Budget week – 10 tips on how to reduce your food costs

Budget week

Budget week

So every now and then, I get sick of spending so much money on food. Sometimes I spend a ridiculous amount of our money on ingredients at the supermarket because well, cooking, it’s my passion (even though I hate that word in that context). But it is. So sometimes, after seeing all the Woollies and Coles entries on our bank statement I decide that it is time to pull in the purse strings and have a good ol’ budget week!

 

I’ve been instagramming some of our budget week pics, but I thought I’d write a bit of a post about ways you can keep your food budget under check! These are my tried and true tips, but I’m SURE you all have your own that you can tell me too, so comment below if you have some!

 So here are my top 10 tips for saving money on food (plus one bonus cheeky tip)…

Curried sausage casserole with brown rice

Curried sausage casserole with brown rice

  1. PLAN, plan and plan again. It’s so important to plan your meals before you go to the shops. Write yourself a list and stick to the list. I use to be rubbish at that and would pick anything and everything I saw, as well as the list. Not recommended, trust me.
  2. Shop without your kids. When I shop with the girls, I speed through, trying to get it done with all three of us alive and avoiding tantrums so I buy way more than I need because I’m not concentrating, or I forget the things I need so on top of an already over budget shop, I have to buy more. Most supermarkets these days are open late night every weeknight so it’s easy to go after the kids are in bed. And I tell you this for free, it’s damn right peaceful in the shops at night. Sometimes I like to just wander the aisles aimlessly because I am kid free! If you can’t get out alone, try the next tip….
  3. Shop online! I’m terrible at estimating my budget as I shop. Sometimes I think it’s a big shop and it’s not, sometimes I think it’s a small shop and I’m that person at the checkout with their jaw on the floor thinking, did I really spend THAT much. One of the best ways for me to stick to a budget has been to shop online. I can add everything to my trolley that I need and if it goes over budget I can easily sit back and decide which items I need to take out. Rather than feeling like a scab at the checkout getting the operator to take things off or trying to decide in a hurry because Miss 2 is pushing Miss 4 who is screaming blue murder.
  4. Shop in season. Fruit and veg are cheaper when they are in season. It’s hard to work out what is in season these days because you can access almost every fruit and vegetable ALL the time, but if you go around the fruit and veg section choosing what’s cheapest, you are probably eating within the season.
  5. Buy home brand. I KNOW, I get it, it’s not ethical, it’s not local, it robs farmers. But when I am trying to budget conscious, that is one ideal that I have to give up. It makes a HUGE difference to the price tag at the end of my shopping.
  6. Have some cheap, really basic meals on your menu. I’m thinking like: toast and baked beans, eggs on toast, egg in a hole, that sort of thing. I used to HATE doing this. I felt like I was making boring food for the kids and that husband would think that I was being lazy. Turns out none of them care! The girls love egg-in-a-hole nights or baked beans and husband loves the fact that there’s less to clean up after dinner. And I’m less stressed when I know that meal prep is going to be really
  7. Look at the portions you are providing. I am a typical European girl who loves to over-cater when it comes to food so I would cook up massive meals and portions. Which was a waste of money, because all it did was make husband and I gain weight, and the girls serves get wasted. So we have cut portions down. Meat especially and it really does make a difference in how much we spend.
  8. Grow your own. Simple as that. Start a veggie garden, grow some fruit trees. Get some chooks. You will supplement your shop with fresh delicious foods that you don’t have to buy. Save your seed to eliminate the need to buy seeds or seedlings the next year. I really REALLY love gardening which you will know, so I wont bang on about it too much but it is seriously cool.
  9. Save fancy meals for once or twice a week. This is my HARDEST. I love cooking, and I love cooking new recipes I see. I seriously don’t think I will ever get to the point where I have tried all of the recipes I want to. But in terms of cost of ingredients, basic meals are usually the cheapest. So I hold off my urges until the weekend and make fancy meals with fancy ingredients then.
  10. Buy things in bulk. I buy nuts, grains and seeds at a bulk shop and it works out MUCH cheaper in the long run than buying small bags at the super market.
  11. This is the bonus tip, eat at someone else’s house!! When I decided to do my budget week, I had 7 meals planned out and shopped for (online of course). I then realised that I had not factored in 2 family birthdays where we would be eating at someone else’s house, and then we also had a last minute family dinner at my mother in laws too so that knocked 3 meals off my plan for this week. That’s my bonus because those weeks will become meals for next week that I don’t have to buy. Obviously I’m not condoning you to turning up at peoples house uninvited for eating, but as a young family, accepting invitations from parents and parents-in-law for dinner is GREAT!.
Zucchini slice

