In these tough economic times, a significant number of people in NZ can barely afford their daily food and many citizens are trying to cut down on food spending. In addition, there is a widespread misconception that healthy eating is expensive. But while you may need to plan and think about your purchases more carefully, it’s still possible to eat healthy on a budget.
Cooking for yourself is cheaper
A recent American study compared the cost of buying the foods required for a healthy diet, as defined by national recommendations, in the supermarket with the cost of eating mostly ready-made meals from fast-food restaurants.
To those in the supermarket Groceries purchased included packaged fruit, frozen vegetables, chicken breast, lean meat, pasta, bread, breakfast cereal, and dairy. Meals purchased from the fast food restaurant usually consisted of a sandwich, chicken nuggets, hash browns, french fries, juice, coffee or soft drinks.
The cost analysis revealed that the cost of one calorie of energy intake was 24% higher for the ready meal than for the home cooked meal. However, this calculation does not take into account the private infrastructure costs for cooking, nor the time required for grocery shopping and food preparation. In this respect, the total savings may be somewhat lower.
Dietary guidelines make it easier to save on groceries
There is a general perception that eating healthy is expensive. However, the choice in today’s supermarkets offers a wide range of alternatives. Also, the dietary guidelines recommend only small amounts of the more expensive foods like meat, fish, chicken and cheese. In fact, we should eat more beans, lentils, and other inexpensive foods like bread (whole wheat), rice, pasta, or other cereals. In practical terms, this means that our chilli con carne should contain more beans than meat and the pasta dish should be served with less cheese sauce.
When it comes to fruit and vegetables, fresh seasonal produce is usually not expensive. However, frozen and canned products can also be an option: they are available all year round and also contribute to the recommended fruit and vegetable consumption.
Also, given the safety and nutritional value of mainstream supermarket products, there is no need to resort to the more expensive organic foods when money is tight. So keep your eyes peeled when shopping for groceries! Watch out for special offers and most importantly only buy what you will actually eat.
Minimize food waste
Enormous amounts of food are thrown away every year, much of it still in the original packaging. This is because food often spoils before we can make up our minds to eat it. Or we overcook and throw away the rest. Special websites provide tips on how we can minimize food waste, optimally calculate portions or keep food fresher for longer. There are even recipes for using up leftovers.
Always according to plan
A great way to eat cheap, healthy, and not throw away anything edible is to shop according to a plan. Spend about half an hour putting together the menu for the week. Leaf through cookbooks or browse the numerous websites that provide plenty of suggestions for healthy and inexpensive meals.
Check what you have at home and make a list of the ingredients you still need. And always go to the supermarket with a shopping list! Have a bite to eat before you go shopping – it may prevent you from making impulse purchases. When you go shopping when you’re hungry, you usually end up with a lot of additional products in your shopping cart. The result of shopping according to plan: you have ingredients that go together and don’t sit around in the fridge until they expire or spoil.
You save time every day because you don’t have to think long and hard about what you’re going to cook in the evening. And you have a healthy, delicious meal that won’t strain your wallet.
Some useful saving tips
- Buy only seasonal vegetables and fruit and use existing ingredients whenever possible to create a dish.
- Create a weekly meal plan with healthy, inexpensive meals.
- Make a shopping list and stick to it.
- Rearrange the contents of your fridge or pantry from time to time so that you can discover products that are about to expire and use them in good time.
- Measure out the amounts needed for the required servings so nothing ends up in the trash.
- Find out how to use leftovers in a tasty way.
- Make double the batch and freeze half for another time.
- Supermarkets often sell perishable and soon-to-be-expired groceries at reduced prices towards the end of the day or at the weekend.
- Take advantage of special offers, even if they’re in bulk, and either share them with friends or freeze them for later use.
Try food boxes
A food box supplies you with easy to read and follow recipe cards to help you prepare fresh, healthy meals in the comfort of your own home. Food boxes are an excellent way to get a variety of healthy food delivered to your door, without the hassle of shopping for them yourself.
Our top rated food box comes from My Food Bag. My Food Bag is where delicious flavour meets easy convenience. My Food Bag allows you to feed up to 4 people, 5 nights a week in your household.
You can try My Food Bag today with an exclusive 50% off your first order. Delivery is also free to your door.