About Sandra

Mother, foodie, writer, failed public servant, sometime gardener, recipe writer and extremely good cook.

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

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220 thoughts on “About Sandra”

  1. Hey Sandra.

    Great website. All the best with it. Now you know what a wonderful cook I am… *cough cough*…. But truly I have been improving and have cooked some of your recipes.

    If I can do some of them, anyone can.

    Funds are short for many of us these days, so this site is a wonderful idea.

    Cheers.

    Jen

  2. awesome – I need this information more than ever as my son has just turned 14 and is going through his big growth spurt.

    Great work Sandra

  3. Hi Sandra
    Just want to say I know it’s not easy surviving on such little money, and it seems you have turned this into something inspiring and positive!
    M :)

  4. Sandra, read your story on Mamamia and just HAD TO congratulate you on your positive, KICK ASS attitude. Very refreshing!!

  5. excellent site LPC!! I also just read your story on Mamamia and HAD TO log on here and congratulate you on your positive attitude. Congratulations!!

  6. Wow this is very impressive, I am going to forward your web site to Kate, cause she loves cooking to and wanted to be a food writer.
    Is there no end to your talents

    Love to all

    Jan x

  7. Hi Sandra, what a fantastic blog.

    I found you via Mamamia this morning and have already downloaded at least ten of your recipes into my iPhone (Handy Cook Book is the app I use – fantastic for when you’re at the shops without your recipe books and you can’t remember the ingredients you need)

    I love that you’re doing something so positive and productive. You were so courageous to leave your job, but when you’re unhappy, the decision should be a no-brainer. Life’s too short! Still . . . tis extremely brave. Well done you!!

    And I agree with some of the other commenters – this could easily evolve into a great little commercial blog and a publishing deal. Go for it!

    Wishing you all the love and success you deserve. Off to the shops to get the ingredients for the chicken & tomato braise. Looks yummo!!

    xo

    1. Michelle, thank you so much for your lovely comments. I will research the iPhone app and see if I can’t install an icon directly into the recipe page. I have tried to install a print icon and unfortunately the template and type of wordpress blog I am using doesn’t lend itself to a print function. I am still investigating ways to start up something a little more independent, allowing for those features and with the means to import all the current recipes and styles

      If there’s anyone reading this who can lend some technical advice to assist I’d love to hear from you …

  8. Hi Sandra,
    I’m stoked with finding your blog – my husband has cracking it with how much I spend on groceries and meals every month! We have gone to one income while I am on maternity leave (I work for a very well known food magazine – so LOVE cooking too) but I have a habit of not planning the week ahead and end up at the supermarket spending way too much on a whim…..
    I’ll be following you on your journey!
    Cheers,
    salt x

    1. Lovely to have you on board, Salt! I have to say, managing on one wage while I was on maternity leave was the best education in managing a tight food budget I could have had. Shopping without a list is probably the best way to blow the budget. Try to plan ahead, there are lots of other beneficial organisational elements that flow from it, including knowing what you’re going to cook on a week night once you go back to work.

  9. WOW! A big big congrats my friend on such a wonderful site you have created. I have just been surfing through some of the most delicious looking recipes. Well done!!!
    I very much look forward to working my way through these, what an inspiration. Some I would never have thought to attempt, but with your step by step instructions, I can conquer all! haha. I see you have worked very hard on this, and it shows.
    Well done again my friend.
    Looking forward to more mouth watering recipes. (Hey I might get a husband out of this yet!)
    Happy cooking out there. Love Ann xxx

  10. Sandra, this week for the first time in over a year I have not spent next weeks food money. I was always laying catch up – never quite getting my food budget under control – until now. I can’t thank you enough – just hope I can stay on top of it!
    xxxx

  11. Legless chocolate cake was great. Am going to try to “gluten free” it this week – will let you know how it goes.

    Thanks

  12. Sandra, I’ve found your website through mamamia, and I just wanted to tell you I love it. Since having kids and, well, just growing up I suppose, I have become passionate about feeding my family with real fresh food. Up until recently, I’ve been fortunate enough not to have to manage my budget as tightly as many, but that’s all changed now. What you’re doing on this site – and just the fact that you’ve done it – is an inspiration.

  13. Hi Sandra

    I loooove this site. I have a challenge that i dont doubt your up to.

    I was sitting at my desk wondering what to have for lunch. I am trying to lose weight and have changed my eating habits from junk to healthy slowly over the last year. Pre packaged soups and noodles etc have gone out of my diet as well.

    So inspired by the choclate cake in a mug – what about a soup in a mug something that can replace my afternoon packet cup a soup and can use dying vegies siting around in my fridge doing nothing?

    I know its best to make a big pot of soup and freeze it for later but i often dont get around to cooking on weekends and my freezer is not very big and i dont have many storage containers so i thought this might be a solution.

  14. Fantastic! So glad I have found you….. your blog goes straight to my faves, and I will be following your recipes gladly. Having just moved into similar financial constraints, I am really keen to see if I too can *make do* on a $120 budget. Thanks heaps. Cheers Wendy

  15. Sorry things are tough for you at the moment, LPC. Just wanted to remind you what an inspiration you are to many of us, and thank you for your lovely blog. HUGS! xoxo

  16. Hi LPC.

    I offered on Mamamia to give a whole list of slow-cooker recipes to anyone that wanted them, but with no website someone suggested you might be interested? I am happy to email them to you, I think there are about 60 budget slow-cooker meals in the list.

    I love your website and have started to try a few of the recipes. I am really into thrift and not wasting what we have, so love exchanging ideas. There is also a thread on the Vogue Forums called Being Thrifty with Entertaining which has some great general tips on it, if you have spare time to read through the masses of pages. Some great ideas in there tho. I hope things get better for you soon!!

    x

  17. Hi Sandra, I just saw an ad on Sourcebottle that made me think of you straight away! It’s a cooking website that pays for recipes! http://www.plancookeat.com/
    I can’t vouch for them because I only just glanced at their site briefly but from what I saw, they pay $10 per recipe (and you have to send them a photo of the dish) and they allow you to link to your own site/blog also.

    Might be worth looking into?

    Much love, Emily x

      1. hehe, yeah sourcebottle is great! It’s a website set up to connect PR people, journalists and sources e.g. a journo might post a note that he/she is looking to interview a family with school age kids about such and such or a PR person might post a note searching for companies to donate samples to go in goodie bags for a fashion week event etc. Great idea and makes great use of Twitter (which is where I found the call out for home cooks willing to provide blog fodder and voila!)

  18. Hello Sandra,
    just had to say thanks for the great site, I am regularly referring to it. I’m a recent tree changer, who is enjoying the abundant fresh home-grown produce, but also feeding my family on a much reduced income. So your budget, seasonal meals are perfect, and your site is very slick, keep up the great work.

    Cheers Alicia

  19. Hi Sandra
    I just wanted to say thank you for all your efforts on this site – it must be a huge job and you’re doing it beautifully.
    Quite apart from the noble mission of affordability, your recipes are both delicious and accessible, and your writing is down to earth and encouraging.
    You are inspiring me to get back into the kitchen!
    Thank you! xx

  20. Hello Sandra,
    Thank you so much for this ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC blog. I found it a week ago and I LOVE it. We live leanly, so this is such a wonderful resource – especially as you are in Australia and so what is seasonal for you is seasonal for me too! You are so kind to share your wisdom and expertise with us. I hope this leads to big things for you.
    Love Meredith

  21. just made your pear coconut lime muffins recipe……. delicious! of course I only had one pear & no yoghurt. So I added dried apple, dried appricot, low fat milk. Still delicious!!! thanks for the recipe & I look forward to trying more of them. Might make the vegetable pies tonight as I have rather depleted fridge, no car & its raining. Thanks Sandra

  22. Awesome work, and great website and recipes. You rock – good for you for making a difference and caring enough to share what you know. The world needs more real people like you to bring us all back to reality. Some people spend $120 in a single meal and wonder why our precious planet is in such turmoil. Bringing things back to basics and living a little sustainably is the start to a better future. Awesome :)

  23. I think your fantastic, I have been doing this for years and I agree that it can be done. I love cooking and regularly write my own recipes and use iginuity to get through the weeks with gourmet success. Good on you and I look forward to looking at your reciepes and also might send you some of mine as a gift of respect for someone who made it work for her family without groaning and also someone who decided to help others in the process. Our mothers and Grandmothers have been doing this for years before us and it is only the new world of quick lazy meals that stole the education of tasty subsistance cooking from many around us. Food that puts smiles on every face in the house, not to mention healthier families that benifit from these extra efforts.

    Many Regards,
    Robyn Whittaker.

    1. Robyn,

      Many thanks for your kind comments, I agree completely with your thoughts about our mothers and greandmorthers being shown this.

      I am always grateful for any recipe suggestions you would like to share, you will find our email address on the Contacts page.

      I look forward to sharing your thoughts.

