Sunday, 17 June 2012

My Pantry aka My Modular Mates Fetish

Part of being organised with meal planning is actually knowing what is in the pantry.

My pantry organising fetish started almost 18 years ago. I had a older style smallish kitchen with little cupboard space and benches that were only 45cm deep. It made fitting in appliances and food and sometimes even big dinner plates a bit of a struggle. In the five years of living with that kitchen I made do and made room for a dishwasher a microwave cupboard (cookware and crockery storage underneath) and a 2door pantry. It made it liveable. It also started my addiction to Tupperware Modular Mates for pantry storage. I could fit so much into one shelf! Since there was only me and my toddler at the time, I didn't need big containers, just lots of them.

These Modular Mates have served me well. They have moved with me quite a few times, from that house to a bigger kitchen, to a downsized Sydney apartment, into storage/use in my mum's pantry while I was living there for a few months (they still have the little K on the bottom of them 12 years later!), into my own kitchen when I finally moved into my now husband's house, then through a kitchen renovation where they were allowed for in my pantry design, then to a brand new house that had the smallest pantry for the size of the house (just as well I had never upsized my containers), then out to a little country house with a massive pantry (a saving grace since we were 30 minutes away from the nearest shop) and now into town where we are close to shops and have a reasonable sized but corner pantry (not a fan). With this last move I have rediscovered my love of Tupperware and not just MMs. Up to party number 4 myself in 6 months and off to another one this afternoon.

My MMs have a variety of coloured lids. White were the ones I bought myself, maroon and blue were found in Hubby's garage when we cleaned it out, yellow were picked up at a church garage sale along with some maroon spice containers, maroon big containers I got when I thought that was the colour I liked, and black are my latest conquest and also the colour of the replacement lids I have needed recently. That's one of the things I love the most - lifetime warranty - break a lid or container, get it replaced for free.
Herbs and spices with packets underneath in baskets
Pasta, Access Mates and Cereal underneath

I decided to upsize my pantry as part of my austerity drive. Yes I know I spent money to save it, but I did so sensibly. I had a Tupperware consultant come and do a Custom Kitchen Plan.  We worked out what I needed based on what I buy and use, worked around the containers I already had, and then worked out what I needed. I mostly got big containers like Super Oval 4 and 5 for cereal, rectangle 2 for flour, Access Mates for snack foods (empty at the moment due to the aforementioned austerity drive) and weetbix, and a Round 5 for a spaghetti jar that wont shatter when it hits the floor (I've broken a few) and even has a measuring device built in so I no longer overcater in the spaghetti area. I also spread the purchases over a few months and had a catalogue party at work which helped me out with some free stuff.
Sugars, rices, breadcrumbs and other small baking stuff, bottles in baskets and cans in the corner

Noodles, pasta, flours and rice up top (Anzac slice in the pink Tupperware container), VegOuts and oats down the bottom
I can see what is empty at a glance, even hubby helped me out with the shopping list yesterday (and noticed that one spice container is missing a lid - it's on order). Open packets don't clutter the pantry shelves with the food going stale in the process. There is room for other containers of baked goods and the like. Bottles and packets are stored in baskets picked up cheaply at KMart. Tins don't dominate as I hate the taste of tinned food - they are discretely located in the back corner. The top shelf holds kitchen stuff I rarely use and the bottom shelf has cake containers, a punchbowl that should bo to the kitchen overflow shelf out in the garage and this week's potato overflow (10kg of potatoes go a long way) and usually has long life juice and milk but it's shopping week.

My love of Tupperware doesn't stop at the Pantry. My Tupperware lady also did my fridge and freezer with Antarctica, FridgeSmart and Clear Mates a month or so later. I'm still picking up bits and pieces for those, so I'll show you them later. They are working a treat already though. Anyway off to another party now.

Kaz x

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Austerity Measures

I am on a (necessarily) self imposed austerity drive at the moment. We are trying to survive on one income that is devoid of shift penalties, charge allowances and even a continuing education allowance - thank you to whoever decided that putting in a 3 month limit on claiming it when starting a new position even if you have been paid it since it's inception and whoever "forgot" to put in the paperwork when I started working here!

Some things are a necessity here - heating is a big one. I do not function well first thing in the morning when the frost is thick on the ground and the car and even the outside furniture (must take a picture one morning). I need to be warm to inspire me to get out of bed sometimes. Internet is a given - Husband is studying by distance and an internet connection is a condition of enrolment.The kids also have their maths homework online every week. It's also my social outlet. We don't go out much. Textbooks and residentials are an unpredictable expense. Food is one area that we can cut costs in.

I've been menu planning for a couple of months now. Nothing too rigid. It involves writing down what we want to eat for the fortnight on a (silver) whiteboard on the fridge - can't have it clashing with the stainless steel. Things get mixed up as we see fit - tonight for example was supposed to be Roast Pork Belly but I forgot we are going to the school trivia night so am making spaghetti and meatballs instead. A couple of nights last weekend were a bit slack - we'd gone out for lunch with friends and neither Hubby nor I wanted dinner, one kid wanted party pies the other chicken nuggets - means there's more in the freezer for next week. There is now less wastage of vegies, we almost never have takeaway (once a month if we are lucky) and we are starting to enjoy cooking again., when you don't have to think about what is for dinner that afternoon or early evening it is alot less stressful.

School lunches are another area where we are saving money. Even the Aldi snack bars can get too expensive. I have discovered I can make 4 boxes worth for the cost of 1. Anzac biscuit bars are a good tummy filler too, as are pikelets. So this morning we are having a big cookup.

Homemade rice bubble bars

Here's the Rice Bubble Bar recipe.
6 cups rice bubbles
4 cups marshmallows (small ones or the large ones chopped up)
3 tbsp butter

Grease and line 2 slice tins with baking paper.
Place rice bubbles in a (very) large mixing bowl.
Melt marshmallow and butter in a microwave jug in 30 second burst for 1 -2 minutes unitl butter melted and marshmallows shiny. Mix well - the volume will decrease dramatically.
Pour marshmallow mix over rice bubbles and mix quickly till covered.
Turn out half mixture into each slice tin and press into tin with spoon.
Sprinkle with choc bits or hundreds and thousands.
Cover with baking paper, and press each slice tin on top of other to press flat.
Refrigerate for an hour then remove from tin on paper cut each slab into 12 pieces.
Keep refrigerated in air tight container. Switch to container for lunchbox consumption.

And here's the plate of pikelets!
Anzac biscuit bars and Chocolate Caramel Slice have topped off the afternoon's baking. Should be enough snack food for the week and tonight's festivities.

Anzac Bar ready to go in the lunch box container

Kaz x

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Too many balls in the air

I've been MIA for a while. Too much going on. Work, family, home, church, school, a new family member. Way too many balls in the air at once.  But I have decided to restart blogging.

I've also learnt how to upload a photo to my blog to make it a bit more interesting.

So here's our newest family member......

Say hello to Titus Bear. Had to have a NT name to match the OT cat Solomon. I very much doubt there will ever be a photo of them together. Never imagined myself with a small fluffy white dog, but I fell in love with him at 5 weeks and with both his parents (who still reside in a nearby town with their owners). He's a Shiztsu Maltese cross and he's now 4 months old. He's grown a bit since this picture. The boys both love him and Gus is very calm when he goes out to play with him. So glad we waited until the kids were this age to get a dog. They both help feed and walk him. Bathing is a two adult job though. He's pretty good with it.

And speaking of balls in the air, our little ball of fluff is losing his next month. He's started humping things - enough said.

And Happy Birthday to my darling husband.

Back tomorrow.