26 ways to eat on a budget in Sydney
Living in Sydney can be pretty costly and it is definitely an expensive city to live in. If you are short of cash and counting down the days until pay day, or trying to save up for a house deposit then you might find yourself having to eat on a budget.
Now I don’t mean living off beans and toast (although I’m sure we’ve all done it at some point!). Beans on toast will save you money and allow you to eat on a budget, but it’s not the most exciting and healthy meal to have day in day out – you will soon get bored of this! (Cereal’s not that much more exciting either if you’re considering that instead!).
Let’s face it, we all have to eat, so we might as well make it as exciting as possible. You never know if it’s going to be your last meal!
There are plenty of ingenious ways to still eat healthily, but more affordably. With the price of food ever increasing, it can be hard to keep your food spending to a minimum. However if you are strict with your budget and up for a challenge then it can be easily done.
Here are my top 26 ways to eat on a budget, whether you’re a poor student or professional, first home buyer or just want to save some money on your weekly food expenditure:
- Cook in bulk – Even if you live on your own, cooking in bulk can make your food go further. One meal that I live on when times are tough is pasta bake and it’s so easy to make. If you use tin tuna, then instead of buying a few small tins, buy the largest tin which will end up being cheaper. I usually add pepper, mushrooms, onion, garlic, broccoli, chilli and maybe some green beans. This will normally make four or five portions – my lunch sorted for the week!
- Shop for specials – Most supermarkets have weekly specials on offer. You should therefore take advantage of these to help reduce your shopping bill. Make sure you pick up the weekly catalogue to know what’s coming out next week.
- Refer to recipe books – If you are struggling for recipe ideas then there are plenty of budget cookery books available as well as recipes on the internet when eating on a budget.
- Reuse your leftovers – I absolutely love leftovers and can’t believe a lot of people still throw food out! Shame on you. If you have leftover chicken then this can be used for chicken sandwiches or even a chicken curry. You can even use the carcass and make a beautiful and tasty chicken soup! You should learn to use your leftovers as this can make another meal(s) for the week.
- Use your vegetable peels – Do you throw your potato peel out? Stop right there. Have you ever thought about using your vegetable peelings as part of your meal? Potato peel, carrot or parsnip peel can be turned into yummy vegetable crisps. Just bake them under the heat, add some spices and voila – a nice tasty and healthy snack.
- Shop in season – Generally fruit and vegetables in season are much cheaper. Instead of buying the same things every week, you should try buying what is in season right now. Not only will this food be tastier as it’s at its prime, it will give you different foods to try, which you might not be used to eating.
- Shop later in the day – The later you shop in the day, the more likely you will pick up a bargain. This is when food tends to get marked down, especially if the sell by date is quickly approaching. Even if the sell by date states to be used tomorrow, you can always put it in the freezer to use at a later date. I recently picked up approximately $60 worth of quality meat for $15 – an absolute bargain.
- Try bartering – If you shop at a market, then you can also try bartering at the end of the day when the markets start to wind down. Producers are likely to want to get rid of as much as their stock as possible and could sell it to you at a bargain price, whilst throw in a little extra! It’s worth getting to know your local producers and get on first name terms!
- Make a shopping list and stick to it – Having a list will help you buy what you actually need. It’s very easy to stray off the list, and buy things that aren’t required or buy too much which won’t be used. A list will help you buy your essentials and cut down on throwing out food that goes off.
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry – I’m very guilty of going food shopping when I’m hungry and buying everything that I crave. In my case this is cheese and crisps! To avoid this, make sure you shop on a full stomach to reduce your temptations. Or, avoid the chocolate aisle (or in my case, the crisp and savoury aisles!)
- Have a weekly budget – By giving yourself a budget each week for your food allowance, this will help you become more strict and decisive over your shopping. Perhaps leave your card at home and only bring cash with you, forcing you to keep within budget. You can work out the costs as you go round the shop, or if you shop online you can review the total price before you buy.
