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This article will tell you how to eat a healthy diet on a budget. We all want to eat well. Most of us want to eat a healthy diet. One of the barriers to eating a healthy diet is the cost of healthy food compared to junk food. The cost of buying individual ingredients, and the time taken with cooking something healthy as opposed to buying fast food on the way home from work can often lead us to consuming unhealthy junk food.
It is a fallacy however, that you can’t eat a healthy diet on a budget. The key to eating a healthy diet lies in planning for the long term. Here are some tips for eating healthy on a budget:
Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget
Grocery Shopping Tips
- Stock your pantry so that you have the ingredients for easy meals on hand. This means you’re less likely to order Uber Eats or takeaways. See my guide to stocking your pantry below.
- Buy in bulk, especially staples that last a long time if stored correctly.
- Buy when the specials are on, but only food that you know you will use.
- Only eat in season fruit and vegetables. For example, a cauliflower can cost $2 in season or $8 out of season. The other advantage to buying fruit and vegetables in season is that they are fresher and often have less chemicals and packaging than store bought ones if bought from the markets.
- Buy frozen fruit and vegetables when they are out of season. Frozen fruit and vegetables retain their nutrients as they are snap frozen straight after harvesting. They last a long time and are often cheaper than fresh.
- Only buy what you need. I buy two tomatoes per week because I would waste a whole bag.
- Plan what meals you will be cooking for the week and only buy the ingredients for those recipes. This reduces waste. We have stores where you can take your own containers and buy foods such as wholefoods by the weight. Some supermarkets offer this service as well.
- Buy generic brands. They are often a similar quality as branded versions, and are often hard to distinguish from the more expensive brands.
- Buy alternative protein sources such as tofu and legumes. They can be very cheap compared to meat and chicken. Try to have two meat-free meals per week.
- Buy cheaper cuts of meat and cook them in a slow cooker. Slow cooking is a fantastic way of making tougher meat such as chuck steak, into tender, melt-in-the-mouth meals.
- Avoid buying food that you already have. Check your cupboards and make a list of what you need before you head to the shops. I have found since I’ve been doing online grocery shopping that I’ve saved money. Instead of buying something unnecessarily I can check my cupboards to make sure I need it. I also do less impulse buying of unhealthy treats.
- Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry! You will be likely to put more into your trolley, and it would most likely be unhealthy food.
- If you do go to the shops, avoid aisles that have unhealthy food. I don’t even walk down the chocolate, sweet and soft drink aisles. Stick to the perimeter of the store as this is where the wholefoods are.
Prepare Your Own Food as it is Cheaper
- Wholefoods are cheaper than heavily processed foods. A bag of rolled oats is much cheaper than oat based muesli with fruit. You can make your own muesli, or try my overnight oats recipe.
- Make your own stirfry sauces and recipe bases from scratch. Ready-made ones are often full of sugar and salt and are very expensive. Use fresh ginger, garlic, onion and low sodium soy sauces for your stirfry sauce instead.
- Grow your own vegetables – even a few plants in containers for herbs and easy-to-grow vegetables, can save you money and provide nutritious and fresh additions to your diet.
- Invest in a bread maker. I can buy a huge bag of baker’s flour which lasts a few weeks. Our own sweet and savoury loaves such as fruit and nut bread, banana bread, focaccia and pizza bases are easy to make and save us heaps of money.
- Other things I make myself rather than buy ready-made are Greek yoghurt and salad.
- Since my sons moved out I find I’m still cooking enough for four people. I freeze the remainder in meal-sized portions so there’s always a meal that we can defrost and heat if we’re too tired to cook.
- Save $5 per day by making your own coffee at home. I have a fantastic Delonghi coffee maker that grinds, and brews the coffee, and even froths the milk. The initial cost of the coffee machine is high, but it pays for itself quickly if you have 1-2 cups per day rather than going to the cafe.
- Prepare your lunches for the week ahead. Some ideas are:
- A large salad you can take daily for 2 – 3 days
- Portions of healthy snacks e.g. nuts and dried fruits
- Healthy muffins can be made and frozen
- Cut up carrot sticks, celery sticks with a portion of hummus or salsa
- Vegetable soup divided into meal-sized portions. It can be frozen until needed
- Try my healthy burrito recipe for easy, healthy meal prep.
