Cheap and healthy are words we’ve been taught not to associate with each other. We’ve been bombarded with a thousand messages telling us that in order to save money – we need to buy food that’s quick, takeaway, pre-made and pre-packaged, hot hot hot!
But peeps, that’s not the case. Healthy food can be the quickest and cheapest food to buy and prepare if you’re smart about it. Here are best tips on ditching the Mi goreng and getting stuck into good, nourishing food on a budget.
1. Pimp your pantry
Investing in staples is THE best way to simplify healthy cooking. While it may seem expensive at first, you’ll reap the rewards ten-fold each time you hit the shops and only need to pick up a few fresh ingredients, instead of always starting from scratch.
Head out and grab some glass jars in varying sizes. Save cash and avoid the trendy homewares stores, instead head straight to your bargain basement or $2 shop, they always have a good range of glass jars for less than $6.
Load ‘em up with:
- Wholegrains: oats, brown rice and quinoa
- Legumes: black beans, chickpeas, lentils
- Nuts: cheaper nuts like almonds and cashews are always good – walnuts and macadamias if you have the cash
- Spices and rubs: my favourites are cumin, paprika, chipotle powder and fennel seeds
- Oils and condiments: good quality olive oil, tamari, mustard and apple cider vinegar
Try to buy in bulk where you can, and always have a squiz online to find cheap deals. A few good websites to check out are The Source Bulk Foods and Herbies. With a solid dry store and bit of creativity you can create all sorts of quick healthy meals in next to no time.
2. Cook once eat twice
Avoid the dreaded $9 shopping centre salad and pack your own goodie bag to take to work. Cook a bit extra the night before and you’ll be saving cash, time and effort. It’s a no brainer really.
3. Go vego
Eating meat, particularly red meat, is a lot more expensive than eating plant based foods. Not only does it chew through your budget, but many argue red meat is a major cause of global warming and can contribute to chronic diseases when consumed in large amounts. Yikes!
Up your intake of fruits and veggies and save serious cash by going vegetarian (or vegan!) a few nights a week. I challenge you to alternate between meat and vegetarian dishes or try the whole VB6 idea. You’ll save some dosh and increase your overall health and wellbeing. Check out some more awesome vegetarian dishes here.
4. Reduce waste – store food the right way
Saving food from the bin keeps cash in your wallet and is good for the environment. You can’t argue with that. Chop and freeze fruit that’s starting to go bad and chuck it in the freezer. I keep a big container of frozen bananas, apples and strawberries in the freezer ready to blend into a smoothie at any time. Keep leafy greens fresh by washing and storing them in a Tupperware container lined with some damp paper towel. Goodbye limp mint leaves!
5. Grow your own!
It’s a pretty cool feeling to snip off a bunch of your own basil or pluck your own cherry tomatoes from the vine. The ultimate in paddock to plate eating! Find a sunny patch on your balcony or backyard and start with a few potted herbs and grow your edible garden from there!*
* For the sake of honesty, I’m yet to keep a coriander plant alive for longer than 2 weeks. Sorry Nanna.
6. Know your dirty dozen
Buying 100% organic is not realistic for many people – mainly due to accessibility and cost. Know where to draw the organic vs conventional line by becoming familiar with the dirty dozen. The Dirty Dozen are the top 12 foods most heavily sprayed with pesticides – and best purchased organic. Save your cash on the Clean 15 and buy conventional. * Quick tip – anything with a peel that you throw away (or compost) before eating is okay to buy conventional! More info on going organic here.
7. Get to the farmers markets
Cheaper, fresher and better. Support your local farmers and save cash by hitting the weekend farmers markets. Can’t be bothered heading out? Aussie Farmers Markets Direct deliver to your front door.
8. Go DIY on your milk
Now that you’ve mastered the edible garden, it’s time to make your own almond milk. You heard me. Half a cup of almonds, some water, a few medjool dates and a pinch of salt + blender and you’ve got a large jug of homemade milk that will last around a week. Compare that to some $7 store bought almond milks and you’re laughing all the way to the bank (plus avoiding any additives!). Recipe for almond milk here.
9. Share the load
My mates have a ‘family dinner’ once a week where they go round to their neighbours and cook a meal together. I love this idea. Splitting a meal between 4 or 5 people is a great way to save money, reduce food waste and make connections with your community.
10. Drink water – it’s free!
The best (cheap) brown rice salad
Serves 4 (or 2 people for dinner and lunch the next day)
This is a weekly staple for us, perfect for cooking once and eating twice. Invest in your dry-store, and you’ll find this quick to prepare. Plus it’s really tasty, super healther and works out at about $5 a portion.
What you’ll need:
From your new pimped out dry store:
- Handful almonds chopped
- Handful sunflower seeds
- Handful pepitas
- Heaped tsp fennel seeds
- Heaped tsp cumin seeds
- 1 cup brown rice/quinoa blend (or half cup of each)
- 1 can organic chick peas (or 1 cup of soaked and cooked dry chick peas)
- 1 tbs capers
- 2 spring onions
- Handful of mint + handful parsley (from the garden if possible!)
- Punnet cherry tomatoes
- Handful baby spinach
- 1 small cucumber
- 4 chopped Medjool dates
Optional extras that we like to add:
- Small cube of good Haloumi (sliced and grilled)
- 1/2 avocado
- 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs lemon juice
- 1 tbs honey
- 1 tbs dijon mustard
How to go about it:
Cook the brown rice and quinoa and set aside to cool to about room temperature. Meanwhile, toast the almonds, seeds and spices in a dry pan and add them to your biggest bowl.
Add in all the fresh ingredients, chickpeas, capers and cooled brown rice and toss to combine. Add dressing to taste and serve with lemon wedges and optional extras.