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13 Tips for Creating Low Cost Family Meals

Our family reverted to a single income at the end of June when my work contract ended. Since then I have been looking at ways to reduce our costs in all areas of the household budget. The list below outline the things that have made a difference in our home that I hope will help you also.

To my surprise, I have found that rather than being a hardship, I have found each change to have been a I have been a satisfying experience.

1. This is obviously my number one tip – Grow your own herbs and salad greens.

Grow fresh herbs

  • Start small if you don’t grow anything now. I am sure that you will be hooked once you get started. You know the saying – from little things big things grow….
  • Herbs and salad greens perish very quickly when purchased from the store making it difficult to obtain value for the cost of purchase.
  • They are easy to grow in a pot or the garden. They can be grown from seed and you can pick leaves as required to add a fresh flavor burst to your next meal.
  • Ultimately, the more fresh food you can grow yourself the less you have to purchase. Plus you know how it has been grown (minus pesticides)

Grow fresh herbs at home
2. Avoid waste

  • Use everything you have at your disposal – it is all about the planning and thought process of what you have available to use
  • Menu plan based on what you have rather than what you would like to cook
  • Vegetables that are on their “last legs” can be used to make stock or in slow cooking casseroles
  • Buy a whole chicken rather than select pieces and use it for multiple meals, including using the carcass to make stock/soup
  • Wasted food  = wasted money.
  • See points 6,11 and 13

Home made chicken stock
3. Buy on sale. If an item you use often (pantry staple or something you can freeze) is on sale – buy it

  • Eg: pasta and tinned items
  • Find the space to store excess items

4. Buy in bulk – grains, rice and flours

  • Join a co-op
  • Locate a catering supplier who supplies the public
  • Take your own containers and buy at the Market by weight
  • Buy direct from the supplier/farmer
  • This can take extra work and research but the savings are significant.

5. Use small quantities of strong flavored ingredients in main meals. Ingredients from the pantry can be combined for a satisfying meal

  • Anchovy
  • Chorizo
  • Dry spices such as clove, cinnamon, cardamon, and tumeric
  • Olives
  • Home made chutney or relish
  • Pesto
  • Prosciutto
  • Parmesan cheese

Pantry biryani
6. Create a menu plan for the week

  • This helps to avoid waste
  • Select fresh ingredient that can be used in multiple meals
  • Make at least one large batch meal and freeze half
  • I have used one chicken to make three meals. One of those was my Winning Soup Recipe that sent me to Italy this year. With some thought and planning it is possible to stretch what you have and make it go further.
  • My e-book  contains a month’s worth of recipes that can be slotted into the included menu planner – easy! You will also find a shopping list to help you get organised.

7. Have at least one meat free meal per week and/or increase the percentage of vegetables in each meal

Home harvest

Find some recipe inspiration on my Recipe List page under the heading Vegetarian. Mr Fresh took a couple of weeks to get into the swing of not having meat on the plate but he is now unconcerned when it is a meat-free day. If you have not met him I can not begin to tell you that this is a BIG deal!

8. Experiment with cheaper cuts of meat

Buy cheaper cuts and cook them for longer  on a low heat, or with your slow cooker

9. Purchase grass fed and free range meat from a local farmer.

  • The meat may be more expensive but the flavor difference is incredible. You will find yourself eating smaller serves and appreciating it more. I wrote a post about cooking grass fed beef here.

Grass fed beef

10. Make your own meals from scratch

  • This provides immense satisfaction
  • It is usually cheaper
  • The food is unprocessed with no additives, preservative, colors etc. and therefor healthier
  • This is better for the environment as it reduces packaging, transport, storage, and numerous other industry related costs to the environment and to your family budget.

Some of the things we make from scratch on a regular basis include:

Passata Recipe
11. Buy in-season local fruit and vegetables. They are cheaper when abundant and can be preserved, frozen or dehydrated for use when the season ends.
Farmers Market Apples

  • Locate and start to shop from Farmers Markets in your area
  • Locate and shop at local farm-gates
  • Experiment with in-season produce, learn how to cook it and find different ways to use it. You will be amazed at how creative you can be with an ingredient.

12. Visit nearby farms where you can pick your own produce.

  • Berries can be frozen for later use in baking. Other fruits may be stewed, made into chutney, relish, jams, sauces, or dried.
  • Each year we pick berries at a local farm. You can check this site to find places near you.

pick your own fruit

13. Be inspired by recipes by other cultures
Thailand street food

  • Traditional recipes often include ways to take advantage of in-season or available ingredients
  • Use your local library to loan cook books and find new ideas

Do you have any other tips that you can share? I would love to hear them.

Have a wonderful weekend.


A Fresh Legacy

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Krista October 11, 2013, 12:46 pm

    I really love this post. 🙂 We too are working on a tight budget these days and it’s been quite fun to learn new ways to save. It gives me such a thrill. 🙂 My favorite way to save a lot of money is to make my own skincare products. My skin is so much happier with them and I’m saving a bundle!! I hope to make my own shampoo and body lotion next. 🙂

    • Kyrstie Barcak October 13, 2013, 5:49 pm

      Great idea Krista. I have made my own in the past and was just thinking a short time ago that I need to get out my old recipes and start again. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Liz @ Economies of Kale October 11, 2013, 3:10 pm

    I’m also on a tight budget, being a student, and I use a lot of these tips 🙂 I actually don’t menu plan, mainly because I live on my own and can just open up the fridge, see what is on its last legs and make a meal from it. Most of the time it works, anyway!

    One of my favourite ways to save money on food is to pickle or ferment veggies. Sometimes I can get a great deal on a bulk amount of veggies, more than I can eat myself, but by fermenting them they last a lot longer, plus they taste great and are good for my gut 🙂

  • Lisa the Gourmet Wog October 11, 2013, 10:55 pm

    Kyrstie this is fabulous! Even if every person went away with just one of your points, it’s amazing how much change we could all achieve!

    • Kyrstie Barcak October 13, 2013, 5:47 pm

      Thanks so much Lisa. It is the small things that lead to bigger changes. They accumulate and can make for great lifestyle changes.

  • Christina @ The Hungry Australian October 12, 2013, 10:16 pm

    Thanks for sharing these great tips, Krystie. Very handy no matter what your budget.

    • Kyrstie Barcak October 13, 2013, 5:46 pm

      Thanks for dropping by Christina. Yes, I agree. I think we can all improve our budgeting 🙂

  • Glenda @ Healthy Stories October 15, 2013, 6:26 pm

    That’s a great list Kyrstie. I do over half of them on a regular basis and I really should try and get some pots of herbs growing again. What I love most about your list is that it all of your suggestions also form the basis of nutritious healthy eating patterns.

    • Kyrstie Barcak October 16, 2013, 9:26 pm

      Thanks Glenda, it is so rewarding to grow herbs get onto it! I like to think that my family eats well 🙂

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