Have you ever got to the checkout and done a double take with how much your grocery bill came to? Mum and budget queen Elise Parker shares her tips on how to do a $50 shop for the family.
Elise is a guru when it comes to cutting costs. Elise’s family consists of two adults, 1 baby, 1 dog and 1 cat and she manages to budget groceries down to $50 a week. Here she shares how she does it.
Buy only what you need
We have been doing this for several years now successfully, it took a while learn what works and what doesn’t work.
We generally only buy what we need not what we want. This week was an exception. Except for the tea, cream, cereal and mince the Aldi shop was all wants and stockpile items.
We stockpile from the same $50, the stockpile isn’t grown from extra money. Some weeks like this week we will have money left over so we will add to the stockpile or treat ourselves. Other weeks we spend the full $50 on what we need.
We regularly have no spend weeks where we save the $50 and put it towards a stock up shop generally at Costco. During these weeks we eat out of the freezer and pantry. I get creative with what we eat and it lets us use what we have ensuring nothing goes off.
Meal planning is the key
I meal plan, using what we have in the freezer and pantry first. This is key, knowing what you already have will save you money. There’s no point in buying something you already have unless you’re adding to the stockpile. I don’t keep a running inventory, I have a pretty good memory and it takes me two seconds to check. I do inventory once every 2-3 months when we are due to have a few no spend weeks this lets me see what we have and meal plan.
My recipes are family favourites, a lot come from Hello Fresh, 12WBT & taste.com.au I try to add one new recipe a week. We get bored easily so eat a variety of different meals.
I try to limit to 1x mince, 1x pasta and 1x rice dish a week this way we are eating different things. We will often have a side of veg or salad with most meals. We eat leftovers for lunch most days. The days we don’t have leftovers hubby will take noodles and veg or a sandwich. Myself and O will have sandwiches, eggs, or a freezer meal (homemade meals I’ve frozen for convenience).
This week I shopped on Friday so I only meal planned until Wednesday next week. Normally I meal plan and shop on Sunday and plan until the following Saturday. Our weeks are generally pretty easy with minimal schedule changes, our weekends can change so I tend to schedule meals that I know I can make ahead and freeze if something changes.
Where to buy food on the cheap
I buy all our fruit and veg from our fruit and veg shop. I will never purchase these from supermarkets as it’s way more expensive and I can’t buy exactly what I need. I only buy exactly what I need (quantity) so there is no waste. This week I did buy a bag of carrots as it was significantly cheaper than buying them loose but I have added extra carrots to each meal this week and we will have some as snacks next week.
This week we only needed pork mince, it was reduced so I bought 2 packs and put one in the freezer. I already had all other meat in the freezer. We use 125-150g of meat per person. Our son doesn’t eat a lot of meat so he just has some of mine.
For snacks I will be making biscuits and muffins (I bought cream to make my own butter which is much cheaper than buying a block of butter), we’ll also have fruit, carrot sticks and mixed nuts.
We shop at Aldi, IGA, Coles or Woolworths depending on what I need and where else I need to go. Aldi is around the corner from our house so it’s my go to 95% of the time.
A sample meal plan
Sunday – Vegetarian pasta bake
Monday- Easy Moroccan Pork Tagine with Mint Couscous & Toasted Almonds
Tuesday – Hamburgers with Slaw
Wednesday- Coconut & Lime chicken with rice
Thursday – Home made pumpkin soup
Friday – Pork meatballs and grilled broccoli
Saturday – Soy and ginger Fish Parcels
Getting ingredients prepared
Once home from shopping I separate out all the ingredients across containers for each day. So tonight I’ll grab the Wednesday container and I know I have all the ingredients I need easily and quickly. I write the meat onto a label on the front so I know what to grab out of the freezer each day. I also measure out sauces, rice, cous cous etc. and put them into containers so I don’t have to waste time each night doing that. This whole process takes me no longer than 30 minutes and I do this straight away when I get home from shopping so I’m not double handling everything.
Although I’m a stay at home mum I run a business from home and I like to spend as much time with my son as possible so doing my meals this way saves me time and stress each night.
We buy nappies normally once every 2-3 weeks and use a combination of cloth and disposable. I bought bulk nappies in an Aldi Sale a few weeks back so I won’t need any for a few months. We are lucky to be able to breastfeed so we don’t need to buy formula. We have bulk wipes for $15 from Big W and only use them for nappy clean up. And use face washers for spills etc.
What works for us won’t work for all
This won’t work for everyone, this is what works for my family. We don’t have any special dietary needs. Our meals are well balanced and packed with veg, just because we have a small budget does not mean we eat junky food despite the common misconception. We do have a small family and our son is still young so obviously the budget will need to be increased at some point but for now it’s working perfectly for us.
We only buy bread once a fortnight as we don’t eat much of it. I only buy milk when it’s reduced, hubby is the only one in our house that drinks it. I have a drawer full in the freezer currently so I don’t need to buy milk regularly.