I don’t know about you, but for me, the cost of our weekly groceries is something that scares me a little at times. No matter how hard we try to spend less on our weekly food bill, it seems the more we actually do spend. I know we are very lucky and fortunate where we live, we have an abundance of fresh, relatively local fruit and vegetables seasonally available to us and mostly all grown in clean, fertile soils and areas of our State here in Queensland and the neighbouring States as well.
We are also very fortunate enough to have a wonderful supply of Queensland grown beef and other red meat, wild caught bay and ocean fish and crustacea including some of the best prawns and oysters in the world and also organically and free ranged eggs and chickens from the western downs of this State as well. My family made a conscious effort to eat as ethically as possible many years ago. I am the one who questions where and how the tomatoes are grown at the supermarket, I often go home and look up the grower on line and really “suss” them out before I buy a cheap $2.00 punnet of cherry tomatoes from them. Over the years I have become very good at knowing and trying to stay very loyal to the Queensland and Australian farmers that I know are genuine and local and in it for the long run, and that I can trust what they grow, how it is treated and what they use to grow those veges or cattle and other produce and livestock.
One thing that has made a very big difference in our Grocery budget ( well two things actually) is that firstly, I meal plan weekly, and secondly, we cut down the amount of protein we consumed each week. Nowadays, the veges and salads are the main ingredients and this has been not only a very good thing for my wallet, but also good for our health as well. Also, now we are used to it, no one seems to miss the huge portions of protein we used to consume.
Don’t get me wrong, we are still a family of meat/fish/poultry lovers and… I don’t know if I can ever change that, and the menu plan in the photo above will attest to that, but we eat a lot less of it now than we used to. And.. we try to make sure it is as ethically sourced as possible when we purchase it. Cans of, or fresh seed beans have become my friend. We love Cannelloni Beans, Brown lentils, chick peas to bulk up our meals, fill us up, give us some fibre and protein and keep the budget under control.
So, how I meal plan is this: Each week I sit down on a Wednesday evening generally ( I shop Friday or Saturday usually) and work out what we are going to eat the next week. I take into consideration who is going to be home, who has work that day ( for meal prep time to be kept minimal), how late we are home, what is in season as far as fruit and veges go, and what I have in the fridge/freezer/pantry still that I can salvage as left overs.
Firstly , I set my grocery budget. This is generally between $100 and $200 weekly which I know is quite acceptable and usually doable for us. I will always, always try to buy locally and seasonally. I am the person who refuses to buy American navel oranges ( at anytime) or cherries in our Winter, or asparagus from Mexico.. I am sorry, but I am not sorry and I just can’t and I won’t. We have perfectly good Australian farmers, working ridiculous hours to grow perfectly good, seasonal produce for us and we go and shoot them in the foot???…Makes no sense to me and don’t complain when you can no longer buy an Australian carrot or potato or lettuce ok and the price has sky rocketed yet the quality has deteriorated.
I then work out two red meat meals, one is generally minced beef or lamb or pork/veal mince ( as this is so economical for a family meal and budget) and the other is generally some form of steak or chop ( depending on the Butcher’s specials, again keep portions small), two poultry meals, chicken or turkey, using the cuts that are on special that week but are still organic and free range, two seafood meals, usually fish, one might be a mix of prawns and fish and squid or oysters, or a can of Tuna or salmon for Tuna Mornay or Salmon fish cakes which makes it a very economical meal…The seventh meal is usually either a home made take away meal, might be Pizza or burgers or Butter chicken or a dinner at home here with friends. It could also be a night out at a restaurant/pub/friend’s place/ bbq or dinner here with friends or a simple grilled cheese sandwich because we have been out for a long and lazy lunch.. It might also be a vegetarian option of Baked beans on toast or baked beans and cheese toasted sandwich/jaffle or soup.
I always usually only plan for six nights unless I am sure we will be home. Don’t forget a whole pumpkin, a couple of onions and a carton of chicken stock can be your best friend and makes an amazing pumpkin soup with a little cream and crusty bread on those nights you have no idea about. As can an egg and a slice of bread with some salt and pepper. The main thing is, to bring your food budget down, you kind of have to cut your animal protein back. If there is only two of you and recipe calls for 500 gram of beef strips for that gorgeous beef stroganoff you are attempting, but the recipe says it serves four, cut the meat back to 250 grams and add a few more mushrooms if you think it looks a bit sparse or serve with a little more noodles or rice. It will help your hip pocket and also your heart, especially if you serve it with a few more mushies and onions than you do rice..
Well I hope I have somehow inspired you to meal plan or at the very least, think about where your food you eat each day comes from. I think it is very important we know and also we teach our kids of these values. I am not a food inhibitor, I don’t believe in withholding any food group from anyone, we all need treats whatever they may be, but if we can eat locally, ethically sourced nutritious foods that fit into our budget and our locality, I am sure we will all feel a whole lot better and live a lot better too.