      Sandra

  24. Hi Sandra,

    I wanted to congratulate you on your story on Today Tonight,Well done !!
    ‘Your get on with’ it attitude resonated with me.
    Am a single hard working parent , with a constant frustration of feeding two children on a very tight budget, one being a teenager and the only thing you hear her say is, ‘Whats to eat mum”
    Am a cook myself only because of a tight budget, if you could be mindfull of us working mums rushing in the door feeding hungry children, then packing school lunches for the next day when you compile some of your recepies. My weekends are spent cooking meals for the next week,thou all I really want to do is to climb under my doona and sleep.
    Thankyou for your 120dollarfoodchallenge

    Wishing you every Happiness

    Nicole :)

  25. Hello Sandra,

    Just saw your segment on today tonight thought it was great. Well done on this site i will now be using your site an important tool to doing my weekly shopping. I have been married for a year and a half now and i am currently spending 150 dollers a week so this is gonna be a real eye opener, as i am starting to feel the pinch on my budget, hopefully husband will be a bit happier with the the skills i can learn from u as well as learning more about cooking and preparing my weekly meals.

    THANK YOU
    this is an amazing webite.
    kind regards Kailey – May

  26. Great website. Interesting recipes. Cant wait to get to the shops with my list and my budget! Keep up the great work.

  27. Hi Sandra, Wow, go girl. You have a lot of good old common sense here. I think your ways will help us pensioners out too. We are always feeling the pinch if we want to make life a little more enjoyable. The big problem is that supermarkets, greengrocers, and butchers etc, don’t always package things in usable quantities for us at reasonable costs and some of us live in retirement units which are very small and don’t have a great deal of storage space.; your comments will be appreciated.

  28. Glad to see there is someone out there that works to a budget, yet delivers great meal ideas and shares the information with others! Fantastic!

    Love your work Sandra! :)

  29. Fantastic website – saw you on TV tonight. You are an inspiration! Keep up the great work. I’ll be checking in every day for motivation and ideas.

  30. Hi Sandra,

    I love how the universe delivers what you need! I am just in a spot of bother with money as many of us are and my mind is constantly thinking how? how? how? can I make it stretch more. I thought I had been abit savvy with my groceries but you have taken it to a whole new level for me. So I am super excited as it is pay week and I am going to get started! I love the fact that you are such a foodie and that you will be teaching me lot’s of new ways to cook and enjoy food along the way!

    So big thankyou already for making this all so exciting! I am about to become a first time Mum very soon, so this really is going to help me in my “nesting” period!.

    Cheers
    Dannie :)

  31. Great website Sandra. Reminds me of the days when I was on my own with 4 little urchins to feed. I’m proud to say that after many years of surviving on Centrelink payments, my family have all grown into happy and healthy adults. I do hope you recieve finacial rewards for all you work. Keep it up, I’m sure you’ll go far.
    Barbara R

  32. I’ll tell you I’ve been on a forced budget of the same amount but have had to feed THREE hungry teenage boys, myself and my husband. Not unemployed but income has drastically reduced and interest on credit cards gone through the roof plus a big mortgage.
    So I definitely cook my own bread, we eat lots of pancakes and have once a week a lentil soup-costs under 5 dollars to feed entire family. lots of fruit and veg and only small amounts of red meat beefed up (excuse the pun) with beans or legumes.

    So all of this is very possible and good for your health!

  33. Hi Sandra, great work and all the best for you and your family!
    I too am on social benefits, and after rent, I am left with $50 per week. I find your website interesting, as you say that $120 caters for 12 meals. That’s less than one meal per day! Please explain? To survive, I believe we need at least a few meals per day, and that would work out to over 30 meals per fortnight. I too have been travelling to farmer’s markets etc. and only purchasing un-processed foods. If you read the labels, about 95% of groceries from the large supermarkets are filled with sugar, preservatives, processed with chemicals, sourced from overseas (most likely China & Vietnam, which have no food regulators or inspectors), and lo-fat items contain Aspartame (the cancer-causing sugar substitute-among many others).
    My question to you, and all the people reading this website is: How much of your food bill won’t kill you in 20 years time? It’s a serious question, and one that has lead me to buy only fresh foods and produce.
    Work it out, research the products (i.e. barcodes starting with 690, 691, 692 come from China), do the math, and you will see that we ALL should go back to a traditional way of buying our choice foods – from markets and locals.
    Good luck and god bless Australia.

    1. It’s 14 meals plus a few extras each fortnight John, for an average of four people per meal.

      Much as I would love to debate the merits of buying Australian, or buying food that is not overly processed, all I can do is the best I can with the money I have got.

      I have decided that I must make my limited income feed my family as healthily and as nutritiously as possible. If that means I am eating a tin of tomatoes from China, so be it. Much as I enjoy buying foods from local providers I am also living in the real world. I’m time poor and cash-strapped. I either buy food at my local shopping centre, like the vast majority of urbanised Australians or I put petrol in the car to go the 100 km round trip to the local farm gate. I do what I can John and leave the tub-thumping for others.

      1. Thanks for your reply Sandra. Yes I understand your position very well, and the position hundreds of other families as well. I am a volunteer worker, helping churches (I am not a devout Christian! But I believe in the Golden rule) and other groups feed the poor, whilst I receive food for my work. I have been doing this on-and-off for over 15 years, and I have recently been ‘sacked’ due to the company going downhill. I have been looking for work for 2 years now, whilst keeping up the volunteer work. Our resources are stretched to the limit, as we are seeing a 600% to 700% increase in small and medium families (some homeless) coming to us to be fed with what ever we can give (in the last 6 months alone). These are NORMAL people. NORMAL families who have LESS than both of us, and who RELY on the food we give them at the churches and food support outlets (i.e. Salvos, Vinnies). Most of this food is NOT nutritious – baked goods, processed meats, canned foods etc. Organizers are expecting it to get worse (i.e. less people will give to charity), as the media plant rubbish into people’s minds about a ‘growing’ economy, (it’s positive) to increase interest rates, consumer confidence and low unemployment.
        I am also living in the REAL world. Yet I continuously see a world clearly in need of self respect, self knowledge/understanding, and self love.
        You have started a movement, which is fantastic, and I respect that. You have a family to feed, and you are doing the BEST that you can.
        Despite what I see, I encourage myself to ‘see’ a vision of a future, where we DO NOT have to compromise our basic needs, in order to feed corporate greed. As I struggle to ‘make-do’ with the little that I have, I smile, and am grateful for all that I am and all that I do. For every soul that I feed, it will return to me a thousand times over.
        I believe in social responsibility, community values, and a world free of poverty, self doubt, and voluntary imprisonment.
        If ‘tub-thumping’ means to bring awareness to my fellow Australians about how they can ‘THINK FOR THEMSELVES’, then so be it.
        Thank-you for your help in providing Australians with your wonderful ideas, for strengthening our spirits in these tough times, and for filling our tummies with delicious, creative, inspiring LOVE!

  34. I saw you last night on tv.You were good. Having brought up four children on my own and being on a disability pension on my own now,with severe allergies(including food) I have to cook all my own meals.loved your recipes and I can adapt them to my own needs.I cook the full amount and freeze meal size portions. keep up the good work.I look forward to your success in the future.

  35. What a great idea and site. Necessity is the mother of invention! And what a lovely, genuine person shone through in last night’s story on ‘Today Tonight’. Wishing you every success.

  36. Hi Sandra,
    Your site is great.
    My late wife was a Chef and spoilt me with great food and I learnt nothing, not even boiling eggs (lol)
    Through perseverence and frustration I learnt by smell and taste, am now very proud that after 6 years I cooked the whole Christmas dinner/Roast for my family and Grandchildren.
    I am now trying to educate the family to do their grocery shopping Sunday Evenings. I make huge savings, some items as much as 70%, this is because space has to made on shelves in the Supermarket for fresh produce arriving early Monday mornings. My average costs, shopping for three, including laundry items, non perishables is $130.
    PS: includes my smokes (but am about to give that up)
    Regards
    Ray

  37. John,

    I buy ‘no name’ oats for 99 cents a 1 kg packet and oats are VERY healthy!

    flour rice and pasta also healthy and you can get just as cheap the brown variety

    have my own chooks so eggs are fresh and super healthy

    grow my own herbs

    oranges are very cheap at the moment and always a good variety of green veg on sale

    carrots are a GREAT filler and less than 2 dollars per kilo!!!

    no reason to go hungry or be unhealthy

    Sandra represents many aussies living within budget well :)

  38. Congratulations on such a fantastic and positive effort under difficult circumstances. There need to be more positive people like yourself. Helen

  39. Hi,

    Congratulations ! just saw your article on today tonight and had to look up your website. I am definitely going to try some of your recipes and make an effort to go to Aldi !

    Good job and I wish you success.

