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Cheap Eats

Reducing our living costs is on my mind more than ever, as it’s a mere three months until D takes on his new role as a trainee minister.  We’ve managed just fine on one income as D’s current IT work pays well, but next year we have quite a drop in salary to wear as a family.

We’re cool with that.  Quite frankly, if you are making loads of money as a minister, there’s something very wrong going on!  But we know that making do on less will take some adjustment for us.

We had several options of where D could do his training, and we think we’ve got the place that is the best fit for D, the congregation and for our family.  I’m not revealing where we are going until everything is signed on the dotted line, but it’s somewhere very small in the South Island.  Two reasons we like the place are that it’s cheap to live there (compared to the other places we were offered), and is small enough to walk or cycle almost everywhere, so we hope to use the car much less.  I’d like to think that these two things alone will significantly help us adjust to life on D’s new income.

Our food budget is one area that I’m constantly trying to lower as much as possible, which at times feels like a losing battle due to the rising cost of food.  I’m not exaggerating: butter has increased in price by 62% (!), milk by 7.9% and vegetables are up 8.9% since last year.

The rise in grocery costs have made me examine the meal plans I create much more carefully.  Meal planning saves precious time wondering what on earth to cook for dinner, and stops needless food waste, but it won’t save you money if you choose recipes with expensive ingredients.  Meals with lots of meat, dairy or out-of-season vegetables will have you swooning in shock at the cash register (or it could be that your check-out operator is Mr Darcy…ahem, I digress).

By being very careful with the recipes I choose and incorporating at least 3-4 meatless dinners a week, I’ve been able to reduce our weekly shop by a 1/3rd, often more.  It’s not rocket science, vegetable-based meals are generally much cheaper.  If you are struggling to make ends meet and have avowed carnivores in the house, personally I’d give them two options: they can either make more money to pay for their food or they can get with the programme.  D and I like most vegetarian meals, which helps us, but there are plenty of delicious meatless meals out there that would please even the most devoted meat-eaters.

A modicum of research on the internet brings a plethora of frugal recipes to your browser, and you are sure to find some that get your mouth watering.  Here are some of our current favourites.

We absolutely love this slow cooker lentil and quinoa chili. In fact, I’d go as far to say as we prefer it to the beef version, am I right D?

Quinoa is pricey here in NZ so I just use more lentils.  Mmmm, this recipe is delicious, makes a boat-load of chili and is inexpensive.  It also takes maybe 5 minutes to prepare, and most of that is opening cans or measuring out stock.

 

This freezer bean and cheese burrito recipe is terrific.  I made 20 burritos which – once frozen – can be popped in the microwave for a quick and easy lunch, or for dinner when I just.cannot.be.arsed.cooking.one.more.thing.

I swap out a can of refried beans (more expensive in NZ than the USA, plus just my personal preference) for a can of chili beans, and use a can of plain tomatoes with some burrito spice instead of ‘Rotel’ (an American brand of tomatoes and chillies).  I also use a cup less cheese – America, you know I love you, but y’all are obsessed with cheese – and they still tasted great.

For my latest batch I used store-bought tortillas.  Normally I would make them myself but we had these left over from a weekend of visitors.  Even with the added extra of store-bought tortillas, I worked out that my 20 tortillas came in at .77c per tortilla.  That’s pretty good!

 

This Corn and Broccoli Rice Casserole needs a bit of tweaking (I use more seasonings and a small sprinkle of cheese) to give it more flavour, but otherwise it is a very frugal and perfectly nice meal.  Depending on the price of broccoli or if there’s some in my garden at the time, this dish can be made for $3-4.

Corn and Broccoli Rice Casserole - so simple and SO delicious! Everyone cleaned their plates - even our picky broccoli haters! Cooked rice, creamed corn, broccoli, onion and garlic topped with butter and crushed Ritz crackers. You might want to double the recipe for this quick side dish - this didn't last long in our house!

image and recipe via Plain Chicken

 

These potato pancakes are very filling with a salad.

 

So there you have it, folks.  Do a little research – search particularly for ‘cheap’, ‘frugal’ or ‘depression-era’ recipes, and you will be sure to find recipes that take your fancy.  Your bank balance will thank you.

 

Hit me up with links to your favourite frugal recipes!

 

 

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A frugal holiday destination: New Plymouth, NZ

One thing that our Dollar Diet has taught D and I is the importance of taking breaks.  As much as I’d like a 3-week break in Fiji, that’s unrealistic for our one-income family.  And – as any parent of small children will tell you – a holiday with small children isn’t much of a holiday at all, so mini-breaks are the way to go.

We recently spent a few days in New Plymouth, which I highly recommend for any family looking for a fun holiday destination on a budget.  We hardly spent a thing during our time there, due to all the free things on offer, making it one of the cheapest mini-breaks we’ve ever had.

New Plymouth is one of New Zealand’s top tourist destinations thanks to it’s proximity to Mount Taranaki and the large number of attractions in and around the city.  You can find out more about what to see and do here, but here’s what we got up to during our time in New Plymouth:

Technically the Tarankai Aviation Transport and Technology Museum (TATATM) is just out of Inglewood, but it’s a short drive from New Plymouth.  TATATM is the sort of museum I just adore.  Run by volunteers on the smell of an oily rag, it doesn’t look exciting on the outside, but inside is a well curated treasure trove of New Zealand’s past.

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Drab on the outside…

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…party on the inside

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You know you’re old when items from your childhood are on display at a museum…

There is plenty for kids to climb on and play with, including a working telephone exchange which kept my kids happy calling from building to building.

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We spent two hours at TATATM and the entrance fee of $16 a family is great value.

We also spent several hours hanging out at the cool Puke Ariki, New Plymouth’s museum, library and information centre all rolled into one.  It’s all FREE.

My tots were particularly taken with the library, which utilised technology well and provided plenty of games to play.

D and I were super-impressed by the relaxed librarians who told us ‘of course it’s okay to eat your lunch here!  You have kids, they need to eat.’  So, so chilled.

We loved the Taranki Cycle Park at Bell Block, which has junior road circuit, complete with traffic lights, roundabouts and pedestrian crossings, along with a BMX track and learners soft-surface pad.  Oh, and it’s FREE.

 

We had a ball at the FREE Brooklands Zoo, which can be found within the grounds of Pukekura Park, one of New Plymouth’s main attractions.  It’s not a traditional zoo as there’s no lions or elephants etc, but it’s still worth a visit nonetheless.  Brooklands is home to monkeys, meerkats, a large aviary, and a farm animal area.  It’s perfect for toddlers as it is ENCLOSED, so if you have a kid who likes to do a runner this is the place for you.  There are loads of picnic tables and a great playground.

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I’d like to have explored more of Pukekura Park on this visit, but my two kiddos were getting tired, so it will have to keep.

There are LOADS more free or frugal things you can do in or around New Plymouth, so if you are on a tight budget you can’t go wrong by spending your holidays here.