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Save money and lose weight: the ultimate food hack

Summer style guide

Let’s face it: most people these days find themselves wanting to save money and lose weight. Unfortunately, those two thoughts often seem at odds with each other. Eating better can come with a hefty price tag, when specialty products and obscure (and expensive) vegetables are touted as “the” way to shed kilos. Not only that, but it can be very confusing trying to work out what foods are actually good for you! It seems to involve a lot of science and mathematics as you scrutinize labels, add up calories, balance those figures against other nutritional factors…. all while standing in the supermarket aisle, with a definite sense that you’re wasting precious time that could be better spent elsewhere.

I’m not a scientist. I’m not a financial guru. I’m just a gal, looking to use some common sense to get back to the simpler things in life. And I reckon I’ve about figured this out. Read on, and see if you agree.

Snacks are more important than meals

Woah! Did I really just say that? Why yes, yes I did. And I’ll say it again: snacks are more important than meals. Think about it for a moment – what do you usually eat at meal times? Breakfast might be a bowl of cereal or some toast. Lunch could be a sandwich/wrap or a salad; and dinner basically boils down to carbs (usually rice or wheat-based), meat, and some vegetables. Sure, we can tweak things, we can make healthier and/or cheaper choices for those meals.

But take a look at what you eat in between meals. If you are prone to nibbling on chocolate, sweet or savoury biscuits, muesli bars, liquid breakfast replacements, or any of the weird and wonderful array of packaged snacks available to us these days, then you may be overspending and overeating.

Packaged snacks will usually contain excess amounts of salt, sugar and highly refined ingredients such as white flour, and can cost hundreds of times more per gram than fresh foods like fruit and vegetables, or even the ingredients you would need to make those snacks at home. For example, let’s have a look at a muesli bar that I rather enjoyed, before learning to check labels – the Uncle Toby’s chewy choc chip bar. (This is the new and improved “healthier” version, with reduced fat, salt and sugar)

Uncle Tobys

UT2.png
Images taken from https://www.uncletobys.com.au/products/snacks/muesli-bars

Did you spot how many times sugar is added, in different forms? I’ve counted 7, including glucose, glycerin, invert sugar and honey. Overall the percentage of sugar (17.2% or 17.2 grams per 100 grams) is a little over the Australian Government recommendation of 15% (or 15 grams per 100 grams). Fat is 1.5 grams more than the recommended 10 grams per 100, although it is low in saturated fat.

Even the new and improved “healthier” bar still has more than the recommended amounts of sugar and fat. Now consider the snacks you eat which don’t even try to be healthy.

Mars 1

Mars 2.png
Images taken from http://www.marschocolate.com.au/products/mars/mars-bar/

The 53 gram bar is the one you’ll find in the confectionery aisle at Woolworths or Coles in the standard pack. Immediately you can see that the first two ingredients are sugar; barley malt extract is also a form of sugar. The total for just one bar is 30.6 grams, nearly 60% of the whole item! Remember that the recommended sugar level is 15% or less. Fat accounts for more than a quarter of the bar, and nearly half of that is saturated fat.

Now let’s take a look at a natural snack option – the humble banana. Conveniently wrapped, easy to peel, hard to make a mess with, a banana is a pretty good go-to, and just look at these stats:

bananafacts

A banana has no fat, and comes in well under the recommended 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams. It also contains fibre and important vitamins and minerals. Clearly it has a lot more going for it than the muesli bar or the chocolate. But what about price?

Coles sells the Uncle Toby’s chewy choc chip muesli bars 6 for $4.39, or $2.37 per 100 grams.

Woolworths sells the 53 gram Mars Bar for $2, or $3.77 per 100 grams.

Over summer, banana prices averaged $3/kg, or 30 cents per 100 grams.

No contest!!

Make your snacks and eat them, too

So let’s suppose you didn’t want to just eat healthy, natural foods like fruit, nuts and seeds. What do you eat to satisfy those sweet cravings? If packaged snacks are unhealthy and ludicrously expensive, and you’re looking for something tasty to grab on the go, what options are available?

Your best bet is to set aside a little time each week – say, two hours on the weekend, or whatever suits your schedule and requirements – and get into the kitchen. Find a recipe online and get your bake on! Make muffins, cake, biscuits, slices, home-made muesli bars, tarts – whatever floats your boat, really! Because when you make your snacks at home, you know exactly what goes into them, and you can choose healthier recipes to start with, and/or modify the ingredients to suit your needs. Want to cut back on sugar? Substitute sugar in the recipe for Stevia powder. [I found the best results were from using half sugar, half Stevia, for consistency and flavour] Need to up your fibre intake? Swap some or all of the flour for wholemeal flour. Add in wholesome ingredients like nuts, seeds, dried or fresh fruit. Oats – one of those underappreciated super foods – go so well in a huge variety of baked goods!

