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25 April 2012

The slow and mindful grocery challenge - part 2

Today is Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand - a day of commemoration for all those who gave their lives in the defence of our countries.


We started our 50 percent reduction in meat consumption last Thursday and yesterday - Tuesday - was the first day we've eaten meat. We'll eat vegetarian today, we have visitors tomorrow, so I'll use a shoulder of lamb as a roast, and we'll go back to vegetarian again later in the week. Meat is SO expensive now, I'm pleased we like eating this way because not only does it cost less, it lessens our footprint as well.

I was at the neighbourhood centre all day yesterday and did some grocery shopping on the way home. I spent $63.25 altogether, buying a few things we need now, and a few things for the stockpile. I am pretty sure that if I put aside $30 for the next two weeks, to buy fresh milk, butter and fruit, that will see us nicely looked after. I thought I'd spend more than $85 a week but I doubt that now. I think it will be less. We'll have to wait and see but I know I won't have to increase it.

Tomorrow I'll do up a meal plan for the rest of the month and into the first week of May. My sister is coming to visit so there'll be three of us here but that won't impact on the budget because we'll be eating from the backyard, stockpile and freezer. I plan on making some pea and ham soup while Tricia's here, she loves it, we do too, and it will do all of us for a few days without mucking about. I'll make a nice dessert each day for variety and I'm pretty sure we'll all be well satisfied with that.

That's the great benefit of stockpiling - that ability to feed more people, to go for a couple of weeks without shopping and to be a bit more creative when you cook. If you get sick, or the main breadwinner does, there is no greater friend than the stockpile. 

I made a whole orange cake last weekend and that is almost gone now, so today I'll make up a batch of quick and easy biscuits - I have a cup of pecans in the fridge that I want to use, and some flaked coconut, so I'll use those ingredients to fancy the biscuits up a bit. And then we'll be set. We'll have the biscuits for our morning tea treat, I'll bake bread every day and make up a non-meat main meal most days and we'll happily sail into May with smiles.

CHEAP AND EASY BISCUITS - this is the same recipe as the CWA's Five Dozen Biscuits, it makes about 80 biscuits

Bake for 10 minutes at 180C/360F
  • 500 grams/1 lb butter 
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 cups self-raising flour 
  • Plus any toppings you like - nuts, coconut, choc chip etc.
Cream the butter and sugar, add condensed milk, mix and stir in flour. Roll the dough and divide up into two if you want to freeze half the dough for later. Mix in the nuts or whatever you're going to use, divide into into balls and flatten, or place a thumbprint to add jam for jam drops.

When golden brown, cook on racks.

To make the equivalent of a tin of condensed milk:
  • 1/3 cup hot water 
  • 2/3 cup sugar 
  • 1 cup powdered milk - this can be full cream or skim milk 
  • 3 tablespoons butter 
Melt the sugar in the hot water, then put all your ingredients into a food processor or blender. Mix slowly at first until everything is combined, then use high speed until everything is smooth.

For jadeleaf who asked the other day. This makes enough for two, you can easily double the recipe.

1 egg
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)
1 heaped tablespoon sugar
1½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a saucepan, whisk together the egg, cornflour, sugar, vanilla and ½ cup milk until thoroughly combined and smooth. Add the rest of the milk and put it on the stove to heat up. Bring to the boil while stirring - this will burn if you don't stir it. Turn the heat down when it's getting hotter and once it's boiled, stir for another minute and it's done. It will thicken up more as it cools down. You can keep it in the fridge, covered, for two days.

I'm not finished my grocery challenge yet - I have some menu planning and tweaking to do - but I'm really pleased I took it on.  I thought we might have to increase what we spend and now I know we don't have to do that. Now I can concentrate on inventing some new simple recipes for us, using the stockpile as my shop. The vegetable garden is becoming more productive every day, the girls are producing a lot of eggs so it looks like there will be smiles at the dinner table here.

How are you going with your challenge?  ♥


  1. Good morning!
    Love that you showed your list. I struggle with planning what we'll eat ahead of time.
    I am so pleased to see your custard recipe! I am curious though if you can recommend a substitute for cornstarch? I have a terrible sensitivity to it and have pretty much just eliminated any recipe that calls for it. Would love your wisdom on this!
    Thanks so much and have a wonderful day!

