The cost of food continues to be a challenge for many Aussies, with 87% of people worried about paying for food as inflation continues to drive up prices, according to the latest CHOICE Consumer Pulse survey.
It's a large jump from January 2021 when just 56% of respondents in our national survey said they were worried about food costs.
87% of people are worried about paying for food as inflation continues to drive up prices
So how you can you get on top of your weekly food shopping spend? We've shared lots of ideas for smart grocery swaps you can make and top tips for cooking on a budget, but there are lots of things you can do once you've got your groceries home and you're cooking up dinner.
Using your kitchen appliances cleverly to make use of your leftovers will make meals go further and save you money. Here are just a few ideas.
1. Air fryers
Because of their ability to reheat food quickly (they're essentially mini ovens), air fryers are great for crisping up and giving new life to many leftover foods, from chicken drumsticks or schnitzels to pies, pizza and leftover vegetables.
If you have some chickpeas or nuts that have gone a bit soft, pop them in the air fryer and cook until crunchy for a delicious snack or to add to salads.
Air fryers are also useful when it comes to repurposing your leftovers – turn last night's bolognese into crisp air-fryer mince pasties by spooning your leftover bolognese into squares of defrosted frozen or homemade puff pastry (adding any leftover cooked veg you have to hand) and fold over to seal. Brush with beaten egg and air fry until golden.
They're a great lunchbox snack or after-school fuel for the kids, or just add a side salad to create a quick dinner.
Got some raw root vegetables that are on their way out? Use your air fryer to cook some oil-free (and guilt-free!) hot and crispy vegetable chips. Potato, sweet potato and pumpkin are always winners.
2. Slow cookers
One of the best things about a slow cooker is its ability to turn cheaper cuts of meat – chuck steak, oyster blade steak, silverside – into succulent, substantial and sustaining dishes. These slow cooker recipes from CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair make the most of more affordable cuts of meat, which is great news for your budget.
The slow cooker comes in handy when doubling the quantity of recipes so you can cook one meal for now, and pop one in the freezer for later
The slow cooker comes in handy when doubling the quantity of recipes so you can cook one meal for now, and pop one in the freezer for later.
You can also use it to make stocks from leftover chicken, beef or lamb bones that you can turn into soup for another day. Just add the bones to your slow cooker with any veg in your crisper drawer that's past its prime – carrots, onion, garlic, celery, leeks (doesn't matter if they're a bit wilted) – then cover with water and simmer all day.
It costs a fraction of the price of store-bought stock and gives you a base for another meal.
Another clever slow cooker hack is for milk that's about to go off – turn it into a rice pudding for a simple cheap and delicious dessert.
Add about three cups of milk to approximately 3/4 of a cup of white rice, some sugar and spices such as cinnamon or vanilla – then cook on high until the rice has absorbed the liquid.
You can serve with stewed apples or pears, or frozen mixed berries.
3. Food processors
There are many ways a food processor can save you money – not least because shredding or dicing your own ingredients, as opposed to buying them pre-prepared (think cheese or pre-shredded veg), is much cheaper. But a food processor can also help you give new life to your leftovers.
Leftover roasted winter veg? They'll make a delicious creamy roasted vegetable soup (and if you use that stock you made in your slow cooker, see above, it will be even cheaper).
Just add all your leftover roasted veg to the food processor, pour in stock and any other seasonings you like – fresh or dried herbs or chilli – and blend until smooth. Add cream if you like, or bulk it out further with tinned pulses or legumes.
You could also add less stock and turn this into a vegetable pasta sauce instead. Both options freeze well.
More ideas to reduce waste and save money
- If you have spare vegetables that you haven't yet cooked, use your food processor and prep them for your freezer. Slice veg such as carrots, potatoes, onions and celery, then blanch and freeze to use later.
- If you have an abundance of herbs in the garden, or you bought a big bunch on special, process the leftovers in your mini processor with a little oil, then place into small containers to freeze (great for adding later to bolognese, curries or soups).
- You can also make a pesto: whizz any leftover herbs with a bit of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and add any type of nut to give it a creamy texture. This is delicious served with fish or chicken, or even just as a dressing on a salad.
Blenders can turn ageing fruit into delicious smoothies.
If you have some pears, bananas or berries that are on their way out – or perhaps the kids have left a few half-eaten pieces of fruit around the place – your blender is the perfect place for them to go (slicing off any bits that have come into contact with anyone's mouth, of course!).
A high-powered blender can blitz them into smoothies (just add your preferred milk or coconut water) or freeze into popsicle moulds to make snacks for warmer days. You can also freeze them into ice-cube moulds to make smoothie cubes ready to throw in for smoothies on the go.
Leftover apples and pears can also be cut up and simmered in a small amount of water on your cooktop until tender to make stewed fruit. If you want a smooth consistency, just pop the simmered fruit with a little liquid and pulse in your blender.
Store in the fridge for up to three days and serve with yoghurt for a healthy after-dinner snack, or with muesli and yoghurt for breakfast.
5. Sandwich press
When it comes to using up leftovers, there are few things simpler than whacking it all between two slices of bread, adding some cheese and creating a delicious toastie in a sandwich press.
Roast beef is delicious with cheddar or Swiss cheese and some mustard and red onion, or add sliced tomato and mozzarella to leftover roast chicken (with a bit of mayo or basil pesto, if you like). Then pop it all in the sandwich press for a quick, easy and cheap lunch.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.