Zucchini slice

So there are SOME of my tips for keeping your shopping budget tight. But I want to hear yours. Comment below your tried and tested budgeting tips…

 

Bye for now,

 

The Dietitian Mummy

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk about kids drinks

Kids Drinks
 
When I ask parents about their kids drinks it’s always an interesting conversation. A lot of the time it goes along the lines of this…
Me – “do you give your kids soft drink?”
Parent – “absolutely not, that stuff is full of sugar. They might have it at a party but not at home”
Me – “do you give your kids cordial?”
Parent – “no way, cordial rots kids teeth”
Me – “do you give your kids juice?”
Parent – “yes, they probably have 1 or 2 glasses a day”
It’s about this time that I tell parents about the sugar in kids drinks. Did you know that there is exactly the same amount of sugar in apple juice as there is in coke? Not many parents do! And that is a no added sugar variety. And I’m not blaming you, marketing  managers are clever and they definitely pull the juice is healthy card when they can get away with it.
 
When you give your child a glass of juice (and I mean 250 mls which is a measuring cup) it is the same as 5 teaspoons of table sugar. Okay so imagine getting out your sugar bowl and spooning your child a teaspoon of sugar. Then spoon them another. Then another. Another. And another. By this time my Miss almost 4 would be in heaven, but fast forward about an hour and she would have crashed and would be entering tanty zone.
 
After a quick internet swoop, here’s the sugar content of some common drinks for 1 cup:
Coke/softdrink – 26.5g
Apple juice (no added sugar) – 26g    
Orange juice – 13.8g
Orange drink (25% juice) – 27.5g
Nesquik – 27g
Milo – 24g
Cordial – 16g
Plain milk – 15g (from lactose which is natural sugar)
Water – 0!!!!
You can see how over the day, if you are giving these drinks, that sugar intake can bank up! Unfortunately one of the biggest causes of childhood obesity is sugary drinks.  Don’t get me wrong, a little bit of these things is okay. Every now and then give your kids juice if you want, or treat them to a milo if you feel the need one day, but for everyday use, water is the best choice. Water is the only everyday drink.
 
Tips for getting your child to drink more water:
-serve it cold. Some kids will drink it more if it is cold!
-keep a jug that your older child can pour from themselves. If there is the novelty of doing it themselves, then they might be more likely to do it.
-give them a cool looking water bottle.
-infuse the water with fruit (strawberries or lemon are often good) or even cucumber.
-use a chart for older kids. Let them tick off when they finish a glass of water.
-model the behaviour and talk about it. Something along the lines of “wow mummy is thirsty. Where’s my water bottle I need a DRINK”. Feel free to exaggerate.
 
Happy drinking,
 
The Dietitian Mummy
 

Fussy eating – starting right

In our eating world it’s been a long time since we have had to feed our little ones but I’ve seen a few clients recently who are early on in the introduction to solids stages.

One of the things I ALWAYS talk to mums about at the starting solids time is the behavioural aspect of food introduction and it’s links to future fussy eating.

I’m not in the business of telling mums they are doing things wrong but I do like to share my knowledge and experience on fussy eating development and basic kids food antics.

The biggest behavioural aspect we talk about is the category I like to call aeroplanes/tricking/coaxing.
My mother-in-law was quite upset to find that when I started solids with my number 1 (her first grandchild) that I had banned all aeroplanes when feeding her. Any behaviour (from mum,  dad or care providers) that are trying to get kiddies to eat when they are showing that they aren’t keen most often swts us a bit of a pattern for fussy eating.

