I hear that an awful lot in our house. My children seem to be bottomless pits when it comes to food… that is, food that they like… they just can’t get enough! This month we’ve been trying to see how far we can stretch our food budget and still satisfy the hungry hordes that live in our house.
For a long time we’ve had a set monthly food budget. We do a large monthly shop, driving to the next town (outer Melbourne suburb really, but it is more like a country town) to go to Aldi and stock up on all the staples. Then each week we top up on fresh fruit and veg locally and anything else we couldn’t get at Aldi. This has worked pretty well for us, we’ve managed to keep within a pretty small budget of about $400 a month for all food and groceries (so things like toilet paper and other household items etc.) for all of us, though I do admit we do splurge on occasion and go and buy something special that breaks the budget or we have take out that we don’t include in the monthly food budget… but still… I am pretty proud with the way we have managed to feed our family without spending a fortune.
With food prices on the rise and especially with petrol prices so high we recently had another look at how and when we do the grocery shopping with a view to making the money and the trip into Aldi go a little bit further.
At first I didn’t think we could possibly stretch the budget any thinner. We already eat mostly ‘whole foods’, I make most of our meals from scratch. In the past I was a ‘packet only kinda girl’ so this is a HUGE deal for me and something I am quite proud of in a daggy house wife kind of way. We also don’t eat huge amounts of meat and try to get the best deals buying in bulk and stocking up where we can.
I really didn’t think there was any room left for trimming. With Muski eating more and more every day and being the middle of winter with pretty much nothing edible in the garden, I actually thought some movement in the opposite direction seemed more likely, but there are some things we’d like to save up for and some extra expenses that we need to find the money for so the motivation is there…now to see if it is possible!
We love where we live but it is a long way from anywhere, even our ‘local shops’ are 14 kms away. So reducing the amount of trips in the car seemed like the best place to start. So our aim this month is to change the monthly ‘big shop’ to a ‘six weekly big shop’. It is totally doable and will probably save us about $100 per three month cycle… which doesn’t sound like much but also adding on the petrol saving of not having to drive up to Aldi I am hoping it will be worth the effort.
I am hoping to make that saving even bigger if I can cook meals that cost less and also if I shop wiser.
I am learning to make more and more non-meat meals from scratch that everyone will eat… well almost everyone.. some of the time. I made this non-meat bolognaise sauce last week and no one knew it had no meat in it until I told them! It was easy and delicious and if I could find somewhere I could buy bulk lentils I’d be a happy happy woman!
The Twindoes and I also made falafel from scratch, something I’d always made from a packet before but it really wasn’t that hard and with home made bread and home made yoghurt it was delicious and cheap.
We’ve been making a LOT of foccacia bread of late too. It’s quick and easy (I let the bread machine knead and rise the dough) and very forgiving (I can never get a decent second rise when I try a loaf) and we can add whatever we like to make a delicious lunch – olives, garlic and cheese, herbs or just plain.
Today we made rhubarb muffins so that we’d have something to go in lunch boxes and for snacks. Rhubarb is about the only thing growing in our vege garden at the moment that is ready to eat and it needs to be divided and moved the next sunny day we get so I am trying to make the most of it before that happens.
I am still on the search for a bulk food shop in Melbourne. We might make a trip into the Vic market this month to check out what they have in the way of bulk food – though I wish there was somewhere that wasn’t in the city so that parking was easier and somewhere that dragging three children to on my own wasn’t quite such a daunting task, so I am still on the hunt for somewhere better. I am also planning a really pantry for when we renovate – not just a pantry cupboard, but an actual ‘dark room’ so that we can store large amounts of the staples like flour and rice, chick peas and lentils…. but the reality of the renovations means that is over a year a way so between now and then I need to find a way to store all this bulk food I want to buy.
This week sees us reach the end of the month, the time when we’d normally do a big shop and re-stock. We didn’t really think it through very well and made this radical change in timetabling after we’d done out monthly shop. So stretching out what is left in the fridge and cupboards for the next two weeks is going to be quite a challenge, but hey, I have to have something to keep me on my toes right?
So help me out here. Do you have super east non-meat (non-nut too) meals that I could have a go at? What is your best super cheap meal idea?? How do you stretch your budget that little bit further?
I’ve been reading back posts from Lightenings Reducing the Grocery Budget Series and picking out some ideas from that. I have also been reading Down to Earth for their simple living tips and I’ve signed up for the Growing Challenge too, so stay tuned for some more long and boring posts about our veggie garden! At least I am reading inspiring stuff, if not being able to put it all into practice!