  2. I did my first grocery shopping since returning from vacation. Seemed prices had gone up considerably for EVERYthing. I exited the store with very little - primarily some fruit that was the "special" this week (Canteloupe and kiwi).

    I wait for sales for such things as peanut butter ("sky high" right now), coffee, brown rice, cheeses, etc.) I found the price of canned diced tomatoes and dark and light red beans high, too. I didn't buy a can of evaporated milk that I thought I needed since it was $1 for a can. I see your recipe for condensed sweetened milk...I'm sure I'll find one to replace the evaporated milk that I skipped at the store...

  3. Your timing of this challange is right on target with what my husband and I are doing. We both have gallbladder issues and last month he had a fullout attack and ended up in the emergency room. So I started a few weeks ago using less meat (he loves meat) to cut down on saturated fat. Because he's such a meat lover we still have meat at most meals...but half the amount as before so my meat budget is actually cut in half by doing it this way...for example when I cooked a package of 5 Italian turkey sausages we eat three and freeze the other two for soup or spaghetti sauce. Tonight we're having a veggie stir fry and rice and I'll use 1 boneless chicken breast instead of the usual two. Thankfully hubby is satisfied with this. Also I made the best peanutbutter/choc chip muffins today for our "sweet" snacks. Love,love,love your blog!

    Thank you,


  4. We had a bit of a grocery blow out in January (for various reasons) so we started our own grocery audit in February. We eat meat every second day or less and what we do eat is bought in bulk from a wholesaler which is much cheaper than the supermarket. We are also starting to eat more roo (which is no longer the cheap meat it used to be now that it's 'fashionable') but it's high in iron apparently, which is what I need at the moment. We're eating more beans and I'm really enjoying trying new bean recipes. Even DH (who is a steak kind of man) said the vego nachos we had could not have tasted better with meat :).

  5. Alex, I noticed you live in the US so I'm not sure of the products you'd have available there. Here in Australia we have two types of cornstarch - one made with corn, and other made with wheat. Could you try the wheat one if you have it there?
    If you don't have wheaten cornstarch, substitute regular plain flour, but you'll have to do it a little differently. Start by melting a tablespoon of butter and mixing in a tablespoon of plain flour in a saucepan over heat. In a bowl, mix the egg and milk together, then combine all of it, with the vanilla, and start stirring till it thickens. I hope that helps.

  6. Howdy from Texas! I love your posts and do many of the same things as you. I just finished making the custard, and NOW see that I possibly should have used something different than our regular cornstarch. Oh well - let me tell you - i tastes just fine! I plan to eat some with fresh strawberries this evening!

    Again - thanks for sharing your life w/all of us

  7. Hello Rhonda. I want to try your recipe for condensed milk but I have what may be a stupid question: does it take one cup of milk made from milk powder, or one cup of milk powder? Also, I just finished your book at it was everything I hoped for. I will treasure it and dip into it regularly for inspiration.

  8. anon, it's just one cup of milk powder. You don't make it into milk, just use the powder in with the other ingredients. :- ) BTW, the only stupid question is the one you don't ask.

  9. Might I suggest arrow root for a substitute of the cornstarch?

  10. Thank you. So simple. But then, the best things in life usually are x

  11. Chicken barley chili had for dinner tonight! A wee bit of chicken with loads of beans, corn,tomatoes, and barley. Also accompanied by zucchini bread made from last summer's garden. : ) Yum! Thanks for the great ideas! Angela

  12. Patricia, arrowroot! Yes, arrowroot would be the best substitute for cornflour. I'd forgotten about that. Thanks Patricia.

  13. Hi Rhonda,
    Thank you for this series on food costs. I've just had a baby and am looking for ways to reduce our expenses whilst I'm on maternity leave. I'd like to try your recipe but I was wondering How big the can of condensed milk is? Here in the uk it comes in two sizes.

    Thank you!


  14. A superb substitute for cornstarch is kuzu. It's a thickener traditionally used in Japan and has amazing medicinal properties. It is one of the most alkilinizing foods on the planet, and strengthens the intestines. It can be used to stop diarrhea,especially in children, and is also good to prevent colds coming on. A good macrobiotic website can tell you more!

