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This family of four spends just $120 per week on groceries: Here’s how

Thanks to meal prepping this family is able to save a fortune each week on their grocery bill

The rising cost of living is significantly pinching household budgets, with the surging cost of groceries at the top of everyone’s list of biggest money worries.

According to recent research from NAB’s consumer sentiment report, one in two Aussies have cut back on eating out, buying micro treats such as coffee and snacks, entertainment, and car travel. Meanwhile, four in 10 consumers saved on holidays, food delivery and charitable giving.

But Queensland business owner and mum of two Elisha Salkeld is beating the cost of living by feeding her family of four for just $120 a week. As a result, she enjoys more time with her family and even has money left over for dining out or weekends away.

Compilation image of groceries and Elisha Salkeld and her family
Elisha says buying food in bulk has shaved $50-$60 of her weekly shop for groceries. (Source: Getty/Supplied)

Swapping shopping on the fly for meal prep

Elisha started meal prepping three years ago when she realised she was “spending too much on take away foods and just shopping on the fly each day”.

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She explained that “bulk buying and focusing on ingredients that are on sale or on special” has shaved around $50-$60 off her weekly grocery bill.

She now dedicates Sunday afternoon to prepping five to seven meals for the week ahead, focusing primarily on lunches and dinners.

“Breakfasts are usually something simple that we can make fresh, like porridge, shakes, toast or eggs,” she said.

Also by Emma Edwards:

When planning what meals to prep, Elisha and her family decide together what kinds of meals they’d like for the week ahead.

“I then research these meal options and try to find budget-friendly versions of these recipes. I also keep an eye on sales and discounts, which sometimes inspire the week’s menu,” she said.

One of her go-to meals is a hearty lentil and veggie stew that she can nail for around $1.50 per portion, which she says “proves eating well doesn’t have to be expensive”. Elisha will sometimes add meat to the recipe by finding cheaper cuts of lamb on special, noting that “they don’t have to be fancy cuts” because they’re slow-cooked.

Saving money and time

For Elisha and her husband, Shane, switching to meal prepping consistently means they can spend more on occasional treats, such as dining out at a nice restaurant or a weekend getaway.

The pair went as far as to calculate the utility costs of running a freezer for their meal prep, and found even more savings to be had.

“We invested in a second energy-efficient freezer for meal storage, which paid for itself in savings within the first year.”

Meal prepping also simplified their lives, and gave them more time to spend together as a family.

“It has freed up our evenings, letting us focus on being together, [and finding time for] hobbies, exercise, and relaxation instead of daily cooking and cleanup.”

Does meal prep mean eating the same food every day?

A lot of people’s resistance to meal prep comes down to not wanting to eat the same food every day. But Elisha says she doesn’t find it boring, and preps a variety of meals to keep things interesting.

“Adding different condiments or side salads can transform a dish easily,” she said. “Experimenting with spices and herbs helps keep meals interesting and flavourful without adding much to the cost.”

Easy beginner meal-prep recipe

Elisha’s favourite beginner meal-prep recipe is a hearty chicken and rice bowl.

“It’s straightforward, requires minimal kitchen skills, and you can swap out the protein or veggies to suit your taste,” she said.

Try it yourself with this recipe.

Serves 6

4 chicken breasts (approximately 800g)

2 cups of brown rice

1 broccoli head, cut into florets

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 red capsicum, sliced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional: dried herbs (like thyme or rosemary) or spices (like paprika) for seasoning

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven: Set your oven to 200°C. This will be for roasting the vegetables.

  • Cook the rice: In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the brown rice and a pinch of salt, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 35-40 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through. Once done, remove from heat and let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

  • Prepare the vegetables: While the rice is cooking, toss the broccoli, carrots, and red capsicum with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any additional herbs or spices you like. Spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender and slightly caramelised.

  • Cook the chicken: While the veggies are roasting, season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and any other desired seasonings. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the chicken for about 6-7 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips or cubes.

  • Assemble the bowls: Divide the cooked rice among four meal-prep containers. Top with a portion of roasted veggies and sliced chicken breast. Once cooled, seal the containers and store them in the refrigerator.

  • Reheat and serve: When ready to eat, simply reheat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, or until heated through.

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