Foraging and Meals from the Extreme Grocery Challenge (under $250 total for 6 weeks)

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Could you spend under $250 on groceries for the rest of the year?

Last week I announced a personal challenge to spend under $250 on groceries for the rest of the year. We live in a small apartment so don’t have loads of food storage or another freezer to access. I am utilising HelloFresh during this time (you can get $50 off your first box here), as I have some credit with them. That covers 3 main meals, then I am covering snacks, breakfast, lunch and dinner the rest of the time.

How can you keep groceries for 4 people low?

Get creative! I will share our full meal plan, some recipes, tips and more each week, then once I am done, I’ll do a full round up post.

For the most part, it is thinking outside the box. Humans are creatures of habit. We often eat the same meals but like to think we eat a variety. Options promoted at the supermarket or heavily packaged goods are generally not healthy, they cost more and aren’t the best option. Think back to how our ancestors used to eat and how they acquired food. Growing their own, hunting, foraging, eating fresh, healthy produce. I am not saying I want to live completely like that, but reducing the amount of sugar and processed foods you eat is a good thing.

Foraging

If it is good enough for top restaurants, it’s good enough for me! Attica is an expensive, award-winning restaurant in the top 50, with their menu based on foraged food. While I didn’t technically forage this week, I have previously. Ms Frugal Ears is a great forager and you can find some wonderful recipes on her site e.g. Hawthorne Flower Cordial, plus check out this list for more info from The Urban List.

I live in the middle of Melbourne, so you’d assume foraging is limited, right? Well, there are herbs such as mint, rosemary and parsley I see growing wild in various places, a few cafes have herb gardens they allow the public to use, figs/lemons/limes/passionfruit/feijoas and mulberries can be found, plus once you know about native bush foods there is a surprisingly high amount of food available.

To find out what is available in your area, check out Falling Fruit which is a map of fruit, herbs and other food you can forage from anywhere. This link also includes edible dumpsters if you want to do that, I didn’t.

Native bushfoods include kangaroo grass, purslane, wattleseed and so many more. Learn about them, the foods in your area, how to prepare them and you might be surprised at what is available. For information on bushfoods check out this link and if you are in Melbourne, you can check out these walks about living off the land.

This week I didn’t actually forage any food, however, I located where I could forage if I want to.

What I spent money on

Community markets or local farmers markets can be fantastic for fresh, cheap produce. I discovered a small weekly one near me and spent $7.35 on produce including watermelon (as a treat for my kids), 10 apples, a purple cabbage, 6 bananas and 2 pears. That was all we needed this week.

Our meal plan

It was a mixture and while we did get a HelloFresh box this week (get $50 off your first one here), I didn’t use any of their recipes.

I did a few creative things to use up what we had:
Salad dressing – I wanted a salad dressing and had a little bit of leftover mayonnaise and vinegar so shook that together for one dressing, then mixed vinegar with honey, lemon and herbs for another dressing.
Muffins – we made banana coconut muffins using 2 bananas which had been frozen and a packet mix I found in the cupboard which had been bought for the decorations. They were smaller than I’d usually make but the kids loved them.
Shakes – the shakes/smoothies I had were a mixture of almond milk, banana, berries, cacao, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, LSA and honey. Not all at once, but a combination of those things.
The other adult in the house has an enormous tub of protein powder he uses.

Day 1

This was the day I started, but it was in the middle of the day, so it only included dinner of wraps for the kids with leftover taco meat, grated veg and spinach. I had scrambled eggs. Adult 2 was away.

Day 2

Breakfast – cereal.
Kids lunches – salad, fruit, crackers and veggie sticks.
I was busy at lunch and skipped it. Not because of this challenge!
Adult 2 had food at work.
Dinner – fried “rice’ (the rice was cauliflower). I had leftover cooked cauliflower which was chopped finely. I diced 4 mushrooms, a medium brown onion, one green capsicum and fried it with the cauliflower. I also scrambled 4 eggs to mix through. My kids ate this so fast. It was served with a platter of raw carrot, cucumber, tomato and cashews which they could take as much as they wanted from.

After dinner, my 8-year-old wanted to cook something and as we had run out of bread for sandwiches at school, I suggested we make tortillas. They are super easy and only take 30 seconds each side to cook. They each ate one on the spot, 2 were put away for lunch the next day and the rest frozen. The recipe is in 26 Ingredients and only costs 50 cents.

Day 3

Breakfast – cereal for the kids and smoothies for the adults. Smoothies used almond milk, cacao, LSA, banana and coconut.
Lunch – Green salad, boiled eggs, pumpkin seeds and roast pumpkin.
Kids took tortillas, salad, an apple, crackers and cheese for their lunches.
Dinner – I had teff and kale salad (it was gross), adult 2 had vegetables with a tin of chilli which lasts for 4 meals.

Day 4

Friday Family Fun Night! Every Friday night we have pizza, popcorn and treats while we watch a movie or do something together as a family.
Breakfast – cereal for the kids and shakes for the adults.
Lunch – a shake  for myself.  My kids had their usual with tortillas, salad, banana, crackers and cheese for their lunches. Adult 2 had a protein bar from his stash.
Dinner – pizza for the kids (from the freezer), salad for adult 1 and leftovers from yesterday for adult 2. Plus popcorn and chocolate mousse for treats.

Day 5

Breakfast – cereal for kids, shakes for adults.
Lunch – pancakes with the recipe from 26 Ingredients.
Dinner – sausages, rice and veggies for the kids, eggs and leftover chilli for the adults.

Day 6

Breakfast – cereal for the kids, shakes for adults.
Lunch – eggs, vegetables and watermelon for the kids. New chilli for the adults.
Dinner – Pad Thai.

Day 7

Breakfast – cereal for the kids, shakes for adults.
Lunch – salad, crackers and cheese, vegetable sticks (cucumber, carrot and capsicum), an apple and pear for the kids. Salad for myself. Protein shake for adult 2.
Dinner – Chicken stir fry. I had chicken thighs in the freezer which I cooked with vegetables we had including cauliflower, broccoli, capsicum, onion, kale and cabbage.

As you can see, it is all fairly simple food. This challenge has made me think more about what we eat, what we waste and what food I want to keep in the house once it’s over. We have quite a few random bits and pieces which have been picked up from different events, freebies or for particular recipes which I want to clear out. The coming weeks will be more interesting that this was!

Have you ever done a grocery challenge?

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