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.
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.
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
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
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|
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.
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.