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

 

 

 

 

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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

Pumpkin and cheese scones

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I was making some scones the other day because my friend (sister in law) was coming over (biggest sweet-tooth there ever was) and started making them from a recipe out of one of my favourite books – The Margaret Foulton Cookbook. So I put in the flour and started rubbing in the butter and realised that this recipe was going to make tonnes of scones. I love scones, but I love fresh scones. After a day, they lose appeal to me (and everyone else in this house) and so they get wasted. What do seem to last a bit longer than one day in terms of taste are savoury scones. So in my effort to minimise waste I split the dry ingredients and made the other half into savoury scones – Pumpkin and cheese to be exact.

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I flicked through a few recipes, all of which said to pre-cook the pumpkin. Something I really could not be bothered doing. So I made my own recipe and grated the pumpkin. It cooked perfectly and teamed with the cheese created a steaming little nugget of deliciousness. They were yummo warm and just as yum a few days later with a bit of margarine.

 

Pumpkin and cheese scones

1 1/2 cups self raising flour

30g butter or margarine

1/2 cup buttermilk (I used Margaret’s tip of putting 1/2 tsp of vinegar into normal milk for the same effect), plus after mixing I ended up adding about another tablespoon of milk

1 1/2 cups grated pumpkin

1 cup grated cheese

Method

Sift the flour into a bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers (Miss 3 loves this part).

Add the pumpkin and cheese and stir to mix (can be done with hands).

Add the milk and stir again until formed. If it’s not coming together add in milk 1tsp at a time until its a slightly sticky dough that stays together.

Flip the dough out onto a floured bench top and give it a light knead and then form it into a semi-flattened circle (mine was probably about an inch high).

Use a cutter to cut out the scones and put into a cake tin lined with baking paper. Put them close together and they will help each other rise higher.

Bake in the oven (230 degrees) under golden brown on top and no longer mushy inside (sometimes difficult to tell with all that melted cheese in there) .

Let cool and then enjoy!

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Happy baking,

 

The Dietitian Mummy

Chicken Patties

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I made the most amazing chicken patties the other day. So simple and they were sooo yummy. I had been to the butcher (and for some reason went a bit mince crazy) and ended up with chicken mince among the other things I bought. I have always thought it is cheaper to buy patties already made and have bought them purely for ease but as with most things, I get a bit skeptical when I don’t know what is in something.

Anyhoo, the mince was $6.99/kg and I got half, so spent $3.50 and the chicken patties were 50c each to buy at the butcher.

This girl loves couscous

This girl loves couscous

I had 4 slices of old bread (week old wholemeal to be exact) that I put in my food processor, one of my favourite inventions in the kitchen, and made into fresh breadcrumbs. I chucked that in with the mince along with an onion, 2 garlic cloves, a handful of basil and sage from the garden, an egg and some salt (detailed recipe below).

Squished it all up with my fingers and then rolled those babies up. I used the left over crumbs to coat them then put in the fridge until we were ready to cook.

It made 14 patties which comes out at 25c each just for the meat. I’m not sure about the rest of the ingredients but they were things I have all the time so I kinda don’t count them. So I’m calling it as half price!

Leftovers that got frozen

Leftovers that got frozen

I fried them up at dinner (I didn’t measure but maybe 1 tsp of oil each batch of 4?), served them with a salad and Moroccan couscous and they were a little bit awesome. Husband agreed (and no he doesn’t always like my cooking, he is very happy to tell me if something is a bit yuck).

Happy cooking,

The Dietitian Mummy

Chicken patties

Ingredients

500g chicken mince

1 onion, chopped finely

2 cloves garlic, chopped even more finely

1 egg

4 slices old bread (or about 2 cups packaged breadcrumbs)

Basil (6-7 leaves), chopped

Sage (4 leaves), chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Put the bread in a food processor and blitz on the highest speed until it is like breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a processor, fear not, just grate it.

Take out 1 ½ cups of the breadcrumbs and put it in a big bowl along with everything else.

Wash your hands (if you forgot at the start) and get those fingers squishing until it’s all combined.

Roll into balls then roll in the leftover breadcrumbs. Put them on a plate and chill in the fridge for as long as you have! I only had 20 minutes when I did this and they were fine.

