve ever eaten, we’re okay with that.  The beauty of this weekend is that most things are low-cost or free, and it really is a joy to participate in.

Anyway, after all that spending I did make some honest attempts to limit any more.  This week:

  • I packed lunches and snacks, including when we were on our trip.
  • We’ve stuck to our meal plan and used up leftovers.
  • I included free activities on our trip, such as the beach and a visit to a friend.
  • We enjoyed a free lunch out using a gift card.
  • Although there were loads of things we could have spent money on at the Vintage festivities, we settled for a traction engine ride (a gold coin), a ferris wheel ride ($3) and entry to the family zone where free games, activities and bouncy castles were available (gold coin).  Looking around at the amazing car collection or listening to bands playing cost nothing.
  • D and I enjoyed a date night at home, watching The Mask of Zorro.  Love that movie.
  • We had our first whanau night.  My brother has been coming over for dinner once a week for ages, and now we’ve expanded this to include our friends who recently moved here.  One week the guys will go off to Toastmasters while the kids play and my friend and I have a chat, and on the non-toastmasters night we will play board games.  We’re alternating who hosts, and we all contribute to the meal.  Simple and fun and much cheaper than a restaurant!
  • We went on some free outings in Whanganui.  The kids and I went with friends to Gordon’s Reserve and Kowhai Park.  Hours of fun for zilch.
  • Swapping childcare to get a break.  My daughter gets on well with my friend A-M’s daughter, J.  J came over for an afternoon so her mum could get a break.  (It ends up being a break for me too, as the girls play so nicely I barely see them.)  A-M had Sausage for a few hours the following day.  Both times I was able to get loads done on a sermon I was writing.
  • I managed to get 3 sets of summer pyjamas for Sausage for $4 each.  I couldn’t find any in Chip’s size but I will keep a look-out.  I buy for the following year at the end-of-season sales and save big.  Even though I am not buying a single item of clothing for anyone THIS year (none of us need a thing!), I am still practising the frugal habit of buying ahead for next year.  I save huge amounts of money doing this (along with buying ahead second-hand, accepting hand-me-downs and going to clothes swaps).


This week has left me feeling rather a sham at frugality!  But I guess I am grateful that we have the money to go on impromptu trips.  Next week will definitely involve belt-tightening and getting back to basics.


Dollar Diet: Week 2, a frugal birthday party

This post is late as last week ended in a flurry of birthday party, broken arms, sermon writing, special visitors and planning a spur-of-the-moment trip.

The week was mostly spent hanging out with friends, and D went back to work.  One of my best friends A-M recently moved to Whanganui with her family so we’ve had loads of fun spending time with them.  Our kids are close in age, and our four-year old’s are particularly firm friends (most of the time).  Oh, did I mention that Sausage turned four????  Before I get on to the party details, here are some of our frugal happenings:

  • D took lunch to work
  • I packed lunch and snacks for the kids and I, if out and about
  • The kids and I did free stuff, like play dates and parks
  • We used up our leftovers
  • I hung out at home with my BFF, R who helped me prepare for the birthday party, and survived it.
  • R, A-M and I had an extremely rare night out with just the three of us.  We worked out it was 16 years since the three of us had been together like this.  We had a great time, and kept the cost down by going out for drinks and a snack after dinner.

Er, I can’t think of anything else because my mind was frazzled by Chip ‘breaking’ his arm.  He was mucking around on our trampoline with D and then lots of crying and ow’s ensued.  They weren’t sure if the arm was broken (he hurt the elbow area) but they strapped it up and Chip was back to his frenetic self in a couple of days.  He was very proud of his sling and displayed it to all with a loud ‘I got hurt!’  We took him back this week and it turned out not to be broken, so phew.  I am incredibly grateful for the free health care children receive in New Zealand.

Birthday party time!


My beautiful Sausage is now four.  She is most definitely in pre-schooler territory.  She’s long and lanky, and is a funny, confident, easy-going kid who you can actually reason and negotiate with.

