In Part 1 of this article, we heard from
a Registered Dietitian and ADSA spokesperson
who busted the myth of healthy food being expensive
In Part 2 of this article, YEI features tips on how to
incorporate healthy eating into your daily regime
and hear the opinions from
YEI members on this same topic
If you’re thinking meat, fish, dairy, superfoods, organic produce, Chia-seed smoothies – well yes, they do come at a price, and forecast to sky rocket in the not too distant future. But if we are looking at healthy eating and basic nourishment – think carrots, lentils, sweet potatoes – then it is entirely possible to eat healthily on a budget. In Part 1 of this article, a Registered Dietitian and ADSA spokesperson confirms this thought.
Eating healthily can in the long run, save you money, especially if you stick to a few key principles when shopping for, selecting and preparing your food. We have also included a variety of valuable tips that have been received by YEI from people who weighed in on the healthy eating/budget conversation.
Stick to seasonal produce
Seasonal fruit and veggies are usually much more fresh, more flavoursome and more affordable than out of season fruit and veggies.
Here’s an example of a nutritious, healthy meal made with current seasonal produce. The cost comes in at approximately R30 for 2 people. A courgette and tomato au gratin. This can be a whole heap cheaper, almost no cost at all, if you grow your own tomatoes, courgettes and basil (you can do this even in tiny pots on your verandah). And so healthy.
Fresh soup is a great way to get lots of goodness into people in one go. You can cook up a big batch of seasonal produce and it will last quite a few days in fridge. Also, you can add lots of goodies like turmeric and cayenne to aid inflammation, antioxidants etc. Lots of shops do prepackaged chopped ingredients for soups. Even Woolies often has 2 packs for R50 and there is a good variety. Then you can add the protein and herbs and spices. Bone broth isn’t cheap but is good to add for nutrition.
Cook at home
One of the most cost-effective ways of eating healthily on a budget is to prepare and cook your own meals. Cooking at home gives you the control as to what you are putting on your plate and gives you the opportunity to include fresh, seasonal and whole foods in your diet. You can make the call to decrease your intake of added sugar, salt and artificial ingredients.
Making your own is much more healthy and can save a ton of money. Here’s a recipe for a pasta sauce costing around R15 for four portions (less if you grow your own tomatoes!). A similar jar of pasta sauce in a supermarket will cost you double – and you should be avoiding processed food. The bonus of making your own is that you know it’s healthy and what’s gone into it.
Cooking for one person can be a chore and expensive. I tend to buy a lot of mixed veggies, some proteins (chicken, beef stew, etc) and then do a bulk cook. If you chop up all the veggies and distribute them across a number of dishes it works out less expensive than buying and cooking once off. I will make 3 or 4 casseroles in the oven at the same time, using the veggies and different proteins. Then once cooked, I portion them into single servings, label them and freeze them. This gives me a variety.
When fruit is in season and perhaps free from the tree or relatively inexpensive. Freeze. Bags of fresh blueberries, litchis, raspberries, slice mangoes etc. Juice citrus, freeze into icecubes then place into sealed containers. You will have fresh fruit all year. Nothing like a frozen litchi as a treat.
Make your own granola cereal (using healthy ingredients such as nuts and seeds). Enough for 2/3 weeks.
Include more plant-based proteins
Increase the plant protein in your diet which costs a whole heap less than meat and fish. Pulses (beans, peas, chickpeas, tofu and lentils) are so nutritious, rich in protein and fibre and a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals. They are so cheap and work very well in place of meat, or to bulk up meat dishes like casseroles, soups, salads and stir-fries. You don’t need to become vegan or cut out animal products from your diet, but reducing your consumption of meat and swapping in plant-based proteins will help you save money, and will be very healthy.
Start off by replacing one or two meals a week while you experiment. Also, increase the volume and variety of fruit and vegetables in your diet – this is known to reduce the risk of ill health and doesn’t need to be costly.
Healthy, for me, is mainly plant based. I’m not afraid of carbs and when I haven’t eaten them, I feel lethargic and my running suffers. Plus I’ve gained weight by cutting them out. Lentils, rice, beans, spinach etc are all really filling and nutritious and seriously don’t break the bank. All the other mock foods used to replace the “real” thing aren’t worth it and are completely unnecessary. Tons of pastas with veggies and a humble piece of wholewheat toast with your topping of choice for breakfast, or even oats. Butternut makes a divine filler for curries and even a banana or apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter goes a long way for a snack.
The intake of protein can be poor due to cost and taste aversion. Add in easy good sources of plant based protein such as tinned chick peas, black beans and also look at eggs and hummus, cottage cheese (fat free) as bread/ toast options. Fresh veg may be difficult to source or may spoil so look at frozen options. Dried berries and fruit added to oats are a nice breakfast option.