  40. Hey Sandra, I see you were on TV, WOW… you were talking about one day … following your dreams… one step closer for you. Well done. You deserve it. Catch you at a festival soon. Love to you. Ann

  41. Lunch or dinner sounds lovely. Catch up on this whirl wind of excitement of yours. When is the August festival? Where?

  42. Your website is great! Your story on Today Tonight was very impressive, I love how you bake your own bread for 75c and it looks so much tastier than loaves at the supermarket.. I will be a visiting your website all the time now and look forward to the cookbook! Well done!!

  43. Great work Sandra. I have enjoyed reading your website all day today. You are a true inspiration and have made me feel inspired to get started on a new thrifty way of living.
    Don’t let negative people ruin this for you, you are helping so many people with clever, simple & healthy ideas. Keep it up.

  44. Yo Sandra… well done! :) What you’re doing is such a cool idea.. you’ll help tons of people struggling with a strict food budget!

  45. Hi Sandra,

    I often see your comments on mamamia.com and have been interested to take a look at your website for a while. Wow ! It’s great. I have always been one to shop to a budget, even back in the days when I actually had a disposable income, and I always love to find more inspiration.

    I will definately be a regular visitor of your site.

    All the best,
    Happy and Clear

  46. Hi Sandra,
    This is sensational. I am truely blown away with what’s on offer. You have just made my life so much less complicated, keep ‘em coming luv………..

  47. This is such a brilliant site – congratulations on showing the world how to eat beautifully and healthily on a budget.

  48. ok,i just heard your story on the radio,you have an 18 year old son,does he work? you have a 16 year old daughter who is at school,fair enough,do you recieve child support? if no and the father is still living,why not?as i understand it you left your job because you were not happy with it,i could be wrong please correct me if i am,but if you left your job and got on to centrelink thats your business,but to then go to the salvos for food vouchers,these organisations are there for people in real need,while you still had a computer at home and internet access,obviously you were not in a desperate situation that most people who seek aid from these organisations usually are,if i were in that situation, the first thing i would have done was sell all the luxury items i owned and bought food for my family,that is if you think feeding your family is more important than your facebook.
    organisations like the salvos do a great job in helping families and individuals who are really in need,and from what i heard on radio i was disgusted by what appears to be someone who places self interest over those in our community who really need our help

    1. Michael, thank you for your concerns, and I’m happy to respond as much as I can.

      Firstly, my son is a 1st year apprentice who is managing his own finances as best he can. He doesn’t ask for a lot, just a bed and a feed every once in a while. In return for completing his studies, I supply a computer and a home for him. It’s the same deal for my daughter who’s doing her final two years at school. I don’t receive FTB because of theages of my children. The child care arrangements and payment of child support between my ex husband and myself is private but overseen by the Child Support Agency who act as arbitrators. It’s not a fair arrnagement. It never is.

      I agree with you that the Salvos are there for people in real need, and as such, it’s their call as to who they give food vouchers – or any other assistance – to. Having worked in community services in previous years, I know what real need is, but real need is different things to different people Michael.

      You don’t know me, or my private circumstances, and I have not openly discussed my finances for those reasons. That said, I have spent the better part of six months negotiating with creditors and utility companies to try to maintain not just the house I live in but the provision of services such as electricity and a phone connection. At one pioint I was in a doctor’s office in tears, at near breaking point. Don’t suppose for one moment that i don’t know how difficult it can be.

      As for what I should have done, or apparently haven’t done, that’s your call based on an astonishingly narrow frame of reference. Sorry if you feel I have been living of the proceeds of charity and stolen from someone who doesn’t have what I’ve got. Hopefully, by providing over ten hours a day every day of unpaid work to the running of this blog, of meeting the previously un-met need of a huge community who value my efforts and are experiencing lasting results in their own tight budgets, I can at least be seen to be putting something back.

      As for Centrelink and the ATO, they already know. They’ve been kept informed every step of the way. Now that you have had your questions answered respectfully, I hope you can wipe the bad taste from your mouth. Your disgust and disapproval is your choice Michael. I choose otherwise.

  49. ok sandra,well met,true, i don’t know all your circumstances and can only respond to what information i recieve from the media,kudos to your son in pursuing an apprenticeship,you didn’t mention this in your radio interview,and certainly your private financial affairs should remain so,but i hope you can understand my reaction to what appeared on the surface to be an exercise in self interest at the expense of people in need,having read your response i am thoroughly chastised and please accept my unreserved apology,hopefully you will be able to free yourself from your daily 10 hour blog duty soon and pursue something more fulfilling

    1. Michael, Read through the blog, this is not a site for recipes, it is a whole of life challenge, giving tips, suggestions, advice and motivation. Everyone can take out of it what they require. From the responses after the Book Announcement shows just how many people are reading and using all aspects of this blog. The important thing to remember is that Sandra responded to her needs in her time and in her own way. I, like many others thank her for that. I don’t think Susan needs to be free of anything, and as for the “more fulfilling” comment I’ll let other bloggers digest that comment. Sandra keep your strength I know you are doing something that you enjoy and that is meeting the needs of many with grace and good humour. :)

  50. Hi Sandra, i heard you on the radio this week and thought what a fantastic blog, I must check it out. I have just spent the last year on unpaid maternity leave with my beautiful son, and living on 1 wage is tough. I am looking forward to trying some of your receipe’s and saving some money along the way. I really thought that your suggestion of 2 meat free meals a week was really good. Thanks so much for an amazing amount of effort. The site is really tops.

    Well done. When are you getting a book deal? :)

    1. Hi Jean,

      I have said elsewhere that I first started budgetting seriously on food bills when I was on maternity leave – it’s a wonderful opportunity in so many many ways. I’m thrilled you found this site, enjoy trying out the recipes and good luck with your new role as Mum.

      The book deal has been signed, I’m now writing the book for an end-of-November deadline and with an expected publishing date of late 2011 to early 2012.

  51. Hi Sandra
    What a wonderful blog with so many inspiring recipes and stories. Health issues will soon force us to downsize and move back with my family due to not being able to meet some financial commitments. My husband and I have three growing and hungry boys so finding economical and nutritious meals has always been a challenge.
    Thank you for keeping your blog going..it is inspiring and I really look forward to your book… a big Congratulations. I will keep checking back to get ready to menu plan for when we change our lifestyle.
    Many thanks
    Tracy

  52. Sandra,

    Well done! I’m adding you to my blogroll over at The Red Kitchen Project, which is a very similar idea to yours — I create recipes in which ALL ingredients must be available at cheap, discount, no-frills stores (like ALDI, Save-a-Lot, etc. where you bag/box your own groceries and can’t find many “name brands” and often need a quarter deposit for your shopping cart and that sort of stuff). I’ll be looking to you for inspiration in the future, and I hope you’ll drop by The Red Kitchen site as well. I think if we didn’t live halfway around the world from each other, we’d be great friends. :)

    –Gracie

    1. Gracie, It’s 5am here and your words are a wonderful early morning pick-me-up. Enjoy trawling through the recipes here, and beat of luck with your continued success Stateside xx

  53. HI Sandra
    Can I ask if that $60 per week includes breakfast, lunch and other non food items one needs in the house? I just ask as it seems you are only talking about $120 per fortnight for evening meals and nothing else. IF the latter is the case then I wish I had as much to spend as you.

    I am a single mum to two primary aged children, we receive no child support just the basic allowances from centrelink. I probably spend on average $100 per fortnight on ALL grocery items food and toiletries, laundry and household needs. This also includes kitty litter, dry food and meat for 2 cats.

    I must say though I do like your recipes

  54. Hi Sandra
    You have a fantastic site(A lady at work told me to facebook your page) and awesome meal ideas! very insperational Looking forward to trying to veg lasnaga!
    I have been on centerlink benefits and i must say it’s awfully difficult
    Cj xx

  55. Love this blog!!! Well done Sandra, you’re doing a great thing. And I never knew I could buy bread mix from Aldi… I’m even more in love with the Germans now!

  56. Last year, I had the opportunity of helping out a birthday party, and, later the wake of a good friend. Through this site’s hints, and, some creative thinking, I was able to give my friend the celebrations that he deserved.

  57. Just saw the article on SMH.com.au today (http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/restaurants-and-bars/make-dough-save-money-20110124-1a2l4.html) – very interesting and good on you! We’re a family of four on one income and we seem to spend way more than $120 a fortnight on food (plus household products)……..if you have done it by yourself with 2 kids, then you’re amazing. I think my partner and I are going to have a good hard look at our food budget, what we’re doing with our food choices and how we source it. What an amazing blog you have and I only can wish you the best of luck and success for the future. I hope the book deal helps you set yourself up – I will be certainly be keeping an eye out for your book. And to Michael and other such like-minded individuals – find out your facts 100% first before opening your mouth and insulting people – I thought what he wrote was disgusting (and well done for printing it Sandra as then we saw what a small-minded individual this person is)

  58. Sandra
    I love this kind of frugal approach to groceries and cooking too. My partner and I often do the Curtis Stone challenge and keep our dinners at 10 bucks or under. Not always easy but it’s fun.