Not only are home-baked goods usually much healthier than packaged, store-bought snacks, they are much cheaper to make, depending on the ingredients you use – and generally speaking, those ingredients will go a long way.

Small changes can make a big difference

If you’re still skeptical about the difference that can be made simply by swapping out unhealthy snacks for fruit and healthy homemade treats, give it a go. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised! Give it a few weeks and you’ll probably find yourself feeling more trim, as well as saving a few dollars at the supermarket. And who doesn’t want that?

How to Hear From God

How toHear FromGod

Growing up in an evangelical Baptist family, I knew about God from a very early age. I prayed, I read my bible – from the beautifully illustrated Beginner’s Bible to the ‘young adults’ bible I still use now; I went to church (albeit reluctantly once I became too old for Sunday School but not old enough to understand what the preacher was going on about in “big church”). I sang the Sunday School songs, I listened to Christian kids tapes in the car, I loved Jesus and could spend hours poring over the Word. However, there was something missing. I just couldn’t fathom how one might “hear from God” – how could I know what His will was, or if He was trying to tell me something? Why couldn’t I hear His voice, like others claimed to? Mum always seemed to know what God was telling her, but all I got was my own thoughts bouncing around in my head.

As a teenager, I started to feel desperate to learn the secret of how to hear from God. Going into my early twenties, studying at Bible college, I yearned even more so for that one-to-one connection with my Creator. Everyone seemed to have a different theory: silence and solitude, structured prayer, hymns and spiritual chants, etc. Everything I thought I knew about talking to God seemed to get blown apart and replaced with formulae and rules that I couldn’t get the hang of no matter how hard I tried.

Then something happened. I barely realised it was happening because it was so subtle. I started to “know” what God was telling me. I persevered in my quest to connect, and God helped me to overcome my own obstacles. Now I have a good sense of His direction, and even specific words He has for me (or entrusts to me for someone else). It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen the first time I prayed for God to let me hear Him – or perhaps even the thousandth time. It happened over time, as our relationship grew. God uses many tools to connect with us.

Let go of your perception of how God talks to people

God is infinitely creative. He uses all kinds of means to get our attention and convey a message. It is very rare that He will just talk to someone in audible words – I’ve come to realise that it would be hard to distinguish between His voice or that of a demon who was a convincing mimic. I have found that for me, it is usually the case that my thoughts take a particular direction, and reach a particular conclusion, and with them comes a sense of peace, of “rightness” that tells me that God has been steering those thoughts. It might be a well-timed word from a friend (or even a stranger!), something you read in the Bible that speaks directly to your situation, something you see or hear in the world around you. It might just be an impression in your heart or mind that pushes you toward a particular action you’ve been unsure about. When you ask God to speak to you, don’t limit Him to a particular method of communication – be open to whatever way He chooses to respond (praying for discernment that you might know it’s actually God, of course).

Get around other believers

I grew up knowing God because I grew up in a Christian household, going to a Christian church, attending a Christian school. I owe my strong faith foundation to all those who have had input into my life as mentors and teachers – most especially my Mum, whose own faith journey has yielded a harvest of incredible wisdom. God created us to live in community with others. He wants us to gather together (just read the New Testament!) and talk about Him and worship Him together, because He uses all our gifts, all our different stories and characters to build each other up and strengthen each member of the whole. Join a church, a bible study group, or find a mentor who is strong in the faith. These people can sow seeds of faith into your own heart, and can teach and guide you with their own experience. Read books by respected Christian authors. Attend seminars and conferences. Listen to sermons in the car or watch them on Youtube (I love listening to Joyce Meyer). One of the important lessons I learned along the way is that we need the input of others to make sure we stay on track and don’t get lead astray, turning belief into dogmatism or developing beliefs and interpretations that don’t actually align with Scripture.

Read the Bible

This can be a tough one. The Bible is very long, and has a whole lot of tedious reading in it. If you are new to the Word (or even if you’re not!) it can be daunting to make a start at reading. Should you start at the beginning and work your way through to the end? Read just the New Testament, or a particular book? Open it and read whatever page you land on?

