Monday, August 25, 2014

Healthy food on a budget: day 7

For the last day before my next shop the kids had buckwheat, almond meal and cacao pancakes spread with almond butter as their main lunch item and dinner was a leftovers fish pie.

For the fish pie I cut my 500g of frozen hoki into large chunks and put them in the bottom of an oven safe dish. Then I threw whatever I had in the vege bin that needed to be used up on top. It ended up being cherry tomatoes, capsicum, leftover roasted cauliflower and some grated carrot. I added the juice of a lemon and some salt too. For the topping I boiled some potatoes then just before draining I added 1C of frozen peas. After draining the water I added the zest of 1 lemon, 1/2C grated cheese and a pinch of salt. I mashed it roughly, spread it on top of the fish and vegetables and popped it into a 180 degree oven for 45 minutes. Easy :)

My shop today was $129 and I managed to get all of what I need. The rest will be used to replenish the fruit bowl later this week.

Allergy friendly food can be really expensive, but I hope I've shown you that it is possible to eat well on a modest budget. All it takes is some planning and a bit of creativity to get the protein part of the meal to go as far as it can.  Happy cooking everyone!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Healthy food on a budget: days 3 - 6

Day 3:

Lunch was chicken quesadillas with chicken (from roast chicken), cheese and home made ketchup.

Dinner was spaghetti bolognese using the 500g beef mince I had in the freezer with 2 sticks of celery, 2 carrots and 1 C of mushrooms minced up and added into the sauce.

Day 4:

Lunch was chicken quesadillas again with a fruit salad

For dinner we were invited to a friend's place for pizza, but if we were home I would have used the fish in the freezer to make a fish pie.

Day 5:

Lunch was leftover corned silverside sandwiches

Dinner was roast chicken, roast parsnip and potatoes, roast cauliflower and steamed broccoli

Day 6:

Lunch was a chicken sushi salad using one breast from last night's chicken, a GF vegan piece of date cake, a GF vegan chocolate chip and raisin cookie, some apple and some crackers,

Dinner is a vegetarian curry using sweet potato, pumpkin and coconut milk.

Tomorrow will be the last day before shopping day rolls around again so I will be making my menu plan and shopping list. So far we have added the following to my $150 shop using the remaining $50 I had in my budget:

Bulk box of soy milk $20
Two rolls of toilet paper $2
Cat food $4
Almond meal / Cacao powder at the co-op $15

Still under budget - just!

* As a real life mum and not a food blogger I have trouble taking photos of the for we're just about to eat given that a) it's usually night time and the light is bad and b) my kids are hungry and impatient. So these aren't my pics except for the lunch box one. I will endeavour to go back and add links soon :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Healthy food on a budget: day 2

Remember that roast chicken I cooked and portioned up yesterday? Well today is when the magic of the pre cooked chicken happens!

Lunch for the kids was a quick job. They each had a drumstick and a chicken wing, a GF oat and raisin cookie (Freedom Foods GF oats), a small piece of GF brownie, some white corn chips and some strawberries.

For dinner we had a Mexcian quinoa bake. This is one of my favourite week day meals because it's quick and doesn't dirty up too many dishes. My ten year old daughter Jemima made this meal last night. It's a nice and easy one to get kids in the kitchen.

To a large bowl add:

1 jar of pasta sauce or salsa
2 drained tins of kidney beans
1 C frozen corn kernels
1 C grated cheese (optional)
1 diced capsicum
2 C cooked quinoa (or rice, or pasta)
1 pre cooked chicken breast and 2 thighs, chopped roughly

Mix it all up then pop it into an oven safe dish. Cook for 20 minutes at 180 degrees.

We like this meal with guacamole and crushed corn chips on top. Like nachos, but a bit healthier.

* this makes enough for our family of four plus two decent lunches for the following day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Healthy food on a budget: day 1

Today the kids had fruit, some vegetables, some white corn chips, some organic raisins and some sticky coconut rice pudding.

For dinner we had corned silverside, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and sauerkraut. I used half of the silverside which was just under $7. The pic isn't mine, I forgot to photograph it before we ate it all!

For lunch prep I roasted a free range chicken and cut it up as follows: breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings. A whole chicken is just about the best value around when it comes to good quality meat.
This is how I'm using this week's chook:

Plus then you're left with the carcass which makes great stock for the freezer!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Healthy Food on a Budget: How to shop smarter

This week I thought I'd take you along on my weekly shopping trip. As you know we have three GF people, one egg free person and all of us are on limited dairy (cheese but no milk). This week I spent $150 for the four of us, which gives me $50 left in my $200 weekly budget for incidentals as the week goes on.

The first place we're going to stop is my favourite fruit and vegetable store - Todarellos in Katoomba. This place is fantastic. It's family run and even though it's a 20 minute drive I more than make up for the trip with the great value they offer. Stopping for your fruit and vegetables first is something I really want to impress upon you. If you go to the supermarket first you're likely to overspend and not have enough left over for produce. Fruit and vegetables shouldn't be an afterthought! Always, always seek out good value fruit and vegetables as your first port of call. I try not to buy mine at a supermarket because the value is better from an independent store or a farmers market. This week I spent $55 and I bought everything you can see below. 

