Updated: Mar 28, 2019
A common misconception is that healthy eating costs a fortune. This definitely is not the case and comes down to a bit of pre planning and research. So how do we eat healthily on a budget?
Consider how much you're spending on packaged/processed foods
A lot of the time, processed foods are actually more expensive than fresh foods. One serve of frozen potato chips (150g) costs approx. $3.75 whereas the same amount of loose potatoes is 50c. Similarly, a standard chocolate bar (100g) costs around $4 whilst 100g of apple only costs 60c. While packaged and/or processed foods may appear to be the more convenient and cost effective option, when you actually compare the same amount to the 'healthier' counterpart (for example, by weight or grams), it's often more expensive.
Find healthier recipes that replicate your favourite take-away options
Eating out is expensive in itself and can make it harder for you to avoid unwanted calories or added fats, sugars and salt. Take a beef burger for example, which can cost anywhere between $15-20 EACH and holds around 700 calories, 20g saturated fat and >1,000mg of sodium. Compare it to a home made lean beef burger (think lean beef mince, multigrain rolls, low fat cheese and vegetables) and you're saving around $10-13, 350 calories, 15g saturated fat and >500mg of sodium per burger. For a family of four, that's a saving of around $40-$52 per meal! Eating out less and replicating the same meals at home can result in significant savings.
Pre-plan your weekly shop before you go
Do some research: find out which supermarkets are having certain 'specials' for the week and/or locate any relevant coupons that you can use. Buy in bulk if you can too: more-so for items that will last such as cereals, rice, pasta and tinned beans. Learn about what fruits and vegetables are in season as these are usually the cheapest options. Based on your findings, pre-plan what meals and snacks you're going to have for the week and write up your shopping list. (Extra tip: don't go to the supermarket hungry as you're more likely to impulse buy!)
Take into account that generic 'home brands' are just as good
Often people assume that the home brand options are unhealthy because they're cheap. In actual fact they are usually just as good, if not better. Take porridge for example: the 'quick' flavoured sachets cost anywhere between $5-7 for a box whereas a bag of home-brand rolled oats are just $1. The home-brand outs are actually lower in glycemic index, have a higher fibre content and no added sugars compared to the 'known' branded quick oats. If you're every confused, compare the nutrition labels (per 100g) and look at the amount of saturated fat, sugars and sodium to choose the product lowest in these values.
Incorporate some vegetarian proteins into your meals
Think canned lentils, beans, chickpeas or eggs: these are super cheap and super nutritious! Try to cook a vegetarian based meal each week or add your choice of legumes to mince dishes or stews to make the meal go further. One can of chickpeas is only 80c and provides around 100 calories and 6g of protein per serve (1/3 of the tin).
If you're trying to eat healthily on a budget and don't know where to start, Bronwen can help you to come up with a personalised nutrition plan suited to both your health and financial related goals.
Accredited Practising Dietitian