7 Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget

Rebecca McPhee with Credit to Diabetes NSW & ACT


5 Minutes

If you think that eating healthy is expensive, then you're not alone. The cost of living continues to increase, including food and beverages. However, if you take a closer look you will find that healthy foods are considerably cheaper than packaged, convenience or takeaway food. Some forward planning and a little 'know how' will ensure you are able to eat healthily without breaking the bank balance.  

Try these 7 cost-saving ideas to help you make healthier food choices without blowing the budget: 

 

1. Fresh is best

You can't go past fresh food. Not only is it lower in added salt, sugar or fat, but you will also often find that it is much cheaper.

Take raw chicken versus processed chicken for example

A serve of raw chicken is 100g (raw weight) 

  • Raw whole chicken = $0.66 per 100g 
  • BBQ chicken = $0.80 per 100g 
  • Pre-made chicken kebabs = $1.70 per 100g 

Although buying a whole raw chicken might seem more expensive at first glance, once you work out the cost per 100g, you will see you get the most serves and more bang for your buck from the fresh raw chicken.i

 

2. Stick to pantry basics before considering convenience foods

Our supermarkets are restocked again so it's a good time to get back to basics. Stocking up 'pantry essentials' makes it easier to plan healthy meals at a budget price. Essentials include: 

  • Fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables 
  • Wholegrain bread, oats, natural muesli, crackers, rice, pasta, noodles, barley, couscous, quinoa, bulghur, semolina, teff, buckwheat 
  • Lean red meat, chicken, fish (fresh and tinned), eggs and legumes (canned and dried)  
  • Reduced fat Milk, yoghurt, cheese or dairy alternatives - soymilk, soy yoghurt
  • Olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, 100% nut butter e.g., peanut, almond 
  • Miscellaneous items: herbs (fresh and dried), spices, reduced salt soy sauce, 100% tomato paste 

 

3. Buy in season

Seasonal fruit and vegetables are at their nutritional peak, taste better and is often cheaper.  

Australian seasonal fruit and vegetable calendar ii

SPRING - SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER  
FRUIT

apple
asparagus
avocado
banana
blueberries
cantaloupe
cherry
cumquat 
grapefruit
honeydew
lemon
lime 

lychee
mandarin 
mango 
mulberries 
orange 
papaya 
pineapple 
rhubarb 
strawberries 
starfruit 
tangelo 
watermelon 

VEGETABLES

artichoke
asian greens
avocado 
beans
beetroot
broccoli
brussels sprouts
cabbage
carrot
cauliflower
celery
choko
corn
radish
shallot
silverbeet
spinach
squash
swede 

eggplant
fenne
leek
lettuce
mushrooms
okra
onion
onion, spring
parsnip
peas
potato
pumpkin
sweet potato
tomato
turnip
watercress
witlof
zucchini 

SUMMER - DECEMBER - FEBRUARY
FRUIT

apple
apricot
banana
blackberries
blueberries
boysenberries
cantaloupe 
cherries 
currants 
fig 
grapefruit 
grapes 
honeydew 
nectarine 
mango 

orange* 
passionfruit 
peach 
pear* 
plum 
pineapple 
rambutan 
raspberries 
rhubarb 
strawberries 
tamarillo 
watermelon 
lemon 
loganberries 
lychee 

VEGETABLES

asparagus 
avocado 
beans* 
beetroot 
cabbage 
capsicum 
carrot 
celery 
corn 
cucumber 
eggplant 
leek 
lettuce 
okra 

onion 
onion, spring 
peas 
peas, snow 
peas, sugar snap 
potato 
radish 
shallot 
silverbeet 
squash 
tomato 
watercress 
zucchini 
zucchini flower 

AUTUMN - MARCH - MAY
FRUIT

avocado 
apple* 
blackberries 
banana 
cumquat 
custard apple 
feijoa 
fig 
grapefruit 
grapes 
guava 
kiwi fruit 
lemon 
lime 
mandarin* 
mango 

nashi 
orange* 
papaya 
passionfruit 
peach 
pear* 
persimmon 
plum 
pomegranate 
prickly pear 
quince 
rambutan 
raspberries 
rhubarb 
strawberries 
tamarillo 

VEGETABLES

artichokes 
asian greens 
avocado 
beans 
beetroot 
broccoli 
brussels sprouts 
cabbage 
capsicum 
carrot 
cauliflower 
celery 
choko 
corn 
cucumber 
eggplant 
fennel 
leek 

lettuce 
mushrooms 
onion, spring 
parsnip 
potato 
pumpkin 
shallot 
silverbeet 
spinach 
squash 
swede 
sweet potato 
tomato 
turnip 
watercress 
witlof 
zucchini 

WINTER - JUNE - AUGUST
FRUIT

apple 
avocado 
cumquat 
custard apple 
feijoa 
grapefruit 
kiwi fruit 
lemon 
lime 
mandarin 

nashi 
orange 
pear 
persimmon 
pineapple 
quince 
rhubarb 
tamarillo 
tangelo 

VEGETABLES

asian greens 
avocado 
broccoli 
broccolini 
beans, broad 
brussels sprouts 
cabbage 
capsicum 
carrot 
cauliflower 
celeriac 
celery 
chokos 
cucumbers 
eggplants 
fennel
kale

kohlrabi 
leek 
mushrooms 
okra 
onion 
onion, spring 
parsnip 
potato 
pumpkin 
radish 
shallot 
silverbeet 
spinach 
swede 
sweet potato 
turnip 

 

4. Consider frozen and canned fruit and vegetables too

If you find that you are throwing out fresh fruit and vegetables regularly, and technically throwing away dollars, try frozen and canned varieties. Frozen fruit and vegetables are snap frozen after harvest and still hold a lot of nutrition and can be a healthy, longer-lasting option. When fresh berries are not in season and more expensive, switch to the frozen variety. Canned tomatoes are also an excellent pantry essential especially during winter when fresh tomatoes are out of season. 

 

5. Avoid the hype

Foods promoted as being a ‘superfood’ tend to cost more and maybe overrated. For example, a protein ball costs a minimum of $3.00 per ball compared to about $1.21 for grain crackers with a small can of tuna. Tuna and crackers are not only cheaper but they have just as much, if not more, protein and make for a great travel snack! Other options could include a small handful of unsalted nuts for around $0.40 or a hard-boiled egg for $0.50 – this even allows for it being a free-range, jumbo egg. Avoid buying into the hype, you are often paying more for packaging or convenience.iii Buy some good quality food containers to help you store and transport your snacks.  

 

6. Shopping 'know-how'

Before purchasing your food, consider where you will purchase it from. You can often find value for money at farmers’ markets, grocers, butchers and fish markets. Local supermarkets will also have weekly specials, so scope out their catalogue ahead of time to identify deals.  

Also, when you are shopping, do not forget to look at the high and low shelves as they can hold some of the cheaper items, including generic varieties. 

It may also be worth buying in bulk especially meat products. Buy lean cuts of quality meat when they are on special and freeze until later in the week or month when you may need it. 

 

7. Bulk up meals with legumes and vegetables

Halve the quantity of meat in a main meal dish and add a can of legumes such as chickpeas, lentil, kidney beans, soybeans or cannellini beans and vegetables. Legumes taste delicious in soups and casseroles and help to thicken the sauce. For low saturated fat, high dietary fibre bolognese dish, reduce lean beef mince from 500g to 250g and add a can of lentils, grated zucchini, grated carrot, tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic and herbs (basil, oregano). You will be surprised at how much you will save and how good it tastes!

 

Summary

Just because food and beverage prices are rising doesn't mean we cannot eat a varied, healthy diet. Sticking to the basic pantry essentials, choosing seasonal fruit and vegetables, avoiding the hype around convenience foods and looking out for weekly promotions are just some of the planning strategies that stretch your pennies a bit further.  

For great recipes, tips, hacks, events and so much more, join Capital Chicks CANberra online community today.  

 

References:

i dietitiansaustralia.org.au 
ii sustainabletable.org.au 
iii diabetesnsw.com.au

 


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