Shopping on a budget
We all know that we should eat a wide variety of foods as recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGTHE). But did you also know that doing this is a cheaper more cost effective way of eating? Foods that form part of the AGTHE are mostly fresh wholesome foods that are less packaged and less processed and that often mean less expensive.
Following the AGTHE is just one way to make your shopping dollar stretch and to make meal preparation easier see below for more ideas.
- Use a meal planner to save money, time and wastage, for example if you are planning a meal using natural yoghurt and only use half the tub plan a second meal with this ingredient
- Try to use all those staple ingredients you have in the pantry, call it a pantry challenge
- Make a shopping list and stick to it
- Try not to take children shopping with you to avoid ‘pester power’
- Keep an eye on specials for staple items such as tinned tomatoes and dried pasta
- Buy in bulk, it is much cheaper per kilo. Even meat purchased in bulk can be separated at home and frozen
- Don’t shop when you are hungry, impulse purchases are often unhealthy and expensive
- Make expensive meats go further by bulking out with nutritious legumes or beans
- Buy in season. Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season and shop at markets where they are generally cheaper.
Make sure you check out our lunchbox menu planner can help to take the stress out of busy school mornings.
There are also some great apps for your smartphone available to help you to plan, shop and save.
Reading nutrition information panels
Food labels can be confusing. Few people have the time to stand and read every single label before placing the item in the shopping trolley and then there is also the issue of understanding exactly what the label is telling us about the product.
The Eat for Health website has useful information to help you navigate your way around a label.
You can also download a handy card to be printed and cut out for your wallet. Use it as an easy reference guide when shopping.
Basic labels tips:
- Ingredients are listed in order of weight so if sugar is listed first or second this is probably not a healthy choice
- Compare products using the 100g column of the nutrition information panel rather than ‘per serve’ as each product serve size may vary
- When comparing similar products choose those higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugar
- Terms such as ‘Lite’, ‘Light’, ‘Sugar free’ and ‘no added sugar’ can sometimes be deceiving. To see if this product is a healthier choice compare it to another similar product.
On food labels in Australia and New Zealand, nutrition figures are presented in a standard table format called the Nutrition Information Panel or NIP. This shows quantities per serve and per 100g it is an invaluable tool to assess how nutritious the food may be. However understanding exactly what it means can be tricky. The Reading Food Labels poster developed by FSANZ clearly explains all the elements in a simple way. Also, you may have heard about the new Country of origin labelling – Catherine Saxelby, one of Australias leading nutrition experts, breaks this down in her blog
And the biggest tip of all… Some of the healthiest products are those that have no labels such as fresh fruits and vegetables.