DIY Cereal Mix

Our little man is a foodie. He loves his food, there are not many things that he doesn’t like. We are not sure whether it is all in the genes (we’re really into our food), or it was because we started him on “adult food” pretty young. We also gave him the opportunity to choose what he would like to have as often as possible. Most of the times, he chooses good healthy food, though obviously, just like any other 2 year olds, he’d ask for pizzas and “chippies” for breakfast too 🙂

Img src: Woolworth’s Online

One of his favourite fun times is choosing his cereal at the grocery shop. His favourite of all cereals is the Uncle Toby’s Plus cereal “with blueberries!!!”. We have been getting these for a couple of months now, until I realised that we go through the box within a week or so (with Mr E’s help). At $4 a pop, weekly, it certainly does add up. We’re madly saving up for upcoming house renovations and holidays at the moment, so I am trying my best to get the best bang for our buck, without affecting our lifestyle too much 🙂

So here’s what I did recently:

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I made my own “Uncle Toby’s Plus Cereal” as what they really are, are just pre-mixed bits of cereal and dried fruit. Super easy and does not take all that much time for me to do 🙂 I already had the dried fruit in the pantry, so our current “box” of cereal only cost us AUD1. If I had to buy the fruit, it would be about AUD2 max with lots and lots of fruit leftover. If I want to be even more cost-savvy, I could also buy Homebrand “Corn Flakes” and Homebrand dried fruit. However, I prefer Sunbeam dried fruit as they’re still nice and plump and juicy (and Australian grown too) 🙂 There are some things I’d rather “splurge” on but the options are there.

Mr E said that it isn’t the same as the Uncle Toby’s cereal, but still yummy nevertheless. We are already half-way through my premix, so I think the boys really do like it 🙂

What do you guys do to save up that is easy to do? Please share, I want new a bathroom pronto!

Toddler room on a budget: Animal-themed

Like I have mentioned in my previous post, I never did have a nursery room. Little E has been in his cot in the guest room. With the thought of him having to move to a big boy bed in the future, I have decided to finally do up his own room. I didn’t have a big budget, so I had to mostly “make do” with what I have. A dear friend said that she thinks I did it the right way around because at least now, I know what Little E likes, which is “animals” 🙂 So that is the theme of the room!

I worked together with Nuff Nang and eBay to create an inspiration board, using the new Collection feature on eBay. It worked really well actually, because the Collection also works like a “wish list” 🙂 Here is what my board looked like:

eBay Collection

1. Bed | 2. Rug | 3. Duck Bookends| 4. Large Wooden Alphabets | 5. Glider Chair | 6. Woollen Throw | 7. Toy Trolley | 8. Bedside Table | 9. Bed Sheets | 10. Horse Lamp (I really want this one!!!) | 11. Tallboy | 12. Framed Prints

Below are the “after” photos 🙂 I am happy with the result, all up I only spent a maximum of $200 plus hours of painting 😉 Mr E is so happy that he has given me the go-ahead to do up the rest of the house! Hooorah! 🙂

BigBoyBed

Originally, we had a double bed, which took up almost the entire room. To remedy that, I sold the bed and for the same amount of money, I bought a single bed that comes with a trundle from Gumtree. For a little bit of money, I got a foam mattress for the trundle and a proper spring one for the actual bed. I decided to keep the doona that we had (it was a double) and bought a new cover for it that goes with the theme of the room. I was afraid that it would look too big, but I think it actually hangs nicely over the single bed, I am happy with how it looks. I bought the zebra picture from Kmart for $12 🙂

Bird Cushion

I had a left-over material that I bought from IKEA years ago, and since it goes with the theme of the room, I made a cushion cover with it.

I scoured a few op-shops and bought cheap frames, which I painted over with whatever paint we have at home. I framed one of his paintings that I love, it looks like a jumping elephant. One of the pictures is a decoration that my mum inlaw printed for my baby shower. I also had an old map that I bought from a recent book fair and made a few projects out of it. One of them is the framed “E” – on it, we have Australia, Indonesia and China. The exact combo that my little man is 🙂 The leopard-bird is the first ever print we bought from a proper gallery!

