Just because you’re crunched for money doesn’t mean you can’t eat well. Follow these tips to fuel your body and not break the bank.
Embrace Meal Prep
Plan a week’s worth of meals on Sunday – whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, some or all three. Planning and prepping in advance allows you to put together healthy meals for those busy days, and prevent you from ordering expensive takeout because you’re too tired to cook.
Shop for your weekly menu in one trip. Choose lean protein (fish, chicken, and pork, beans and lentils), complex carbohydrates (rice, sweet potatoes, and quinoa), and veggies. Once you cook everything, divide into storage containers and keep them handy.
For variety, add something different to each meal, like a handful of nuts over your rice, or a drizzle of teriyaki sauce over your veggies. Toward the end of the week, cut up your remaining chicken and add to a sandwich with fresh lettuce and tomato.
Ditch Processed Junk Food
It might be easy to grab a snack from the vending machine or even a seemingly healthy chopped salad from a deli. But those foods are often high in kilojoules, excess sodium, added sugar, saturated (and even trans) fats and additives. Not to mention the costs add up. Instead, make your own trail mix to keep on hand. You’ll spend a little bit more upfront on dried fruits and nuts, but you won’t have to shell out money every afternoon for a snack. And you have control over what goes into your body.
Buy in Bulk
Often, buying in bulk will save you money and keep your pantry stocked with healthy foods. Keep a stockpile of nuts, dried fruit, rolled oats, seeds, and beans on hand for Sunday meal prep.
Make Produce Your Friend
A prepared salad can be expensive. At a nice restaurant, it can run you $15. At a make-your-own salad joint, it could be $10 or $11. For much less than that, you can buy a head of lettuce, which will give you 10 to 12 cups of chopped lettuce. 400g of capsicum? Just a few dollars and will last you all week.
You can also head to the freezer and canned aisles:
- Frozen Vegetables
When veggies are frozen just after picking, they retain their nutrients (and are cheaper and convenient). Skip those with sauces and seasoning – they’re high in added sugar and salt.
- Canned Vegetables
Choose low-sodium or no-salt-added for a nutritious, easy way to add veggies to stir-fry or as a side.
- Frozen Fruit
Just like veggies, you can get nutritious fruit from the freezer aisle. Add to a smoothie, or thaw and toss in pancake batter or yoghurt.
- Canned Fruit
Depending on the season, canned may be cheaper than fresh fruit. Watch out for fruit packaged in heavy syrup or artificial sweeteners. Instead, look for brands that are packed in water or their own juice.
Try Meatless Monday
Even if you‘re planning your meals in advance (see my first tip!), opting to go meatless one night a week can save money (and time!). That doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on much-needed protein to help your muscles recover. Eggs, dairy, and plant-based protein like beans and lentils are good, fairly inexpensive options. Try a veggie omelette one night or make a batch of lentils and toss in a green salad for lunch.