First things first, I have uploaded a new recipe here, so go and check it out. You will thank me, I promise... Now back to business.
Money is such an awkward topic for some. I don't find it so, in fact it gets me quite interested.. not that I feel a calling to accounting or anything like that, quite the opposite... What gets me interested is talking with people about how to use it well. How to look after the money we have and how we can use it to enhance our lives.
Since my husband and I got married we have had to adjust to a fairly limited budget. When we first got married we were both studying, then I fell pregnant while my husband was still studying (eeek!!) and now we have two children and are on one income. To add to that we live in Auckland. One of the most expensive cities in the world. Don't get me wrong, I am aware that we are incredibly lucky and could be in a FAR worse position, but we do have to be really aware of money.
I remember a turning point for me in terms of my thinking about money was when I was standing in line at the WINZ (Work and Income) office and I was on the phone to the hubby and somewhere in our conversation I had mentioned 'ah well, it's only money'. After I got off the phone a woman from behind me really politely said "excuse me, I heard what you said and I just wanted to say that it's 'only money' when you have it... well flippin heck, that put me in my place, and I could only be grateful for that reality check.
Right now our budget is pretty tight and I often have friends asking how we 'do it'. Our food budget is an absolute max of $170, generally I aim for $100, and then the extras like milk/bread/eggs that we inevitably need through the week doesn't break the budget. I have decided to compile a few things that I keep in mind when I do my food shop that helps to keep it down.
1. Shop food specific stores. In West Auckland we have a store, NOLA's, it is the GREATEST vege store around. I have found it difficult to find something between the cheap food stores that sell cheap produce and therefore bad produce, and foodstores that sell fresh produce that breaks the bank. Nola's is my answer. As much as they can, they sell local (which is awesome, I try to support local when I can afford it), they have great fresh produce that lasts far longer than other vege shops I have visited, and it is a seriously cheap place to buy vege. In summer I get bags of plums, apricots etc for $1.90!!! And avos, 8 for $1.... seriously, so good.
2. DON'T food shop when you are hungry. Everything looks good, worthwhile, and worth the money. It's a dangerous thing.
3. Shop from as few aisles as you can. Generally I can skip at least 4 aisles every time I shop. I try and avoid the middle aisles as much as possible and aim for sticking with buying whole foods. I found myself in a situation today where I changed my mind on my dinner plans from spaghetti (which we had the noodles for) to lasagne (because it's a cold day and who doesn't want cheesy lasagne on a cold day). Only thing is I didn't have lasagne sheets. I also didn't have eggs to make the lasagne sheets from scratch. I know I should have just gone back to the spaghetti option but my heart was set. I found myself planning to just go and get lasagne sheets ($3-$5) at the supermarket. Then I realised, why was I buying lasagne sheets when I could buy eggs for $5, make lasagne sheets AND have eggs to spare... making things from scratch (ie whole foods) makes your ingredients go so much further, I used to look at it and think it was just as expensive but I am realising that I may spend the same amount for a bag of flour as a loaf of bread, BUT a bag of flour will get me at least 2 loaves of bread therefore... cheaper! Wholefoods...the way of the future (haha... you know what I mean)
4. Enjoy food shopping. Most people I talk to hate food shopping. I LOVE it! Yes the money aspect can be stressful. I tend to add up the price of what I am buying as I go, then I can stand in line, flick through magazines and wait for my turn at the check out fully aware of what is coming and not have to put things back or wipe the sweat from my forehead as I worry about what the hubby will say when he sees the food bill. The other thing I do to bring enjoyment to my food shop is to get as little packaged goods as possible. This is not so much because of the wholefoods issue from above, but more from the vantage point of looking into a shopping trolley/onto the conveyor at the checkout and seeing piles of fruit and veg, cereal, meat, grains, milk, all the good stuff that you get to eat for the next week. It has my mouth watering just thinking about it. I in fact often wish I could take photos of my trolley, but then I will be that crazy person taking photos of my trolley! My theory is, if you can get excited about what HAS to go into the trolley (ie grab a couple of oranges, or whatever takes your fancy, don't put them in the plastic bag provided and instead, look at them and get excited about cracking into them when you get home. Either I'm a little food obsessed, or you will find you are less desperate for a 'treat' and are happy to stick with the necessities. If you try this out and find I am just food obsessed please tell me. :))
I don't know if any of these will be helpful, if you managed to get to the end of the ranting, but these are just a few things I keep in mind when I am food shopping. You've got to enjoy it though, else thinking about it, planning for it, and doing it will just be another chore to add to an already long list of chores! Also I have discovered a new bread recipe too which my husband has declared delicious and so well worth making. I may share that recipe with you in the near future so stay tuned :)