Friday, 12 October 2012

I can see clearly now the rain has gone... Wait, nope, it's just my new glasses.

When I was about twenty, years of school and uni finally took their toll on my eyes. I started getting headaches and having trouble reading the slides in lectures... Yep, I needed glasses.

I think I spent about $400 on that first pair of glasses, and I didn't even really like them all that much.

I've learnt a lot since then. Some of what I've learnt is even about buying glasses without spending a whole week's pay. That's what I'm sharing here.

Your eye tests are free.
Medicare will pay for you to have an eye test every two years. Some optometrists will waive the cost of your eye test even if medicare doesn't cover it (i.e. if you've already had a test in the last two years), because they want you to buy your frames from them.

Your employer may partially cover your costs.
This is the case for almost all public servants and a great deal of employees in the private sector. If you work at a computer, usually all you need is a note from your optometrist stating that you require glasses for screen work, and your receipts. Chat to your HR team for more information.

Your health insurance will cover more of the costs at some stores than others.
I looked into it and my health fund offers special deals at Specsavers stores. Some quick maths made it clear that this was my cheapest option. When I visited the Specsavers shop, they were more than happy to check for me exactly what my fund would cover. I chose one pair of awesome frames and one of very stylish sunglasses - $339 in total - but all I paid was $89. I cannot recommend enough that you work out where your insurance dollar counts the most.

Yes, these are actually my new glasses. Are they not beautiful?

It's almost always cheaper to have your old frames updated.
This means that optometrists try to steer you away from it (hint: they're in this business for the excellent profit margin). It costs about $100 at most optometrists to update your current glasses. If you love your frames, there's no need to adjust to a new style when you can have them remade with your new prescription. Speaking of which...

Optometrists HAVE to provide a written prescription if you ask... But they won't offer.
Without your prescription, you can't buy glasses anywhere else. This is what they want. Get your prescription and you suddenly have more options for where you buy your frames.

Don't be afraid to buy glasses online.
All you need is your prescription and your "pupillary distance" (this gets measured as part of your eye test, but you may need to ask for it specifically). I've bought several pairs online and it's always worked out well. I've used Optical4Less and despite the slightly dodgy website and not-so-great English, the glasses were great. It's an excellent site if you don't have health insurance and you need to buy glasses as cheaply as possible. The frames I bought never broke or scratched, though I admit they didn't have that designer look. I've also used SelectSpecs for designer frames. That's where I bought the Burberry frames I'm wearing right now - I tried them on in an optometrist where they would cost $450. I bought them for $149 online. Is it any wonder Australians are turning to internet shopping to save cash? Both sites provided exactly what was promised, with excellent customer service.

I spent more than I had to...
Because my job is reasonably conservative, I'm getting my current black Burberry frames updated so I can wear them to work most days and save the brilliant, colourful frames above for casual wear. I feel lucky to be able to afford this luxury - as one of my favourite heroines, Aurora Teagarden, says, having several pairs of frames is one of the best parts of being rich. For me, it's one of my favourite splurges. Even so, my new frames, new sunglasses and new lenses for my current frames will cost me... $188 ALL UP. That's still half of what I paid for that very first pair years ago. And if I'd chosen frugality over style, I could have paid nothing at all out of pocket.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Choc Chip Cookies

So have I mentioned than when I met Perfect Boyfriend, I was completely overwhelmed by all his food allergies?

He can't have eggs, citrus, peanut or MSG. Peanut is the worst allergy, but it's egg that's presented me with the biggest problem, because I love to bake.

Luckily for both of us, I've developed a knack for creating egg free recipes. Someday I'd love to publish a cookbook of egg free recipes, because I can tell you now that there are basically NO decent egg free recipes for baked goods out there!

This recipe is one of the first I fine-tuned, and it's remained a favourite in our house. The cookies are rich, chewy and delicious. Best of all, they're so easy to make.

300g self raising flour
250g brown sugar
250g cooking butter
500g choc chips

Preheat oven to 180C. Line baking trays with baking paper.

Soften butter either by leaving it out of the fridge or by cutting it into small cubes and heating in the microwave on high for 20 seconds. (Any longer than this and it could melt, which is not ideal).

Sift flour and sugar into a large bowl. Use your (clean!) hands to rub in the butter. Once butter, sugar and flour are combined, mix in choc chips with your hands.

Shape into small balls and space 3cm apart on baking trays.

Bake for approximately ten minutes or until pale golden and crunchy around the edges.

  • Because these cookies do not contain egg, they spread out more than normal cookies, and don't rise as much. You will need to give them more space than you normally would.
  • Cook slightly longer for a crunchier cookie, or if you like yours chewy and soft, remove from the oven as soon as they start to turn golden.
  • The cookie "base" (flour, sugar, butter) can be combined with all different kinds of flavours. Try substituting a few tablespoons of the flour for cocoa if you're keen on a chocolate cookie.
  • I like to use a mix of white, milk and dark choc chips, but anything works.
  • These freeze very well and thaw quickly. Store in airtight plastic containers and leave cookies out of the freezer for about five minutes when it's time to eat them.