Penina Petersen created the Dollar Dinners series.
Penina Petersen created the Dollar Dinners series.

Mum’s hack: How to save $1700 before Christmas

A MONEY blogger who feeds her family on just $42 a week says Aussie families could be "eating their way to a free Christmas" between now and December 25.

Penina Petersen, creator of the popular Dollar Dinners cookbooks and website, uses bulk cooking to make a month's worth of meals in advance, drastically cutting down on cost.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, a couple with two children typically spends a minimum of $200 a week on food. With 11 weeks to go until Christmas, cutting that down to $42 would mean saving $1738 between now and then.

"Everyone is coming up for air in January. I'm just trying to get people thinking before Christmas hits," Ms Petersen said.

The average holiday spend in 2016 was $955. One in three Aussies entered February last year with post-Christmas debt of an estimated $1666 per credit card and a total interest bill of $397 million, according to Finder.com.au.

Ms Petersen, who has relaunched her website with new family, vegan and Asian-themed versions of her meal plan, said some people in her Facebook group had started cooking two months ahead.

Ms Petersen says Aussies could save more than $1700 before Christmas.
Ms Petersen says Aussies could save more than $1700 before Christmas.

 

She feeds her family on $42 a week.
She feeds her family on $42 a week.

 

The bulk cooking plan covers a month’s worth of meals at a time.
The bulk cooking plan covers a month’s worth of meals at a time.

"Cooking ahead of time absolutely de-stresses people," she said.

"Around Christmas mothers lose the plot. As much as we love it, it's hellish. There are so many events to go to and think about - they find it quite stressful. Not having to think about dinner as Christmas approaches helps."

Ms Petersen said she had revised her meal plan to have a greater focus on buying food from greengrocers and markets, after seeing the lack of action from supermarkets on reducing plastic waste despite the plastic bag ban.

"This new book reduces plastic packaging drastically to the point where people can avoid going to the supermarket," she said.

"I spent two months going to the markets, saving 20 per cent, maybe more. My local fruit and veg guy is really cheaper than the supermarket. He's cheaper than Aldi."

When she does go to the supermarket, she buys as much as she can in one trip to avoid temptation.

"I'll buy the long-life milk so I don't have to go back. If I pick up bread for $1.50 I'll buy eight loaves," she said.

"The marketing is so strong it's almost impossible to go to the supermarket and not overspend. That's fine, they provide a good service. I'm not anti-supermarket, but I do find they're taking advantage of time-poor consumers."

PENINA'S NINE COOKING TIPS

1. Shop from your pantry first.

2. Use up leftovers.

3. Shop less, shop with a list, shop strategically and avoid the associated costs of shopping, avoid buying more (due to heavy supermarket marketing).

4. Get home (or shop online) and go straight into cooking.

5. Cook five weeks' worth of dinners and use up all leftovers.

6. Skip entire grocery shopping weeks.

7. Use local suppliers for weekly food top-ups. Avoid supermarkets between bulk cooking sessions.

8. Eat and cook fresh on Friday and Saturday nights. Eat fresh when you have time.

9. Relax and enjoy more time (and money) out of the kitchen. Eat freezer meals when you are time-poor.


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