The Challenge

In February 2010, I quit my job. I did so with $15 in my purse and no new job lined up. I made my decision at 4.50pm after a particularly nasty day – by 5.15 I had cleared my desk, taken down photos of my kids, packed up my coffee cup, box of earl grey tea and some two minute noodles out of a drawer and cleared the computer cache ofย  a bunch of recipes I had drafted.

Yes, recipes.

I am a foodie from way back. I cook so well, people have moved to the other side of the world to live with me so they can eat my food (this is true). I am the one my friends ask for a recipe when they don’t have one. I write about food elsewhere, I study new recipes, I share my meals with those I love.

I had $15 in my purse and an empty pantry and fridge. My last pay was banked a few days after I left work and my immediate needs were to pay the rent. So, with a heavy heart, and still no job lined up, I went to Centrelink, as mendacious and Kafkaesque as any bureaucracy in the world, and signed up for social security, or as it is known in Australia, a Newstart Allowance.

It became quickly apparent that the allowance was barely enough to cover my rent and utilities. It left me with just $120 per fortnight with which to feed my family.

And with that, this project was born. The Challenge began with one purpose – to feed my family – an 18 year old boy and a 17 year old girl – 14 meals for $120. I refuse to resort to frozen meals, highly processed foods or calorie-dense, nutritionally poor meals. I don’t do margarine.

Since the Challenge started, food prices have inevitably gone up and from the beginning of 2011, it has been impossible to keep to such a strict budget. However, I still use $120 as a guide to feeding my family each week – $120 to feed them breakfast, lunch and dinner. Three meals a day, every day. Breakfast usually consists of breakfast cereal or toast, with a cooked breakfast every Sunday; lunch is a packed lunch of sandwiches, fruit plus a baked item or treat; dinner is a home-cooked meal.

It’s not just me that has this challenge. Around the world, millions of people are living with low disposable incomes – they are students, they are single income families, they are the working poor, they are heavily indebted, trying-to-pay-it-all-off people, they are saving for a deposit for a houseย  or a wedding or a year travelling. They are amongst us all.

$120. Seven main meals. Breakfast and lunch. Some snacks for lunch boxes. The occasional sweet treat. No margarine and no bad food.

It can be done.

152 thoughts on “The Challenge”

  1. Hi Sandra, Great ideas. One I thought of is fish cakes or fish rissoles using tuna or pink salmon (tinned) Not being a foodie, I only make a very basic one,you know, onions, tuna, mashed potato and egg but I am sure you could tweek it. One can makes alot and they are great hot or cold, so good for snacks too. Just a thought. Hils

  2. Something that is an oldie but a goodie and is super cheap and delicious is Lemon Sago (tapioca)
    Not sure if you are familiar with this but you cook it up and add golden syrup, and lemon juice. I stopped making it because it was so yummy and I couldn’t stop eating it. Can send you a recipe if you need it.

  3. My family is rising to this challenge with you. Great work! I’m loving your site. Thanks for your hard work. Tania

    1. I love comments like yours Tania. Good for my ego and good for your wallet! I really hope that if we can both stick to it, you will have saved enough to treat you and your family to something really special at the end of the year. I’m aiming for a trip to Thailand. You?

      1. Maybe you could focus on saving for Thailand when you are no longer receiving payments from Centerlink? Just a thought?
        I hate the idea of doll bludgers, especially people who quit a job just because they didnt like it.

        Most people dislike there jobs. Its life.

        1. Joel, the Thailand comment was posted at a time I was working and looking forward to a holiday at the end of the year. The holiday did not eventuate. May I suggest you scroll to the end of the comments under About Sandra – right down towards the end of the comments – for further clarification before you post another comment here. Many Thanks.

      2. Perhaps Joel could have put it less bluntly, but according to your blog you quit your job in February 2010, and your comment about aiming for Thailand was made in March 2010 … I would have thought you would have only have just started receiving Newstart when the comment about Thailand was made.

        1. “I would have thought …”

          Damning words right there KB. Please go to comments I made on the Ask Sandra page in response to a query by ‘Eva’. Read it. Do your calculations for dates. Take a deep breath when you consider LONG AND HARD how you would have dealt with the events disclosed in my comments. Then come back to me and apologise.

          I would like to take this moment to remind everyone else that there is Your Truth and then there is The Truth. Frankly, I’m losing patience with the pedantry and fucked-upedness that makes people assume that they are somehow entitled to an explanation. I owe you all NOTHING.

          Meanwhile KB et. al, please avail yourselves of the FREE recipes and advice here on this FREE site given without any expectation of anything in return.

      3. Good for you Sandra ๐Ÿ™‚ These negative ppl are evidently using your site (chock full of wonderful recipes, shared for free) but feel they have a right to attack you and your choices. I for one applaud your bravery in leaving a job that made you unhappy, and finding a new path (one that benefits so many ppl!).

      4. I just lucked onto your site (sort of – I read your daily intake in today’s Sunday Herald) so I really just lucked onto this old discussion thread. Why can’t people who are living on assistance have dreams too??? Life is too short to stay working in an area that you don’t like – I believe people are rarely good at the type of work they don’t like. My partner and I are both students (he full time and me part time – I started uni fulltime at 49 – so been living on the fumes of an income for the best part of 6 years now. I wish I had found this site back then! And, to add insult to injury, my car died on Christmas Eve. Luckily, I am a farm kid and I was raised to not waste anything and as the then wife of a farmer and the mother of five kids, all our meals were made from scratch, and whatever meat was in the freezer at the time. We killed our own. You are a kindred spirit – keep up the fabulous work and stuff the pious, narrow minded, self-elected, keepers of our nations morals! xxx Jason’s and my dream? Push bikes by July – one each.

      5. We got our push bikes and have booked our cruise! You are such an inspiration. Didn’t win the slow cooker so had to buy one. Aldi had them for $29.00 and WW for $39.00. Both stainless steel and black. We bought the Aldi version. My partner who was quite sceptical about slow cookers loves it. The house smells divine and the kitchen stays clean. Now we are eating these lovely meals we need the bikes!!! Keep up your wonderful work.

  4. Hi Sandra,

    I’m so glad I came across your site (through mamamia) – we’ve been trying to cut down on our food bills for ages.
    I have a question – do you plan all the meals ahead and then do the shopping, or buy your usual stuff and then cook what you feel like on the day/night? We do the latter and find that we throw a lot away… Any suggestions on how to plan ahead?

    1. Hi Natasha,

      Thanks so much for your lovely support, I’m thrilled you find this site helpful.

      To answer your question: I never shop without a shopping list. And I never make a shopping list without first having a good look through my pantry and fridge to see what I have and needs using up (to stop those leftovers) and what needs topping up (because a week without Milo would be a tragedy).

      Based on what I have, and what’s in season AND what’s on special I then shop. So for example, I might find some vegies that need using up fast and can lend themselves to a soup or a pasta sauce, so I add the ingredients I don’t have onto the shopping list. I’m pretty rigid in what I plan, but there’s enough to vary it a little. Another thing is to encourage other members of your family to have a say in the menu planning – if they all get to choose at least one favourite meal, then there’s a fair chance it will get eaten up.

      EDIT: I should add that at the very beginning of my shopping trip, I actually do my list in a coffee shop in front of the supermarket. It gives me a chance to think, and to take advantage of any specials that I can spy, before I launch myself into the fray. And if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t get purchased. It’s a really important rule to follow. It doesn’t take long to get into the habit, although there was a time when we seemed to get toilet rolls every week …

      1. I remember buying worcestershire sauce three or four shopping trips running. My brain kept telling me “You’re nearly out!” and forgetting that I’d bought it the previous week. And the week before that.