Heat a pan with a splash of oil. When hot, put the patties in the pan and squash flat. Reduce the heat and cook until golden brown on both sides. You do this slowly so that the inside is cooked without the outside burning. It’s absolutely essential that these babies are cooked all the way through so check them before eating. You want them to look beige not pink on the inside.

And you are done. Serve them up with whatever takes your fancy.

Look after yourself mum

Being a mum means LOTS of coffee

Being a mum means LOTS of coffee

It’s so often that I get very caught up in looking after two very energetic (ahem ratbag-ish) kiddies, working, budgeting, trying hard to be a good wife/sister/daughter/friend etc etc, and my body gets to a point where it just decides to say “nah uh girl, I’m DONE”. It basically just crashes and manifests this crash in varied ways (migraines, pulled jaw muscles, stress rash, full blown flu or IBS to name a few I’ve had). It is my body’s way of reminding me that yes I am a mum (plus a million other roles), but I need to take care of me in order to be a good mum. As much as you might think being a Dietitian would mean my nutrition is perfect, it’s not. I’m just as guilty as the rest of you for surviving whole days on biscuits, cheese and 2 minute noodles scoffed once the girls go down for their arvo sleep. I know full well what it’s like and just how hard it is. But it IS important. So in terms of nutrition, when you are the last person on your own list, here are your main focus areas gals.

It means TRYING to stay fit

It means TRYING to stay fit

Energy

Yes, kilojoules, calories, actual eating. You might be striving to lose some baby weight or look like Miranda Kerr did post child (pffttt), but starving yourself is not going to help! Neither is crash dieting. I understand the pressure to look a certain way, and that the media portrays starvation diets as something that is normal but no kid wants a tired, grumpy and plain depressed mummy because they are depriving themselves of the joys of eating. Eating regularly and eating enough, will still help you to reach your weight goals. It will help your body to metabolise the food you eat efficiently. You need energy from all forms (carbs, protein and fats) for your body to function well, so don’t cut out groups completely. Just be mindful of the amounts you have. Make sure you get energy from lean protein sources (lean meats, legumes, low fat dairy), high fibre carbohydrates (grainy bread, the least processed cereals and crackers), fruits and vegetables and a small amount of unsaturated fats.

It means more than a few mornings waking up like this

It means more than a few mornings waking up like this

Iron

This is super important. Lack of iron means feeling tired and hell I’m pretty sure we all have a hundred other reasons to be feeling tired without this one adding to the issue. And the easiest way to get this is red meat. Try to do it 3 times a week. It doesn’t have to be steak, it can be mince or stew and can be any type. Good old skippy the bush kanagaroo is amazingly packed with iron and is pretty cheap too. And you don’t have to eat loads, one serve is the size of the palm of your hand. Other meats also have iron in them, but in smaller amounts. If you don’t eat meat make sure you get lots of plant based forms of iron (technical name is non-haem). You can get these from wholegrain and iron-fortified breads and cereals, legumes like kidney beans or baked beans, green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli etc), nuts and dried fruit, and quinoa. The top tip if you are having these is to have some vitamin c at the same time because the iron from these foods isn’t absorbed as well, so team them up with citrus foods, strawberries, tomatoes, or kiwi fruit.

And days when you feel like this

And days when you feel like this

Fibre

Fibre is important. It helps you pooh. It keeps you regular. I don’t think I even need to explain why we want to avoid being constipated? Do I??? Fibre also helps with keeping you fuller for longer. Meals high in fibre will take longer to break down in your stomach and therefore will hold off the hunger pains. So if you do get 5 minutes to scoff down your lunch, at least higher fibre foods will keep you going until the kiddies go down for a sleep in the arvo (here’s hoping hey). And the foods that are high in fibre are generally good for protecting against scary diseases like cancer, yes it’s that kind of important. Good fibre foods are vegetables, fruit with the skin on, seeds, wholegrains (couscous, rice, and quinoa), pasta and wholegrain varieties of foods like bread, crackers, cereals and legumes.

And it means appreciating this much more than you every thought

And it means appreciating this much more than you every thought

Calcium

Yes, as mums we are all females and we all need calcium! Why? Because y’all don’t want to be frail old ladies bent over a stick, fracturing hips and limbs with every step now do you. And we all know the best source of calcium is…. Yep dairy foods (unless you are believing that trollop being touted around about calcium not being absorbed blah blah. Rubbish.). Milk and yoghurt are the best because you can get low fat and skim varieties but also cheese. Three serves a day of dairy is the going rate at the moment (1 cup milk, 1 tub yoghurt or 1 slice cheese). If you really don’t like dairy and fancy yourself a bit of soy, almond or rice milk, please make sure it is calcium fortified and I won’t bother you anymore. It’s just as good. Some other lower sources of calcium are almonds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, tahini, Asian greens, kale and broccoli. Caffeine stops calcium absorption (ouch I know) and salt increases excretion (getting rid of calcium in your urine), just so you know.

And it means being a climbing frame

And it means being a climbing frame

Water

KEEP HYDRATED PEOPLE. There are many health reasons for staying hydrated but the main one is you feel like crap if you are dehydrated! Dehydration can cause more than just a dry mouth, it can bring on headaches, dizziness, being tired and constipation. If you absolutely “can’t” face water then chill it, infuse it with fruit, or add diet cordial to it. You can have full strength cordial or juices but they are high in kilojoules (calories if you are unaware of our Australian version) and will give you a swift assistance to weight gain.

There are plenty of other things nutritionally that we probably need to be more aware of but I hate lecturing and badgering so I’ve keep the list short!

But it also means lots of beautiful moments like these

But it also means lots of beautiful moments like these

Take care of yourselves mums, because it’s the most important part of taking care of your little ones.

Much love,

The Dietitian Mummy.

Lolly-Cauli Pasta

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So I was in Coles the other day and was doing my shopping in the mad dash that is shopping with two kids. I was browsing the veggie section for bargains and my eye was caught by a burst of purple which looked a bit crazy! We went over and it was purple cauliflower and it was only $2. Miss 3 thought it was HILARIOUS and was laughing at it most of the shopping trip.

 

This continued throughout the week of it being in the fridge. Every time she saw it she’d say in this high pitched voice “purple cauliflower???”. So anyway, I was going around to my sisters for dinner (Pulled Pork rolls ahhhh amaze-balls, thanks Jamie Oliver and Save With Jamie) and she asked if I could make something for the little ones.

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Now knowing my cooking audience included Miss Niece 5 who is quite the food/vegetable critic I decided to pull out all the stops (in the form of purple veggies) and make what I decided to call Lolly-Cauli Pasta!!

When cooked and mixed in it is still really colourful and teamed with the other frozen veg, it looks like a bowl of lollies. Miss Niece 5 thought it was a bit funny and even took a few bites of the cauli, Miss 3 and Miss niece 3 thought it was a crack up, annndddd the fact that it was covered in cheesy sauce meant that they gobbled most of it up. Us adults also got into it because it was so damn cheesy and delicious!

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When I made this it made HEAPS. My girls are still eating it and it freezes fine.

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Lolly-Cauli Pasta

Serves about 10

1 bag pasta (I did spirals but use your imagination)

2 cups frozen vegetables

1 purple cauliflower (they also had green but not as lolly looking), chopped up

4 pieces of short cut bacon (could easily eliminate this if you are vegetarian)

2 cups milk (I used full cream because we only had Miss 1’s milk left but I’ve made it with skim and it still turns out yummo)

½ cup plain flour

2 large dessert spoons of margarine (can be butter or margarine, I used Nuttelex and it worked fine)

2 cups grated cheese (I used reduced fat)

 

Get some hot water on and cook your pasta. Whack the cauliflower in the microwave with some water for about 5 minutes (or until it’s just soft).

Put the margarine in a large saucepan over medium heat and melt. Once melted add in the bacon and let it brown a little.

Get your flour and milk handy and close. Add your flour and take off the heat while you stir like a mad woman. It will get gluggy. Add your milk straight away and stir like an even madder woman. If there are heaps of lumps then get out a whisk and whisk like crazy.

Leave this over medium heat to thicken and stir it every minute or so, so that it doesn’t stick to the sides or bottom.

Once it gets thick add in your cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted.

Then add your frozen veg, cauliflower and pasta and mix in.

Badaboom you have lolly-cauli pasta! Serve and watch your kiddies look at you like you are crazy!!!