How to stretch your food budget, buying the best produce for your health

Most of us have a strict budget with how much money we can spend on groceries. Therefore, we have to ensure we get the most out of our spend.

The value of how much you spend does not translate to buying in bulk or on sale to stretch the food budget. There are other ways to get more value for your money.

This approach involves spending less money, however improving the health value you get from the food you buy.

Best health value vegetables

Alliums

Onions, garlic, leeks and shallots

Cruciferious vegetables

Cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, radishes and more

Leafy greens

Spinach, collard, lettuce and more

These vegetables can form the base of most recipes and can help to bulk up any meal without adding any unwanted processed fats and refined carbohydrates.

Try and opt for the leafy greens hanging or freshly packed inside a veggie box in the fruit and veg aisle than those packaged in beautiful packaging.

I know it’s so much easier to buy a butternut already chopped up into cubes or broccoli florets already trimmed and packed in a beautifully sealed packed ready to add to meals, however all of these easy to use products, do come at a price.

All produce nourishes, but if you only have a fixed amount of money to spend, then these are your go to vegetables for your health.

Best health value fruits

Olives (yes they are a fruit) and frozen berries.

Olives provide so many health benefits including:

  • Helps to reduce inflammation and prevent oxidative stress
  • Helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels
  • High in healthy fats, antioxidants and several vitamins and minerals

Opt for the freshest ones you can get, not stuffed and not in canned either.

Health benefits of frozen berries:

  • High in natural antioxidants
  • Helps to stabilize blood sugar levels
  • High in fibre
  • High in vitamins and minerals especially vitamin C and Manganese

Buy frozen instead of fresh. It’s cheaper and berries retain phenolic compounds when frozen, so no need to worry about nutrient loss.

I am not saying avoid your apples and bananas, or seasonal fruit. Not at all. But if you want to get the best R.O.I. put your money into the produce that is fresh, local and in season.

Don’t bulk up on frozen and canned foods

Depending on the time of year and what is available seasonally, fresh produce especially organic produce can lose it’s freshness and texture in a short period of time. Hence, frozen or canned can be a more nutrient-dense second best option. Especially now that we are all in lock down.

However, I struggle a lot with canned foods especially because the processing changes the texture and its often too soggy and does not equate to something I could have just soaked and cooked myself.

This being the case, my advice is to use frozen and canned products in smoothies, dips or as an addition to slow cooker meals or casseroles, but save fresh for the salads and sides.

Buy dried beans instead of tinned

Buying dry beans instead of tinned can be cheaper and healthier too! I could spend a whole day talking about all the reasons to love dried beans. They’re more cost-effective than canned; they’re tastier; there are tons of varieties to choose from. But the one big reason to not love them, they take a fair amount of time to cook.

Dried beans may seem like a lot of work at first, but just add water and watch them turn into something magical. Generally, you need to soak dried beans in water for a few hours or overnight before they’re ready to cook.

I personally think it’s so much more worth it. Every time I cook my beans from scratch I end up with a pot of deeply flavored, complex beans that you will never, ever be able to get out of a can.

If you have the time, it’s really worth the effort to make your own beans at home.

Try going meatless for a meal or two

Try to branch out to a few meatless meals once or twice a week. It can help to improve your health, by providing your body with more antioxidants and it can help to save on the saturated fat department too.

Vegetables are cheaper than meat. Just putting it out there. I am not saying become a vegan, just make a few small changes here and there, your budget and future body might just thank you!

Don’t waste

If you buy it, use it. There is no need to bulk buy. Sort out your fridge at least twice a week. That way you can keep track of what is left in the fridge and what needs to be used in tonight’s dinner before it expires.

Whatever you do, just don’t let those items go to waste.

Buying food on a Budget Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

A few new habits can help you lower your monthly grocery bill, stick to your budget, and take good care of your body in the process too.

Let me know what you have been doing during the lock down period to save money on grocery bills and keeping your health in tip top shape (or at least trying too).

Dot you later! X

About the author

Qualified chef, Health Coach and Nutritionist based in Johannesburg & Cape Town, South Africa

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