      2. Thank-you for your wonderful site and insight. I love recipes, but not a good cook. However I am looking forward to trying your recipes AND cutting down on meal costs. And don’t worry about the knockers, they are few and your supporters many. They should mind their own business!

      3. I live in a rural town where we don’t get any “junk mail” and our supermarket is at least 35 mins away. I find that a week’s menu plan, then getting online and checking the specials to the 3 supermarkets (one on the way and 2 there) I shop at. Sometimes it changes my menu drasatically as one had pork roast on special just this week and so I bought 3 – we have a family of 6 to feed and sometimes more if my oldest comes for dinner or my neighbour. Like you, I check my pantry, and I try to vary my meals.
        One of our favourites at any time of year is chicken wraps (like burritos without the seasoning) and I bulk my diced cooked chicken breast with capsicum and onion cooked with it, then lots of salad items like lettuce, diced tomato, grated carrot and grated cheese. I can feed a family of 6 on 2 chicken breasts AND have leftovers for school lunches the next day!

  5. Great site La Petite Chou, thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion. I have got some fabulous menu ideas for next week.

    I thought everyone planned meals, shopped accordingly with a list then made it from scratch. It wasn’t until my Mr14 and Miss11 (who are both very food aware because they like to eat!) became old enough to relate what they were eating at friends places that I realised that the majority of the world doesn’t do that.

    I have added 120dollarsfoodchallenge to my favourites!

  6. Hi Sandra. Would it be possible to add which recipies are suitable to freeze and/or how many days in advance they can be made? Thanks

    1. That’s a fabulous idea Hilary, from now on, I’ll do whatever I can to assist, although there are some recipes that never seem to last long enough to get frozen or stored in my house. If I have the time, I’ll try to edit some of the existing posts with relevant information (no promises though)

  7. Just wanted to let you know. I made the boston baked beans last week and froze them then had them a week later for breakfast…….they were even better second time around

  8. Fantastic website with some great ideas for yummy meals!
    We can all learn to be a little more thrifty and careful these days with our families by writing shopping listsand planning our meals and making sure there are plenty of staples in the pantry or making leftovers go further.
    Best of luck with this website:)looking forward to coming back and reading more of your recipes!

  9. Hi Sandra, well done you! I love your attitude and am going to come along for the ride.. No day in my house is complete without reading recipes and playing in the kitchen. You’ve inspired me to lift my game. Thanks.

  10. Hi Sandra

    Thanks again for doing this!!! My grocery bill this week was only $40 so thank you so so much! I am both a little richer both in my hip pocket and in my kitchen. I feeling of warmth prosperity and honour fills my household.

    Thanks again

  11. Sandra your blog is so inspiring. I am saving to renovate our house and a trip to Canada next year. I love that your blog has healthy and great looking food. I am definitely bookmarking it. I hope that your blog inspires me and saves me a little cash too. Good luck with everything.

    One idea I did have was to make a list of your entire pantry and freezer so you know what you have before you go shopping, this helps me plan my meals and use up items that may have been forgotten at the back of the freezer or pantry.

    1. adalita, thank you for your kind comments. I carry a mental list in my head when I go shopping, as the contents of my fridge and pantry would run into the hundreds. The idea is sound. Plan your meals around what you have.

      I’m thrilled you’re here and glad to be helping you reach your goals.

  12. Wow. Now that’s a challenge. Found you through Dancing with Frogs. I’m not in your position, although my own circumstances have become complicated recently, slowing my savings for a house deposit. I prefer to cook than eat frozen meals too, but I need easily reheated freezer food. Working long shifts (10 hour days), I’m often pretty weary when I get home. Reheating a soup (I adore soups!) or casserole is my idea of fast food, but it’s not ideal in summer. I have a few brilliant recipes which I’ll happily share if you provide me with you contact. I look forward to trying you recipes.

  13. Sandra, this is a great site, thankyou. It fits perfectly with the fun but frugal lifestyle I am working at for my family. I found the link on and there are some great recipes here I’ll be trying this week. Good on you for doing such a great job feeding your family well.

  14. Sandra kudos! I came across your site via Facebook and am enjoying it tremendously. Yours’ is a noble pursuit in that not only are you caring for your family but you’re teaching us how we can care for ours. In the grand scheme you’re helping families the world over. Ironic though how the old ways are being “discovered” by so many as the better way? LOL

  15. Hi!!
    I actually had this idea last year, at work – of all places. I was going to start a website (blog) with food that could be made on the cheap! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Not as a rival, though, you’ve inspired me to start the website anyway. I do live to a budget, coz as a student, an employee, a mother to a 2yr and wife to a hungry husband money gets tight. I do have to say, your budget is $50 less than mine (a fortnight, obviously). People always stare at me when I tell them my budget. No-one believes you can live on it. Good to see others can too!

    When the blog is up and running, I’ll pop back with the address, I’m sure there’ll be ideas you can use.

    Thanks again and best of luck!

  16. Hi Sandra, I’ve been popping in and having a look at your blog and loving what I’ve seen. Finally today I have printed out some recipes. 32 pages later I am looking forward to making these – will help massively when hubby and I are trying to make our menu plan for the month – yes month! Every little bit saved means extra time on maternity leave with my little boy too! Thanks very much!

  17. Just want to say I love your recipes and have decided to start the challenge also… with husband not working for the last 7 weeks and Im at home with 1 teenage boy and 3 little ones It would be great to save some money ! so thanks for such a inspirational site…. I will admit though ours may be a little more than $120 for 14 days we go through 21 ltrs of milk a week between a family of 6…. my little ones are 1, 2 and 3 all boys ! they drink the most of it …. I need to keep a cow in the cuboard I think ;0

    1. Welcome aboard Lisa.

      Just to clarify, The Challenge is $120 for 14 main meals plus a couple of desserts or sweet treats along the way. It doesn’t include breakfast or lunches. If I were to include all the breakfast and lunches for my family – we still go through up to six litres of milk a week here – it would probably come in at $100 a week. Add toiletries, pet food and household cleaners, and the price goes up again. That said, $120 for 14 meals is do-able and I hope you have fun as you travel along with me.

      1. Hi Sandra

        Thanks for clarifying that it’s 14 main meals for $120 … my family is twice the size of yours and I was starting to feel despondent that my weekly grocery shop was double your fortnightly budget! But if I do think about it, I’d say our main meals for a week probably come in at what yours do per fortnight, so that makes me feel better! We also have 5 cats, which tends to up our shopping by at least $20 a week! (and no, I haven’t even entertained the thought of giving the cats away in order to save that $20! lol!)

        I tend to cook ALOT of things in bulk while I have the time, rather than trying to cook every night, especially as my husband is away with work alot, and I send frozen dinners with him to reheat. Slow cooker meals are a favourite of mine, as well as chunky vegetable soups (in a 16 litre pot, these tend to last a good 3 or 4 days for lunch AND dinner!)

        I have contemplated starting a blog for some time now on cooking cheap for larger families, as I also don’t do pre bought treats and deserts, I make everything from scratch) … it wouldn’t be in competition with you, but I often wonder where I’d find the time, with 5 kids between 8 months and 10 years old, whom I also homeschool …. I guess it would be a good project for them too!

        We go through anywhere from 12 to 18 litres of milk per week (less in winter, more in summer) but as well as trying to do food on a budget, I like to go organic wherever I can (we also don’t do margarine – blergh!) and FRESH FRESH FRESH. We eat more vegetarian with only a few meat-ish meals per month.

