“Just like a shop one!” There is no higher mark of success when you’re trying to bake something at home instead of going out to buy it. At least for kids.

Many an adult has attempted in vain to recreate a McDonald’s cheeseburger at home and skip a trip through the golden arches. It’s just never the same! The bun’s not fluffy enough, the patty’s not flat enough (the cheese is not processed enough).

It manages to cause the most turned up noses of disapproval you’ve ever seen in little ones.

This used to be a good way to save money: make it at home instead of popping out to buy it. But in our present day – where overpriced mozzarella makes it impossible to make a cheaper pizza at home, for example – you need to run your numbers to make sure. Everything’s upside down these days, with fizzy drinks costing a fraction of juice, lollies a pittance compared to fruit.

Making food at home is more likely to be a valuable creative endeavour, not necessarily for saving money. Or is it?

Avoiding a descent into the labyrinth

Digging deep into the pantry and creating food at home is not just about making a cheaper alternative – it’s typically worth it just because we avoid yet another trip to the supermarket or local takeaway.

Since I’m the guy who often gets tagged to run to the store, I’ve become wary of what it truly is: a carefully constructed maze of product ads screaming “CHOOSE ME!” as I simply try to make my way to the back corner for milk and bread.

Getting out is no easier. Researchers have shown that willpower is actually a thing, and it’s a mental muscle that can get tired (although it can be strengthened, too).

So by the time we’re heading for the door, we’re mentally worn down. And all those sugary snacks are positioned perfectly for a meltdown – of either whatever willpower we have left or the kid we’ve got in tow.

New solutions online: website aisles, kit meals

All of this is important because the food category is one of those variable expenses in our money plans that we make daily choices about, where we can make the most difference day to day and get great results over time. (Two other main categories are media entertainment and booze.)

I’m heartened by the tech these days, which at its best is coming up with novel solutions to the way we spend on food. Transparency helps.

Ordering food directly online these days lets you easily see how much you are out of pocket. While in the bricks-and-mortar aisles, you pile stuff in your cart and then have to grapple with the cost at the end, online you can see the total add up, and pop stuff in and out without much difficulty. You have more control and flexibility with your decisions.

Kit meal services like My Food Bag, Woop, Emma’s Food Bag, Food Box – as long as the cost fits within your financial plan – make it easy to see how much you’ll spend as well. With the various plans laid out before you, it’s simpler to make considered choices and not run out of willpower.

And suddenly the kids can get involved making the new recipes too.

How to make food taste better

“Food tastes better when you make it yourself,” I always tell them, to a multitude of groans. But there’s some truth to it.

Like any creative endeavour, making food at home should not be about recreating something “store bought” but about making something new. Something you can’t get in a shop, at a Macca’s. Don’t get me started raving about my gal's chocolate chip bikkies…

But best of all financially, we avoid that extra trip through the labyrinth of ads and products that we call a market, and stick to our own plan for our money.


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