As a dietitian, I hear lots of myths about weight loss – and there’s one in particular that really drives me crazy:
“It costs a lot of money to eat healthily and lose weight.”
People sometimes think that healthy eating involves buying special foods from health food stores or expensive organic fruit and vegetables at the shops.
And while of course you CAN do these things – they’re definitely not a prerequisite for eating well.
The truth is, nutritious and satisfying food doesn’t have to be expensive.
And healthy eating on a budget is something EVERYONE can do.
In this article, I’m going to share my top tips for eating healthily on a budget so we can bust this myth once and for all!
Here are my top tips for healthy eating on a budget:
1. Plan your meals in advance
A great way to ensure you eat nutritious and filling foods while still sticking to your budget is to plan your meals in advance.
Taking the time to pre-plan your meals can help you make the most of weekly food specials and use up whatever you already have in your fridge and freezer.
It also helps ease the daily stress of planning meals and avoid last-minute decisions when you’re tired and hungry, like grabbing a more expensive (and less nutritious) takeaway on the way home.
If you’re not already in the habit of planning your meals, the idea might seem daunting.
However, it can really be as simple as writing down the meals you know you and your family love, and then planning out the next few days or week and making sure you have all the ingredients you need.
It can also be helpful to plan your dinners around the proteins you’ll use – for example, 2 meat, 2 chicken, 2 fish and one vegetarian meal each week.
2. Stock up on staples
Even with a meal plan in place, we all know life doesn’t always go to plan – which is why it’s also a good idea to keep your kitchen stocked with staples.
Having plenty of nutritious options in your fridge, freezer and pantry will ensure you can quickly and easily whip up a nutritious meal, without resorting to expensive takeaway.
It also allows you to stock up on the foods you use regularly when they’re on special, which can make save you a lot of money over time.
Some of the foods I make sure I ALWAYS have in my kitchen include frozen salmon fillets, frozen vegetables and cous cous.
Oven-baked salmon paired with steamed vegetables and cous cous makes a balanced, quick and easy meal.
Other simple dinner ideas include:
- Combine canned tuna, cooked cous cous and veggies and flavour it with lemon and herbs and spices
- Stir fry vegetables, onion, garlic and soy sauce and serve it with brown rice or noodles.
3. Make meals in bulk
If you’re anything like me, there are some nights when you really don’t feel like cooking.
For those times, it’s an absolute lifesaver to have some meals in your freezer ready to go.
You can buy pre-made frozen meals through companies such as Lite n’ Easy (which is a great option for a nutritious and easy dinner), but a more budget-friendly option is to cook healthy meals in bulk and then freeze portions ready to reheat.
You can also premake a few dinners on the weekend to save yourself precious time during the week.
You can also bake and freeze healthy sweet treats to pop in the kids’ lunchboxes (and to enjoy yourself of course!).
4. Enjoy at least one meat-free dinner a week
When it comes to your grocery bill, the cost of meat can really add up.
The good news is that there are plenty of meat-free dinner ideas that are nutritious, satisfying AND budget-friendly.
Egg-based meals such as quiche or omelettes are a great option for dinner, lunch or even breakfast. Add things like chopped tomato, mushrooms, sun-dried tomato, spinach, frozen or grated vegetables or grated cheese and you have a super easy and tasty meal.
Bean chilli tortillas are another favourite non-meat dish of mine that are delicious and made with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. Simply combine chilli, onion, garlic and canned or fresh tomatoes to a can of red kidney beans and serve with tortillas for a cheap and cheerful Mexican meal.
Or, treat yourself to an all-day breakfast of baked beans, grilled tomato, mushrooms and baby spinach leaves – YUM!
5. Buy fruit and vegetables that are in season
My final tip for eating well on a budget is to load up on fruit and vegetables when they’re in season.
Fresh fruit is always better than dried and canned fruit because it fills you up more due to the water and fibre content.
While prices can vary, there are times of the year when certain fresh fruits are a lot cheaper – for example, strawberries in winter and peaches in summer. I also recommend looking out for ‘ugly fruit’ – fruit that’s imperfect (yet perfectly nutritious) and therefore sold at a discounted price.
Vegetables are also essential to any healthy diet and should preferably make up half of your recipe, plate or chopping board for most meals.
Like with fruit, veggies will always be cheaper when they’re in season – although buying frozen or canned veggies is a perfectly good option too.
So there you have it! Those are my top 5 tips for healthy eating on a budget.
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