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4 low-spend recipes for tougher financial times

At $5 per head, Nicole has put together four recipes to help cut back on costs as grocery prices soar

Compilation image of hands counting out $50 notes and Nicole cutting up mushrooms in her kitchen for one of her low-spend recipes
Grocery prices are now one of Aussie's biggest money worries but these low-spend recipes won't break the bank. (Source: Supplied/Getty) (Samantha Menzies)

This is part one of a two-part series on how to cut back on your supermarket shop as grocery prices soar. Stay tuned for part two: 10 ways to save at the supermarket.

Is your grocery bill hitting a fresh, far-out-you-can’t-be-serious dollar amount every shop? There are some tricks to cut costs without cutting back.

Remember back in 2011, when cyclone Yasi in North Queensland caused bananas to spike to $16 per kilo? Then when panic buying amid the pandemic saw shoppers paying up to $1 per roll on toilet paper? And just last year widespread flooding meant the cost of iceberg lettuce climbed as high as $12 each.


Fast forward to today and virtually everything is more expensive, all at once.

So, with grocery prices higher than ever, how can you afford to make your family filling and semi-nutritious meals that they won’t reject?

Read more from Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

Here are my four new go-to money-saving recipes. And yes, to my children’s delight, steak is – for now – off the menu.

1. Broccoli and herb (or “green”) pasta

Let me start by saying that if you haven’t already, now is the time to plant a herb garden… basil, mint and even oregano, rosemary and thyme will grow from leftover, supermarket-bought cuttings.

It lets you ‘fancy-up’ your meals for free and my fussy family doesn’t realise this recipe is one of their preferred ways to eat vitamin-packed herbs.

That’s with the exception of my clever, culinary 10-year-old who devised this “green pasta” recipe to trick them.

Her creation is: boil enough pasta for (say) four people but about five minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broccoli cut into small florets to the water.

Then, two minutes before the pasta is ready, scoop out one-third of a cup of the goodness-infused water, put in a jar and add lots of very finely chopped fresh coriander, basil, chives and parsley, salt, pepper and a fair old squeeze of lemon, and shake well to combine.

Drain the water out of the saucepan and mix through the sauce.

Even if your kids pick out the broccoli (which you could also blend and disguise), it’s a vitamin-filled financial victory.

2. Bolognese health-ed (and wealth-ed up) by secret lentils

Every household has its own signature style of bolognese, but my new money-saving version is a great go-to when you’re trying to cut back.

Last weekend I had promised to make a bolognese before realising I had no garlic, celery, carrots, red wine or any other of my usual bolognese ingredients. All I had was mince, onions, mushrooms and tinned tomatoes.

So, instead I simmered the mushrooms down to make a rich stock and then removed it from the pot. Next, I browned the seasoned mince and then I added the mushroom stock along with the tomatoes and the still-raw, pureed onions to up their aromatic ante. A dash of worcester sauce and two crumbled beef stock cubes from the pantry also went in.

Then I applied my usual money-saving trick to health-it-up and added three strained tins of lentils - it roughly doubled the servings.

I always cook up enough bolognese to fill a 10-litre pot, then use it in several different ways to - cheaply - help spice up our weekday meals.

You can pop it in ramekins with a round of frozen puff pastry popped on top to make one-pot cottage pies.

Or throw in some ground coriander, cumin and turmeric from the pantry and a tin of kidney or black beans – or both – and it’s a Mexican feast. The cheapest and best-received iteration in my home is nachos. Just plop a small amount and a bit of cheese atop some discounted corn chips and grill.

You can even use your leftover bolognese to make super-filling jaffles with just a smidge of filling in each, or prick and bake a potato, quarter and put it on top.

And have you tried scooping out the centre of a whole raw pumpkin, filling it with mince, putting the ‘lid’ back on and baking? You can then slice and serve like you would a cake… for days.

Mince might be pricey nowadays but it can save you not just money but precious time.

3. Chicken and chorizo bake

Roast chicken could set you back $15-$20 but you might be able to significantly cut the cost by using more budget- and child-friendly drumsticks instead.

Arrange your chicken portions (skin side up if relevant) in an oiled baking dish. Then sprinkle over one finely-chopped chorizo, position lemon wedges throughout and pour over some melted butter mixed with a quarter of a cup of chicken stock (also from cubes, since we are economising) and a tablespoon of smoked paprika.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 180 degrees (or until cooked), for a super-simple dish that keeps your budget on track.

I got my inspiration from Better Homes and Gardens chef Karent Martini and while her version is more elaborate, my more affordable version is a money-pinching winner.

4. Spiced coconut pumpkin soup

This one has been a favourite of any adults I feed (and spice-loving children) for a decade, with thanks to the queen of cutting-back-on-ingredients-not-taste, Donna Hay.

I make this one-pot-wonder by sauteing one tablespoon of red curry paste in a large saucepan then adding a kilo of peeled and chopped pumpkin with chicken stock before simmering until it’s soft.

Add a tin of coconut milk and simmer some more. Puree and serve with shreds of red chilli (again to taste) on top.

Crusty bread rolls make this a scrumptious meal on its own. And you could poach small chicken pieces in there if you care about protein at night.

And an extra tip: because I never buy anything unless it's on special, I blithely substitute any of the above ingredients for any weird-and-wonderful potential alternative.

And there are 10 other ways I save at the supermarket that I will detail for you in part two of this series on cutting your grocery costs.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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