Food. For many Australians it accounts for the second or third biggest chunk out of their budget, after housing and/or transport. Poor food choices are also leading to an increase of “lifestyle” diseases, such as Type II diabetes and heart disease.
Four Australian personal finance bloggers (Enough Time To, All About Balance, FIRE By Thirty-Five and yours truly) decided to get together and offer an in-depth look at how we all “do” food in our households.
It doesn’t matter whether you like to plan or just wing it, whether you have gourmet tastes or enjoy simple food, or whether you love or hate cooking; we’re sure you’ll find some tips and tricks to eat more healthily and find ways to save.
Earlier this year, I wrote a post about our grocery shopping. In that post, I detailed the groceries we’d bought in a given week, as well as the tips we have for keeping costs down. I received some confused questions in the comments section and via email.
People were struggling to see how we were able to make a full week of meals from what we’d bought. I explained to many that we already had other things in the cupboard that allowed us to make our meals, but this still didn’t provide a great deal of context for people.
So, back in April and the beginning of May, I tracked our meal planning and grocery shopping for the entire month. I hope this provides more context for readers and allows you to get a getter idea of what we eat and how we shop.
Breakfast and Lunch
We don’t meal plan our breakfast or lunch. Every weekday, we have porridge (oats to those in North America). Poopsie makes this in the microwave each morning. I have a little bit of milk and a drizzle of honey on mine. Poopsie has a scoop of protein powder, some chopped nuts and half a banana on his.
On weekends, we usually have an omelette, again prepared by Poopsie. This usually includes some cheese and some left over tomatoes or salad greens.
We take our lunch to work every day and unless we make a salad the night before, we always take leftovers. We freeze our leftovers so always have plenty in the freezer to quickly grab of a morning and take to work. Many of the meals you see that we cooked during the month of April would have also been eaten for lunch in the following weeks and months.
Each Friday afternoon, I sit down and construct our meal plan. I do this by looking in the fridge and pantry for what we have that needs to be used, and by consulting a list I keep on my phone of our go-to meals. I printed off my meal plan template and laminated it at work so it could be reused week after week.
This was the first week of my tracking. As you can see, on Saturday night, we went to my parent’s place for dinner. Anything that has (fr) after it means it was a meal we got out of the freezer.
Once I make this plan, I do a shopping list up for Poopsie which he puts into his phone in the order in which the store is laid out. Here’s what we bought this week:
At the time I did this tracking, our aim was to spend about $400 a month on groceries. This week we came very slightly over budget, but nothing much to worry about.
First of all, please excuse the messy writing on this menu plan. I don’t remember why, but Poopsie wrote this one out. Hopefully you can all read it…
During this week, ANZAC Day occurred. If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen that we attended a pretty unique event that night.
Poopsie’s father is a member of the Freemasons. A special service was held at the Grand Lodge in Brisbane and Poopsie’s parents invited us along. We had dinner with them at their house beforehand, so we didn’t make a meal plan for that night.
The service was quite amazing to see. Before meeting Poopsie, I didn’t know much about the Freemasons (except what I’d read in Dan Brown novels). It was really interesting to see a ceremony and see the traditions they uphold. I also really enjoyed belting out a few hymns.
Anyway, back to meal planning. Here’s our grocery spending for this week:
This week we started having a green smoothie with our breakfast most mornings. Poopsie whips these up in the NutriBullet, usually with spinach or kale, a banana and pineapple. Whenever we have a banana start to go bad, we put it in the freezer and they’re perfect for a smoothie. We often have a lot of frozen bananas in our freezer, as I’m a bit funny once the skin starts to discolour.
This was a very low spend week, as we had a lot of leftover veggies from the week before. Sometimes that happens, but it’s not particularly common.
This must also have been the week I got a bad blister.
28 April – 4 May
While I didn’t put an (fr) next to it, the fish from this week’s menu was already in the freezer. We often buy a 1kg bag of New Zealand Hoki at Aldi for a little under $10. It lasts us quite a while.
Here’s the shopping list for the week:
For a couple of people who very rarely eat meat, this was a heavy meat week. The cooked chicken was for our weekend lunch- we love chicken and avocado rolls. Poopsie also had an intense craving for hamburgers, so we made our own. I have no idea why we bought two lots of rolls at two different shops- bizarre.
I baked a Lemon pie for next week’s menu, but needed to buy the ingredients this week (eggs, butter and condensed milk), as it requires a couple of days to set. We served this pie at next week’s Mother’s Day Dinner.
Despite the extra meat, this was another relatively cheap week.
My parents were headed overseas on the Monday, so we had an early Mother’s Day dinner for my mum. She requested roast, so it was another meat week for us. I also made a lemon pie for dessert which we served with cream. Poopsie made his famous zucchini and halloumi entree.
We also went camping. I didn’t add the camping meals in but from memory they were fried rice and soup from the freezer. We ended up coming home early due to the weather, so just made the fried rice at home instead.
The shopping list for the week:
The tuna was used for salads at work and the chocolate, Doritos and grapes were special treats to take camping.
This was our most expensive shop of this experiment, largely due to the roast beef we bought.
This was a fairly typical month for us. We eat the majority of our meals at home, prepared mostly by Poopsie with ingredients we bought that week. Occasionally, we enjoy meals at the homes of friends or family, and even more rarely we eat out for dinner.
While this experiment spanned over two seperate months, it still indicates a four week period. In this period, we spent $351.86. That is actually under budget for us, but not by too much. We find it all evens out in the end.
We find meal planning so much better than the old method we used to use- in which we’d come home from work, open the fridge and try and figure out what to make for dinner. Meal planning ensures we always know what we’re going to have, we always have the ingredients on hand and we almost never waste any food.
Hopefully, if you were one of those people curious after reading our grocery post, this has provided more detail and evidence about our meal planning and grocery spending.
Do you meal plan? How do you do it? We would love to hear your methods in the comments below!