• Cheap eats

    Sense mentioned she was keen for some new cheap recipes.

    Not sure how much I can help with that, but I thought I’d post up some dinner ideas.

    • Carbonara
    • Lemon basil pasta (sooo tasty! Simple, versatile and good)
    • Trusty old bolognese (with or without meat)
    • Mexican Rice
    • Nachos
    • Burrito bake
    • Chicken fiesta salad
    • Chili (or try a white chili version – it’s on my list of recipes to get to)
    • Corn fritters
    • Kebab or pita wraps
    • Fried rice
    • Basic stews with a bit of meat, onions, potatoes, carrots, leeks, kumara, whatever takes your fancy
    • Stirfrys (think we are finally giving up on store bought sauces – satays are runny, sweet and sour don’t have the intense flavour, lemon chicken too sweet, Chinese BBQ just…wrong) But we have had luck with curries (Pataks are good but pricey) and Thai curries (spice paste from the ethnic aisle, add a tin of coconut milk, meat, udon noodles and complementary veg – you can’t go wrong!)
    • Burgers! Easy to healthy up with loads of veggies. (And chicken nuggets – I may be outta my teens but I love me a good half dozen chicken nuggets. I blame it on hardly ever getting Happy Meals as a child).
    • And we keep our eye out for interesting things at the butchers – like recently we found chicken pieces stuffed with cranberry and rosemary. It was delicious after a half hour in the oven.
    • If there’s a good sale on, a hearty roast or silverside with roast veg.
    • And of course the trusty sausages/steak with mashed potatoes/oven chips/vegetables.

    **I am also bursting to try: Spanakorizo and Chickpea Curry from Closet Cooking! **

    Sorry it isn’t a very exciting or varied menu, but like I said, at $120 a week “destitute gourmet” is pushing the definition ūüôā

    I find it really difficult to gauge if our grocery spending is reasonable. One of my friends said a while ago her family of four spends about what we do (or a bit more). WHAT?? But they are Indian and her mother stays home, I think, and they cook a lot from scratch.

    It’s all well and good for Hillbilly Housewife to go on about baking your own breads and stuff, but I am just too busy and want cheap and filling with less work. If I was a SAHP, I would totally adopt her ideas, though.

    We seem to spend more than the few friends we have who don’t still live at home. But we both have fast metabolisms and eat a lot. And we don’t eat out at all anymore, so our shopping accounts for ALL¬† our food. That, and I hate baked beans with a passion and rarely eat noodles – except for the Yum Yum shrimp flavoured packs, which are 50c compared to about 10c for the really cheap, nasty noodles. Seriously. Yum Yum noodles are the shiz.

  • Do you eat round a dining table?


    It’s been a long time since I lived in a place which had a dining table. Our old apartment literally had no spare room for such a thing, and although we have a huge kitchen now, we don’t have a table in it to eat off. I remember in one of my old flats we squished a dining table and chairs into the area just off by the front door, but I still hardly ever used it.

    So generally we eat on the couch, or most of the time, in our room. I don’t like this arrangement, because a) when we eat on the bed, we inevitably splatter something ont the duvet or the sheet. or b) when we eat on the floor by the TV, something always gets on the carpet! The other night, I had had enough when BF got some curry on the carpet – the turmeric seriously digs its heels in and creates an eerie fluorescent glowing stain. So I brought in a huge tea towel to act as a picnic mat for us. Clever, huh? If only I’d thought of that AGES ago…..

    It’s a far cry from my parents’ house, where we had a rectangular dining table (it extended out both ends) covered in an easy-clean cover. I hesitate to call it a tablecloth, as it was made of a sort of vinyl type material, waterproof, that just wiped clean every night.