BlueCat

I repainted an old bedside table and wanted the drawer pulls, but have yet to find ones I like in my budget. I bought this small lamp from Kmart as well for $12! I was going to decorate it, but have decided to keep it as is, so that I can reuse it when Little E isn’t as obsessed with animals anymore 🙂 In fact, this is the reason why I kept most of the big things (bed, chair, bedside table, etc) pretty neutral, so when he’s bigger, I can just change the decoration to suit his interest at the time. This cat ball is a present from my little friend, T, given to me at my baby shower (she was the co-organiser) 🙂

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I really want these shelves bracket and drawer pulls, but I cannot justify spending that much money 😦 I have been on Pinterest trying to find ways to DIY, but I have yet to find them. If you happen to come across something similar, please please please let me know 🙂

What do you guys think of my little man’s big boy room? 🙂

 

A Baby on a Budget: Grated Cheese

I haven’t done this series for awhile, so I thought I would post about this in case some of you could find it useful 🙂

We go through a lot of grated cheese. About a 500g bag a month, as most baby friendly food seem to call for them. At around $15-17/kg for a bag of plain grated cheddar cheese, it sure does add up and take out a chunk off our weekly budget money.

I had an idea recently to grate my own, when I saw large 1kg block for only $6! That is more than 50% “saving” for not much effort.

This works perfectly for us as not only we’re saving money, we also can choose the quality of the cheese. Some frozen grated cheese taste like plastic, especially the cheaper ones. I’m planning to do my own three-cheese pizza concoction soon 🙂

I won’t claim the idea as my own as I’m sure many people have done it already, and obviously, only if you have a food processor with grating ability. Unless, of course, you fancy grating it manually 😉

Now, if only I can find an idea on how to pay less for more/same amount of full cream milk! We go through around 3L a week currently, and Mr E prefers to support non-large-supermaket-giants brands.

Fussy Little Eaters: Easy Orange Chicken + OOTD

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I love denim overalls on babies!

 

Easy Orange Chicken Recipe

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 Chicken Thigh Fillets – cut into strips
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tbs brown sugar (more or less depending on the tartiness of your OJ)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed OJ
  • half a carrot cut into thin strips
  • half an onion, diced
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Method:

  1. Sautee garlic, ginger and onion until the onion becomes transparent, then add chicken
  2. When chicken is half cooked, add in carrots and the rest of the ingredients
  3. Simmer until chicken is cooked and the juice reduces down to about half the amount

I served this with cous cous for us, however, you can have it over rice as well. Little E had it with buttered toast soldiers 🙂 Since it is so citrus-y, it is perfect to cook with fish as well. I would normally just pan fry the fish, and cook the rest in a separate pot. I would then pour the sauce over the fish before serving. It is quick, easy and both my loves enjoyed this dish.

A word of warning though, make sure your little one has “home clothes” on, as the turmeric stains like no other! 🙂

A Baby on a Budget: DIY Ball Pit

I am not really into toys or have much interest in them. Sometimes I feel like maybe I am even depriving Little E of them. So, I am surprised at myself when I agree to spend the money on this.

DIY Ball Pit

Admittedly, it is awesome. Not only does the pool comes with the castle, the catapult, and a water cannon you can plug into a hose, it also comes with two shields and matching swords! Also, one of my childhood memories is having so much fun playing in a ball pit. I can’t really remember where I went exactly and how often, but seeing ball pits makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. So it has always been my dream to have one for my children.

My reasoning for spending so much money on it is that, in summer, it will also be used as a paddling pool to keep my little one cool. So really, I am getting two activities out of one purchase! Spending justified!

Unfortunately, Little E isn’t so keen on his new toy area, maybe our overzealous enthusiasm is scaring him haha But we are having his little buddies over this week, hopefully he likes it better when he has company 🙂

A Baby on a Budget: a “Bassinet”

We live in a two-story house, so before Little E came along, we were searching for some sort of bedding that he can sleep on while downstairs. We didn’t want to fork the money on a bassinet as we didn’t really like the idea of spending money on something that will only be used for 6 months or so, we’re just THAT cheap. Also, bedding is something that we personally prefer to buy new, so getting it second-hand wasn’t an option for us.