    Rhonda,I'm inspired by your grocery challenge. My (slim) children eat so much that I really have to be very conscious of what we spend on to keep everyone healthy but not starving without blowing the budget. Your mention of shopping from the pantry reminded me that we have 500g of organic popcorn in the cupboard, and that maybe I could use up lots of odds and ends in my baking.

    Consciousness is vital!

    Have a great day, Madeleine

  15. Sarah, I haven't used a can of milk for a long time and I forget the size here. It would be between 350 and 400 grams. Maybe one of the other ladies will know.

  16. Rhonda, Also love your writings and there is not one day I cant use something from what you have written. We have for over 23 years used powdered skim milk. I cook everything with it. Even my custards and cakes. Its the best money spinner 10 litres of milk for $5.99 at Aldi. When we are just the two I only make up 1 litre [more for the crowd. Also thanks for todays custard receipe, will add that one to the list.
    cheers Mary-anne

  17. Melissa-
    Could you explain what roo is?

  18. Hi Rhonda,
    I'm really enjoying this and although we eat meat almost once a day I have cut the portion size so the big fellow doesn't fell too deprived. Would it be possible to give us a quick run down on how you make your potato and celery soup. I was unable to find the recipe in previous posts. We just lit our fire for the first time this year and I get such a kick out of having a pot of soup or a nice stew simmering away on top. It feels so homely.
    Cold and very windy down here on the south coast of NSW today.
    Blessings gail

  19. Firstly thank you for the mention of our Anzac Day that means a lot to a true blue Ozzie. Love reading your blog going to make some potato and pumpkin soup today getting ready for winter (defrosted our freezers last week). Must do some baking soon also to use up some supplies in our pantry. Have a nice day. Jodie

  20. Like the look of your little biscuits, I may try them...


  21. Your meal plan looks like our menu when I was a kid - a sunday roast, and meatless or with leftover meat for the rest of the week. Now that our sons have moved out, we eat very much the same way again. We have a very good family butcher here, where I buy all my meat, and when I turn up during the week, he asks who is coming to visit!

  22. Hi Rhonda I have made your whole orangee cake a few time and had to smile that the one you made on the weekend is still being eaten. In my home it is devoured within a couple of hours!

  23. This year due to some health issues for us both we will not have much of a garden. It does seem odd not planting much out. Since we have things we have canned and dried from past gardens stocked we should ride through this just fine though. I keep a used old accordion type file I stash recipe ideas in and have been looking through it for new ideas. I am always on the lookout for recipes using the fruits and veggies we grow in different ways. I was surprised too to find few meat recipes saved. Good! I don't need many any more!! :) One of the best things I have inherited are my mothers recipes. Good basic home cooking. Not stuff out of a box. I have started compelling a box of recipe cards of our Grandchildren's favorite foods we cook etc for them to have. They all know how to cook and love doing it. I have always at least halved the meat allowance in recipes and upped the veggies and no one knew the difference. I use one Italian sausage as the only meat in the sauce for lasagna and use home dried eggplant slices instead of the noodles most times. Put the still dried eggplant slices on top of a bit of the sauce in the bottom of the casserole then add sauce on top and on with the layering. When the lasagna is cooked the eggplant will absorb enough of the sauce to pulp it up just right for eating. You can do one layer of lasagna noodles and only one of eggplant or all eggplant. Dried eggplant reconstituted can be cooked just like fresh too. Oh thanks so much for the custard recipe!! :) Sarah

  24. Ha! Wendy. It's a delicious cake alright. H and I need to exercise a bit of restraint though. ;- )

  25. Hi Rhonda,
    Just popping by again to let you know your custard recipe is a winner. I had 2 sad looking pears in my fruit bowl and lots of choko in the fridge so I cheated and added 2 choko to the pears and stewed them , no sugar needed. Into the sweet dishes they went covered with your delicious custard. The big fellow wanted to know why the custard wasn't bright yellow. "it's Rhonda's recipe and it's cooked from scratch, no packet mix" "Tastes pretty good" he said. He doesn't know I used the chokos to bulk up the pears. I know they used to do that during the war years and also during the depression. Thanks so much for the help and information you share with us.
    Blessings Gail

  26. Love your blog. I started doing theses sorts of economic/cost saving strategies some years ago when I was divorced and living on very low income. Locating factory outlets for meat , chicken, veggies etc. Using bi-carb, vinegar and bleach for cleaning, saving heaps on all those commercial cleaning products. Wring every last cent out of my meager income.
    It worked: I bought a unit and supported a young child on a very low income.
    I love that old adage "waste not, want not"! Never a truer word was spoken.
    Keep up the great work.

