How I Feed My Family of 6 on $120 a Week

Tuesday, March 3, 2015
A few weeks ago I would have thought it impossible.

Feed 6 people for $120!

My grocery list was getting up around the $400 mark, and to be truthful, I hate spending money on food. It's a necessity, I know, but such a waste, if you know what I mean!

My Dad will tell you and my husband will tell you that I am no good with money. I am one of those people who have no respect for money. There are more important things in life and money is just one of those necessary evils. Such a pain, money!

But I have taken on this challenge and I'm actually enjoying myself. I like the thought of getting the best buy. There's something very satisfying in that and knowing that what income we do have can be used for other things.

This is what $102 in food looks like.

My trick for shopping and finding the best deals was to spend an hour planning the night before. I went to the Countdown website and made an order online (but without finishing it). I saved my list, took a screenshot on my ipad and took it with me to Pac 'N Save first (which is, apparently, New Zealand's cheapest grocery store).  I was able to check quickly to see who was offering the cheaper goods as I went along the aisles. It was about half and half. Some things I was able to save a whole $1, some things were on specials with several dollars knocked off. So I went to Countdown next, which is fortunately, on the way home, and finished my shopping.

Last year I applied for a job at the school. I got shortlisted on a list of 3, but missed out.
I work from home on my dreams, and writing is my marketable skill, and until I manage to sell my book, or until my kids grow up and can look after themselves, we have to live on one income.

With so much of our money tied up at the moment in our house building, and with rent prices through the roof, we are having to make some major cutbacks for a period of time, until we can stop paying rent. Seriously, I don't recommend renting - we have had to do it for 3 years longer than we planned, and it's such a drain on resources and nothing to show for it in the end.

We've also had some fairly hefty bills come in all at the same time. Our children go to a semi-private school, and while we could choose a government-funded (or public) school, we are happy to make sacrifices to give them the best education we can in an environment that we know is safe and nurturing and caring and supportive and where they are doing well academically and socially.

The washing machine broke down. A tax bill came in. We've had birthdays and weddings and school supplies to get, and all the little things that suck away at your wallet. We don't live extravegantly, but we like to live well. We like our food, and we like our treats. We like to have beautiful things around us in our home.
We don't go on overseas trips and we holiday at the family bach. We don't support addictive habits and we don't drive fancy cars. We eat out rarely - only for special occasions.

So we decided to use up what was in our pantry and in our freezer and see how much we could survive on for $120 a week. And it is achievable. Just. And the money we are saving would have been my salary (before tax) if I'd managed to get the job at the school!

So I took stock of what was in the freezer and pantry and this was my menu for the week.

Breakfast: Porridge or Cornflakes or Toast

Monday: Rolled Roast Beef done in the crockpot.

Tuesday: Mince Burgers

Wednesday: Mince Burgers - a wonderful, old fashioned recipe that uses teaspoonfulls of seasoned mince wrapped in a crunchy, homemade pastry and baked in the oven. It makes enough for two nights for us.

Thursday: Chicken Curry

Friday: Sausages

Saturday: Bacon and Mushroom Flan

Sunday: Creamed fish with bread cases.

Side dishes: rice salad; lettuce salad; couscous salad; boiled potatoes with butter. Frozen mixed vege.

Lunchboxes: Sandwiches, fruit, home-baking, cheese and crackers and homemade scones and a small packet of potato chips.

The homebaking has been an issue. I have growing children who are always hungry, and I hate baking. So I need something that would last two to three days at least. My friend Jessie gave me her recipe which made 4 trays of large cookies, and have turned out to be a real treat. Elizabeth also gave me a recipe that makes 100 cookies. Can't wait to try them!

Desert: One a week - meringues with cream and passionfruit sauce. Meringues are so easy to make and only use two ingredients. Eggs and sugar, and I had plenty of those, and they make enough for my family to have desert a second night. I had some passionfruit sauce in the fridge and some cream, and voila! A beautiful treat.

Treats: Sodastream for the kids. Truly, the Sodastream was the best thing we bought this summer. We purchase one flavoured sodastream syrup a week, and a generic cordial to use with just soda water.
Tonic water with lemon juice for the adults. When you can't afford to buy wine or even cider, tonic water with lemon juice is a nice substitute. Not the same, I know, but quite nice after dinner in the evening. We call it the Poor Man's Wine!
Good coffee.

We don't have to buy fruit. We live in a region of New Zealand where fruit is abundant and relatives who have established fruit trees are kind and generous. This week we have apples, plums, nashi pears and avocados. I did splash out on some bananas at the grocery store, and a handful of lemons.

So that is my supply of groceries this week that cost me $102, leaving $18 for bread and milk which we buy at Couplands, because it's the cheapest.

I have also been getting into the habit of stock-piling over the years. I learned this from Leanne of Cottage Tails, and now when things are tightening up this is proving its worth. I haven't had to buy sugar or sauces or oils or rice or other things like that which are easily stored in the pantry.

I haven't had to buy meat either, as I am using up what is in the freezer. When I do have to buy meat, I will probably have to extend my budget to $150, but I think this will be achievable if I plan a vegetarian meal in there somewhere.

So who would have thought that this girl with a bad head for figures could work to a budget and actually have fun on it. Miracle!


Elizabeth said...

We're in the same boat, but budget $150 p/week (allergies etc, make some things more expensive)! I love your idea of shopping online, but not finishing the purchase - we have Countdown & New World here, so that could work for me also! I am planning a few posts along these lines also!!

The Herbalist's Cottage said...

I'll have to do another post of how I stockpile. I'm using countdown onecard and get $60 vouchers just for using it. BUT I'd only recommend it for people who can pay off the card weekly otherwise it could cause debt. At the mo we are eating from the freezer getting it empty ready for the homekill season to re fill it.

Amy at love made my home said...

Well done! I am not sure how this equates to UK pounds, but it is a big change I can tell! I hope that you can keep going and will find this rewarding. xx

Sonya said...

That is an impressive feat! Would you be willing to share your mince burger recipe? It sounds delicious, and I have been meaning to try some sort of pie/sausage roll type recipes for my boys sometime (younger one isn't allowed dairy or soy, which pretty much rules out anything I could buy).

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