I have had a request from a friend who I met through another friend and we’ve actually only caught up once in person but with the wonder that is Facebook we speak at least a couple of times a week and actually have lots in common. She’s asked me to give some ideas on how I budget, what I buy and cook for the week with 2 children under the age of 3, so based on that here are my tips.
We are definitely on a budget which I try to stick to religiously, it doesn’t always work out like that but I aim to not spend more than $160 a week on groceries. Generally I find that I do manage to keep it to that although sometimes it’s a bit more and other times it’s less.
My darling hubby takes his lunch to work as well as breakfast & morning tea for two main reasons, firstly because he’s fussy & probably wouldn’t eat what he could buy in a shop & secondly because it’s cheaper. Whatever I cook for dinner I will make enough for him to take some for lunch the next day.
He also takes 2 pieces of fruit a small bread roll with either cheese & chilli spread or olive spread or peanut butter & jam etc & a piece of Joyce’s lemon cake.
So while I don’t really menu plan as such I make sure that I use up everything I have bought and our fridge is pretty much empty when it does come to market day. I shop at Aldi, the Preston Market & Istanbul Halal Meats, with the occasional trip to Woolworths for things like baking powder, huggies nappies which we use at night, light globes and a few other things that Aldi don’t stock. The trick there is to get in and out without buying things you don’t need. I have no doubt that switching to Aldi has saved us a lot of $$$. I also keep an eye on the catalogues for when tinned tomatoes are on special and go to UCG wholesale foods on Bell St to buy tins of Tuna.
Everything I’ve bought from Aldi has been great quality but I am careful when purchasing fruit & veg from them to make sure they’re not too bruised or marked.
To give you an idea this week I bought the following;
3 x 3 L containers of milk, 1 500gm block of cheese, 1 pkt of nappies, 1 large container of Yoghurt & 1 organic raspberry yoghurt, 2 mangoes, 1 un ripe Avocado, 2 pkts of corn chips, 1 block of chocolate, party pies, 2 loaves of bread (1 normal & 1 fruit toast), napisan, 2 punnets of strawberries & blue berries, 2 potted herbs, 2 x Butter, 8 pears, 1kg of bananas & I think that’s all (can’t find the receipt) the total was about $100 which is more than what we’d usually spend but the loaves of bread & corn chips will last for the month with the bread in the freezer.
At the market I bought 2 more avocadoes, a bunch of spring onions, 4 Lebanese cucumbers, 1 doz free range eggs, 1 red capsicum, 1 eggplant, 2 large field mushrooms, 4 under ripe vine tomatoes & a wedge of watermelon ($27.55)
18 Ciabatta bread rolls from the bakery $15, 2L of organic orange juice $6 & 2 large pieces of trevally $8. Some ricotta & brie from the deli and a Large container of split green olives which was $8 as well. I guess those sorts of things I do buy in bulk as I think they work out to be cheaper in the long run.
I also got 2 pieces of scotch fillet which was about $8 & 500g of mince from the butchers & 8 tins of Tuna from UCG $15.20.
So this week I went a bit over my budget, but I won’t go again until next Thursday or maybe Friday, I will see how we go and let you know.
Last night (Wednesday) we had the fish for dinner with homemade chips & salad. Hafid took a large piece for lunch with olives & bread.
Tonight we’re having Spaghetti Bolognese, tomorrow night H is out for dinner with the Moroccans for which I am cooking (Lamb Tangia) but they’ve supplied the meat. At this stage Saturday night is steak with a baked potato, Sunday night will be snatch & grab or maybe Nachos. I am thinking Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday nights will be either of the following:
Chicken & Mushroom Risotto with Tomatoes
Lamb meatballs with Eggplant, Salad & Rice.
A Lamb or Beef Tajine.
This will bring us back around to Thursday. I will try to give you a running idea of what we have, generally coming into summer we do have a lot of BBQ’s with either Rice, Potatoes in one way or another & Salad.
Now that I am writing this out I have realized that I forgot to get lettuce & sour cream, so really unless we have a major urge for something I won’t head to the market again until next week.
As I have previously mentioned I always have tinned tomatoes, onions, garlic, rice, pasta etc in my pantry, but I aim not to buy them again until we’ve either run out or are almost out, really the only exception to that is the tinned tomatoes as I prefer the Italian ones & buy them when they’re on special. I usually go to the butchers and do a big buy up and break it all down into meal size amounts e.g.; 4 bbq chops which gives us 1 for the kids & I (I don’t eat a lot of meat) 1 & ½ for H for dinner & lunch the next day.
When I buy fish, we eat it that night with the exception of prawns which we’ll sometimes have the next night, mainly because I don’t think it’s a good idea to freeze fish as it sends it tough, if the prawns are already frozen which most prawns already are and I want them for say Saturday night then I’d either buy them still frozen or go on Saturday and buy them.
The bread rolls have gone into the freezer – bread is a staple of Moroccan food and we eat it with a tajine, for lunch & with, well pretty much everything. They are about the length of your hand and I have made 8 of them into lunches as mentioned above and cut them in half so they’re in the freezer ready to go.
Most of what I cook can either be prepared with children either under foot and or helping, the helping will come from our 3 ½ year old and the underfoot includes the contents of the Tupperware &/or saucepan cupboard!
We will rotate through these staples in what I cook.
A Tajine – veggies & meat all in the one pot which takes about 20 mins to put together and at least 1 ½ hours to cook.
500gms of either lamb or beef mince meat made into either Spaghetti Bolognese, Meat balls, Kebabs or occasionally tacos.
Risotto with chicken or prawns, roasted pumpkin & olives.
BBQ which could be Lamb chops, steak, fish or kebabs
A roast chicken – the leftovers can go into sandwiches or nasi goring or something similar.
Fish with Chips or Lemon Risotto
Paella either just with prawns and or chicken (depends on how many people we’re cooking for, although I do think this is a wonderful dinner party dish as it’s great value and tasty!)
I think the key to budgeting and menu planning is to only buy what you really need and make sure you use it all up, that way you reduce your waste (7.5 million tonnes of food a year in Australia) http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2011/02/08/3123168.htm
Only buy things when they’re on special – read the catalogues that come in the junk mail, buy home brand or generic particularly Flour, Sugar, Milk, Butter, Cheese even Woolies Home brand Cocoa is fantastic! It seems to me that the majority of things I buy from Aldi are Australian Made & have the logo. Buy in season and fresh, the only veggies I would buy frozen would be peas but now I am even starting think I am better off just buying what is in season & where possible buy from a market or farmers market, we walk into the green grocers & Zachie can name all the veggies and I really believe that’s one of the keys to getting your kids to eat well is to get them to participate in the buying cooking & preparing of their food (we’d grow it too and will when we have a back yard).
Buy the big 3 or 4 litre containers of Olive oil; you really shouldn’t be paying more than $23 for 4 litres of Spanish olive oil and about $17 for 3 litres of Australian Olive oil. I’ve also been buying Onions & Potatoes in Bulk and the quality has been really good.
Pasta is another great way of good value tasty eating, there are so many different sauces you can make from simple garlic & tomato to a creamy pumpkin with pine nuts. The sky is the limit really it just depends on what you like to eat.
I hope that helps with ideas and a bit of inspiration about how to keep your hard earned dollars in your pockets rather than someone else’s!