I am on a strict budget but struggle to eat well because most healthy foods are incredibly expensive. Can you offer any advice on cheap foods that I could cook with that are also inexpensive?
Answer: Healthy food can be affordable... It just takes a little more effort and preparation.
BUY IN SEASON
The trick to affordable healthy eating is to buy seasonal produce (fruit & veges). Seasonal produce is abundant and is often a lot cheaper than other fruit and vegetables. Look out for fruit and vegetables on special, and stock up on those.
Aim to buy 14 pieces of fruit for one week (that’s 2 serves per day). If you find 14 pieces of fruit too expensive, substitute a few servings with canned fruit in natural juice or frozen berries, and try a few spoonfuls on your breakfast porridge or muesli.
Aim to have 3 servings of vegetables each day. These can be fresh or frozen so buy a combination of the two and enjoy different colours throughout the week, again focusing on what’s in season and on special.
Shopping at local farmers markets can often be much cheaper than buying at your local supermarket. Grab a friend and make a ritual out of visiting the local markets to buy fresh local produce that’s cheaper!
Meat is often the most expensive part of a meal, so don’t make it the main star of the dish. Instead, try to base your meals around vegetables and carbohydrate foods. A good example might be a chicken-and-vegetable stir-fry, which could be made using plenty of vegetables and a half a sliced chicken breast for protein, as opposed to a whole breast. Serve with steamed rice and a sprinkle of roasted unsalted cashew nuts for a complete meal. Save the other half of the chicken for tomorrow night’s dinner. Maybe try a roasted vegetable salad with chicken.
Another good example is something like a ham and vegetable frittata, using plenty of vegetables, some eggs and then adding a few slices of ham for flavour.
Try to cook a couple of vegetarian meals each week, as this will help to bring the food bill down. Legumes are packed full of fibre and protein and make a cheap and nutritious ingredient to try. You can base the whole dish on legumes, such as a Dahl (Try this Low-fat Dahl recipe) or a Chickpea curry (Chickpea Rogan Josh Curry Recipe); or you can use them to bulk out meat dishes such as adding cannellini beans to a meat loaf recipe, or bulking out a Bolognese sauce with lentils.
Another tip for affordable, healthy eating is to plan ahead and make extra for the next day. For example, make a large batch of a Bolognese sauce using lean mince, lentils and diced vegetables in a rich tomato sauce and turn it into Spaghetti Bolognese.
Save the remaining meat sauce for the next night by spooning it into individual ramekins or a larger oven dish. Top with freshly mashed potato and a little grated cheese. Bake until piping hot and serve with steamed greens, and you have a perfect dinner with little effort!
EAT FROM HOME
To save money, try to eat the majority of your meals from home. Planning and cooking your own meals at home is not only cheaper but a lot healthier than regularly eating out. Try to plan your meals and snacks for the week ahead before going shopping. That way you can buy everything you need and nothing you don’t, saving you both time and money!
|Emily is the Nutritionist at Healtheries. For more information about Healtheries, one of New Zealand's most trusted health brands, visit www.healtheries.co.nz or phone 0800 848 254.|