Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Our $100 A Month Grocery Budget - Part 1

Due to the uncertain times we live in and irregular work hours over the last 18 months, we have been spending just $100 a month for food,  toiletries and cleaning products.  At times,  that money has stretched to feed up to 5 people depending on who's coming and going in our home at dinnertime.  The $100 includes food and supplies for our cat as well as three meals a day for Darren and I.

I will be the first to admit,  it's been a struggle at times.   We didn't go out and stockpile extra things just to reduce our spending down to $100 a month..  Thankfully we had a reasonable supply of basic pantry items, a good stockpile of meat and an excellent stockpile of toiletries and cleaning supplies.

Back in early 2020,  our budget was cut in all areas with food and gifts taking the biggest hit.  In saying that,  these two areas of our budget are easier to cut than other areas.  We can grow more food and I can make more presents.

To cut the food budget from $150 a month ( on average ) down to $100,  we had to make some hard choices about what is a necessary food item and what is a luxury.  It has been a bit of an adjustment and at times the fridge looks quite bare.  Through all of this,  there is always food on the table,  it's tasty and filling.

I thought I'd share with you how we've eaten on such a small budget and a few tricks I've learnt along the way.

*  Any food that goes into the fridge is carefully used within the right timeframe so it doesn't get thrown out.  With a slightly bare fridge,  it's easy to keep track of what we have.

*  When serving dinner,  our portions have been slightly smaller so we can freeze at least another two portions.  Some meals we've been able to freeze 3 - 4 portions.

*  Soup has featured in our menu plan for dinner at least once or twice a week when the weather has been cold.  Teamed up with leftover bread stick or a dinner roll from the freezer,  it makes a hearty meal that costs about 10 - 20 cents per serve.  Generally the soup is made from a chicken carcass which most people would throw out.  I also cooked up the last leg of lamb from the freezer and used the bone to make a delicious soup.

*  I have deliberately avoided my more expensive recipes especially the ones where you only get four serves and the meal costs $5 or more.  Meat pie,  rissole casserole,  salmon patties and chops have been a rare treat on the menu due to the high meat content and / or cost.

*  My shopping list is revised over and over again to eliminate any unnecessary purchases.  Groceries such as biscuits ( except for Christmas ),  dips,  chips,  chocolate, soft cheeses and roasts have not been purchased since we cut the budget. 

*  I've been adding TVP ( textured vegetable protein ) to beef mince to stretch it further.  I had my doubts about using TVP but in the right ratio we don't notice it at all.

*  Our vegetable garden has given us plenty of greens to add to the dinner plate all year round. Growing silverbeet and kale has been a big money saver.  I've been blanching and freezing excess broccoli and corn.  Even our potato haul earlier this year saved us more than $20.  I didn't buy potatoes for 5 months.

*  Any store bought snacks are only purchased as part of our present for birthdays,  Mother's / Father's Day and Christmas.



A simple Summer dinner


How do you stretch your meals ?


31 comments:

  1. That is very impressive. Necessity really is the mother of invention. Two things I do to stretch things if I have perhaps just one small serving of something like chilli or Bolognese sauce going spare is either to add pastry and make pasties/pies or, alternatively, use it to top home-made pizzas (a treat, since we normally have vegetarian pizzas). A small amount of cooked chicken can make another meal if it is added to pasta sauce. My family also like fishcakes made with tinned fish, which makes the fish go a long way.

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  2. That is a very sparse budget but I applaud your success!

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    1. It seems like a sparse budget but ingredients like flour, sugar, pasta etc etc don't cost that much. Buying meat is the only challenge we have.

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  3. Great and useful post, thank you.

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  4. Thank you for sharing Wendy. You continue to inspire us all. I am going to look into TVP as meat is very expensive and I am sure this would be a healthier option. I was thinking your chickens would help your food costs but only when they are laying. Stay Safe and well.
    Rachel :)

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    1. We have two chicken but one is a freeloader. The other has been off the lay for the last two months. With all the panic buying and lockdowns, buying new laying chickens is almost impossible.

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  5. Outstanding! Your ability to remain positive and adapt your meals to meet the reality of your budget is inspirational. melanie

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    1. Thankyou Melanie. We think we eat pretty well and fairly healthy.

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  6. You really approach challenges positively, Wendy. I think homegrown produce, like your greens, can really save $ while also ensuring you are still eating nutritious food. My garden is really only growing silverbeet, herbs and spring onions this season but I've made a lot with that, like silverbeet impossible pies. Vegetarian options like this save us $ because meat is so expensive. I make fritters a lot too.

    I add tinned lentils to bolognese sauce to stretch it further. I also use m8xed frozen veg in pies. I buy packets of these when they are on special.

