On a tight budget? We’ve got you. Dietitian Melissa Meier explains the healthiest foods to buy when you’re trying to save money, but don’t want to sacrifice your good-eating habits. Here’s her $50 supermarket hit list.
Fresh berries, activated nuts and fillets of salmon can quickly turn your grocery bill into a hefty spend – but the truth is, healthy eating doesn’t have to cost a bomb. Nutritious and inexpensive can go hand in hand, you just have to be a little smarter with your shop. To point you in the right direction, here’s my dietitian-approved tricks for being healthy on the cheap.
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1. Include a balance of all foods
The number one rule for any healthy eating plan is this: variety is the spice of life. Regardless of your budget, it’s important to include a range of foods from all five food groups (in case you need a refresher, that’s fruit, veg, protein, grains and dairy or alternatives). This will help to ensure your diet is nutritionally adequate.
2. Buy what’s in season
It’s simple economics: the greater the supply, the cheaper the product. So, buy what’s in season and you’ll automatically be spending less than if you were to pick the same old fruit and veg haul every single week. Not only will that benefit your hip pocket, but it’ll help your diet to be more diverse, which is always a good thing (refer to point numero uno).
3. Don’t be afraid of generic products
A lot of people gravitate towards the big brands, which often means a bigger price tag, but not necessarily better quality. To help save some coin, shop around and try the cheaper, home-brand products. While you probably won’t switch everything you usually buy for the cheaper alternative, you might be pleasantly surprised with some alternatives that are just as good, if not better.
4. Don’t diss the tin
I know, the canned aisle isn’t the most appetising one – but when it comes to nutrition, there’s some really good options that are far cheaper than their fresh counterparts. Tinned fish, for example, is a great way to get seafood into your budget-friendly diet for a fraction of the cost of a fresh fillet. Beans, chickpeas and lentils also offer economical plant-based protein as well as tonnes of gut-loving fibre, so can be a good alternative to beef, lamb and chicken.
5. Say hello to the freezer
You might be surprised to learn that frozen fruit and veggies can be just as nutritious as fresh. That’s because the produce is usually snap-frozen as soon as it’s picked, which locks in nutrients. Frozen peas and corn, frozen berries and frozen chopped mixed veggies are an excellent way to get those all-important fruit and veg into your diet – and they’re cheap as chips!
$50 grocery list
With these principles in mind, here’s how I’d stretch $50 to get some serious bang for your buck at the supermarket.
- A loaf of wholegrain bread, perfect for toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch or as a side with dinner = $2.70
- 750g bag of rolled oats for porridge for breakfast = $1.40
- 500g bag of wholemeal pasta for dinners and lunches made from leftovers = $1.65
- 1kg bag of long grain white rice for a base for stir fries and casseroles = $1.40
- 250g packet of rye crispbreads to use as a base for lunch or snacks = $2.85
- A dozen free range eggs for a protein hit at any meal = $4.50
- A whole chicken to roast for dinner and lunches made from leftovers = $6.43
- Two cans of no-added-salt chickpeas to add to salads = $1.60 (80c each)
- Two cans of no-added-salt lentils to add to salads = $1.60 (80c each)
- One 555g can of reduced-salt baked beans to have for a couple of lunches or dinners = $2.50
- Three litres of light milk to add to porridge or coffee, and to make smoothies = $3.59
- 375g light ricotta cheese to spread on toast or crispbreads for a hit of calcium = $3
- Three carrots for snacking = $1.11 (37c each)
- Two tomatoes for slicing and adding to toast with cheese = $1.26 (63c each)
- One large (500g) sweet potato to roast as a side with dinner = $1.50
- Two one-kilo bags of frozen mixed vegetables to add to main meals (stir fried or steamed) = $3.18 ($1.59 each)
- One 500g bag of frozen baby peas to add to main meals (think: stir fries, casseroles, fritters or simply boiled) = $1.60
- 500g bag of frozen mango to add to smoothies = $4
- 500g bag of frozen raspberries to add to porridge or smoothies = $4
Total cost = $49.87. Nailed it.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.