    I’m a little miffed as to why you don’t get a job though….like even something part time? You left your old employment voluntarily but are surviving off the dole/food stamps. If you were self sufficient then great, but it seems a little unfair that you quit your job on a whim and expect the public to fund your chosen lifestyle.

    1. Hi Eva,

      Thank you for your enquiry, and may I say it’s a lot more politely expressed than some of the comments raised in todays’s newspaper article. Up until now I have been a little reluctant to divulge all the information surrounding my personal circumstances in the last year, but clearly, there are some assumptions that need clearing up, so if you don’t mind, I’ll just take this moment to set the record straight.

      1. Its true I did leave my job in rather spectacular fashion. It was a temping casually paid job that I put up with for three years. For two years before that, I worked in another temp casually paid job, from which I was made redundant. For five years all my attempts to secure permanent employment came to nought. I’m 48 years old. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

      2. The Salvation Army have given me exactly 2 $60 food vouchers for which I am indebted for the rest of my life. They didn’t just help me out when my situation was very tight, they gave me a lifeline. I have never hidden this fact, but neither have I taken from them more than that initial hand out.

      3. Two weeks after leaving my job and just three days after starting this blog – which I started at the behest of a good group of friends who felt I had something important and useful to say – I got another job. Another temp casual job but one I loved doing. In the end, I never received any Centrelink payment for the fortnight I was out of work. Shortly afterwards, my father, then gravely ill from a six year long illness, became hospitalised. Despite being very understanding of my situation and my desire to support my parents, my workplace nevertheless fired me, citing family interests conflicting with work requirements after I took two days off while he was in intensive care. I had been there only six weeks. My father died five weeks after that while I continued to scrap around looking for work.

      4. For the next three months I was under the care of a local health provider who were concerned about the battering my health was taking after this series of personal crises during the previous four months. During this time, the only thing I did was cook and write. I don’t wish to dwell on this time or elaborate further except to say I wouldn’t wish for the circumstances I endured to be visited upon anyone. Writing and cooking was more than just therapy, it was the only thing that got me out of bed. The day after my father’s funeral I got an email from Channel 7, requesting an interview on Today Tonight. That story featured in early August while I was on Newstart following the two month period of sickness benefits.

      5. As a direct result of the story airing, I was introduced to the team from Lantern Penguin who have since contracted me to write a cookbook based around the ideas posited in the blog. I received an advance which was immediately reported to Centrelink. I came off Newstart at that point. I have been writing as a fulltime job ever since. I write five recipes a day, cook two a day, photograph two a day, write two blog posts a day. Every day, frequently for 10-12 hours at a time.

      6. The advance is not designed to be enough to live on as any writer in this country will tell you. After speaking with Centrelink late last year and a job network service provider in my local area I was counselled as to my best options. Once again I am looking for work, one that I can fit in around the requirements of the book and the blog and I am also investigating the NEIS program. The irony is not lost on me that for the first time in six years I will actually have to consider a contracted or part time or casual job that supports me and my family until I can support us by writing.

      7. My son works full time on apprenticeship wages and pays some board. My daughter is a full-time student in Year 12. They have been incredibly understanding of the financial situation and constraints upon us often in the face of extremely harsh criticism. We are not out of the financial woods yet.

      While I can not please everyone in this reply and no doubt there will be further criticism to come, I would simply say that this whole phenomenon started out of a simple desire to make the very best out of a rotten situation. It’s been a series of shocks and surprises to me as much as anyone that the concept of the blog been as popular as it is but this last 12 months has also been the most fraught and perilous and difficult of my life. To those who have said that all my privileges (including a house to live in!) should be removed for daring to use the public purse, I would ask them to consider what they would do in such a situation. It’s not a place for the weak, that’s for sure.

      I’ve never before now openly discussed the exact events of last year, nor was any of this discussed with the reporter for the Fairfax interview. Nor should it have been – it was an interview about food. The events of my last year have been discussed with a therapist, not a journalist and that’s all I have to say on this question.

      In the end, I write about what I know about which is simple recipes, cooked carefully, made with love. If the comments and emails I’ve received over the past 10 months are any indication, I’ve pleased more people than I’ve ticked off. Sometimes, the most obvious answer to an apparent problem – unemployed, go out, get another job – doesn’t quite fit as a solution, but I hope in the interim that it has answered some of your concerns.

      1. Sandra

        WOW.

        i do apologise about my post now, it seems horrible when placed in the context of all you’ve been through. it certainly sounds like a rough road to tread, but good on your for coming out of it a better person. you certainly have a lot of strength and have most definitely made the best out of a bad situation.

        good on you for having the balls to quit your loathed job as well. so many of us put up with the daily grind we hate so much purely out of fear of the unknown. you basically flipped convention the bird and just jumped straight off the abyss and into hardship and a lot of uncertainty.

        after hearing your side of the story i think i have to say that SMH article does not present a fair view of your story and situation. from what i’d gathered from their article, you were still on unemployment benefits/receiving food vouchers. i had no idea you’d only received 2 of these from the salvos, i think SMH should have stated that fact. also, their comment about how you said you posted a lot on facebook as you “had nothing else better to do” really misrepresents your cause and i rather suspect was the rationale behind a lot of peoples’ negative/rude comments.

        good luck to you and your family going forward, i think this topic has a lot of scope in today’s tough times and uncertain job market. your kids are very lucky to have you around to teach them such great life skills too! surviving on a shoe-string is a great skill to have as you never know what life might throw at you!

        good luck and keep writing! :)

      2. And… you have 2 children! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a stay at home mum. Good on you! :) I think you’re inspiring.

  59. Sandra, you should plublish tips on how to bludge off the public purse, do you make home made cleaners, grow own herbs ect to strech your dole cheque further ?

    1. Hi Bill,

      I stick to what I know as in simple family meals, but for all sorts of ideas and information about home made cleaners and lots of money saving ideas, I can do no better than to recommend to you the good folks at Simple Savings. Their link is to the right of this page in the Blogroll.

  60. Well done Sandra, you’re doing a great job, and giving back far more than some people are claiming you are taking, not that you need to justify yourself in the first place to that end.

  61. Hi Sandra
    It sounds like you’ve made the best of a really tough situation. I enjoyed reading the article in today’s paper. Well done for raising two kids on your own.
    I look forward to trying out some of your recipes. Don’t worry about the negative people. You are quite clearly someone who can rise above anything.
    Oh and thanks for the explanation you gave above regarding being out of work. It helped me appreciate your situation – but it must be tough to share such personal things just to justify it!
    Regards
    Christy

    1. Thanks Christy, you’re right in that I’ve been very reluctant to tell the full story, so I thank you for your understanding and please, enjoy the recipes and the blog community. Negative people aside, I think we have an awesome group of like-minded people here.

  62. Hi Sandra

    I just wanted to applaud your efforts and wish you luck in the future.

    I was a single struggling mother for many years, I worked 4 part-time jobs around school hours so I could still ‘be there’ for the kids. There was always a vege patch and cheap nutritious meals. I too made my own bread :o)

    Unless you are a single parent you would not understand just how difficult it is to be there for your kids and work with no support. God forbid you should get ill or face difficulties.

    It takes a lot of strength to keep going and you obviously have that in spades. I admire you greatly.

    All the best to you, you deserve it.

  63. Just read your article in the Age http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/restaurants-and-bars/make-dough-save-money-20110124-1a2l4.html.

    I feel its a wonderful idea you are doing (eg teaching others who to survive on CL payments), but I feel you might want to consider posting about the efforts you have made to find employment. Some of the messages left are quite fiesty to say the least. And as a person who would like to quit her job, but is not prepared to sit on welfare and let others pay their expenses, some of the posts I agree with.

    Good luck on the book, maybe with the profits you could re-imburse centrelink.

    Regards

    Deborah

      1. Thanks – I saw the above post after I posted LOL.

        I understand how hard it is when you are raising kids basically on your own, but as a taxpayer, I get a bit annoyed when people who are able bodied actively decide that welfare can pay for their responsibilities.

        But hey – we live and we learn.

        Maybe the Age can do a follow up in a few months time on the success of your book.

        Regards

        Deborah

  64. I think it is great what you a doing,
    It is a very hard thing to cook for only $120 dollars a fortnight!
    You are quite an inspirational person!
    I read about you in the paper and want to buy your book when it comes out!
    Hanna

  65. Well done Sandra – and I don’t know why you have to justify your decisions to others…fancy people taking a shot at you – not on!!

    I’m taking up your challenge – can’t imagine how good it is going to feel when my wallet doesn’t seem like money just pours out of it each time I go to the supermarket!

