Healthy Eating on a Not so Healthy Budget by Kelly Francis, Registered Dietitian

Healthy Eating on a Not so Healthy Budget by Kelly Francis, Registered Dietitian

With food prices seemingly increasing by the week, healthy eating might seem next to impossible. Compromising our health however is not an option and there are definitely ways in which to trim the food budget without increasing the risk for obesity or disease. When it comes to convenience, the nutrient empty foods are far cheaper than the nutritious options, which makes these foods all the more tempting. It is important not to fall into this trap.

Reducing the use of convenience foods and ready-to-eat meal components is a great way to cut the grocery bill but when time is as tight as money, this is not always feasible. The trick here is to choose your convenient go to products wisely. For example, keep the pasta and the brown bread, and leave the instant noodles.

The cheaper varieties of pasta sauces and condiments are usually those with less nutritive value and possibly high sugar, salt or artificial colourant contents. Pasta nights are often lacking in vegetables but roasted vegetables, including tomato, in fact make for a tasty and nutritious pasta sauce. This covers the sauce and the vegetables. Homemade hummus with extra liquid is also a great option for a homemade sauce. A tin of chickpeas blended with a tin of tomatoes, herbs and spices and added water can go a long way.

Protein foods are often the wallet busters so this is certainly an area to monitor closely. Adopting the principle of Meatless Monday is an easy way to reduce the meat spend each month as using plant sources of protein on occasion is a great way to reduce the amount of meat consumed. If the family is not fond of soya, beans, chickpeas or lentils, using them to extend meat dishes is the perfect way to introduce them in the family diet.

Examples of this include:

  1. Adding lentils to mincemeat to extend the mince
  • Start with an mince 80 : 20 lentils ratio and work towards a 50:50 split.
  • Make meat balls with mince, lentils and oats
  1. Add beans(dried and canned varieties are suitable)
  • Butter beans make a great addition to stews and curries
  • Sugar beans go well with mince and baked potatoes
  • Enjoy black beans in Mexican recipes

Cooking tip:

When cooking dried beans or lentils, cook in bulk and freeze in 400 g portions – the equivalent of a tin of store bought beans. It is more economical to cook these from dried but even the canned varieties are inexpensive sources of protein.

  1. Take advantage of the humble egg

Eggs are an excellent source of complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids for human protein synthesis and muscle repair. Using eggs at lighter meals whether this be lunch or dinner is a great way to trim the protein cost.

Most will agree that the smell of boiled eggs makes eggs a less than desirable lunch box option. Egg muffins however are the perfect solution to this conundrum. They can be made in advance and a variety of flavour options will reduce boredom.

Frittatas or omelettes packed with vegetables make great dinners on big lunch days. When making chicken curry, use boiled eggs as a substitute to a second piece of chicken.

Other money saving tips

  • Start a vegetable garden
  • Buy fresh produce in bulk and share
  • Buy only fresh produce that is in season
  • Steer clear from imported foods
  • Cook porridge for breakfast (this can be done the night before)
  • Eat raw oats for breakfast, often found cheaply at wholesale baking stores
  • Buy only what you know you can use, avoid wastage of food
  • Plan meals in advance to reduce unnecessary purchases
  • Keep the pantry organised to avoid doubling up on items

Every little bit of effort counts towards the goal of saving money and reducing the grocery bill and once the habits are developed, the effort required will go unnoticed.