Nutrition – Healthy eating on a budget

When it comes to filling bellies energy-dense foods – those high in calories such as sugary and fatty processed foods – are often cheaper than fresh foods. So, it is no surprise that healthy eating can take a hit when food prices start to soar. Trying to follow the Ministry of Health guidelines on healthy eating with the current cost of living increases is very difficult. Especially the 5-plus a day fruit and vegetable suggestion, such as when it costs $7 for a head of cauliflower.

How are we supposed to get an adequate intake of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre when fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables and meat are becoming so pricey? Here are six tips to stretch the food budget a bit further:

  1. Make a plan
    Plan your week’s meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. A meal plan allows you to work out exactly what you need to buy, helping you to stick to your budget. Don’t forget to check what you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer so that you don’t buy things that you already have on hand.
  2. Look out for bargains
    Look for not only what is on special, but also compare brands. If your favourite brand isn’t on special, maybe a different one is. Also keep an eye out for products that might be getting close to their ‘best before’ date*, especially if they can be frozen.
  3. Shop in season, or use simple swaps
    Fruits and vegetables tend to be cheaper when in season, but if fresh is still going to be too much of a stretch for the budget, check out a tinned or frozen version, they are just as nutritious as fresh.
  4. Minimise food waste
    Rather than buying breadcrumbs, you can easily turn stale bread into crumbs. You can chop up and use the stalks of some vegetables such as broccoli and silverbeet, which are great in a stir-fry. Incorporate leftovers into lunches or the next night’s dinner. Charity Love Food Hate Waste has some great ideas (
  5. Bulk out meat meals with legumes
    Reduce the amount of mince in a bolognaise or meat in a casserole by swapping out for a tin of legumes such as lentils, cannellini beans and butter beans. Legumes are a cheap, alternative protein source.
  6. Don’t shop when hungry
    This can lead to more impulse buys that can push you past your budget.
    As prices rise, using good planning to know what you need to buy can help you to maintain a healthy diet while sticking to a budget.
  • A ‘best before’ date indicates that the quality of the food may be diminished after that date. Often foods are still fine to eat. However, ‘use by’ dates mean a food shouldn’t be eaten past a certain date.

Nutrition - Registered nutritionist