When budgets are tight and the pressure is on to save money, food is often one of the first things we skimp on. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Feeding your family for Chia Plotting under $100 is more than do-able. Just follow these tips.
1. Shop locally and in-season. Ditch the weekly shop at the big supermarket and visit farmer-friendly farmer’s markets instead. Stock up big on excess apples, banana bunches, seasonal fruits and veggies. Try every taste test for a free morning tea on the run!
2. Get cooking. Chop up your market bounty and freeze produce for later, or blitz it by making big pots of curries, lentil dhals, pies and pastries for the week ahead. Add good quality wholemeal pastas and rice to bulk up the servings.
3. Reduce wastage. Use up those brown bananas in a big batch of banana, nut and date muffins or pancakes and freeze them in individual zip lock bags in preparation for the school week. Process all your withered and worn veggie ends for your own homemade stock. Compost your scraps. Indulge your worms with tasty titbits. Wrap up your excess cookies and cakes for homemade yummy gifts.
4. Make as much as you can from scratch. Takeaways and restaurant meals charge you for their time spent cooking the raw products just for you. Buy your raw ingredients in bulk. Your flours, nuts, seeds, cereals and dried fruit can all be carried home in brown paper bags from bulk supply shops. If you have a business, why not organise an account from organic and whole food suppliers? You’ll pay the same base rate as the health food shops and cut out the middleman.
5. For dinners with substance, fill oven-baked potatoes with baked beans, tabbouli, cheese and herbs. Try Pasta Carbonara, a quick and tasty combination of eggs, bacon, cream and spaghetti or apricot chicken. Op shops and charity stores have great old recipe books for a dollar or two. These are filled with plenty of low-cost simple recipes and depression-era tricks for making food go further. Afternoon tea snacks are as simple as baking your own ‘cheap and cheerful’ fruit and nut bars, biscuits and crepes. A bonus- they’ll be additive and preservative-free and good for your kids too!
6. Don’t skimp on real food. Organic or raw milk tastes like milk is supposed to taste. (My children race for the cream on top!). Bakery bread is made from quality flour, yeast, water and oil just as it should be, unlike supermarket ‘breads’ filled with unknown numbers and ingredients we can’t even pronounce.
7. Buy yourself a yoghurt maker. Make your own delicious flavoured (with real fruit) yoghurt for about a quarter of the cost of store-bought jars.
8. Grow your own. Swap your excess beans and spinach for eggs from your neighbours free-ranging chickens. If you don’t have a veggie plot at home, join a co-op or a community garden and invest a few hours a week there learning, growing and building friendships with other conscious eaters. Barter your time or skills for produce. A friend with orange and lemon trees might love you to mow the lawn. A colleague with abundant tomatoes might swap a bucket load for an afternoon of babysitting. Ask around.
9. Find your local ‘Acts of Random Kindness’ food parcel service. Churches and community groups often repackage excess food into parcels for those on low or single incomes. Our local chapter offers a week’s worth of good food for $30, including fruits, vegetables, cupboard supplies, tinned foods, dairy and occasional meat inclusions! Most of this is an oversupply of really good fresh food from big supermarket chains and has been rescued from the central Food Banks to prevent it going to landfill. It’s food to make you feel good. What a win-win!
10. And the best cheap treat of all? Make your own ice-pops. Blend your favourite fruits with a little bit of filtered water, stir in some mix in’s of pineapple or pawpaw chunks, pour the lot into your ice-pop maker or small containers, add a stick handle and freeze for a glorious summer or spring afternoon treat. Create milky pops by processing soy milk and silken tofu with peanut butter, raw cacao, chia and flaxseeds (linseeds). Yum.