    In fact, we do so much differently to how we did things at home. We would never have things like 12 packs of Coke cans. We’d have big, huge 2.25l bottles of fizzy which went flat super fast. We often had ice cream, but only ever ate tiny portions at a time and so a 2l carton lasted forever. We never, EVER had frozen chips, or canned vegetables. But we did often have croissants, raspberry buns or doughnuts for after school snacks, bought from the supermarket. Now the situation is pretty reversed. Tinned tomatoes and corn are cheap, and since discovering freezer chips I’ve never looked back. But bakery goods are way too expensive, and I can’t remember the last time I had a raspbery bun (drool).

    And of course, the days of being served up a big plate of rice and then serving ourselves from a couple of different dishes (usually one meat and one veg) throughout the meal are gone. Now we tend to have one dish meals, or if we have dinners with several components, I put together nice little plates with a bit of everything and we can go back for seconds. But I guess that relates back to not having a dining table and being able to spread out dishes.

  • Sticker shock

    I think Saturday has become our default shopping day. It used to be Sunday, but somewhere along the line we started running out of food earlier in the week and now need to buy food by Saturday. Today we went to the Lim Asian supermarket in Mt Albert, and I love it! It was inspiring – all the sauces and gravies, all the different spices and world flavours….it actually got me excited to food shop! We got SO much for $50….and then we swept through Pak n Save, expecting to come out happy as Larry, because we didn’t need much after getting our meat and veg.

    HAH! Apparently not. We spent $150, instead of our usual $120. Was I gutted! I freaked out at the checkout

    But I figured I really need to get a grip and stop being so depressed about going over budget. Realistically, if we want to eat remotely well, it’s going to cost more. I need to rework the budget. Sure there’ll be weeks when we eat pasta, and nachos with beans, and chili, but weeks like this we want to make stew (which includes produce, which jacks up our bill) and curries and so forth. And we just can’t do that on $120. (Plus I want to start eating better lunches once in awhile. I thought mac and cheese was an acceptable lunch, but apparently not! But you know, a girl at work was heating up chicken nuggets one lunchtime, so at least I’ve never got that bad.)

    We also got way overcharged at the checkout for my Nice and Natural muesli bars. Now, they were on one of those massive aisle end displays for 2.79. There were two kinds of bars, original, and the sweet and salty (or whatever it’s called). I snagged the second kind. They came through at 3.69 on checkout. The girl made a call, told me that it was only the ORIGINAL flavour on special, and got a guy to run and bring me one of the boxes that WAS on special. He was there in a tick, beaming and holding it out to me. Except by then I’d had so much time to freak out over the fact that we were $30 over budget, and I couldn’t work out why, that I just brushed him off and told them to forget it.

    Seriously, if you advertise something at 2.79, MAKE it 2.79! There were a TON of the new flavour on that display, so they should honour it or take them off the shelf.

    Here’s some of what we bought at the Asian supermarket, and some of what we got at Pak n Save.

    6pk pork buns                         7.70
    550g pork mince                  4.96 (8.99kg)
    870g chuck steak                7.86 (8.99kg)
    410g diced beef                    4.55 (10.99kg)
    390g pork rump                  3.52 (8.99kg)
    Onions Р1 bag                      1.49
    Leek                                         1.30
    Parsnips                                2.99kg
    Shanghai veg                      49c bunch
    Honeydew                           1.89
    2 Royal Gala apples         28c (89c/kg)
    500ml Lee Kum Kee soy sauce 2.99
    Spare rib sauce 350g                  4.90

    Some ridiculously good prices!

    At the supermarket…

    Norths bread                            2 for $3
    Budget coco puffs                  4.29
    Sealord tuna, plain               1.99
    Pams fruit salad                     1.29
    Just creamed corn               1.09
    Watties pasta sauce             1.69
    1L Just Juice                          1.75
    12 Farmer Brown eggs       4.00
    Beef stock                                 1.89
    Coconut milk                          1.49
    10 Pams tortillas                  3.95
    1kg jasmine rice                    2.99
    Watties soup                          2.59
    Green curry paste                99c
    Kraft peanut butter             1.99
    Self raising flour 1.5kg       3.59
    750g cheese                          5.99
    3L milk                                     4.45
    680g kumara chips             3.99
    1kg potato mash                  4.95
    Flora margarine                   2.79
    Pams fresh ravioli             3.29

    On the upside, we should eat fairly well this week and our cupboards are stuffed full.

