Since I arrived back in Brisbane, I have to be honest and say that I’ve been shocked by the price of food here in Australia. You can argue until you are blue in the face but the plain old facts are that food IS more expensive here in Australia than where I was previously in the UK. Once I managed to get myself over the fact that we do pay a little more for food here, I decided it was time to think smart about what the dollar can buy for healthy eating.
Is it possible to, eat healthy on a budget? Many people don’t think so. Supermarkets often offer cheaper processed foods which do seem like the “cheap and easy” option but these usually are poor in nutritional quality. Looking for the best ways to buy healthy foods with high nutritional value and trying to fit these into your budget is the best way to go. I think it can be done.
My Plan of attack for shopping on a budget
Plan, plan, plan!
This is vital. It doesn’t have to be a full and detailed menu, just a skeleton of what type of meals you plan to cook in the week. Remember: a good meal plan always starts with what you already have in.
This could mean a variety of things. Don’t shop hungry, shop without the kids, don’t veer off the path and into that section with “interesting but unnecessary items”. It could also mean “avoid nipping into the expensive after- hours convenience store for a loaf of bread that costs much more in here than it does elsewhere”. Just be sensible.
Use a list
Stick to it.
Look for specials/bulk buys
- Not all specials are the cheap and nasty “ready meal” and nutritionally poor varieties. Have a good look to see what is around. Don’t be shy about using “value” products. You can be selective, some “value” products are even better than big brand name varieties.
- With bulk buying, your freezer could become your best friend.. Bread on special? I’ll have two thanks (freezer time). Bulk buying for non freeze items can work too. Larger bags of rice, pasta, oats and dried beans/pulses can be far more economical over time.
- If you have a large group of friends or family, you could even pool resources and buy as a co-op. I’ve seen a few groups buying large bulk packets of foods which they then divide up. Fantastic idea.
Rethink your portions
Used to buying large quantities of meat to feed the family? Think about just how much you really need. You may find that you can get away with much smaller amounts of the pricey stuff with reducing portions or bulking meals up with things like lentils/pulses and vegetables.
Do your homework
If you have the time, check out the supermarkets web sites or brochures ahead of time to compare prices and to see what is on special.
Think seasonal/try something different
You may be used to using your favourite vegetables or fruit but if you see a different one looking like it’s a bargain as it’s in season, give it a go. Look on it as a challenge to try something new and different. This applies to fish/meats as well.
Try local markets/butchers
We have discovered that our local fruit and vegetable market is considerably cheaper than buying at the supermarket. It’s a fun Sunday morning out as well.
Make it yourself
Home- made can be a lot cheaper and you can make bulk portions so that you can get a few meals out of a single purchase. If you are packing kids’ lunches, it can be far more economical to make home- made than to buy pre packaged morning tea snacks. This applies to breakfast cereals too.
Build up a store cupboard
If you build yourself a store cupboard with essential dry goods, you will always have something available for “emergency meals” during lean times. What is the old saying? If you have a tin of tuna in the cupboard, you always have a meal. Frozen vegetables are good to keep in emergencies too.
Use your leftovers
Don’t let food go to waste. Think of ways to make a new meal out of your leftovers. We always have leftover night once a week in our family. Fried rice is a great meal for using leftovers. You can pretty much use most leftovers – soups are also great for this.
Other little tips for eating well on a budget:
- If you use a slow cooker, you can buy the cheapest cut of meat and it will cook well
- Freeze meats in small “one meal”portions.
- Long life or dried milk is good to keep for emergencies.
- Grow your own , if possible.
- Think about your recent shopping list. Which item is the most expensive? Could you do with another brand? Less of it? Analyse.
I am putting these into action. I’d love to hear any more tips or budgeting success stories if you have them!