The cost of food is rising, but it doesn’t mean that you need to compromise on nutrition. You may need to compromise on convenience, but that’s not a bad thing!
Part of the reason why many people are feeling the squeeze on the weekly shop is because we have become accustomed to seeing meals as a chore and rely on quick fixes to feed ourselves, rather than nourish our bodies.
So, the rising food costs provide both a challenge and an opportunity. A chance to get back in the kitchen, reacquaint ourselves with simple, whole foods (without compromising flavour) and cut back on costs.
Step 1: Get your Priorities Straight.
There are essential components of a healthy diet to keep your body healthy. Your meals across the day should include:
Vitamins and minerals.
These are essential for good immunity, brain, hormone and cardiovascular health, good energy, moods, sleep and blood glucose management. They are accessible on a budget – details below.
Step 2: Get in the Mindset
You will probably need to spend a little more time in the kitchen. This might mean outsourcing some simpler jobs to children (of the right age!), and other members of the household. This is ideal, as you are passing on life skills and enabling self-sufficiency down the track. Set aside time each week to think about food for the coming days.
Plan your meals – a weekly meal plan helps you to be organised and only buy what you need at the supermarket
Write a shopping list – going to the supermarket and freestyling is a bad idea if you want to keep an eye on costs. Just buy what you need, and you’ll save pennies and limit waste.
Batch cook – putting the oven on to roast a chicken? Why not put in two? Or roast a tray of vegetables for meals later in the week? Double up on portions for an easy lunch of leftovers or the freezer.
Freeze – The freezer is your best friend. If you have the space, it is useful for storing batch cooked meals, or fruit, veg or meat/fish that you have bought on offer/in bulk.
Build your confidence - If you are not confident in the kitchen, start with by trying 1-2 simple recipes a month and go from there.
Step 3: Get Savvy
Read labels. This sounds obvious, but the real cost of items is not always clear. Look at the price per 100g to see if you are getting value for money.
Use your nose. Just because something is near a use-by date, doesn’t mean it is for the bin. Use your common sense – if it smells odd, it’s probably not ideal to eat. If is looks and smells fine, it’s probably OK. Smell and Taste, Don’t Waste.
Don’t buy pre-cut vegetables. These are MUCH more expensive, and you might lose out on some nutrients. It only takes 5 minutes to prep your vegetables. Plus you’ll be cutting down on plastic waste. Please, grate your own cheese.
DIY. Find out the items that are costing you the most and consider alternatives. For example, it is much cheaper to make your own oat milk, and very easy.
Step 4: Make your Life Easier.
Invest in kitchen equipment that make your life easier. My top recommendations are:
Proper knives. This might sound ridiculous, but having a couple of good, sharp knives makes preparing food 100% easier. You might only need to get a decent knife sharpener (not expensive) and give your existing knives a refresh.
Slow cooker or pressure cooker. A great way to prepare delicious meals using cuts of meat that need longer cooking. Popping a meal in one of these also means you have something ready for dinner in advance.
Freezable / oven-proof containers – Good glass containers are great for storing food, and reheating.
Step 5: Know your Foods that are Healthy and Inexpensive!
Here are my top healthy hero foods that don’t cost the earth!
Legumes: Add beans, lentils and chickpeas to soups, stews and curries. They are cheapest bought dry, but tinned options are also cost-effective and handy for a quick meal. They are full of protein, fibre and minerals and we should all be eating more of them.
Eggs: Nutrient powerhouses. They are a great source of protein, iron, vitamin B12 and choline. They can be cooked in so many ways and are one of the cheapest forms of protein. Try my Huevos Rancheros for a healthy, filling and cheap brunch or dinner.
Cheaper cuts of meat: Ask your butcher for cheaper cuts of meat like shin, brisket or oxtail. They need low and slow cooking, but the taste is much better. All type of liver are also extremely nutrient dense and VERY cheap. Try my recipe for chicken liver pate.
Frozen or tinned oily fish. Oily fish are full of essential omega 3 fats (for brain and immune health). Better quality wild salmon is much cheaper from the freezer or from a tin, and other fish like mackerel or sardines are easy to make into pasta sauces or fish cakes.
Vegetables in season. It is much cheaper to buy vegetables in season. Find a local farmer’s market and make the most of seasonal gluts. From a nutrition perspective, you can’t go wrong with cabbage, broccoli, spinach, beetroot and garlic.
Hopefully this will help you think about some different choices when it comes to balancing nutrition, budget and convenience. Good luck!
Need more detail? I offer Healthy Eating on a Budget workshops and webinars for organisations. Please get in touch to find out more.