Tips to prepare healthy meals on a budget

There is a common misconception that eating healthily is always expensive. Here are a few tips to prepare healthy food on a budget.


Step 1: Plan, plan & plan!

  • Buy fruits and vegetables based on  what is in season (see table 1) and on special at your local grocer.
  • Plan as accurately as possible to not waste food. 
  • Get fresh produce delivered to your door weekly.
  • Rather cook food yourself than buying ready-made meals or dining out.
  • Plan and pack your lunch even when working from home to avoid take-aways.

Step 2: Shop & store

  • Limit going to the shops often, as it will decrease the temptation to buy unnecessary items which will help stay within your budget.
  • Try to avoid shopping when you are hungry. Look at the expiry dates and always buy items with the furthest expiry date listed.
  • Don’t buy fruits with the same ripeness, as it’s not ideal to have them all ripen at the same time.
  • Consider generic brands but double check the nutritional information.
  • Buy in bulk, prepare and freeze. Repack items into smaller portions before freezing or share with family and friends.
  • Compare prices by looking out for the price per kilogram or unit price.
  • Fruits and vegetables spoil much quicker when not stored in a fridge.
  • Remember to put potatoes and sweet potatoes in a cool dark place, to not soften and sprout.
  • Implement the First In, First Out (FIFO) system in your cupboard and freezer.
  • To avoid bread from going stale, freeze leftover bread, or slices in separate bags.

Step 3: Preparation

  • Keep it simple. There is no need to add luxurious items to your meals as this will make you go over your budget.
  • Add more legumes to increase your protein intake on a budget.
  • Grate vegetables in your meat dishes to stretch your portion sizes.
  • Portion control remains important, don’t prepare more than necessary. If you do, however, prepare more than one meal at a time, freeze the leftovers before you start eating.
  • Prepare the food items that will spoil first, and leave non-perishable items for later.
  • Adapt a meal/recipe based on what you have available.
  • Cook from scratch and use less meal kits, ready prepared sauces and cook-in sauces.

Table 1: Fruits and vegetables in season1

SPRING SUMMER
(September, October, November) (December, January, February)
Fruit: Fruit:
Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, Cape gooseberries, cherries, coconuts, dates, grapefruit, guavas, lemons, limes, naartjies, nectarines, oranges, pawpaw or papaya, pears, pineapples, plums, strawberries, sweet melon, watermelon. Apricots, apples, bananas, blackberries, cherries, figs, grapes, guavas, kiwi fruit, 

lemons, litchis, mangoes, melon, mulberries, nectarines, pawpaws or papayas, peaches, pineapples, plums, pomegranates, prickly pears, prunes, raspberries, strawberries, sweet melon, watermelon.

Vegetables: Vegetables:
Artichokes, asparagus, aubergines (eggplant), baby marrows, beans, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, courgettes (zucchini), cucumber, kale spinach, leeks, lettuce, parsnips, potato, pumpkin, radishes, red onions, rhubarb, turnips, watercress. Artichokes, asparagus, aubergines (eggplant), baby marrows, beetroot, cabbage, carrots, celery, chives, corn, green beans, mange tout, patty pans, pumpkin, radishes, red onions, spinach, sweet potato.
AUTUMN WINTER
(March, April, May) (June, July, August)
Fruit: Fruit:
Apples, avocados, figs, granadillas, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, naartjies, oranges, pawpaws or papayas, pear, pineapples, plums, pomegranates, quinces, sweet melon, watermelon. Apples, avocados, dates, grapefruit, kumquats, lemons, limes, melon, naartjies, oranges, pawpaws or papayas, pears, pineapples, tomatoes.
Vegetables: Vegetables:
Artichokes, aubergines (eggplant), baby marrows, beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, butter beans, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chives, courgettes (zucchini), cucumber, mushrooms, onion, parsley, peas, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, radishes, sweet peppers, squash, turnips. Asparagus, artichokes, beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, radishes, spinach, spring onion, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, waterblommetjies.

Smart swops

  Healthier and cheaper swop
Processed cereal/quick cooking oats Oats (Put oats in water the previous night)
Canned and already prepared vegetables Fresh vegetables in season or frozen
Crackers, rice cakes, Provitas Low-GI bread
Chocolates Fresh fruit
Ice cream Yoghurt
Crisps Popcorn
Fresh milk Buy long-life milk boxes on sale
Juice and gas cooldrinks Water

References:

  1. https://www.lecreuset.co.za/blog/harvest-guide-seasonal-eating-south-africa
Annica Rust is a registered dietitian practicing at the Breast Care Unit in Netcare Milpark Hospital as well as in Bryanston. She assists with medical nutritional therapy for cancer prevention, treatment, survivorship and palliation. She gives individualised nutritional care to prevent or reverse nutrient deficiencies, nutrition-related side effects and malnutrition to maximise quality of life.

MEET THE EXPERT – Annica Rust

Annica Rust is a registered dietitian practicing at the Breast Care Unit in Netcare Milpark Hospital as well as in Bryanston. She assists with medical nutritional therapy for cancer prevention, treatment, survivorship and palliation. She gives individualised nutritional care to prevent or reverse nutrient deficiencies, nutrition-related side effects and malnutrition to maximise quality of life.


Header image by Adocbe Stock

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