This worked out to be: 1kg potatoes, 1 bag mushrooms, 1kg carrots, 3 parsnip, 4 brown onions, 2 red onions, 1 cauliflower, 3 broccoli, 2 kumara (or sweet potato), 2 bunches bananas, 5 pink lady apples, 10 oranges, 3 punnets of strawberries, 1 large bunch silver beet, 1/2 celery, 1 punnet cherry tomatoes, 2 avocado, 1 garlic and 1 bunch rhubarb!

Then I went over to Aldi to buy some things for the pantry. Here we have GF muesli, organic muesli, 2 jars pasta sauce, 3 packets of brown rice crackers, 1 packet GF spaghetti, organic coffee, organic chocolate, coconut, fruit and nut mix, organic raisins, GF flour blend 2 x rice milk and a GF chocolate cake mix. As you can see there are no muesli bars, chips, or loads of lunch box fillers here. I try to keep the pantry section of my shop to two supermarket bags. It's a good way for me to remember that the bulk of our food should be fresh produce and protein not packaged goods.

Then the cold stuff. Two free range whole chickens, about $10 each. 1 Corned Silverside, about $6. 1 packet of bacon $8. 1 block of cheese, about $5, and free range eggs, again about $5. I also had a packet of beef mince and 500g of frozen hoki fillets in the freezer and those will be part of this week's menu plan. They're worth about $5 each.

I also have this piece of pork roast left over from Saturday night. Last week I spent $17 on a pork shoulder and it will do three meals (roast pork, pork ragu lasagne and pork and vegetable pie). Buying a large piece of meat and dividing it into three meals is a great way to save money and it's always nice to know that the meat portion of your meal is already cooked for you.

Now I want to show you my pantry before I put any shopping away. You can see clearly that I didn't set off for the shops without anything left in the pantry. A huge part of eating well for less is planning and buying things when they're cheap. There are some things in here that I will always have, even if I'm not planning on using them right away. 

Up the top there you have tins which I buy every other week. Beans are 75c a tin at Aldi and I stock up once a fortnight. I get some of everything they have for 75c! I also stock up on the 55c tins of tomatoes while I'm there. You can also see coconut oil and coconut butter, pure maple syrup, popcorn kernels and some specialty flours.

In the white bins I keep nuts and seeds, pasta, grains and flours. On the top shelf to the right I have rice paper sheets, white corn tortillas and some nori for sushi salads. On the bottom shelf I have jars for different flours - looking a bit empty now because I'm due for a trip to the food co-op. I have chia seeds, dried beans and lentils and steel cut oats in here as well.

Right down the bottom I have herbs and spices and oils and vinegars. I restock this as things run out.

This week I thought I'd show you how I use the ingredients I bought for this week's meals so you can really see how it's all going to work. I know $150 a week isn't much these days, but I promise you that you can eat really well on a small budget like mine. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

One Week Allergy Meal Plan

Even if we had access to every ingredient under the sun I still think I would struggle with that all too familiar question - what should we have for dinner? Often it's coming up with ideas that's the hardest part, not the cooking. For the past two weeks I've been a bit more militant about my meal planning and it's really paid off. I've managed to spend less, eat better and feel way less stressed. That doesn't mean we're locked in to eating something we don't feel like however. I often swap meals around if I'm not in the mood for what I've got written down for the day. As long as you have all of the ingredients you're good to go.

Money money money!

I recently asked a few friends what they usually spend on food per week and was surprised that there was so much variation. Some thrifty friends got away with $150 pw and others spent upwards of $400. So other than family size - what makes one family spend so much more than others? I think a lot of it has to do with food choices - whether you have allergies in your family or prefer to buy organic or premium products. I know I would spend less if I could buy the 90c spaghetti instead of the $2.99 GF packet. That doesn't mean that allergy families are doomed to spend their every cent on food though. In this post I'll share with you how I manage to feed our family of four (plus cat) what I think is a pretty good diet on a budget of $200 pw.

The list

Ok. The shopping list. I know, yawn right? But it's essential. I like to make an occasion out of my weekly meal planning time. I get in bed, surround myself with cookbooks, make sure I have a cup of tea and something nice to eat - and I get to work. I give myself a time limit otherwise I'm likely to spend all day in there. I used to just plan dinners, but once I started planning breakfast and lunches it all really started to come together.

I write down what we'll be having for breakfast/lunch/dinner for each day of the week and then work out my shopping list from there. The lunches are for the kids and I only plan their main item for their lunch boxes as they always have fruit/crackers/home made muffins or biscuits etc.

Down to business

This week I hit the fruit and vegetable shop and spent $45 on produce. That bought me a huge box of good stuff. Markets are also great if you have one handy. I have trouble co-ordinating market days with when we run out of food, so they're not an every-week option for me.

