A mom of nine from Australia shares how she manages to feed her family for AU$3.60 (approx. US$2.60) per head a day.
Claire Louise Hooker, 35, has revealed how she sticks to a tight budget of AU$1,200 (approx. US$860) each month to feed her family of 11.
The stay-at-home mom, from rural Canberra, New South Wales, bulk buys food to feed her brood and has figured out how to make evening meals for as little as AU$20 (approx. US$14).
Hooker, a home-school teacher and blogger, and her husband, Mark, 39, a civil service worker, travel nearly 29 miles (47 km) each shopping trip, due to the lack of shops in the area.
The couple, who are originally from Kent, England, are proud parents to nine children: Georgina, 13; Charlotte, 12; Franchesca, 10; Abigail, 9; twins Catherine and Elizabeth, 8; Rose, 7; Martina, 5; and Michael, 3.
“The budgets can go up and down when you consider birthdays, as they run from October to May, but for food, we always try and stick to $1,200 a month,” Hooker said.
“We have to bulk buy a lot of items like bread, and raw meats including chicken and beef, as we tend to stick to a fortnightly shopping trip, so everything gets stored in my two fridge freezers and two pantries.
Hooker said roast dinners and slow cooker meals always go a long way and are “some of the cheapest budget meals” to make.
“We can get two large chickens for $6 [US$4.30] each, then all of the vegetables and other condiments totaling at $19.50 [US$14] altogether for a Sunday Dinner for 11,” she said. “We sometimes even have leftovers.”
Mealtimes are quick and easy in the Hooker household, with everyone helping to prepare, cook, and do the dishes.
“All of the kids chip in to help make meals throughout the day, so mealtimes and preparation usually takes less than an hour at a time,” she said.
“Breakfasts alternate between cereals like Weetabix, which we can get a few boxes of each month for $10 [US$7], or they’ll have a fruit salad.”
Hooker added: “We get plenty of fruit, from oranges, pears, bananas, and mangoes, or whatever is in season that month, for about $40 [US$28] a fortnight.
“Sometimes they’ll have toast which is about $1.29 [US$0.90] a loaf, we get about 28 each fortnight, or pancakes too. We actually have our own chickens, so if they want eggs for breakfast, they’re free.
“Lunch is usually something quick like cheese or ham sandwiches and some fruit, which comes to about $10 for everyone, we all eat together and discuss the school day.”
Hooker said that their family dinner times usually consist of slow-cooked meals, or they plan big family portion-sized meals like a lasagna for AU$8.49 (approx. US$6.20), or spaghetti Bolognese, which is about AU$5 (approx. US$3.60) for a big pack of mince, and a pack of dry spaghetti for about AU$0.57 (approx. US$0.40).
She revealed that she has found the best slow-cooker meals to cook, including pasta bakes and curries, as well as meat-heavy dishes like stews.
“Sometimes we’ll do taco Tuesdays to mix things up a bit,” she said. “Or we’ll go out for a monthly meal which is about $150 [US$107] for all of us, but we don’t tend to put that in the budget.”
The family find some of their best bargains through reduced food items that can be frozen, as well as shopping at budget supermarkets. Not only is Hooker frugal with her shopping habits, but she also sticks to a tight budget during the holiday season, as well as planning days out as cheaply as possible.
“We try to go to the beach as much as possible, which is a fun day out for all of us, and is completely free to do,” she said.
“The town we live in has lots of play areas for the kids to enjoy, and during the summer we set up a bouncy castle or waterslides for them to enjoy.
“We put an extra $1,000[(US$710] aside for Christmas, and budget $50 [US$35] for each child’s birthday, unless it’s a milestone birthday when they get given a little more.”