Healthy eating doesn’t have to consist of all the latest superfoods and trendy ingredients, that usually come with a substantial price tag. By planning ahead, savvy shopping and cooking smart, your wallet can stay as healthy as your body!

From your home to the shops, follow these steps to minimise food costs and maximise nutrition:

1. Stock take

Do a stocktake at home before planning a weekly menu and shopping list. Scan the contents of your pantry, fridge and freezer and write a list of everything. Work out what you can use to make meals and snacks and which items you need to use first (before they spoil) or freeze for later.

Note: If a food is past its best before date it can still be eaten but it may not be as tasty or high in nutrients. However food past its use by date is unsafe to eat and should be thrown away.

2. Plan ahead

Planning is a great way to ensure you only buy what you need for the week ahead. It involves knowing what meals and snacks you are going to eat and what you already have (check your stock take list) so you only buy the necessary food items. By creating meal plans and a weekly shopping list you can ensure your food is healthy, tasty and within budget.

3. Shop smart

Smart shopping means you stick to your shopping list while choosing the best value healthy foods. Here are some simple tips to minimise food costs and maximise nutrition in the shops:

  • Eat a meal or snack before you shop, to help you stick to your shopping list
  • Buy all the healthy, basic foods first such as vegetables, fruit, meats, chicken, fish, nuts, legumes, dairy and grains, before considering snack foods, like lollies, chocolate, sweetened drinks, treats or trendy food items
  • Compare price per kilo
  • Read labels to choose foods that are healthy and good value. When label reading food: per 100g aim for less than 10g fat, less than 3g saturated fat, less than 15g sugar and less than 400mg sodium (salt)
  • Choose cheaper cuts of meat and slow cook them
  • Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season
  • Start up, join, or find a food cooperative. Co-ops are usually run not for profit and can be a great way of sourcing healthy, cheap and sustainable foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, local and organic produce, or bulk wholefoods.
  • Visit farmers’ markets to buy seasonal produce such as fresh fruit and veg, grains, lean meats, olive oils, legumes, nuts. Some farmers’ markets will be organic, vary in price, size and the produce they offer. Check out to find budget friendly markets near you:
  • Buy healthy shelf stable or long lasting items in bulk, especially when they are on special. Stock up on foods such as root vegetables, frozen vegetables, frozen meats/fish/chicken, frozen fruit, rice, pasta, no-added-salt canned beans, corn, tomatoes, lentils, legumes, tuna, salmon, sardines, long-life milk, oats, tofu, wholegrain crackers and fruit canned in natural juices

4. Cook clever

Cooking is substantially cheaper than eating out or buying take-away food and the best way to control the quality and type of ingredients that go into your meals. Try these tips to minimise food waste, save time and maximise nutrition:

  • Cook in bulk. Refrigerate leftovers for the next 2-3 days or freeze leftovers to eat over the next few weeks
  • Use scraps for soups, stocks, or compost
  • Regularly do a stock take of your fridge to ensure you use up items before they spoil or go off
  • Freeze over-ripe fruit for later use in baking or smoothies or as a frozen treat.
  • Meat can be one of the most expensive basic food items and most Australians consume more than the recommended amount. Try aiming for serving sizes of meat of ~125-150g of raw weight per person
  • Extend meat meals by adding legumes or lentils as a healthy, cheap, fibre rich protein source
  • And if you run out of something, or it’s too pricey that week, here are some substitutes to try:
If you don’t have…. Try using….
Fresh herbs Dried herbs
Red wine Beef stock or water
Stock Water seasoned with herbs, pepper & a little salt
Meat Lentils, legumes, eggs or tofu
Fresh fish Canned fish
Quinoa Rice
Fruit Frozen fruit
Tomatoes Canned tomatoes
Milk Long life milk

5. Find free food (seriously!)

Check out ways you can connect with your community and eat fresh, seasonal free food:

  • Grow your own herbs or vegetables at home and find someone to swap produce with.
  • Find food in your community – pay small amounts or even get food for free. Check out this website for more details:
  • Get involved in a community garden – or start one up. You’ll be able to stay active, connect with your community and eat free fruits, vegetables and herbs!


Written by Shivaun Conn
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist

Published by Wellvess

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