21 March 2012

Don't Spend $200 at the Supermarket This Year

March is MOO month. It's the time to take back control of your grocery spending and an opportunity to say good-bye to supermarket reliance.

For a the hefty price (not) of a couple of hours in the kitchen I won't be spending a lot of money at supermarkets this year.

When I first consciously decided to live the Cheapskates way (coming up for 17 years now) the first thing I did was look at what I bought that I could make myself to save some money.

I discovered that cooking from scratch does save money and that it doesn't take any longer to put a meal on the table if I prepare it myself compared to ordering home delivery, going out for takeaway or even heating a pre-prepared meal. I can get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes and save around $20 a meal. That's a considerable saving each year, over $6,000!

I also discovered that homemade not only tastes better and often keeps better but because I control what goes into it, it is better for us as I am able to limit the artificial colours and preservatives I feed my family. A direct result, apart from the dollar savings, is that we are healthier. Our health costs dropped dramatically, especially with the Allan and Hannah, their eczema improved almost overnight and the need for expensive creams, washes and even washing powder disappeared.

I started small, baking cakes and biscuits from scratch. As I became more confident I started to expand: bread, breadcrumbs, yoghurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese, pasta, condensed and evaporated milk, salad dressings, mayonnaise, jams, lemon butter, passionfruit butter, peanut butter, pickles, relishes, chutneys, pasta sauces, tomato sauce, bbq sauce, worcestershire sauce, cordials, ginger beer, lemonade, pizza, pizza sauce, shake'n'bake, and more. These days I buy very little packaged or processed foods and just about everything we eat is cooked from scratch. And believe me when I say I am not a fantastic cook!

It really is easy. Take this week for example. We have had an abundance of zucchini in the garden. We had them steamed, stuffed, baked, raw and grated in pasta sauce. I've added them to meatloaf and rissoles. The kids have been munching on them as is or eating zucchini straws with dip and still they kept growing.

Yesterday I made a batch of  zucchini pickle. Nothing new in that, I make at least two batches each summer. It took less than an hour and there are now 12 jars of yummy pickle in the pantry, enough for sandwiches and rolls or to add to cottage cheese for dip until next summer. With what has already been made this summer I won't need to buy pickles for at least twelve months saving around $47 at the supermarket because I won't be buying pickles.

While I was in the kitchen anyway I thought I may as well cook up the tomatoes and capsicums and bottle some pasta sauce too. Again it is really easy - I simply put the ingredients into the crockpot and let it cook on low for 8 hours, until it was thick and aromatic.  Prep time was around 20 minutes. When it was done I poured it into sterilised jars, and used the microwave method to seal it. 

I'm not standing at the stove or the sink all the time. I can go away and do other things. Making pickles and pasta sauce doesn't take hours and hours of hard work but the benefits are huge. I didn't have to buy the zucchini, capsicums or tomatoes. Vinegar, sugar and spices aren't expensive ingredients. I did buy the onions in a 10kg bag from the orchard down the road for 30 cents a kilo a few weeks ago and used 1.5kg in the pasta sauce at a cost of 45 cents.  Yesterday's effort produced 30 jars of pasta sauce. I won't be spending around $100 on pasta sauce at the supermarket this year.

I was talking to my sister-in-law early last year and what she said stunned me. She has never, ever roasted a chicken. Not once in all her married life (and that's a long, long time). When she's made a meal using a roast chicken, she's bought one from the supermarket.

Now it can't get any easier than roasting a chicken so why would you pay twice the price to buy one? Especially when it's been sitting for hours. Eww.

If you have never roasted a chicken, or would like to know how to roast the perfect chicken, here's the steps:

1.Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2.Make sure your chicken is completely thawed if it's been frozen.Wash inside and out thoroughly and dry.
3.Take 3 cloves garlic and a lemon and place them in the cavity.
4.Put the chicken into a roasting dish.
5.Pour over olive oil, rubbing it into the skin. Be generous, a little extra oil in the bottom of the dish is OK but you don't want your chicken swimming in it.
6.Sprinkle liberally with salt, rubbing it into the skin.
7.Put it in the oven and cook for 2 hours, or a little longer, depending on the size of the chicken. A No. 20 is done in this time. Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness or pierce the breast and if the juices are clear the chicken is done.

Don't be tempted to skimp on the salt. It not only adds flavour but makes the skin delightfully crisp and golden. There is no need to turn or baste the chicken. Just put it in the oven and let it cook.

Roast your own chickens and not spend around $7 each at the supermarket.

For a long time I've been saying that the supermarkets are not our friends. That's the fiction they like to present, and they do it well. They don't make our lives easier or save us money or time or energy.

Since the 1960s supermarkets have taken choices away from homemakers and destroyed basic homemaking skills, all under the guise of making the Australian homemaker's life easier. Phooey!

What they've done is made the population reliant on them as the main source of food, toiletries, and cleaning products and they are making an attempt to become a one-stop shop with the addition of clothes and homewares.

It is getting harder and harder to find basic ingredients in both Coles and Woolworths. There are plenty of mixes and packaged products, pre-prepared biscuits and cakes, even complete meals. But try to find something as basic as flour or sugar or yeast or gravy powder and you'll be looking, no searching, high and low to find them. You will find them, but a very small, limited range, hidden away from the mixes and packets.

You have three choices:

1.You can give in and live your life according to the supermarkets plan
2.You can ask, and ask, and keep on asking, supermarkets to stock the items you need.
3.You can shop elsewhere.

Number three is my first choice.

I want to be able to buy the raw ingredients I need to prepare the healthy, tasty and economical meals I want to serve my family.

What's your choice?


  1. K AndrijasevichThursday, May 17, 2012

    I have been looking for your recipe for 'crockpot pasta sauce' & haven't had any luck. Can you steer me in the right direction? I too have a surplus of tomatoes & capsicum & would love to bottle some pasta sauce!

  2. I don't have a recipe as such. I use tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, oregano as the base then add other veggies if I have them: carrots, capsicum, zucchini, celery.

    Generally just quarter the tomatoes, dice onion, crush garlic. Slice other veggies if I'm using them. Cook onion and garlic (and other veggies if using) in a little olive oil until soft, add tomatoes and herbs and let it simmer.

    Leave it as is for a chunky sauce or use a stick mixer to blend it all together for a smooth sauce.

    You can do this in a saucepan on the stove, in a slowcooker or in a pressure cooker.

    There are some lovely tomato sauce recipes in the Recipe File, in the Sauces and Gravies section.

  3. Cath, could you please tell me what you bottle your pasta sauce in? I have looked at jars from the greek shop that are like the commercial jars, and they cost quite a bit - i can recycle the jars but i will need to buy new lids each time because the seals are single use only.

  4. I use Fowlers Vacola bottles or recycle pasta sauce bottles, depending on how many bottles I have and how much sauce I'm making.

    You can buy new lids for the recycled pasta sauce bottles if you need to. If the rubber seal is intact you can re-use them.

  5. Jam-jars are completely re-usable (and work for sauces as well as for jams). I haven't done it myself, but I remember helping my mother make jams and sauces, and the jars seal as the contents cools. The jars with buttons are the easiest to recognise as sealed - it pops, and I remember being surprised by the unexpected sound when I was doing my schoolwork! Don't forget to heat the jars in hot tap water so they won't crack when you pour hot contents into them.


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