    BF is funny. He started talking about how he would just eat noodles for lunch all week, and how he’d make Two Piece meals like he’d seen on Oprah. I’m still not sure what he was on about, but apparently it’s a way of cooking, designed for people who’ve just moved out on their own/into the city/something like that. How sweet of him.

  • I’m not gonna try to be a super chef


    Laksa...yum yum

    Funnily enough, I have an entire bookmarks folder devoted to recipes. I go for the simple, 5 ingredient type meals whenever possible. But you know, you get bored of pasta, stir fries and meat and two veg…sometimes you want something different!

    Some of my most favourite foods I would never be able to make though. The labour, time taken and not to mention the insane amount of ingredients is just too offputting.

    For example, I really like ethnic foods…Thai, Indian, Malaysian…very spice heavy and full of things I’ve never actually heard of, let alone know where to find. (Not necessarily spicy dishes though,¬† my constitution isn’t that strong. It’s still stronger than BF’s, who couldn’t even handle this Mexican chicken fiesta salad…. I like a good strong mouthwatering laksa or curry, but only once in awhile. The flushing, sweating and scorched mouth are somewhat of a deterrent).

    Basically, they’re foods I love to eat, but reserve for eating out at cheap and cheerful food courts, or slightly nicer restaurants. Luckily we’ve got some really good eats in Auckland, not that our budget has stretched to this lately! I have a list of places I want

    to visit, but haven’t checked anything off it in a long time.

    I guess I’m just too lazy to actually get around to printing my recipes and putting down stuff on the weekly shopping list. Plus, after a couple, I get discouraged by the sheer amount of things I have to buy. Like FB, we tend to buy a lot of the same items every week – basics – and go from there. It does get repetitive, but it’s easy. I like easy.

    So, I’ve decided to try and whittle down my recipes list and try making one new dish a week – that way it doesn’t blow out our grocery bill. As Notes from the Frugal Trenches points out, it’s actually really expensive to be trying new recipes all the time, unless you happen to have all the ingredients on hand (unlikely, unless you’re a huge foodie).


  • Price book

    I’m seriously considering giving up keeping a price book.

    The original idea was to get an idea of what things cost, and what rock bottom prices are, and the sale cycles.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t noticed much of a pattern. Maybe it’s a New Zealand thing. Maybe our sales are more sporadic and based on supply and demand. Sometimes items stay on sale for weeks at a time…and it’s rare to see a significant discount on anything.

    I should probably sit down one day and rearrange all the products so they line up with each other. At the mo they are entered as shown in order on the receipt. I’ve tried to get around this by colour coding some of our most frequently purchased items, but it’s a headache.

    What have I learned from my price book? Not much, except that cheese and milk are getting cheaper, slowly. And that Countdown still hasn’t lowered its dairy prices at all. The difficulty of keeping a price book’s been compounded by the fact that

    a) we split our shopping between two supermarkets. One is generally a little cheaper but has less variety.

    b) the receipting systems are different. One shows if things are on special, and how much has been saved (ie, the original sticker price, and the amount discounted). Makes it a pain to work out what we actually paid, but shows how much we saved as well. Also, sometimes items don’t scan with a very detailed name and it’s hard to remember what they actually were.

    c) meat and veges are hard to account for. They don’t scan with the price per kilo (obviously it’s printed on the packs). But on the receipts, you only see the total price paid. I can remember these off the top of my head sometimes, but not always. And, we often shop for meat and product separately (at the veg shop and the butcher). Keeping track of those, well, is hopeless.

    Any thoughts?

