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Eating Healthy on a Budget

by Joyce Haddad - August 3, 2016

As prices of food are rising, eating well while trying to save some money can be super challenging. But fortunately, with a little planning and some helpful tips, buying and preparing delicious and healthy meals is not impossible!

To start, I am going to list you 2 lunch options:

Lunch 1:

Chicken and salad in a whole grain roll & 1 apple.

Lunch 2:

Quinoa & barley salad with spinach, beetroot & organic chicken, sprinkled with Himalayan salt & a freshly squeezed apple, orange, and ginger juice.

Out of the two lunch options, which do you think is healthier?

Had a moment to think?

Well, neither option is ‘healthier’ as they are both very similar in nutrients! But Lunch 2 is a lot higher in sugar (from the juice) and salt, compared to Lunch 1. Surprising, huh?

Now, out of the two options, which do you think would cost less?.... I don’t think I have to answer that.

We are forever being bombarded with diet plans and ‘perfect ways of eating’ that promote “superfoods” like green smoothies, protein balls, paleo bars, raw and organic foods, and not to mention food that we never even realised existed (like quinoa…where did that come from?). We are currently living in a society where eating this type of hyped up food is ‘healthier’ for us. But to be honest, I don’t think we actually enjoy this food; we eat it so we can post pictures about it and show everyone that we are on this awesome health kick. When in fact, we could still be having good old wholegrain toast and plain vegetables and fruit, and still be ‘healthy’!

The only difference between a green super food smoothie, and a good old green salad is the price. The only difference between a raw organic chocolate bar and a normal chocolate bar is the price. The only difference between smoothie bowl and a normal cereal bowl is… you guessed it… the price.

Social media has over-complicated healthy eating, and it is making some us think that this way of eating is impossible (financially and physically – I mean, not everyone can be bothered spending 2 hours making a plate look pretty to take a picture of it and post it, before even eating it)

Don’t get me wrong, incorporating the ‘cool’ food trends in your diet is more than OK, if you have the money for it. But I want to emphasise that healthy eating is simply just about getting enough food from each of the food groups (grains, veggies, fruit, dairy/or alternatives and meat/legumes). It doesn’t matter if you decide to have a fancy salmon and smashed avo on toast, or just a can of tuna with a handful of walnuts – you’re still eating similar nutrients, without the added costs.

So how about other tips on saving cash while eating healthy?

1. Be supermarket savvy – look through catalogues and on supermarket websites to know which items are on special

2. Write down a shopping list and STICK TO IT

3. NEVER shop when you are hungry

4. Shop for fresh foods where possible –  in the case of fruit and vegetables, see if frozen and canned varieties are cheaper. Frozen usually is the best option

5. Shop for LOCAL fruit and vegetables that is in SEASON. This way you’re saving yourself the cost of importation

6. Try having a meat free or vegetarian meal - Meat-free Mondays are a great option! Stretch your meals but adding beans/legumes to them: stews/mince dishes

7. Buy items in bulk. Package them into smaller portions yourself. Buy blocks of cheese and grate it yourself. Buy whole fruit and vegetables and prepare them yourself

8. Buy generic/home-brands where possible. Think about novelty packaging… Do you really need that cereal just because it comes in a fancy container?

9. Fill your trolley with mostly grains, fruit, vegetables, before going into other aisles

10. Check your shopping receipts… Sometimes operators make mistakes.

To finish off, here is a recipe, which will prove to you just how cheap healthy eating can be!

Quick & Cheap Chickpea Curry

Cooking time: 20 - 25 minutes
Serves: 4


1 tsp Canola oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tb cumin
1 Tb Curry powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
½ zucchini, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 cup frozen beans
400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
400g can diced tomatoes (no-added-salt)
165g can reduced-fat coconut milk
Cheap microwavable brown/basmati rice (4 cups)


1. Heat oil in frypan and fry onions, garlic and spices for 2 minutes.
2. Add the zucchini, carrots and beans and fry until softened.
3. Add the can of tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
4. Add the chickpeas and coconut milk, and simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes.
5. Serve with rice.

I hope this has given you some ideas about how you can be saving money while still being healthy! Just remember, we can only do the best we can with what we have, but every little positive change can make a difference!


Joyce Haddad

Joyce Haddad is a Qualified Dietitian/Nutritionist and Master Personal Trainer with a passion for health and wellbeing. Her aim as a health professional is to help the public make informed and REALISTIC nutritional choices and ensure everyone has a healthy relationship with their body and with food.