    I’ll be spending part of my day tomorrow taking stock of the cuprboards and planning :)

  66. As a student I know what it’s like to have to live off the paltry amounts of money that Centrelink provide. I read the article about you and your blog on the paper and felt compelled to not only check out your recipes, but also to say that what you did, leaving a job that you hated, not knowing what will happen next shows and incredible amount of courage and to offer my support in the face of some people’s determination to respond with such nasty negativity. Helping people on a low budget eat well and eat fresh is such an important thing to do in this day and age.
    All the best.

  67. Hi, I’m sorry about the nastiness on the Fairfax website. Australians are depressing me lately. It’s so easy to get self-righteous and dump a load of vitriol anonymously on a website. I am beginning to think we are a very mean-spirited, nasty people, much as we’d like to congratulate ourselves on being otherwise.

    You’ve created a great public service, thank you. Quite inspirational. I’m a single mother of two. I work, but still find it tricky to make ends meet, especially post Christmas, and I don’t know how those on benefits do it. I’ve had moments of sheer terror wondering how we were going to survive, and where my journey was heading. Anyway! I understand the mindset.

    Discovering your site through The Age was very timely as I had just decided cutting the food budget was the way to proceed. Thanks for the resource and well done.

    And good on ALL parents and carers getting through as best they can.

  68. Hi Sandra,

    When I read the article about you on The Age, I was so excited and feeling positive about the changes you have made. I found that you are very courageous to leave the job that sucks the life out of you and made changes with your life.

    Once I scroll down, I was utterly disgusted (that’s the first word that popped into my head) and surprised by the negative comments about your decisions. Suddenly some people become self-righteous and doling out tired “career advice”. It’s sad and hypocritical (and hilarious too :)) that they’re criticising your decision to leave your job while using company’s time to complain about the job they hate and tearing down people who make different choice than what the society tells them to do.

    I say, good on ya! It’s your life and you don’t owe these pathetic people any explanation.

    As far as I’m concerned, you’re servicing the public by giving free information about how to survive on a pittance. Keep up the good work!
    Cheers,
    Bytta

  69. Hi Sandra and all power to ya. Firstly, don’t let the tide of negativity get to you, by doing this blog you have contribruted a hell of a lot more than the Steve Price lovers brigade who have attacked you today! Why unemployment (if that even applies to you) benefits have a stigma of “stealing taxpayer funds”, while baby bonus, business tax breaks, war machine funding, tax free army reserve work, advertising of govt propaganda etc take god knows how much out of the Treasury purse, just goes to show how 90% of Aussies don’t look at the walls of their glass house and let others live their lives. Anyone over 50, or who has had a child since 2000, or is putting money from their wage into their Super is receiving a form of welfare. Rant over.

    I look forward to trying out some of the recipes on the blog, I have been hassling my wife to clean out the pantry for months now, and here I have a website that will not only help me do this, but will let us donate to the Flood appeals across the country at the moment! Well done, and the next hater that asks you about the Dole thing, ask them if they: Salary sacrifice, have had a child in the last 10 yrs..well you get the drift.

    Ed C,
    Ascot Vale Melbourne

  70. Hi Sandra, I’d just like to offer some support after reading the nasty, vituperative comments on the recent Age article. Seriously, I think the fact that you make such an excellent collection of recipes available to the public, free of charge, more than justifies any government assistance you receive. When did Australian society turn so nasty?

    Good luck to you in raising your family, and keep on publishing! Consider a book!

  71. Really great to see someone thinking like an entrepreneur instead of staying in a job they’re not happy with, like so many people do.

    Good for you!

  72. Hi Sandra
    When I saw your article today on the Age, I was like a bee to honey pot. When I read the nasty comments, it didn’t even occur to me to think that way. There are those that don’t have or never experienced the curb balls life can throw at you that put you in not so ideal situations.
    Kudos to you.
    I spend a fortune on food each week especially with two teenage sons who eat their own body weight in food each week. The husband is no better.

    Looking forward to your recipes and hints & tips.

    cheers

  73. Sandra you are giving the community such a valuable service with this site. Centrelink should be paying you a massive salary! Please keep up the good work. You rock! X

  74. Sandra, I’m a wage earner on a good salary and not supporting children. I still really like your recipes. As a matter of principal, I like living non-extravagantly. With a little bit extra to spend, I often use your recipes but tweak them, slightly. For example, virgin olive oil instead of other vegetable oil. And by producing good cheap meals for cheap, I can set aside some money for special occasions, to entertain friends – although even then, your recipes are an excellent base: say, you can add black olives to bubble and squeak! I hate imported or out of season fruit and veggies, so I like your principal of using cheap, locally grown, in season food.

    I noticed after I suggested it that you already ARE working on a book. Up the ante! Try for television!

  75. Hi Sandra

    Discovered you through “The Age” article.

    Really great website. I will definately use this as my first resource before I hit the supermarkets.

  76. Also came here from the Age. What a great site! Your courage and determination in the face of your adversity is inspiring. Well done for using your resourcefulness and creativity to turn a challenging situation into an opportunity.

  77. You quit your job with no consideration for your kids welfare.
    You came up with a blog, but not a job/career.

    Your own personal fulfilment has been placed above the welfare of your own kids.

    I hope your book is successful so you can stop leeching off the public purse, you were set with a government job.

    1. “with no regards for your kids welfare”

      There are far greater matters of importance with regard to a child’s welfare than income.

      Daniel -you sound a tad naive when it comes to parenting, as well as the workplace. And for that matter the Centrelink process! It’s not as easy as walking in to the office and filling out the forms and walking out with an approved payment. There are always requirements that must be met for payments to start AND to continue.

      I wonder if you took the media’s print and ran with it or if you read Sandra’s post earlier on where unfortunately she had to divulge personal information to anyone and everyone in order to defend herself.

      Also, if children only have the one parent looking after them, that parent needs to be mentally and physically capable of doing the job of RAISING them, not just providing the dollars. Sandra did what her mind and body had to do in order to get to a place where she could work again.

      This country places such little importance on mental health.

      If your mother’s job was affecting her health would you be so harsh on her?

  78. Oh grow up people! Isn’t it enough that Sandra is doing something inspirational and positive?

    Well done Sandra. Ignore these idiots and keep moving forward. I’m happy that we have a system of welfare that can support such a dynamic and creative venture. Reading through the entries, you have really connected with people and I think that is fantastic.

  79. Dear Sandra,
    You are the sort of person who makes Australia Day actually mean something.

    I totally admire your courage.

    I cook professionally and so I know that cooking like you do requires constant attention and thought.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your book as I feel that Australia is on a bit of a food revolution tipping point: where people are becoming more interested in eating well, not wasting money on packaging and rubbish, growing their own food again where possible and feeling a lot more confident in investigating great recipes and ingredients from cultures not one’s own.

    Well done, I think you have caught the zeitgeist,

    Best wishes,
    little chef

  80. Firstly, 100% sympathetic about the roastings from the glum tax payers and hobbyist trolls.

    I haven’t been through your site yet, but a couple of suggestions that might or might not have been covered:

    Stock up on basics like canned chick peas and other legumes, canned tomatoes, when they are on specials. Chick peas can form the protein part of a variety of meals: salads, curries, hommous.

    I haven’t done this for a long time but – make your own tofu. Dried soya beans are cheap, you just soak them, blend them, simmer the puree, strain out the fibre through clean tea-towel, then curdle the ‘milk’ with a food acid like vinegar, then separate out the curd = tofu.

    Sprouts made from the cheap dried legumes like chick peas, lentils, and the more obvious mung beans, alfalfa etc, are similarly cheap protein.

  81. Hi Sandra,

    I found your blog through that now famous Age article. I just felt like I needed to visit and send you a message of support, after reading the nasty and ill informed comments of some of the readers.

    Sure you made a hasty decision that didn’t turn out as you planned (who hasn’t done that in their lifetime!) but you have taken it in your stride and made the most out of a difficult situation. As far as I am concerned, you paid taxes for years and you have the right to support when you need it. Anyone who feels the need to name call or throw accusations around has obviously never been is a position of need and they do not understand how hard it is. Who would choose to live in such little money, really? Ridiculous.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about these ignorant and uncaring people. Just be proud that you have done something good with this blog, and it is paying off for you.Goodluck with your book deal and I look forward to reading more of your recipes, they are really great!.

    Rachel

  82. What an excellent blog – I am so impressed, and the recipes are fantastic – we are having a difficult financial mont, as the kids go back to school and the cost of sending them back to even our local public school is prohibitive. There is not a cent left for groceries – though we have a cupboard filled with the basics and your recipes and ideas are going to help us make it until pay day next week – thank you so much for your amazing contribution to the community – much appreciated!

  83. I’ve been reading your blog over here in New Zealand for a few months – my partner and I love your recipes, and I often check here when planning our menu for the week (mortgage + consumer debt = careful meal planning). Just read all the stuff on the Aussie news websites, and I just wanted to reiterate how awesome I think you are, and how I think your recipes are great, your story is inspirational and I hope the best things come your way in the future!