        Your site interests me very much!

  18. Good on you Sandra, just watched the programme on today 2 night and checking your website and love the fact that you seen the problem and found a solution – not just for u but for others less fortunate or in that place where they never thought they’d be and in these uncertain times and high materialist world where money is a credit card we need inovative people like u. So go ahead make that buget healthy book and sell it to the multitudes.

  19. I Just Saw you on TT, and think this a wonderful site, i will be using in the future to help my budget, currently my partner and i live on $150 a fortnight including breakfasts, lunch’s, dinners and all cleaning products. I usually do all my dinner meals for 4 people and have the other 2 portions for lunch the next day or freeze for later in the fortnight. The recipes on this site will be an imminence help to my planning. thank you soo much

  20. Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring others. I have watched my daughter struggle since giving up work after having a baby. We are both excited to take up your challenge and look forward trying your lovely recipes. Your comment on Today Tonight about throwing away leftover food, is like throwing coins in the wheelie bin, really struck home. We will keep a jar in the kitchen (like a swear jar) and try not to throw things out but be creative about how we can use everything. Thanks for motivating us to be more organized with shopping lists and meal ideas and the reward of more pennies left in our purses ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Saw you on Today Tonight (like thousands of others, I’m sure) and I’m certainly going to give this a go – although I think $120 is very ambitious given I spend approx $500 per fortnight at present. No, I’m not kidding. I am in a slightly different situation to you, in that I am feeding 3 adults – one with special dietary needs – plus a 6 year old who does not eat what we do. Even if I manage to get down to $150 per week, I will be ecstatic! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the inspiration. Great job!

  22. Sandra, i think this is amazing. Like others i saw you on TT and it definitely made me sit up and listen to your story. Im a single mum of 3 girls under 8 and at times they are, at least difficult to please at dinner time. your recipes are a great inspiration and hopefully involving them in the cooking will make us closer.. i hate cooking repetitive meals so if i can vary and do it cheaper it would be huge weight lifted.. thanks again and goodluck with your book… all the best.

    1. Renai, I hope your girls look through the Kids in the Kitchen section. As a mother of an Apprentice Chef who started out mixing up meatloaf mince as a toddler, I am well placed to tell you how much I adore encouraging children to cook and participate in their food choices. I hope you get a couple of useful rcipes from here.

  23. Hi Sandra,
    I saw your story on Today Tonight, Tonight….lol…..anyway…..I have been doing this for years as money has always been tight, and have had to tighten the apron strings even more as we recently bought our own home…..I kind of have a slight obsession with frugal living and am always looking for new ideas, I am constantly researching new ways to save money, so congrats on the site and i will be adding your site to my long list of money saving site!

  24. using what you have in the fridge can lead to some tasty surprises, such as – raw mushrooms go beautifully with that cheap fish salad that thinks it is crab meat, with a light sour cream dressing. Do you think you could create something with those ingredients, Sandra? What else would you add to it to make a memorable main course?

    1. I’m a little concerned about the description of ‘cheap fish salad’. Can you be a little more specific about the type of fish it is? Or is it crab stick?

      I could definitely do a main course using the mushrooms – check out Caramelised Mushroom Tart or Mushroom Ragu in the recipe file – or I would do a rustic mushroom tart using the sour cream combined with eggs as a base.

      Not sure about the crab filler though. There’s not a lot one can do with that to make it look less than the cheap and nasty food it is. Sorry – I probably have crab filler prejudice.

  25. Hi Sandra,

    After losing my husband to cancer, suddenly I find I am income-less and supporting 2 children on my own.

    I saw your article on the TT show and thought “wow! if she can do it then I can take this on too!”

    I’ll be cleaning out the cupboards this weekend!

    Oh and thanks for being such a great inspiration, I really appreciate it.

    Jewel xx

  26. Hi Sandra,

    I love your site and also strive to reduce my grocery bills and grow as much produce as possible. I have some other challenges which include living in a caravan (I’m rebuilding after Black Saturday) with the only way to cook is on top of a pot belly! I’ve become very innovative and its surprising what you can do when you have no other choice.

    All the best and I look forward to trying out your recipes.


  27. Hello Sandra,

    Like many others here, caught your “spot” on TT last night and immediately began taking notes!
    I recently moved nearer to my ailing father to care for him and have been struggling to make ends meet on my own-seems once the rent is paid balancing the remaining money becomes a real juggling act! Any suggestions for saving at the supermarket is always helpful, so thanks for adding yours…..keep up the great work!

  28. Hi Sandra loved the spot on TT always am keen to save money at the grocery store. My buidget this month was $600 that includes nappys and one tin of formula. We are now in our 3rd week and are so far doing well, you have inspired me and next month our food budget will be $500! living on one income with 3 kids and a hungry hubby means sites like yours are a godsend cheers!

  29. Hi Sandra, I have just watched your $120 challenge on my HD – I usually record TT and watch it when I can. You have really challenged me. So many times I come home from work and go back out to the supermarket because I haven’t got ‘enough’ food in the house to make anything decent, waundering around the isles trying to work out what to get for dinner that is at least half healthy then if I can’t decide a quick trip past a take away – NOT GOOD, when we should be sitting at the table eating home cooked meals. Its so hard, but I am going to get organized and do this. With 2 hungry teenage boys who have to be out most nights by 6pm and a hungry husband who needs to be in bed early, I need to organize myself a whole lot better and I think with this site I will be able to do it – and to save money, oh what a bonus that will be. With the money I spend on food I think it would be cheaper to pay someone to come in and cook. Pretty sad hey! Thank you I am going to have a go at this. Do you use a microwave – I am not convinced that they are any good for us???

    1. I do use a microwave and have done for the past 30 years. I tend to use it to steam vegetables and to re-heat or de-frost rather than cook. It’s fabulous for melting butter or cooking chocolate and I make a hollandaise sauce using a microwave – strange, I know, but it does work!

      I use a conventional fan-forced oven and electric stove top for all other cooking.

      I know how time-poor you can be in a mid-week rush to get everyone organised for their evening activities. I often spend Sunday afternoons cooking two or three meals in advance and then re-heat them through the week. The beauty of this is that I can ask the children to put a dish of something in the oven to heat up and they can contribute to preparing a meal rather than whining that they’re hungry. It’s not a perfect solution for every family but it works around here – most nights.

  30. I have done the stocktake and planned the next few nights meal around what was lerking in the freezer, pantry, fridge etc. I also discovered enough baking ingredients to cook up a storm to fill luch boxes with snacks for the next year. But the most confronting thing I found was, as I made my shopping list for next pay day, I have some pretty obvoius (now) bad shopping habits. As I wrote ‘tea’ on my list I did a double take to my stock take list. On which i had written loose black tea, white tea, russian caravan and english breakfast. The last of which is down to two tea bags which made me think I ‘needed’ tea! Even my four year old could tell me I didn’t need tea. This is something I have obviously doing with my pantry for a while now. Five different vinegars, three oils, three mustards, six jams (two are homemade and gifts). I now have a new aware way of making my shopping list.
    If I can suggest a tip, grown your own herbs, spring onions, chillies, in large pots ( 1/2 wine barrells are ideal) and if you have some room try pumpkins, tomatoes, spinich, anything you like to eat really, have a go! its easier than you think.
    Ps. My shopping list this pay is simple…. fresh meat, we will be all out in four main meals time. We have everything else. Thanks Sandra for your help.

  31. Hi Sandra,

    I saw the segment on TT a little while ago, and wanted to say well done!

