Author Topic: Struggling to make our food budget work..  (Read 6265 times)

Hudson

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Struggling to make our food budget work..
« on: May 01, 2015, 03:10:22 PM »
We live outside of the US but in $US we have $75 per fortnight to feed the 3 of us.

As the person who primarily does the grocery shopping I find this difficult to work with in terms of a) what I can buy and b) ideas to keep the meals changing and not getting repetitive.

One of my major focuses has been to eliminate credit card debt but have found at time I've need to top up the grocery purchases using the credit card.

Does any one any tips or ideas/better ways to try and make this work ? perhaps you've had a similar experience with similar amounts to budget with ?

thanks

The_Crustache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 40
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2015, 03:35:11 PM »
I am not sure what it is like in the country you live, so I will only give you general advice.
Wow, $75 is a tight budget for 3 people.
Take advantage of sale items, use coupons, and buy in bulk.
Purchase food from discount stores, or think of alternative locations to get the same items for cheaper.
Buy staple items, and dry goods, avoid processed things.
Use your freezer to prevent perishables from going bad.

I have come across more detailed things on other forums/imageboards, so you might find good stuff with some more searching on the internet.

swick

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2884
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2015, 03:57:19 PM »
Hi Hudson,

Could you give the country you are from? You would be able to get a lot more targeted advice then we can start recommending resources :)

Hudson

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2015, 11:55:28 PM »
Hi Hudson,

Could you give the country you are from? You would be able to get a lot more targeted advice then we can start recommending resources :)

Hi,

we live in New Zealand.

hydrangea

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 6
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2015, 12:48:02 AM »
Hi Hudson, I used to live in New Zealand (Auckland) so I can appreciate how crazy food prices are there.

My advice to you would be meal planning - so you do get variety, buying in season, and creating a store cupboard of exciting condiments to spice things up.

  • Jamie Oliver has a great list of pantry essentials
  • Shopping at Asian super markets and veggie stores can save you tons of money.
  • If you eat meat, consider buying half a cow and freezing it. Works out a lot cheaper (and more interesting) than the Mad Butcher.
  • Work out if frozen is more affordable than fresh - it can be in many cases.
  • Get a bread maker off trade me and use it regularly.

Depending where you are can you collect shellfish or anything? Barter with family for backyard fruit?

If you come back with details of what you usually eat & spend I'd be happy to help out with more specific suggestions!

nzmamma

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 31
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2015, 01:04:37 AM »
I live in NZ too and have no idea how you manage on that budget here, that must be tough. Looking forward to hearing some good ideas. best of luck to you.

BrewerNz

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 21
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2015, 02:04:41 AM »
I'm in New Zealand too, I spend 150-180 a week for two adults at the moment (but that includes all cleaning products and things like shampoo toothpaste etc all the non food things! oh and the odd box of beer!) However we eat a lot of meat and some fancy pants snacks. (My husband has an addiction to Hellers Bier sticks). I could definitely go cheaper so I'm not the best example for frugal shopping.

Otago university did a study showing what its costs to buy a basic/moderate/liberal diet in New Zealand. e.g a very basic diet for an adult male is $68 a week and a female is $58.
http://www.otago.ac.nz/humannutrition/research/food-cost-survey/otago057919.html

I try base my weekly shop around the specials, I signed up for emails from the mad butcher and my local pac n sav. I make a meal plan.

http://www.workandincome.govt.nz/documents/brochures/the-great-little-cookbook.pdf

Winz put out a cook book/meal plan document, it might seem a little condescending to people who are already used to shopping on a budget and its a bit outdated now but maybe there's some good ideas in there.

I visit the reduced to clear store, but I only buy staples we actually use and sometimes I walk out of there empty handed if they don't have anything we need. But last week they had bags of flour for 0.99! Is there one in your area?

Meat free meals can be big savers, e.g chickpea and Kumara curry and hearty red lentil and carrot soup costs next to nothing and are super filling plus with a big batch you've got leftovers for lunch.
https://vegeyum.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/redlentilsou/

http://www.destitutegourmet.com
this lady is a New Zealand based cook with lots of ideas for lovely meals on a budget, when I used her cookbooks I was down to $!00 a week for 2 adults but that was a few years ago now. I'm afraid Ive suffered lifestyle inflation since getting better wages at work.

Asian grocers - rice noodles, sauces, veges and even meats can be a LOT cheaper!

The occasional pasta based meal can be hearty filling and cheap.