  84. Hi Sandra,

    Great blog! While $120 per 14 meals is actually more than what I currently spend on food (out of choice and habit, not necessity), I am very impressed by the variety and quality of the meals. I am also impressed by your spirit and courage. For 2-3 years after my family of 3 migrated to Australia (over 10 years ago), we were living on $200 per month after mortgage and bills. (We were not eligible for welfare.) While food and essentials were cheaper back then, my mother still faced a constant struggle to feed the family with healthy, nutritional food. I fully understand the shock and depression following a downward shift in personal circumstances, and applaud you for making the best of what you had. My mother’s thrift and resourcefulness have made a big impression on me, as I’m sure your thrift and resourcefulness will make a big impression on your children. Thank you.

    - Kate

    1. My apologies. I forgot to take into account that your budget is $120 for 14 meals for FOUR. Per person it’s significantly lower than my food budget. I’m now very very amazed by what you’ve managed to do with such limited resources!

  85. Sandra:

    Much to my eternal shame, I can’t make food half as good as that featured on your blog for twice the $$$.

    I hope you are handsomely rewarded for all your efforts and have a series of bestselling books and your own tv series while those critics are left to fume!

    Not sure I could have coped with such hatred, kudos to you for standing tall!

    LS x

  86. Congratulations, Sandra. After seeing the article and going through all these comments I look forward to reading all your lovely recipes. The negative comments make me sad, though. As someone who has faced similar circumstances I applaud your efforts to move on from a tough situation while also giving something back to the community. Sure, there are people out there who do bludge off government handouts, all societies have that element. But there are also those of us who genuinely need a helping hand to get back on our feet. I worked (and paid taxes) to support myself for fifteen years, before health issues took over and made it impossible to continue. But, like you, I am making the most of my situation. I write, and I study, and I am determined to get back to a position where I can support myself once again. In the meantime, though, thank goodness we live in a country that has a support system for those who really need it. Happy Australia Day, all.

  87. Fantastic website – what a great idea, and done so well. Saw the comments on the SMH aticle, and wanted to wish you support and all the best with the site and book. It’s inspiring to see someone dedicate so much time and energy to a site that can make life easier for so many. Hope that there is more support than negativity for your site.

  88. Hi Sandra,

    I came across the article in the Sydney Morning Herald tonight and from that read further articles and comments before coming to your website.
    My sister and I were raised by a single Mother, and she did her best often on limited budgets. Our Mother worked very hard to provide us what we needed, but there were times when she needed a little bit of support.
    I also understand the frustrations of being stuck in a job that is going no where, and sometimes decisions are made without thinking things through. These times challenge you and often bring out the best in you, and if you are smart, they can bring great new opportunities.

    Your recipes look delicious, and I wish you all the best success with your book, so all the negative people out there, too scared to make changes in their own miserable lives can eat their words.

  89. Oh well done to you! I’m so pleased to have come across your blog. I’ve started a similar challenge for myself as my partner is not currently receiving a wage while she finishes her study. I’ve read your pantry essentials, and it seems like I am on the right track.

    Congratulations on putting all of your recipes together and sharing them with us. Congratulations on rising to the challenge. Congratulations on surviving the unwarranted criticism. Congratulations on refusing mince for every meal! Congratulations for leaving the marg out!! Congratulations on contributing to a greener world by eating seasonally and not purchasing unnecessary packaged food. Congratulations on working through your grief by getting in the kitchen. Congratulations on putting the nutrition of your family first.

    Go you….and I can’t wait to try some of your recipes.

  90. I’ve come over from Simple Savings, and am very much looking forward to exploring your blog and trying your recipes! We live, hopefully temporarily, on Centrelink benefits (medical reasons), and need to stretch our dollar as far as we can so that our drain on the public purse can be halted as soon as possible ; )

    You’ve done a marvellous thing here, and it makes me sad to see people reacting to what they’ve seen in the media without bothering to find out the facts. Kudos to those who apologised after finding out the real story!

  91. Hi Sandra

    I rarely comment on blogs or newspaper articles, but was so appalled at the vicious attacks on you in The Age (where comments are now closed), I feel I must say something.

    Ignore the nasty, small-minded critics. For most who’ve read your story and are now benefitting from your hard work (via your blog), you are an inspiration! Congratulations on a wonderful wonderful resource. You have used your talents (through hard work) to help people stuggling to eat tasty nutricious food on limited budgets. You deserve your success. I am delighted to have found your site – which is fabulous. And can’t wait to buy your book.

    Best of luck and all power to you.
    Victoria (in Melbourne)

  92. Hi Sandra, I think you have amazing patience and self-discipline to step back and not to become embroiled in all the nasty comments! You truly are a bigger person than they.

    And congrats on the blog – you really have made the absolute best out of a bad situation. Talk about resourcefulness, determination and fortitude! You go girl!

    All the best from Melbourne.

    Anastasia

  93. Sandra – you clearly are a genius in the the kitchen and in the supermarket! I hope I can take up the $120 challenge! I am a single professional who lives by myself so I must say it is a struggle to keep to a budget as cooking for one means lots of leftovers but boredom! It also makes it more attractive to go out and socialise which means spending $$. Wish me luck!

  94. I want to thank the graceless, miserable curs who’ve attacked you recently – I hadn’t heard of you until I read John Birmingham’s wonderful article for Brisbane Times on the subject.

    Hope it really gets up their noses when they realize what a fabulous job they’re doing of raising your profile and winning you even more fans.

    You go, girl!!! (not that you need me or anyone else to tell you that LOL)

  95. Brilliant website, great recipes. You are a mother with a school age child – a perfectly legitimate reason to not be working. keep up the great work!

  96. Just read John Bermingham’s piece in the Brisbane Times and had to come by and say “Hi”.

    Don’t take any heed of the trolls who commented. I doubt very much if they’d survive any scrutiny themselves.

    Those recipes look great and I’ll be trying some. I’m putting a link up to Bermy’s article and your blog on my Facebook page.

  97. Hey Sandra,

    I know I’m repeating what everyone else has already said, but I am so impressed that I simply must comment.

    Your blog is amazing. I’ve already bookmarked it for cooking tips, since I am a student who struggles to cook anything cheap that’s not noodles a la mi goreng.

    I am also very impressed about how you dealt with all the ignorant pigs who insulted you without knowing anything about you! Well done!

    Good luck with the book. It’s going to be the first cookbook I ever purchase.

  98. Hi Sandra,

    I have been following your blog for a while now and have always meant to comment on how fantastic I thought it was – now seems like a good time. I have three small kids at home, work part-time and the bane of my life is finding something to cook every night, which was making me really grow to despise cooking.

    So finding inspiration from your blog was a real welcome change, not just for me, but for my kids and partner too! I love your passion for food and think it is great that you take away the mystery of cooking – I am certainly more courageous in the kitchen now and I sincerely have you to thank.

    And as for your personal story – although it is none of my business I think it is wonderful to see where hard work can get you. I will absolutely be first in line to buy your book when it comes out and I wish you all the best for all of your new adventures this year.

  99. Hi Sandra,

    I just had to tell you how much I appreciate your blog. I found you a couple of weeks ago after your interview on ABC radio. I think what you’re doing is wonderful and I just wanted to let you know that, especially at the moment. Looking forward to your speedy return,

    Allison xx

  100. Sandra – I love your style. Your wit and fabulous recipes are a fantastic source of inspiration. They have certainly kept our family going. Keep up your amazing work and I really look forward to your book. By next Christmas? I would have everyone’s presents sorted then!
    Any recipe ideas for a troll pie? One way to get rid of them although would need something strong to wash it down with I’d say…
    Keep cooking xoxo

  101. I’ve been devouring your site since I read The Age article. I’ve been inspired on many levels and wish you a speedy return to peace and happiness. In the meantime, I’m planning, taking inventory and also learning lots from Simple Savings. Thank you Sandra!

  102. Beautiful story and beautiful website! Love how you have taken your situation and turned it around by taking it on as a challenge!

    Very motivational for people out there with the want to pursue their dreams but are against all odds!

    Congratulations to you as a woman, mother and excellent cook! Behind all your efforts! Kudos to standing up for what you believe in and having the determination!

    May God Bless you, especially in light of the recent media ruckus and drama from the public that simply do not seem to have a clue!

