We spend $200 a fortnight on food for three.
This includes all meals we eat at home, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It includes cleaning products and nappies. It doesn’t include toilet paper, meals out or alcohol.
We’ve been spending just $200 a fortnight on food for about the last 3 years, some fortnights I’d love a little more but mostly I do it without struggle. We don’t ever want for anything, there’s always food to share around if friends drop by and there’s always a little extra sitting in the cupboard to bake biscuits, cake or a yummy slice.
I do groceries on a Thursday, that’s the day after pay day and the day after all our money gets put into our various spending and saving accounts. I usually meal plan throughout the fortnight, when I stumble across recipes that I like, things I’m looking forward to eating and things that we haven’t eaten for ages. But I try to finalise the plan on Wednesday evening, sometimes with the help of Jay. I try to have a maximum of 50% meat to vegetarian meals, but often it’ll be more like 75% vegetarian.
I keep a list in my notes for the meals, with links or page numbers to find the recipes, and I keep another list for groceries. This list is also added to throughout the fortnight with items we have run out of, things that may not necessarily be ingredients for the fortnights recipes such as mustard, vegemite, peanut butter, cheese etc and ingredients to the various recipes I’ve saved.
I divide the shopping list into three, sometimes four sections, Aldi/Woolworths, Market, Butcher. And that’s usually the order in which I shop too.
At Aldi I buy pantry staples, tinned beans, lentils etc, pasata, tinned tomatoes, flour, sugar, pearled barley, tomato paste, cooking chocolate, dried fruit and nuts and butter and nappies. Usually I spend around $80 at Aldi. Then I might have to pop to Woolworths to pick up some items such as popping corn, polenta, and some spices that Aldi doesn’t stock.
Next stop is the Friday morning farmers market at the local primary school. There’s 3 regular stalls at the market and I love to shop at the two that grow most of their produce at home. This way I know that I am supporting local farmers, I am eating seasonally, and the produce is cheaper. Then I move on to the final stall where I top up on all the remaining items I need off my list. If there’s something I need that’s not there, then we’ll just go without, or find something to replace the item. I usually spend about $30 on fresh produce, sometimes we’ll top up mid-fortnight if there’s a little money left in the kitty.
If you’re shopping in the supermarket, look for those bags of produce they bag up for $3, check out the ‘imperfect’ produce.
After the market we’ll walk to the butcher. We pick up the items on the list. Like I said above, we usually only eat about 4 meat meals a fortnight. Not only does this save us money, but it’s also better for the environment. I love using the slow cooker, so buy secondary cuts that taste amazing when cooked for long periods. Meat goes straight into the freezer when we get home from the butcher and we pull things out a couple of days prior to cooking to defrost. We usually spend around $80 on meat.
We use Sarah Wilson’s ‘Simplicious’ philosophy a lot. All bones are saved and frozen until enough have accumulated to make stock. Veggie scraps, if not fed to the chickens, are frozen ready to be add to the stock pot. Left overs eaten for lunches or get turned into other things, like the lasagne that was chicken cacciatore (below). We make our own jams, sauces, pickles, pickled beetroot, cured olives, and recently salami. Things such as tomato paste get frozen in ice cube trays.
We grow a few bits at home, mostly herbs and leafy greens. And are so lucky to have our beautiful chickens in the backyard to provide us with eggs daily.
I sometimes make our washing detergent but mostly use the enviro friendly detergent from Aldi or Woolworths. For cleaning the bathroom and kitchen I use a citrus vinegar I made by infusing orange peels in vinegar, and bi-carbonate soda along with a little dishwashing detergent. I use essential oils to add to the reusable wipes that we use for Elliot, for wiping up around the house, adding to the mop water and general freshening.
All of these are steps we take to save money. Like I said earlier, we never want for anything. If I want to eat something different we just plan it for the next fortnight.
A quick note on alcohol and takeaway. We give ourselves $200 a fortnight for play money. This pays for coffees, lunches out, take away, clothes, etc. This is our money to do what we want with. But like the food budget, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Some fortnights the money goes into my account on a Thursday and I’ve spent every cent by Sunday afternoon, with a week and a half to go. It does make for a hard week or so, but I know that I’ve got more coming, so I just do without. And toilet paper comes out of our bills account, which is a whole other blog post, but as I order Who Gives A Crap online, that’s the way that it works best for us.
So a quick re-cap of my top tips to sticking to a $200 a fortnight food budget:
- Create a budget and stick to it. I know we have $200 a fortnight, so that’s what I spend.
- Go without. Some fortnights we don’t eat our Friday night cheese platter, or if we do we pay for it with out play money. It’s ok to miss out every now and again.
- Eat meat less often, and less when you do eat it.
- Eat fruit and vegetables that are in season. They’ll taste better and be cheaper. Who needs a tomato in June?!?!
- Keep your pantry stocked with dried staples, this way you can whip up something with the simplest ingredients.
- Make what you can at home. Muesli, cakes, biscuits, bread etc can all be made for waaaaay less than you’d pay for the finished product.
- Meal plan. Even if it’s only 10 dinner meals a fortnight and shop for those. We use left overs for lunch and make our own muesli or porridge or eggs for breakfast.
- Figure out what works for you. I know $200 a fortnight is a pretty extreme food budget, so maybe you aim for $300 a fortnight. Or maybe just try to reduce your current spend by $50.
Do you budget? How much do you spend on your grocery shop? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? And I’d love to hear if you decide to take on any of these tips.