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Freaking food budget



How do you feed a family of 5 on a tight budget?

I’ve got no idea what is going on, but I am spending more and more on food. I stick to our weekly budget like an assassin on a job, but we always seem to need top ups during the week which take us over budget. So, obviously, instead of sitting down to write this week’s meal plan and shopping list, I’m whinging about it on a blog post. Classy.

The Meal Plan Strategy

I think the most helpful cook book I’ve read recently is Save with Jamie Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less  This was great for showing me how to make meal choices which mean a) good leftover recipes and b) less waste. Oh, and c) really does save money! Always handy when shopping on a budget.

Somethings were totally obvious when I read them. Fresh herbs wilting? Bash them up and freeze them in ice cube trays for cooking. Veggie off cuts? Make a salsa or chutney. Less waste not only means more meals and snacks, but also it’s a better choice for the environment. Boom!

I really enjoyed the TV series too, particularly when he goes into people’s homes and shows them how wasteful they are and what they can do with the bits and pieces left languishing in the fridge. It was oddly satisfying.

Anyway, the woman who hates to cook a roast dinner is now a roast dinner fan, as the leftover meat is used for another meal later that week. In some cases, for another two meals.

So that’s the meals sorted, thank you Jamie.

But kids eat every 2 hours. Sometimes every hour! Snacks, snacks, snacks…

Recently it’s been snacks that have me struggling. I like to bake as it works out cheaper than buying ready made. However, I’m trying not to bake the sweet stuff all the time. It’s a struggle, though, as a lot of recipes for healthy snacks involve ingredients that I just can’t afford. Plus the recipes say they’ll make 12 portions and it never makes more than 9. 9 is not enough to keep my gannets sated for more than a day or two, especially when you add lovely hubby to the equation.

For last week’s snacks, I made:

  • 1 flapjack
  • 1 batch of savoury muffins
  • 1 vanilla spice crazy cake [you know you’re on a budget when you’re making a wartime sponge]
  • Best ever choc chip cookies [with raisins and sliced almonds instead of choc chips] – recipe here at Overtime Cook
  • Chocolate cake [with plain instead of self raising…my daughter thought it was fudge. Nevermind, tasted great]

I also offered fruit [of course], corn on the cob, fish fingers with ketchup, and cheese and crackers [on different days – altogether it sounds a little weird]. I know, I know…veggie sticks and hummus. Sure, if the kids will eat them. Mine won’t. I’ve long since given up the shame over that one.

Baking on an empty pantry

The Overtime Cook’s Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies are bloody gorgeous. I stumbled across the blog when I needed to bake something and had no butter. I had no chocolate chips either, but found some raisins and sliced almonds. Delish!

The crazy cake recipes can be found all over the web – no butter, no milk, no eggs. Sounds weird I know, but when your pantry is empty, you have a go. I tweaked the recipe a bit and will post it shortly. I know it was a winner because the kids asked for a second piece. Unlike some I’ve tried.

I’ve found that the best source of budget snack recipes are the allergy/vegan recipe sites. The elimination of butter and eggs can make a hell of a difference to your budget, as long as the recipes don’t require a replacement, such as vegan butter. That being said, having an egg replacer product in the pantry is a lifesaver when you’re out of eggs and out of cash. The cakes don’t rise quite as well, but they taste the same.

In my panicked, crap-we-have-no-ingredients-and-the-kids-are-hungry-again ‘baking no dairy’ Google searches, I’ve come across some gems. Give it a go and save some cash!





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