    I look forward to having a look around your site.

    All the best

  32. hi there,i just wanted to tell you how much i love your site,i just found it this morning from another site i was on,i too have to live to a very strict budget,i have $70.00 a fortnight for Food,i eat very well with a lot of thought and planning put into my meal’s,i do not buy meat as such,i do eat it if it’s given to me via my daughter,but i do buy Meaty bones,which i can make great meal’s from,lot’s of vegee’s and legumes,so i have been looking up all your Vegee recipe’s,i will look you up every morning from now on,love your Bread recipe,i make my own Bread as well,so much cheaper and healthier than bought,once again thank’s so much for a great site,Regard’s Carol

  33. Hi Sandra

    after seeing you on telly i have made it my mission to try to cut down my grocery bill and still eat well, and thanks to you I have. My family are also pleased about it and have commented on the delicious meals although i haven’t told them about the savings…going to leave that for christmas and add your name to the gift tag!

    1. I think I love comments like yours the best Sharon, the ones that combine savings with eating well and a great bonus from saving money at the same time. Some people are saving for holidays, others for Christmas, others have been able to stay in their homes and avoid eviction. I’m thrilled to bits to have been able to lend a hand. xx

  34. Having our own Mission to cut back all areas of spending (mainly because we’ve no money to spend!!) and often one base ingredient or main meal will become a ‘rubber’ dinner – stretching out over several meals. We just did this with 3 Lamb Shanks, first as a casserole with mash; then fish patties using the leftover mash, with some extras over for lunches; tonight a pie with extra broccoli, cauliflower and the left over casserole sauce. Can’t wait for our veggies to be the ones going into the pot!!

  35. Hi Sandra,
    Just heard you on ABC radio. Firstly, well done – admirable effort.

    Secondly – and this is a life long hassle for me – I have ZERO creative juices in the kitchen. And this is the main obstacle for me. I look at foods left over and have NO idea how to turn it into a meal. Having left home at a very young age (17) and went off to explore the world I was never ‘coached’ in the art of cooking for a family. I also work alot and having time to just shop is a major issue. I do OK but I so want to do better, but you need time time time – time to cook healthy meals from fresh ingredients and time to analyse groceries to buy, time to plan meals wisely, time to write a careful shopping list. Running 3 kids around after schools etc. I seem to have only limited energy in the evenings.

    I have often thought “I bet if I give up work and live frugally we would be better off”. Your last 12 months has proved that.

    My main issue is……how do I LEARN the art of creativity in the kitchen when I just get ‘blank’ when I think of food. You have the gift of being able to just create wonderful ideas (as most cookbook writers have!!! :-)) but for many others we are so pathetic in this area.

    PLUS, my 3 kiddies all have their unique taste buds that love this/hate that etc etc. Plus they need healthy brekkies, lunch stuff, after school snacks, dinner and desserts!!!!

    I would love to try to reduce shopping costs – I spend about $350 PER WEEK!!!!

    How can someone as ‘blank’ as me ever do this though????

    Yours ever hoping, but feeling quite inadequate in the kitchen!!!
    ๐Ÿ™‚ joules

    1. Hi Joules,

      Have a look at the section called ‘Getting Started’ which will give you some ideas for menu planning. The best way to do it is to sit your family down- everyone including the children – and ask for meal suggestions. Write down everything and then add a couple of easy doable meals that you like to eat. You don’t have to be Nigella to do this, at this stage this is an exercise in planning.

      Once you have a meal list for a week, look up the recipes for those meals and note down the ingredients. This will form the basis of your shopping list. In other words, you are only buying what you will be eating that week, not shopping on a just-in-case basis.

      If you can, cook some meals at the weekend if you have some time, or cook two meals at once and freeze the second. This helps not just in time saving during your busy week but freees you from the personal hell when children ask what’s to eat?

      Finally, to help you, have a look through the blog – you will find meals marked Day 1, Day 2 etc through to Day 14 and you can use these as a basis of your meal plans and shopping lists to get you started.

      If you are ever trying my recipes and need a hand, drop me a line, as you will see here, I do try to encourage people who are unsure in teh kitchen and will do all I can to ‘talk’ you through it.

      Good luck!


  36. Hi Sandra,
    I caught the end of your radio interview and it seemed an answer to an unspoken prayer.
    We are a farming family and like so many, are now faced with enormous decisions after a rain ruined crop; I have been thinking about how I can s-t-r-e-t-c-h our budget–and then I heard your interview. My family will be joining you in this journey and I am sure we can save some money too that will take some pressure off my husband.
    I love to cook too so maybe I will have some recipes to share as well. Did you say you were writing a book? Go for it that would be fantastic. You could have section on other money saving hints and household tips, not just recipes; that would be fun.
    Cheers for now, your new friend,

  37. I can’t wait to explore this website.

    My budget for 2 adults and 5 kids (aged 6 and under but eat like adults lol) is $250 a fortnight (for everything but nappies). Most people are surprised at that but hey you can’t get blood out of a stone! Lucky for me I have a great cook for a husband and lots of recipes on my computer lol

    Now if only the supermarkets would mark down more stuff more often we’d be laughing, at the moment we’re eating out the freezer.

  38. Hi Sandra,

    I am sorry but I just can’t see it. There are 4 in our family, husband, son 13 (plays a lot of sport) and continually hungry and a daughter who is 10. With children going through growth spurts and fussy eaters my food bill is regularly over 300 a week. I would love to see this come down but I am skeptical!!

    1. Why don’t you try it? I too would love my food bill to come down, my budget is $400 a fortnight for EVERYTHING and I spend every cent of it too but I get a lot of extras from shop to shop, bread and milk every few days and my grocery bill doubles before I know it ๐Ÿ™ I’m going to give it a good go and try to bring my grocery bill down for good ๐Ÿ™‚ All we can do is try ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck!!

      1. I have tried – although not $120 my bill did come down a bit – i also managed to make bread for the first time and it was eally good. Will keep you posted on how much I get the bill down too. Had a bad week last week just not organised enough – will try again.

    2. Hi Susan

      We are a family of 2 adults, 5 children and 5 cats and my TOTAL weekly shop is averages at around $250 – this includes food, toiletries and cleaning products, cat food and supplies – the lot. I refuse to buy processed foods, but admit to using tinned foods in some instances (eg tuna, corn, tomatoes etc) I do use alot of fresh vegetables, especially in soups, curries etc.

      Don’t forget too, that Sandra did say that the $120 only covers 14 meals and *some* deserts/treats, not breakfasts, lunches, toiletries or other household products. But it is possible to get your grocery bill down – it IS all about organisation and knowing EXACTLY what you need to get and not impulse shopping! ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. Hello,

    I found your site via the age and wanted to congratulate you on your blog and resilient proactive attitude! I’m a final year masters student also on centrelink payments while I undertake unpaid placement. I have no children yet have still had many moments where I was in tears simply as I couldn’t afford to eat. I am amazed at how adept I have become and shocked at how much money I wasted when I had a disposable income! Your blog has given me lots of new ideas and I can’t wait to get stuck into your recipes. Keep up the good work! Nat

  40. Hi Sandra! I came across your story just an hour ago on The Age (online) and was curious and impressed. As a newlywed, I’ve started a blog about saving money, etc., and I just have to mention your blog in my next post (scheduled to be publish in a few hours). It’s a very helpful blog, I learned a lot already in less than an hour. Can’t wait to try your recipes. ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. Hi Sandra,
    Great to find your blog in The Age yesterday. It will be useful in my continual quest to feed my son and myself on a budget. I do OK actually: our bill is usually $60-$75 per week for two; however, this includes all breakfasts and lunches, and also includes toilet paper, laundry detergent, shampoo, and other extras. Partly it’s necessity and all that; partly I’ve never been able to understand how people can manage to spend several hundred dollars a week at the supermarket to feed a small family but complain that they are poor.

