Monday, October 31, 2011

Cooking on a budget

Life is expensive right? And it doesn't seem to matter what we are doing, there's a cost - this is especially true to something that is basic to our survival: eating. Since we're on a budget, we have to eat on a budget - but how do you do this without sacrificing the quality of the food you eat?

Firstly, you MUST plan. If you haven't got a meal planner pad, either invest in one, create one in excel, find an app or download one. Personally, i'm quite tactile, so i like to have a meal planner pad. Mine is from Kikki-K, but i've also seen them in Typo, and i'm sure there's plenty of other places to get them too :D I've had a quick search online and come up with a couple of sites where you can find them:

The reason i like to have a pad of planners is because if i make some leftovers (like my cannelloni yesterday), i can then jot it down for one day in a fortnight or something like that - this avoids overstocking the freezer and forgetting about your leftovers, thus making your next fortnight (or whatever your grocery period is) much cheaper.

I try to plan for a fortnight and then i do my groceries ONCE for this period of time. This brings me to my second tip - avoid grocery stores. The more times you visit a grocery store, the more you spend!! Sounds obvious right? But it's so easy to do!! Run out of carrots for dinner tonight? I'll just pop into the store WRONG!!! Can you swap what you had planned for something else on your menu that doesn't use carrots? Can you substitute another veggie? Do you REALLY need carrots in that recipe? Simple way to avoid the store, but it does require a change of thinking.

By planning your menu a fortnight in advance, you can avoid visiting the store by making your fortnightly shopping list based on what you will be eating! This will avoid running out of things!! Which in turn avoids going to the store. Why is going to grocery stores so damaging to the budget? Because you tend to make impulse purchases - or buy more than you planned to buy for the fortnight. E.g. I have a rule that when we run out of yoghurt, that's it until the next shop. I had to implement this rule VERY early on because my husband would take a full litre of yoghurt and eat it in ONE SITTING!!! So, by not restocking the fridge with yoghurt every time we ran out, we saved money (not only on yoghurt, but also impulse buys that go along with that trip to the store), and hubby learnt to spread his yoghurt eating out.

Another way to avoid going over budget is online shopping. Once i've made my menu for the fortnight, i do my shopping online. I order EXACTLY what we will need for that fortnight and i can keep track of the total cost as i go. If i come in under budget, then i can splurge on a few extras. And if i come in over budget, then i can re-examine my menu to try and cut costs - checking the freezer for pre-made meals etc.

We have managed to find some great local markets where we buy our fruit and veg each week. This saves us heaps of money because the produce tends to be better quality, so it lasts longer, leading to less waste. It's usually much cheaper too, which is an extra bonus. I like to support local businesses too, but that's really more of a personal incentive than a budget saving incentive!

Seasonal cooking is another obvious way to save money - and get the better quality produce! You're not going to make a mango salad in winter are you? This is obvious, but you'll find that meat price varies throughout the year, and this principle can be applied to what's on special! Supermarket catalogues are a great indicator of what is in season - because that's what's on special!!! Have a quick flick through your catalogues before you do your menu planning and plan your meals around what's on special - this will save you bucket loads!!

Well, i've got heaps more tips and tricks, but this post is already long enough! I hope you've found something new and useful in this post - if you have be sure to join as a follower and share with your friends!!!

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