To give you some background, let’s talk about kid antics for a bit. Kids dont get much control. Especially early on. You choose their clothes.  You choose the toys they have. You choose where they sleep. You choose what they do each day. When they get to the age where they want to get some control, hell they’ll grab it from wherever they can get it.

So think about this situation:
A wonderfully competant mum has decided to start feeding her hungry bub some solids. Mum is super excited and really wants this to be a successful stage in bubs life. Along the line somewhere, because well everyone else does it and thats how her mum did it, this lovely mum starts doing some aeroplanes to get bub to eat when he gets a bit fussy. Coaxing mouthfuls and tricking bub with alternate spoons of foods that bub likes also sneak in (1 spoon of veg, one spoon of fruit is usually what I see). Bub starts to realise that mum really really wants him to eat food and at this early stage loves this because bub is ecstatic when mum is happy. Bub gets older and starts wanting some control in his life because well he IS boss, isn’t he. He realises he can actually control what he eats, he can clamp his mouth shut and wowee does that cause a hilarious reaction from mum, he notes to self “lets do that one again”!

So that’s my reasoning behind not doing those beahviours from the start. So here’s my tips for starting right…

– if your bub is not interested in their food, don’t worry. If their growth is fine (and by fine I mean tracking along a percentile – no matter what percentile) then they will be fine missing a few meals. Especially seems at the start they are still getting most of their nutrients from their milk.
– use a 3 spoon rule. If they turn away once wait a minute or so. Try again if they turn away wait again. Third strike, if they turn away they are done. Obviously if before then they start going crazy or trying to get out their chair then don’t bother trying the 3 but you get my gist.
– it takes up to 10 exposures to food before some kids are happy enough to try the food so persist. Don’t take one refusal as “they don’t like it”.
– expect mess, and wastage. Its part of the process. A frustrating part yes, but something you have to deal with.
– if you find yourself coaxing, tricking or aeroplaning, put down that spoon mummy and step awaaayyyyy from the food 🙂

So if you are starting solids or about to, have a think about your feeding behaviour and remember, a healthy child will never starve.

Happy feeding,

The Dietitian Mummy

Fussy eaters tool kit – The learning plate

Do you have a child that just simply refuses to eat certain foods? To the point where there is a full scale blow out tantrum if it is even on the table? Trust me you are not alone! Some kiddies just don’t like trying new foods. If you have been worried about your child’s eating you are probably having a bit of a focus on what they are eating when at the dinner table too. It’s okay we all do it, but unfortunately kids, and especially some fussy eaters, hate it when we focus on what they are eating, and worse yet, hassle (even well meaning) them to eat something. Some kids go that extra mile and don’t even like the food to be not just on their plate but on the table itself.

 

There are many reasons for this, but today I am going to focus on when that reason is that the food is unfamiliar to your child, or that your child takes a while to familiarise themselves with foods. If this is the case (as it is for many little ones I see), then it’s a good idea to take a step back and let your child become acceptable of foods at their own pace (even when it seems to be absolute snail’s pace to us). I have a tool for you to use at home to help familiarise your child with new foods. I didn’t make this activity up, I learnt it in professional development from another dietitian, but it’s something I have used with good success in some of the kids I have seen.

 

There is an approach to dealing with fussy eating called SOS practices. This can only be delivered by practitioners trained in this area (which is not me, yet) but something that I find useful is the way they describe the levels of “fussiness” within different kids. The describe 6 areas of sensitivity by kids which include tolerating, interacting with the food, smelling the food, touching the food, tasting the food and eating the food. Within each area, there are different levels that your child may be at, ie whether they tolerate the food in the room, tolerate it at the table, or tolerate it on their plate.

 

Your child may be at varying stages of the scale, and it’s important to know where they are at before trying to progress with dealing with their fussiness. It would probably be too much for your little one to try tasting a food straight away if they have previously not even tolerated it on their plate. With fussy eating it’s always about small but progressive steps. So guage where your child is at, to know where you start with this activity.