But its very hard here, coupons are almost non existent, our meat prices are through the roof despite being a huge agricultural producer.

Juju

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 10
  • Location: New Zealand
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2015, 02:22:00 AM »
Hi Hudson  :)

Another kiwi here.  I'm impressed that you are trying to feed three people on $100nzd/week - that's got to be a challenge!  Are you all adults?
We aim for $500nzd/month for two people.  This includes cleaning and personal products etc.

The best tips i've found for cutting down on the money are these:

 - be really careful about what supermarket you go to (shop around - Pac N Save is the best for general for us but alot of ethinic markets/ fruit and veg shops are better on some products.

- watch how much of expensive products such as meat you are consuming.  We *try* to only buy meat under $11/kg.  Beef mince, pork mince, pork, sausages and even chicken can be found at this price if you either shop around (mad butcher has fairly regular sales - just only shop the weekly special there, not standard prices) or just stock up when you can. 

-  bulk up meat meals too - so if it's nachoes or chilli with beef mince, i'll add approx 300g of mince and 1/2C of brown lentils and 1c of red kidney beans for two people.  This will be enough for two meals and leftovers.  The lentils and kideny beans i buy in bulk and then slow cook the kidney beans and freeze for convenient use.  The lentils go in dry but need a good 20min/30min to cook You can always use a can of either though for less prep and faster cooking (approx $1 on special or $1.70 if not).  A couple of rashers of bacon can give the flavour to a whole meal and not cost a bomb.  Also, it's often cheaper to sub shaved deli ham for bacon.

 - Vegeterian recipes are also great for saving the pennies.  A nice slow cooked chickpea, kumara and spinich curry always goes down well.

- know your prices.  I know i never want to pay $4/kg for fruit unless it's a real treat (and apples in the wrong season are frequently this price or more even if they are a 'cheap' fruit).

- Know your spices :)  a good range of flavours helps to make plain old mince or sausages into many varied dishes... not just the same dish again.  Mince can be nachos, burgers, meatballs, meatloaf, pies, stuffed marrow, cheats stroganoff, etc etc.  Often i think we get stuck in a rut of flavour or preparation, not the particular ingredient.

- meal plan, but be ready to modify if you see a great special at the supermarket.  Without meal planning I find I spend extra on food that is often wasted.  E.g. buy a bag of lettuce for one meal/lunches but only end up using half.  If we plan lunch and dinner, we get almost no waste.

- modify your recipes to suit what you have.  Yes, i'm sure that salad would be much nicer if you added fresh tomatoes, but they cost $$ today so no... how about adding some of these avocadoes - are they on special?  etc.  Don't get stuck with thinking you have to make x recipe.  If you are confident with your cooking, then experiment with what you have.

- review your receipts.  Check if what you bought was really essential or a treat.  When you are holding tighly to the purse strings, it's often easy to start slipping and get a type of frugal fatigue and say, darn it, those chocolate biscuits are only $3 and i want them!

- Buy on special.  If you know your jar of peanut butter is down to half, start watching for it to be on speical.  I usualy have a few extra 'bonus' items on my shopping list that I will buy under a certain price if I see them (and if that weeks budget allows). 

- add up as you go through the supermarket.  Keep a running estimate (i've seen people use calculators for this) so you don't get a shock when you get to the checkout.  I find i can usually guestimate within $10 just by going through the trolley and counting things by $2 units and averaging out.


I hope these help :)  I'd love to know what your current weekly meal plan looks like if you would care to share - there are some recipe threads around that are great inspiration.

MMMaybe

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 387
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2015, 03:36:17 AM »
We live outside of the US but in $US we have $75 per fortnight to feed the 3 of us.

So thats 50 NZD per week or $16.66 per person? I actually think it may just be too little. Is there any way you can increase it?

One of the budgeting gurus in Australia feeds a family of 4 on AUD $320 per month or $20 per person per week. Is there any way you could bump it up by say 40 bucks a month to give you a budget of NZD 240? May give you some more breathing room and she reckons that it is totally do-able.

If you could apply the extra funds to stockpiling a bit during sales or buying in bulk, that might also help you keep costs down.

Hudson

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2015, 03:54:46 AM »
The crunch of it all is it doesn't cover everything so I top it up using the credit card . I'm really trying to get rid of the credit card but currently use it to contribute to the grocery buying.

meal planning hmmm…..