  42. Dear Sandra, thank you for sharing. I really admire your courage in the face of adversity. You rock, and I hope you really are not affected by the nasty and rude element out there. Love dee

  43. hi sandra
    just come across your site what a gem.I am from England and have recently retired so money is a little tight.
    You give good advice and I will certainly check my store cupboard before I shop.

    cant wait for the book and hope I can get it in England

  44. Hi Sandra! Wow, i’m so excited I stumbled across your blog whilst reading someone elses blog. I am not very good at planning meals AT ALL, my husband and I are your typical “um, what’s for tea” at 6.30pm – ers! I have a three-month-old so I’m particularly time poor as well. I am going to endeavour to undertake this challenge firstly for the savings, but I’m excited at the prospect of potentially eating better as a result of being organised.
    I’m so excited eeeek!!!!
    Love, Victoria

  45. Just found your blog. Will definately be rising to the challenge – due to start Maternity Leave next week for 1 year, 1 income!

    Now…. to get that pantry inventory sorted – YIKES!

    Well Done Sandra.

  46. I’m came across your blog via Facebook and I think what you are doing and sharing is awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’ll also be sharing it with my fans on one of my pages on Facebook.
    Really at the end of the day everything comes down to planning and god forbid making time…no one is time poor, just poor with their time…(hhhmm that sounds like a status update for me).
    Also if we could eliminate all the ‘negative nellies’, the world would be a better place. No where did I read on your site that $120 per fortnight is the be all and end all for everyone, it is a suggested amount, or as you have actually put it, a challenge…a challenge to lower your food bill overall. We are a wasteful society and many things can be improved.
    Once again, keep up the awesome work and I can’t wait to try out some of your receipes. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Just curious Melinda, whereabouts on Facebook did you see this site recommended? I ask because Facebook drove a lot of trafffic to the site yesterday so someone was talking about it!

      1. One of my ‘friends’ added your lunchbox treats link to her profile page, so it came up in my newsfeed. She added it this morning, so not sure about yesterdays traffic, but you gotta love the power of Facebook ๐Ÿ™‚

  47. Hi Sandra. Thankyou for being so generous and open with your experiences and how you jumped to meet your challenge. That takes a lot of guts. Good on you also for sticking up for yourself to some who have appeared to judge you. We ought support each other, not look for ways to belittle. Keep it going, Sandra. Dee

  48. Sandra,
    What you have done here has helped me like you would not beleive!! I am a sole parent, i work 6 days per week but no matter what i do, i cant seem to get on top of things. Im studying nights and the course is very expensive (however will be worth the penny pinching in the end) I have completed my FIRST 2 week challenge!! I cant beleive it worked! Your recipie’s are delicious and great for those on a budget. I came on here just to tell you that. I decided to read all the other compliments on here and was saddened…actually disgusted with the posts regarding your intent to travel to Thailand (which was written over a year ago). Dont we all want to go somewhere? I plan to go to the USA, infact i have every intention of it….I dream about it all the time!! and i even tell people im going..because i will!! that does not mean we are literally going to pack up and go at that exact time.
    In conclusion, i must say, do not take any of those pathetic comments personally. Im not sure if you are aware..some people make it their life to find something wrong with people and comment negatively about it just for something to do, or to ruin somebody’s day. this gives them a little kick. Because they are bitter with the state of their own life, or because they are bitter about the WONDERFUL things you are doing on here for families around the world!! ‘
    Do these people know what it feels like to feed children on a tight budget whilst trying to work your butt off, study and make something of yourself? I think not.
    What you choose to do or not to do with your time is absolutley your business and nobody nor myself has any right to judge you. All that aside, what you have done for my family, our waist lines ๐Ÿ˜‰ and my sanity is something i will never forget.
    You my dear are an angel. Im sure i speak for many other families out there when i say THANKYOU. Best of luck with your book deal. You ARE making something of yourself. You are a success. Dont lose sight of that.

  49. Hi Sandra,

    All I can say is, you made a very difficult decision, stuck by your guns and have come out the other side a better person. Good on you!!!

    I just wanted to ask if you can remember the quick sponge pudding recipe you gave me many moons ago? It required minimal items and very little effort. If you recall the recipe, can I have it and I think it would be a great recipe to add to your growing list.

    Once again, way to go Sandra, I wish you the very best for the future, which from where I am standing, keeps getting better all the time.


    1. I’m grinning from ear to ear and tearing up as well to see your name Bev. So thrilled to see you here, have missed your laughter and chat more than anything else!

      Was the sponge pudding a lemon delicious by any chance? I can remember telling you about it, but can’t remember what the flavouring was. If so, the recipe is already on the website (and very popular too) and listed under Desserts – Hot

      I really hope you stay in touch, if you want to email me directly, look on the contact page and we can go from there. xx

  50. I only found this today through the mums and bubz fb page. i def need to do this but have 3 under there somewhere we can get all your recipes.
    keep up the good job. your an inpiration to us all and dont let haters get you down

    1. Tracy, all the recipes are listed under various Categories. See the Home Page and scroll down to the section in the right hand column. Click on the category you’re interested in for a complete listing.

  51. Hi Sandra, Wow, what a wonderful blog you have! I am interested in looking to take a pay cut but am scared and was unsure where to start. Cutting the food bill will help immensely. I am so excited to be starting your challenge in about a week – have just done the shopping so will wait til next weekend. Keep up the great work and ignore the idiots. Well done!

  52. can anyone give me a good starting point, im just about to leave home and move in to a shared house, and im a tafe student, so that means im still studdying, and dont have to much time to cook some days. is there a quick list of basic meals i can start with to keep me on the cheep?

    1. Ryan, all the recipes are listed as Day 1 through to Day 14 to help you plan a fortnight of main meals. You can start at the very beginning of the recipe list, (Start with the recipe for Spaghetti bolognese) or you can go to the more recent recipes.
      All the recipes are listed by category on the right hand column of the home page. You can also type in an ingredient – say, rice – into the search box in the right hand column of the home page, and up will come all the recipes listing rice in the meal.
      For quick cooking ideas, stick to stirfries, meals with pasta and rice or noodles, soups, or some of the vegetarian options to get you started. Good luck!

  53. What a superb idea! I am currently in the situation that you describe above and this blog will inspire me hugely! I’m also the foodie that everyone comes to for feeding and ideas and have been known to throw delicious meals together from just what I have in the cupboards but have always had a problem sticking to a budget in the scheme of things – so THANK YOU!

    Anna (London, UK)

  54. Im not sure, so i may be missing something here, but have you put up a meal plan yet i.e.planning for the week(s) or is it that we just look up breakfast, lunch dinner and snack recipes and work it out yourself at the moment?

    I really need help with planning and working everything out as Im not very good at self directing!


  55. love your site, I did a stock take of my pantry a couple of weeks ago as my partner is in between jobs but I didn’t make a list of what I needed for the grocery shop I just guessed. TW I found your site via facebook from the shop smart site today ๐Ÿ™‚
    I scan all 3 grocery stores for whats on special and stock up especially toiletries and coffee. I am gluten intolerant and some of these items such as flour are expensive.