I’ve tried all of these! And there’s no wrong or right way to do it. Pray for God to speak to you through His Word, then get stuck into it. You may find yourself reading scriptures that are meaningful for you; or you may find yourself bogged down in the intricacies of Jewish law. Your safest bet? Find (or make) a plan. There are all kinds of plans, in all kinds of formats: you could download an app that takes you through the Bible in one year, or focuses on a topic, or helps you to develop a foundation of key scriptures. You might find something you like on a website, or in a book, etc. Christian devotional books, websites or apps will typically give you one or several snippets of scripture (with their references, so you can look up the surrounding text) along with an interpretation and application of that scripture; some will also have questions at the end that can give you a starting place to think a little deeper on what you’ve read. I personally find devotionals really helpful in helping me to develop a daily routine of reading the Bible, and boosting my understanding of what I’m reading.

Why is it so important to read the Bible? Because it is so richly descriptive of who God is, why He made us, and what His purposes are for us. It is a ‘living’ text – that is, the Holy Spirit uses the stories and lessons contained therein to teach us; even though it was written thousands of years ago, it continues to be applicable because it continues to reveal new truths and wisdom by the work of the Spirit. Even if you have read a particular verse a hundred times, God can still teach you something new when you read it the 101st time.

Talk to God

There is no wrong or right way to talk to God. He has made us all different, and as such will talk with us in all different ways. Really, all it boils down to is our own personality and conversation style, and what God leads us to do. Some people prefer to follow a strict proforma, others take a more fluid, creative approach. One might follow set prayers that are read aloud, or formulate prayers loosely based on a formula (eg ACTS – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication); there might be singing and music involved, or silent contemplation. You might like just to talk to God as you would to a friend, or read a psalm as a prayer. Writing prayers helps me to stay focused, and also gives me something to look back on later and see how God has answered my prayers or where I’ve learned and grown spiritually.

Seek knowledge, understanding and wisdom

As a believer, it’s important to continually strive to increase your knowledge and understanding of God, and what it means to be a Christian, and to grow in wisdom. God doesn’t want us to remain stagnant; throughout the New Testament in particular are constant exhortations to strive toward perfection – not that we will achieve it in this lifetime, but because it is good and right.

This takes a combination of the above: learning from the Bible itself; from preachers and Christian authors; from those who further along in the faith journey, and from those beside us. Talk about where you are at with your faith – the struggles and the triumphs. Pray with others, for others; let them pray for you. Seek advice from trustworthy people who are strong in the faith.

Doing all these things, over time, you will begin to discern the voice of God. There is no magic formula, no special prayer you can pray to make it happen on command. Read through the Bible, in particular the Old Testament, and you will see that even some of the most faithful servants of God experienced periods where they didn’t hear anything from God – but saw, looking back, that He was in fact working behind the scenes all along, and bringing about His purposes in His own mysterious ways. Connecting with God and hearing His voice is about developing a relationship with Him. As we get to know Him, we get to know what His voice sounds like; we learn to discern the Word of God from the deceptions of the Evil One, or our own inner voice.

When Households Combine

Alright, you got me. I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. My early commitment to roughly bi-weekly posting took a hit when we were given notice to vacate our rental, an event which turned our whole world upside down. We were given two months, which sounds like a long time, but somehow the sand slipped through the hourglass at lightning speed and we found ourselves frantically packing up our large, two-storey, stuffed-to-the-brim house, keenly aware that there were few rentals in our area (even fewer that were suitable or affordable) and plenty of people looking for rentals. We reached our limits for coping with stress, my husband and I, and it forced us to make a tough decision.

Sean’s parents had offered us their rumpus room as a temporary accommodation solution, and we took them up on that offer. A four-bedroom, one bathroom, one toilet house with limited hot water and a septic tank, that already housed 7 people (Sean’s parents, three younger brothers and the girlfriend of one brother) and two dogs was rearranged and organised to fit in us: Sean and I, and the two kids, plus our bird and the dog. One thing I can say about my mother-in-law is that she has a knack for making things happen when she puts her mind to it. Surely she has some secret magical power that has transformed a room that was chockers with random accumulated crap into a neat little living space complete with a nursery and a lounge area. [I say neat, but at the moment it’s still chaos – so much sorting out still to do, a week and a half after our move!]

While it’s not the most ideal of situations, at the end of the day it is a MASSIVE blessing to us to be living rent-free, paying a very reasonable amount of board, with free built-in babysitting. God has provided an awesome opportunity for us to catch up on our debts, save for a second car again, and be able to pay bond and rent-in-advance at the next house without having to borrow from family. I’m keenly aware that this is not something everyone has the ability to do, and I am sincerely grateful and humbled by the generosity of my in-laws.

