Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Stretching the Grocery Budget

I didn't really set out to post a series on living frugally, however a conversation I had last night with a friend made me think I should post about how I stretch out our grocery budget. In Australia, for a family of five, spending $130 or less each week is considered impossible or miraculous. We do that every week. Occasionally I need to spend $140. But not often, if I can help it!

One of the ways I stretch out my grocery budget is to use mince. Not just beef mince. All kinds of different meats! Did you know that lamb & pork mince are cheaper than beef mince? And did you know that all are cheaper than chops or steaks of their kind? I bought lamb mince the other night to make my lamb rissoles at only $8.?? per kilo. The chops & spare ribs were more like $15/kg. Of course this was in my local Safeway, and if you live in the suburbs you'll be able to get better prices than I can. The point here is that mince was up to half the price of pieces of meat. Unfortunately the same doesn't hold true with chicken. Chicken legs or wings are almost always the cheapest way to buy it.

Another thing that I changed 5 years ago is to stop buying lunch box fillers. We don't buy any 'snackety packety' things anymore. I used to buy the generic brand of LeSnack's, cheese sticks, muesli bars and whatever else took our fancy. You know, just by avoiding those things I saved about $30 a week! Now I buy a box of salada crackers and two packets of rice crackers. The rice crackers last about 3 lunch box snacks and the salads last quite a few more. I pad those things out with home baked biscuits (cookies) and muffins. At home, we often have popcorn after school. It's only $1 for a packet of popping can make that go a long way! I pop it the old fashion way on the stove top and add a little bit of butter at the end. According one of Miss Sunshine's friends, I make the BEST popcorn. I dunno, it's just ordinary to us LOL.

When my Dh first left his lovely well-paying job to be self employed, I had to be very creative about our food budget. I mentioned yesterday about vegetarian meals. At that time I was alternating meat with vegetarian meals, so that over a two week period, we ate exactly half and half. I have to say, that was not the best thing for my health, as my iron levels dropped. However, I think if we had added the 'evil wretched beanies' to our diet (that would be legumes in Mr Busy speak) things may have been better for me. We are more comfortable with about 2-3 meals that are vegetarian in a week. This month I have decided that Sunday night will be soup night. You can get away with less meat in soups, or none at all.

I hear many many women saying their husbands just will not accept an evening meal without meat. You know, my husband wasn't thrilled. Let's face it, neither was I. However, it was necessary at the time and to some degree it still is. If you don't make a big deal about it being vegetarian, you may be surprised to find that it really isn't that big of a deal to anyone else, despite the attitude that is verbalised. A hearty soup, or a pasta meal, like gnocchi or lasagna are quite satisfying. If you get brave, try making your own pasta. My husband so enjoys homemade pasta that he doesn't even stop to think whether there is meat with it or not!


Tracy said...

I REALLY need to get better at meal planning. I know I could save money if I planned ahead. And meatless would definitely help.

Tracy said...

Start with baby steps! Plan for two days, and then build up to three. Eventually, you'll get to a week.

I hate going into the supermarket too often, so meal planning helps me with that too.

Anonymous said...

In my family we eat mostly vegan. Years ago we ate meat and sometimes i still make it for my husband and one of my sons (other one is vegetarian).
At first we ate a lot of meals with cheese and eggs. That made it easier for all of us to eat less meat. Now our favorits are meals with tvp (dried soy with an excellent texture, looks a lot like the 'real stuff', homemade seitan, tempeh and all kinds of beans).
Mushrooms are also great in pasta's and pizza's.

Nice weblog you have!
(only, the pictures are invisible for me)

Regards, Annikka from Holland

Dianne said...

Thanks for this very nice post, Tracy.

The way things are going in the world, we all may need to learn the tricks that you have been sharing with us.

I also think Americans are way too used to gorging themselves and we would all be better off if we learned to do with less food and learn to eat better quality food (homemade without all the additives and such.)

Thanks for the post, when we get back from vacation, I'm going to do a little more planning of menu's in advance and shopping for just what we need and no more.

Tracy said...

Hi Annika. Thanks for leaving a's nice to get a glimpse of those who are reading my blog!

Dianne, feel free to copycat my menu plan each week ~ some or all of it!!!! Also, Organized Junkie has lots and lots of links each Monday on her blog of those who menu plan. Taking that tour will give you heaps of ideas.

Fi said...

Great post, Tracy. I love finding out how other people make their dollar stretch.

Tracy said...

Me too Fi. I'm not sure it's cos I'm nosy about other people's lives or whether I'm trolling for more information. Either way, it's fun, isn't it!!!!