As her birthday is in January (summertime in NZ) I have her birthday party at home and let the kids rampage around our massive back yard.  I try to keep it small and simple, but she’s still at the age where parents and siblings come along too, so it always ends up being bigger than I think.

I’ve whinged about it already, but our summer sucks.  It’s been the worst one I can recall, and naturally it rained on Sausage’s birthday forcing us indoors.  Still, we had a lovely time and I spent a whopping $40 on the whole soiree, which includes party food and drink, the birthday cake, decorations and prizes.

As is often the custom in New Zealand, some friends and family offered to bring a plate of food, so that saved quite a bit of money (and prep time).  R and I made a vege and hummus platter, popcorn, egg and ham sandwiches, cheerios and sausage rolls (requested by the birthday girl).  The food from other people meant there was more than enough to go around.  Drink was juice leftover from Christmas (we don’t normally drink it) which I dilute with soda water.  Kids love it.

I saved money by making the cake myself.  I talked Sausage into having this easy cake.  I had my BFF here the night before Sausage’s birthday which is usually when I’d make the cake.  I wanted to maximise my time with R, so I opted for easy, easy, easy.  I made the cake her favourite colour (pink), and put a big 4 on top using sprinkles.  She loved it and everyone said it was delicious (I don’t eat sugar, so I don’t know!).4th-birthday

Professional cakes can cost upwards from $100 dollars.  I consider it a waste of money to buy a cake, when my child loves the cakes I make just fine.  It makes my wallet cringe when I see the elaborate cakes people seem to be buying these days.  I bought $6 worth of sprinkles (most of which weren’t needed in the end, so hit me up if you want some) but otherwise we had all the ingredients in our pantry already.

Sausage also requested ‘Tunip cupcakes’.  For months leading up to her birthday.  Tunip is her favourite character from the show ‘The Ocotonauts’.  Tunip looks like this:


Not overly complicated I guess, but would certainly require lots of different colours for the icing.  I knew I would have little time and limited fondant colours so I did the next best thing.  I found some free Octonaut cupcake toppers on Pinterest, and iced the cupcakes blue.  They were just as popular as the birthday cake, and Sausage was thrilled with them.  I didn’t get any decent pics I’m afraid.

Decorations were limited to some balloons given to Sausage, streamers we bought in the Netherlands that we put up for parties, and a couple of purple tissue balls ($4) which will likewise be used again.  I don’t do themes, and won’t unless my tot asks for it.

For the first time ever for a birthday party, I bought disposable plates and cups.  I hate these things, but there were several wee ones present and we don’t have enough kid-friendly crockery to go around.  I bought recyclable things, including paper straws.  Someone had given Sausage the party whistles previously, and I managed to get matching stuff.  We have some left over, so expect to see them next year too!


We played two games – Pass the parcel, and pin the carrot on Olaf – and I purchased the prizes for peanuts.  One prize was a tin Star Wars lunchbox, and another was a decorate-your-own-mask set.  Simple.  My mother made some beautiful gift boxes for each child to take home, and these were extremely well-received.

Sausage was given some amazing gifts, some of which (like a make your own wand set, so cool!) I have purloined to bring out on a rainy day.

I learned two things:

  1. Outside parties are so much better for my floors which looked like a cake bomb had exploded on them and,
  2. You can never rely on old Mother Nature.

Dollar Diet 2017: Week One

My Dollar Diet didn’t get the best start because:

a) it’s summer holidays here in New Zealand, and

b) Sausage’s birthday is almost upon us.

I snickered as I wrote ‘summer’, because the weather has been total RUBBISH.  We get one or two nice days, sandwiched amongst day upon day of cloud, rain and unrelenting wind.  I’m sure I’m not alone in dreaming of summer holidays.  Kids laughing and playing in the water, while I’m sunning myself on the sand.  Long walks in the forest, day trips to the many attractions in our area.

Dream on, Angela, dream on.

Because of the weather I spent more than I would normally on petrol, ferrying the kids over to Palmerston North and Feilding so I wouldn’t go insane from having two ratty kids with a bad case of cabin fever.  Our trip to the Coach House Museum was great, and definitely worth the extra cash.

