Aussie mum with nine kids reveals her budgeting tips on how to keep your grocery bill under $1.66 per serve

Aussie mum with nine kids reveals her budgeting tips on how to keep your grocery bill under $1.66 per serve
  • PublishedJune 3, 2024

The Canberra mum reveals how she keeps her grocery bill under $400 a week.

With a wooden spoon in one hand, mother-of-nine Claire Hooker empties three bags of pasta into a large pot of boiling water with the other.

As her bolognese sauce bubbles away in another pan, the Canberra mum is preparing to proudly serve dinner to her big brood — at just $1.66 a serve.

The low cost is an absolute necessity for the Hookers, whose growing children range in age from six to 16.

Every week, the family goes through a whopping nine litres of milk, two kilos of cheese and 24 rolls of toilet paper.

And that is just the bottom of their shopping trolley.

Feeling the pinch of rising grocery costs, Claire is on a mission to cut expenditure without sacrificing on taste and time with her family.

“While we don’t buy any luxuries any more, we do still have treats likes popcorn for movie nights, and ice cream,” Claire tells 7Life of how she manages the household budget.

“We are a hard-working family, we are a team and everyone helps each other out — no one ever goes without.”

The 37-year-old says she starts slashing her fortnightly grocery bill before she even steps foot inside any shops.

This, too, is a necessity — with the family living 45km from the nearest shopping hub.

Before embarking on the trip, Claire takes an inventory of what she has already, gathering the troops to check what items need re-stocking for the following fortnight.

The older children scatter throughout the house, checking the bathrooms for toiletries which are running on empty, while Claire scours the pantry and fridge for what remains from the shopping haul 14 days prior.

With a ‘bank’ of her favourite bulk recipes, she pens a grocery list and multiplies the ingredients to be enough for 11 mouths.

Claire has nine children under the age of 16.

For example, a roast dinner comprises two whole chickens, 2kgs of potatoes and 3kg of whatever bulk seasonal vegetables are in stock.

If she is whisking up omelettes, the recipe calls for 24 eggs plus vegetables and protein of choice.

Pie nights consist of three large family pies filled with a family favourite mince mix.

With her shopping list in hand, and meal plan mapped out, Claire is off — usually to her nearest ALDI.

“I need a list,” Claire laughs.

“If you don’t, you just end up forgetting things, and because we live an hour away from the shop we can’t just go back.”

Each fortnight, the budget-savvy mum budgets a maximum of $800 for groceries — an amount she tries to reduce each time she enters the store.

Her biggest tips are to always keep your eyes peeled for reduced stickers and budget cuts of meat, and being able to adjust your meal plan on the spot.

Living 45km away from the nearest grocery store, the family shop once a fortnight.
Living 45km away from the nearest grocery store, the family shop once a fortnight. Credit: Supplied

“Swapping fresh produce for frozen is good too,” Claire adds, explaining the ability to substitute has saved her hundreds.

“And when I can, usually about once a month, I try and go to the fresh fruit market where things are so much cheaper.”

The family are also lucky enough to have a large backyard where they have planted a vegetable patch to help keep produce costs down.

They also have added chickens and ducks to their backyard, helping fuel them with daily fresh eggs.

Claire adds that some people at their local church are talented bakers and the family often pick up a loaf or two for the kids’ lunches.

Among the mum’s biggest tips are to not be afraid to buy in bulk and to create different meals from the same item.

“Mince can be useful in so many ways: curries, pies, taco and spaghetti bolognese,” she says.

She also urges to embrace your freezer, saying she often freezes produce, such as bananas, for baking, or bulk broccoli for dinners down the track.

After two trolleys, Claire’s fortnightly shop came under the $800 budget at $764.

However, Claire is quick to add that sometimes buying in bulk is not always the cheapest option and, before adding to cart, you should check the per-item price.

For treats like desert, she occasionally tops the trolley up with a tub of 1kg ice cream and berries, which is inhaled in one night for “Dad’s ice cream special” night.

Homemade popcorn is also a cheap favourite for a treat on their at-home Friday movie nights.

Claire says eating on a budget doesn’t have to mean going without.

Look around at competitive stores, keep your eye open for sales and join loyalty programs, she recommends.

For birthdays and Christmas, the Hookers have a strict budget, too — and they have already started putting money aside for the busy December period.

Claire says she still hunts around for the best bargain when it comes to special-occasion purchasing.

Weekly grocery plan

Monday

  • Breakfast: Toast with fruit
  • Lunch: Wraps with Devon and cheese and mayonnaise
  • Dinner: Pizzas and garlic bread

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Yoghurt with fruit
  • Lunch: Noodles
  • Dinner: Pies, vegetables and chips

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: Cereals and fruit
  • Lunch: Snack plates
  • Dinner: Large 24 cheese egg omelette with vegetables

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Toast with fruit
  • Lunch: Sandwiches
  • Dinner: Chicken burgers with egg fried rice

Friday

  • Breakfast: Cereal and fruit
  • Lunch: Snack plates
  • Dinner: Fish, chips and vegetables

Saturday

  • Breakfast: Yoghurt & fruit
  • Lunch: Sandwiches & fruit
  • Dinner: Homemade chicken and bacon curry

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Toast and fruit
  • Lunch: Out for lunch
  • Dinner: 2x 1kg packs chicken drumsticks, 2kg roast potatoes, 3kg times packs roasted carrots, topped with gravy

SOURCE: 7NEWS

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