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  • Sharon Hultzer

Eating well on any budget

Updated: Jan 15, 2019

With the constantly rising food prices, is it still possible to eat healthily and make wise food choices on a tight budget?

The supermarket is certainly the place to start improving your diet and making better food choices.

With the rising cost of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean cuts of meat and most other groceries you may be tempted to buy what is perceived as the cheaper option. I say “perceived as cheaper” because when we don’t pay attention to a healthy lifestyle, we often spend more money on doctors visits and medications.

Here are a few ways that good planning can help cut costs:

Avoid unnecessary spending by planning your meals ahead of time and making a shopping list for the items you need to buy. Stay out of the aisles that don’t have items on your list (usually the tempting luxuries!).

Try not to shop when you are hungry or rushed for time. This will prevent unnecessary purchases and also allow you time to compare prices making the most cost effective choices.

Buying items in bulk and stocking up when groceries are on sale can save many Rands at the end of the day.

There are many low cost ways to improve your vegetable and fruit intake without hurting your wallet.

Buy fresh produce that is in season. At the moment (winter) you may find that apples, pawpaw, bananas, oranges and naartjies are more reasonably priced. Some of the vegetables that are in season now are pumpkin, beetroot, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, spinach.

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in amounts that you will be able to use before they spoil, or plan to cook in bulk batches and freeze ready meals. If you do have more than you can use, almost any leftover vegetable can be turned into a soup by cooking up with a little stock and blending. Overripe fruit can be frozen and used in smoothies or baking.

Buy fresh foods at a farmers market. They are usually fresher as well as far cheaper.

Frozen vegetables contain just as many vital vitamins and minerals as their fresh counterparts. Stock up on frozen vegetables when they are on sale.

Keep it simple!

Vegetables and fruits in their natural form are far cheaper than pre-cut, pre-washed, ready-to-cook items. Being willing to spend a little more time preparing the food at home will yield dramatic savings!

Plant your own at home. Tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, green beans and various herbs are great for beginner gardeners (like me!). This is also a great way to encourage your children to eat more vegetables. Let them water the plants and help you pick the vegetables for dinner.

Save time as well as money on those busy days by cooking in advance and freezing meals. It is relatively simple to make large quantities of stews, casseroles and soups when you have the time and freeze portions for those crazy days when you would be tempted to grab a take away.

Save on your meat bill by making use of any variety of bean you can imagine – baked beans, chickpeas, canellinni beans, kidney beans. Buying the dried version is the cheapest way, but even tinned beans bought on sale are very cheap meat replacements. Adding beans to meat dishes such as mince, stews and casseroles extend the meal and allow you to use far less meat.

Adding dried soya mince to mince dishes will dramatically extend the meal. Even my most skeptical patients have been pleasantly surprised how delicious this can be (and the family won’t even know!).

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