HOME: Budget busting home cooking

07 August 2017
Reading time4 mins

With grocery bills rising and working parents becoming increasingly time poor, a question many parents often ask is, “How do I reduce my grocery bills AND cook more nutritious meals… and how do I find the time?” Cassandra Fenaughty, Author of Wholesome Food for Busy Parents joins us to tell us how home cooking is actually the easy, and cheaper choice.

Home cooking, batch cooking and freezing lunchbox snacks and meals not only saves time in the kitchen, it can also save thousands of dollars a year. Simply cutting out unhealthy, processed, packaged food and soft drinks not only saves money, it will also put your family on track to a healthier longer life. Working parents can also save thousands of dollars by taking lunch to work instead of buying it every day.

To do a direct comparison, here is a snapshot on the costs of pre-packaged foods versus home-cooked foods (including electricity costs for baking, based on cooking three items in one session).

Homemade Fruity Bread 21c per serve
Homemade Spinach Fingers         22c per serve            
Homemade Bread and Apple Pudding 18c per serve
Homemade snacks total: 3 per day for 3 kids in 1 year = $667.95 per child


Store-bought Wholegrain Cereal Bars 66c per serve
Store-bought Garden Fruit & Veggie Snack Bars Pear & Pumpkin 48c per serve
Store-bought Blueberry Banana & Apple Snack Bars     48c per serve
Store bought snacks: 3 per day for 3 kids in 1 year = $1,773.90 per child

By simply cooking your child’s snacks at home, you can save over $1000 per year for a family with three kids!

It gets even more exciting when we look at the whole family and meals:

Savings for a family of 4 to 5 people

1 takeaway meal per week replaced with a home cooked meal $2000–$3800 per year
3 bought lunches per week replaced with packed lunches just for two parents  $3000 per year
Children's packaged snacks replaced with home cooked snacks $1000 per year
Cutting out soft drinks, chips and processed packaged foods $2000–$3000 saving per year
Total savings = $8,000 to $10,800 per year

As shown above, evening meals may seem to be the obvious option, but parents’ work lunches are actually more of a trap. If three bought lunches per week are replaced with packed lunches just for two parents, an amazing $60 per week can be saved, which equates to over $3000 per year.

When the average weekly grocery bill is added up over a year the results can be scary! An average Australian family with two or three children spends over $300 per week on groceries. By cutting out soft drinks, chips and processed packaged foods most families can save at least $50 per week. That’s a saving of $2600 per year.

If we add up all of these savings the average family can save approximately $8,700 to $10,500 per year. Not only are these families saving enough money per year for an entire family holiday, they are also likely to improve their health and wellbeing, which is actually more important in the long term.

Fitting regular home cooking into a busy schedule of family life is the daunting issue, but with simple strategies it can actually be quite easy:

1. Snacks: Bulk cooking is the key - two weeks worth of snacks can be made easily in 90 minutes. That's just 1.5 hours a fortnight to bake, pack and freeze snacks such as muffins, quiches, muesli and nut bars. Do it whilst cooking a roast to save money on electricity too.

2. Meals: 
a) Menu plan weekly or fortnightly meals to avoid waste.
b) Plan to cook extra twice a week, thereby making the other meals easy by utilising leftovers.

Sample meal plan

Saturday Roast Chicken and Vegetables (baked with snacks)
Sunday Roasted Vegetable Salad and BBQ Meat (leftover roast veg)
Monday Chicken and Vegetable Curry & Rice (leftover roast chicken)
Tuesday Vegetable Fried Rice with Poached Eggs (leftover rice)
Wednesday Grilled Meat with Steamed Vegetables
Thursday Steamed Vegetables & Bacon Frittata and Salad (leftover steamed veg)
Friday Homemade Pizza Night (any leftovers available) 

It really is that easy! Just get organised, plan your snacks and meals and set aside some time once a fortnight to do some cooking and you’ll be surprised how easy it actually is!

Many of the meals in Wholesome Food for Busy Parents can actually be prepared more quickly than the time it takes to order a takeaway and drive to the local shops and bring it home, along with being a lot less expensive and definitely healthier!

For more from Cassandra on getting back to basics in the kitchen, check out the recent article Batch cooking made easy and her yummy Easy Cheesy Quiche.

Written by

Cassandra Fenaughty

Cassandra Fenaughty is an Author and Health Coach who aims to help families create healthy eating habits. Her Easy Grub Healthy Bub program demonstrates quick, easy and affordable recipes for busy families. She also has a cookbook, Wholesome Food For Busy Parents. Find out more at www.cassandrafenaughty.com

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