I have a new challenge – can I survive on only $50 a week groceries for one adult and two children between now and Christmas?
I am blessed to now be entering a period in my life of financial stability. I have a good job, I have nearly paid off my mortgage, I have just repaid my credit card debt, I own my car outright, and even indulged in a family holiday. So why am I scrimping and scraping surviving on only $50 a week?
Because I have too much food. As I stood before my bloated cupboard, surveying it while sucking in my bloated waistline (15kg overweight which is now considered normal in an Australian context), I realised something had to change. Actually I have so much food it spills out of my main pantry cupboard and into odd storage spaces – in the laundry, above the fridge and just about anywhere I can find. The contents of freezer literally spills out when I open it, and there is so much stuff I can’t find what I want.
I have already reduced our daily food budget to between $9 and $12 a day. Yet still I was appalled recently, having been sick and then come back from holidays, about how much food I had to throw out. I don’t waste anywhere near the 1 in 5 bags of food that is the standard amount of waste in the developed world including Australia, and actually I am very mindful about reducing waste. But I still waste more than I should. “You work too hard for your money to waste food you buy and don’t eat,” said my mother wisely. She lived the glamorous life (on the surface at least) of a fashion designer, but in the kitchen she rarely wasted anything.
I have tried all sorts of different methods to curb waste and limit grocery expenditure. But really, I just love grocery shopping. I love picking up food and thinking about the possibilities of what I could make with it. I love investing in exotic ingredients. They are rarely expensive, but they all add up. And although I love cooking, there is only so much that my kids and I can eat during one week.
Before we get into the silly season of Christmas (where doubtless I will invest in even more food ingredients for baking), and while I am in spring cleaning mode, I thought it would be a good opportunity to pause and do a stock take. The first week, last week, went well and in fact I came in $7.20 under. I still managed to host a mid week dinner party for unexpected visiting relatives (corned beef with white sauce and parsley), make some bread for a function at church, and buy my kids favourite probiotic drinks. I even stocked up on kim chi and chickpeas.
The second week, which finishes tomorrow, has also gone well and I am $13.30 under. And this baking for our divisional morning tea at work, and stocking up on (healthy) instant soups for supplies at work.
The challenge has forced me to think more creatively about what I have on hand rather than rush to the shops. Sunday was always my cooking/baking day, but now I focus on cooking simply using up what I have on hand. Some highlights from the past two weeks include:
- Cooking corned silverside with white parsley sauce (parsley from my garden) for rellies that visited midweek, with dessert of strawberries (on special at ALDI for $1.49/500g) and ice cream;
- I made yet another batch of thistle agnolotti;
- And while doing it, made some spaghetti and fettucini for the kids dinners;
- I also made a small batch of homemade ricotta cheese to use up some milk that was past the best before;
- I made carrot and fennel rolls for a church function, and soy and linseed bread for home;
- I made a batch of lemon cordial, and another of blood orange cordial;
- I made Morrocan lemon chicken using up leftover lemon rinds; and
- I harvested and cooked edible marshmellow greens.
I calculate that by doing this challenge that between now and Christmas, I will save over $500 in addition to what I normally save by my low cost grocery budget. According to ASIC’s Moneysmart, the average family spends between $200 and $300 a week on groceries. Well as a three member family I am definitely on the low side to begin with but even so there is more I can trim. Assuming, a $200/week spend as average I will be saving around $2,400 between now and Christmas just by doing this.
So who else is up for a challenge?