We usually hav a pasta dish with some kind of mince and tinned tomato arrangement

Sometimes a sausages and spuds kind of meal….spuds or rice are frequently in use

chicken when its on special, usually crumb it with cornflakes or roast it if its a whole chicken.

Fried rice nor nachos are other regulars...

We just revolve around those ideas really.
I try not to buy meat if it is more than $10 per/kg but that gets hard to find at times.

lunches are usually 2 min noodles and some carrots , maybe a yoghurt and piece of fruit thrown in.

We buy the $1 loafs of bread but he reality is they aren't very filling.

Great to see so many Kiwi's on here








Hudson

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2015, 04:02:25 AM »
wow that Otago Uni study was a real eye opener

nzmamma

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 31
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2015, 04:41:41 AM »
wow that Otago Uni study was a real eye opener

Sure was.

swick

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2884
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2015, 06:04:14 AM »
Sounds like you have some great suggestions so far!

Here are my thoughts, it sounds like you are basing a lot of your meals around the Meat + side + Veg  traditional meal set-up. This is the least economical way of eating because you are eating more meat per person, per serving. Take the same meat and reuse it in different ways will stretch things a lot farther.  Some ideas in Red.
The crunch of it all is it doesn't cover everything so I top it up using the credit card . I'm really trying to get rid of the credit card but currently use it to contribute to the grocery buying.

meal planning hmmm…..

We usually hav a pasta dish with some kind of mince and tinned tomato arrangement - Great! Like it was suggested stretch out with some lentils and beans.

Sometimes a sausages and spuds kind of meal….spuds or rice are frequently in use - Take the sausage out of it's casing and cook into crumbles. You can top baked potatoes with it, layer it with a white/cheese sauce and sliced potatoes into a casserole, sprinkle into an omelet or scrambled eggs, add to chili and soups for flavoring, add to pasta sauce, add to beans, use as taco meat...We get a spicy or a chorizo style sausage and a one lb package will last us multiple meals this way. Also easy because it is cooked and in the fridge waiting for you. Also, if you are cooking your sausages out of their casing, it may be cheaper to get minced meat and add your own flavorings/spices to make sausage.

chicken when its on special, usually crumb it with cornflakes or roast it if its a whole chicken.  - Roast chicken = Awesome! Are you saving the left overs/ making your own stock from the bones? Saving the bones from your chicken pieces? Rice, beans and other staples taste a whole lot better when cooked in stock :) Chicken pieces (or whole chicken) will go a lot farther if you can crockpot and shred the meat. It can become Taco filling, sandwich meat, pasta, the protein for a wide variety of curries.I'll also return the bones to the crockpot with a small splash of Apple cider vinigar twice and get two huge batches of chicken stock. Added bonus, most curries freeze nicely - and you can bulk them up with beans and veggies. I'll do up a huge batch and huge batch of cooked rice have it for dinner and then cool the left overs and freeze them together in individual portions for lunches. Soon the freezer has a variety of a couple of different options, much healthier and more filling then  2-min noodles. But on that note - Hubs and I will go out and buy a bunch of Asian veggies (whatever is on sale) and cut them all up and make our own "freezer" packs of Asian Veggies, they cook pretty much instantly and are an easy way of adding a portion of veg to instant noodles.

If you are eating bread that doesn't fill you up (I'm guessing breakfast?) and noodles for lunch, you are probably getting the bulk of your calories at dinner and causing you to eat more of the more expensive items instead of balancing throughout the day.


Fried rice nor nachos are other regulars...

We just revolve around those ideas really.
I try not to buy meat if it is more than $10 per/kg but that gets hard to find at times.

lunches are usually 2 min noodles and some carrots , maybe a yoghurt and piece of fruit thrown in.

We buy the $1 loafs of bread but he reality is they aren't very filling.

Great to see so many Kiwi's on here


Goldielocks

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6330
  • Location: BC
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2015, 11:48:17 PM »
My best two tips...

1 calculate the meal costs of you top 5 most common meals, working out the ingredient portions and price per ounce.  Thus will tell you if peppers on the nachos are really expensive, or if it is something else.

Try cheap recipe classics:

Potatoe pancakes, maybe with cabbage as a side
Egg and bacon pie ( for you kiwis)
Red beans and rice.
Baked beans( have a friend save their ham bone for you)
Pierogies
Potato and leek pie (thank you Brits)
Cheap fish like herring or sardines- there must be a local equivalent? To round out the meal..

