Figures released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that spending on food has risen a whopping 35% since 2003 and now constitutes the second highest proportion of the average household’s spending, second only to housing (Collier, 2012). Food has gotten expensive!
While I probably could stand to lose a couple of kilos, I’m not about to give up food and we do all need to eat. Here are a few ways to keep those food bills from taking over your life.
Beans Beans, The Musical Fruit
There is a scene in The Simpsons where Marge and Homer dine at the home of their Indian friends, Apu and Manjula. When Marge asks what each dish is made with, the reply invariably comes “chickpeas, lentils and rice”. There is a reason so many traditional Indian dishes are based on legumes, and it’s not just racial stereotyping. They are really very cheap and ridiculously healthy. Cut back on meat and exotic vegetables and bulk your meal up with beans and lentils. Remember, half a cup of cooked legumes is a serve of vegetables so you don’t need to buy that $4.00 bunch of broccolini after all.
Already buying beans and still need to save more? Buy the dried variety and cook them yourself. Soaking overnight will reduce cooking time and if you have a pressure cooker or slow cooker, they won’t take much longer than the tinner variety. 115g of dry lentils is the equivalent of a 410g can and the latter is usually half full of water anyway. While a tin may cost you anywhere up to $2.50, a 1kg bag of dried brown lentils will only set you back $3.50… that’s more than 8 tins full of lentils for only a dollar extra. Bargain!
Go Away, Takeaway
Busy workers often struggle to find the time for food preparation on weeknights and waiting an hour for something to cook is not an option when you’ve got stomachs rumbling and children grumbling. When you do get a chance to cook, make as much as you can! Package it all up and pop it in the freezer. Now you have your own cheap (and healthful) “fast food”. Want to make things really interesting? Start a co-op with your friends and family and trade your “fast foods” for theirs. That way you get something different each week and the family will never know they’re eating “leftovers”.
Another genius method to beat the take-out panic is “freezer cooking”. All this requires is a freezer, a slow cooker and an hour or so’s dedication on a weekend. Taking your favourite slow cooker recipes, you simply measure out all the necessary ingredients, package them up in plastic bags, label and pop them in the freezer, ready to go.
All you need to do to ensure a cheap and healthy dinner that night is pop one of your bags in the slow cooker in the morning, switch it on and let it do its thing. Come 6pm, dinner should be ready.
Check out these sites for inspiration and then get started making some recipes of your own: