You Spend What? On Groceries?!! Does feeding families REALLY have to cost that much?

I won’t copy and paste it here so I don’t embarrass anyone involved, but on my personal Facebook wall today read a conversation between several acquaintances discussing grocery shopping for larger families.

One person was ecstatic because they came in under their $450 per week grocery budget by about $70. Yes, You heard it, $450 PER WEEK to feed a family with no special dietary requirements.

Granted, this was for a large family of what equates to 6 adult sized eaters plus 2 toddlers and $70 is a huge saving in anyone’s books, but HOLY COW BATMAN! What are you feeding those people that costs that much per week? Gold Plated Cornflakes?

I didn’t say that of course. I actually only read the conversation and didn’t join in at all – you can do that on the ol’ FB.(Yeah, I’m a total FB stalker and I’m okay with that).  I’m not being judgmental. I would hate for someone to tell me how I should shop or feed my family and wouldn’t dream of doing it to someone else.

But I’m always amazed and a little sad that anyone believes spending that much on food per week is normal in a country where fresh food is abundantly available and for the most part, not too unreasonably priced. And the person who posted was not the only one ,there were five or six others with larger families confessing to similar food budgets in the same conversation.

It makes me wonder:

A) If they actually know how to shop (the person who initiated the conversation cooks/bakes a lot so it’s not like they were not buying all convenience foods). Were they ever taught how to do it? I wasn’t and it was definitely one of my biggest challenges when I first left home. I mean, I had seen my mother and grandmother do the grocery shopping, I had even gone with them, but no one had ever actually sat me down and said “Righto kiddo, this is how you work out what you need, what to buy and how to budget for it”.

B) How much of that $450 each week ends up in the compost or worse still landfill?

C) How can I, quietly and without being “preachy” help them find ways to lower their weekly food bill? (I do feel from the tone of the post and the online conversation that followed like this person may have actually posted as a way of saying that they were frustrated and need a little help in this area).

So how can I help?

By example is the best way I know how. I feed a family of  four adult eaters and one grazing preschool aged child each week, plus a university student who sometimes eats at home and the odd extra body (including the eldest Scrap Boy on those occasions that he deems us worthy of his presence). We eat well, we eat healthy (well I think we do, none of us has any food related medical or weight problems), no one ever goes hungry (despite what the teenagers may claim, there’s always snacks) and we manage to keep it all under $150 a week (most weeks it scrapes in under to $100).

It’s not always easy, and it does require a little planning and preparation each week, but it is very doable. Even when we’re all really busy.

We recently completed a pantry, refrigerator and freezer stock take as part of a food waste survey conducted by an environmental organisation. It wasn’t part of the survey, but we also took stock of all our regular toiletries and household cleaning products, just to see how much we were saving (or not) by shopping ethically and making our own instead of using commercial products.Over the next month or so I will be keeping track of everything we use/buy/eat (including recipes). We began this originally for our own benefit, but in after reading the discussion today, over the next few weeks I may publish a few posts with our results here so I can show anyone that may be interested just how we do it.


What do I do with these? 7 things you can do with Potato Skins

So we all know that there’s some awesome nutrients in vegetable peelings and that we should just scrub our veg clean and eat them whole, peel and all. But sometimes it doesn’t look so pretty, think brown bits of potato skin in your lovely fluffy white mash. Sometimes it’s the texture, the skin is often much tougher than the inside even if it is yummy. Or maybe you just have a fussy eater and you’d rather save the tears and  just remove the peel than spend an hour arguing at the dinner table.

But don’t toss your potato peels in the trash.
Even if you normally feed them to your chickens or put them in the compost, you might want to consider trying some of these ideas first.

1. Make Quirky Crisps

Heat your oven to about 150 C / 330 F and line a baking tray with parchment or one of those fancy silicone mat things.

Toss your clean, dry potato peels (and any other veg peels you may have laying around, carrot, beet, sweet potato and parsnip just to name a few) in about tablespoon of oil (olive oil or coconut work well) and whatever seasonings you prefer. Salt, pepper, a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar, Cajun spice and taco seasoning are all good options but you can probably come up with lots more.

Spread your peels in a single layer on the tray and pop them in the oven for about 40 minutes or so until crisp. Keep an eye on them.

Let them cool on the tray a little before eating. They’re great for dips.

They’re usually best eaten within a few hours of baking, but you can keep them in an airtight container a few days and re-crisp them by popping back into the oven for a few minutes.

2. Use Them as Croutons

Prepare as above and crunch them up on top of soups or use them to pimp your salads.

3. Use them to Colour Greying hair

Now I haven’t tried this one, but know someone who swears by it. Apparently The starches in the vegetable act as a natural colourant They have been used as a dye alternative for fabrics for centuries, so it’s not surprising that they would darken greying hair. Just boil some water, add your peels to the pot and allow them to boil for at least 25 minutes. Strain and use to rinse your hair a few times a week. The trick, I’m told is consistency.

4. Potato Peels for Puffy Eyes

Using your leftover potato peelings, place the underside of them on each eye for around ten minutes. The enzyme ‘catecholase’ is in potatoes, which acts as a skin lightener – say goodbye to dark circles!

5. Use them to Clean Your wood Stove

I don’t know the science behind it and I wouldn’t recommend burning potato peels instead of cleaning the flue of your stove, but burning potato peels does seem to extend the time between cleaning.

6. Use Them to Remove Rust

It’s the inside part of the potato that does it, so you need peels with a bit of flesh still attached, but you just dip them into some bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and rub away. You might need to pop your peels into a mesh bag of some sort first, perhaps a good way to re-purpose one of those awful mesh fruit n veg bags.

7.Remove Mineral Spots from Your Glassware

If your dishwasher leaves mineral spots on your glassware, simply use the flesh side of a potato skin and rub the spots on your glass. This should remove any grime that’s been left behind.

So there’s seven ways to use your potato peels. If you know of any others or have tried any of the above ideas and can vouch for their success (or failure) feel free to leave a comment and let us know.




Scrap Stock – Homemade Vegetable Stock from your Vegetable Scraps

Homemade Vegetable Stock is seriously simple, super easy, only takes a little prep and is about as zero waste as you can get. Unlike store brought varieties you control the ingredients, so NO ADDED NASTIES (you know, those ingredients on the packaging that are either unpronounceable or just numbers) and if you use vegetable scraps it’s also FREE!

Just save those little bits of vegetables that you’d usually throw in the compost, like the end of the brown onion you chopped to make pasta sauce, the stalk you cut off your broccoli, your carrot or potato peelings (but only if they’ve been really well washed – you don’t want gritty dirt stock). Basically almost anything you would usually throw away. I keep a bag in the freezer and as I cook just add all these bits to it until I have what amounts to about 3/4 of a 20 Litre  pot full, but you don’t have to wait that long, use an amount to fit whatever pot size suits you.

From there vegetable stock is as simple as throwing vegetables into a pot, covering them with water, bringing it to the boil and letting it simmer away for a while (30 minutes will do it but about an hour is better). I like to chop and saute off some of my veg in a little olive oil before I add the water just to kick start the flavour process.

When your stock is done simply strain it and keep in the fridge or freezer. I like to make it up in big batches and freeze in lots 1 litre/ 4 cups (those big yoghurt tubs or washed out milk cartons are good for this, anything where the mouth of the container is as wide as or wider than its base). When I make soup or casseroles I simply take some out of the freezer, run the bottom of the container under water until the contents start to free up a little and slide it straight into my cooking pot or slow cooker.

I use the ends of onions, broccoli or cauliflower stalks, those bits of green onion that are too wilted for salad, the tough outer leaves of leeks, celery leaves and the white end bits of the stalks, carrot tops and peels.. the possibilities are almost endless. I do find that the best stock includes onion, carrot and celery.

If you’d prefer a vegetable broth (clear- ish soup) all you do is add seasoning while simmering, usually its a little salt and pepper but you could try anything, chili, curry, garlic or ginger can be nice.

The flavour of your stock (or broth) will depend greatly on what vegetables you choose to include. I’ve made a list below of a few that good and some that are not so good for stock and broth. Feel free to comment with any I’ve missed or something you’ve tried that tastes great, a method that worked really well (or even something that completely ruined your stock).



What Vegetable Scraps are  Good (and not-so-good) for Making Stock or Broth


Acorn and most other kinds of Squash – The peels are great for stock, but the flesh is too starchy and should be left out.

Asparagus- Good in very small quantities.

Basil- Good in very small quantities.

Bay leaves- 1 or 2 leaves per quart of liquid is a good amount.

Beet Greens- Good in small quantities.  You may want to add greens toward end of cooking as they break down quickly.

Beets- Beets can be added, but they will turn the stock a very dark color, which may not work well for some purposes, such as pumpkin soup. Don’t use the skins, they give your stock a funky flavour.

Bok Choy- Foods in the Brassica family, such as Bok Choy, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Broccoli- Foods in the Brassica family, such as broccoli, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Cabbage- Foods in the Brassica family, such as cabbage, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Capsicum (Bell or sweet peppers) – Okay in small quantities. I don’t use them much as the Imortal Chicken loves the seeds so they always go in the chook bucket.

Carrots- Excellent !

Carrot tops (leafy part)-  Use only in very small quantities. Too many make stock bitter.

Celery stalks – Excellent!

Celery leaves- While the outer leaves can make the stock bitter, a small amount of the inner leaves can be used with good results.

Chard – Good in very small quantities.

Chives- Good in small quantities.

Cilantro Leaves (aka Coriander to us Aussies) –  Too strong for broth/stock. I can’t stand them, tastes like soap but if you really want to use it, use a very small amount. A very little goes a long way. The seeds are a little different and in small quantities can be quite nice.

Collard Greens-  Another one in the Brassica family.Too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Corn- Corn doesn’t really add any flavour and will make the stock/broth cloudy.

Cucumber- Good in small quantities.

Dill – Good in very small quantities.

Eggplant – Good in small quantities.

Garlic- Excellent! But I love garlic so may be slightly biased.

Green beans- Good in small quantities.

Greens- Avoid bitter greens and members of the brassica family (kale, cabbage, Bok Choy).  Other greens can be used in small quantities.

Jerusalem artichokes- Good in small quantities.

Kohlrabi- Another Foods in the Brassica family.Avoid using it.

Leeks- Excellent!

Lettuce-  small quantities only. Most lettuce varieties don’t add much flavor to the stock/broth so is just a waste of real estate in your pot.

Marjoram- Good in very small quantities.

Mushrooms- I love them! Not technically a vegetable but Mushrooms add rich flavor to vegetable stock. Some studies suggest they can contribute to kidney stones and other health issues so maybe avoid them if you have any issues.

Napa Cabbage – Another from the  Brassica family so like cabbage can impart a bitter taste.

Okra – We don’t get it much here unless I happen to be at one of the city markets but Okra can add body to broth.  Use in small quantities to avoid overwhelming flavor.

Onions – I would class them as THE essential ingeredient so excellent for making stock/broth. If you don’t have any though, leek does almost as good a job.

Onion skins-  Onion skins add a lovely colourJust don’t add to many of them unless you want your stock to be really dark.

Oregano-  Like all the leafy herbs Good in small quantities.

Parsley –  Same as Oregano.

Parsnips- Good in small quantities.

Peas – Also good in small quantities.

Peaa Pods- Same as Peas

Peppers, Hot Peppers, Chillis- Not recommended for stock but a tiny little bit can be good in broth.


Potato peels-  Can be used in small quantities. Potato skins add an earthy, but slightly bitter taste. Too many can make the stock cloudy.  Be sure the peels are very clean, otherwise you’ll end up with stock that tastes like dirt.

Pumpkin-  Pumpkin is a little too starchy for good stock or broth.

Radish – I don’t really recommended them.

Romaine Lettuce –  Can be okay in small quantities.

Rosemary – Some people like the taste but some find it  a bit bitter, so you may want to use it with caution.

Rutabagas –  Another in the Brassica family..

Scallions- Excellent.

Shallots – Also Excellent.

Spinach-  Good in small quantities Add toward the end of cooking because it breaks down quickly and can make your stock murky looking.


Sweet Potatoes – Sweet Potatoes don’t add much flavor to stock or broth and some are too starchy for good stock or broth.

Thyme-  Very good in small quantities.

Tomatoes-  Excellent for making stock/broth. Don’t include too many tomato seeds as this can give a bitter flavour.

Turnips – Turnips are too strong for stock or broth. They tend to overpower any other flavours.

Turnip greens-  Ok in small quantities. Like other greens you may want to add greens toward end of cooking as they break down quickly.


Zucchini – Also good in small quantities.

Apple Scrap Vinegar

How to make Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) from your Apple Scraps.

Don’t throw out your apple cores. I know some people eat the whole apple, core and all, but most of us don’t. Our youngest daughter eats at least one apple per day, that’s seven apple cores a week either going to the immortal chicken (I’ll tell you that story another day) or to compost each week. We also use a lot of ACV. I use it as a hair rinse, in cooking, as a salad dressing and in household cleaning products among other things and if you’ve been to your local wholefood store, health shop or even just your local supermarket lately, you’ll know that stuff can be expensive.Especially if you like to buy the certified organic brands.

Originally I went looking for a place that retailed ACV in bulk and at least a little cheaper than I could buy it in glass bottles from my local supermarket. Imagine my delight when I found you could make your own and all you needed was already right there in my kitchen.

What you need:

Apple cores (about half a dozen and skins if you have them)


Chlorine Free water (if your tap water is chlorinated leave it sit out in the open air for a while for the chlorine to evaporate or if you can get it use rainwater).

