People almost fall over when I tell them that I shop for four people on less than $100 a week including meat, fruit, veg and the occasional luxury.
My husband travels a lot, sometimes 2-3 days every week which means there are some nights when I don’t have to cook for four people. The kids don’t eat too much (they are only 2 and 3 years old) so thawing out and cooking a meal based on 500g of meat + extra ingredients just doesn’t make economical sense. And let’s face it; we’re busy enough without creating any extra work for ourselves!
Here are some tips that I use which saves our family money:
1. Upsize it!
You can bulk up a lot of meals (e.g. lasagne, quiches, casseroles, spaghetti bolognaise) with assorted grated veggies. These could include carrots, zucchini, potato, pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato, anything you have in the fridge (some people use rice too). Not only does this make your meal go further (you’ll be surprised how much further it goes), but because they are grated up into small pieces, picky kids don’t know they’re eating veges. Make extra serves and freeze them in small plastic take away containers which you can usually buy for about $4 for 5-pack. I wait until they are marked down (they are quite often marked down to half price) then I buy 20 of them.
Recommended Recipe: Chicken and Vegetable Casserole
2. Waste not, want not!
Pop your leftovers in these plastic containers, write on them what they are and quantities (if necessary) and what date they were cooked. I don’t write a date on them because they are usually eaten within a week or two in our house. Save leftovers for those lazy Sunday nights or like me, when you only have a couple of hungry mouths to feed. These containers are microwavable which means they are great for partners to take to work for lunch as well. No more boring ham and cheese sandwiches that go soggy by lunchtime!
Recommended Recipe: Mince Wellington
3. Make extra!
For example, when I make a lasagne, I bulk the recipe up with as many veggies as I can. My cheap recipe that uses 500g of mince (about $5) ends up making a large lasagne that feeds 6 people as well as a smaller one which feeds 2-3 people. This is perfect for when my husband is away and it is only me and the kids. This also goes for casseroles, spaghetti bolognaise and numerous other recipes. You are only limited by your imagination. It takes me an extra 5 minutes to make the extra meal. If there are uncooked meals ready to go in the freezer, you’re less likely to order out for takeaway.
Recommended Recipe: Bulk Spaghetti Bolognaise
4. Make your own!
I have recently (within the past 12 months) started making my own pasta, spaghetti and pizza bases. It is easier, cheaper and tastier than the ready-made stuff. I’ve calculated that making enough pasta for 1-2 meals cost me about $0.80 and about the same for two pizza bases (yes, two pizza bases!!). Yes, it takes a little while (about 20 minutes) but I can guarantee you, once you taste and feel the difference, you will never buy the packet stuff again.
Buy meat in bulk when it goes on special. I have recently come across a great recipe on the SAHM website called “Slowcooker Chutney Lamb Chops.” The whole family loves them and they ask for it regularly. Now, lamb chop aren’t the cheapest cut of meat in the butcher but when they go on special I buy them in 2kg lots, enough for 2-3 meals.
Raid the freezer! You’d be surprised how quickly you can accumulate “extras” in the freezer and pantry. Every 2-3 months, empty your freezer and pantry out, itemise everything plan your meals using those ingredients.
Recommended Recipe: Homemade Bread Rolls
5. Get with the times! Shop online.
I have been shopping online now for 4 years. Would you believe I have NEVER, not once, been grocery shopping with my kids? When I shop online, I go straight to the “Specials” page on the shopping website, see what meat is on special and use that as a guide for my weekly meal plan. I very rarely pay full price for meat. The good thing about online shopping is that you can type in “shampoo” and you can sort the results into unit price order. You automatically have the cheapest brand at the top of the list and you scroll down until you find a brand that you’re happy with at a great price. Yes, delivery costs $5 but I easily save between $50-$75 by shopping online (no impulse buys!). And, no cranky hungry kids in tow!
Recommended Recipe: Golden Bake
6. Don’t be afraid to slum it!
My husband is embarrassed when our shopping is delivered because 90% of our shopping is generic brands. I don’t see the difference between a brand name white sugar and the generic white sugar except for some fancy packaging so why pay an extra dollar? Try it and if you don’t like it, all you’ve really done is saved yourself some $.
Recommended Recipe: Frugal Chocolate Mud Cake
What are your hot tips to save cash in the kitchen?
(Guest blog written by Dayl Kelly)