Unemployed and relying on social security to provide enough money to feed my family, I have just $120* per fortnight to spend on food. Is it possible to feed a family of four on just $60* per week? Centrelink seems to think so.
The $120 Food Challenge, March 2010
Never one to back away from a challenge, I took on this project as the latest episode in a long culinary life. It started as it so often does, at my mother’s side making jam tarts and playing with the pastry offcuts. By the time I was a young teenager, I was cooking dinners for the family and Mum had the good sense to leave me to it.
From experimental disasters with too much alcohol in the chocolate mousse, to hippy earth-mother bread-making to bringing mercy food hampers to hospitalised friends, to catering for family celebrations, engagement parties, a long procession of children’s birthdays and even making and decorating my own wedding cake, I have attempted it all. Some meals have succeeded spectacularly while others have, let’s be frank, been consigned to the dustbin and the dogs food bowl of life.
When I became unemployed in February 2010, it wasn’t the first time I had to eat on a budget, although it was the first time I wrote about it or shared it with others in an online forum.
Since the start of The Challenge, food prices have inevitably risen. They always do. What was once my entire food budget for a fortnight is now $120 for a week of family meals and I continue to do my darndest to stick to this budget when developing recipes for this website.
What started as a small project to get me through a very difficult financial period has evolved to become a small business. I now cook in a kitchen in Melbourne and continue to share nutritious, budget-priced family recipes both on this blog and in my first cookbook, published by Viking Penguin.
I am currently writing my second cookbook.
* Australian Dollars