Could you feed your family for an entire week without spending more than $21? That’s the challenge that Australian blogger and personal finance writer Fiona Lippey has for households in Australia, where she offers frugal tips and savings advice on her blog SimpleSavings.com.au. By going on “a seven day grocery bill slashing marathon” Lippey insists people can learn fundamental lessons about budgeting and personal finance, and save thousands in the process. (And while her challenge refers to $21 in Australian dollars, that amounts to about $21.77 Canadian — an extra 77 cents to play with!)
I’ll admit that the $21 challenge seems pretty intimidating, especially given that I have a hard time not spending $21 a day, let alone a week. It can’t possibly include takeout and unfortunately, would probably not involve wine.
But I do think she’s on to something. By using up all the food in your fridge and pantry without buying anything new, you’d be surprised how your approach to meal planning will change — and how much money you will save! Lippey says one of the most important personal finance lessons she learned was that she could reverse the whole meal-planning paradigm. Instead of choosing a recipe then buying the ingredients, use your existing food items and pick a recipe that works with what you have. In short, use everything you buy and don’t waste anything.
Given that the average Australian family spends $320 a week on food, the $21 challenge represents an opportunity for big savings. Here are some of her tips on how to do it:
Be realistic when you plan meals
Don’t try and do a time-intensive recipe on your busy days. Instead plan your meals realistically, scheduling those with longer prep time for days when you have less to do.
If something needs to be thawed or marinated, make sure you do it in the morning. Think about your meals at the beginning of the day so you can schedule any additional preparation you need to do in advance. You’ll reduce the likelihood of a last minute grocery store run that could take you over your limit.
Have food on hand when you’re out
If you’re taking the kids to hockey practice or you’re out during mealtime, make sure you have food on hand so you don’t end up running into a shop for snacks.
Quick poll: Could you and your family eat for $21 a week?
Note: In the first week of September, one of our editors will be doing the $21 a week challenge. She’ll need all the help she can get, so if you have any low-cost meal ideas, please share them below!