- Pre-plan meal ideas – Knowing what you will be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner will help you cut down on wastage and allow you to shop more effectively. Of course, if you make use of specials meal ideas can change, but you should have at least a rough idea of what you want. You might make a curry Monday night, and have the leftovers on Tuesday, whilst on Wednesday you might have fish which will just do you the one meal.
- Shop in bulk – Buying in bulk often works out cheaper. If there’s something you use all the time such as cheese or butter, then buy the larger size as this is usually more cost effective than the smaller portion. The same applies to eggs, if you use eggs frequently, then it works in your favour to buy a dozen eggs rather than half a dozen.
- Bring in your lunch to work – buying your lunch every day can easily rack up to $50 a week. Therefore if you are trying to eat on a budget, it works in your favour to make your lunch at home and bring this in. I can usually make my lunch for the week for $10 or less for five days. Lunch ideas include cheese and ham sandwiches, tuna pasta bake, tuna salad, homemade soup and a slice of bread.
- $10 lunch specials – If you do go out for food, then keep an eye out for $10 lunch specials as well as happy hour and two for one deals. Sydney has plenty of offers during lunch time and it’s easy to eat out for $10 or less. To help save even less opt for tap water rather than purchasing a drink to stay within your $10 budget.
- Go to your friend’s for dinner – Has your friend of family been asking you to come round for dinner? Make sure you say yes the next time they ask. Not only will it give you quality time with your friends or family, it will also save you cooking a meal for the week.
- Make use of loyalty cards – If you shop at Coles then have you got the flybuys card to get money off your weekly shop? Woolworths also has its own discount card (Everyday Rewards). If you enjoy eating out then you should also check out Groupon which gives savings off numerous restaurants and cafes as well as services, events and activities. The Entertainment Card is also great to have. It does cost $70 to buy, but the savings soon racks up and makes this worthwhile. It also saves money on accommodation, car hire and days out. Plus it lasts one whole year!
- Buy cheaper alternatives – Instead of buying the finest piece of steak, why not buy cheaper alternatives and less expensive cuts of meat. Chicken thighs are usually cheaper than chicken breasts and slow cooking pieces of steak can be much tender and flavoursome. Beef cheeks are affordably priced and absolutely delicious when cooked slowly for a long period of time.
- Shop at a cheaper supermarket – I sometimes shop at Aldi as I can get things a lot cheaper here than at other supermarkets. It pays to shop around, but you shouldn’t sacrifice quality. Getting the cheapest piece of meat isn’t always the best thing for you.
- Shop at ethnic markets – If you enjoy cooking Chinese food then shopping at a Chinese supermarket or Asian market will mean you can get sauces, rice and noodles for a lot less than at the mainstream supermarkets. You also will get a greater variety of ingredients and is a fun place to head for anyone who loves food.
- Fish markets – The Fish Market in Pyrmont, Sydney is also a great place to head for your fresh fish and seafood at affordable prices. There is a fresh fish counter in North Sydney, but I never buy my fish here, it is just too expensive.
- Freeze leftovers – If you have made a massive meal like Spaghetti Bolognese then you don’t need to eat it all at once. You can freeze your leftovers for another time. Just be careful to date it accordingly so you don’t leave it too long in the freezer.
- Store your pasta odds together – Do you ever have little bits of pasta left in a bag? Instead of throwing the last few bits away, keep an airtight container of all your pasta odds together and use this at a later date.
- Turn bread into croutons or breadcrumbs – Has the last few slices of your bread gone stale? Not a problem, blend it up and you’ve got breadcrumbs or cut it up into small cubes and bake in the oven to make croutons. You can store croutons in a sealed container or bag for up to two weeks and is great to use in salads and saves you buying them.
- Go veggie – You don’t need to eat meat or fish every day. Having a vegetarian meal one day will keep costs down as vegetables tend to be cheaper. Vegetarian meal ideas include frittata, pizza, vegetable lasagne, vegetable stir fry and a nice healthy salad.
- Make use of beans and pulses – Adding beans to meals such as red kidney beans to a chilli will help bulk out your meals and make your meal go further. It will also help fill you up, reducing the amount you need to eat.
Of course there are plenty more ways you can eat on a budget. If you have any suggestions, then I’d love to hear them!