The price of food is rising and it’s tempting to exchange a few gold coins for a burger and fries. Healthy eating can be cheap if you know what to look for. Here are my frugal food ideas so you can keep a little extra change in your pocket.
The key to healthier eating on a budget is to plan. Think about the meals and snacks you want to eat for the week ahead and write them down. This will stop you from buying promoted items that you don’t really need. Keep a master list online at your supermarket and the specials in that list will be highlighted each week. Avoid shopping when you’re hungry.
Prioritise your food dollars around seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. You can track the price of produce to see if it’s in season and also look where it’s coming from. If your grapes are coming from California, then they’re not in season in Australia. Seasonal fruit can often be bought in bulk so each week you can focus on your favourites and buy them three for the price of two.
Eat real food. A serve of potato is 150 grams and costs around fifty cents. It’s packed with nutrients. Frozen chips per 150 grams are around seventy cents. Potato chips per 150 grams are $3.75 and contain almost no nutrients. An apple is around sixty cents but a chocolate bar of roughly the same weight is $2.15. Rolled oats cost about fifteen cents per serve but a muesli bar of the same weight is $1.50.
If you’re really feeling broke, then top up your fresh produce with frozen or canned vegetables. They’re packed at their peak and can be a nutritious addition to your menu. Check the labels for sugar and sodium. Beans are one of the most budget friendly foods you can buy. You can purchase them dried or canned and add them as an extender to any meal or eat them on their own.
Meat is often a pricier healthy food. Purchase your meat in bulk and divide it into two or three meals. A serving of meat only really needs to be the size of your fist so a large steak can often be broken into portions. Buy meat on special and make sure you have a few vegetarian nights. Add plenty of mushrooms and legumes to meat dishes and serve it with budget-friendly wholegrain rice or couscous.
Use leftovers for meals later in the week. You can change up a meal by serving it with a different side such as brown rice one night and a salad the next. Use surplus food for soups, casseroles or frittatas. Eat leftovers from dinner for lunch or freeze them for a later date. Substitute ingredients and use your imagination rather than sticking to recipes that dictate expensive ingredients.
Drink water instead of sugary drinks which are often expensive. Think about if you really need that chocolate or burger. When you do crave these foods buy small portions as these foods are high in kilojoules and should make you feel full after a small amount. Create meals from scratch. Bottled sauces can be expensive so add lemon juice or your own flavours to meals.
Stock budget items in your cupboard. I always have eggs on hand as they’re so versatile and packed full of nutrients. I also have cans of kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas to extend a meal and brown rice. Oats are another cheap staple that can be eaten for breakfast or tossed into any baking to bulk up its nutrition.
A healthy diet can still be maintained when times are tough. There’s always that thrifty week when you may have to compromise with mince instead of steak; instant coffee instead of a latte and apples instead of strawberries. A budget like a diet should be balanced. Spend wisely.