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September Grocery Budget Challenge: Week 1

September Grocery Budget Challenge: Week 1

Hi Friends, Welcome back to another Kiah’s Kitchen blog post! If you read my last post, you know that I have been on a mission to reduce my spending on groceries without sacrificing quality. I am a strong believer in cooking from scratch and the 

Salmon, Dill and Potato Patties

Salmon, Dill and Potato Patties

Hi Friends, Welcome back to another Kiah’s Kitchen recipe post! Today I am sharing my easy and delicious Salmon, Dill and Potato Patties (or fish cakes..whatever you want to call them). Since falling pregnant I have done my best to incorporate fish 2-3 times per 

Cutting our grocery budget without sacrificing quality!

Cutting our grocery budget without sacrificing quality!

Hi Friends,

Welcome back to another Kiah’s Kitchen post! Today I am sharing something a little different, specifically around budgeting and food.

I grew up in a single parent household and money was considered scarce and hard to come by, this attitude and fear towards money (specifically, not having enough of it) had a big impact on me and continues to do so into my adult life. I have always had fear around having a lack of money and not being able to support my own lifestyle and independence, and although this fear is unsubstantiated, it has pushed me to work multiple jobs at a time, save hard and take steps towards creating security in my life from a young age.

In 2015 my husband and I purchased our first house at the age of 23, whilst I was very proud of our achievement, having a mortgage was slightly terrifying! In 2016, I discovered the Dave Ramsey Show podcast, I am Australian so his show is not played on our radio stations, but I somehow came across it and was instantly hooked (for any Aussies, he’s like the original Barefoot Investor for Americans). From here I learn’t about the baby steps and the negative impact consumer debt has on your wealth building capacity.

I made the decision to remove all consumer debt from my life and refused to spend money I didn’t have, I created a monthly budget which I adjust and review every single month. That’s right, I have records of every single dollar we have earn’t and spent since 2016. I sold my car which had a $21,000 loan attached to it and instead drove around our second car which had no loan owing. We also cut up our credit cards and refinanced our house to a better mortgage allowing us to make additional payments towards the principle. Since then, we’ve purchased and made progress on a project car for Nathan with cash (he’s a mechanic and loves his projects), I finished and paid for my degree, we have cash flowed a month long trip to Europe, we paid cash for a very nice new-to-us family car and we are now expecting (and saving for) our first child.



Despite all the progress we have made, something about having a baby causes you to question your ability to be a good parent and provide for this little soul coming into the world. I think this is a normal experience for most parents especially with your first child as you are facing the unknown. Nathan and I are very comfortable and have never been frivolous with our money, however knowing that this little boy will be completely dependant on us has inspired a new level of dedication to managing our finances well. I want to be able to give our child the best that I can, from the food that he will eat to the experiences he will have and the life lessons he will learn.

So, in preparation for his arrival and my impending maternity leave, I have been looking at ways to cut costs and put even more of our income towards savings than usual. We are already really good at saving and managing expenses, so there weren’t too many places for me to cut things down, apart from our grocery budget and our weekly spending (fun) money.



I have always spent around $200 (often more, never less) on groceries for Nathan and I per week. I am a foodie and I place a lot of value on good quality, sustainably sourced, fresh and healthy food for us. I thought the only way to eat healthy was to spend this much every week, surely spending less was not possible without sacrificing quality. Well, let me tell you, it is possible, it just requires organisation, planning and the right mindset. I started getting inspiration by looking at blogs via Pinterest and Instagram about eating well on a tighter budget, I found many examples of families eating well for less, and what I really loved about them was their focus on zero food waste which has been a passion of mine for many years (I have previous posts on this).

I set myself the challenge of dropping my grocery budget to $120 per week, a total of $480 for an average four week month, for all food, groceries and household items (i.e. toilet paper, cleaning products etc.). Now for any American readers, that may not sound too difficult for a family of two, however in Australia, the cost of groceries is significantly higher! I figured $120 would be a challenge for me, but not impossible, the goal is still for it to be feasible otherwise there is no point. Remember my focus is still very much on quality, healthy and fresh food, I refuse to sacrifice my health, the investment is worth it. I also allocated up to $100 per month extra for protein (meat, poultry, fish and eggs) which I take out in cash at the beginning of the month and spend at local farms.

