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Healthy Food: Get it Cheap

Kate Freeman

I get it: you don’t have oodles of money to just go around flippantly buying quinoa, goats cheese and goji berries.

And you don’t have to.

You can be healthy on a budget. I repeat: you can be healthy on a budget!

In fact, there are heaps of awesome, delicious, healthy foods that are ‘cheap as’ and making the switch from certain processed foods or reducing your takeaway habit can save you heaps in your weekly budget.

Here are my cheap at home eats:

Healthy sources of carbohydrate 

Brown rice

If you’re an instant (pre-cooked) rice buyer you could save heaps by switching to buying it raw and cooking it in bulk yourself. I like to cook massive batches of it and then separate the cooked rice into snap lock bags and freeze. I then have quick portion-controlled rice, that didn’t cost me and arm or a leg, whenever I need it!

  • Brown rice instant: $1.00/100g
  • Brown rice: $0.30/100g

Porridge

The same deal goes with oats – you’ll save heaps by switching to buying a bag of plain rolled oats compared to sachets or pre-packaged single serves of porridge. To make them quicker to cook, soak them in liquid over night in the fridge.

  • Rolled oats: $0.16/100g
  • Creamy honey oats (single serve cup): $3.98/100g

Potato

I know that sweet potato gets all the attention these days. All because one day someone said that it had a lower GI than regular potato. It does, but GI is not the only factor that makes a source of carbohydrate healthy or not. Plain white potatoes are totally fine to eat as well! It’s when we process them, cut them up thinly and deep fry them, that they became a ‘sometimes’ food (which is awesome dipped in aioli…mmmm aioli). If you keep the skin on a potato you will also add an additional 5g of fibre to your day! Plus, they are heaps cheaper than sweet potato and a great whole food source of carbs for lunch or dinner.

  • Red delight white potato: $1.95/kg
  • Sweet potato: $4.98/kg

 Legumes

Often overlooked, legumes are really healthy, cheap and fantastic additions to many meals. There is heaps of variety and you can buy them in bulk and keep your pantry stocked with healthy carbohydrate sources all year round. Let’s compare their prices to quinoa:

  • Cannellini and other beans: $1.90/kg
  • Quinoa: $16/kg – now you could cook quinoa and it would double it’s volume but even then, it’s 4x the price of the humble legume.

 Healthy protein sources

We get protein from red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, dairy and eggs. As you can see below, mince is a great cheap option for beef and pork, but it doesn’t make much difference when it comes to chicken or turkey. I’m not even going to list lamb. It’s currently around $40/kg and by far the most expensive protein source!

Other super cheap protein sources are eggs and plain milk. They look even better when you compare them to other protein sources like protein powder. Here are some weight comparisons for price:

Chicken and turkey

Turkey mince: $11.95/kg

Chicken thigh: $12/kg

Chicken breast: $12/kg

Chicken mince: $12/kg

Ingham chicken nuggets: $17.48/kg

Beef

Beef mince: $16/kg

Beef steak (scotch fillet): $38/kg

Pork

Pork mince: $13/kg

Pork steak: $26/kg

Eggs

Free range eggs: $0.95c/100g

Milk

Plain milk (brand): $0.15/100g

Protein powder

Nature’s Way: $5.59/100g

Michelle Bridges: $11.43/100g

Healthy fats

Whole food sources of fat such as nuts, seeds and avocados are all reasonably expensive per kilo. Nuts are often $30 or more/kg and avocados can be up to $3 each, depending on how ripe they are and the season. The important thing to note with these foods is, you only need to eat a small portion of them (20-30g) each day to reap the health benefits of healthy fats as well as fibre, antioxidants and other nutrients. So if you buy a whole kilo, it’s gonna last you long time!

Fruit and Vegetables

The best way to save money on fruit and vegetables is to buy what’s in season! Seasonal produce is cheaper and also tastes better too. And if you ask me, they’re worth the investment for the health benefits that they provide your body.

Another quick tip is buying frozen fruit and vegetables – these can be quite cheap and a great quick option when you run out of fresh vegetables.

Basic food organisation skills, combined with this knowledge will be one of the best combinations for consistent helathy eting when on a tight budget. I love meal planning so much I wrote an eBook on healthy eating for busy people chock-a-block FULL of helpful tips and advice!

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Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author