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How this mum feeds her family of four for $42 a week

Sarah Carty
·Lifestyle Editor
·5-min read

A mum-of-two has revealed exactly how she manages to feed her family for just $42 a week – and she’s adamant you can do it too.

In 2004, Melbourne-based mum Penina Peterson and her husband found themselves in $50,000 worth of debt, after falling into the trap of buying coffees, going out for dinner and spending hundreds on nights out drinking.

Melbourne-based mum Penina Peterson
Melbourne-based mum Penina Peterson feeds her family of four for $42 a week. Photo: Supplied

Fast-forward to now and Penina runs her own blog, called the Saving Room, where she details exactly how she’s turned her life around, paid off the bills and spends the least amount of money possible on groceries.

Penina, who has also written books about her penny-pinching tips called $1.50 Dinners and Table Tucker, says that depending on whether it’s a four or five-week month, she has managed to get the cost of her shopping bill down to between $168 and $210.

Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle, the thrifty saver revealed her secret to whittling down the cost is making very good use of her freezer.

Penina blog, called the Saving Room.
Penina now owns her own blog, called the Saving Room. Photo: Supplied

“One weekend out of every month were cooking in the kitchen,” Penina tells us.

During that weekend, Penina and her family spend full days laying out, preparing and cooking food, which can be frozen and used throughout the month.

“We make some base sauces like your typical red or white sauce or brown sauce gravy and then we buy budget meat like mince, sausages and roast chicken,” she says.

Penina shopping cost
Penina said she has managed to get her shopping cost down to between $168 and $210. Photo: Supplied
Penina and her family spend the days making frozen meals
For one weekend out of every month, Penina and her family spend the days making frozen meals. Photo: Supplied

To get the price down, Penina packs the meat with vegetables, like canned lentils or cooked lentils, which also makes the meals kid-friendly.

“It slightly reduces your meat intake but you’re still eating meat, it’s actually healthier I feel,” she explains.

Penina believes her way of living is healthier than eating food you would go and buy on a whim at the shop.

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“People that normally go randomly shopping go and buy frozen food and just grab anything that they can see, whereas this is more strategic,” she adds.

From Monday to Friday, Penina, her kids and her husband are eating out of the freezer, meaning they don’t have to spend any time at all in the kitchen.

She’ll make it fresh and exciting by adding another element to the dish when they're ready to eat it, like herbs, shredded lettuce or side salads.

Then on a Friday night the family might take some pizzas they've already pre-prepared in the freezer or bring the kids to the supermarket and grab a convenience meal, like fish and chips.

Penina (pictured with her family)
Penina (pictured with her family) believes her way of living is healthier than eating food you would go and buy on a whim at the shop. Photo: Supplied
Penina, her kids and her husband are eating out of the freezer
From Monday to Friday, Penina, her kids and her husband are eating out of the freezer, meaning they don’t have to spend any time at all in the kitchen. Photo: Supplied

Whether she’s chilling at home with her family or having friends over for a glass of wine, Penina says on a Saturday night she tries to have something really easy and fast to prepare, like noodles and vegetables or something you throw together.

Then on Sunday night for dinner, the family have a meal packed to the brim with vegetables to start the week off right.

“In winter, it’ll be a soup but generally it’ll be something that packs vegetables into my kids so they start the week off feeling pretty good,” she says.

Penina says she “pretty much avoids the supermarket” until she gets her pantry down to the bare bones and tries to stretch out her visits to the aisles as much as possible.

“Food's just gotten really complicated and supermarkets are making it complicated by throwing all the marketing at us,” Penina adds.

“And because we’re such time-poor consumers, we just take that marketing and we just run with it.”

Penina's fridge
This is what Penina's fridge looks like. Photo: Supplied
kids' lunches in advance
She packs her kids' lunches in advance. Photo: Supplied

Penina believes her lightbulb moment came when she was living in the outback for five years, which made her realise both she and her husband had been sucked in by the city-style marketing.

To avoid it, she recommends living a “slightly quieter life” and making small changes.

“I know city people do sit in their gardens with a wine and invite friends over but they do tend to go out a lot more because it’s convenient,” she says.

“Instead of going to the pub three days a week, make it one.

“Sit in your garden on a Friday night instead of going out maybe.

“Have the same conversation that you might have at a pub, except you’re not spending $200 every time.”

When it comes to grocery shopping, her biggest tip is to always pay with a card and avoiding using cash.

“Use technology like apps to track your spending because if you don’t you’re never going to know what you spend your money on,” she tells us.

“Having a plan and then execute it and put the time in and do the work.”

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