The cost of buying healthy foods can add up if you are not aware of the huge variation in health-food prices. Below are my top ten tips for eating healthy on a budget.
- Tip # 1 Avoid Processed Foods. Food items labelled as ‘health foods’ can be expensive and may not actually be that good for us. An example of this is gluten-free foods – many of which are refined white foods. Foods that are processed and packaged can quickly add up. Avoiding products that are in packets and instead making your own can save big dollars. Remember to stick to the perimeter of the supermarket as much as possible which is where the healthier, unprocessed foods, and often less expensive items, are kept.
- Tip #2 Shop Smart. The best healthy foods out there are the humble fruit and veg. Shop around and find the best deal. Visit your local greengrocer or local farmer’s market and buy frozen items if needed to save on the cost of fresh e.g. frozen berries.
- Tip #3 Buy in Bulk. Buying essential items in bulk can definitely save on cost e.g. nuts, rice, beans, rolled oats. Look around for specials and stock up on pantry staples e.g. beans, tinned fruit etc.
- Tip #4 Know What to Spend Money On. It is worth spending money on fresh produce. Consider spending a little more for organic or at least chemical-spray free produce. Certain fruit and vegetables retain a higher pesticide load and my suggestion would be to choose these as organic/spray free. These include broccoli, spinach, berries and lettuce. Other items where spending a few extra dollars is worth it are with hormone- free poultry and meat. Choosing fresh fish rather than frozen will ensure the best quality and nutrient value also. Establishing a good relationship with your local butcher and fishmonger is well worth the effort for the fresh and tastier meat.
- Tip # 5 Pack Your Lunch. This simple step can save you literally thousands of dollars per year, especially if you are buying lunch out daily. Packing your lunch requires a little planning and time but will also improve your health.
- Tip #6 Buy a Coffee Machine. Many people buy at least one coffee a day. It is not uncommon for people to spend up to twenty or even thirty dollars per week on café bought coffee. This can, once again, equate to over a thousand dollars per year spent on coffee. My suggestion would be saving the trip to the café to special occasions such as meeting up with friends, or at the least consider alternating days where one day you make yourself a coffee and the alternate day you buy a coffee.
- Tip #7 Carry Snacks. Being caught out hungry without a snack means you are going to be susceptible to being tempted to buy a snack. These are often overpriced and full of sugar, salt and/or fat. Inexpensive snacks that keep fresh include fruit, nuts,homemade biscuits, rice crackers, or vegetables such as snow peas, cherry tomatoes, celery and carrots.
- Tip # 8 Buy a Slow Cooker. A slow cooker and other similar devices not only save time but can mean that a meal is ready to eat when you get home from work. This makes the temptation to stop on the way home and spend money on takeaway food less likely.
- Tip #9 Consider a Co-Op. Consider finding or even establishing in your local area a food co-op. This is where you purchase items wholesale in bulk and share between several people to save on costs. There is bound to be a co-op in your community. It’s also a great way to meet other, like-minded healthy people.
- Tip #10 Grow Your Own. Growing your own produce can save on costs too. There are many ways to do this, with some people simply growing their own herbs to full-scale vegie patches. Even if you live in an apartment there are clever, space-saving ways to grow produce on your balcony. Some cities also have local community gardens where organic produce is grown and shared between community members for a small membership fee.
With these simple steps we can all be healthy without blowing the budget. It just requires a little planning and knowing how to buy smart.
(Excerpt Healthy Habits, 52 Ways to Better Health, page 82-83)