By Danijela Unkovich of 'Healthy Always'
Eating Healthy on a Budget
For most of us the weekly food bill takes a big slice out of the budget - and when finances get tight, eating healthy may slip lower and lower on our list of priorities. However, shopping healthfully on a budget doesn’t have to be daunting - with the right tips, and a little planning in place, it is entirely possible to shop inexpensively without comprising on taste and nutrition. Here are my 8 top tips for shopping (and eating) healthy that won’t break the bank!
Shop with a list-and stick to it. Before heading out to do groceries sit down for ten minutes and make note of what’s missing in your pantry. How many packets of spaghetti are you going to get? How many tins of tomatoes do you need? Write it all down and stick to it. Shopping with a list helps prevent impulse buying of items you might already have at home (but can’t remember!), or those enticing two-for-one goodies that may seem like a great bargain, but in reality you weren’t even planning on buying in the first place. Make a list and check the items off as you go.
Try menu planning. If you shop for a weeks’ worth of groceries without knowing what you’re going to be cooking, chances are you’ll end up spending more than you may need too. Planning a weekly menu will help ensure that not only you’re eating healthy, but that you’re also staying within your allocated budget. It also takes a lot of the stress away when you come home from that 5pm rush and don’t know what to cook! Start by choosing a collection of your favourite dinner meals/new recipes you’ve been wanting to try, and rotate them over a two weekly dinner period.
Buy seasonally. Local seasonal produce is usually always cheaper than out of season produce - so as the seasons change, change up your menu too. Fruit and veggies can vary tremendously in price, with out of season produce incurring a hefty food mileage, which only pushes up costs further. When produce is not in season, canned and frozen fruit and vegetables are an economical way to get in a variety of nutrients, no matter the season. Farmers markets are also great for sourcing (and supporting) locally grown produce - and if you go towards the end of the day, chances are you’ll score a bargain.
Avoid pre-chopped, pre-packaged vegetables and fruit. Although the pre-cut, pre-packaged foods may seem like a time-saver, they are often unnecessarily expensive compared to their whole counterparts. Shop smarter and forgo the packaging - the more pre-cut, pre-packaged something is, the more its adding to your grocery bills. Buy produce whole, chop it yourself, and then put the leftovers into zip lock bags or Tupperware containers. Easy!
Buy in bulk - but only where necessary. Bulk buying is great for all the essential long-life pantry items; oats, pasta, olive oil, sugar etc. But be cautious - it’s only cheaper to buy in bulk if you’re going to get through the items before they get bad. Be realistic and keep an eye on best before dates.
Make smart substitutions. If a recipe calls for a tablespoon of freshly chopped oregano, but you know you don’t plan on using the rest of the ingredient for something else, is it worth buying a bag of fresh oregano just for a tablespoon? Probably not. Unless it’s for a special occasion making smart substations where possible is a clever way to cut down costs. Consider dried herbs for fresh, vanilla essence for vanilla pods, or honey for molasses. As long as it won’t hurt the integrity of your dish, smart substitutions make eating within your budget a lot more doable.
Try batch cooking. Buying and cooking single serve meals can get expensive - particularly if you live alone. Cooking in larger batches and freezing the leftovers is a fantastic way to save time and money. Not only does batch cooking help use up ingredients you can buy in bulk/are prone to food spoilage (like meat and veggies), but it’s also a life-saver on nights you don’t feel like cooking. Meals such as curries, pasta sauces, and soups are easy to make in large quantities, and freeze well.
Go meat-free at least once a week. Animal proteins often take up a chunky proportion of the weekly food bill - so if you’re not vegetarian opt for going meat-free at least once a week. Lentil, pulses and beans are not only nutritionally rich, but are also great sources of proteins, that are significantly cheaper than meat, poultry or fish. Try adding them to stews, curries, and soups to create filling and nourishing meals.
Article by Danijela Unkovich of 'Healthy Always'