When I saw dog beds on special at a nearby pet shop, I almost got one. It was perfect! I could buy the large ones so it’s spacious (not that he needs it), and it was nicely padded, almost like a mattress. It was also cheap, so I could throw it out and get a new one if it becomes too dirty to clean. The ones I saw even had nice hounds-tooth patterns, which I love! Unfortunately, Mr E vetoed that idea. Apparently it is not socially acceptable, or something.

Kmart Fold-out Sofa (img src)

So I was super happy when an awesome fellow mum (Hi, Ness!) suggested we buy one of those fold out mini couches. As Little E will be swaddled, he won’t be able to roll off it. It is easily moved and packed away when not in use. For the next few months we made sure that his head was between the arms of the sofa, so he felt secure, like he would have in a bassinet. It worked like a charm and only $19 (AUD) new from Kmart! Genius!

What’s even more awesome, once he grew out of it (ie. He could roll off), I washed it clean, sunned it and is now waiting for him in the cupboard for when he’s big enough to sit on it! We really are getting the most of it – double genius! 🙂

Fussy Little Eaters: “Baked” Beans Recipe

I regard myself as a foodie. I love food.

I told my mother this as she continued to pester me about being “fat”. I can’t help but like anything to do with food, even the cleaning up after a cooking frenzy. So the thought of starting the little man on solid is exciting but also nerve-wrecking. Especially when he had a lot of gagging reflex in the beginning! There is also the expectations of giving him healthy food, with no added salt or sugar or preservatives or whatever else that’s bad for babies.

Being time poor as well, I am constantly on wits end trying to find new things to give him that is fast, that he can feed himself with and still healthy. So that’s a fast healthy food that won’t choke a baby, that he actually likes and would eat. Unfortunately for me, Little E hates bananas and yogurt. He also showed a slight allergic reaction to avocado. That’s the three easiest food you can give to a baby crossed off my list! 😦

I know that I am not the only one having this confusion so here’s a short list of food I have had success with. Hopefully it can give you some ideas for your little one 🙂

  • Steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets, carrot sticks, green beans and pumpkin sticks
  • Boiled Sweet Corn on Cob
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Fritatta soldiers
  • Corn fritters
  • Quiche without the pastry
  • Cheese bits
  • Roast chicken – thigh
  • Chewed up bits of steak or any red meat
  • Cheerios or Weetbix pre-soaked in milk
  • Toast soldiers with PB or Vegemite
  • Pastabake bits
  • Watermelon, Rockmelon and Apple sticks
  • Mini meatballs in Bolognese Sauce
  • Tinned fish (rinsed out of the springwater) or freshly cooked
  • Egg yolk
  • Arrowroot biscuits (on occasions)
  • Homemade bread slices with butter (including sourdough!)
  • Ravioli
  • Coconut sago (this is dessert, so have only given it to him twice)
  • Sticky Rice
  • Chinese BBQ pork buns (I try to give him least amount of the sauce inside as possible, as it is normally pretty salty)
  • Vegetarian savoury muffins
  • Dahl with rice
  • Sweet muffins (with half sugar that most recipe calls for)
  • Piklets/Pancakes (also with less sugar)

Another food that we found out Little E likes is Baked Beans. However, I didn’t really want to give him the tinned ones as they have added salt and preservatives. So tonight, I made some myself for dinner. I used this recipe as inspiration, but I used what I have in the pantry and added more vegies.

"Baked" Beans

A baby-friendly “Baked” Beans Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/8 cup of shredded ham
  • 1/4 cup of diced capsicum
  • 1/4 cup of diced carrots
  • 2 big tomatoes (diced)
  • 1 small onion (diced)
  • 1 garlic clove (crushed)
  • 2 tsp Hot English mustard
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1.5 tbs Maple Syrup
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 440g can of Butter Beans, drained and rinsed

 Method:

  1. Sautée onion, garlic, ham, capsicum, and carrots until the onion is soft.
  2. Add tomatoes,mustard, sauce and syrup, let simmer with lid on for 30 minutes. At this point, if you don’t want chunky sauce, you can blend everything together before adding in the beans.
  3. Throw in the beans and cook for further 10 minutes.

