Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Insiders guide to Australian supermarkets


The one thing people ask me the most about our move here is the price and availability of good food. I thought that since today was shopping day I would write a bit about it. I guess it's a sign of the times that people are more and more concerned about the cost of living and the struggle between budgets and feeding our children healthy food.

We live on a strict budget like most people I know, and we have the added complication of living on a restricted diet. We need a few extras like gluten free bread mix, flours, muesli, and spreads in our trolley each week so it makes it even more important to figure out ways to keep the shopping bill in check. My budget is $300 for a fortnight but I very rarely spend over $260. That's for 2 adults, 2 children, and 1 cat. It also includes all of J's work lunches and eco-friendly cleaners + nappies.

Week one I spend around $160 and week two I spend about $100. We buy organic red meat, free range chicken, organic milk, yoghurt, muesli, sugar, crackers, chocolate, tea, coffee, and spreads. All of our organics come from ALDI which is a budget supermarket chain here, they have their own range of organic food and it's very affordable.

Today I bought organic black and green teabags for $2.19 each, organic strawberry jam was $1.99, 1L organic milk was $2.50 and 500g organic cheese was $3.89. A pack of 8 organic sausages was $5.99 from Woolworth's and a free range chicken (which does two meals - one roast and one soup) was $9.07. In order to eat organic food and free range chicken, we eat one vegetarian meal a week which is usually based on lentils or beans. I also do a 50/50 mix of brown lentils and organic mince meat for bolognaise and Mexican dishes which makes the cost of the meat more affordable. So far neither of the kids has noticed that there are lentils in their meat! We're still buying vegetables as the gardens grow so we go to a fresh veggie shop each week, and spend about $20 on fruit and veg. We're hoping that by summer we will only need to buy fruit because the garden will be supplying us with everything else that we need.

I saw today that as of last month ALDI have removed artificial colours from their own brands and have replaced them with natural alternatives following a study by the University of Southampton - go ALDI!

One of the key things about eating well but spending little is baking. I used to really love baking. These days not so much. Because Ben is allergic to egg and wheat, and is dairy and gluten free, I have to bake every day whether I'm in a baking mood or not. We can't afford the specialised allergy biscuits and cake mixes (and they're not as nice anyway) so you can usually find me in the kitchen between 10 and 12 each day making a loaf of bread and some biscuits or a slice.

We save a significant amount of money by making J's work lunches in bulk and freezing them. He is gluten free as well, so I usually make a big batch of Swedish split pea soup, risotto, or chicken and vegetable soup. If I get time I make some GF scones and freeze them so he can have something bread-like with the soup.

Breakfasts are a simple affair with Jemima and I eating porridge at .99c a bag and the gluten free boys have either GF museli or GF toast.

I've been really impressed with the variety of food available at supermarkets here and the fact that every big 'Westfield' type mall has a fresh food market/seafood/deli/butcher along with a couple of supermarkets. I think it's the 'buying fresh' mentality over here which keeps these smaller businesses afloat. When I observe other shoppers I see that almost everyone has brought their own shopping bags (yay!!) and many people are choosing the organic option for a few cents extra. Here I think it's achievable for the average family to be "green" and eat organic food whereas at home we struggled with the availability and prices of the food. Often it would require a special trip to Commonsense Organics in the city for a certain ingredient at a premium price and most of the time what we wanted to eat was out of reach for us. I hope big supermarket chains in NZ follow the trend here and invest in more reasonably priced organic food.

Now that we seem to have the budget and the shopping sorted I wish someone would teach me how to push those impossible trolleys.....

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