Nov 20, 2020 | Health, Nutrition

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Carla Gerryts, RD(SA) for ADSA
One of the mottos I try to live my life by is “Do what you can, when you can, with what you have.” When the conversation turns to healthy eating and you are thinking about ways to improve your eating habits and lifestyle, most certainly budget and financial constrains can feel like an unmovable stumbling block in achieving your goal. By creating an effective strategy to stretch your food budget and by doing what you can, when you can, with what you have, you might be surprised to find that you can do a lot, with very little!

Fail to plan, plan to fail

A particularly good place to start is with a shopping list. Compile this shopping list by identifying 7 healthy meals you would like to make the following week and making sure you have the ingredients to prepare them. Buy only what is on the list!

You go to the shops hungry? I too like to live dangerously…

This is one sure-fire way to buy stuff that you do not need. Try to have a constructive snack before going shopping to stabilise blood sugars and to help keep you focused.

Allow enough time to go shopping and avoid shopping during lunchtimes

If you plan your week in such a way that you are forced to grab all your groceries in 20 minutes, it might not allow you enough time to investigate all the special offers that might benefit you. Going during lunchtimes makes it more likely that you will buy something extra that is quick and convenient so that you do not need to prepare your own lunch.

Try to go to the shops less often

I have found that lots of people are in the habit of stopping at the shops every day after work and then grabbing the ingredients they need for supper. This can lead to overspending, as you are more likely to grab a treat for the children or an extra something for the household. Plan to stock up on non-perishables once a month and once a week for fresh ingredients and produce if possible.

Shopper discounts cards are your friends

Most of the big retail units in South Africa offer some loyalty/shopper discount card. This may also be linked to other benefits from institutions, for example cash back from your bank in reward points or even from your medical aid. Be aware of all the options at your disposal.

A special is only a special if you need the item that is on special.

The farmer’s market – it is alive and well.

Perhaps you are privileged enough to live in an area where there is an abundance of markets on Saturday and Sunday mornings to go to. Besides being a great family outing, you might find that buying directly from the farmer gives you the opportunity to buy produce at cost price and at an optimal quality.

Buy in bulk where possible

Although it might not always be the case, it is sometimes worth your while to buy non-perishable items that you use on a regular basis in bulk on a special. Perfect examples of this can be coffee, tea, sugar, cooking oils, etc.

Setting up storage at home

Setting up space at home to store food safely and effectively to avoid food wastage is an underrated practice. The freezer is prime storage space. Plenty of foodstuff freezes excellently, including fruit and vegetables.

The value of the lunch box and leftovers

It is common sense that utilising leftovers in lunches or reviving them as snacks is a great practice that reduces food wastage and save money. You as the parent will be setting the example here; are you packing a lunch box to work or are you regularly eating out with colleagues or buying food from the canteen?

Let the seasons guide you

I know it is awesome that you can buy grapes from Egypt in July. The reality is that these type of out-of-season, imported produce will cost you. Buying what is naturally available is not only good for your pocket, but also for the environment as a bonus. Knowing what foods are in season will help you in your decision making.

You pay for convenience

We all lead remarkably busy lives and we are always looking for ways to complete tasks quicker and easier. The reality is that most of us will buy the packet of ready-to-cook pumpkin instead of a whole pumpkin that still needs to be peeled and prepared before cooking. Time is a luxury that not all of us have, but buying ingredients in its most original form is a great way to save a buck or two.

Make cheaper cuts of meat shine

Cuts like stewing meat and organ meats, such as chicken livers can be delicious staples in a household. It can be prepared in such a way that you think you are eating in a fine-dining restaurant!

Consider having more vegetarian meals

Having more plant-based meals is a great way to not only stay within budget, but to naturally consume more vegetables and fibre. Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are great additives to increase the protein content of a dish.

“I applaud you for your efforts in being resourceful and educated as you try to navigate trying financial times. May this article have inspired you to look at your shopping, buying, and cooking habits in a fresh light to nourish your body optimally with the resources at your disposal.”

Carla Gerryts, RD(SA) for ADSA