Monday, August 31, 2015

Budget week, starting with breakfast: cheap and easy Bircher muesli

This week I'm putting a bit of focus on budget. Since Mr Cake is currently the only (proper) money maker in this house, and because we have a looong list of building tasks to tackle, we're trying to reduce our spending a bit.

We're spreadsheet lovers and have worked out all our main expenses and have formed a budget based on this. Most expenses (power, internet, mortgage) are fairly fixed so easy to forecast, and we have a pocket money amount each week for each of us that covers things like coffees, eating out and clothes.

We make it as automatic as we can, so we don't really have to think about it - I reckon that's the best way to stick at anything. So we're not actually spending all our spare time counting our pennies, we just review it a couple of times a year to see if there are any costs that need to be adjusted, or things we're overspending on.

However, we still seem to have regular budget blowouts on food. It is just too easy to pop into the supermarket several times a week, each time picking up extra convenience items (a.k.a. chocolate). So it's time for a clampdown in the Cake household. And by "the Cake household" I mean me. Because Mr Cake is not the chocolate fiend around here...

We generally menu plan our dinners a couple of weeks in advance (more on that later in the week), so when I do our fortnightly shop today I'm going to do my best to be comprehensive, and hopefully that will help us avoid making any extra visits to the local New World.

I'm also going to try to come in under the budgeted amount, in the hopes we can start to build up our renovation fund... I'm dreaming of a downstairs bathroom!

So with that in mind, I thought I'd share my favourite breakfast recipe. It's reasonably low cost, nutritious and very tasty - and pretty quick to make. The only drawback is you have to start the prep the night before - but it's worth it.

I'm calling it Bircher muesli, though as I understand it the original Bircher muesli contained only a very small amount of oats, and used sweetened condensed milk in place of my yoghurt. We've been making this for years, and while I've read many decadent Bircher muesli recipes, this one is focused on practicality.

This is a very flexible recipe - really the only requirement is that the oats are soaked in a plentiful amount of liquid - so feel free to change out the fruit, nuts and spice to your taste.

We like to make it even quicker to put together by prepping a large amount of the mix-ins - dried fruit, nuts and cinnamon - and having it in an airtight container, so that the evening prep just involves adding oats, mix-ins and water to a bowl - all of 30 seconds' effort.

By my calculations, this recipe costs about $8 to make - so about $2 per serve (based on Countdown prices). If you want to make it cheaper you can bulk up the oats and reduce the fruit and nuts, and if you make your own yoghurt (something I'm thinking about doing but haven't got to yet) that will drive the price down even further.

So tell me - do you have any special measures you put in place when the budget is a bit squeezed? I'd love your tips!

Bircher Muesli (serves 4)
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup apricots
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup wholegrain oats
1 cup water
2 apples
Greek yoghurt to serve (about 50g per person)

Coarsely chop almonds and large pieces of dried fruit. Add almonds, dried fruit, cinnamon, oats and water to a bowl, cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, chop or grate the apples and mix through the oats. Serve with yoghurt.


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