One simple way to save money on your family food budget!

Food budgeting, the home economics that drives all families crazy! I love a little discussion on one key area where a significant part of a family's food budget goes, sometimes this expense can be more than 20% of the weekly budget. What is this part of the family food budget that could take up such a large portion? Before I give the answer away, have a think about your weekly food budget, how much is it? what do you spend it on? Now the next question I have is, did you include ALL of your food budget in that calculation?

Now, the give away of the answer - if your food budget was a pie, how big is the slice of takeaway or eating out each week? Many people I work with unintentionally exclude the following from their food budget:

  • Takeaway snacks/breakfast/lunch/dinner (this includes beverages!);
  • Eating out (this includes beverages!).

Now, I am ALL for enjoying a meal that someone else prepared for you, and I from time to time TREAT myself to this. There are beautiful local cafes and restaurants all around that deserve our support and patronage, as they serve up delicious and nutritious food (some great examples on the Sunshine Coast include, The Velo Project in Mooloolaba, CK Wholefoods in Mooloolaba, Homegrown in Palmwoods and many many more!). The point here is to highlight how your food budget is spent, and how our tendency to scrimp and save on groceries, yet splurge on food that we don't prepare!

I know this does not apply to all families, but based on the line ups I see at many takeaway food places, I am pretty certain most families spend a large portion of their weekly food budget on food prepared by a cafe/restaurant/fast food joint. The average Australian household spend $32/week on takeaway food (this data is from 2012, 5 years old and probably a lot less than the current average spend due to inflation and the increase in food costs)! When I did a quick survey on costs of takeaway, there was a large range in price (and with the advent of UberEats, Deliveroo and MenuLog, we will start to see fine dining become takeaway). The costs were related to a family of 4 eating out/takeaway (2 adults and 2 early teen children), and nutrition, quality and freshness were not taken into account:

  • Franchised Burger Restaurant: $19.95 for a "Family Value Box", which gets you two large burgers, two small burgers, family size fries and 4 small softdrinks;
  • Local Thai restaurant: Average $40-50, which gets you 4 different Thai dishes + rice;
  • Local Fish & Chips: Average $40-50, which gets you two kid's packs and two adult packs;
  • Franchised Pizza: $26, for two large pizzas pick-up;
  • Local family restaurant: $10-20/meal option, which equates to $40-$80/visit.

This is by no means exhaustive, but it gives an insight into "cheap" takeaway options, what sounds like amazing value, ends up costing you more than what it would to make the food at home AND I haven't calculated the overall nutritional value (or what additives are in the food to artificially boost flavour). If each family ate out once per week, that is an budget expense ranging from $20 to $80 per week! I haven't factored in the takeaway coffees and turmeric lattes here either!!! 

What if you were to replace this takeaway option with an alternative, an alternative that gave an enriching experience, and saved you time and money? Here are my ideas to replace eating out - it could be an idea to replace one in every two eating out experiences with these fun, yet money saving, nutrition boosting options:

  • Pack a family picnic/bbq - not only are these fun, you can choose what is on the menu, so you know what is in your food. From time to time we have breakfast barbecues on the beach, the funny looks we get as we cook up delicious kale, baked beans, home made bread alongside the standard egg and bacon!
  • Host pot luck dinners with friends - take turns hosting dinner parties, that way you save on the stress of cooking AND improve your social life!;
  • When you get the urge to get a burger/pizza/fish and chips/Thai - why not create a family challenge to make it at home? See how tasty you can make your "home take-away" meal - you might find that you can make a few meals with the same budget!

Now, you've saved some money on your food budget, what can you do with those savings? More to be revealed in coming weeks as I unlock how you can get the max out of your food dollars.