  56. LOVE your latest receipe- the Lime Brulee. You are inspiring me to learn more about cooking by doing, which I will be sharing with my children as new experiences and fun Bless you.

    I really like your writing style too- very engaging and easy to read even in the middle of the night. Hard to stop LOL- rather like good food.

  57. Love your blogg – found it via the pear and raspberry bread – thank you! – I have enjoyed reading through it this morning with a cuppa, and discussing the recipes with my hubby as we are both foodies and both love to cook. Keep up the great energy and keep reaching for that pantry door and cooking…..

  58. I am a latecomer to your blog. Great recipes even without the budgeting bonus! I had been feeling very uninspired in the ‘what to cook for the kids’ department until I found a link to your website via the ABC website. There is mention of a book. Has this been published? If so, I would be keen to get my hands on it. Thank you for getting a tired and time poor family excited about dinner again ๐Ÿ™‚

  59. Hi Sandra,
    Gosh, you’re preaching to the choir here LOL. no one has to tell me how difficult it is to live on a limited grocery budget! I am on a very small disability cheque and there is me and my little Chihuahua (who is my ONLY Family) who frequently saves my sanity, anyone who suggests I ‘get rid of her’ to save money is looking for a chop to the shins with my cane! LOL.
    I’m in a wheelchair outside the home, and am not very well in other ways as well (but I DO manage!) which means there are certain things I just cannot do. I DO grow my own veggies on my small mobile home lot, where (in back yard only is all that is allowed!) and as I can (I can’t do any heavy digging and only very limited bending over for instance.) I have a grand total of $85 a MONTH (not a week or fortnight) that has to buy EVERYTHING foodwise, plus soap, toilet paper etc. Basically anything that isn’t utilities or Pad Rent for the little lot on which my older trailer sits. That includes saving for property taxes of $100 a year. I am hoping to pick up a few tips from here. And I can probably suggest a few too! I have been trying to find ANY kind of work here and there that I can do, but living rurally in a tiny village of about 2000 people means no work locally, for me or most other people here. I am nearly 60 and people tend to hire younger people NOT in wheelchairs! I am NOT lazy I assure you! (as was suggested I was on another site I went to looking for tips etc like here,) I am here to LEARN. I am strong and as independant as I can be! No, this is not a pity party! For whatever I can learn here or help anyone with I am grateful. At least until my 13 year old complaining computer gives out! LOL

    Pleased to meet you Folks, I am Mary ๐Ÿ™‚
    I have signed up for new posts etc, and I am just about to do whatever I have to do so I can sign in when I come in.
    Thank you

  60. I have a simular buget as you I have 3 chidren we eat enough for a army. I aim to spend $400.00 a month for all the meals for the family including treats. we dont eat out offen. It can be difficult to sick to the $400.00 a month occassionally it may exceed $500.00.

    I only purchase fresh items and make most Items from scatch. we use plenty of vegies to strech out our meals. I often will make a mince dish wish can convert into other dishes. tomato based mince dish can be lasagne, tacos (added chilli), shepard pie, potato fillers.

    I make muffins for school instead of bars.

    I dont have much time to prepare plently of meals as we are both working , 3 children and a household dosent leave much time.

    I do a special breakie once a week and have dinner parties fortnightly (themed) If we have spare money left over from the month I place the money aside just incase

  61. I’m a single mum of One so it is a small household….. Our groceries (for everything) are generally $200 a fortnight and that is with needing to be gluten free and dairy free, and soy &sugar limiting, and lactose free for my son. Its the “special foods” like lactose free milk, rice and soy milk, aswell as GF Bread and flours, that really kill me. Before these diagnoses I was spending $150 a fortnight.

    I’m hoping to bring it back down a little as I really need to start saving some money, and pay off the interest free purchase before the interest free runs out.

    If anyone has suggestions on how to reduce GF and special diet purchases I would love to hear them.


  62. OMG Sandra,
    Thank you so much for putting up your recipes, i have fun ths afternoon planning our menu for the next week, with three growing teenagers in my house, my shopping bill is out of crontrol, but will be back in control now thanks to you xx

  63. Hi Sandra,
    I have really enjoyed trawling through your blog, you have amazing, cheap but hearty and nutritious recipes listed.
    Unfortunately, I am one of these food intolerance poeople, which makes finding recipes even more difficult.
    I was wondering if you had recipes for food intolerances? Mine are many I’m afraid.

    1. I’m so sorry Michelle, but my cooking knowledge and and suggestions for recipes for food intolerances is very limited. In the search box on the home page, type in ‘gluten-free’ for the few ideas I’ve listed, but any other intolerance may be very scantly covered at best.

  64. Hi Sandra,

    Having come to your site recently I appreciate the lengths you have gone to to help other people in your position. However, reading though comments left on your blog I have to say I find myself turning away from your pages simply because of the negative comment you left in reply to KB on January 28 2011. It seems rather hypocritical to ask for an apology and then leave such a rude reply. I expect more from a professional person and am disappointed that you would sully such a fantastic site with your personal anger.


    1. Good morning Kristy,

      Just to clarify: The day in question was the third day in a row where I was being hauled over the coals following a story that featured in Fairfax press. More than 750 comments were posted about me online, and when comments were finally closed down the hate mail poured into this site and my inbox.

      To be very clear about this Kristy, much of the commentary was vitriolic, defamatory and extremely un-nerving. My family was attacked. Anonymous people threatened to report me to authorities from Centrelink to the police to DoCS. My parenting ability was even called into question. While I removed much of the hateful commentary before it was published I have also kept a file of each and every (largely anonymous) piece of nastiness that came in. Just in case I change my mind to not be so polite about it.

      I handled all of it pretty much on my own. I chose for the most part to keep quiet until the pendulum of public opinion swung back. It did and I’m extremely grateful for the overwhelming public support I’ve received since then and that continues every day.

      So – if I lost my temper at the end of that third day and called someone on their comment, a) that is my right as moderator and author of this website and b) it was considerably restrained given the baying for my blood that was going on at the time. I invite anyone to be the most vilified person in online forums for a short time and see how they would tolerate it.

      If that makes me a hypocrite to be so rude online, fair call. I stand by my comment and everything I’ve ever written online. I’m acutely aware of my public role and at every turn strive to be the person readers would like me to be, but by the end of that third day I WAS AT MY WITS END. So I let you down. That makes me human. Of course, your right to go elsewhere remains unimpeded.


  65. Hi Sandra, I have come across your site after seeing a post by The Organised Housewife. I look forward to taking up the challenge in shrinking my food bill in half! Being quite young newlyweds, my husband and I are learning to budget – and getting better at sticking to it each fortnight (as there is always something that seems to come up, or we overspend on something etc). We currently spend around $200 a week on food, but really can only afford to spend around $150. Now that I have found this site, I am aiming towards spending a maximum of $120 which should be ‘easy’ considering we have no children, and we don’t eat much meat (which I have found to be so expensive, probably why we don’t eat much of it LOL).
    Thank you SO much for making this site, I pray that you are blessed abundantly for helping so many families around the world xx

  66. Great site,
    I’m a wife & mum of two small kids @ quite passionate about organic food. What would you say might be a good budget to work with if trying to do it organically.

    1. A lot depends on where you live and what access you have to organic food so I really can’t advise a realistic budget but I can offer the following tips:

      The best way to reduce your budget is to grow your own – even a small garden with herbs and salad greens makes a difference.

      Also, buying in bulk or from wholesalers will help reduce and spread the costs, especially if you want to purchase ethically raised and organic meat direct from the producer.

      Buying in season is paramount of course.