I set myself this challenge for the month of August, and I’m pleased to report I have managed to stick with the budget every week, I’ve even ended up with leftover protein money despite the fact that it was a five week month! I have also ended up with a freezer stocked full of meals from leftovers which I can use in weeks to come. I think it all depends on your family, your preferences and priorities and where you live to come up with an amount that is challenging yet feasible for you and your budget. My success with this challenge has inspired me to share some of my tips that I find really help me to spend less on groceries without sacrificing quality.

My top tips for cutting back your grocery budget:

  1. Review what you already have.

    Do a stock take of what is in your pantry, fridge and freezer. If there is something you have that needs to be used up, factor that into your meal plan and use it, don’t let anything go to waste.

  2. Make a meal plan.

    Have you ever heard that saying ‘if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail’? It’s true, at least if you want to stick to your grocery budget and minimise food waste. Before I do our weekly shop I write out our meal plan for the following week which includes EVERY meal: 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 snacks and 6 dinners for two people (told you I was an organisation freak). We do have one takeaway night or dinner out per week which is not included in our grocery budget.

  3. Write your shopping list.

    Based off your stock take of existing food and your meal plan for the following week, write out your grocery list of things you will need to buy. A good tip is to include quantities, i.e. if a recipe calls for one carrot, just buy the one, not a whole bag that will just get thrown out and is a waste of plastic!

  4. Check the sales.

    For pantry items that I need to stock up on, I will usually check the major retailers to see if either have it on sale. For example, I buy basmati rice in bulk to minimise plastic waste and save money. If I know I am going to need rice in the upcoming weeks I will check Woolworths and Coles to see if either have a sale, usually the big 5kg bags of rice are around $19 but you can grab them for $9 on sale and they last forever! I was in luck this week as Coles has it on sale for $9.50, winning!!!

  5. Cut the crap.

    I’m talking processed food, convenience food, packaged and heavily manufactured food. Whilst food from a packet may be convenient, it’s often loaded with unnecessary ingredients and preservatives that impact your health and you pay more for it. Whilst I’m not opposed to buying a jar of something like plain tomato passata here and there fore a recipe, you will never catch me buying pre-made sauces, recipe bases or convenience meals. I make things from scratch, which tastes better and honestly is cheaper. For example, I have a large stock of spices that I keep on hand, if I want to throw together a veggie curry, it is so easy to add a teaspoon of this and a teaspoon of that and voila I have my own spice mix, which if you break down the amount of spices I used would have cost fifty cents or less compared to $4 for a pre-made curry sauce in a jar from the supermarket, not to mention I have complete control over the ingredients so there is no added sugars, preservatives or nasties like vegetable oils.

  6. Buy in season produce.

    Learn what produce is in season in your area and plan or adjust your meals around that. Buying in season is always going to mean the produce is fresher, it has travelled less kilometres and it is cheaper. Not only is this better for your budget, but it is better for the planet! I do my produce shopping at a green grocer that stocks from local farms and growers. I always recommend finding a good green grocer or farmers market, the produce quality is better than supermarkets, you are supporting small businesses and minimising plastic waste, it is often cheaper as well!

    If you are in Australia and even more specifically Victoria, Sustainable Table have a great guide to seasonal produce, check it out here.

  7. Meat in moderation.

    Meat should be a side, not the main event of your meals. My husband and I consume very little meat, in fact for the past two years I followed a very strict plant based diet. I have only recently incorporated a very small amount of meat during my pregnancy. Majority of our meals are vegetarian, we often have fresh fish once per week and red meat, poultry or eggs once a week, all other meals are pretty much plant based, full of fresh veggies, legumes and whole foods. This will not only help your bank account but also your health and the health of the planet. We buy our meat straight from the farm, we have a local on farm butcher where the animals have free range and are grass fed, the meat does not contain any preservatives and is of the highest quality.

