As many of you may know in 2015 embarked on single life again. Separating, moving and setting up a new home is an expensive task. After a few months getting my home set up, surviving Christmas with minimal income, a dog requiring an $800 operation and also trying to maintain a social life I began to assess my personal spending. One would think that going from a family of five to only two of us (my daughter is 19) that it would have become easier financially, in some ways yes it has but in other ways it hasn’t. Going back to one income, paying a mortgage, paying the electricity, internet, water bill and so on was proving challenging. I don’t receive any child support or family tax benefit given that my daughter is over 18. I realised I needed to start cutting some corners with my spending. I don’t consider myself to be a big spender. I don’t have my nails done, or indulge in facials and massages. I only go to my hairdresser once every couple of months, I don’t buy expensive clothing, jewelry or accessories.
I sat down and actually went through my bank statements and that’s when I saw exactly where I was spending a lot of money – FOOD! Now given I am a foodie this would make sense however I was buying a lot of expensive and at times unnecessary food. Pantry staples – did I really need 3 cans of chickpeas, 4 cans of tomatoes, coconut cream and coconut milk? 4 different types of flours such as coconut flour, rice flour and spelt flour? 3 different varieties of cooking oil? Cacao and cocoa…really did I need both? Which then lead me to realise just how much food I was wasting. I would buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the markets every Saturday only to be throwing food out that hadn’t been used and started to perish by the end of the week or finding an old flour at the back of the pantry that had developed spores! I wanted to put an end to this food wastage and stop wasting money.
So I decided to make myself accountable for everything I was spending. This hasn’t just stopped at food but personal spending also. I cringed when I saw how much I had been spending on breakfasts and lunches out all while I had perfectly good healthy food going to waste at home. Catching up with friends for “happy hour” on Friday afternoons was another unnecessary expense so instead I now invite friends over for drinks and dinner at my place, when everyone contributes a bottle of wine or food it’s an inexpensive night of fun – okay there’s no live music but there’s a lot of chatting and laughter. I haven’t completely stopped going out altogether, I have included a social/entertainment budget in my weekly budgeting but it’s a heck of a lot less than what I used to spend. I have also found ways to save in other areas such as electricity, thankfully candles create lovely ambient lighting. When it comes to personal spending such as personal care products, I have a separate allowance for these things. Yes it is challenging and things crop up that I wasn’t expecting such as license renewal, unexpected car maintenance and a dying mobile phone.
My daughter works and generally buys her own food but of course if I make a meal she likes then she will eat it too and she will use my pantry staples along with bits and pieces of my food.
March 12, 2016 I started my “Real Food on a Budget” challenge. Giving myself a budget of $60 for food and groceries. I got off to a great start as my pantry was pretty full of staples but 24 days in I am finding it a little trickier as my pantry is starting to deplete however I am still sticking to my budget by simplifying my living and being creative with my food. A few times I have had to “borrow” from my petrol allowance to buy pet food, coffee or toilet paper. Shopping at the farmers markets is much more affordable than supermarkets. The produce is fresher, local and often spray-free if not organic. I plan most of my meals in advance so I have a pretty clear list of what I need. I have stopped buying 3 bunches of herbs, after-all they mostly went to waste and one bunch of herbs is plenty for the week. I have my own little herb garden going so I can usually take a few small clippings from the pots, however I haven’t been overly successful with a few plants dying but I am learning as I go and getting better. I no longer buy kale, spinach, rocket and mixed greens in one market shop – do I seriously need that many greens? I typically stick to spinach or rocket and mixed greens. I have cut right back on meat and poultry. I have never been a big meat eater, in fact I can’t remember the last time I ate red meat. Chicken and seafood however were a pretty big part of my diet, now not so much but I have come up with a few affordable meals incorporating chicken and seafood. The majority of the meals I create are vegetarian using plant based protein.
I have been sharing my journey on my Facebook page receiving a lot of great responses and feedback. It is wonderful to know I am inspiring others to not only create simple real food on a budget but also have a look at where they can cut down on their food budget. A number of people have been asking for the recipes. After taking a fairly big break from regular blogging I have decided to start sharing the recipes here on my blog. Sometimes the photos won’t be that great as they are often taken in my kitchen at night with pretty average lighting. A lot of the recipes are made guessing the measurements and cooking times, so please bare that in mind if making any of the recipes you may want to adjust the measurements according to your personal taste.
I will share these “Real Food on a Budget” recipes which you will find HERE, be sure to drop by to this page regularly as I will be updating the recipes as much as possible.
I hope I can inspire some of you to eat healthy on a budget, creating healthy meals without compromising on flavour and variety while still nourishing your body.
In health & happiness