  • Shopping adventures

    Finally got around to visiting Dress Smart today! The cute blue woollen top that caught my eye in Portmans (the city branch) a wee while back is now mine. I went back to buy it a couple of weeks ago, only to find them all gone. I spoke to the sales girl, who told me they had JUST literally shipped the remaining tops over to their outlet store.

    Anyway, I went to the Dress Smart store today. It was marked down another $10 to $20, and when they scanned the label it was another 20 per cent off! So just over $15 for a top that was originally $60. Go me! I must NEVER EVER shop anywhere else but Dress Smart.

    SO, very happy and feeling pretty pleased with myself…

    Then onto grocery shopping. We splashed out on some chai tea, two cute mugs (red and yellow, drinking receptacles NEVER last in this house, they all get broken. Our bowls and plates have all pretty much also mysteriously disappeared. I hate it here), got some flour and sugar (I anticipate some baking) and some Worcestershire sauce along with the usual suspects. I’m trying to get more greens into our diet, so there’s going to be a lot of salads this week for dinner.

    Our checkout girl today wasn’t very onto it. She forgot to process one of our mugs, and I had to pay for it separately (luckily I had a lot of change and paid in cash, it would have really annoyed me to have to swipe my card again). I did my best to check the items as they went through the checkout, but they whizzed through so fast I missed one of the 2 for $5 specials. It cost us about 6.60 instead. I did catch that on the receipt as we left, but figured a dollar something wasn’t worth going back for. It did annoy me, though.

  • Eating well…

    is expensive!


    One of my pet peeves is that we don’t eat enough greens. Hardly any veggies or fruit. (I’m picky, and BF thinks it’s fine to live off meat, sugar and cereal). This week we’re going to eat better, with fresher stuff – no more mashed potato with processed sausages, etc. We used to shop separately for meat and produce, but lately have just been doing it all at the supermarket (prices have been surprisingly good). Today we went to the butcher and vege shop and ended up $25 over budget. Why? Well, bananas are almost $3 a kilo. Kumara and potatoes, although not too expensive, are heavy. Tomatoes around $4 a kilo, and spring onions 99c a bunch (not vital, but we like them). Melons and the tropical fruits go from about $3 to 6 a kilo; mandarins were even more and looked nasty. Honestly, it would not be hard to spend $5 to $10 on fruit alone if you were so inclined! We bought onions, garlic, kumara and potatoes for a roast dinner. It was over $10. That’s for sides to one meal. ARGH.

  • Eating Healthy

    I’ve come to realise that it’s really hard to eat well on a budget. I mentioned this a while ago, that I’ve stopped going to Revive because as healthful and tasty as it is, it just doesn’t do the job in terms of filling me up. I’m small, I hover at around 50kgs. But I eat A LOT. I really need food to function; when I’m hungry I feel faint and sick and take it out on everyone around me. So it’s in my best interests to stay fed and full. I don’t know why I get so hungry…it’s not like I even work out or do much physical labour (apart from all that bloody house cleaning), nor is my job super stressful or mentally taxing. I guess I just have a high metabolism. Kratom quality and variety being offered ‚Äďthe vendor should stock quality kratom and a decent variety of strains. That‚Äôs because buyers may have different needs, which can change over time, and hence having a decent selection makes it possible for the buyers to find everything they need from one vendor. You can click here for the 3 best kratom vendors in the USA.

    We don’t tend to eat much in the way of fruit / veg. I don’t actually like many fruits, something I need to work on. I like berries and melons, bananas, mandarins and sometimes apples. I don’t like tropical fruits, which I’m hoping to change! I’ll eat fruit salad occasionally. And we don’t eat many vegetables, because like I said, they are expensive and don’t fill you up. Sure a cucumber can be a dollar in summer, and goes nicely in salads but how far does it go? Capsicums are one of our favourites but they can hit $3 a piece. I used to buy bagged salad greens for sandwiches but found they got soggy within a couple of days. (With our new fridge, maybe it’s safe to start getting them again.)