  103. Keep up the great work and don’t let the detractors get you down – kia kaha (remain strong) as we say in Aotearoa :-)

  104. Hello Sandra, Please don’t let the knockers stop you. We all of us( loyal devoted fans) want you to continue. We rely on you. One of the first things I do everyday is check my emails to see what you have in store for us. I am a senior, living in a retirement village. I don’t cut your recipes down but have a stock in my freezer in chinese take away containers. How lovely it is to be able to say to a visitor,”would you like to stay for dinner?” without having to think, what am I going to be able to feed them or can I afford to ask these people to stay for a meal? Please, please, please, don’t deseeert us now. We love you and what you stand for, Maree

  105. Sandra, I am quietly thrilled at how articulate, poised, and knowledgeable you are. It’s a real pleasure to find ‘dole-bludger’ stereotypes skittled. I too feel sensitive about my tax money being rorted by many (one is even a relative of mine, and I won’t dob him in because his innocent small children would suffer). However, I admire and applaud the comment made by another commentator (barnesm, at the John Birmingham article) who said ‘the dole – we offer it because it is the best in us calling on us to do it’. Exactly – compassion is what makes us a ‘civilised’ and ‘developed’ society.
    I love your blog. Thank you for making a difference in small and big ways to us all, should we care to appreciate your lessons. Your suffering has benefited many – this is true sacrifice. Your demeanour in the face of recent criticism is dignified, has real class, and is an example to us all. Keep on keeping on.

  106. I agree – thank goodness our country has “the dole” as a safety net (and public hospitals) as this truly exemplies our fundamental beliefs as a country… unlike the knockers who think you should have persisted working in an intolerable situation to the detriment of your health. And although you have now described fully your circumstances it would not matter to me if you were still on benefits because it has given you the chance to rebound in a way that is remarkable. Not everyone is equally blessed in resources financial or otherwise to be able to do this. The individual cant make it alone that is why out enlightened society provides support and lets not forget its a full time job homemaking when you are preparing all your own meals etc, I cant do it as a full time working mother – and as a ftwm I feel every day my little girl misses out because I’m too dog tired from working to care for her needs.
    Good on you Sandra

  107. I don’t really have anything to add that hasn’t been said, but I think you’re awesome. I’ve been following your story on MM for a long time, and I LOVE your recipes. I use your site all the time. Please know how much you’re appreciated and bollocks to the idiots.

  108. Hi Sandra. I want to thank you for sharing your story with us. I have worked full-time, part-time, 3 part-time jobs at once, been on austudy, resigned work due to illness but lived off savings, and now, a single mum of one living on the sole parent pension. While on that pension (and still unwell) I have made it my aim to be here at home for my son while he is young. During this time I have endeavoured to ‘give back’ when I can, through volunteer work and studying. I live in a pitiful fibro-shack that I am sure my neighbours would love to see demolished and transformed into lovely townhouses. But this is my home, our home (though rented). We keep chooks and grow vegies. We live simply, have support from family, and we still struggle. It is in no way easy. I am not a bludger. My son starts school this year so I have the opportunity to up the hours I volunteer plus continue my studies, plus hopefully freelance some writing. Nothing, no guilt I bear from ‘taking from the public purse’, will keep me from being home with my son. Thank you for your blog. It has helped us survive. When I work fulltime, as I will again (hopefully from home), I’ll be glad some of my taxes help others in similar situations (and pay flood levys!).

    1. In all seriousness Jenny, stories like mine have touched a nerve. Not because I’m a bludger, but precisely because I’m not. I don’t fit the ungrateful layabout stereotype and neither do you or tens of thousands like you. Like you, my story is a permutation, neither black nor white, but somewhere in the many shades of grey. This is a story that has held a mirror up to our community values, and that’s made some people very very uncomfortable.

      But I also want you to know – and the tens of thousands of people like you – that if the amazing, wonderful, thrilling messages of support I have received in the last three days are any indication, then not only are you not alone, but you will never be rejected as someone who is somehow less than others. Your inherent dignity and spirit will always be recognised by people who truly care about you.

      Cue the strains of Kumbaya ;)
      You matter. You have value. We all do.

      It’s what I love about the people I meet, it’s why I love the work I do and I will always work hard for that very reason.

  109. Sandra-

    One of my favourite quotes seems particularly apt for you and your website…

    “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”!

    Don’t let those awful comments get you down. You’re doing an awesome job. You’re incredibly generous with your time and creativity and provide such a practical, useful service to so many people and their families. Thank you.

    So how about a recipe for lemonade, hey? :) I’m sure I’d be joined by hundreds (thousands?) raising a glass to you and what you’ve done.

  110. Congratulations Sandra! Yours is the very first blog I’ve ever cared to follow. Love it!
    PS: Your bread is in the oven right now.

  111. Hi Sandra
    I have been away, and missed all of the media storm.

    But I just wanted to say that I totally admire you – you’ve shown drive, initiative, strength and courage though a horrendous time. You’ve used social security responsably and when you and your family have really needed it – and that’s what it is there for! I can’t understand the vitriol about this.

    Best of luck in the coming weeks – I know that I will be buying your book.

  112. Fascinating stuff Sandra, love the blog and recipes. I have to admit that I really don’t like to cook but have to, putting some purpose into to trying to balance on a budget helps the process.
    You mentioned NEIS, I found myself unemployed about the same time as you and took an idea of turning my home into a B&B to NEIS and was accepted, am now up and running my new business and found it a fantastic programme, the small business training has been invaluable and I now have their mentorship and financial support until September. If you want to talk more about it please feel free to email me.
    The very best of luck to you with your book and webpage, keep your courage and you WILL succeed! PS and ignore those who are jealous of your enthusiam and work ethic!

  113. Good work Sandra! There are always plenty of knockers in this world but most people with half a brain would support you. Love the bread recipe, simple and works, thanks!

    You are having a go so good on you! I’m sure that in the end you will be a far far greater success than all those who get their kicks from trying to belittle people.

    All the best
    Robert

  114. I found your website through a baby blog that I’ve been trawling through for all sorts of advice in the wee hours of the morning while breastfeeding! And this week we have started to actually plan our meals using your site as inspiration :)

    For all those tall poppy cutters out there, get a life…plus whats wrong with being a stay at home mum?

    Congrats on a great website Sandra.

  115. Great website, have tried some of the meals and really enjoyed them, good on you for looking after yourself and your family, not easy being a sole parent, no-one knows until they’ve been there.

  116. Hi Sandra – reading the comments here, I’ve had to have a rant.

    1) Having been raised by single parent, 1 of 3 children who had to exist on benefits and casual employment for various reasons (and worked hard at getting reskilled but also fought the workplace age barrier, volunteering… oh and had paid taxes for 30 years before having to swallow her pride as she says to go on benefits).

    I applaud your budgeting skills and your personal integrity. It stays with a child, and you realise as an adult even when working fulltime just how much money can be wasted, and just how much you can save and be happy & healthy. I have great respect for what my mother did, and I shake my head as I now know just how many sleepless nights she would’ve spent trying to pay rent, utilities and keep us fed & in school supplies. I’m sure the last 18mths you’ve been torturing yourself likewise.

    I was fortunate as a child of a single parent who had to go on benefits, I wasn’t raised to view benefits as an automatic entitlement. I voluntarily got a job when I was 14 to pay for my sporting commitments, 2nd hand lifeline uniforms, school supplies and to help her out when the bills came in. Oh, and I paid tax according to ATO legislation and low income rules during that time. I got a university degree, have almost paid the government back for HECS and now work full time and pay my taxes while studying part time to get a 2nd degree to further upskill me.

    Your kids, and many of those children of parents who follow this website who are in similar situations – they’re going to be educated, humbled and fortified by their experiences. People don’t seem to think past sledging you to the greater positive effects this can actually have on your children and the community for the future.

    2) People *never* understand individual circumstances, family tragedy, those who genuinely need sickness benefits etc. They don’t think that if you hadn’t left your *casual* job originally (So you could’ve been fired at anytime anyway), that you’d possibly would’ve made yourself sick and you’d be right where you are now, casual employees don’t accrue sick leave & they don’t have to keep your job open while you’re out there being sick.

    Those taxes you paid throughout your life? I find it amusing people forget about *that*… some of us might never have to use income support, but our taxes are a social ‘insurance’ that is managed by the government (so far… lets hope it continues) along with everything else the government uses them for.

    3) That you kept yourself busy, applied yourself to do something? How about people focus their energy on how to support people who aren’t sitting around, it models behaviours to others out there. This website, your publicity, it *is* a public service in my personal opinion if it gets more Australian’s focusing on budgeting and healthy eating.

    4) I personally don’t mind that Centrelink have found it appropriate, with their numerous criterion to provide you with income support when you’ve needed it. Tax money well spent. Thank you for your years contributing to taxes and thank you for finding the mental and emotional energy to expend on this project despite the personal circumstances you’ve had to sketch out in response to some comments.

    Thank you for raising your children who will respect money, respect the government benefit system as a saving grace when people need it, and to continue to support them in their education.

    I’ll return the soap box from now. Thanks for the recipes, the inspiration and being someone to incite dialogue regarding these issues, despite how hard that is sometimes to be attacked.

  117. Hi Sandra,

    I came across your website and blog whilst reading Super Food ideas and have been devouring your recipes and saving $$$$$!!!

    Today I watched your segment from Today Tonight on Youtube.

    One request, can you please post the lamb shank ragout recipe that you made on the show?