  8. Don’t let anything go to waste.

    If you see something in your fridge that needs to be used, either use it, or figure out how to freeze it for later. Throwing out food is not only throwing out money, but it is terrible for the environment, clogging up landfill and producing harmful greenhouse gasses. If I have leftover bananas at the end of the week, I’ll make them into banana muffins for work lunch snacks during the following week, or I will peel and freeze them for smoothies. I had some leftover sweet potatoes the other week, so I made ginger sweet potato and coconut soup and froze it for work lunches. I had a butternut pumpkin I wasn’t going to use so I baked it, scooped the flesh into a container and froze it to make pumpkin risotto the following week (which turned out amazing, here is the recipe). If I cook a whole chicken, I will save the carcass and slow cook it overnight into a golden chicken broth to use as a soup base in a future recipe. You get the idea, literally nothing goes to waste.

  9. Stick to your plan.

    A plan is only going to help you if you have the dedication to follow it. Make it easier on yourself by planning meals that you know you enjoy and are easy to prepare, so when you get home after work and you’re exhausted you’re more likely to follow through and cook the meal rather than get takeaway. Plan to cook only as much as you need to, I tend to cook 3 times per week because we can eat leftovers on the other nights which saves time and means I’m more likely to follow through.

I hope you have found this post encouraging if you are looking to spend less on food without sacrificing quality. Whatever your situation may be, I hope these tips have helped and you have gained some inspiration from what I have shared. One of my goals in writing this blog is not only to provide delicious recipes, but also to show that eating healthy and in a way the supports your longevity as well as that of the planet, is something that is accessible to anyone reading this blog, no matter your budget or personal situation. During September I am thinking of doing a series on here where I show each weeks meal plan and grocery shop to demonstrate the method to my madness, we’ll see how I go!

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below or over on my Instagram page, maybe you’re trying to cut costs or just looking at ways you can be more sustainable both financially and environmentally, I love chatting about both of these topics.

Until next time,

Kiah xx

My top 5 favourite soup recipes this Fall/Winter Season!

My top 5 favourite soup recipes this Fall/Winter Season!

Hi Friends! Welcome back to another Kiah’s Kitchen blog post! Today I’m sharing my top five favourite soup recipes for this Fall/Winter season! In Australia we are slowly beginning to see the signs of Spring on the horizon, however we’ve not escaped the cold days 

The Humble Baked Apple: A perfect fall/winter dessert!

The Humble Baked Apple: A perfect fall/winter dessert!

Hi Friends! Welcome to another recipe post! It was my mums birthday this weekend and to celebrate I had her and my sister over for lunch. I love to cook for and feed others, it’s my way of showing love and generosity. I think I 

Easy Pumpkin, Mushroom and Spinach Risotto

Easy Pumpkin, Mushroom and Spinach Risotto

Hi Friends,

Welcome to another Kiah’s Kitchen recipe post!

This delicious and creamy pumpkin, mushroom and spinach risotto came about because I am really focusing on minimising food waste and being frugal in the kitchen. I had a butternut pumpkin (I think in America this is called butternut squash) that was going to go bad, however I didn’t have anything to use it for at the time. So I decided to cut it in half and scoop out the seeds, place the two halves face down on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about an hour and a half until cooked through. I then scooped the flesh out into a container and froze it for use in a future recipe.

Well my friends, this is the recipe. I had some arborio rice in my cupboard that needed to be used so I decided to create a pumpkin risotto using the cooked pumpkin puree in my freezer. I added in mushrooms because they provide a delicious flavour and are a great substitute for meat in a dish like this (I’m a mushroom lover) and some spinach for greens.



The pumpkin makes this risotto really creamy without actually having to use cream! I did use parmesan, if you are vegan or avoiding dairy, just substitute in a vegan parmesan alternative such as nutritional yeast or vegan cheese.

