Ever noticed how expensive healthy foods can be in comparison to the dozens of fast food options that are, well pretty much everywhere? Or how many pseudo-expert health bloggers there are out there, that claim to have unlocked the secret benefits of the ancient Mayan diet of activated almonds, juice cleanses and cabbage soup?
We hear you loud and clear! Changing your eating habits and actually sticking to them can not only be mentally exhausting, but a real strain on your budget.
That’s why we’ve combed through all the noise, to bring you Nimble’s 10 tips for eating healthy, without breaking the bank, from none other than the most qualified health experts.
#1 Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
It’s pretty easy to say things like ‘it’s too expensive to eat healthy’ – but is that really true? Or is it just an excuse to eat what we want?
“We sometimes make excuses for the things that we don’t want to do. Choosing an apple over a chocolate bar is not only a healthier choice, but it is a cheaper choice too.”
It might be hard to choose an apple over a sweet when picking out a snack, but using price is a poor excuse. There are tonnes of cheap, healthy foods out there if we are willing to change our mindset and look for them.
#2 Shopping hungry is a big no-no
One of the best ways to save money is by watching your shopping.
Never shop on a hungry tummy. It can lead to impulse purchasing comfort foods (like that bag of chips to eat on the way home) and simply overspending in general. Click here for more information about saving money on your groceries.
“We all know how tempting it is to buy unhealthy foods when you go to the supermarket hungry. So one super tip is to eat before you go shopping, as you’ll find you’re much more likely to stick to your list this way,”
#3 Plan before you shop
Next to ‘not-shopping-hungry’, the next best healthy/thrifty tip is to plan your meals.
This will make sure you have a line up of super healthy dishes every day and ensure you don’t blow money on food that you don’t need.
A great shopping trip starts at home. Check your pantry and fridge first so you know what you’re working with. No one likes that feeling when you just get back from the store to find that there is only a splash of milk in the carton or that you’ve just bought a brand new box of couscous when there is still two half-empty ones tucked behind the cereal boxes.
“Planning meals ahead and food prepping is a fabulous way to help stick to New Year’s resolutions of healthy eating.”
If you have a plan and a pantry full of healthy food, you will also be less likely to grab that take away burger and chips on the way home (note: some will-power will still be required!)
#4 Don’t waste food
One of the biggest unnecessary expenses in the home is food wastage.
Australians throw out 20% of the food they buy every month. That adds up to over $1,000 in groceries every year.
Food doesn’t last forever, particularly fresh produce and meats, if they go off and end up in the bin, that’s your hard earned money you’re throwing into the rubbish.
“If you can’t find that box of quinoa when you want to cook it or if that wild salmon fillet gets pushed to the back of the fridge without being cooked, it’s all wasted money.”
Get a system! Organising your fridge and pantry so that items nearing their use by date are moved to the front. Go out of your way to put them in your meal plan for the week.
Not only is it gross when you find that bag of soggy veggies in the bottom drawer, it’s wasted money.
#5 Don’t be a fusspot
Keeping it flexible when it comes to following recipes will save you big time in the long run.
Shop the weekly specials. Sure, Jamie Oliver says you need Tuscan kale for his frittata, but you know what? Silverbeet is on sale this week. So, go for the silverbeet! We promise Jamie won’t take it personally.
“You don’t have to stick to recipes completely. Modify them to your taste as well as your budget.”
Chloe McLeod, a sports dietitian.
On top of saving you a few bucks, a slight change can make an old recipe seem new. Keep your eyes open when you shop and don’t be afraid to tweak and experiment.
#6 Stay away from the “superfoods”
There is no lack of trendy (and pricey) products being labelled as the next ‘miracle cure’ these days. Unfortunately, there is often little evidence to the benefits of these foods, and certainly not enough to justify the huge mark up in price.
“Healthy eating becomes more expensive when people become fixated with new trends and fads. Fad foods and ingredients are often marketed with a superior price tag and, more often than not, lack the scientific evidence to support any health claims around them.”
Avoid buying into the hype. Don’t pay tonnes of money for trendy ingredients when there are plenty of great healthy foods that give you the same health kick for a fraction of the price.
#7 Look for generic and home-brand items
Many people overlook the savings to be had from home-brand foods.
Advertisers spend lots of money to make you brand conscious, but you can save quite a bit by ignoring them!
“You would be surprised at how many generic-brand food companies are making foods as good as, if not better than, their big brand competitors. The great benefit of buying generic brands will be apparent when you pay for your shopping at the checkout. Generic brands are a great deal cheaper than their big brand counterparts. I would honestly say half of my weekly shop is generic-brand foods.”
Emily Skye, Australian trainer.
#8 Check your portion size
It’s not just what you eat but how much of it that you consume!
Apples are healthy, but they still have kilojoules. Don’t just assume that because you are eating healthy that you can go crazy with the portion size.
This goes double for those on a budget, if you are eating what should be two meals for dinner, you could also be wiping out tomorrow’s lunch.
“Portion control is important. Often people think because a type of food is healthy they can eat as much as they like, but piling up your plate with brown rice or adding spoonfuls of coconut oil to meals all add calories.”
Fiona Tuck, nutritionist.
#9 Get some egg on (in) your face
Eggs: simple, humble, versatile, cheap and the perfect options for the health conscious saver.
While meat tends to be what people think of when talking about protein, it isn’t the only place you can get it.
“Eggs are an excellent source of protein, 11 vitamins and minerals, the long chain omega-3 fats we know to be essential for good health, and the yellow colour of the yolk comes from a group of compounds called carotenoids that are beneficial for eye health. Studies have also shown that when people eat eggs for breakfast they tend to feel fuller and more satisfied, helping them to eat less and eat better for the rest of the day.”
Dr Joanna McMillan, PhD qualified nutrition scientist.
Eggs can be cooked in a tonne of different ways. Great scrambled up for brekkie, hard boiled for lunch snacks, or mixed into rice and veggies to make a stir-fry.
#10 Make it a double
But don’t eat it all!
When you are cooking a meal, consider how well it freezes Soups and stews are great as a meal today and then to whack it in the fridge or freezer for an on-demand dinner later.
“Bulk cooking also saves time. When I make any meal that can be frozen, I always make double so I have a whole meal ready in the freezer ready to go. This means I only end up having to cook 3-4 times a week which with two little kids is essential as time is very short in my life as it is for many people.”
Claire Turnbull, nutritionist.
Buying in bulk can often result in a larger total bill, but a lower per meal cost and if you are freezing a portion, it can also save you from having to cook when you are too tired or busy to be bothered.
Got any other tips for eating healthy on a budget? Let us know in the comments below!
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