I didn’t add salt or pepper as the original recipe, and I used an extra half a tablespoon of maple syrup as the tomatoes I used were a little tart.  Next time, I will add a grated zucchini to include another serve of vegies and use mixed beans instead 🙂 The dish was supposed to be a side dish for us and the majority was for Little E to have for the next couple of meals. (Un)fortunately we liked it so much, we had seconds and only have small amount left for Little E! What’s even more awesome, this is also a cheap budget recipe that you can cook in a big batch and freeze for later use! Yay! 🙂

I hope this is useful for some of you, please do comment below if you have any suggestions on what other things we can give Little E 🙂 We have some papaya to give him in the morning, as I think he needs to eat more fruit.

A Baby on a Budget: Nappy Disposal

What to do with a smelly nappy but don’t want to spend the money on one of those “sausages” maker bins or want to save some money on these scented nappy sacks (like this or this)?

Here’s our system at the moment:

Cheap, no/minimum smell, no spill, nappy disposal system

Cheap, no/minimum smell, no spill, nappy disposal system

1. Push-top bin from Kmart | 2. Small freezer bags | 3. any Car Freshener (img src)

Those freezer bags work out about half a cent (AUD) each. If you want to be quite generous in your calculations, each nappy disposal would still cost less than 1 cent. That is way less than the cost of the “sausage” makers and the scented nappy sacks.

Admittedly, we have to empty the bin more often, however, the garbage collectors come weekly anyway, so that is not a problem for us. If you don’t have such big bin like ours, and buy half the size (20L bins), you will have to empty it maybe once every 3 days (depending on how often your baby needs changing). This will further eliminate any smells coming from it.

The whole nappy disposal system is all new to me since, where I grew up in Indonesia, we still have piles of rubbish on open air for your neighbors to see. We don’t even line our bins inside the house with bags! To think that I have to spend more money just to rid of already-expensive nappy is just not for me, so this was our way of saving more on baby costs 🙂

Edited on 12 Jan 2014: A few months on, this system proven to be only good up until Little E starts eating more solids, and less BM. See my most recent post on this subject here 🙂

A Baby on a Budget: Preloved clothes and toys and homegoods and random stuff

I am all for buying preloved goods, most especially clothes and toys for little E. Just like you would recycle your milk bottles and drinks cans, second hand things are pretty much of the same idea. When I was around 8 months pregnant, we got giant piles of clothes from a person at work. There were literally hundreds of cute mini shirts and pants and onesies and PJs, I had great fun sorting through them. Sure, some I did just binned because they were stained (eewww), some I re-donated as they weren’t my style, most I had kept. I washed them probably two, three times, just so that I know they really are clean. Then hang them in the sun, for good measure 🙂

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Among them, is this cute Ralph Lauren onesies. It is just adorable! Now, had I bought this new, it would’ve cost me $50-100! This is what I loved about buying second-hand stuff, when you get good stuff, it’s like hitting the jackpot! And, you’re helping those more needy! Double WIN! 🙂

Actually, I was told a few years ago (about the time I started op-shopping), the clothes that you buy from Department stores aren’t all that new either. Most would resell returned items, some are already worn and even stained. Even if you go and try clothes these days, most white clothing items have foundation marks on the neckline, or some deodorant marks on dark clothes! That really grosses me out. Yet, you would pay full price on these items!

Besides, little E is at a stage where he insists on feeding himself, so he has an outfit change after every meal. That’s a LOT of washing! So what I do now, is when the clothes he’s wearing look ultra dirty, and I know that I didn’t spend too much on them, I just put them straight into the bin! lol

I went to Vinnies this morning, while waiting for my clothes to finish being washed at a nearby motel (our washing machine had died and the 4 loads of washing is really stressing me out, so the kind receptionist let me use theirs – bless him!), and I went a little cray cray buying toys for little E. They’re so cheap! And as I was buying plastic ones, I can just wipe them off with warm soapy water, and hey presto, new toys!

So what is the point of this blog post?

The point is, having a baby doesn’t have to be expensive. They don’t care if they have the most expensive branded clothes (though I do wish I have the heart to blow our savings at the Burberry baby department! They have the most amazingly cute stuff!), or the latest toys. As long as they’re warm, entertained, and get loads of cuddles, our minions will be happy. I didn’t grow up with proper toys, my most cherish memories of my childhood was my auntie making me a carriage made out of Pomelo skin! It was amazing 🙂