      Some farmer’s markets don’t always offer the best value mainly because they pitch to their local community. There are farmer’s markets in Melbourne I simply can’t afford to buy at because they are located in high-end suburbs. That said, if you can take advantage and buy at the farm gate direct, you can really make some inroads into your budget. It goes without saying that the more you can then make from scratch the better for your wallet it will be.

  67. Are these recipes heart healthy as husband since heart attach has to watch what he eats.And I have high Cholesterol

    1. Hi Leanne,

      There is a huge range of recipes here and not every one is heart healthy. Desserts and baking will obviously attract more than a fair amount of sugars or chocolate or fats and the like and I would ask you to exercise a little caution if considering them.

      That said, there is plenty here that IS heart healthy, including dozens of vegetable, vegetarian, salads, breakfasts, stir-fries, fish, chicken, rice and pasta dishes that all use good healthy fats (eg, olive oil) and an emphasis on fresh, seasonal, lightly prepared produce. None of the recipes require deep frying. Many, especially those that require shallow frying, use barely any oil.

      As I am not medically trained, I can only advise you print out a recipe and check with a doctor or dietician if you have any concerns.

      Sandra x

  68. At least you were able to get centerlink. I went in with only 15c left and they told me to wait a month for a phone interview. The Australian government is a joke and has only ever gone out of its way to hinder my progress. Do not trust your government, they will let you die in the street if it’ll mean the remaining population is slightly better off. They will try to force you to commit malicious crimes, or theft if you won’t abide. How? You’re probably thinking I’m just some fruitcake but the link between crime and government is obvious. They force you into a situation where the only way to survive is to commit crime. Eventually you get caught too many times being forced to work for less than 1/10 minimum wage in prison. This not only helps justify building more prisons but allows prison builders to earn insane profits from cheap prison labor. Governments allow this new form of slave labor because those who aren’t in prison have not yet caught on to the fact that they could just as easily be in prison. We are too proud of our luck.

  69. My fiance and I are getting married next year. I’m a full-time Uni student, single mother, and working 2 part time jobs. My fiance, and future husband, is on minimum wage, and I will still be at Uni for 6 months after we get married and I can get a full time job. I’ve been wondering how I am going to feed our family with fruit, meat and veggies cheaply each week. You may have just saved my son’s (and mine) nutrition…. Thank you so much!

  70. Sandra, I’m always scouring the internet for fabulously frugal ways to feed our family well(that’s a boatload of ‘F’ words right there), thank you. It’s unfortunate that some visitors to your blog don’t handle the mask of anonymity very graciously and are quite rude and presumptuous about your life, the internet can be like a 24 hour party where there’s no host and everyone’s been pouring their own drinks.

  71. i got that it works :)) yes possibilities – i need a list of actual things to buy for my family of 3 i spend $120 my fiance is 31 im 22 & my son is 4 he is the main concern but i need meals and snacks that would possibly get us through every two weeks ,they go through what i buy so fast its killing me .

    1. Your story sounds so familiar to me it’s not funny… My fiance is 33, my son is 4 and I’m 25. At the moment my son and I live with my parents but my fiance and I are getting married in 8 months and then we’re going to be on a very tight budget for food, toiletries, clothes, anything additional really. I’ve never lived out of home before, so I have no experience buying in bulk, buying larger to save costs, or planning meals ahead of time. What do you buy each week, and how do you live? I’m trying to plan ahead of time so when we do get married it isn’t a shock to my system! It will be a shock to his as well, because he’s lived on his own for 12 years and literally eats one meal a day, made up of whatever he has lying around, so a home-cooked meal every night (and a ban on take away) will definitely mess with his head!

      1. Hi Jaimee,

        Congratulations on making the necessary changes NOW to help you with budgetary skills for the rest of your life. I realise the changes are big, but I promise you once the new habits kick in you will never go back to your old ways. Well, not unless you win the lottery.

        First of all, I assume you have drawn up a household budget? This means adding up all the things you spend money on and then dividing it up across each pay cheque so you are saving towards the upcoming utility bill rather than scraping around desperately once the bill comes in. And by ALL your expenditures I mean just that – everything from a takeaway coffee on your way to work, to christmas presents, holidays, vet bills, insurance – the works. Once you have done that – and cried at the sheer amount of it – take a deep breath and work out where you can save money across these areas. Get cheaper insurance, stop the takeaways, etc.

        So now you have a food budget, or estimate of what you can afford to spend and not one cent more, okay? It’s amazing how, once you know that amount, you can really concentrate on buying just what you need and not what would be nice to have.

        Plan a menu out according to the advice I’ve given to JustMe. A weekly menu will probably be hard enough for you in the beginning, but if you feel confident to try for a fortnight, go ahead. Have a look at what you have in your pantry and freezer and fridge and use those items first, then write down a shopping list with everything else you need for the meals in that plan. If IT’S NOT ON YOUR LIST DON’T BUY IT.

        By the way, check out my post on Stocking a Pantry and use this list at your upcoming Wedding Shower. Ask your bridesmaids to get everyone to bring one or two items on the list for your new home. I promise you, it will be an AWESOME gift for you and help you create practically every recipe on this website.

        With regards to cutting costs so that your weekly menu plan will fit within your tight food budget, follow the advice on the Getting Started page. The more you can make from scratch, the more you can cut out nasty pre-prepared meals and ready-made meals, the cheaper it will be. Period.

        As for your fiance using up whatever he has lying around at home, that’s brilliant. He’s actually doing it right. Use up what you have before you buy more. It’s the one thing you can do with every purchase to ensure you are not spending unnecessarily.

        I hope this helps, all the best x

      2. Hi Sandra, thanks for the advice! The bridal shower idea sounds like a great idea, I will definitely use that! I certainly don’t need more soaps and body products. We’ve vaguely drawn up a budget, still needs to be tweaked, but we’ve said we’ll try for $200 per week for groceries, toiletries, and clothing. Basically whatever is spent gets put in a jar for when we have an emergency week. I have definitely bookmarked this page to help when we move in together, and I’ve started finding cheap, quick and healthy recipes to hopefully make a folder of them so I can practice making up weekly menus.
        I did read your reply to JustMe and found it so helpful! Love the idea of 3 vegetarian meals a week, I am using that!
        Thanks again! This website is going to be a lifesaver!

  72. Hi…..I seem to be constantly on this challenge. I am a single mother of 4 girls aged between 5 and 11. Unable to work due to renal cancer and my eldest having Agriphobia, we are paying off a small house and trying to partake in sports, scouts etc. My one huge savior is the pressure cooker. I invested in a hotel quality and size Kuhn Richon a few years ago. I grew up with mum using hers for every night meal and I now the same. I follow the basics of cook everything from as basic unprocessed stage of the food chain as possible….. right across the menu, from bread and baking to stocks and stews. Not always the cheapest option but certainly the best.

    1. Thank you for your endorsement Megan. With a family around you it can feel like a never ending struggle to keep within a budget, but I do hope you can see that light at the end of the tunnel. All the best x

  73. I need to feed a family of 8 – I have myself, my husband, a 16-year-old boy, a 10-year-old boy, a 10-year-old niece, a 3-year-old boy, a 1-year-old boy, and a 2-month-old niece (I am in the process of adopting the 10-year-old niece and hopefully soon I will be adopting the infant niece, as well). We also have a 22-year-old son in college (yes, I had five BOYS! lol).