    Meg

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    1. Meg, silverbeet is an amazing vegetable that keeps on giving.

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  7. You are such an inspiration to me. Thank you so much.

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  8. I think that is amazing! I would be interested in seeing the groceries that you buy weekly and their costs. I live in Canada and I don't think there is any possible way I could shop for $100.00 per month? I really enjoy your blog and find it very positive and inspiring.
    Marilyn

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    1. Groceries are quite expensive in Australia compared to USA ( for example ). I'm not sure how it compares to Canada. There are no coupons here either. I'm due to do my monthly grocery shop next week so I'll post a photo. Keep in mind we grow veggies in our garden and get mandarins and oranges from our daughter.

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  9. I loved today's post...you are an inspiration! We don't waste food ever, but are not in your same frugal category. I need to give lowering the food budget some thought. We are very stocked up at this time and have meat nearly every evening meal---we don't need it. Thank you for all you do to teach us...I am 74 years old and still learning... :) Jane in Florida, USA

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    1. Jane, there is always something new to learn for all of us.

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  10. I just bought a package of "taco stretch" on Amazon -- TVP for mixing in with ground burger (your 'mince') -- and am looking forward to trying it. But burger also goes twice as far if I mix in a can (or cup) of refried beans, and extra spices.

    One way to make your milk go further is to get whole milk, then thin it with up to half water...I prefer up to 1/4 - 1/3. It tastes much better than skim milk, but is still MILK, instead of colored water. Whole milk undiluted will also substitute in many recipes that call for cream, instead.

    One savings, though, I cannot easily do anymore is to use margarine instead of butter. I'd rather wait for a sale, and stock up the freezer.

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    1. Cindy, we use butter for most things. It is a large expense for our small grocery budget but I'm not a fan of margarine.

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  11. And I bet you and your family are much healthier as well! Great job, Wendy.

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  12. Do you have a tip against the smell of the TVP? I find it is rather unpleasant while cooking (afterwards, it's not a problem, and in a meal I don't taste it anymore).

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    1. I don't smell it when cooking with the mince. It does smell when in the bowl with boiling water before adding to the mince. For 250 grams of mince I add 1/4 cup of TVP

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  13. Lentils are also a cheap way to stretch or replace ground beef (mince). I use lentils in place of ground beef in chili and my husband and son (who are huge meat eaters) love it.

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  14. Your budget is inspiring. One thing we do to avoid fruit waste (which, can be a challenge for us at times) is to make up fruit smoothies. They are perfect right now in the summer. Sometimes we add protein powder (bought on a deep discount) or natural peanut butter, and turn it into more of a meal.

    I'm feeding two growing teen boys, so am in a bit of a different life phase, but there are always ways to cut & adapt. Love learning about how you do it.

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  15. I would love to visit, but your prices on groceries freak my out. You are an excellent shopper and organizer. I am retired so I watch thing closely. It is so much harder when you have a young family but looks like you are doing great. Ask the hubby to start saving for a stand mixer as a gift. You can make your own bread, muffins, cakes and cookies. I am sorry I did not get one sooner.

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  16. Goodness, that's an impressive grocery budget.

    I grow all our own herbs/kale/silverbeet/asian greens and it is a massive cost saver. It makes it easy to bulk out meals. I sometimes buy a small pack of pork mince and make it into a stirfry with a pack of vermicelli noodles and heaps of greens from the garden which makes for a super cheap meal for our family of 6. I find that small pack of minced pork adds a lot of flavour that beef doesn't seem to in the same way and goes a long way in a dish.

    I've gone back to click and collect to save money as I can take my time to be super mindful about what we buy and adjust what's in my online trolly to ensure we stay within budget. (We also live on a farm out of town an hour away so it simplifies the process which is otherwise long and if I need to rush, it wastes money.) Though I'd like to cut it further.

    xx

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  17. These are great tips for stretching one's food budget. Soup with a hearty bread is such a satisfying meal, especially on colder days.

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  18. You never cease to amaze me Wendy! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us all.

    Times are hard for many of us and I believe they are only going to get tougher. Now is the time to put all the skills we have learned to the test to get through these uncertain times.

    We don't eat meat in our household anymore, I have been learning to replace meals with tin beans/lentils etc. I feel so much healthier now and the money saved is unbelievable.

    Blessings,
    Tania xxx

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  19. I've never used TVP when I cook with ground beef (mince) but I may have to check it out. Instead, I add some instant potato flakes. They are very inexpensive and they bulk up the volume of the meat without adding any additional flavor. This works best when making things like taco filling where the meat is crumbled. I don't know how it would work for something like burgers. They are also good for thickening soups and gravy.

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  20. Great post! We stretch taco and sloppy joe meat with cooked lentils if tvp is not an option

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