16 February 2016

Update: How we're Managing on our New Budget

Home grown tomatoes cooking down slowly to become pasta sauce for winter
We're doing really well. So well in fact that somehow there's money left over!

My grocery budget is tight - $103.30 a month! That's half what it was when disaster struck and I was feeding two adults and two toddlers. And yet we haven't gone without anything, and while the stockpile is a little depleted, it's still looking very good.

Summer is helping. The garden has been a huge blessing. I've picked lettuce, capsicums, cucumbers, silverbeet, tomatoes, beans and eggplant every day for weeks.  That tonne of oranges I bought for 5 cents a kilo has meant I haven't had to buy much fruit either, just a couple of different pieces each fortnight for a little variety.  All those potatoes I bought have kept well too - we're on the last bag. Once they're gone I'll be shopping around but if the spuds are too expensive there is 35 kilos of rice to see us through.
This year we've had cucumbers,tomatoes, lettuce, capsicum, beans, parsley, basil and zucchini in abundance
I was talking to Wendy about the meat supply. I've bought a little mince and some chicken fillets since we started this challenging new budget, but nothing else. The freezer is still well packed with meat, chicken and fish though.  Every time I lift the lid I am amazed at just how much is left in it. We are eating from it regularly, I'm not skimping on  food just to save some money, and yet the freezers are still jam-packed full.

The new budget has changed my way of shopping. I go each Thursday and buy two bottles of milk and two loaves of bread. Once a month I've been doing my regular pantry/fridge/freezer inventories, checking the meal plan and writing up a shopping list of just what we need. If there's anything I have that can substitute something on the list, off it comes.

Shopping day is so easy, mainly because I'm only buying fruit, bread and milk - about two bags of groceries. So far the stockpile has supplied all our grocery needs just as I planned and it's still looking good. It was boosted by a gift of rice, noodles, seasonings and canned tomatoes before Christmas for which I am very, very grateful.
The stockpile pantry is still looking healthy - I haven't added to this pantry since mid-December.
I am out of dried onion flakes, so this means I'll either have to buy some (Hindustan sell onion flakes for $2.10/100g or $6.05/500g packet) or buy onions and dry them myself. The last time I bought onions they were 40c/kg - I saw then for $1/kg earlier this week. I'll shop around and see what they are at Pellegrinos and Bushy Park, then decide which way to go. I think though for the purpose of the exercise in this case buying the dried onion flakes will be cheaper.

The boys are pulling out some of the summer veggies and digging compost into the veggie beds for me so they'll be ready to plant for winter veggies. We eat a lot more veggies in winter and they will be expensive. I just know my budget won't stretch to give us the variety I like so we'll be growing more than usual this year.

The plan is to grow:

  • Parsnips
  • Swedes
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Silverbeet
  • Broccoli
  • Bok Choy
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Spring onions
  • Brown onions

Of course planting will be staggered throughout the rest of summer/autumn/winter. It's far too early to put potatoes and onions in, but I can get the beds ready and in the meantime grow something else in them.

Getting the winter veg started will take the pressure off freezer stocks (and me!).

All in all, so far this super-tight grocery budget hasn't been super-tight at all.

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  1. do you have a page or site with your meal menus or recipes ? I would love to know how you do this ?
    Also a tip for your tomato sauce (pictured), you can cut the amount of cooking time but using a juicer to break down the tomatoes before cooking. I found it really shorts cooking time

  2. Dear Cath,
    You are incredible to be feeding your family on $103.30 per month, supplemented by your stockpiles and fabulous productive garden.
    I have to ask, why is the budget so terribly tight?
    I don't know anyone that could survive on that amount!

    1. Hi Sue,

      I've had a minimum 6 months up to 12 months of most of the things we use stockpiled for quite a few years now.

      This year due to changes in work we are living off it.

      My plan is to restock like I normally would when I have money in the grocery slush fund or I can build the slush fund up by selling produce or jam or fruit cakes etc. Even $5 can add a substantial amount to a stockpile when it's spent carefully. The difference will be that there won't be as much money in the slush fund so at the end of the year I expect the stockpile to be down to about 2 - 3 months of our regular grocery items, a reasonable base to start rebuilding. I don't think we'll eat it right down, but my calculations could be wrong :)

  3. Wow you are amazing , you are doing so well on your reduced income , I hope that changes for you in the near future .

    1. We know it will be at least until December this year so we've planned for that and we have a contingency plan just in case it goes a little pear shaped and doesn't improve. Either way we're doing just fine and not missing out on anything we need or really want.

  4. Fabulous Cath! I thought my budget of $200 a month was tight ;)

  5. I love looking at your stockpile to Cath, i hope mine gets up there somewhere before the end of the year. You do an amazing job xoxo


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