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Healthy Eating on a Budget


With the price of food rising, sticking to a healthy diet while trying to keep to a budget can be challenging. Don’t fear, with a little planning and some useful tips from our Modern Athlete expert, Christine Peters, buying and preparing delicious healthy food on a budget is not as hard as it may seem!

If you have ever thought that eating healthy is a more expensive option, then you’re not alone. It seems the retailers feel they need to punish us for wanting to be healthier and they know we will pay more for a product that we believe we can benefit from. Well, this doesn’t always have to be the case. Some helpful tips include shopping for fresh foods where possible and avoiding processed or convenience packaged options. These changes to the original format of the fresh product often add huge costs. Also try to buy bulk at produce markets – most of the time you are buying direct from the ‘farmer’ so you are not paying the additional costs related to big retail outlets. This will help lower your grocery bill and still give you a trolley full of healthy foods. Check out the price differences when you look at the price per kilogram of these examples:

Potatoes (a serving of potato is one medium potato or 150g)
Potatoes per 150g 0.60c
Frozen chips per 150g R2.88
Crisps per 150g R7.69

Breakfast products (A serving of cereal is 1/2 a cup of muesli, one cup of breakfast flakes or 1/3 cup rolled oats or roughly 40g)
Rolled oats per 40g 0.80c
Cornflakes per 40g R1.64
Breakfast bar per 40g R4.50

Apple per 100g  R1
Packet of sultanas per 40g R2
Fruit bar per 50g R4
Energy bar per 50g R8–12
*Note that you can buy twice the amount of apples for the same or less money as other snacks.


Prepare at home before you hit the shops:
 Make a shopping list – this will stop you from impulse buying.
  Cook more than you need and freeze it or use it the next day.
 Look for food bargains in newspapers and flyers.
  Keep a list of prices for foods you usually buy and check it against advertised specials. The price in the flyer may not really be a sale price.

Shop with a friend. Share the taxi/petrol fare and some of the larger grocery items.
  Try to buy from the source. This often means a fun day out too.

At the store:
 Take advantage of discount days offered by some grocery stores.
  Compare prices between brands. Store house brands are often cheaper but the same quality.
 Check the ‘unit price’. Bigger sizes are not always the best buy.
  Buy the size that is the most economical and convenient for you. Smaller portions are available for a variety of foods and may be worth the extra cost if you can avoid throwing any away.
 If the larger size is less expensive but more than you can use, share the extra with a friend or freeze it.
  The grade or quality of a product is determined by looks, not by nutritional value. If appearance doesn’t matter to you, save money by buying lower grade products.
 Read labels. Check the ingredients, listed in descending order by quantity, with the main ingredient listed first. Choose foods that are lower in salt, sugar and saturated/trans fat.
 Check the ‘best before’ date to make sure the food won’t spoil.
  Buy all the basic foods such as breads, dairy, fruit, vegetables, cereals and meats first before considering snack foods or treats.

Specific food items

Vegetables and fruit
  Buy fresh fruit and vegetables in season.
  Try frozen or canned vegetables as these may be cheaper and will keep for longer.
 Look for generic or ‘no name’ brand canned fruits and vegetables, which are just as nutritious as branded varieties and are often less expensive.
 Buy frozen vegetables without added sauces and seasonings. Compare the different styles; for example, broccoli spears cost more than chopped broccoli.

Inexpensive buys include cabbage, lettuce heads, carrots, potatoes, turnips, onions, oranges, bananas, apples, pears, fresh produce in season, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables such as frozen berries and canned tomatoes. Others include dried fruit (raisins, dates, apricots), sodium-reduced canned soup (mushroom, vegetable, tomato) and canned or bottled pasta sauces.

Grain products
  To maintain freshness, keep bread in the freezer.
  Stock up when pasta is on sale; it can be stored for several years if left unopened in a dark place.
 Buy plain ready-to-eat cereals rather than the more expensive pre-sweetened varieties.

Inexpensive buys include crackers, Melba toast, breadsticks, parboiled or brown rice; macaroni, spaghetti, noodles, dried lentils, split peas, chickpeas, plain ready-to-eat cereals such as oats, frozen whole grain bread, rolls and pitas.

Milk and alternatives
  Buy plain yoghurt and add your own fresh or frozen fruit.
 Mix skim milk powder with water according to package directions. You can drink it or add it to soups, gravies, casseroles, sauces, puddings, baked goods or scrambled eggs.
 Buy block cheese and grate it yourself.

Inexpensive buys include skim milk powder, mozzarella cheese and plain yoghurt.

Meat and alternatives
  Buy only as much meat as you need. Two or three servings of meat, fish, poultry or meat alternatives per day is sufficient. A serving is 75g of cooked meat, chicken or fish, or the size of a deck of cards.
 Buy canned light tuna and pink salmon, which cost less than other varieties.
  If you have freezer space, buy larger packages when meat is on sale. Divide the meat into individual servings, rewrap, date packages and freeze.
 Arrange to share a larger package with a friend.
  Ask your grocer to break open packages of wrapped meats and divide them into smaller quantities.
 Use less meat in casseroles, soup, stir-fries and spaghetti sauce and add more vegetables, pasta, rice or beans instead.
 Have one or two meatless meals a week. Try scrambled or hard-boiled eggs, omelets, baked beans, lentils, tofu, or peanut butter sandwiches.

Inexpensive buys include less tender meat such as blade, chuck, flank, round, stewing meat, mince meat (add lentils to extend), chicken/turkey with skin (remove skin before cooking), eggs, nuts, dried or canned beans, lentils, peas, pork fillet/chops, canned fish.

Other foods
 Limit purchase of high-energy, low-nutrient foods such as soft drinks, chocolate, chips and other snack foods.
  Use leftover foods for soups, casseroles, smoothies, gravies, and sandwich or omelet fillings!