 

So the learning plate. It is a way that is not confronting for your child, to introduce a new or previously refused food. You use the learning plate to display the new food there is no expectation for the child to touch, taste or eat the food, just that it is there for them to learn about the food. Depending on your child, the learning plate may start on the opposite side of the table to them, and it may gradually move towards them as they become more familiar with it. If they are happy with the food being close to them, they can start to do things at their own pace with the food on that plate, they may touch it, prod it with their fork, lick it, smell it, bite it and hopefully one day eat it.

 

Introduce it to your child. Tell them it will be on the table, but they don’t have to eat from it unless they want to. Explain to them that the plate is about learning about the food. For some, it might help just introducing the plate first without anything on it. When you are going to move the plate closer, check with your child first “is it okay if I move this closer?”.

 

The key is with this activity is to keep it non-confrontational. So basically mums and dads, no asking your child to try the food. No telling them to put it in their mouth. No hassling. I know it’s HARD, I even catch myself doing this every now and then but try not to ask them to try the food, talk instead about the food. What colour it is, is it crunchy, how it can be cooked and eaten. What is in it and what that will do in their body. Keep it fun, light and educational.

 

Some examples

“ohh do you know what’s on the learning plate today?”

“what does it look like?”

“does it look crunchy or soft” “mummies got some on her plate, ohh it’s crunchy, did you hear that crunch?”

“who do you think eats that vegetable/food”

“did you know that carrots have vitamins in them that help your eyes?”

“this apple is sweet like watermelon”

 

Over time, your little one will become more familiar with that food and will (in most cases) let you put it on their plate. You might have to do foods separately, or together. You might need to take it really slow for one food, and it progresses much more quickly with another. Just use your child as a guide.

 

Oh and a hot tip, plates with cool pictures or characters on them, work a treat 🙂

 

Comment below if you have any questions!

 

Happy learning,

 

The Dietitian Mummy.

Chicken Stock

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I talked a few weeks back about cutting up your own chickens and how you are left with a whole lot of wastage and making your own chicken stock is a really good way to utilise some waste. My main motivation for making my own chicken stock is mainly for taste but also because Miss 3 seems to go agro on commercial chicken stock. There are a fair few preservatives in it and the yeast extract that is in most of even the liquid forms is what I suspect makes her go bananas.

The pot simmering away

The pot simmering away

Making your own chicken stock sounds ultra super-mum-ish which I hate, but it is actually SUPER easy. And it makes your house smell yummo too. It’s smoother in your meals, especially the ones that you make an effort to take a long time to make like risotto. Seriously you can taste the difference.

 

And do you know the best part? Most of the ingredients are parts of foods that you rarely eat! The left over chicken bones, the tops of celery and leek. It saves you money and stops wastage too. I can’t bang on about it enough.

But anyway, I’m blabbering on because the “recipe” is so easy it wont take long to write!

 

No that's not my scraps, that's my flavour

No that’s not my scraps, that’s my flavour

Chicken Stock

1 Chicken carcass. You can use an already cooked one but you will have to give it a good ol’ beating, will have to cook it for longer and the stock wont be as tasty. Raw is best.

Half of a top of celery (the leaves and thin stalky bits)

1 carrot

1 onion

The top half of a leek

Garlic cloves

Herbs – I generally use 2 bay leaves, and 2 sticks of rosemary

Peppercorns – about 6

Good lug of olive oil

Method

1. Put a lug of oil in the pot and brown the carcass.

2. This is the worst part: get a rolling pin and bash the chicken bones with the end of it. It’s a bit queasy for me hearing the bones crack (probably PTSD from a broken clavicle on entry to this world) but this is especially essential if you are using a cooked chook.

3. Chuck everything else in along with about 2 litres of water.

4. Bring to boil then simmer for the day.

5. I don’t usually add salt to the stock because I add salt when I cook so it doesn’t taste anything like commercial stock at this point. If you prefer to start with your stock salty then add salt while it’s cooking. Add it bit by bit and taste after a few minutes before adding more.

6. Strain the liquid out and there is your stock. If you want the fat out of it then put the liquid in a bowl in the fridge and use a spoon to scoop off the fat layer the next day.

