There is a misconception that eating healthy can be a stretch on the budget. With the price of food rising, eating healthily while trying to stick to a budget can be challenging. When you only have a few dollars a day to feed the family, packaged foods can seem cheaper, especially in the short term. Filling, high-calorie food for little outlay seems like the best option when you’re hungry and money is tight.
But with a little planning and some useful tips, buying and preparing delicious healthy food on a budget is not as hard as it may seem! it takes some careful planning, a bit of extra time cooking and a few weeks to build up staples, but the answer is yes – you can eat healthy on a tight budget.
Planning your daily meals for a week and planning before you go grocery shopping is the secret to healthy eating based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines while sticking to a budget:
It’s the quality that counts
Get more value from your grocery budget by focusing on the Five Food Groups. Remember that food pyramid we all learned as a kid, it still applies today. Inspire your meal planning by these nutritious food categories and ditch the other items you put in your basket.
Being full on inexpensive, healthy foods; being hungry on expensive, organic foods; or being full on inexpensive, unhealthy foods? My parents chose full, inexpensive, and healthy.
Five Food Groups
- Vegetables and legumes/beans
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans
- Milk, yoghurt cheese, and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat
Fresh produce has high-value nutrients and usually cost cheaper than most items in the supermarket.
TIP: Make sure you get what’s in the season to get the best deals!
If your local supermarket sells fresh fruits and veggies, check out if their frozen counterparts are marked better.
You can play around with these food groups and prefer different kinds of fruits and veggies and pair it with different kinds of grains or lean meat. You get the picture, just mix and match.
TIP: Some nutritionists and dieticians post their sample meal plans and shopping list online, along with some recipes you can do with them. Check those out and find some inspiration. Later on, you can do it freestyle!
Snack on something healthy
Sometimes, the things that make our grocery checkout bills over the ceiling are the snacks: chips, cookies, jams, etc. To save money and adapt a healthier lifestyle and body, eat fruits, veggies, lentils or eggs as snacks!
The packaging matters
Some healthy foods are more expensive because of the packaging. Maybe the products coming in glass bottles, or the maybe you’re paying for a brand’s name. If there are other equally great products that come in releasable packets, then maybe you should consider opting for those.
Cook for later
To save you some time, hassle and extra cash to burn, prepare and cook a bigger batch of food, or a number of servings than usual and store it in the freezer. When you need it, you can easily heat it in the microwave.
If your family doesn’t like repeating menus in a week, you can buy a bulk of protein and cook it in different ways.
TIP: You make a greater deal when you buy bulk or wholesale in the grocery.
No to added sugar and extra cost
The greatest (and healthiest) thirst quencher there is, is water. Save some cash and choose healthy by saying no to sweetened drinks such as soda, sports drinks, etc.
Use leftovers to cook a new meal. Substitute ingredients to cheaper and healthier options. This way, you and your family eat healthy without getting sick of the healthy food you eat. Remember that eating healthy is far from bombarding your family, especially kids, with the same food over and over again. Do your part and experiment. If you’re too scared to waste food by just winging it, gather ideas from the countless recipes online which are both healthy and budget-friendly.