MY MONEY

How I spend just $60 a week on food and still eat out

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Yee has mastered the art of eating well for less. She lives in a Perth share house, works as a casual and has separate finances from her partner.

And she knows how to get value for money out of a limited grocery budget.

"When you read discussions online about frugal living, many often assume that anyone who spends $50 a week or less on groceries can't possibly be eating wholesome and delicious food," says Yee.

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"But I have a bit of a reputation for being a food person, so people who know me don't worry that I'm not eating adequately."

What is she paying?

Yee pays just $30 each week for groceries, but could spend up to $60 a week on food and drink including eating out.

While her diet is currently supplemented by free meals she receives while working in a restaurant, she has learnt to adapt her grocery spending to her situation.

While working in a full-time office job in Melbourne, her grocery bill was closer to $50 a week. At the extreme end, she once lived on just $10 worth of food for 10 days while participating in the Live Below the Line Challenge.

"That was really tough, and my colleagues were all saying there was no way they could do it, but they were supportive of my endeavour, which was for a good cause."

How does she do it?

She employs a range of tactics, such as cooking from scratch to buying seasonal food.

"I enjoy cooking and I have developed sort of a natural instinct for it, which really helps!" she says.

"Rather than having a rigid list of ingredients I need to purchase for specific recipes, mostly I create my meals around ingredients that happen to be cheap."

Making meat a small part of a meal rather than the main feature helps keep costs down, she says.

"I still enjoy a steak every now and then but the rest of the time I may have a noodle or pasta dish, steamed rice with a curry, a stir-fry, or a chickpea salad or lentil stew."

With limited space, she can't buy in bulk but is careful not to waste food, and is flexible about where she shops.

"I shop everywhere - not just the major supermarkets but also at smaller outlets, Asian grocery stores and markets."

How you can do it

Yee's tips

  • Shop around, not just at the major supermarket chains.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season; not only are they more affordable, they also taste better.
  • Shop when items are more likely to be marked down. In the case of markets, this typically means just before they close.
  • Experiment with cheaper cuts of meat. In many cases, slow cooking is the trick to turning them into tender and luscious dishes.
  • Grow your own herbs. They are expensive when you consider their value-to-weight ratio.

Money's tips

  • Check your fridge, freezer and pantry before you shop and plan to use ingredients on hand.
  • Check unit pricing to be sure you are getting the best deal.
  • Buy in bulk when it's the cheapest option.
  • Skip processed and packaged foods in favour of cooking from scratch.

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Sharyn McCowen is Money's digital editor. She has a degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University, and was a newspaper reporter before moving to magazines and finance.
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