Eating Well on a Budget
There is a common misconception that healthy eating is expensive. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are many ways you can save money while also eating a nutritious, balanced diet. Try these practical tips!
Dedicate a set time each week to planning meals and snacks for the coming week and preparing a shopping list.
– To help you stick to your shopping list, shop on a full stomach as you are more likely to buy more food when you’re hungry.
– If you have planned out your meals and then find some great in-store specials, don’t hesitate to swap out one meal for another.
– If you find you are sticking to your shopping list but not necessarily your meal plan, try to stock up on non-perishable items like rice or pasta and buy bulk quantities of meat and freeze it. You’ll find this will save you from having to throw out spoiled food. Keep an eye out for reduced priced items as many of them can be frozen too.
– Be sure to shop around. Your local butcher may have cheaper meat and farmers/growers markets may have cheaper (and fresher) fruit and vegetables. Look for fruit and vegetables that are in season as they are generally less expensive. And don’t forget frozen fruit and vegetables have a much longer shelf life than fresh, are just as nutritious and can be less expensive.
– Be sure to take advantage of unit pricing, bulk products are not always cheaper so compare the unit price.
If you plan your meals in advance, you will find yourself less likely to fall back on takeaways, which are more expensive in the long run (and usually more energy and fat dense) than home-cooked meals.
– When preparing your meals, it is helpful to visually break the meal down into 3 components – 25 percent protein, 25 percent carbohydrate and 50 percent vegetables.
– Some vegetables like lettuce spoil much faster than others like broccoli so be sure to have salads with your meals on the days immediately following your shop.
– Try to include low GI carbohydrate in your meals such as grainy bread, basmati or Doongara rice and pasta as they are an affordable source of energy and nutrients.
– Adding inexpensive vegetables to meat-based dishes can also help to decrease the cost and extend the recipe.
– Protein does not always have to come from meat. Legumes (e.g. chick peas, lentils, kidney beans, butter beans) are inexpensive, have a long shelf life and are filling due to their fibre content. Tofu can also be used as an inexpensive protein food for the whole family – use firm tofu to replace meat in stir-frys, curries or even on the BBQ.
– Cooking in bulk on the weekends and freezing leftovers to reheat for a quick lunch or dinner throughout the busy week will also help you stick to your budget.
You’ve planned your meals and done your shopping, so the last thing you want to do is throw out food because it hasn’t been stored properly.
– Spoiled fruit is all too often a problem – store fruit separately at room temperature. If you find some fruits are ripening quicker than others, store them separately. This will prevent the rest of the fruit ripening too quickly. When fruit ripens, place it unwashed into the fridge.
– Store green, leafy and salad vegetables unwashed in the fridge in a crisper or vented plastic bag to extend their freshness.
– But be sure to keep onions, potatoes and garlic in a cool, dark, dry and well-ventilated place.
– Mouldy bread is another common source of thrown out food – try storing it in the fridge or freezer to preserve its freshness.
– Don’t forget to label and then freeze leftovers in a securely sealed container for a quick mid-week ‘no cost’ meal.