  27. I made pea and ham soup tonight and with my husband away on business that will feed me and the 3 kids for 3 nights. I also made your bread in the breadmaker :). I have never thought of making my own condensed milk so thank you for the recipe!!

  28. Thanks for the recipes...please share all of those, especially vegetarian that you can. We are finding we need to be eating less meat. No plan to totally NOT, but we are cutting way back too.
    Elizabeth in NC

  29. Custard update: Rhonda - I wanted to let you know that using USA conventional cornstarch works just fine! Next time I'll use the arrowroot, but hubby & I thought it was very yummy. In fact it was so yummy, I blogged about it and linked back to you


  30. Made Anzac cookies this Sunday.
    My kids fell instantly in love with them and their story and so now I make them almost every weekend since, via your help, I found the recipe on the forum.
    Always makes me warm inside knowing the wonderful motherly intention that first gave birth to them. It makes me feel like I am looking out for my young ones when I pack their lunch boxes with these edible tokens of love.
    I have a nephew who travels frequently to represent our National Water Polo side and he always requests them as essential provisions for his trips abroad.
    Although I have no connection to Australia or New Zealand and although I am on the other side of the world, these humble cookies have somehow found a place in my home and heart.
    They remind me of my beloved grandfather who served in World War 2 and who thankfully returned to be a part of my life.
    They remind me of the stories my folks told us of growing up as young kids during this time and how their own parents coped in order to survive. This is the root of my self-sufficiency journey and every time I make them I feel thankful for all that I have.
    They remind me of the indomitable strength of my grandmothers.
    They remind me that even at the worst times, someone out there is thinking of you.

    And so I offer my blessings.
    In memory of all who served and all who loved them. In memory of love.

    Trinidad & Tobago

  31. Hi Rhonda,
    I cleaned out my kitchen today.. Put everything in one pantry so I will know what I have. I also have been doing a little freezer cooking this week using what I have and posting about it on my blog. My goal is to use what I first during may and buying only what I need.
    Have a wonderful ay.

  32. Hi Rhonda,
    Well here on P.E.I. Canada they just released the provincial budget and we always had PST and GST tax. It will change as of April 2013 to HST. So before there were no taxes on food but I understand now there will be 14 percent tax on food. That will make a big change in our grocery bill. So now more then ever we need to find ways to lower our grocery bill.I think I should start to add fruit tress to our garden. And I have been wanting to get some chooks.
    Love your blog!

  33. I've been experimenting with some bean recipes and will continue to work on that; I'm also thinking about cooking some beans and/or lentils in advance and freezing them so that I can add a cup here or a cup there to whatever I'm cooking (there are only the two of us and my SO doesn't eat at home that much, so I'd never get through a pot of beans in a reasonable time by myself).

    Our local CSA will be starting up next week (YAY!), so we'll be getting lots of fresh, organic veg. I haven't had much enthusiasm lately for the late winter crops that are here now, but the new spring veg should get me excited about cooking healthy again.

  34. Alex and others,
    A substitute for cornstarch is Arrowroot powder. It is much more expensive than cornstarch but does a great job and is considered to be allergen free. You can use it the same, measure for measure or just slightly less of the arrowroot -- you'll have to adjust it for your own preferences of thickness.

  35. Dear Rhonda and others -
    Thank you so much for the cornstarch substitute advice! That is SO helpful! I will pick up arrow root powder! Yay!
    Rhonda your recipes have been such a blessing because they call for REAL ingredients! Thank you so much for sharing your recipes! (my husband and kids do too - they have become favorites and will be long held traditions in our family!)
    Many blessings to you!

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