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How to eat healthy food on a budget

Simple tips for eating well, while keeping your costs down.

Being an adult is expensive, and it can sometimes feel like the bills will never stop coming. One of the biggest expenses for everyone, no matter their age or income, is food. If you’re not careful, food costs will destroy your weekly budget. But you gotta eat right?

With the recent explosion of food delivery apps and services, we all know how easy it is to get someone on a bicycle to bring you all your meals. But that gets very expensive very quickly on a young worker’s salary. So try and save the uberEats for treats and emergencies.

They say time is money, so spend more time cooking and you’ll have more money! Think about what $20 would get you in a restaurant versus all the fruit and veggies you could buy. Just don’t buy things like fancy olive oil or expensive imported cheese, unless it’s a special occasion.

Below are some tips and strategies to save you money on food without compromising on nutrition and taste. If you stick to as many as you can that new laptop, or pair of shoes, or road trip you’ve been wanting will soon become possible.

Plan, plan, plan

Forward planning at the start of each week is crucial if you want to minimise food costs and still eat well. Plan your meals for the week, and make a list of everything you need from the supermarket. This will save you trips to the shops, and will also stop you buying things you don’t need.

  • Buy staples in bulk to save money (but not perishables like fruit, vegetables and dairy products).
  • Keep your pantry and fridge organised to avoid buying doubles of items.
  • Make meals in bulk to freeze for nights you don’t want to cook, or for taking leftovers to work for lunch.
  • Know your social diary. Going out to eat with friends is great, and knowing when you’re out and in for dinner will help you plan and save.

All you can eat

Go heavy on these ingredients when shopping and cooking.

  1. Vegetables. Fresh is generally best, but frozen and canned are also good for you. And if it’s green and leafy, like spinach, broccoli, or kale, go nuts.
  2. Fibre. Fibre keeps you feeling fuller for longer, and it’s great for your digestive system. You’ll find it in most vegetables and fruit, and there’s plenty in beans and legumes.
  3. Wholegrains i.e. grains that aren’t refined or processed. These also have a lot of fibre, as well as protein, good fatty acids, and B group vitamins. Rolled oats are especially good – that’s why so many people eat them for breakfast!

For more suggestions, check out the Dietitians Association of Australia.

Make it rain

Here are some pro tips for cheaper grocery bills.

  • Look for cheaper cuts of meat. Chicken thigh is cheaper and just as tasty as chicken breast, and chuck steak cooked for 8 hours in a slow cooker will be as delicious as a scotch fillet, and only half the cost.
  • For rice, lentils, beans, spices, and exotic staples, look in Asian and Indian supermarkets; they can be up to 50% cheaper than major supermarkets.
  • Frozen fruit and berries (~$10/kilo) are much cheaper than fresh (>$20/kilo), and are great for making tasty, nutritious smoothies for a quick breakfast.
  • Eat before you go grocery shopping. Hungry people buy more food they don’t need, especially junk food.
  • Stop snacking, or replace the chips and chocolate with fruit and vegetables.
  • Make your own coffee – a chemex, aeropress, or moka pot plus some quality beans will save you heaps over time, and all make an excellent cup. Cutting out one take away coffee per weekday will save you about $1000 per year.

With a bit of planning and legwork, taking care of yourself and eating well can be cheaper than you think. You can also take care of yourself with Medibank’s Healthy Start Extras, giving you a simple, flexible health insurance policy from only $11 a fortnight. Find out more.

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