Spending no more than $150 on food for five days 'do-able but pretty miserable' for family of six video

MARTY SHARPE/Stuff.co.nz

Millie Ormond talks about the challenges of feeding a family of six on $150 for five days.

Setting a goal of feeding herself, her husband and four sons for five days on no more than $150 did not go down particularly well for Millie Ormond.

And as much as she would like to say the boys had come round to enjoying her project, she confesses it may be a while before she talks them into giving it a second go.

Feeding any family of six for five days on that budget is no mean feat, but when the family includes former NZ Sevens captain Tafai Ioasa​ and four strapping rugby-playing boys, it's especially challenging. 

The Tafai family, left to right: Noah, 9, Tafai, Rudy, 11, Mika, 6, Millie, and Tali, 11. Millie's idea of feeding the ...
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The Tafai family, left to right: Noah, 9, Tafai, Rudy, 11, Mika, 6, Millie, and Tali, 11. Millie's idea of feeding the family on $150 for five days did not go down terribly well, but they managed.

The Hawke's Bay woman, who has run a Facebook page called 'Cheap and Healthy Family Dinners NZ' for the past two years, decided on the project earlier this month. It kicked off on Sunday 22 and ends after dinner on Friday 27.

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Millie was brought up on a farm south of Waipukurau and has always been interested in cooking and eating healthy foods, more so after having her first children, twins Rudy and Tali in 2005.

​"Since having kids I've pretty much cooked dinner every night. But even as a student I was into eating well. I've become more aware of eating well in the last few years with there being more a of a focus on it, with the likes of Dr Libby and Ben Warren and those sorts of people," she said.

"I don't know how anyone can not know that food affects your health anymore, but I did notice there seemed to be a surprising number of people that just didn't know how to cook, and how simple it could be. At first I used to photograph my food as a hobby, then I thought it would be a good idea to post them on a page to give people ideas," she said.

She said the family usually spent about $300 a week on groceries and while she had a reasonably modest budget in mind when posting to her page, the $150 project had been prompted by an interest in seeing if they could get by on that little.

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The answer is they can, "but it can be pretty miserable".

"I did my shop on Sunday night. I spent $133 at Pak'n'Save. Then I went to a fruit and vege shop and spent $8, leaving me with a buffer of $9. I'd used that by Thursday," she said.

The family has not delved into anything other than what was bought, so no sauces or other foods in the pantry has been touched for the week.

One mistake was buying a big bag of kiwifruit only to find that it was not ripe.

The project has seen a big jump in likes to her Facebook page, with more than 300 added to her existing 4000 in four days.

"It seems to have struck a chord. I think people have liked watching someone else do it and not have to do it themselves," she said. 

"We've been offered food, but have stuck to the plan because we're trying to emulate a family that doesn't have that option".

She confesses to having been more enthusiastic about the project than the rest of the family. 

"They weren't very keen. They asked why I wanted to punish them. Some have come round more than others, but they're all excited about the end of the week coming. I keep telling them it's just a week and that some people live like this every week of the year".

"I'd love to do it every week, but I don't think that will be allowed. I'd like to refine what I've done. I'd like to be able to post a list of what to buy with recipes showing what to do with it and a menu plan. A bit like My Foodbag, but for people on a tight budget," she said.

Tafai had been good, but had a hiccup on Wednesday when he bought one of the boys a cinnamon roll after he'd been to the doctor.

"That's the only slip up really," she said.

"There have been times when we've been a bit hungry leading up to meal, but we're not hungry after eating, which is great because it means the food is getting eaten. We've had no food waste, which has been a change," she said.

Dinners were:
Monday, sausages, potatoes and peas;
Tuesday, burgers;
Wednesday, spaghetti Bolognaise;
Thursday, tuna salad and rice;
Friday, chuck steak and baked beans. 

 - Stuff

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