Saturday, October 23, 2010

"How to spend $60 of food per week for a family of four" - *bullshit cough*

On a couple of occasions this week I've been surprised at what people consider to be "spending very little on food".

Just now I saw someone link to a Facebook page by a woman advising people who to spend only $60 a week on food for their family of four.  At first I was very impressed.  Sadly, on further investigation, it turned out that she was actually only talking about dinners.  Breakfasts, lunches and snacks were not included in that amazingly economic "food" budget.  On her "how to get started page" some disappointed reader criticised the misleading nature of her claims, and she told them her site was a culinary site, not a site on budgeting, and yet part of her self-promotion is about how she lives on Government payments and only has $120 per fortnight to spend on food, which seems to suggest she's talking about feeding her family of four on just $60 per week...

But misleading promotions aside, I'm just surprised that she considers spending that much on a family of four, only for dinners, a very small amount!

I thought I'd share our "real life" food budget for a family of six, spending up to $200 a week on EVERYTHING - our dinners only come to $70 a week for SIX people (and they're generous servings).

I'll define "everything" for you.  Everything includes:

  1. All meals; breakfast, snacks and lunches (for home, school and kindergarten - neither of us work out of home at the moment), afternoon snacks, dinner and evening snacks (for adults - who usually don't have afternoon snacks) and drinks.
  2. All toiletres; toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soap, pads for mum, nappies for Ari, toothbrushes, toothpaste.
  3. All household items; dishwashing detergent, laundry liquid, bleach, floor cleaners, sponges, scourers, bin bags, lunchbox bags, cling/alfoil/bakingpaper, kitchen papertowel, teatowels, brooms, buckets, lightbulbs, batteries 
  4. medications such a panadol and aspirin and neurofen, bandaids, vick's vaporub, sinutab etc.
  5. socks, underwear, bibs
Basically, anything and everything we might need each week that can be bought in a supermarket.  Obviously, we don't have to buy everything every week, but anything we need from the supermarket gets budgeted into that up to $200 per week.  Some weeks we spend as little as $160.  We buy a lot of homebrand (bread, pasta, rice, sugar), but also brand name stuff (like we use dolmio, pataks, pantene, kleenex toiletpaper, birdeye fish fillets, heinz baked beans, Continental soups, etc.).  We could make even further savings by using basic cloth nappies, and a mentrual cup, cheaper shampoo and conditioner for example, but there are some luxuries we just prefer the convenience off...

On a lot of food challenges, I see the first recommendation being to go through your cupboards and look at what you have in stock because a lot of people don't even know what's in their pantry.

I thought I'd show you our "pantry" and fridge at the end of the week (shopping day is tomorrow).  Apologies for my dirty fridge, I do keep meaning to get to that...
Our "pantry shelves"

Our, um, in need of a good wash, fridge
I'll be a domestic goddess when I've finished this degree, promise!

Our pantry cupboards - LOL, have been living here 7 months
and only just today discovered the in cupboard light!  Woot!
We usually only buy enough pasta, meat, sauces, vegies, fruit, bread and dairy to get us through each week.  I do buy larger bags, boxes and containers where I can, so margarine for example will last us a fortnight or three weeks.  Some weeks we have less than $50 to live off and then we'll get to end of things like potatos, baked beans, packet soups, flour (for damper etc.) and other bits and pieces I like to buy extra each week as quickie dinners if something comes up.  But yeah, there would never be any "living off the pantry for a fortnight" if we had NO money...

For interest sake, here's a list of a few of our regular meals...

  • Chilli con carne
  • Spagetti bolognese
  • Butter chicken
  • Apricot chicken
  • Tuna mornay
  • Korma
  • Chicken Tikka
  • Rogan Josh
  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Crumbed fish with homebaked chips/wedges, or salad, or steamed vegies.
  • Homemade pizza
  • Schnitzel with salad, or vegies
  • Snags with mash, or vegies, or salad
  • Creamy Chicken curry
  • Beef stew
  • Lamb stew
  • Vegetarian hotpot
  • Tuna salad
  • Kebabs with salad, or vegies
  • Hot dogs
  • Homemade burgers
  • Shepherd's pie
  • Rissoles with vegies or salad
  • Homemade pumpkin soup
  • Omlettes with salad
So, it's not all baked beans and two minute noodles (though, some week, when things are particular tight...).

I guess if we HAD more money, we'd spend it, but I think we eat well on much less than what people think is "eating cheaply".  Our portions are generous - not like the minuscule portions you see on those Coles ads.  

We have cereals and toast for breakfast.  Fruit, biscuits and crackers, toasted cheese sandwiches and toast for snacks (occasionally, when I'm in the mood, I'll make muffins or cupcakes, but we don't eat a lot of baked goods).  Water is the main cold drink in the house - we have a water filter, so we don't buy water.  We definitely don't drink cordials or fruit juices except on very special occasions like birthday parties.  Hot drinks are instant coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.

I don't buy meat in bulk (we have a tiny freezer).  Sometimes we buy it from a butcher (Dave is better at doing that than I am), often just prepackaged from the supermarket.  We prefer high grade mince and low fat meats, so are buying the cheapest meat around either.

When I say we have nothing in cupboard, I pretty much MEAN we have nothing in the cupboard.  This is what is like to be a family of six living on 45K (AUD) per year, but for the most part, I don't think we suffer, we certainly don't NEED to spend more than $200 per week - when we do spend that much, it's usually a week when we've splurged on little extra treats (because, hell, we're not saints, LOL!).

Anyway, there's my little rant on the very loose definition of living frugally (without growing your own)...


katef said...

If we spent $60 a week to feed our family (of 5 - not including Noah even though I eat enough for both of us LOL) we'd be laughing!

We work on $500 a month.. but occasionally we go over that budget, but not often, and I think we eat pretty darn well.. actually I think we eat better than we did when we had heaps of money to spend on food... because we eat less processed crap and take out because we can't afford it!

Kelli said...

I think she is misleading, I suspect a book idea may have come before the visit to centrelink (but hey, I am a cynic).

Sif Dal said...

Kate is that $500 on all groceries, or just food stuff? If it's everything, I'll need to get details because if we could save $2-300 a month that would be excellent!

katef said...

Our grocery budget is $500 a month - but we sometimes go over by $50 or so depending on if we run out of more expensive items that month or not. Not sure I have any magical tips or tricks. I think it helps that we can do a big once a month shop at Aldi which probably isn't practical for you guys and I assume our kids don't eat quite as much as yours do... yet! LOL But happy to swap ideas any time!

Sif Dal said...

Apparently, they're building two aldis in our suburb (hear this about 6 months ago, but haven't seen any actual development, LOL). And we'll FINALLY have a car in February, so could go to the one a couple of burbs away, so might still hit you up for your shopping list, hahaha.

Yeah, when your boys get a bit bigger, you might feel it a bit in the hip pocket (such a stereotype, but for us it's certainly seeming more true each year...).

Good Job!