    At any rate, since our family has enlarged basically overnight, and my income has decreased as well due to the new baby (I work from home as a Medical Transcriptionist and have lost a lot of work due to the care of my infant niece and my older niece with behavioral problems…not that I mind, they are just precious and worth it), I need to start lowering bills. Since food is one of our biggest bills, I need help as to how to do what you do…I know I will have to spend more than you, of course, since my family is so much larger, but I need food advice.

    We currently spend about 1500 or more per month! We do eat a lot of chicken breast, but not a lot of fish. My 10-year-old niece is really picky, too…I’m pretty sure she’d shrivel up if I told her she had to eat fish. lol She will eat almost anything with chicken, though…but we can’t eat that every single night. Another problem is, the hubby and I are so tired that we buy a lot of convenience (i.e. frozen) foods for those nights we are just too pooped to cook. I already know to cut that out…but how do you afford things like paper towels, napkins, cleaner, laundry detergent, dish detergent, shampoos, conditioners, etc., with just 120 a week? I think that’s what costs a great deal, too. It’s hard to give any of the good stuff up for the cheap stuff (especially my Febreze Mr. Clean and my special shampoo and conditioner).

    Any help you can give me on lowering my food bill would be greatly appreciated!!

    1. My goodness, I’m exhausted just from reading about the size of your family and really, REALLY want to make you a cuppa and tell you to put your feet up for a minute…

      First of all, for the size of your family and their appetites, $1500 a month is really rather respectable, though I well understand that any economies you can make would only be recycled into other critical areas – like shoes for your growing boys.

      So, where to start? Go to my Getting Started page for great advice about how to use up what you already have in your pantry and fridge. In short, from now on, only buy what you need for the week/fortnight ahead and not what you think you might need.

      Menu Plan, menu plan, menu plan:-
      1. From now on, build in two meat-free meals every week. Check out the Vegetarian category on the right hand column of this page and slot in a couple from there. You will be amazed, if you don’t say anything and don’t make a fuss, how easily you will be able to sneak them past your carnivorous family.
      2. To those two meals a week, add another with pasta or rice
      3. Make Saturday or Sunday (or another evening where casual grab and gettit-type eating works best) a Soup or Leftovers Day, where you can use up lots of vegies and the bits and pieces from the fridge BEFORE you go out and buy more.
      4. Buy meat and poultry from a wholesaler – Google them for your area – and then make up bulk meals and freeze them. Save dollars AND time for those busy mid-week meals.
      5. Add another meal with mince or sausages in them. Bulk out this meal with lentils or beans for extra value.

      Shop at Aldi, Costco, wholesalers, or buy Generic brands. Start a fruit and veg co-op with some friends and draw up a roster to take it in turns to go to the wholesale markets in your nearest city, bring it back and then divide up the produce between you. The more people the better (and less often you will have to go to the market) but a minimum of eight people works best.

      When stuck with the big two supermarkets, go around the outside of the supermarkets first and buy as much fresh produce with your money as you can before going up and down the aisles. If you don’t go with a shopping list you will never save money.

      Use secondary cuts. I know your littlies like chicken but use up drumsticks and thigh meat not breast. If your menfolk insist on a steak every now and then, consider oyster blade or even skirt steak which can then be sliced up and served amongst a few, rather than the more expensive cuts.

      Start a vegie patch. Even growing herbs, a lemon tree and some salad veg will save you in the long run and most importantly will give you flavour to pantry staples.

      Also – and this is contentious but a necessary reminder – watch your portion control or learn to use up leftovers. Don’t throw away uneaten food.

      The $120 stated is for meals and doesn’t include toiletries, cleaning products or pet food. In this, you must be judicious – decide what are the dealbreakers and what you can let go of – in my case I will buy Aldi shampoos and conditioners or generic pet food but rather like soft tissues and loo paper. Again, where possible, buy in bulk to save the most.

      Phew! I really hope this helps.

      All the best x

  74. Awesome!! Thanks so much! My main problem is my hubby. I will ask for one simple thing from the grocery store, and he comes home with Gogurts and other crap for the kids, and a bunch of other crap we could have lived without! I cannot make him understand. I think the only way to handle this is to just go out myself and get what we need. I forgot to mention that I did not add the daily grocery store runs to the 1500/month, so I’m sure it’s much, much more. I swear our whole check goes to Walmart!

    I’m going to print this and try to make as many changes as I can. I don’t really have any friends in my city (they all seem to move to other states when I do make a really good friend here), so I don’t think I can do the co-op thing. It sounds cool, though. I definitely want to start my own herb garden. My 16-year-old loves to cook and uses up so much of our spices.

    Again, thank you so very much. I hope something works! And good luck to you, too!!

  75. I’m just seeing this now and I’m so glad I found it. My husband was laid off last year from a great job, and after 5 months of being unemployed he took a minimum wage job as a dishwasher just to have some income for us, but a few weeks later I was in a life-threatening car accident when a driver ran a stop sign. I was in the hospital for 3 days with 3 broken bones and a ton of cuts, bruises and burns. My husband had to stay home with our children while I was in the hospital and the job laid him off saying they could find someone who could be there. It’s been a year without any employment for my husband (I am home with my boys because I am in college fulltime…only 6 months until I graduate…and our oldest son has special needs and needs a fulltime parent) We were on food stamps while he was out of work just to get by.

    About a month ago his old company, the good one, called and gave him his job back – WOOHOO!!! unfortunately because of our older son’s needs (and so I can get some schoolwork done) we had to put our younger son in daycare during the day, which he loves but it’s expensive. Our food stamps got cut back to $57 a month for a family of four, and after daycare and gas is paid, we literally have $20 a week left.

    So I am now forced to budget the best I can….thanks for your inspiration

  76. I love this and am going to follow which I almost never do. I usually just flit about getting recipes for my family from here and there. I am however going to follow primarily because of the way you have handled and responded to earlier criticisms. I like your style and I appreciate the knowledge you are sharing. Keep it up.

  77. Hi Sandra, thank you for this amazing resource! I am heading into month seven of unemployment and it really does make you rethink money, wastage, frugality, doesn’t it? Yesterday I made baked beans from scratch – slow cooker, $6 ham hock, $3 dried cannellini beans, passata from the pantry (home brand), chilli powder I was given, a shake of smoked paprika + time, and I have enough for days and days of delicious meals. Look forward to getting more tips here.

  78. I am sitting here while bub is sleeping looking through your site. Thank you so much. I decided not to return to a very demanding (but decent paid) job after maternity leave as we couldn’t come to an arrangement that I could work around childcare and the hours were all over the place (3am finishes some days, 5am starts others etc). We thought I would find another job quickly but as yet I have not so we are scraping by on one very average income with a mortgage to pay. This site is a weight off my shoulders, I am sick of serving my husband horrible dinners or a couple of nice cheap meals on repeat (we are so sick of spaghetti bol!)…. I guess I’m just commenting to say you make a difference to people like me. Thank you x

  79. Great recipes, but not much of a challenge. I feed myself, my husband and my daughter 20 meals a week (we eat out one night) on $80-90 a week; but we don’t eat any red meat and at least two evening meals are vegetarian. Maybe that’s why.

    1. Hi Lyn,

      Just to clarify, the $120 set is for a family of four for a week of meals, so a similar budget to yours.

      I also advocate having at least two meat-free meals a week, but do include recipes for red meat.

      While I appreciate you don’t think it’s much of a challenge, to the majority of people in this country it’s a very real challenge and a hugely daunting prospect especially in areas where prices are steep or there’s only one supermarket in town. After contributing 1200 recipes to the cause, I think it’s every bit a challenge as it was in 2010 when prices were lower.

      So, every bit helps.

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