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 corn...you 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!