So in my week living here, I’ve been struck by just how differently our households run, and am conscious of not wanting to rock the boat by trying to impose my ways of doing things in someone else’s house. It’s all the little things that make up daily life; if I’m not careful, I can become judgemental and superior. The way they shop, the way they shove things into the pantry and fridge, their haphazard style of hanging washing or the way they leave the bathroom mat on the floor to go squidgy between showers – it’s all just different. Can I really claim to be any better than anyone else because we would hang up the bath mat in our house, or because I like my clothes hung neatly for better aeration? I have plenty of dodgy habits, like leaving things lying about the place [I have the attention span of a hyperactive toy poodle and simply forget I ever put down a mug or a plate next to me]. Our house was always terribly messy because we didn’t have the processes and habits to keep it effortlessly tidy; I have to admit that, although I disagree with many of the things they do here, it works. The house is usually kept in a reasonable state of cleanliness and tidiness. Everyone has a chance to relax in the evening; they aren’t madly catching up on all the housework, like Sean and I always seemed to do.

When two different households merge into one, there has to be a bit of give and take. We each have our idiosyncrasies, our particular ways of doing life, and everyone – not just our big family – has something they can learn from seeing how others do it. In our time here, I hope to learn the habit of tidiness and routine; I hope to impart a sense of frugality [you wouldn’t believe how much food they throw out here!] and some of the little things I’ve found make household chores a little easier.

Here’s to it being an overall positive experience, for all of us! If you have any advice or a similar experience you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Depression doesn’t have to be clinical

Seeking the Good Life - Depression Doesn't Have To Be Clinical

We can all get depressed at one time or another – it doesn’t have to be clinical depression, it doesn’t have to fit a list of criteria and require professional diagnosis and treatment. Think back – have you ever thought something like “I just can’t be bothered” “What is the point in trying?” “I have no energy or motivation”? Being depressed doesn’t necessarily mean you feel sad, or suicidal, or even particularly bad – it means you feel “pressed down.” The weight of the world leaves you feeling tired and flat.

I’ve been depressed for a very long time – one of the perks of having a Seriously Messed Up Childhood, I guess. I thought I’d gotten pretty good at recognising when I was feeling depressed; turns out I was good at recognising when I was feeling really depressed. I was surprised to realise, just recently, that while things have mostly been alright, I’ve had this ordinary, everyday depression humming away under the surface. It is the voice that suggests that there’s no point bothering with housework because it’ll never be enough – may as well have a nap instead. It’s the black hole sneakily draining my enthusiasm for life, my hope for the future, my energy for working toward our goals. By the time I noticed it, I was feeling really flat, demotivated, and seriously tired.

Tackling depression

Introspection and mindfulness

Depression can be sneaky – you can feel blue and not really know why. It can be easy to ignore; distractions are everywhere, such as TV, food, social outings, alcohol, etc. Make a point of checking in with your own feelings a few times a day. Feeling a bit down? Take note of the thoughts running just under the stream of your consciousness – are they positive or negative thoughts? How are you viewing the world? Some of mine recently have been along the lines of, it’s all too hard, I can’t do this, everything is going wrong, our situation is hopeless, I just wish things could be better. [Considerably more bleak than how I feel, but explains why I’m so demotivated and lacking energy]

Talk about it

Humans need to communicate in order to stay sane. It’s hard to think coherently inside your own head. A first step if you’re not ready to talk or aren’t sure who to talk to is to talk to yourself – either out loud (on your own, of course!) or in writing. Imagine you’re talking to a counselor or friend and just let the words flow. Try to explain what you’re feeling and why.

If you’re ready to branch out and try talking to someone else, there are a few options:

  • A close friend
  • A trusted family member
  • A mentor – usually someone older and wiser
  • A counselor – often available through your local church, or a recommendation can be made by your GP
  • A psychologist or psychologist – book in with your GP for a referral, and a mental health plan if you are eligible
  • A mental health hotline – Google for your area

Look after your mind by caring for your body

It might sound a little New Age, but it’s really quite scientific: your mind and body are linked, and part of establishing good mental health is looking after your body. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin (the feel-good chemical that our brains just can’t get enough of!) are manufactured in the bowel, so good bowel health is essential. Eating wholesome, nutritious food with plenty of vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients will facilitate this, and improve your energy levels. Drink plenty of water to avoid headaches and that general crap feeling. Skip the junk food and sugary treats as these will wreak all kinds of havoc on your body and mind by messing with your blood sugar levels, decreasing gut health, etc [yeah, go Google that stuff, I’m not in the mood right now].