I needed to go over to Palmerston North (a bigger city, 45 mins away for my non-NZ readers) for a few things, and decided it would be a great opportunity to take Sausage to find her a birthday present.  D and I deliberately make birthdays a bigger deal than Christmas.  As my kids grow, they will get big-ticket items like bikes etc.  At the moment there is nothing Sausage needs, so for the first time ever I took her shopping to choose whatever she wanted.  Of course she chose something at the top end of the allocated budget (a castle), but I admit it felt great to be able to say ‘Yes, of course you can have that’.  Her castle is tucked away until the big day, and she tells me ‘I will be so surprised when I open it Mummy!’  Ah, kiddo.

I spent money on some picture frames.  I don’t know why, but I got the urge to change up our artwork and put out some new pieces.  We’d had professional photos taken of the kids last year, and I wanted to hang those on the wall too.  Poor Chip, first professional photos taken at two years old.  Second child, that’s for sure.  Anyway, the whole exercise was relatively inexpensive, and I’m getting a lot of delight from the new things on my walls.

I also took my yearly retreat.  I use the time to take stock and to go into a new year intentionally.  Plus the silence and peace does wonders for my frazzled mummy eardrums.  This year I paid $70 for a 5-bedroom(!) holiday home about an hour’s drive away.  It even came with breakfast.  The holiday home is on a working farm and has SPECTACULAR views.  My trip was worth every cent as I came back with recharged batteries.  I’m already scheming to return…


My view

While I was away, D hired a mulcher to turn some trees we’d cut down (they were pests, not planted by us!) into mulch for my garden.  $140, kerching.  Worth it though, our place was looking so scruffy with bits of dead tree lying around.

And lastly, I had brunch out with friends ($21.00) and took an historical guided walk around the city ($4).  It was good for the soul to swap stories with other mums in the trenches over brunch.  I know I’m not alone in my childrens’ refusal to eat leafy greens!  The walk did wonders for my brain.  I am a history nerd, and thoroughly enjoyed hearing tales of early life in Whanganui.  As I said in my last post, a fun budget is necessary in life.  Small things to look forward to can make all the scrimping and saving much more bearable.

It wasn’t all throwing money about though this week.

  • I shopped our pantry.  Even though I meal plan, stuff happens from time to time and things don’t get used as planned.  I tried to use up all the things that were lurking at the back of the cupboard, and as a result our big grocery shop total was quite low.  Most people probably have a week or two’s worth of meals in their pantries.  It can just take a bit of creativity to make use of mismatched ingredients.
  • We took lunch and snacks on trips out.
  • We played close to home when the weather allowed, mixing it up by going to play in a couple of school playgrounds that are open to the public.
  • We did plenty of indoor activities like painting, reading, playing board games and watching movies.


    Sausage with a new creation

  • I had some avocados that were about to go off, so I turned them into dip along with a languishing-at-the-back-of-the-pantry can of lentils, some Greek yoghurt and some lime juice.  The dip was quite nice!avo-dip-totsintawhero
  • I made berry-yoghurt popsicles, using up some frozen berries that have been in our freezer since Noah was a boy.  Just blitz some berries, a banana and some Greek yoghurt in a blender, pour into moulds, and voila!  A healthy treat.popsicle-tots-in-tawhero
  • We had friends over (*waves* at E and P).  The best and cheapest form of entertainment.
  • We played in our own backyard.  To keep Christmas-related costs down, D and I made a sandpit from an existing veggie garden for Chip (still in his pyjamas and dressing gown on Christmas morning in the photo below), and hopscotch for Sausage.  Throw in a trampoline and a pole tennis game from grandparents, along with a paddling pool, it means our backyard is pretty much paradise.  When the weather lets us enjoy it.


    Some big expenses kicking off the new year, but most were one-off happenings.  Next week has a 4th birthday party in it, and I’ll be blogging about how to throw a kid’s party on the cheap.

How is the start of 2017 going for you? Chime in below.