Consider frozen fruit and veggies
Frozen produce is an excellent alternative to fresh, especially if you find that you are having a lot of food waste. Frozen fruit and veg offer the same valuable nutrients as their fresh counterparts, with a much longer shelf life. Frozen fruit can be used in smoothies or mixed into yoghurt and oats (overnight oats with frozen fruit, yoghurt, nuts and seeds is simply delish!). Frozen veg can be used as a side dish or added to stir-fries, and casseroles.
Don’t discard the scraps
Use the food scraps, instead of binning them. This is another simple way to reduce waste, minimize the environmental impact, saves you money and is very healthy! There are so many interesting and creative ways that one can use food scraps and also saves you money when grocery shopping. A couple of thoughts – keep all of your bones and make bone or soup broth. Stale bread? Make your own homemade croutons – hideously expensive in the supermarket! Regrow your own veggies in water. Use vegetable leaves and skin with onions and potatoes in soups or stews. Left-over or wilted vegetables can also be added to soups.
Watch this space for a full article on how to save by using food scraps!
Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk at a lower price makes it even easier to eat healthily on a budget. Team up with family, neighbours and friends to bulk buy, divvy up the produce and enjoy a variety of healthy fruit, veg, meat, eggs throughout the year at a good price.
Buying in bulk is often cheaper. If you don’t have freezer / storage space. I’d suggest prepping and freezing seasonal veg if possible, or making dishes with it and freezing those, or “swapping” veggies with a neighbor – one person buys a pocket of potatoes one month, and the neighbour buys the pocket of potatoes the next month.
Start a veggie and/or herb garden
Fresh herbs are pricey and can be very wasteful. Even if you don’t have green fingers, growing your own veggies and herbs at home is easy and fun, and can become a money-saving hobby. No space? Grow veggies and herbs in a container garden on your verandah or in Vertical Veg pockets. Fresh herbs really do boost the flavour of your favourite healthy meals, and there’s nothing like veggies straight from the garden to the table.
I started a vegetable garden, lovely to use your own greens, salads, herbs, tomatoes and cauliflower and a lot cheaper.
We’ve started a little veggie and herb garden. I cook my own food most of the time and use healthy ingredients and my own produce. I don’t over obsess about not eating this and that. I’m pre diabetic so I don’t have sugar and don’t add any substitute…..… Sidonia E H
Try to grow your own veggies and herbs
Alternatives to oil
The cost of sunflower oil is soaring and is in short supply due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine accounts for 53% of the global supply of sunflower oil in export while Russia accounts for 27%. However, if you want to eat healthily, this may not affect you – grill, steam and microwave food instead of frying. Apart from being healthier, it will save you from using oil – or butter or margarine.
Check out the tips below.
I have invested in an airfryer so that I do not need to fry food – this saves on cooking oil and time, and is much more healthy. Roast potatoes need a splash of oil or olive oil, and they too are much more healthy.
Patricia F R
My family loves the occasional fried, crumbed food like buffalo wings and chips. To keep the food relatively healthy, I use an air fryer instead of pan frying, use olive oil instead of sunflower oil, and steam vegetables in the microwave in order to retain all of the goodness.
Michelle D H
When I make stews, I never use oil to brown onions. I braise the meat and onions together in the pot and add a little water once the pot starts to heat up.
Patricia F R
Further tips that have been received by YEI from people who weighed in on the healthy eating/budget conversation.
Eating healthy to us means eating “clean”, not necessarily expensive. Make your own sauces its easy, no packeted readymade sauces. Ingredients such as oats and beans/lentils are great for prolonged energy and are really very reasonable.
Cook a huge pot of bone broth, strain, portion and freeze. Can be added to veggie soups, stews, pasta etc. Great source of nourishment and inexpensive to make. Dhal with rice, butterbean curry, creamy chickpea curry with/out coconut milk. Lots of veggie protein options that are inexpensive. Simple pastas with olive oil and fresh herbs (add veg/protein if available). Definitely start a small veggie patch.
If you can avoid bread, you will already have made a huge change towards a healthier body. Second one is sugar!
I find cooking my own food with healthy ingredients is cheaper & better for me than eating out or getting takeaways. An occasional eat out treat is fine.
When making chicken and mayo, cheese or bully beef sarmies, first grate it. It’s amazing how far the protein can stretch.
I have done my DNA diet panel and now know exactly what healthy eating means for my body.
The last word!
Why not try incorporating a few of the abovementioned cost-cutting tips into your routine each week and slowly ease into a budget-friendly healthy eating plan. If you have more tips that you can share with us, and that will benefit your fellow YEI 60-plussers, do share in the comments below.