I’m a bargain-hunting mum-of-nine and my ‘Big Squeeze’ method means I feed my family for £4 a head per day | The SunApril 21, 2023
A MUM-OF-NINE has opened up on her genius budgeting methods that means she’s able to feed her family of 11 for just £4 a day.
While the cost of living crisis has been hitting everyone in the UK, it’s also very apparent in regional New South Wales, Australia, where Claire Louise Hooker lives with her partner and kids.
Claire, 36, who is a home-school teacher and a blogger, and her husband Mark, 40, a civil service worker, have nine children to provide for: Georgina, 14, Charlotte, 13, Franchesca, 12, Abigail, 11, Catherine, nine, Elizabeth, also nine, Rose, eight, Martina, six, and five-year-old Michael.
Although previously, she told The Sun’s Fabulous she spent just £630 a month on the food shop, due to inflation impacting prices, this has nearly doubled in the last year.
And before she and Mark are even able to pick out their food for the fortnight, they have to travel 45 km to get to the supermarkets.
She shared: “We tend to bulk buy a lot of things, like family sized lasagnes, packets of meat such as beef and pork mince because they’re so versatile. You can make bolognese one day, pies the next, then burgers…
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“We stock up on frozen vegetables and fruit, too, and other things like rice, pasta and bread.
“We also bulk buy obvious items like toilet rolls and some cleaning products – though I make a few things myself too, like kitchen spray.”
Claire explained that before the pandemic, she never went around to different supermarkets. But after Covid-19 hit, it was difficult to find certain products and it’s still the case today.
The doting mum said that shopping around at different places can help ensure you get the best deal and it’s also handy to check out your local community as she’s occasionally able to get bread from her church.
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“We shop at a combination of supermarkets to find the best deals and save money,” she explained. “These include Aldi, Woolworths and Coles.
“We also shop at fresh food markets and pick up bargains at the end of the week.”
But, not everything has to be bought as the pair always have eggs on hand thanks to their hens and ducks and have started growing their own vegetables, too.
“My husband grows vegetables such as courgette, aubergine, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, radish, beetroot, leeks and onions,” she explained.
We shop at a combination of supermarkets to find the best deals and save money
The pair are about to plant their winter vegetables as well, which means they’ll have plenty of cabbage and cauliflower to go around.
“We also make our own cream from powdered milk. Not to mention we forage for blackberries to store in the freezer, ready for us to make homemade jam or to bake goods with,” she added.
Claire went on to reveal that she spends roughly £560 a fortnight. Adding that the budget has risen by £80 over the last year thanks to the cost of living, she said that feeding everyone varies from day to day as it all depends on what meal they decide on.
“But it is roughly £40 a day, which works out to around £4 per person,” she shared..
A typical food shop will consist of two large chickens for £3 each, frozen pies for £2 each, frozen bags of mixed vegetables that total up to £15, including chips that work out to another £15. She also buys a whopping 18 loaves of bread to last them two weeks, which she gets for £21 and six packets of milk powder, which adds up to £32.
Snacks and treats are roughly £15, while cereal and breakfast items cost just a fiver.
While this is just a small selection of their giant food shops, they also have to stock up on toiletries and cleaning products, which amounts to about £30 in total.
“We use supermarket reward cards to get points on our grocery shopping,” she told us. “The reward programme gives you a few options on how you’d like to save.
“For example, get £5 off your next shop or save up your built-up points for Christmas. We have opted to save for Christmas as at the end of the year this pretty much pays off 95 percent of our Christmas food shop for the whole family.”
As for what kind of meals they make, Claire said breakfasts usually consist of Weetabix and fruit, while lunch alternates between sandwiches and snack plates consisting of dates, sultanas, fruit, banana chips and biscuits.
The Hooker household takes dinner as their opportunity to be a little more creative as one night they might make a bolognese while Tuesdays are usually reserved for tacos.
Cheese pizzas and garlic bread is a family favourite, too, while on alternate weeks they have fish and chips with vegetables.
Occasionally, they’ll make oven baked cheesy omelettes, where they use a total of 24 hen eggs, which they pair with chips and vegetables.
TOP 5 MONEY-SAVING TIPS
- Shop around for the best deals, even if that means you have to go into different supermarkets.
- Try to make your own treats where you can. For example, instead of buying ice cream, you could make it at home and turn it into a family activity.
- Go through your cleaning products, food pantry, bathroom cupboards and everything else to see what you have left over. People often double up on a product they didn’t realise they already had at home.
- Cut down on luxuries. It’s easy to go over your budget and overboard with material items that you don’t need.
- Family activities and school excursions don’t have to be expensive. Go to museums, go for a walk, go blackberry picking together and make pies, or you could have a picnic in the garden.
Chicken and bacon curry with rice is also on the menu and on Sundays they all gather round to make a roast dinner, consisting of chicken, vegetables and potatoes served with gravy.
Food is just one portion of the equation to saving money though as Claire has also found ways to ensure she’s getting the best deals when it comes to her children’s education, clothes and big holiday events like birthdays and Christmas.
“Home education is not cheap but it still works out cheaper than sending them to school,” she told Fabulous. “Textbooks are passed down the siblings as they progress through the years.
“Other books can be acquired at minimal cost via re-use services or shops. We save money throughout the year to purchase stationery and school books at the start of the summer holidays. And there are also a lot of free educational resources online that can be useful.”
School starts at 8:00 and ends at 12:30 after which they have the time and freedom to “be kids” by playing basketball, going swimming, walking, reading a book and more.
Claire explained that when it comes to Christmas, they put money aside each fortnight and don’t use it until the 1st of December.
Every fortnight they also set aside some money for birthdays and holidays.
“A lot of people always ask me how do you cope with a large family. Or they ask, how do you budget for everything? I always say that although it's hard, it's really not that bad, we just do what we have to do,” she said.
“We have hard days like anyone else, and sometimes life throws some difficult challenges our way, but I would not have it any other way.”
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“No one ever goes without, so I believe our budget and planning work well for us,” she added.
To find out more tips, visit Claire’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
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