Nourish your family with wholesome food while keeping your weekly budget in check with these simple strategies.
1. Try a weekly meat-free meal
Animal proteins, such as beef, lamb, fish and chicken, can be some of the more expensive food items on our weekly grocery bill. Including a meat-free dish into your weekly meal plan is one way to reduce this cost, while feeling the health benefits of eating more plants. You might like to adopt the Meat-Free Monday approach, where you enjoy a vegetarian dinner on a Monday night. Some family-friendly examples include vegetarian Mexican chilli, DIY vegetarian pizzas or tofu & vegetable fresh spring rolls where everyone makes their own.
2. Up the veggies
An alternate way to increase your plant intake while still including meat in your meals is to simply bulk out the dish by adding extra vegetables. This will not only make a smaller portion of meat go further, but it will increase the fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the meal. Some examples include adding a can of brown lentils to a mince-based dish or adding extra vegetables to a stir-fry.
3. Write a meal plan
Knowing ahead of time what you are eating through the week allows you to shop, prepare, cook and enjoy nourishing food – turning your intentions to eat well into reality. It also ensures you keep to your food budget by only buying the food you need for the week.
4. Shop with a list
Whether it’s a notepad, app or a scrap of paper, heading to the grocery store armed with a list will save you time and money, as you won’t need to shop daily for your dinner supplies and will only buy the food you need. Be sure to check your fridge, freezer and pantry for the ingredients you already have before heading out to avoid spending money on food you have available at home.
5. Never go shopping hungry
Impulse purchases are more tempting (and likely) when you are hungry. If you notice you’re hungry before grocery shopping, have a nourishing snack first. Some examples include veggie sticks with hummus, a handful of nuts, yoghurt with berries, or a banana smoothie.
6. Stick to the perimeter
The supermarket layout is designed to maximise the number of aisles you need to visit to collect your staples (exposing you to more ‘bargains’ in the hope that you impulse buy). Rather than meandering up and down every aisle, stick to the perimeter instead. Here you’ll find your nourishing whole foods – fruit, vegetables, bread, eggs, dairy and meats. The discretionary spending tends to happen in the aisles, so only visit those that contain the items you need.
7. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk works well for non-perishable pantry items and dry goods, such as oats, rice, flour, legumes (lentils, dried beans), nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Per unit, these bulk purchases are less expensive than smaller packets.
8. Get creative with leftovers
Rather than letting food sit in the fridge all week before it finds its way to the rubbish on bin night, think creatively about how you can repurpose leftovers. Enjoying leftovers for lunch the next day is a simple solution, while other ideas include slicing up leftover meat to add to a salad, making a pie with leftover roast chicken and vegetables, creating a version of fried rice with leftover bits and pieces, or making a frittata.
9. Avoid the allure of the health halo
Many people believe healthy eating is more expensive, and this may be the case if you are looking at packaged, formulated products that contain ‘superfood’ ingredients and carry fancy marketing claims. However, these foods are not essential to a healthy diet (and in many cases are not as healthy as their labels will have you believe). Skip the hype and stick to the basics by building your diet around plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, then add in the eggs, dairy (or alternatives) and animal products as suit your family and budget.
10. Value for health
This strategy is about shifting your mindset from ‘value for money’, where we aim to purchase a greater volume of food for a cheaper price, to ‘value for health’, where we consider the nutritional value of food and how well it will nourish our body. Whole foods, which provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and likely fibre, will always come out on top. Since they give you more ‘nutritional bang’ for your buck, they are the more sensible investment.
Christina Ross is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and founder of Cultivate Nutrition, where she provides online nutrition consultations and programs for new, seasoned and soon-to-be mothers. You can learn more about how Christina can support you to eat well and feel your best through the following channels: