Written by Chantal Gerge (Student Dietitian Deakin University)
Many believe that eating healthy is expensive and that eating healthy on a tight budget is near impossible. We’re here to tell you that it’s NOT! In this article, we will be sharing our top tips to eating healthy, nourishing foods that are physically and mentally satiating and won’t break the piggy bank.
Where to Find Help
Firstly, if money is super tight, there are so many organisations that offer immediate relief to families experiencing the hunger crisis. These include: OzHarvest, Foodbank, Anglicare, AskIzzy, The Salvation Army, and Vinnes.
Planning your meals ahead of time is key to healthy eating on a budget as it helps you make the most of what you have and reduce waste. These menu plans can be made on a weekly or fortnightly basis, depending on what best suits you and your family. Follow these tips below to create your menu:
Create a list of meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that are inexpensive and that your family enjoy (see below for some ideas).
Write a list of the ingredients required and only buy what you need. Schedule in any meals out or takeaway into the weekly menu.Freeze leftovers or use them as the basis of other meals. Try choose meals that have similar ingredients so that you don’t have to buy too many components. When writing your menu and shopping list, have a look at what you already have at home in your pantry and fridge to avoid any doubling up of products.
Example Of Weekly Menu
|Chickpea curry with Basmati rice||Fried rice||Cajun chicken and vegetable tray bake with roast potato||Baked basa and roast vegetable salad with feta||Tofu noodle and broccoli stir fry||Take away||Chicken pesto pasta|
It may be cold, but do not fear the frozen aisle, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables. There is a common misconception that frozen produce are not good for us, but on the contrary, these fruits and vegetables are snap frozen, locking in the nutrients, thereby making them just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. Oh and did I mention that they are also much cheaper!!
Being frozen extends the self-life of these products, which means that they won’t spoil as quickly and you can stock up on them when they are on sale.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are very versatile and can be used in a variety of different dishes including smoothies, baked goods, stir-fry, stews and tray bakes/roasts.
Fruits and vegetables are cheapest when they are in season, so planning meals around this can help shave some dollars off your grocery bill. Have a look below to see what produce is in season now!
If you want to buy produce that is not in season, buying the frozen or tinned variety can also save you some money.
Sugar snap peas
Make the Most of Markdowns
This supermarket hack is sure to save you some bucks on your weekly shop!
All supermarkets usually markdown products to sell the “older” batch (products that are nearing their best fore dates) before new stock is put out on display to reduce waste. This could be either early in the morning, right after opening or in the evening right before trading ends. Products to look out for include roast chickens, bread (from the bakery), baked goods, meat, chicken and some produce (particularly pre-packaged varieties).
To get the most bang for your buck (and prevent food poisoning), when buying markdown products, you should either freeze them or use immediately.
Shopping the sales will also benefit your bank account and save you money long term. Each week, Aldi, Coles and Woolworths release a catalogue of all the weekly sales, so make a habit to check these and stock up on them.
Stock up on Pantry Items
Pantry items are often “non-perishable,” meaning they can be stored for an extended period of time (months to years!) for being used or eaten. So building your pantry stock slowly and over time will save you money in the long run. Although it may seem expensive at first but buying 2-3 staples each week will quickly build your pantry stock that will last you months. For instance, a $7 Lean Cuisine frozen meal may be cheaper than an $18 5kg bag of rice in the short-term, but in the long-term, you will be able to get many more nourishing meals out of the bag of rice.
Keeping these staples on hand will ensure you have a variety of cheap meals on hand to cook.
Another pro tip is to shop sales or home-brand products as these are usually significantly marketed down compared to branded varieties.
Here are examples of some basic, nutrient-dense pantry staples:
- Tinned and dry lentils, beans and chickpeas
- Tinned fruit (in juice)
- Tinned tomatoes/tomato paste
- Tinned fish
- Rolled oats
- Whole wheat flour
- Cooking oils
- Herbs and spices
- UHT milk
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried fruit
Grow Your Own
Developing your own garden can help you cut back on some of the costs from produce. If you’re not a natural green thumb and have never had a garden before, start small by growing herbs and sprouts on your bench top, which are nutritious and add a hit of flavour to any dish.
Shop Outside the Supermarket
If a garden is not for you, then shopping outside of the supermarket will be you best friend. Sourcing meat, produce and bakery items from your local farmers market, butcher and bakery is often cheaper, particularly during times when products are in-demand. Farmers markets also usually sell high-quality, nutritious produce that is in season.
Not to mention, this is your chance to support your local business.
Budget Friendly Nourishing Meal Ideas
|BREAKFAST||Oatmeal with frozen berries |
Eggs on toast
Baked beans on toast
Yogurt and fruit
|LUNCH||Leftovers from dinner |
Roast vegetable salad
Protein and vegetable tray bakes
Veggie sticks and dip
Tinned tuna with vita-wheat crackers
Piece of fruit
How our Eat for Wellness Dietitians’ Can Help You!
If you would like to seek further nutrition advice on how to follow a budget friendly healthy diet, our EFW Dietitians’ can help provide you with a balance eating plan that’s individually tailored to suit your needs. We now have telehealth consults for your convenience, so you won’t need to leave your home! Please contact us for further details.