Risotto really is a labour of love, there is a lot of stirring involved, it’s definitely not a set and forget kind of meal, but I promise you the effort is worth it. We are in the middle of winter here in Australia and it was so nice to sit down to this warming, hearty and nourishing meal after a long day at work.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, if you do make it send me a photo over on Instagram, I’d love to see your creation! Also feel free to follow me @kiah.mcfarlane to see all of my cooking escapades, waste minimisation tips and just general life adventures!

Until next time,

Kiah xo

Pumpkin, Mushroom and Spinach Risotto

A delicious creamy dish perfect for those winter nights in with a nice glass of wine!

Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Mushroom Stew, Pumpkin, Risotto, Spinach, Vegetarian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large brown onion peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled and finely diced (or minced)
  • 400-500 grams white or brown mushrooms sliced
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree or cooked pumpkin
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 heaped cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups organic chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese plus extra for serving (or vegan/dairy free alternative)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Add stock and water to a small pot and set on the stove to bring to a gentle simmer

  2. Prepare all vegetables as per ingredient list

  3. Once the stock has reached a simmer turn it to low to keep warm

  4. In a large wok or pan, heat olive oil over a medium heat

  5. Saute onion and garlic until translucent and slightly golden

  6. Add aborio rice and stir well to coat in remaining oil and lightly toast (2-3 minutes)

  7. Add mushrooms and white wine and stir well

  8. Continue to stir rice gently adding 1-2 ladles of stock at a time and waiting until liquid is mostly absorbed before adding the next ladle

  9. When you are about halfway though the stock, add in the pumpkin puree and stir well to combine

  10. Continue the process of gradually adding stock until rice is cooked

  11. When cooked, rice should not be hard, but there should be texture to it when you bite into it, generally you can begin testing around 15 minutes or so however it can often take up to 20 minutes

  12. Add salt and pepper to taste

  13. Once rice is ready, add spinach and parmesan cheese and stir through until spinach is wilted and cheese is melted

  14. Serve risotto in bowls, topped with freshly chopped parsley and additional parmesan cheese

Recipe Notes

Risotto is generally best served fresh, rice as a rule does not really freeze well so I recommend consuming immediately after cooking and if there are leftovers, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and eat the following day. This dish is a delicious comfort meal during those cold winter months, perfect with a glass of wine!

Mandarin, Almond and Honey Muffins

Mandarin, Almond and Honey Muffins

Hi Friends, Unfortunately it has been quite a while since my last post! For those of you that don’t know, I am actually pregnant with my first baby (21 weeks as I am writing this) and life has been a little hectic which hasn’t left 

Easy Red Lentil Dahl Recipe!

Easy Red Lentil Dahl Recipe!

Hi Friends! I’m back with another Kiah’s Kitchen recipe for you today! This past weekend in Melbourne was a doozy! I believe Saturday was the coldest March day in over 40 years and it poured with rain for most of the day. Whilst there are 

Coconut Kidney Bean Curry with Steamed Greens

Coconut Kidney Bean Curry with Steamed Greens

Hi Friends!

Welcome back to another Kiah’s Kitchen recipe post, I’m sharing a super delicious, cheap and easy Coconut Kidney Bean Curry recipe!

I have been continuing to read and explore the principles of diet according to Chinese Medicine and taking a more holistic approach to health and wellness. The dietary changes I have been making combined with the continued acupuncture and Chinese herbs has really made all of the difference to my health.

I am focusing predominantly on hormonal health and balance as that is one of the areas I have been struggling with for the past few years. According to Chinese Medicine the kidney system is closely related to the western endocrine system and so to support hormone balance and reproductive health, it is necessary to take steps to support your kidneys. It is really interesting to learn how the organs are impacted by our lifestyle choices and the subsequent impact this has on various aspects of our health, it is quite a different approach to Western Medicine. The emotion associated with the kidneys is fear, so if you have weak kidneys, you are more likely to experience feelings of anxiety and panic (which makes sense given my anxiety). The taste associated with the kidneys is salt, so if you are craving salt it may also be a sign that your kidneys need a boost.

