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Top 7 Ways To Eat Healthy On A Budget

Nicola Graham
Nicola Graham

According to Statistics New Zealand, food prices have risen 6% in the past year and combined with continually increasing fuel prices, I think we are all feeling the effects in our pockets.

In the past, when the words eating on a budget were mentioned, my mind used to glaze over and zone out, as I’d picture watery mince dishes, fatty sausages, two-minute noodles and other less than healthy concoctions. However, I now know from my own experience it is possible to eat healthy on a budget.

It’s all a matter of planning, substitution and a bit of smart shopping.

1)    The Supermarket

Before you even hit the supermarket, plan your meals for the week (roughly) and write a list of what you need to buy.

If you plan your meals, you can be sure you have all the ingredients you need, so when it comes to dinner time, you don’t need to rush down to the supermarket for an extra purchase.

Visiting the supermarket more than once a week is sure to bump up the food bill. For the many times in the past when I’d rushed in to pick up a missing ingredient, I don’t think I ever have walked out with just that one item. I know others are the same. It’s too hard to not see something else you might like.

The once a week rule will avoid adding additional dollars to your food bill.

2)    Budget Brands

Homebrand, Pams and Budget varieties are almost always cheaper than other brands, and are often pretty much identical to their more expensive counterparts.

A good example is milk. At Woolworths an Anchor light blue 2L bottle of milk costs $4.34, while the same size Homebrand variety costs $3.07. That’s a difference of $1.27 for what is exactly the same product, but in different packaging.

So go budget and your wallet will thank you.

3)    Making it Stretch – Meat and Protein

Shopping for meat is one of the big expenses at the supermarket. Combining smaller serves of meat with beans or lentils is a good way to make the dollars go further.

Don’t cringe  - they aren’t just for vegetarians or hippies and they actually do taste good when cooked correctly.  Plus nutritionally they are low fat, a good source of protein, fibre, iron, plus some B Vitamins

Try adding a can of drained kidney beans to a smaller serve of mince for making burritos, or a can of drained chickpeas to a casserole. Trust me – they taste good!

4) The Art of Domesticity

Become re-acquainted with your kitchen and begin baking. Not only will you know exactly what goes into your food, you’ll get more for your money.

Baking for your kid’s lunches or for work snacks will save dollars. For example, a box of six muesli bars costs $3.50 or more in the supermarket, but following a recipe makes 16 bars and costs less than $3.50 to make.

5) To Market, to Market

Market stalls provide a perfect opportunity to buy fruit and vegetables at cheaper prices.  If you’re lucky you can also get honey and free-range eggs at a good price.

6) Green Fingers

Another fantastic way to save is to grow your own vegetable garden. If you are limited for space, you can grow vegetables in pots.  

Another bonus in vegetable gardening is that it doesn’t take nearly as much time as you think, not to mention being very satisfying.

Last summer I decided to experiment with gardening and planted salad mix seeds, radishes and sugar snap pea seeds.  I watered them when I remembered a few months later I had a heap of lettuce, radishes and peas .  

A packet of lettuce seeds costs under $2 and contains eight hundred seeds. A lettuce alone costs $2, so you can see the savings would add up quickly with your own garden.

7) Ditch the Bought Lunches

Save these for a special occasion, you could almost make a weeks worth of lunches with the amount spent on one bought lunch and coffee.

While it may take a little planning and a little more effort, these tips will help you save money in the kitchen and keep you healthy at the same time.

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