Studies suggest that the average Australian household spends the majority of their weekly budget on food and non-alcoholic beverages – around $162 each week. Given that many people are buying take-out or ordering in, it’s no wonder that this number is so high. However, this expense can be cut down with the right knowledge and a little self-discipline.
By preparing home cooked meals, using affordable ingredients and making the most of any leftovers, you can significantly reduce your weekly food expenditure. To make this behavioural shift less overwhelming for you; it’s a good idea to start with new recipes for great meals that are easy to cook in any sized kitchen.
Whatever you decide to cook, there are a few staple ingredients that are always worth keeping in your pantry. This article will share the most nutritious and inexpensive ingredients that you should stock up on.
But first, let’s start with a bit of general advice on how to cut down on your food expenses.
Some quick tips for saving money on food
Plan your meals in advance
By preparing your breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week you’ll avoid having to buy food while you’re out. Considering the average homemade meal costs $4 and the average take-out meal costs $15, you’ll undoubtedly save some money by doing this.
Use a shopping list
Going to the supermarket without being prepared isn’t just overwhelming; it makes you more likely to impulse buy. This means you will probably purchase a whole block of chocolate you didn’t need just because you were hungry. Additionally, if you forget to buy something while you’re there, you might end up having to buy it at the convenience store later at a premium price. Use a shopping list at the supermarket to stay on track with your budget.
Find bargains in supermarket catalogues
You can find items in catalogues reduced in price by up to 50%. Make sure to take note of what items are worth buying and plan your meals accordingly.
Stock up on sale items you use regularly
If your favourite brand of cereal or can of tuna is on sale, and you have the money to do so, bulk buy a stash. If you know you are going to buy an item routinely, it’s always smarter to save money by purchasing a supply in bulk rather than continually replacing it every week.
Just drink water
If you have a habit of drinking cola, juice or coffee, consider trying to reduce your intake or drop it altogether and switch to water. Drinking tap water or using a reusable water bottle is a great way to save money and treat your body better.
Here are the top 10 cheapest and healthiest food items to keep in your kitchen
Virtually all beans – kidney beans, black beans, red beans, you name it – are an excellent source of protein, fibre and B vitamins. They’re a healthy and cheap alternative to meat and work well in a variety of dishes. Stock up on canned beans during your next shopping trip and use them in burritos, rice dishes or on toast.
Rice is a cheap pantry staple which can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes (such as rice pudding). Try to buy brown rice, which is higher in fibre and essential nutrients, rather than white rice. It’s also a good source of healthy carbohydrates. Use it in your next stir fry or curry.
Eggs are another great vegetarian alternative to meat, offering high amounts of protein and essential nutrients such as zinc, iron and folate. Use them in quiches, omelettes or on toast.
Canned, packaged or homemade soup is an inexpensive, veggie-rich meal that you can enjoy for lunch and dinner. Some healthy, cheap soup ingredients include sweet potato, lentils, onion, carrot and mushrooms.
When buying bread, aim for wholemeal or multigrain for the highest amount of fibre. The cheaper brands are a great, nutritious option providing you with fibre, healthy carbohydrates and other essential nutrients. It’s also an extremely versatile food item, which you can use to dunk in soup, toast or even just make a sandwich with.
Oats make for a cheap and wholesome breakfast. Filled with carbohydrates, antioxidants and soluble fibre, they can help lower cholesterol and can even promote weight loss. Pair your next bowl of porridge with some fresh fruit for an extra healthy kick.
Chickpeas are another great meat alternative as they are rich in protein, fibre and B-vitamins. They are a great dietary option for women due to their high levels of iron and folate. They’re also extremely versatile; use them in pasta or rice dishes, salads, stir-fries, stuffed in roast chicken or to make some delicious hummus.
While their affordability can fluctuate, right now bananas are one of the more high-value fruits on the market. Rich in fibre, potassium, B-vitamins and other essential minerals, bananas are simply packed full of goodness. Add them to cereal, cakes, smoothies, and yoghurt, or eat them on their own for a healthy, energy-filled snack.
As you can see, eating healthy doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. There are many steps you can take to reduce your food expenses, and stocking up on nutritious, affordable staples is one of them.