How to feed your whānau for $40 per person a week

How to feed your whānau for $40 per person a week
Photo credit: RNZ

When it comes to meal planning, Jordan Hammond, a 21-year-old student nurse, takes thrift to the next level.

She's in her final year of study and has a part-time job, but is on a limited income and manages to feed her household of two on $80 week. She's sharing her tips in the second episode of RNZ's new podcast, Thrift.

It helps that she loves to cook, inherited some good housekeeping skills from her parents, and honed her budgetary skills flatting with three blokes at university.

"They ate like horses, and I got a knack for being able to meal plan on a really low budget."

Now she shares her tips on a blog where she posts sample weekly shops for budgets of $40, $70 and $80.

Recipes are part of the mix too - Hammond lists the ingredients she uses and includes before and after shots.

She strings out the vegetables, sometimes only using one or two in a dish. The meals are things like beef stroganoff, red Thai curry and chicken and bean tacos.

Here's how she does it.

Find what's on special and build meals from there

A lot of us have had a repertoire of regular meals, but now more and more people are starting with the specials, adapting how they shop to use what's cheap.

Hammond uses online shopping to hunt down the deals.

"I look at what's on sale. So, for this week, it was broccoli for 99 cents"

She searches up broccoli recipes online and checks out Uber Eats so she can find tasty dishes and then make them much more cheaply herself.

"All the food on Uber Eats looks so good and so yum, but you don't want to pay like $30."

To make her salads and other meals go a bit further, Hammond bulks them up with beans and lentils, because they're a good source of protein that keeps you fuller for longer.

She uses the online shopping order form as a budgeting check list.

"I'm over my budget for this week, what can I cut out and what can I substitute?"

Veggies are a top priority, then meat. Hammond goes for what's on special every week.

"Let's say I had fast fry beef, and then I thought okay, stew would be good."

She'll spread the beef across a couple of meals to make it go further.

"I've got pasta, so what can I make with pasta and beef steaks? Stroganoff. I can use yoghurt instead of sour cream. So basically, all I need is maybe a couple of mushrooms."

Her weekly shopping list is ever-changing - the only thing she buys every single week is milk and bread.

"Always, because then you can make toasted sandwiches, you can have a coffee."

Budget cooking needn't be bland

"If you season anything well enough, it'll taste good. You can make a pretty basic meal and have it taste really luxurious."

Hammond's pantry is also super organised, she doesn't want to be buying anything she already has in the larder.

Don't be afraid to substitute

When Hammond wanted to make French onion soup ("what I would class a fancy meal") she did some clever substitutions to make it cheaper.

The soup required expensive cheese, which she swapped out for cheddar, and wine, for which she found a surprising alternative.

"So, what's wine, it's fermented and acidic. What in my pantry is fermented and acidic? Marmite! So, I ended up mixing a little bit of Marmite with water and slowly added it to the soup. And it worked quite well."

Top up your pantry staples

Hammond loves to bake and so despite the tight budgetary controls, life is not without treats, she says.

"It might be flour, sugar, I always keep that replenished so when I do feel like having something I have the resources to go and make it.

"Nothing beats home baking - I love making brownies."

Jordan Hammond's top thrifty tips

  • Find the specials and plan in your shop around them.
  • Stick to your budget using an online shopping tool.
  • Use fresh foods early in the week and save your cans until later, spicing them up to keep it interesting.
  • Find substitutes for anything you don't have.
  • Top up your pantry basics, possibly a different one each week to keep the cost down.