The "leftovers"

The “leftovers”

7. Freeze in portions that you would normally use.

Easy peasy!!

Seriously have a go, your cooking will improve ten fold and it’s less useless preservatives entering your kiddies little bodies.

 

Happy cooking,

 

The Dietitian Mummy

Easy chicken and pumpkin mac and cheese

 

Chicken and pumpkin mac and cheese

Chicken and pumpkin mac and cheese

Sometimes I get carried away with my cooking ambitions and forget that kids really just like basic tastes. One of my girls favourites is mac and cheese. Give them food in the beige colour range and they are happy as larry.

So last night I decided to float their boats and make chicken and pumpkin mac and cheese. And it was super easy. This could just as easily be made vegetarian, just leave out the chicken.

Cheese goodness and mess behind

Cheese goodness and mess behind

I accidentally put a massive whack in Miss 3.5’s bowl and husband laughed saying she would never finish it. Well she didn’t, but she came much closer than we thought she would. Miss 1.5 (who has been pretty hit and miss lately on the ol’ eating) even decided to get into it and shove a fair few mouthfuls in her mouth.

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We also had a good laugh at her attempts to say “mac-a-moimi”

Pot-o-gold

Pot-o-gold

So here’s the recipe…

Chicken and pumpkin mac and cheese

Ingredients

Cooked chicken pieces, we used leftovers from a roast chook

1/4 pumpkin (I think mine was jap), grated

Cheese sauce (go here for my recipe)

1 onion chopped

Macaroni (I used about 3/4 of a bag and it made HEAPS)

Grated cheese for the top (mine was a mix of tasty and parmesan)

Method:

-make your cheese sauce

-cook your pasta until it is just aldente

-once you have drained your pasta, cook your onion in the empty pasta pot with a bit of oil

-mix it all together

-put it in a tray and bake it in a medium oven (about 180 degrees) for about 15 minutes, or until the top crisps up and goes brown!

 

We added a salad to ours

We added a salad to ours

Yummo!!

 

Discussing kid life and mac and cheese

Discussing kid life and mac and cheese

Lemon berry cake

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The other day, Miss 3 begged me to let her make a cake. Begged. She said please, please, pleeeassseee mum can we make a cake. She wanted to “make a cake and keep it till my birthday”. It was June and her birthday is in October. Anyway, I said yes and let her know that she didn’t have to keep it till her birthday, that she could eat some straight away.

 

Normally I dictate what we are making but this time I let her decide. We waited until Miss 1.5 was asleep and then made a cake. Her decisions were that it was to be a big cake, it had to have blueberries on the top, and after seeing lemons on the bench (from my sister-in-law’s parents) that there was going to be lemons in it. She was very adamant that the cake had to have berries poked into the top and that she would be the one to do it. “Not you mum, I will do it”.

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I had made this version of a lemon blueberry cake for my birthday, so we loosely followed this recipe. As usual, I didn’t have everything I needed so the final recipe ended up more like below! The cake was beautifully crispy on the top, sides and especially the corners, and was soft and fluffy in the middle. It crumbled away and broke a bit, but I think that wouldn’t have been as bad if we hadn’t been greedy and taken it straight out of the tin after taking it out of the oven.

 

So here is the recipe of this delightful treat….

 

Lemon berry cake.

Ingredients

125g margarine

1 egg

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup raw sugar

1/2 cup milk

the juice and zest of 1 1/2 lemons

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups self raising flour

about 1 cup of berries for the top

 

Method

Preheat a moderate oven, 180 degrees.

Beat together the margarine and sugars until creamy, then add in the vanilla, lemon juice and rind, and milk. It starts to look a bit gross right now but trust me it comes together.

Sift in the flour and mix until smooth.

Put the mixture into a lined tin and bake until golden on the top. You can poke a skewer into the middle of the cake and if it comes out without any mixture on it (little crumbs are okay but anything liquidy means it’s not ready) then you are good to go.

Let it cool in the tin, unless you are too cake crazy like we were!

 

Enjoy with a hot cup of tea and hashtag a pic on instagram #thedietitianmummyrecipe

 

The Dietitian Mummy