As the price of food has risen recently, some ideas on how to make the food budget stretch further, and still be healthy, might help you meet both these goals.
Look for local produce at budget prices at greengrocers. It’s often in the bargain bins at the front. This is also a good way of getting variety into your diet over the year, which is good for your overall nutrient intake and gut microbiome; and it’s good for the planet!
Buying in bulk is often cheaper, and you can freeze in batches for another day. This can have other cost advantages, for example only heating the oven once for a large load, or providing frozen lunch options to avoid buying out. Always be mindful of food safety when freezing food.
Be creative with leftovers. For example, a small amount of leftover meat can be turned into another whole meal when combined with plenty of vegetables, like in a stirfry.
Good shopping habits
- Try to plan meals for the week and stick to a shopping list to avoid waste.
- Be aware that shops are cleverly designed to make you spend money. Try not to go shopping hungry.
- Try supermarket own brands, often just as good and cheaper than popular brands.
Longer lasting produce can be cheaper
- Tins – their long shelf life means tins can be a much cheaper way of buying some foods, without losing their nutritional value. You can stock up the cupboard when prices are reduced. For example tinned fish, like salmon and sardines, can be an easy and economical source of protein and omega 3 fats. However avoid poor quality tinned meals or processed meats which can be very high in fat and salt.
- Frozen veg and fruit – although they may seem poorer quality than fresh, this is largely because they lose their texture when the water inside them freezes. Frozen veg can make meal preparation much easier and reduce reliance on expensive bought-out meals when time is short.
Not only is this a huge boost to health, it can save you money because unprocessed ingredients are usually much cheaper. For example;
- Rolled oats $2 per kg compared to Instant oats flavoured sachet $13 per kg
- Fresh potatoes $2 per kg compared to Chips from fast food outlet $30 per kg
Beware marketing hype
- Cabbage is a superfood – to be healthy you don’t need to spend a lot of money on exotic produce from the other side of the world (e.g. Acai berries). Many of the most humble vegetables and fruit grown locally are full of antioxidants and polyphenols.
- There are often cheaper sources of health-giving nutrients – for example, the anthocyanins that are so good for you in blueberries are also plentiful in the much cheaper black rice and purple cabbage.
- Use spices and herbs as they are full of antioxidants – some of the herbs that grow easily in the South Australian climate, like oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage, have a high ORAC score (a measure of antioxidant capacity).
- Often the ingredients in a very expensive supplement can be obtained for pennies from the real food e.g. the amount of garlic in a popular supplement brand can be obtained from only ¼ fresh garlic clove in your food.
Cheaper protein options
- Eggs can be turned into a range of quick and healthy meals.
- Cheaper cuts of meat can be slow cooked in stews with plenty of vegetables to provide well balanced meals – try to trim visible fat.
- Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas) are excellent and economical sources of protein, and are also high in fibre and antioxidants. For example, black beans have a higher ORAC score than broccoli. Find your favourite ways to make them into delicious meals, or add them to meals to make them more filling e.g. add lentils to mince dishes like bolognaise or burgers, or put chickpeas into salads.
Pro Nutrition SA, Catrin Daly, Dietitian