Cindy Wang is a bit of a foodie, but there’s another side of her personality that at first seems in conflict with that.
“There are two things I like the most: nice food, and saving money.”
But the Auckland nurse has proven the two can coexist with a philosophy that every dinner for her, her husband, mother, and 21-month-old Emma should come well under $10.
That’s total, not per plate, and includes all ingredients which Cindy measures and calculates the cost of, right down to the salt sprinkled in.
“Actually there is usually enough leftover that the meal makes our lunches for the next day, so we’re often under $10 for all of a day’s meals.
“The funny thing is it’s really easy and I didn’t realise it was a big deal until my husband told his colleagues at work and they couldn’t believe it.”
To prove that she can do it, Cindy showed us how she could buy a frozen roast pork for under $12 (on special down from $29 at the Mad Butcher) and turn it into the basis for seven dinners.
From one comes seven
Meat versatility is something Cindy was taught during her childhood in China.
“I grew up on a farm in China, where almost every day we ate pork, and I learnt then how to be creative with meat.”
From that one shoulder roast, Cindy created the following dishes (pictured below):
Pulled pork open burgers with avocado, capsicum and lettuce
Sliced pork stir fry with black mushroom
Lean pork stir fry with celery*
Hot steamed pork in peanut and rice powder* (*both pictured in the top right photo)
Chinese style roast pork
Cheesy baked rice with roast pork, egg, and lots of veges
Spicy pork, potato and vegetables in a homemade spinach pancake wrap
Cindy’s tips for under $10 dinners
Prepare meal plans
Know what you are going to be cooking each night before going to the supermarket. I make a meal plan on the weekends, so each night of the week we know what we are doing.
List every ingredient, and make sure you don’t already have it in stock.
Also try to use up what you've already got before going and buying a bunch of new things.
Don’t be scared of the word “vegetarian”
Meat is often the most expensive part of a dish, but it’s also often the most expendable. If you’re cooking properly, you’d be amazed how many meals you can remove the meat and not notice anything missing. These can be soups, curries, pastas,
One of our favourite easy meals when we’re feeling lazy is spaghetti with homemade pesto (from homegrown basil) as the sauce, which our freezer is full of as we make it in bulk. It’s really tasty and you can add some extras if you like, such as spinach, smoked chicken, whatever takes your fancy.
Learn to be a butcher
As I did in the video, you can save money by buying a bigger piece of meat and cutting it up yourself.
I know that cutting up a big piece of pork could be a bit daunting to a novice. Take a look at some YouTube videos to learn some tricks.
Grow your own veges
I know not everyone has a full site of land, but you only need a pot and a bit of sun to grow spinach, lettuce, basil, and other leafy greens.
Research the specials and shop around
While Pak n Save is known as the overall cheapest supermarket, other supermarkets can sometimes have individual items on special that are cheaper. It pays to look at the weekly flyers and base your meal plan around the specials.
Also Chinese supermarkets are everywhere in Auckland and they often have very cheap fruit and vegetables, so that’s where we buy most of ours from.