How to Stock Your Pantry With Healthy Food on a Budget
This is a guide for stocking your pantry. If you have the following in your pantry you will be able to cook most recipes and avoid having to buy takeaways. A well stocked pantry will help you to eat a healthy diet on a budget. I always have the following in my pantry:
- Tins of tomatoes, beans (kidney and cannelloni), corn
- Dried lentils
- Herbs, spices, stock powders and gravy powders
- Olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, sesame oil and oil spray
- Longlife milk – almond, skim, coconut
- Flours – baker’s, wholemeal, cornflour
- Oats, oat bran, chia seeds, couscous
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Rice – long grain, arborio
- Pasta – spaghetti, penne, Singapore, vermicelli
- Vinegar – white, balsamic, cider, red wine
- Salt and pepper
- Sauces – soy, oyster, chili, tomato, barbecue, mustard
- Pesto, salsa, tomato paste
- Sugar – caster, raw, brown
- Soups – tomato, mushroom
- Curry paste and powder
- Taco shells and burrito / tortilla wraps
- Honey, maple syrup, Vegemite, peanut butter
- Rice crackers
- Wholemeal bread
- Cereal – Weetbix, Plus
- Tins of tuna (small and large)
Stock your refrigerator with the following:
- Milk (low fat)
- Cheese – feta, low fat shredded, parmeson
- Greek yoghurt
- Fresh fruit and vegetables in season. I always have potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, onions, carrots, apples, tomatoes
Stock your freezer with the following:
- Chicken breast, chicken thigh fillets, low fat mince, lean beef.
- Other cuts of meat in season
- Peas, blueberries, mixed vegetables
- Puff pastry
Eating Healthy Food Doesn’t Have to be Expensive
Does the cost of healthy food put you off buying it? It is actually a fallacy that healthy food is expensive. That is because we are bombarded with messages about super-foods. These so-called super-foods are trendy, and the price is bumped up accordingly because the demand for them is high. There are other foods that are much more readily available, and offer the same health benefits at a much lower cost.
I have compiled a list of the healthiest food you can buy. These foods are not only healthy, they are versatile, easy to prepare and cheaper than so called super-foods. These foods are usually well tolerated by most people, and are nutrient dense. That means you get more buck for your dollar. If you would like a copy of the list, plus a handy shopping list template and a guide to buying healthy food, the link is below:
The right kitchen appliances can help you to eat a healthy diet on a budget. Here are my recommendations for appliances that can help you save money:
I save $5 – $10 per day by brewing my own coffee. My son and I bought this coffee maker and when he moved out he took it with him. I loved it so much I bought another one. I like that it uses coffee beans, not pods which are bad for the environment. It grinds and brews the coffee as required, and it also can froth milk for a cappuccino. There is a power-saving mode so it switches off when not in use. I use the coffee grinds on the garden so there is very little waste.
A slow cooker is one of the best money saving appliances you can buy. I still use my crock pot, the original slow cooker, which I received as a gift in 1987! That version is long gone, but you may still buy the Crock Pot brand slow cooker. The Breville Slow Cooker is my husband’s and it is almost as good as my ancient one. It just shows you how long quality appliances last if you look after them. A slow cooker transforms cheap cuts of meat into beautiful, melt-in-the-mouth meals with very little fuss. Just put all the ingredients in, and turn it on for 4-6 hours and your meal will be ready to serve.
My bread maker is my new favourite appliance. Because I have spent much more time at home than usual this year, I have been experimenting with many different types of cooking. Making bread is so incredibly easy in this bread maker that I make at least two loaves per week. You just add all the ingredients to the bread maker bowl, program the machine, and it does it all – kneads, proofs and bakes the bread. We’ve made fruit and nut loaves, pizza bases, foccacia, wholegrain and white bread and they’re all amazing.
My microwave oven is perhaps the most utilised appliance in our kitchen. I really don’t know where I’d be without it. This particular model is an inverter oven so it defrosts, cooks and heats food with more precision than an ordinary oven. The reason it is such a great appliance is it is fabulous for cooking a quick healthy meal, or to defrost and heat one from your freezer. This means you’re not resorting to buying takeaways.
The Health Benefits of a Healthy Diet
Healthy food fuels your body. You will maintain a steady weight, have more energy, will be able to concentrate better and have less health issues. Eating convenience and junk food should be a rarity. It may be cheaper in the short term to eat something convenient, but in the long term the cost to your health will add up. Using the above suggestions, you will be able to learn how to eat a healthy diet on a budget.
I lost 17kg last year on a Government sponsored program. I had a phone consult with a Dietician regularly throughout the program, which was the key to my successful weight loss. Most of my weight loss came down to my diet because the only exercise I am able to do is walking due to chronic back pain and other health issues. Your diet is vital for maintaining a healthy weight, and preventing illness.
I am a Registered Nurse, but my background isn’t specifically in nutrition.I recommend that you consult a Dietician and a General Practitioner if you have health issues or a lot of weight to lose to get you into the healthy weight range. This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. Please refer to the disclaimer.
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This blog post was shared on Life This Week, a Linkup by Denyse Whelan