For meat I bought:

2 whole free range chickens ($11 and $9)
1kg bag of frozen wild caught hoki fillets ($9.99)
1 large packet of GF bacon ($7.99)
2 x 500g grass fed and finished beef mince ($5.99 each)
Total meat spend: $49.96

My other groceries were staples like tea, cheese, butter, soy and rice milk, rice crackers, flours, Orgran buckwheat pancake mix, almond meal, cereal, coffee and lots of tins of pulses and tomatoes. If I spot a bag of old bananas going cheap at the supermarket I always buy them and freeze them for cakes and muffins.

Total spend for the week $180 I keep the extra $20 up my sleeve to replenish the fruit bowl during the week.

What we ate!

This week I mainly used a new book of mine "Save with Jamie" by Jamie Oliver. Most of the recipes can be found online and the pics are from the Jamie Oliver website.


On shopping day I roast the largest whole chicken and then cut it up as follows: drumsticks, thighs, wings, two breasts - and popped it into the fridge.

Day 1:

Breakfast - Buckwheat and almond meal pancakes with banana and maple syrup
Lunch - Chicken drumsticks and wings
Dinner - Mexican chicken salad (using one breast and two thighs, chopped) with corn chips

Day 2:

I put the chicken carcass left over from roasting the bird the day before into a slow cooker and covered it with water. I let it cook all day and then used the stock that night.

Breakfast - Rice porridge with grated apple
Lunch - Sushi salad
Dinner - Chicken and pea risotto using one chicken breast from leftover roast and chicken stock. I roughly followed the recipe on Save with Jamie for this one.

Day 3 (a weekend day for us):

Breakfast - Bacon and eggs / hash browns for the non egg eaters
Lunch - Cauliflower crust pizza
Dinner - Nachos - using one of the mince packets and lots of beans and vegetables to bulk it out. Freeze leftovers.

Extra: I also made a sweet potato and BBQ beans dish during the day. I used a recipe I found in Save with Jamie and I portioned it into freezer bags for my husband's lunches, or if we need a quick dinner.

Day 4 (a weekend day for us):

Breakfast - Bacon, eggs and/or hash browns
Lunch - Roast vegetable salad
Dinner - Jamie Oliver's 'JFC' crispy chicken - using the other chicken I bought (cut into pieces) with sweet potato fries, corn and salad

Day 5:

Breakfast - GF weetbix, banana and rice milk
Lunch - Leftover nachos with corn chips (nacho meat in a thermos)
Dinner - Fried fish fillets using 500g frozen fillets with sweet potato fries

Pic from: The Nutritious Kitchen
Day 6:

Breakfast - Banana and peanut (or non nut butter) on GF toast and a smoothie
Lunch - White corn quesadillas using white corn tortillas
Dinner - Spaghetti bolognese using remaining 500g mince meat.

Day 7:

Breakfast - Buckwheat pancakes with banana and maple syrup
Lunch - GF mini pizzas
Dinner - Fish pie using 500g of frozen fillets. I used another Save with Jamie recipe but didn't use any seafood other than the 500g frozen fish I had.

So that's week one. Looking at it, it does look a little starchy in some places but overall it was a menu that everyone was happy with and used some good wholesome ingredients. Because I try to eat low starch as much as I can I will often have more salad and meat/less potato or pasta. Thanks for reading and I hope my menu plan is helpful for your family.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Kinda Healthy Homemade Bounty Bars

VG, GF, Raw

Sometimes in life you just want something a bit yummy. Tonight is the very last night of my daughter being 9 so I thought we'd have a little farewell to single digits dinner.  I found this recipe on my new roots and made a few tweaks to suit what I had in the pantry. We all enjoyed these after dinner and they were a huge hit. They'd make a lovely dessert with some ice cream too!


For the filling:

1/4 C coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp coconut butter *
1 Tbsp maple syrup
pinch salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 C desiccated coconut
1 Tbsp water

For the raw chocolate:

1/4 C coconut oil
2 Tbsp nutella or equivalent - we have a GF version low in sugar (or you can make your own)
1/3 C raw cacao powder
1/4 C raw honey
two pinches salt, to taste

In a double boiler melt the coconut oil and coconut butter together. Add the maple syrup, salt & vanilla. Remove from the heat and add the coconut and water. Mix together well.

Line a square baking tin with cling film and add the coconut mix. Press down firmly and pop in the freezer for at least 30 mins to set hard.

To make the chocolate put the coconut oil and nutella in a double boiler and melt together over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the raw cacao powder and honey then add the salt. Taste and adjust the sweet/salt if needed.

Get a baking rack and place it over a piece of baking paper. Make sure it's a rack that will fit in your freezer and that you have space to pop it in.

Take the coconut filling out of the freezer and turn out onto a board. Cut into bars or squares then dip in the chocolate. When covered remove with a fork then place onto the rack.

When you've done all of your pieces put the rack in the freezer and leave for a minimum of 30 mins.

Allow them to rest for about 5 mins before eating. They can be stored in a plastic container in the freezer for up to two months.

* Not to be confused with coconut oil, coconut butter is a thick white pure form of coconut fats that can be used to make coconut milk by adding water. I used it here because I have it in the pantry but if you don't have it, you could use normal butter or more maple syrup. Coconut butter is lovely and versatile in whole food baking, but she ain't cheap. The one I bought was close to $10 for a jar. It does give baking a rich coconut flavour though.