A common reason people often give for not eating whole real foods is because they perceive they’re a lot more expensive than packaged or processed food, or that eating this way is not sustainable for most families. However, a whole food way of eating doesn’t need to be complicated and you don’t have to buy fancy or expensive ingredients to eat well. Here are some of my top tips to make eating whole foods easier on the pocket.
Planning your weekly meals helps to reduce wasted food and can save you money because you are only buying what you need. If you shop to your plan then everything in the fridge has a purpose, meaning heads of broccoli and bunches of spinach won’t be forgotten and left to rot in the back of the fridge. By planning your meals you will reduce some of the perceived stress that can be involved in deciding what to have for dinner. You will also be less likely to reach for expensive take-aways when you have a plan in place. Dedicating some time to plan for the week ahead will save you time and money in the long run.
Consider your meal proportions
Most people are aware of the concept of portion sizes, but have you considered the proportions of foods that make up your meals? Many people often eat meals that include too large a portion of meat and not enough vegetables. Adding extra vegetables, legumes or pulses can help to bulk out meals so that they go further—you might even have some leftovers to save you buying lunch the next day—or so you can use a smaller quantity of more expensive ingredients (such as good quality animal protein). Try adding in some lentils and grated vegetables to bolognaise, or adding some extra vegetables, chickpeas, lentils or beans into curries, soups and stews.
Buy local produce where possible. Not only does it support local farmers in your community, it can also guide you to buy produce that is in season, which is good for your health and for your wallet. Fruit and vegetables grown in season are more likely to have been grown outside in natural conditions where the plants are able to soak up and transform more nutrients. Also seasonal food doesn’t need to be shipped from other countries, ensuring fresher food (more nutrients) and cutting out the cost of travel. When buying from local farmers’ markets it is often possible to find spray-free or organic food for a similar price as conventional produce.
Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk and sharing with a friend or storing for later use can be a great way to save money. Often when buying in bulk it is possible to get cheaper prices. For example, buying nuts and seeds in bulk can save you money long term. Most nuts and seeds can be frozen to keep them fresh and stop them from going rancid. In season produce can be frozen, bottled, or fermented for later use.
Use your freezer
Freeze foods before they go to waste. Freezing brown bananas (peel them first) and saving them to be used in muffins or in a smoothie is a great way to reduce waste. The same can be done with other produce. Fruits can be stewed then frozen and added to smoothies or warmed and added to muesli. Vegetable scraps can be saved and used to make stock or broth. Be sure to label food with what it is and the date you froze it so you don’t end up with miscellaneous items in the freezer that never get used.
Buying frozen vegetables can also be a great, cost-effective option. Snap-frozen vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh and it’s a convenient way to make sure you always have some vegetables on hand to add to a meal.
Grow your own
There are plenty of veggies and herbs that are easy to grow all year round. Kale, spinach and silverbeet will grow almost all year round, and can be used to make smoothies, juices, or to bulk out stews, curries, soups or salads. Herbs can be expensive to buy in small amounts but they are very easy to grow. Parsley, thyme and rosemary are hardy herb plants and so versatile, lending themselves to many dishes.
Explore your priorities
When it comes to what you spend your money on, consider your priorities. Do you draw the line at broccoli when it goes over a specific price yet you buy yourself a coffee or two each day? Sometimes finances for food are genuinely limited while for others, bringing awareness to priorities and values can lead to finances being reallocated.