Exercise is a word of advice that’s so common from doctors and health professionals that it’s almost cliche, but whatever. Go do it. Get outside (if conditions permit), suck in some fresh air (if it’s available) and get moving. Join a gym if you’ll use it. Chuck a fitness instruction video on YouTube and work out in your living room. There’s all kinds of good things that happen when you exercise [go Google that too].

Don’t ignore it

There will be more things you can do – things that relate to the specific issues in your life, advice you receive from the person you confide in. Try things out and find what works to improve your mood and your general outlook in life. Whatever you do, don’t just ignore it and hope that you wake up one day feeling less blue. These problems can tend to grow bigger whilst lurking in the background, until they suddenly become this storm cloud of bad feeling that suddenly feels impossible to face. Tackling the problem head on will help you to address all kinds of issues, and will equip you with the personal resources and resiliency to cope when life gets hectic again.

Sharing is caring!

What do you do when you’re feeling blue to pick yourself up again? Leave a comment below!

Snack Attack Hack

If there’s one thing I can’t stand in life, it’s being hit with a snack attack – the sudden and unbearable need to nibble on something – while I’m out and about, and having nothing at hand to nibble on. Hunger hits hard and fast, and often leaves me feeling a bit queasy, especially if I’m driving. Until I cottoned on to this ‘snack attack hack,’ I would inevitably end up buying something to eat. Chocolate, a cheeseburger, a bucket of fried chicken and chips – whatever was quick, cheap, easy and nearby. It’s an unhealthy habit and not kind to the hip pocket.

The Snack Hack to End All Snack Attack Blow-Outs!

This is a slightly modified version of an idea I read in Peppermint magazine. [If you’re into life-affirming stuff like social and environmental ethics, community, art, etc, go read that magazine. It’s amazing.]

  1. Nibblies – go to your nearest nut vendor and … well, go nuts! Some of my favourite nibbly bits include: almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), cacao nibs (a little goes a long way, so don’t be put off by the price tag! A $12 bag – 300gm – has so far lasted me several months), yogurt-coated apricot balls, and sultanas. Other ideas might be bhuja mix, wasabi peas, savoury coated peanuts – you get the idea. Little bits of deliciousness that’ll last outside of the fridge!
  2. Big container – mix it all up and keep it stored in an airtight container (important for making it last without going stale – cheap supermarket containers tend not to do such an awesome job)
  3. Little container – scoop some of your nibbly snack mix into a snack-sized container when you’re heading out and bam! You are inoculated against the horrors of an Unsatisfied Snack Attack!

Tip: remember to pack a bottle of water, too, because your snack mix could leave you a bit dry-mouthed, and also because home-bottled water is cheap, healthy, and a much better option than a store-bought beverage.

My most recent mix – I tried some chickpea things, but wasn’t a huge fan. Yogurt balls are the best thing ever!

Introspection, binge eating, and the secret to a better life

Introspection is the practice of examining your own thoughts and emotions. It can quite literally be as simple as stopping at any given moment and noticing what you’re thinking and feeling. To turn this practice into a useful tool, though, I’ve found that you need to take it a step further, and ask some questions. Let me give you an example.

Binge eating: my big problem

I am a chronic stress-eater. There’s been a lot of stress lately for me and my family, ergo, I’ve been prone to overeating and binging. Chocolate, carb-heavy foods (think rice, pasta, bread), even delicious, creamy yoghurt… When I’m stressed I find that I just can’t seem to stop myself. Later I have serious regrets while staring at my pooch in the mirror, but that just makes me more stressed, leading to more eating!

A moment of introspection

I was in the very act of devouring a large plate of linguine pasta when I happened to contemplate the issue of my overeating. It lead to me wondering why I do this. I took a moment to observe how I felt at that moment: I felt happy! The food was making me feel happy! But… why? Besides the general deliciousness of the food, what was making me feel so elated to be eating it in such a large quantity?

Delving deeper

The answer to this question surprised me a little, and made me feel a bit guilty. This tiny little voice from deep within my psyche (just try it, you’ll get what I mean!) called out, “food is my one good thing in life.” WHAT?! Really?? I never considered myself one of those people who use food as a treat but it seems that all this time I have in fact been putting it up on a pedestal as the one thing in life that can make me happy! And that’s just not something I believe; after all, I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful children, this big old family that may be dysfunctional but is also the best — and so much more!

