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Stretch tiny $60 Coles grocery haul into 3 easy dinners

Shocked at how little groceries $60 gets you? Here's how to make it go further.

Grocery bill shock has become an unfortunate part of Aussie life as the amount we are charged doesn't go down, but the number of items left in our Coles or Woolworths trolley certainly does.

Renowned budget meal expert and best-selling author Kim McCosker told Yahoo Finance it's no longer a matter of trying to save money at the checkout but pushing your purchases further to get the most you can out of every shop.

A Coles shopper recently revealed her shock with how little she got for $60, so McCosker - author of 4 Ingredients cookbooks - has tapped her expertise to reveal the meals you could make, and small tweaks that could help you feed your family for less.

Grocery shop Composite of a trolley and a receipt
Grocery shopping can be a pain and This $60 haul didn't look like much, but experts have shown how it can be stretched across a few meals. (Source: Facebook)

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“Regardless of the cost of groceries, we all have to eat, and we know the cheapest and healthiest restaurant in the world is our very own kitchen,” she said.

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McCosker said the first steps are to keep it simple and plan ahead.

What groceries can I buy to make my weekly shop go further?

The Coles shopper's $60 trolley consisted of stock, dinner rolls, beef chuck steak, tinned Italian tomatoes and salt and pepper. As well as various veggies including onions, mushrooms, celery, carrots, capsicum and basil.

While it wasn’t a huge amount of food, McCosker said it was possible to spread the ingredients across at least two to three meals with a few pantry staples.

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A one-pan bolognese or a satay curry can easily be thrown together with the ingredients, depending on how many people you are cooking for.

She said the trolley’s main contents of fresh veggies and herbs make it a winner because they bulk up any meal, making it go further - exactly what her 4 Ingredients philosophy preaches.

Kim McCosker (left) and crispy Sopressa roll-ups with salad (right).
Best-selling author and cook Kim McCosker says simple meals, like these crispy Sopressa roll-ups are the best meals. Source: Instagram/4Ingredients

“4 Ingredients is all about giving you a base to create an amazing dinner that you can customise, add whatever fresh fruit and veggies or spices and herbs you have to complement whatever you are making,” she explained.

Even as the price of groceries continues to rise, knowing what to buy and when to buy it is key to saving money, McCosker said.

“The number one rule to reduce dollars spent and food wasted is to create a menu plan," she said.

"It's a known statistic that one in five bags of groceries bought by Australians (and New Zealanders) will end up in the bin. This translates to $20 from every $100 spent going to waste!

“I cannot stress enough the importance of sitting down each week and creating a simple menu plan. Extract the ingredients you don't have from it and then simply shop for the ones you need.”

Aussie mum's tricks to planning meals for less

Avid meal planner and mum of three Kayla - from Noosa, Queensland - agreed that planning simple meals was the key to saving money on her weekly grocery bill.

While the $60 shopping trolley didn’t look like much, she said the ingredients could be whipped up into snacks, a hearty lunch, and a couple of dinners including a stew or pasta bake.

“Simple carrot, celery and capsicum stick snack using a smashed avocado as a dip can create a filling meal," she told Yahoo Finance.

"Or thinly slice up some tomato and mushroom, seasoned with pepper on some crackers with butter.

Raw vegetables including celery broccoli and capsicum (left) and a beef stew (right).
These humble veggies can be transformed into several hearty meals including beef stew. Source: Instagram/4Ingredients

“I would make a vegetable soup using stock with pureed tomatoes, adding salt, pepper and basil for flavour with chunky onion, celery, mushroom and carrot and serve with some basic butter rolls or DIY garlic bread rolls.

“For dinner, you could make slow-cooked chunky beef stew cooked in stock and tomato, seasoned with salt, pepper and basil with mushroom, carrot, onion, celery and potatoes and add a serving of pasta or rice to make an even more filling meal.”

Kayla, who plans all of her meals, draws inspiration from online recipe sites and uses websites that allow you to enter what ingredients you have before giving out recipe suggestions.

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How prices have changed

It’s no secret that grocery prices have skyrocketed in recent years, with food inflation reaching a peak of 9.2 per cent in December 2022, according to the Australia Bureau of Statistics.

Recent data showed a deceleration to 4.8 per cent in September 2023, with prices on some items such as pork chops, fresh whole chicken, and fresh fruits dropping.

However, other items remain increasingly high, including eggs, sugar, and sweets and snacks.

woman pushing trolley in supermarket
Aussies have changed their shopping habits in recent years as the cost of groceries continues to climb. (Source: Getty)

Does bulk-buying really save money?

Another way McCosker suggests saving money is by buying in bulk from various warehouse-style supermarkets, and working those ingredients into a weekly meal plan.

“I will stock up on chicken breast when it's on sale for $9.99/kg, freezing it in kilo portions," she told Yahoo Finance. "Similarly, lean mince when it's around $15/kg. I will often buy big hearty pieces of meat, like chuck steak and pork shoulder, and batch slow-cook them.

“Buying in bulk saves money. A whole scotch fillet costs a lot less per kilo than individually cut-and-packaged steaks. You can then use it for several dishes, like seasoned steaks on the weekend BBQ, healthy stir-fries throughout the week, or a beef poke bowl with rice, noodles and whatever salad and veggies you have on hand.”