  118. Hang on a minute!!!! To all you people out there who are seriously *Bored* and have taken to commenting on Sandra’s efforts in an extremely offensive and negative manner SHAME ON YOU!! why dont you go roam the streets and RANT at the junkies out there wasting our precious tax dollars on drugs whilst their children remain in the care of foster parents PAID FOR BY YOU!!!
    I am thrilled that my tax dollars are going to someone like Sandra who is putting them to good use whilst giving back to the world through her love of food.
    If you are on here ranting at Sandra or calling her a dole bludger YOU IDIOT!!
    Get a life, go visit the local needle exchange shelters, see where the other half of your tax money is going then come vack here and APOLOGISE.
    I am INFURIATED by the arrogance on here!!
    what a shame!!
    WAKE UP AUSTRALIA.

    1. Having just found this sight after buying the book I can only agree with you Bree. I live between two houses,where the parents have rorted centrelink (BOTH for 20+) years and centrelink claim there is nothing they can do. One household is run by the stepfather and mother with two adult children and their collective spouses and children. The mother and two adult children were given a house by a friend therefore laying the grounds for 20+ years of collecting single parent payment in one name whilst married to second ? husband who ran a nice little profitable security company. Mother and step father would be working non stop while the children were younger and they would throw some loud and abusive parties( put up with this for 9 yrs.) No one dared complain as they had “contacts”. The children are now adults and the daughter has two children to two different fathers and now lives with another man in a de facto relationship. He collects centrelink payments whilst they both work for the security company. Her older brother has a long time partner and child. He works part time jobs and collects centrelink payments. They can afford several cars and houses but cannot clean the putrid mess on the side and back yard.Recently they claimed Bankruptcy yet can still party for two three days straight. The other woman works at target,has had three different kids to three fathers and lives with the last father for the last 18+ years. They claim he still lives with his mother yet he puts out her washing,mows and tidies her lawns,puts out her bin,washes both their flash new cars, takes their dog for a walk daily,cleans up at dinner has great relationship with neighbours who are willing to lie for him and his partner. So their is and example of where your hard earned tax dollars go to so stop whining Micheal and the other negative people.YOU WHINGERS who have the audacity to run down Sandra,without first becoming better informed about her, can take a flying leap off this sight. A sight that gave you FREE access.Sandra is a wonderful person who told the truth with out having to lay bare her and her families situation,yet that was not enough. Compared to the scum I live between I know from what I have seen,read and heard that Sandra is genuine. I thought Australia was about giving honest people a fair go. I know drug addicts who can’t feed their kids,alcoholics who will put themselves first and kids last,parents who rort and go to extreme lengths to lie about it yet someone who is honest and has integrity is cut down.Get the real cheats and good on you Sandra for all you are doing as we need more people like you who are willing to stand behind their convictions that what they are doing is great and beneficial to those willing to learn from you.You have my vote mate 100%….love,light and happiness from patricia and family.

  119. Read your article in That’s Life. I am on a disability pension so after rent & bills there isn’t much left over for food. I am doing weight watchers at the moment need to lose a lot of weigh. SO thank you for your blog it will give me lots of ideas for cheap meals I can make & freeze so I have ready meals.
    Trying to budget with the prices of food & meat going up daily is a real struggle. Our Coles is going thru a lot of new construction as well so finding stuff is a real challenge here as well.
    Thanks again
    Wendy

  120. Hi Sandra,
    I read your article in That’s Life :) I think it’s great what you are doing. It must be so tough to to hear people critisising it, but I think you are making the most of things that you have & helping others out in the process. :) Will be looking into this site for the recipes etc from now on. We’re a couple in our late 20′s from NZ but still nice to find bargains and different ideas to cook. Keep up the good work! :) Thank you!

  121. Great site for people on low income or unemployed.
    or pensioners on limited income.
    Congratulations just read about you in Thats Life
    magazine

  122. I just found your site. Love it. That being said, I need some translations. Is “mince” a term for ground meat? I am in the US and sometimes it seems we have a language barrier between our countries.

  123. Sandra,
    Love your website and I check back regularly for recipes. I think we all face the fact that prices are going up and wages aren’t. What you’re providing is fantastic! I one day hope our blog can be half as successful as yours!
    Rach

  124. You are an awesome Lady….Yes do come out with that cook book…I WILL indeed buy a couple or more to keep and share,Like everyone else on a budget and times are getting hard for all.KEEP it up and God Bless you

  125. Hi Sandra,

    I have just started reading your blog and I think you are fantastic. Your writing is inspiring and you have given me some fantastic ideas to stretch my food dollar further without giving up taste and nutritional content. I have recently gone back to work after a 10 month absence and we are still trying to live like we did when we were surviving off on wage and minimal Centrelink benefits. Hopefully we will have enough for a house deposit by the end of next year!

    I find people’s ignorance fascinating. It never crossed my mind to judge or question you as to why you were not working but maybe that is because I have spent time as a “dole bludger” myself. We lazy, stupid and greedy people tend to understand one another so maybe that’s why I am not a judgmental arsehole.

    My absence from work was actually planned. I was supposed to be going on maternity leave. My beautiful daughter was born with spina bifida and only survived for 9 days. Maybe I should have returned to work the following week but instead I selfishly decide to spend time healing (physically, mentally and emotionally) and raising my then four-year-old daughter. I wanted to be available when she started school and to provide her with what was left of my heart. Once she was established at school I started back at work and it has been a struggle almost every day. Only now, over a year later, am I feeling even remotely like the person I once was and I am now able to look towards the future. Hence the saving for a house!!!!

    Thank you Sandra. Despite the fact that you are essentially a stranger, your honesty and generosity is a soothing balm to a very burnt soul.

    1. One day at a time, one breath at a time, one step at a time, one recipe at a time. Sometimes that’s all we can do Carly. Sending you hugs and strength xx

  126. Thankyou for freely and honestly sharing your recipes and your struggles, you help many many people Sandra, don’t let a few stupid comments get to you. You go girl!!!

  127. Hi Sandra,
    just stumbled across your Blog after searching for cheaper ways to eat as food just seems to be going up and up. With 5 mouths to feed our groceries have been out of control. l have loved what i have been reading and look forward to setting myself the same challenge albiet a little nervous!. Thanks for the inspiration. Dee

  128. Personally, I’m glad we live in a country that will give you a hand up (or even a hand out if you want to put it that way) when life knocks you down. There are plenty of countries that don’t and I really do not see the problem with my family (we are unashamedly a single income family) paying a little bit of tax toward “compassion”. Even if some people out there abuse it, I would rather that than see people who really need it go without food and shelter.

    Thank you for your FREE website. I just found it today. I look forward to getting some yummy FREE recipes to try. ;-)

  129. Sandra
    Can you tell me where you bought your Seville oranges. I used to make my own marmalade in England but can’t find the Sevilles here in Aus.
    Thanks & Regards
    Neil Keron
    Melbourne

    1. Hi Neil,

      I bought Seville oranges in a local fruit and veg retailer (Harris Farm) while living in NSW. They have a six week season in Australia from mid June to mid August. In Melbourne I have seen them at Queen Vic, South Melbourne and Preston markets as well as good fruit and veg provodores but you will have to wait until late June to buy them.

  130. I have just made some delicious tomato and onion chutney using one of your recipes. Thank you for your excellent blog, Sandra. I shall be turning to it often from now on :-)

  131. Your blog says $60 per week, but book says $120 per week, which is it? I am a single mum just gone onto newstart allowance, working school hours. Love this site, thank you so much. The supermarkets really do take so much of our money, we have to start thinking much more basically, like our mums and nannas before us.

    Julie-Anne

    1. Hi Julie-Anne,

      When I first started the blog in March 2010 I had a budget of just $60 a week. This has now risen as food prices have gone up and both book and blog currently aims for a budget of $120 a week for a family of four. I sincerely hope you find lots of recipes here and in the book to inspire and encourage you.

      Sandra x

  132. Dear Sandra

    I have been keeping track over the past month on how much my husband and I spend on food. It has to stop.We are both retired and living on the smell of an oily rag, but seem to eat like royalty. I won’t compromise on the quality of food and I have just built a veg and herb garden, so in the next few weeks I can start to plant. I was recommended by a friend to have a look at your web site and I can honestly say, I am impressed. I am a foodie, cook, vegetarian and lover of fine foods and it has been my dream to write a cookbook. So you have done it for me : ) Thanks for your website, I will search your recipes and try to reduce my food bill. Thanks so much for sharing this! Colemore

    1. Ok as above, my challenge is over and like you Sandra, I proved it could be done. Now I am continuing to use this knowledge to guide me through my weekly budget shopping. One thing I have started to do is to check out my local supermarket specials on line before I shop. I then work my menu for the week around the specials, where that is possible. I always work to a menu (although I just plan for 6 dinners with a left over) and that means I only buy what I really need. Not sure if that will help others. I keep checking your recipes too to see if there is anything I can use or adapt. So thank you!

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$120 – A Week of Family Meals – It Can Be Done

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