The sun is setting on another raucous Easter Sunday. You're lying on the couch with a sugar-induced headache, an almost $50 leg of lamb sits half eaten on the table, a brand new hat for your kid's Easter hat parade lies discarded on the floor. Your wheelie bin is overflowing with single-use packaging from the mountain of eggs and hot cross buns that have been consumed, and your wallet feels awfully light after splurging on all the seasonal staples.
Easter is undoubtedly a joyful time when Australians love to celebrate, entertain, travel and spoil their loved ones. But it can also quickly leave you with a blown-out budget and an excess of waste.
In our recent Consumer Pulse survey, a record 93% of participants reported they've seen an increase in their household bills and expenses
The cost of Australia's longest long weekend (and the surrounding festivities) may be even more of a financial burden this year. In our recent Consumer Pulse survey, a record 93% of participants reported they've seen an increase in their household bills and expenses – the highest result in our seven years of tracking cost of living pressures. For many that means cutting back spending on non-essential items, which a third of participants reported they're already doing.
If you want to be more sustainable and budget-friendly this Easter, here are some top tips: from Easter hats made of toilet paper rolls to zero-waste egg hunting and CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair's meat-free Easter feast ideas.
Making your own chocolate treats instead of buying a mountain of pricey eggs can save you money on your Easter shop.
1. Choose sustainable or DIY chocolate treats
It's easy to get carried away with all the brightly coloured treats on offer at this time of year, but filling your trolley with chocolate eggs and bunnies can really add up, not to mention the excess packaging you'll be left with. Shopping around for the best deals from multiple stores, or making your own treats to gift on Easter morning can save you a bundle. Opting for quality over quantity is also a wise choice. One large good-quality bunny may be preferable and more affordable than an excess of smaller cheaper eggs.
And don't forget to check the unit pricing on any eggs you buy to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck. If hot cross buns are on your list, you can compare the best prices in our hot cross bun review.
"Consider making chocolate crackles or rocky road as a cheaper and more sustainable way to treat loved ones this Easter," says Fiona.
You can make up a big batch and you'll have the whole family covered with some to spare. Wrap your handmade treats in brown paper and string, which can be recycled, reused or composted.
And while we can't comment on the ethics of dissecting a chocolate rabbit over Easter, we have investigated which chocolate brands are ethically and sustainably certified, and which supermarkets have more ethical options, to help you when you're stocking up.
2. Use real eggs for decoration
Beautifully decorated real eggs can be used in place of chocolate eggs or plastic for table decorations, gifts or even the hunt. Not only can they be very pretty but they're a natural resource and you can still eat them when you're done!
"Decorate your eggs with natural dyes by boiling them in coloured vegetable water. Use red cabbage to make lilac, beetroot for pink, turmeric for yellow, spinach for green and carrot for orange. For every cup of water add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and salt to help stabilise the colour and remember the longer you leave them in the more vibrant the colour will be," says Fiona.
Then, when the thrill of the chase is over, you can turn them into a lovely long-weekend brunch: poached eggs with hollandaise or creamy scrambled eggs. Alternatively, boil them up and add them to potato salad or sandwiches.
If you don't have your own compost to dispose of the shells, see if you have a local community compost.
3. Skip store-bought Easter hunt baskets
Instead of a store-bought basket especially for the annual Easter hunt, challenge your kids to find or make the best 'Easter basket' from what you have at home: backpacks and bumbags are great for serious egg hunters who want full mobility out in the field, and calico bags can be prettied up with fabric markers, sequins and tulle.
Alternatively, scour op-shops for second hand baskets that can serve double duty at Easter for choccie eggs, and then the rest of the year as a plant holder or picnic basket. Your child can have fun decorating them with ribbon scraps to make them more Easter-y. Or, go full DIY and get the kids to 'weave' their own Easter basket from strips of paper or card and decorate it (then you can recycle or compost it later).
4. Make the most of leftover hot cross buns
Hot cross buns are a beloved part of Easter and just because the holiday ends doesn't mean your buns have to go into the bin. Leftover buns are great for freezing (they're excellent lunchbox fillers and snacks), and there's no reason why you can't enjoy them all year round. They're also great for repurposing in a wide range of delicious baked treats.
"Hot cross buns freeze well – just ensure they're wrapped well. You can pop them in the toaster or oven straight from the freezer or defrost to enjoy them later," says Fiona.
"You can also transform hot cross buns into bread and butter pudding, ice cream sandwiches, french toast or truffles," says Fiona.
To make truffles, Fiona recommends processing stale hot cross buns until you reach a fine crumb then adding cream cheese or chocolate ganache and a little rum or brandy if you like. Form balls and dip in chocolate.
5. Try a meat-free Easter lunch
Although beef or lamb are classics often dished up for Easter Sunday lunch, they can also be an expensive addition to your shopping list.
And when you consider that just one kilogram of beef produces 60kg of greenhouse gas emissions, and meat and dairy alone contribute to about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, cost isn't the only reason why you may choose to opt for a meat-free Easter lunch this year. And there are plenty of delicious vegetarian or plant-based options that you can try to create a memorable feast.
"As the temperature gets cooler, vegetarian pies and tarts with ready-made filo or puff pastries are a warm and versatile option to feed a crowd relatively cheaply," says Fiona.
Fiona recommends Greek spanakopita with spinach, feta and hard-boiled eggs, a roasted pumpkin tart with spinach, walnuts and feta, or a mushroom, cream cheese and thyme tart.
"Another cheap meat-free meal that'll feed the whole family is a vegan chilli," says Fiona. If the weather isn't too warm, you could also bring out the slow cooker to help you create a no-fuss cost-effective meal that will satisfy a crowd.
Cheack out Fiona's recipe for vegan chilli, and other slow cooker ideas for cheaper cuts of meat.
6. Make a 'greener' Easter hat
The Easter hat parade is a much-anticipated primary school event for most Australian kids. However, buying single-use materials to make a hat that'll be worn for all of an hour can become an unintentionally wasteful and costly artistic endeavour.
Encourage kids to use items from around the house or the recycling bin to craft their masterpiece. Recycled packaging, toilet paper rolls and cardboard can give structure to a hat.
And when it comes to decorative flourishes, natural materials will cost nothing and help reduce waste, so raid the garden for pretty leaves, flowers or twigs that can add some natural beauty to your child's masterpiece. Old buttons, discarded ribbons, string, bottle tops or scraps of fabric are also excellent reusable materials.
7. Use fuel apps if you plan to roadtrip
Rising fuel prices are likely a concern for those hitting the road over the long weekend. Our recent Consumer Pulse survey found that second to food and groceries, 82% of households are worrying about the number at the pump. We recommend using our top-rated fuel apps when planning your trip to plot out the cheapest petrol stations on your journey. Other ways to save on fuel include maintaining your vehicle, avoiding over-revving, refraining from speeding and avoiding short trips.
8. Look for free school holiday activities
Activities that keep the kids occupied during the school holidays can add up quickly. If you're staying at home, make the most of free local council events and activities, trips to free galleries or museums, and outings to local libraries, beaches, reserves, bike tracks or parks.
If you're working, swap playdates with other parents to limit the days you have to pay for childcare. And for those days you do have kids to look after, consider lower-cost ways to keep them busy, such as cooking or baking Easter treats, Easter craft projects, gardening (perhaps planting some seeds or making bouquets from the garden) or water play.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.