Frugal and fabulous: how to have a cheap week and not go hungry

Last week I looked in my cupboards and realised I had quite a lot of completely fine food sitting around. Food that had been on the shelf for quite some time and probably needed to be used up.

It wasn’t like it there was anything really disturbing, Not like the last time I had a big pantry clean out. Back then I found two cans of hotdogs (GROSS) that my dad had given me in a Christmas hamper about 9 years ago and some smoked oysters in a scary looking banged up tin from Kazacstainia from fuckknowswhen. Plus some other stuff I can’t even talk about.


Those food items are completely unappealing to me, I can’t believe I kept them. but I hate waste and I think I was hoping for just the right opportunity to use them. Clearly that moment never arrived.

Anyway, this coincided with us blowing out the budget a bit this month due to the unforseen need to throw a massive bash for the six year olds birthday. Plus a few other things cropped up.

So I thought to myself “Righto then, here we go, personal challenge time.” I decided to give us a week of frugal living.

Our household is two adults and two young boys. We normally spend approximately $200 on food per week. This week I allocated a budget of $50 from the household kitty, plus husby and I have an allowance of $50 each for milk, coffee etc per week which I thought could be used for emergency runs to the IGA for milk.

It was tough to stick to the budget but I actually enjoyed focussing on clearing some food out of the fridge and just not buying a single item we didn’t need.

And you know I am also very aware that even talking about this makes me sound like a total wanker. Many families are forced to live like this, and much worse, all the time. I think it’s not a bad thing to take a minute every now and again, appreciate what you have and to make an effort cut excess and live a bit more simply.

Here’s my top frugal and fabulous tip and how to have a cheap week without going hungry:


Go through everything and work out what needs using up. Half a jar of sundried tomatoes? A tub of miso? Anchovies? A heap of zucchini? Frozen gnocchi? It’s probably going to go off soon so what are you waiting for. What are you waiting for? Get it down your gullet!


Once you know what you have, look at recipe books or online to see what meals you can make. Write down the meals and stick to the menu. Set aside an afternoon and see if you can do some preparation in advance. Here’s some of the stuff I had, which I turned into meals:

– a heap of potatoes = a simple indian vegetarian curry
– a packet of spaghetti + lemon = creamy mushroom pasta with spinach
– two tins of chickpeas + mint from the garden = veggie burgers (these actually tasted like arse but I couldn’t waste them, luckily the breadrolls I had baked were awesome and a delightful vessel to disguise and ferry them into my gob)
– dates + oranges = muffins
– end of a pack of gluten free breadcrumbs + polenta = coating for chicken nuggets
– cabbage + apple + red onion = coleslaw

Frugal Food


Where possible make some bigger meals to use as leftovers for lunches or a second dinner.


There’s always flour, sugar, spices and dried or fresh fruit in my house. This means that baking is a doddle and a great option for frugal-week lunches. I also love making breads and usually keep a big bag of unbleached bakers flour or spelt flour on hand, so of course that needed to be on the menu.


I decided I would just use up as much stuff in the crisper of the fridge in preparation for my fruit and veg box delivery which comes on Thursdays. Therefore our snacks ended up including carrot, watermelon, cucumber, oranges, apples, celery. I know that doesn’t sound like rocket science and we generally have a pretty healthy wholefood diet anyway, but it was good to really focus on finding creative ways to include fruit & veg in our lunchboxes. I’ve also been watching a show about spices on SBS and I’ve been sprinkling oranges with cloves, apple with nutmeg, strawberries with pepper. Mega yum!


One meal I always struggle a bit with the kids is breakfast. Our two children are polar opposites in all things and have very different hunger levels at breakfast and never want to eat the same thing. It’s not really our best mealtime as a family. This week I just made sure I thought about a few options for brekky that would definitely work. This meant that I needed to buy eggs and bacon from my $50 allowance, as well as yoghurt so I could make smoothies. Otherwise we have cereal and toast with fruit, and that is fine for backup. Plus I made a second batch of orange muffins as I always seem to have oranges lying around.


Only go when you really really need to. I spent $40 on the Tuesday on some basics, seriously it was a teensy shop.


But we were able to get through on that without shopping again. We’ve bought a few loaves of bread, some apples and bananas and a 3 litre of milk in addition.


I was shocked at how hard it was to stick to $50 budget. I suppose that sounds stupid but I thought with everything in the house that would be ok. And I didn’t really stick to it anyway because I have a $25 fruit and veg box that comes every week that I hadn’t accounted for that expense as it’s a regular payment that comes out of our bank account.

I was also made aware of how healthy we were in some ways, but heaps more unhealthy in others. We ate a lot more pasta, rice and bread than we would normally. Seafood, meat and deli items are bloody expensive and were off the menu this week.

I’ve been reminded how lucky we are to be on decent wages and to be able to buy whatever food we like, whenever we like. On a weekly basis we have an abundance of fruit and veg, plus prawns or salmon, plus steak or lamb. And some treats from the deli or organic grocer. We are very fortunate to be in this position and to be able to make choices about our food. This week I am giving thanks for all of that!

Do you do frugal weeks? What’s your approach?

Written By

Gillian is a marketing savant and brand strategist with over 20 years of experience in above and below the line marketing, digital strategy and creative direction. She is an exceptional people person who loves to collaborate with clients every step of the way to achieve the best possible outcome. Gillian is also a successful makeup-artist and make-up obsessive who loves to share her tricks of the trade and help women to look good and feel great.


  • Love it! We accumulate so much food but don’t utilise it all.
    I meal plan and shop fortnightly, and once every four to six weeks I try to meal plan solely from what we have on hand and only buy eggs, milk and bread. We are lucky we don’t need to think about these things, but I genuinely enjoy doing it. We waste less food, time and money now! Great post

  • Yes, it’s a great thing to do from time to time. I love to run things down before our (frequent) travels and it does require some creativity and planning. I start with the fresh stuff, including from the garden and plan from there, adding frozen meat etc. plus a few back up cans of staples (no hotdogs here though). Home made pizza can be a great one depending on what you have on hand.

  • Get in the habit of shopping at Aldi … a lot of their items are HALF the price of the majors. I’m constantly surprised how inexpensive a bag full of their groceries are, and have totally fallen in love with a lot of their grocery lines

  • love this! thanks gillian! … because I hate waist!
    yes we’ve had an over the top expensive week too!
    so said to mr m we are not going to the shops!
    I can always find something! i’m queen of it!
    my best cooking comes from me finding little hidden delights ( not mould though!)
    and throwing them together!
    wing it for spontaneity! it’s how I like to do most things must admit!
    love m:)X

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