Budgeting - while it doesn’t exactly scream fun, it’s an important reality for most of us. When talking with clients at Feel Fresh Nutrition, budget is a common stumbling block many people face when it comes to eating healthily, with the belief they may not be able to afford to do so. There's no denying with high quality food can come extra cost - but fortunately, to a degree.
There are plenty of tips, tricks and middle ground that can help us avoid compromising on nutrition, while shopping as inexpensively as we can.
On most budgets we can still eat healthily, but we must know what we’re doing, have a plan in place, and time to prepare as much of our own food as we can. That isn’t always easy. Some people have the financial luxury of forgoing the time and the knowledge but for everyone else, we’re here to help with some knowledge and hacks to help you reduce the cost associated with eating nutrient dense food. Starting with…
ALWAYS BUY SEASONAL
Fruits and vegetables are at their cheapest when in season, mimicking local supply and demand. When produce is in season there's plenty available locally, so naturally prices drop. With out of season produce, it often travels from afar to get to us, incurring a hefty food milage that pushes up costs. Make sure to read produce labels to find out where an item is from! Additionally, don’t forget the odd looking produce too - there is a growing trend worldwide with supermarket chains now offering odd-looking vegetable bags and boxes at a cheaper rate in an effort to reduce food wastage. Sustainability and nutrients on a budget, a winning combo!
GROW YOUR OWN
The cheapest way to enjoy fruits and vegetables is to grown your own. In particular, leafy greens are easy to grow, and seeds are incredibly cheap! In contrast, one bag of spinach is often a few dollars and might last only for a few days. If you're new to gardening start small, with some leafy greens or herbs. A garden may require a small investment to get going, but will pay you back in produce may times over.
PLAN WEEKLY MEALS
Planning your weekly meals is paramount on a budget. It ensures that you're only purchasing ingredients you absolutely need for the comings week, and will encourage the use of leftover ingredients in the fridge/freezer/pantry, which will help cut unnecessary spending. Sit down once or twice a week and put together a plan of action, aiming to make meals using whatever ingredients you have available on hand already.
USE EVERY PART OF YOUR FOOD
We’re often inclined to use only the parts of food we’re comfortable with or that is ‘commonly’ used. But you may be surprised at what’s actually edible! For example:
Broccoli stalks are amazing thinly sliced and added to a stir-fry. Or try finely sliced beetroot leaves and stems in soups!
Have veggie peelings (e.g. carrot ribbons, the tops of onions…)? Freeze and then bring out to make your own nutritious stock.
Have potato peels? These are epic tossed with a little oil and salt, and baked in the oven until crispy. Drool.
DON’T RELY ON SPECIFIC INGREDIENTS FOR A MEAL - GET FLEXIBLE
Take an idea, such as a curry and add the spices and protein, and then use whatever veggies you have on hand. Recipes often carry a lot of flexibility - the types of veggies or protein used doesn’t necessary change the method, you might just need to adjust cooking time.
AVOID EXPENSIVE EXTRAS
We know that foods like haloumi, chorizo and nuts can be tasty additions to our diet. We certainly don’t need to avoid these foods, but they can get expensive and aren’t nutritionally necessary. If within budget, choose one flavourful item you love per week and enjoy it!
BECOME FRIENDS WITH LOCAL FOOD SUPPLIERS LIKE YOUR BUTCHER
Your local butcher can be a financial godsend. You can support local business while asking them questions about the cheapest cuts of meat and how to cook them. Similarly, talk to the produce people at your local market. They can tell you what’s coming in\to season and what's finishing, and you can meal plan to account for this.
GO GENERIC WITH YOUR BRANDS
Most supermarkets will offer cheaper brand alternatives for foods, where the price difference may be nothing to do with product quality, but more the branding/packaging. For staples such as rice, pasta and tinned tomatoes, generic brands are often just as fab as their more expensive counterparts. If you have any concern around nutritional quality, it's best to compare the nutrition information panel.
USE FROZEN VEGGIES MORE
Veggies frozen are very nutritious as they are picked and frozen straight away, rather than sitting on display shelves. They also help to bulk out meals and add vital fibre to your diet.
TRY MORE PLANT-BASED PROTEINS
Animal protein costs significantly more than planet-based protein. Try a plant-based protein dinner during the week that use tinned legumes. Check out the FFN recipe blog for ideas!
PICK AND CHOSE EATING OUT
Eating out can be an enjoyable, social interaction. We aren’t here to tell you that you can never eat out, but it can be expensive and sometimes detrimental to health goals. If you’re doing it frequently having a plan and being prepared means you will be less caught out and having to buy lunch or dinner regularly. Bringing food from home is cheaper and you have the added bonus of knowing exactly what is in it!
TRY TINNED FISH
Tinned fish such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and salmon all provide ample amounts of omega 3 fatty acids – the fantastic anti-inflammatory fat that’s credited with providing health benefits from improved brain health, to decreased joint pain. The bones in canned fish are also a great source of calcium. Many brands of tinned fish, such as Sealord and John West, also have the sustainable fish symbol on their packaging.
This blog was written especially for our friends at Westpac NZ, who we’re excited to be assisting with their workplace wellbeing this year. It’s thrilling to see a company go the extra mile for their staff!