Healthy Eating On A Budget – by Deidre

We know what it’s like to have ‘budget’ at the top of your priorities list. Affordability trumps nutrition every time. Fast foods seems cheaper, and it’s hard to keep your home cooking healthy without dipping deeply into your pockets. Healthy eating and keeping active CAN be easy on the wallet. All you need to remember are the 3 P’s:

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PLAN, PURCHASE, PREPARE

PLAN:  Before Shopping

Know how much money you have to spend on food.

Before going to the grocery store, check what foods you already have.

Once you know what foods you have, ask these questions:

What meals and recipes can I make using the foods I have? Find quick and easy recipes online.

Can I mix foods together to make a tasty and nutritious meal? Include meals that will “stretch” expensive food items (stews, casseroles, stir‐fried dishes).

Check the local newspaper, online, and at the store for sales and specials that will cut food costs.

Often, you can get more for less by visiting larger grocery stores (discount grocers if available).

Plan meals and snacks for the week according to an established budget and your current grocery stock. Planning also helps put leftovers to good use.

Once you plan your menus, make a new list for missing foods you need to buy, based on the money you have to spend and stick to it – avoid impulse buying.

PURCHASE:  During Shopping

Make sure you have had a meal or healthy snack before you go shopping. On an empty stomach you may be tempted to buy unnecessary luxuries. Buy groceries when you are not hungry and when you are not too rushed.

Take your calculator with you on your shopping trip, to help you stick to your budget.

Buy only the amounts of fresh foods you can use before it spoils.

Consider frozen or shelf stable items that last longer.

Stick to the grocery list and stay out of the aisles that don’t contain items on your list.

Buy store brands if cheaper. They usually cost less

Locate the “Unit Price” on the shelf directly below the product. Use it to compare different brands and different sizes of the same brand to determine which is more economical.

Purchase some items in bulk or as family packs which usually cost less.

Choose fresh fruits and vegetables in season; buy canned vegetables with less salt.

Pre‐cut fruits and vegetables, individual cups of yogurt, and instant rice and hot cereal are convenient, but usually cost more than those that require a bit more prep time.

Compare products for the best deal.

Check sell-by dates.

Buy the freshest food possible. It lasts longer.

PREPARE:  After Shopping

Some meal items can be prepared in advance; pre‐cook on days when you have time.

Double or triple up on recipes and freeze meal‐sized containers of soups and casseroles or divide into individual portions.

Try a few meatless meals by substituting with beans and peas or try “no‐cook” meals like salads.

Spice up your leftovers—use them in new ways. For example, try leftover chicken in a stir-fry or over a garden salad. Remember, throwing away food is throwing away your money!

Be creative with a fruit or vegetable and use it in different ways during the week.

Store food right away to preserve freshness.

Freeze food to prevent spoiling.

Divide foods into small portions for children to prevent waste.

Use foods with the earliest expiration dates first.

Prepare a large batch of favourite recipes on your day off (double or triple the recipe). Freeze in individual containers. Use them throughout the week and you won’t have to spend money on take-out meals.

Wallet-Friendly Food Group Tips

Grains and cereals

Buy porridges that you can cook unrefined e.g. Oats, wholegrain breakfast cereals and wholegrain breads – they have a higher satiety value, so are better value for money and more nutritious that the processed, refined sweetened versions.

Avoid luxuries like cake, biscuits, rusks and potato chips.

Corn, rice and pearled wheat are often cheaper than pasta.

Barley, rice, dried beans, peas and lentils add fibre and are good additions to stretch meals like soups, stews and casseroles.

Buy regular rice and oatmeal instead of instant to save on money, sugar, and calories.

Vegetables and fruit

Grow your own herbs and vegetables. Start a garden—in the yard or a pot on the deck—for fresh, inexpensive, flavourful additions to meals. Herbs, cucumbers, peppers, or tomatoes are good options for beginners. Browse online for more information on starting a garden

Buy vegetables and fruit that are in abundance (in season). Pumpkin, potatoes, cabbage and carrots are good value for money.

Buy vegetables and fruit in bulk from a fresh produce market and share with friends or family that way you will all save. Onions, potatoes, butternut and gem squash are cheaper by the pocket and tomatoes by the box. If you buy in bulk, you could also blanche and freeze vegetables to make them last longer.

Fresh vegetables and fruit are generally less expensive than frozen and canned varieties.

Self-selection of vegetables and fruit is cheaper per kilogram than buying pre-packaged ones.

Retain maximal nutritional value of vegetables by peeling them very thinly with a vegetable peeler. Use vegetable leaves and skin with onions and potatoes in soups or stews. Left-over or wilted vegetables can also be added to soups.

Buy fresh fruits in season when they generally cost less.

Buy large bags of frozen vegetables. Seal tightly in the freezer between uses.

Avoid pre-bagged salad mixes. They are usually more expensive and spoil faster

Prepare and freeze vegetable soups, stews, or other dishes in advance. This saves time and money. Add leftover vegetables to casseroles or blend them to make soup.

Overripe fruit is great for smoothies or baking.

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Dairy

Milk sold in sachets is generally cheaper than those packaged in plastic bottles or cartons.

Cheaper substitutes like cottage cheese can be used instead of more expensive ingredients like ricotta cheese.

Buy fresh milk, yogurt, and cheese in the largest size that can be used before spoiling.

Larger containers generally cost less than smaller sizes.

Ultra-pasteurized (UHT long life) milk has a longer expiration date and won’t spoil as fast.

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Protein

Compare prices – frozen fish may be cheaper than fresh fish. Making your own fishcakes with pilchards can be very economical. Flake fish and extend it by making paella with rice and vegetables.

Whole chicken is cheaper per kilogram – save by cutting them up into portions.

Stretch lean mince by using beans, lentils, and/or vegetables. Legumes are an excellent source of protein and fibre. Learn to make biryani – one of the tastiest and most economical meals you can make!

Less expensive cuts of meat turn into melt-in-your-mouth tender and flavorful meals in a slow cooker. Save money and time by preparing these easy recipes earlier in the day and come home to a delicious and nutritious dinner.

Avoid buying tinned meat and cold meats like polony or viennas, even though they may be inexpensive – rather buy tinned fish or use left-over chicken breast or lean roast meat for sandwiches.

Dried beans and peas are a good source of protein and fibre. They last a long time without spoiling.

Chuck or bottom round roast has less fat and is cheaper than sirloin.

Look for specials at the meat counter. Buy meat on sale for big savings.

Buy meat in large bulk packages to save money.

Freeze portions you might not use right away to prevent spoiling.

Fats

Rather use spreads which are rich in nutrition e.g. cream cheese, avocado, hummus (see recipe below) and home-made pesto to replace margarine spreads.

Use butter sparingly when no other spreads / sauces are being used.

Some Wallet Friendly Snacks

Devil eggs

½ tsp mayonnaise and ½ tsp full cream Greek yoghurt

¼ tsp whole-grain mustard

1 pinch of salt

pinch of freshly ground pepper

Large hard-boiled egg, peeled

Combine mayonnaise, yoghurt, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Cut egg in half and dollop the mayonnaise mixture on top.

Tip: To hard-boil eggs: Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook at the barest simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, pour out hot water and cover the eggs with ice-cold water. Let stand until cool enough to handle before peeling.

Popcorn

Home-made popcorn is a low-cost snack. You can snazz up this snack with your favourite toppings.

A paper lunch bag and a handful of kernels is all you need for a quick, unprocessed popcorn snack at home.

1/4 cup popping corn

1 brown paper lunch bag

2-3 drops of cooking oil

Pour corn kernels in the paper bag and add a few drops of oil. Fold the top over three times and place the bag in the microwave.

Microwave on High for two minutes. Remove bag and open it carefully. Enjoy. For a cheesy popcorn recipe add freshly grated Parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper.

Microwaves vary in strength. Stay close to your microwave and stop the cooking if you hear the popping has slowed or stopped

Hummus

450g can of chickpeas, drained,

1 tablespoon of the liquid reserved

1 small garlic clove, smashed

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

¼ cup tahini sauce

Extra virgin olive oil

Pinch of paprika and salt

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas with the liquid, garlic, lemon juice and tahini and puree to a chunky paste. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the paprika and puree until smooth. Season the hummus with salt, drizzle with olive oil and serve with pita chips or crudités.

Apple Chips

To prevent the apples from browning excessively, dip them in a solution of 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons lemon juice right after they have been sliced.

3 medium apples

Cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 120 degrees Celsius.

Wash and core the apples using an apple corer.

Slice off a ¼ of the top and bottom of the apple and use as a fresh snack. Slice the remaining apple to 1/8

Spread the apple rings out onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Try to avoid overlapping the rings. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for approximately 3 hours, rotating once or twice. Start checking on them around 2 hours. They may be slightly pliable out of the oven, but should crisp up when cool.

Serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Literal Frozen Yoghurt

1 yogurt cup or decanted 200ml of yogurt in a Tupperware

In the morning, stick a small tub of yogurt in the freezer and you can come back to a refreshing, creamy healthy treat in the afternoon!

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