Diet & Nutrition

a dietitian’s tips for cheap groceries

Shopping on a budget? Here’s seven dietitian-approved tips for a healthy, cheap week – because eating well doesn’t have to cost a small fortune.

Eating well is often thought to put a toll on your bank balance – and indeed, if your shopping list consists of fresh fish, chia seeds, spirulina powder and the like, you’re in for a hefty bill.

Truth is, however, eating well doesn’t have to amount to a small fortune. In fact, some of the world’s healthiest foods are also the kindest on your wallet.

Don’t believe me? Here are my top seven tips for keeping your weekly grocery haul under triple digits. Hello savings!

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1. Shop with the seasons

In season fruit and veg is cheaper than out of season produce. It’s simple economics: greater supply = lower prices. So, get into the habit of knowing what’s in season when (citrus fruit, for example, is a winter crop while stone fruits are in season in summer) and you’ll automatically save some coin on your weekly shop. You’ll also benefit from a wider variety of nutrients and disease-fighting antioxidants in your diet, thanks to a wider variety of foods.

2. DIY

Yes, it’s convenient to buy breakfast cereal, ready crumbed fish and BBQ chickens – but that convenience comes at a premium. If you want to save some decent moula, try making as much as you can from scratch at home. Store-bought muesli, for example, can cost a couple of dollars a serve, but if you throw your own together with rolled oats and mixed seeds, it can equate to as little as 30 cents a pop.

3. Ignore brand names

Home brand products can be just as good (if not better) than the branded ones, so it’ll pay to do some experimenting. Sure, some of the more expensive products are worth the extra dosh, but you might be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cheaper alternatives.

4. Go for the tin

Wellness gurus and health food influencers often turn their nose up at anything in a can – but this poor opinion of canned foods isn’t exactly warranted. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking you to eat spam – rather, I’m talking things like tinned chickpeas, fish and baked beans, which can provide serious cost savings. A tin of fresh salmon, for example, will set you back just over $1, while a fresh fillet can cost ten times more than that.

5. Visit the freezer

Not for the frozen pizzas and ice cream (sorry!), but for the frozen fruit and veg. Frozen berries, peas and edamame beans are regular staples in my household – they’re just as good for you as their fresh counterparts because they’re snap frozen as soon as they’re harvested, which locks in all of their nutritional goodness.

6. Buy in bulk

Sure, you might spend up big on a single item, but when you do the maths, bulk purchases drive the cost per serve down big time. Take almonds, for example. A small 110g packet retails for $5 – that equates to over $45 per kilo. If you buy a larger bag, say 750g for $13, the price per kilo drops to just over $17. So while you might be spending more up front, you’ll save more long term.

7. Go meat free… at least some of the time

Beans, chickpeas and lentils are what I’d call true superfoods. They’re jam-packed with fibre, plant-based protein and low GI carbs, they count as veggies and there’s good quality scientific evidence to say consuming them regularly will improve your health. They’re also incredibly economical, coming in at less than 50c per 100g dry. Compare that to a scotch fillet steak, for example, which costs almost $5 for the same amount.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.