A wide mouth glass jar that will hold about 1.5  litres of liquid ( you can use larger or smaller just adjust your quantities).

A piece of cotton cloth (a bit of old sheet, a hanky or napkin will do)

An elastic band or piece of string.

The Makings

Put your apple cores into your wide mouth jar.

Mix water and sugar at ratio of 1 teaspoon sugar for every 1 cup of water. Make enough to fill the jar. I like to use warm water and mix until the sugar is dissolved, but its probably not a necessity.

Pour the water sugar mix into the jar all the way to the top.Make sure all your apple bits are submerged (or they’ll go mouldy).

Cover the mouth of the jar with your piece of cotton and secure with an elastic band or string.

Stick it in the back of your cupboard for about 3 weeks to ferment. You’ll know its ready when it begins to smell acidic and well, like vinegar. You can use it as is or leave it another week or two and it’ll have a stronger flavour.

Strain into a bottle, put the lid on and set aside for a few days to settle. You might want to open the lid every day or so for the next week to “burp” the bottle, just in case it hasn’t quite done fermenting. A vinegar explosion in your cupboard might not be pretty.


You can give it a stir every few days if you like, but I usually forget.

You’ll know its ready when it smells really acidic,if it really smells like rotten apples, chuck it and start again.

Surprisingly, you’ll probably have to put your nose fairly close to the cloth “lid” to smell it. The first time I made a batch I was worried it’d stink out the cupboard because you need to leave the jar open (the little microbes in the water and apples need to react with oxygen- thats why you don’t use chlorinated water, it kills all the little microbes that make the vinegar), covering it with the cloth stops dirt, bugs or rodents getting in the jar.

If you get a white gungy looking thing floating about in the jar before you strain it, hang onto it. It’s called the “mother” and will help speed up the process if you add it to the next batch you make. You can either pop it in with your strained ACV or put it in a separate little jar of its own. I usually start the new batch fermenting as soon as I strain of the ACV, so just transfer it into that one.

Keep your apple cores in the fridge or freezer until you have enough. I keep an old bread bag in the freezer that I throw the cores into as soon as I’ve cut up the apple.

Banana Bread For Fresh or Frozen Bananas – Recipe

We love bananas but they can get rather expensive here when all seven of us are home and consuming them, so I tend to buy them in bulk when they’re “on special”. I freeze a few when the peels are still yellow and we eat them right up until they get a bit spotty (they’re much sweeter that way), but occasionally one or two will make it to that little bit past their “Best By” date, even by our standards. Fortunately this Banana Bread recipe works best with REALLY REALLY RIPE BANANAS. If you don’t have time to make it straight away, just pop your over-ripe bananas straight into the freezer with the skin on. No need to plastic wrap them or put them in a container.

When you want to use them simply leave them on the bench to thaw until the skin peels off (usually about an hour depending on the weather), throw the skins in the compost or straight on the garden and use for baking as you would fresh bananas.

This is a great recipe to make with younger children as it doesn’t require a mixer. It gets bonus points because if you use thawed frozen or over-ripe bananas they’re easy for little people to mash all by themselves.

I’ve included a few ideas for variations on the original recipe that I’ve tested on the  guinea pigs (aka: the family) in the ingredients list as well.



2 Bowls

1 Greased Loaf Tin ( approximately 8 & 1/2 x 4 inches  or an average bread pan – I grease mine with Olive Oil but you could use Butter or even Baking Paper if you wanted).

Wooden Spoon

Skewer or long Toothpick

Cooling Rack


1 & 3/4 cups Plain Wholemeal Flour

1 cup Very Ripe Mashed Banana (about 2 medium sized bananas – the riper the better)

1 Egg (lightly beaten).

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda

1/4 cup Light Olive Oil

1/2 cup Rice Malt Syrup

3/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract or Essence

1/2 cup chopped Walnuts or Pecans (these are optional).


Replace Mashed Banana with Mashed Pumpkin or Mashed Sweet Potato. Replace chopped nuts with dark Choc Chips or Cacao Nibs. Replace Rice Malt Syrup with Honey or Maple Syrup. Substitute any other lightly flavoured oil for Light Olive Oil.

The Makings:

Turn your oven on and set it to 350F.

Combine the dry ingredients, including nuts if you are using them.

Combine the wet ingredients separately before stirring into your dry ingredients.

Stir with a wooden spoon until combined into a thick batter.

Pour into prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. To test if its baked insert along toothpick or skewer, its done when the skewer comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

This Banana Bread cuts easier and more cleanly if you let it cool completely before cutting, but who can wait right.