So, we've come to the end of the week. I've just polished off the last of my tinned peaches and Mr Cake is eating some oats (which might sound strange at 9pm but is actually a pretty normal evening snack for him).
Above is what we had after our first shop. We subsequently bought yoghurt, brown sugar, peanuts to make our own peanut butter, and more milk and bread, spending a total of $88.48. And this is what we have left:
Not much! Some of our homemade peanut butter and half a loaf of bread; one whole packet plus a couple of pieces of Mr Cake's lunch meat and some of the hummus; some rice, stock, spices, onion and garlic; and perhaps a cup of oats and some brown sugar. I guess we could last another day on this if we needed to but there's not much nutrition left!
I didn't eat or drink anything we didn't buy this week - Mr Cake had a couple of biscuits at a work meeting and a drink with his colleagues on Friday night but I don't think either of those are significant enough to have altered his nutritional needs. ;-) The only things we used from our pantry were oil, salt and pepper, and some spice for the dhal (we bought two packets as a representative sample since it would have been silly to buy six spices for a one-week experiment).
It was a really interesting experience - we're both looking forward to eating some "treat" foods tomorrow and being able to delve into the pantry for variety, but often limiting yourself in strange and seemingly inconvenient ways have unexpected positives. Some of the things I've learnt this week:
- we waste way too much. Needing to make the most of everything made me realise we're often a bit careless. It won't take much adjustment to reduce waste, which should have a positive effect on our grocery bill.
- a little bit of planning saves a lot. I've decided we should do a fortnightly Countdown online shop for everything we can, and only go to the supermarket for fruit, veg, milk and bread (because our freezer is too small to hold more than a couple of loaves).
- I really value being able to whip out the butter and sugar and throw together something delicious of an evening. I missed that!
- making breakfast and dinner on the cheap is pretty easy but keeping take-to-work lunches interesting, filling and low cost is tricky (do you have tips for this? What do you have for lunch?).
- fruit and vegetables, even though we shopped at the supermarket instead of the farmers' market, weren't too expensive - we spent $22.43 on produce and got quite a bit - the trick is buying in season. Probably spending another $3-4 on a couple more apples and some greens would have been optimal, but we certainly didn't feel like we were lacking in nutrition.
- some things - like peanut butter - which we tend to accept come in jars or packets are actually pretty simple to make yourself.
- I think a carton of eggs would have been a good addition to our shopping list, since omelettes are quick and filling and boiled eggs can also be good snacks - we probably could have done without the third loaf of bread if we'd had a snack alternative
Based on this I think the two of us could entirely reasonably get by on $90 a week - but it would involve a lot more effort. At present, with both of us working full time, I'm happy to concede that we won't always get the best deals and that spending an extra half hour at the office is worth more than scrimping at the supermarket. I also have no doubt that if circumstances require it's possible to eat for significantly less than we did - one commenter this week said she had a weekly $30 food budget while studying. Yikes! Anyway - I feel like the average person should be able to eat reasonably well on $45 a week - which is reassuring with all the negative media around food costs.
Here's a breakdown of what we ate:
Porridge with brown sugar and/or tinned peaches
Peanut butter sandwiches or
Hummus sandwiches or
Hot beef sandwiches or
Dhal with rice (2 nights)
Kumara, pumpkin and peanut soup (2 nights)
Tomato/mince (sort of bolognaise but not quite) with pasta
Leftover tomato/mince sauce with potatoes added and rice (1 night) and pasta (1 night)
Would you have done anything differently? Are you surprised at how little or how much we spent?