Let’s be honest, healthy eating can be pricey — the cost of foods in the supermarket health aisle, as well as seasonal fruit and veg, and lean proteins can really add up, especially if you’re feeding a family.
On the upside, it’s possible to significantly slash your weekly grocery bill without compromising on health, once you know a few key swaps that will boost both your nutrition and the contents of your wallet — all without missing any of the flavour and quality of your usual purchases. And once you convert to these healthier, cheaper options you will not look back.
Breakfast cereal for oats
There are literally hundreds of mueslis, brans, flakes and bubbles in the breakfast cereal aisle of the supermarket, and while many claim to be ‘healthy’, the reality is that they generally contain added sugars and are relatively costly per serve, as you pay for the privilege of eating a more processed food.
On the other handy, plain, natural oats can cost as little as $1.50 for a large 750g bag, which equates to roughly 10c per serve or less. Nutritionally you cannot fault plain, unprocessed oats, which are rich in dietary fibre and low GI carbs, and swapping to this can save at least $5 a week, compared to the average box of processed cereal.
Flavoured yoghurt for natural yoghurt
While plain yoghurts do not look as visually appealing as their fruit-based counterparts, they are better nutritionally, with lower sugar contents. They also cost half as much as flavoured yoghurts at 60-70c per 100g serve, compared to $1-$1.40 for the flavoured varieties.
If you do prefer your yoghurt on the sweet side, you can add a little cinnamon or vanilla along with fresh fruit for a tasty and cheap sweeter yoghurt option.
Red meat for legumes
Within the food budget, protein-rich foods and meat and chicken in particular are some of the most expensive products we buy, with red meat costing at least $8-$10 a kilo.
While you can swap to more vegetarian-based meals to save plenty of dollars, another simple trick is to make your meat go a lot further by adding in legumes such as kidney beans to bulk it up. For example, you can stretch 500g of mince to another 3-4 meals by adding in a couple of tins of beans, which can cost as little $1 a can — so just $2 investment can bulk up your mince significantly. If you mash them through, you will barely notice they’re there, plus you get plenty of extra dietary fibre and plant protein to boot.
Hot chips for potato
Potatoes often cop a bad rap from a nutritional perspective, but the truth is that potatoes only become a poor choice nutritionally when we process them to make buttery mash and deep-fried chips as our potato of choice.
On the other hand, a whole jacket potato or even chips made from potato and cooked in olive oil are nutrient-rich foods that are also much cheaper than your go-to processed potato options, which cost $3-$4 per kilo compared to just $1-$2 per kilo for potatoes purchased in bulk.
Ice-cream for Greek yoghurt
The growing range of gourmet “health” ice-creams available at supermarkets not only adds plenty of fat and calories to our diet (yep, even the so-called healthy varieties), but is pretty costly at $1.50-$2 per 100ml. If you compare this to Greek yoghurt, which sells for just 60-70c per 100ml and can be teamed with choc bits and fresh fruit for a lower-calorie dessert option, switching out your weekly indulgent tub of ice-cream is a smart swap.
Veggie chips for popcorn
Veggie chips are some of the most costly in the supermarket, selling for up to $5.50 per 100g, with many packets containing alarming amounts of salt. If snacking is your thing, a much healthier alternative is popcorn, especially if you are keen to pop your own. Not only will it cost you as little as 50c per 100g, you’ill be making yourself a filling, wholegrain based snack with plenty of fibre and low GI carbs.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.
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