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Following a healthy diet comes with a range of well-known benefits, including lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease, maintaining a healthy weight, and supplying your body with the necessary nutrients. Healthy eating is often perceived as being expensive, both money-wise and time-wise. Often, it seems to be easier and more affordable to stop off at a fast-food chain and order a quick meal than to prepare a healthy, nutritious meal from start to finish. However, healthy eating does not mean expensive eating. Here are my 10 tips for healthy eating on a budget:
Plan your meals and make a grocery list
When you’ve planned out your meals for the week, and written a shopping list, you are guaranteed to save money in the store. Instead of shopping for groceries, without direction, we tend to buy food items that we don’t use. If you stick to your plan and grocery list, you will only buy the items that you know you will use. This will also ensure you don’t end up buying extra, perishable foods items that you then end up throwing away because they expire before you consume them. Remember that before you head to the store, you should take the time to check your cupboards and fridge to see what you already have, so you do not purchase the same items twice.
Look for sales and plan meals accordingly
Check weekly announcements from your local store for weekly deals and discounts. Consider planning some of your meals for the week according to what food items are on sale that week. This will help you save money, and will also lead to you trying new recipes and having variety in your diet. Also look out for bulk specials at your local store, as they often ‘slash’ the prices on non-perishable items. This is the perfect opportunity to stock up and save on staple items, such as pap, rice and cereals. You can also use this opportunity to stock up on perishable items, such as fresh vegetables, meat and chicken. Meat and chicken can be frozen and used at a later stage (just be sure to record the date you froze the food item, and use it within two months).
Shop in season
Produce that is in season is always cheaper than produce that is out of season. Be sure to research what is in season at that time of the year and buy those items.
Buy from different vendors and stores
Always compare the prices for the same products by visiting different grocery stores. You’ll often find that some grocers mark-up certain products, while others mark them down – it all depends on their price structures. Plus, visiting more than one store during your shopping trip will have you exercising without even realising it, which is a bonus.
Cook at home
Cooking at home is much cheaper than eating out. There is also the added benefit that you know exactly what ingredients are being added to your food, and you can choose to prepare your meal that is low in fat, low in salt and high in fibre. Some people find it best to cook for the entire week on the weekends (saving you time during the week and making sure that you have healthy, nutritious meals prepped), while others find it easier to prepare one meal at a time. Find what fits best into your schedule and make it work for you.
Cook larger portions and use your leftovers
Cooking large meals can save you both time and money. Leftovers can be used as healthy, packed lunches for school or work, or for other meals that week.
Stick to the basics
Healthy eating can be really easy when you stick to eating basic, natural foods – foods that haven’t been processed in any way. These ‘real’ food items include meat (red meat and poultry), vegetables, fruits, nuts, and healthy oils such as vegetable oils. You will often find that these items are more affordable than foods that have been heavily processed.
Swap unhealthy food items for healthier ones
The next time you go on a shopping trip, challenge yourself to investigate the prices and labels of the items that you buy. When in the bread aisle, for example, compare white bread to brown bread. Many manufacturers are realising that consumers are much more inclined to buy healthier food items, and have had to adjust their product ranges and prices accordingly.
Choose economical protein items
When preparing meals for your family, there are several ways to stretch your budget, especially when it comes to preparing meat dishes. Use canned/raw beans, lentils and soy mince to expand your meal’s nutritional value and to save on your meat budget. You can also increase nutritional value, and make your meals go further by adding more vegetables to pasta dishes, stews and cottage pies. Other great economical sources of protein, which also have high nutritional value, include tinned fish (such as pilchards, sardines and tuna), eggs, chickpeas and all legumes. They are generally a leaner protein option as well, which makes them a great option to include in your weekly meal plan.
Choose whole grains that have been fortified
In South Africa, many whole grains have been fortified with vitamins and minerals to ensure we meet our daily intake requirements. Look out for whole grains with the food fortification logo, such as maize meal and wheat flour, and incorporate these food items as part of a healthy, balanced meal plan.
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