Food Bill Slasher

Reporter: David Richardson

"$120, 14 meals. It can be done and we'll show you how." She's an unemployed single mother who is revolutionising the household budget. And with just $120 Sandra Reynolds can serve up a fortnight in gourmet meals for four people. What she calls her food challenge. "What I found very very quickly was that it wasn't just me doing it tough for a couple of weeks. that there's a whole bunch of people in a very wide community and across many different life journey's where this is happening." Says Sandra.

Suddenly finding herself unemployed and living on welfare, Sandra turned to the Salvation army for $60 dollar food vouchers a week. 4 months later, the vouchers gone, she continues her challenge to stretch her dollar further."How much money all up do you think you've saved doing it this way?" "In the vicinity of 40 to 50 dollars a week and I've been doing this now for the last 4-months. So a good thousand so far." Says Sandra.

The fact that Sandra is an avid cook has helped her design champagne meals on a beer budget. "It's not boring food? Oh no, no. It can't be. This is something you may have to stick to for a while and what most households do, whatever their food budget, they tend to have the same 10, 12 or 15 meals on high rotation. What I am doing is giving people an option to rethink some of those things that they do.""How much would you pay for a decent loaf of bread in a shop? $3, $4 maybe $5. 75 cents, that's what it costs you to make?" asks David Richardson. "Yes. 75 cents."

Sandra quickly came up with five golden rules. She did a complete stock take of everything in her house; pantry, fridge and freezer. She then planned menus based on what she had, not what she could buy. When she does buy she goes wholesale, generic and always in season. Sandra makes two meals meat free, and religiously uses leftovers. "A lot of people don't like to use leftovers and the average Australian household will throw out 20% of all of their foods straight into the bin. When you're on a really tight budget that's like throwing dollar coins straight into your wheelie bin."

Sandra's challenge is to buy a fortnight's groceriesfor $120 or less. She's armed with a shopping list fully costed before she walks into the supermarket, and she sticks to it like glue. First call; some basics. All up she buys $49,06 worth.

"How much did you budget for that one?" asks David. "I budgeted $35 but I also bought some sausages from here that I wasn't planning. So I have $70 left." At Harris Farm Green Grocers she sticks to her golden rules; fruits and vegies in season, and what's on sale. She also looks for vegies she can use in more than one meal, like pumpkin which she can roast or use in a soup.

David asks; "You budgeted how much for this lot?"


"And you got it all for?"


"So you're back even now?"

"Yes and that does happen especially when you're dealing with weekly fluctuations, especially fresh food." Explains Sandra. While she recommends two meat free meals a week, she always goes for special cuts. This week pork ribs and lamb shanks. She's set aside $41 for meat and fish."

"$4 change. I have $19 left to spend." Says Sandra."How much have you budgeted the next lot for?"


"You'll be cutting it fine."

"It always is but that's half the fun."

A few remaining deli items from Coles, some seasoning and she's done. But did she meet the budget? "All together, $117,05. That's $2,95 going into the kitty for next week." But buying the groceries is just half the challenge. The rest is preparing gourmet meals. For lunch today, it's lamb shank ragout. She says "It's cheap food that tastes like a million dollars." Sandra's challenge has now become a website and daily blog. She adds recipes daily, and has gone from a few close friends to 20 000 hits a month. She hopes eventually to put out a budget cookbook.David Richardson asks; "So you're going to stick with this?""Yes. Oh yes. Just to show people that it can be done. If nothing else, just to show people it can be done."



Sandra's Blog:

Contact Sandra:

Twitter: @120dollarsfood

Facebook: $120 Food Challenge