Over the past few months, I have implemented various diet and lifestyle changes to support my kidneys, under the guidance of my Chinese Medicine Practitioner. As a result of these changes and the ongoing treatments from Nashira, my menstrual cycles have gone from being irregular (ranging from 30 days to 45 days long) to being consistently 31 days long for a few months now, which has not happened in the previous 18 months that I have been tracking them! Furthermore, my skin has started to clear up, my sleep has improved and my body is now going through the hormonal changes that it should each month with the rise and fall in oestrogen and progesterone, I feel a lot more connected to my body and my cycle.



Some of the small changes I have made to support my kidneys, include reducing the amount of water I drink each day (I was drinking over 2.5 litres) as this can place stress on your kidneys. I have consistently been drinking a cup of Nettle tea everyday which is excellent for your kidneys and does not contain caffeine. I have also been incorporating a lot of kidney supporting foods into my diet, as well as receiving the acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbs.

According to the principles of Chinese Medicine kidney beans are excellent for supporting your kidneys and heart, in fact a simple meal of kidney beans, rice and vegetables can be an amazing boost for your kidney qi (how many times can I say kidney?). Of course anyone that knows me knows I can’t just stick to a simple meal, so I wanted to come up with something super flavourful and relatively easy that would support my kidney health. The result? This delicious Coconut Kidney Bean Curry with Steamed Greens – it ticks all the boxes! Great for your health, inexpensive, plant based, very nutritious, packed with flavour and easy to make. Whether you feel like your kidneys need a boost or not I definitely recommend giving this one a go, especially at this time of the year where it is important to provide your body with lots of nourishment before we move into winter.

All of the ingredients for this dish should be relatively easy to find, don’t skip on the curry leaves, they add so much flavour and can be found in the fresh herb section of any large supermarket or green grocer. If you make this recipe please let me know how you enjoyed it either on social media (@kiahs.kitchen) or via a comment below. Also please share this recipe with anyone you feel could benefit from it!

Until next time,

Kiah x

Coconut Kidney Bean Curry with Steamed Greens

This is a super simple yet flavourful dish, quick to pull together on a weeknight while still providing plenty of nutrition. Kidney beans are one of the most affordable options for a filling and healthy protein source.

Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Easy Vegan Dinner, Kidney Bean Curry, Vegan Curry
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 2 400g cans of red kidney beans
  • 1 400g can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 whole brown onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 3cm thumb of ginger
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
  • 270 ml can of full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 servings basmati rice
  • 2 heads broccoli
  • 200 grams green beans
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander to serve

Instructions

  1. Set rice on to cook according to instructions (I use a rice cooker)

  2. Peel and dice the onion, peel and mince the garlic and grate the ginger 

  3. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan and sauté the onions on a medium heat until golden and translucent 

  4. Add minced garlic and grated ginger to saucepan and stir for a further one minute

  5. Add turmeric, cumin, ground coriander, garam masala and fresh curry leaves (remove stalk) to the saucepan and stir for 30 seconds (add a little water to prevent sticking)

  6. Drain and rinse kidney beans and add to the saucepan along with the can of crushed tomatoes (including their juice) and the can of coconut milk

  7. Stir everything well, bring to a near boil then reduce to a simmer for 25 minutes

  8. While the curry and rice is cooking, chop the broccoli into florets and top and tail the green beans

  9. When the curry has 8-10 minutes of cook time remaining, place the broccoli and green beans in a steamer over medium heat and steam to your liking (I like mine with a little crunch left in them)

  10. Serve rice onto plates, top with kidney bean curry and serve veggies on the side, finish everything off with a sprinkling of fresh chopped coriander 

Recipe Notes

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.


Slow Cooker Mushroom and Barley Stew Recipe (Vegan) & Chinese Medicine learnings

Slow Cooker Mushroom and Barley Stew Recipe (Vegan) & Chinese Medicine learnings

Hi Friends! Welcome to another Kiah’s Kitchen recipe post. I recently read a book called Food for the Seasons: Eat Well and Stay Healthy the Traditional Chinese Way by Lun Wong, it was a gift from my mum for Christmas and I loved it! I