Healthy eating is expensive. We’ve all heard that, and many of us believe it to be true. And it can be (true). But it is not always true and there are ways to compromise. It’s a common misconception that healthy eating needs to make a dent in the pocket. This is an important consideration when we know that more than 60% of South Africans report that they consider costs when grocery shopping.  Here are some practical tips on how to eat well yet still stick to your budget.

Avoid shopping when hungry (or tired)

Shop on a full stomach to avoid adding to your grocery bill. Hungry shoppers are more likely to buy unhealthy foods, as are shoppers who are tired or stressed out. Do your grocery shopping after a good meal and when less likely to be exhausted from the tough work week, such as on weekends.

When you fail to plan, you plan to fail

It’s all about getting more organised. When you plan, you are more likely to eat nutritious home-cooked meals with less reliance on unhealthy snacks, treats and convenience foods, all of which are very expensive. Place a notepad on your fridge and encourage the family to write down what food is needed for the home as it runs out. You could even take a photograph of this list and of the inside of your fridge and grocery cupboard to remind you what you have available at home and what still needs to be bought. Making a grocery list is a sure way to help minimise impulse purchases.

Buy in bulk (and maybe share with friends)

Be on the lookout for foods that you can buy in bulk and won’t spoil, such as tinned foods (e.g. tinned fish, chickpeas, beans, lentils and vegetables), rice, pasta, samp, oats, pasta and long-life milk. Look out for bulk vegetable specials and share the costs with friends, colleagues and neighbours.

Cook Once and Eat Twice

Cook enough that there are leftovers. Leftovers are the perfect budget-friendly lunch. When you dish up for dinner, dish up immediately into a container for lunch the next day. No-second-helpings may be good for the waist line, too. You can also prepare a part of a meal that can easily be reworked into other interesting meals, or even frozen for another day. Flake leftover fish and bind with mashed potatoes and/or sweet potato to make fish cakes or serve mince as spaghetti bolognaise, cottage pie or on toast for breakfast. Roast a whole chicken and make chicken mayo sandwiches, chicken salad or stir fry, or add chopped chicken to homemade vegetable soup (chicken carcass makes excellent soup stock).

The Cost of Convenience

Being rushed in the week means it’s easy to use grab-and-go vegetable and fruit packs. But while it may be more convenient, it is understandable that food that is washed, sliced, diced or chopped is of more expensive. Take 15 minutes over the weekend and prepare all your fruit and veg for the week.

With a little bit of creativity, you can also make homemade versions of your favourite foods and snacks at a fraction of the price. Try some homemade iced tea to replace the sugary store-bought kind or pop popcorn kernels for a healthier and cheaper snack. Make chocolate milk from cocoa powder and milk and find the best recipes for homemade hummus if you enjoy this Mediterranean spread.

Find equally nutritious alternatives.

Sure, some healthy foods may be more expensive but that doesn’t mean health needs to need compromised. Instead of fresh salmon, try tinned pilchards and sardines at a fraction of the price. You can get heart-healthy monounsaturated fats both from avocados and fancy nut butters and in your favourite sugar-free peanut butter, or make homemade iced teas for the kids.

Proteins like beef, chicken and fish tend to contribute the most to our food bills. Consider going meatless one meal a week with eggs, dairy, and legumes, which are as good for you as they are for your wallet. Bulk up mince or rice dishes with lentils or add chickpeas or beans to stews and soups.

Everyday fruits like apples, pears and bananas are almost as rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as more pricey options like berries, kiwi-fruit, and mango. Seasonal fruits and veggies are also more affordable as the food doesn’t need to be imported at a huge cost.

Written by Monique Piderit, RD (SA)

Here are some ideas around healthy eating on a budget. We’re sure you have some great ideas to add, so please comment below.