    We need to learn how to cook vegetables again. Now it’s summer we can probably let that slide and just collect a ton of salad recipes, but with vegetables it’s really important to plan meals. I know jack about cooking vegetables, apart from dumping them in a stirfry, or roasting them or making potato salad. Oh and my fave, fried cabbage and onions. But that’s pretty limited, and often we just don’t know what to do with greens so we leave them be. And all too often we buy them meaning well, but find them wilted and rotten in the fridge at the end of the week. Its not just about eating healthy either its about your mental state of mind and actually being healthy. You need to be healthy, smoking weed, doing kratom whatever is best for you go out and do it, i get my supplies from linacre.org.

    This week we did a pretty comprehensive plan which, amazingly, contained some vegetable components! Last night we had a yoghurt, tomato, cucumber and red onion salad. We’ve been getting sick of eating the same old food every week, so we tried to mix it up this week. Our plan looked pretty gourmet compared to what we’ve been eating. Unfortunately, although our taste buds benefited, our wallets didn’t. Each meal contained more than two or three ingredients, so it cost a lot more when we went to the supermarket. Our first meal included meat and a salad – so once we included all the different veges, there were six or seven separate things to buy! All those little things added up (even natural yoghurt!). But I’m happy with that, in moderation…dinners are much more fun, and if we can add a few greens in there a few times a week, all the better.

    If no one still believes that it’s PRICEY to eat healthy, check out http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/health/nutrition/04well.html and http://onedollardietproject.wordpress.com; I followed it for awhile and it’s really eyeopening.

  • sunday wrapup

    I’ve been keeping my price book for three months now. The original idea was to try and track sale cycles so I’d know roughly when items were at rock bottom and when to stock up. Because we split our shopping quite evenly between PnS and CD though this doesn’t really work so well. Plus it’s not like we buy the exact same stuff every week. we mix it up you know? I’m thinking I might just start noting down important specials every week (maybe snap a photo or make a note) if I don’t actually buy them and just enter them into my book.

    Although that aspect hasn’t really worked out, I HAVE steadily noticed the sneaking, creeping price increases. Raro went up eight cents this week! Why?! It’s like sugar and flavour. Honestly. And you consider that most items have increased that much, if not more, and it’s no surprise that grocery bills are still soaring.

    But today we got a new fridge! It has a red cover on the front. An actual vege bin. It’s clean. Has new seals. Small freezer but lots of fridge space. I love it!

    Cleaning out after moving the old POS was a hearty mission. Those roaches? Had a nest below on the floor. Euuugh, I shudder just remembering it. All kinds of dirt stuck to the floor and a piece of paper practically glued down. Took a good 20mins and a LOT of bleach, but we got that fucker of afloor clean. This fridge is, I think, smaller in size and will no doubt be a lot easier to keep tidy. No one wanted to clean the old one. It was leaky, icy and just nasty icky. This one, well dirt will be instantly obvious. It won’t rust onto the floor. And hopefully the insane amount of boric acid I laid down will make sure we never get roaches again.

    Anywho, I’m sunburnt, my hands are bone dry and I keep reapplying handcream, and I have work tomorrow. Hurray!

  • Grr

    Kinda annoyed as a few of the groceries we bought this week we bought due to the markdowns, only to realise when I got home to entered them into my price book that the discounts didn’t come through at the checkout.

    Still, there‚Äôs only myself to blame ‚Äď I need to be keeping an eye on the till so these things don‚Äôt slip through, especially now CD has those massive screens that they so kindly face towards us.

    I’ve only been keeping my price book for about two months, but already I’ve seen bread, noodles, beans, rice, pasta sauce and muesli bars go up (and probably other, less staple items too). Even if each thing went up, say 30c (which is pretty realistic), consider how fast prices have been rising, and consider how many different things you buy in your weekly shop.

    How on earth are we ever going to get ahead?

    At least we can still afford to eat meat.