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Eating Healthy on a Budget

By Naturopath, Renee Irvine.

There can be a whole bunch of reasons for looking at budgeting and cutting back on food spending, saving for a holiday or a house, reduced work, or a freaking pandemic like the current COVID-19 situation where many of us have lost work, jobs or have reduced access to money and food.

Whatever the reason, the main concern I have when people start thinking about spending less on food is a decrease in consumption of nutrient dense foods which may result in nutritional deficiencies, low energy or poor health in the long term.

Eating on a budget doesn’t have to mean eating crap though! And you definitely don’t have to start buying cheap processed or packaged foods to save a buck either. With careful planning and being a bit more knowledgable about how and when to be thrifty, you can easily reduce costs and ensure you’re meeting your own nutritional needs.

Have your meals broken down into at least 75% vegetables and 25% protein. Sardines are a fantastic budget protein (a tin costs $1-2!) and a great source of protein, calcium and omega 3.

Go back to basics with ingredients i.e. some form of protein, complex carbs, beneficial fats, fruit and vegetables. Now is not the time to be purchasing super food and speciality ingredients if you are trying to cut costs (unless you want to of course!). The basics contain all the nutrition you need.

Eat seasonally and locally grown where possible. It costs more money to grow foods out of season (ie tomatoes in winter) and shipping food from further distances. This can also affect nutrition as seasonal produce is more nutritious as it takes less work to grow and storage/shipping can deplete nutrients.

Bulk out meals with MORE vegetables as these are generally cheaper than your proteins i.e salads, steamed or roasted veggies, veggie purees, vegetable hash with leftovers.

Reduce your animal protein portions (even by 20% could reduce the price significantly) or make these portions go further by combining with legumes which are significantly cheaper but still nutritious i.e tacos/nachos/chili with mince AND black beans, split red lentils added to spag bol (these are GREAT for fussy eaters), lentils added to slow cooked lamb/beef/chicken stews and curries. If you have trouble with digesting legumes, you could try activating them to improve digestibility, you can read more about that here

Make your animal protein serves go further by combining with legumes, or better still increase your intake of vegetarian meals throughout the week

Purchase cheaper cuts of animal proteins (i.e lamb chump chops, chuck steak) and slow cook them. The beautiful fattiness of cheaper guts is also great for gut healing.

Buy near expiry date food and cook immediately for meal prep! i.e stewing fruit can be stewed or chopped and frozen for smoothies, saucing tomatoes can be made into sauce or slow roasted, near expiry mince made into meatballs and cooked immediately or frozen.

Use ingredients that you can get multiple meals out of i.e chickpeas cooked from scratch with most made into my slow cooked chickpea and pumpkin curry and the rest made into a batch of hummus or a slow cooked whole chicken served with a bucket load of veggies, the leftover chicken made into salad, stir fry or curry and the carcass made into bone broth.

Make your animal protein serves go further by combining with legumes, or better still increase your intake of vegetarian meals throughout the weekMeal plan and reduce food waste. Meal planning and shopping accordingly helps to reduce costs by purchasing exactly what you need each week; it also helps to reduce food waste by ensuring you don’t have lots of excess produce or are making more than you need to. You can also further reduce food waste by saving veggie scraps for my scraps stock paste or by adding things like broccoli stalks to meals (check out my pumpkin, ginger and parsnip soup which also contains broccoli stalk as an ingredient).

Read more about our naturopath Renee Irvine here

About the Author

Melissa McDougall

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