When it comes to finding the best food ideas, the global truth seems pretty straightforward.
So we did just that.
We asked three grandmothers from across the country to share their favorite tips for reducing the cost of eating out:
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KRINA FITCHET is an 86 year old mother, grandmother and great grandmother from Whanganui. She grew up on a small-town lifestyle block and her austerity measures were passed down from her mother.
The ultimate treat as a kid was getting a penny ice cream around town. It’s a memory she’s never forgotten.
The biggest rule Fitchet has lived by since? Nothing is ever thrown away.
Don’t waste meat
When Fitchet married in 1955, she didn’t own a refrigerator for the first year (“we saved up really hard for one,” she says). Therefore, keeping meat fresh was a problem.
“I remember I had a beautiful hogget leg and it really stank. I called my mom and said, “What should I do, I can’t throw it away,” she says.
Her mother’s advice? Soak it in malt vinegar.
“I washed it thoroughly and removed the stinky, stinky stuff. It was slimy at that point, so I removed all of that, cooked it, and it was a beautiful hogget leg,” she says.
“You haven’t wasted your meat.”
For Fitchet, that one leg of Hogget would become a hot roast, a cold meat dinner, and sandwiches for lunch. What was left of the bone was ground up to make shepherd’s cakes. The bone would then be boiled down for soup stock.
What’s left goes to the family dog.
When it came to whole animals, the Fitchet family had a few sheep that they would use for food. Without a freezer, the meat would be shared with neighbors and family so nothing was wasted. Every part of the animal would be used. Liver became roast lamb, flaps were stuffed and fried.
“I’ve never cooked hearts, but my sister took them and stuffed them in. A heart doesn’t go very far in a family, so sometimes the dog is lucky.”
“It wasn’t wasted, not a bit.”
“Even after I got married, we were fortunate that I got a lot of fruit in season and was always bottling fruit,” says Fitchet.
It’s a habit she’s maintained over the years. It’s cheaper, she says, than buying canned fruit at the store.
“I just made four jars of feijoa chutney and…bottled feijoas,” she says. The preserved fruit will last for “years” if done right.
Fitchet’s Failsafe Method of Preserving Feijoas?
“I just boil them and put them in a jar,” she laughs.
JILL HOGG is a 74-year-old grandmother of four who grew up in Auckland as one of five children.
Without a fridge, meat and bread was a struggle to keep fresh. Maybe that’s why the kids of the 1950s have clear memories of mom cooking everything for far too long.
“Back then, parents just cooked the shit out of everything. Your potatoes were basically mashed before you had to mash them.”
Hogg has abandoned the overcooking method passed down from mom, but she still thrives on a few cost-saving tips she’s learned over the years.
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In his youth, Hogg’s family made sure the food budget worked with cheaper cuts of meat and lots of stews and roasts.
“My mom used to make stews and you would stretch it with the gravy,” she says.
Hogg has strong memories of many stews and ground beef-based dishes growing up, largely because they were the cheaper cuts.
“We never had chicken because there were too many of us. Chicken wasn’t cheap and we probably needed two.”
It was a money-saving tip she used when she got married in 1969 and also fell flat. As the young couple worked hard to save, cheap cuts of meat and weekly specials were the order of the day.
“You have to buy the specials,” says Hogg.
Save extras for the next day
Hogg’s top saving tip, both early in their marriage and after the kids were born, was to cook extra food so the leftovers could be saved and eaten the next day.
It’s a tip she still uses often today. The added bonus?
“You only use your oven once instead of twice. That also saves electricity.”
These days, the Hogg freezer is often filled with leftovers for another day.
“This week we made a pasta casserole, so we made extra, we made enough, so we had it for dinner one night and we froze three meals. We made a bacon and egg pie [last week]and we have two nights of it.”
ELAINE ROSSER has three children, nine grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Over the years, the 84-year-old has perfected the art of supporting a large family on a budget.
The Maungatoroto, Northland native grew up on a farm where the family grew their own vegetables and Rosser’s father killed the family’s meat.
They mainly ate sheep, and Rosser recalls the family eating every part of the animal.
“We ate liver and bacon and the kidneys went into the stew. We never wasted anything,” she says.
The childhood memories have influenced the way Rosser continues to expand her dollar these days. When asked for her top tips, she insisted that homemade meals were the answer.
cooking at home
As a child, Rosser says, the family never ate out, and if it was a cost-saving tradition, she’s stuck to that tradition with her own children.
“We never went out to eat. We only went out on very special occasions,” she says.
For the price of one meal, Rosser says it’s possible to cook a whole week of homemade meals. And there’s an added bonus for home dining, too.
“It’s a lot easier to feed young kids at home than to take them to a restaurant,” she says.
“They always misbehave in a restaurant.”
Home baking is key
Rosser recalls her mother baking scones as a child to complement bread, and it’s a trick that’s stayed with her over the years.
She says home baking is a far cheaper way to enjoy sweet treats (and she’s become such an avid baker that she sells her baked goods at the local market every Saturday).
“By all means make your own cookies and stuff. I always have an Edmonds recipe book and the cookie recipes in it are really good.”