I have gotten into the habit of dwelling on all my problems in life and feeling bad because of them that I’d come to believe – subconsciously, and without realising – that my only joy in life comes from eating food I love. If I want to stop binge-eating, I need to do some things to address these fundamental beliefs.

  1. Adjust my attitude. Instead of being negative all the time and always listing my problems, I need to take time throughout the day to be grateful, to focus on the good in my life, to let myself enjoy those good things!
  2. Self-care needs to become a priority. Instead of using food as a way to feel good, I can substitute other activities such as exercising, getting out in the fresh air, spending some time pursuing hobbies and interests, reading, or even watching a favourite telly show or movie.

Until you become aware of why you do what you do, you’ll struggle to make any real changes. As much as I would tell myself that I didn’t want to overeat because of the consequences when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t override that powerful urge because I didn’t know what was causing it. Now I see that I have a legitimate need to feel enjoyment and happiness in life, and I can take control of fulfilling that in healthier ways. And since making that realisation, I have been dealing much better with my overeating.

Have you used introspection to identify and address problems? Has this post been helpful, or is there something you would add? Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Supermarket Savings Hack

This supermarket savings hack may seem like Captain Obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be said. Grocery shopping is not a generally exciting activity and it can be pretty easy to slip into a rut, buying the same products week in, week out, from habit. I swear I spend half my shopping trip in a meditative state while my hands just grab familiar objects and toss them in the trolley. However, overhauling your grocery spending requires that you keep your eyes peeled and your creativity switched on.

Shop for clearance items

Like I said – Captain Obvious! But I want to go a bit deeper than just snagging a pack of marked-down chicken breasts and calling it a day. How can you use clearance grocery items to really make a difference to your weekly food budget?

IMG_9609
These were all from one shop! With some of the veggies, rice and pasta I have at home I can make at least 3 different meals from these with leftovers for lunches.

Know when to shop

Maybe I’m just late to cotton on, but I had a revelation today: a whole lot of stuff gets marked down the day before the new catalogue comes out. At Woolworths, the new catalogue starts on Wednesday, so Tuesday they mark down all kinds of meat, fruit and vegetables to sell them before they bring in the new stock. Find out when your local supermarket restocks, and go the day before – you just might pick up some bargains. Your best bet is to go around the middle of the day, when the items are most likely to have been marked down already, and before the after-work shoppers come and nab the good stuff.

Choose wisely

Not all clearance items are necessarily going to help your budget. Today I saw scotch fillet steaks reduced from $17 to $13 – an awesome saving of $4. But we don’t eat scotch fillet! And $13 for a packet of meat that won’t even feed the three of us is not economical! As well as scoping for clearance items, take into account the dollar per kilo amount, and ask yourself how many serves you’ll get out of that item. I chose 500 grams of chicken stir fry strips half price at $4.50. That will easily feed my family, with a bit leftover for lunch the next day.

Don’t go overboard

There were four of those marked down chicken packets when I looked, but I only chose two (one for tonight, one for the freezer). It doesn’t help my budget if I spend all my money today just to take advantage of specials, and then don’t have anything left for the internet bill later in the week and cop a $15 late payment fee. I also didn’t want to take all the half-price organic salad mix containers because there’s no way we could use that much salad mix before it all goes bad. Pick what you need and can use, and leave it at that. There will be more specials next week!

Picture how you might use it

Finally, when considering a clearance item, take a moment to think what you might use it for. The stir fry strips I bought were pretty easy to place in the menu: chicken stir fry. When I saw Asian greens on special, I knew I should grab some of those for the stir fry. I also have wok-ready noodles that I bought in a two-for offer yesterday.

Having a rough idea of what you might use a clearance item for can help you to avoid food wastage by using up what you have at home that might go, and buying other suitable items; it also ensures you actually use that clearance item instead of getting it home and realising you really don’t know what to do with it. Have some staple recipes in your head so you can look out for specials on key ingredients – eg, cheap mince to make spaghetti bolognese or shepherd’s pie; chicken thighs for curry; or sausages to cook up alongside veggies and mashed potato.

Share your tips!

Comment below and share what clearance items you like to look out for and how you use them – do you have some favourite go-to recipes? Which supermarket has the best specials in your area? (In my semi-rural part of Victoria, Australia, we’re a bit limited for choice – Woolworths is the easiest for my family).

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