Remember... Potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, tinned tomatoes are you staples for veg.  Pasta, tortillas if cheap,, rice, oatmeal, and flour (for homemade breads) are your starches.

Grow your own herbs for flavour upgrades.


Juju

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 10
  • Location: New Zealand
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2015, 03:05:36 AM »
Hi again :)

Your weekly menu looks pretty good, but I can see how you might be getting bored.  I'd second those suggestions above - try some vegetarian dishes or dishes where meat is the flavour, not the main component of the meal.  Even though ham, bacon and even salami are very expensive per kg, if you are only using a tiny amount to flavour the meal then it can work out cheaper than mince. 
Also, have a look at how much are you spending per meal on meat per person, not just /kg price.  With chicken, is it one breast per meal or one per person?  That can make a huge difference to your spending.

Pasta dishes are great - instead of the mince and tomato type though, have you tried some other options?  Here are some of my frequent go to ones:
- tomato and ham pasta bake (cook pasta, drain, add 1can of chopped tomatoes and some ham and onion that has been cooked through.  If you have cheese, add a bit to the top or else just salt and pepper.  Cook at 180c for around 20min.
- chicken pesto and bean pasta.  Now, i know pesto is hideously expensive, but if you like the flavour, per meal this doesn't work out too bad over the long run.  If i find it on speical, i'll buy a jar and then make this once a week until it's gone (around 4-5 meals depending on the brand).  Cook pasta, add a small amount of chopped and cooked chicken (i use one small breast) add 1 drained can of white beans, a couple of spoons of pesto and some cooked green beans, brocolli or other greens of your choice.  The white beans and veg help to bulk this one out.
- ratatouille - cook together tinned tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant with a few herbs and spices then use to top pasta.  Skip the eggplant though unless it's in season.  Feel free to add white beans instead to help bulk it.


I agree with the poster above - if you are only having two minute noodles at lunch, i'm guessing you are getting pretty hungry towards dinner time.  In order to bulk up two minute noodles, i find adding an egg as it cooks will make it a much more filling meal.  If tinned tuna is on special, you can add a small tin. 
One of my lazy lunches is often a small tin of tuna, cous cous and some frozen peas.  I find 1/4 cup of cous cous is enough to hold me through the day.  The tuna comes in heaps of different flavours too, so you can swap things about a bit.  If tuna isn't on speical, then the cous cous, peas and some other flavours are good too e.g. add in some powdered stock/spicy sauce/other flavour you like.
Otherwise, Is there any chance you could be bulking your main meals with more cheap carbs e.g. beans, lentils and chickpeas and then having leftovers for lunch?  We often cook an extra portion of rice for lunch and then serve with either a small amount of leftovers like curry or even with eggs and a bit of sauce. 


Runningtuff

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 43
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2015, 04:19:33 AM »
That's not very much! Well done on your efforts.
We do $100NZD p/w for a family of three, which is basic but comfortable ($50 less that the study recommends apparently), but you're on half of that. I'd agree with a lot of the above. Rock the Asian grocers, buy lots of eggs, and Sophie Gray is good.
I did Live Below The Line last year ($12 of food for 5 days or something) and it basically just wasn't enough calories (disclaimer - was running, and breastfeeding). So I can understand why you'd need to add to the pot.

TrMama

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2954
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2015, 02:59:39 PM »
I'm Canadian, but $75US for three people every two weeks sounds really, really low. That's only $150US/month. If you're having to run up credit card debt to keep yourselves fed, then it may be time to look at food banks or government assistance of some kind. Perhaps some of the locals can chime in with resources.

hydrangea

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 6
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2015, 05:58:37 AM »
Hi again Hudson - came across this PDF cookbook that I thought you might find inspiring. Good & Cheap: http://bit.ly/1LCmKfx

Your food budget is too low in my opinion - breaking it down it's NZD$2.50 a meal, or just over 80cents per person per meal...! Any way you can top it up slightly to give you more breathing room? You might not then turn to the credit cards if you have more in the budget.

forummm

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7396
  • Senior Mustachian
Re: Struggling to make our food budget work..
« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2015, 06:19:43 AM »
We live on about $50/week for 2 people in the US. We eat really, really well. I don't know if food prices are different in NZ. We don't eat almost any processed foods. I make home made granola from bulk ingredients and we eat that for breakfast with milk. We eat meat every night and vegetables almost every night. We could even save more money by eating a lot of rice and beans.