The NZ Vegetarian Society is offering tips for healthy eating on a budget. A lot of New Zealanders have recently lost their jobs or part of their income, and it’s a financially stressful time for many – but this doesn’t mean we have to stop eating good, nutritious food.
It is possible to eat nutritious meals on a budget. Those who choose vegetarian diets are at an advantage, as it is typically cheaper to eat a nutritious plant-based meal than a well-rounded meal that contains meat.
NZ Vegetarian Society spokesperson Philip McKibbin says it is helpful to begin by asking, ‘What constitutes a healthy diet?’:
“The trick to healthy eating on a budget is to first think about what a healthy diet actually looks like, and then work out how to keep it cheap. If you do things the other way around, you might end up living off two-minute noodles, which isn’t a good idea!”
The NZ Vegetarian Society offers the following tips:
Legumes can be used as a central ingredient – e.g. in bean burgers, hummus, chili, or lentil loaves – or as an addition to other dishes to increase their protein content. Canned lentils, beans, and chickpeas are cheap, but you can save even more if you buy dried varieties in bulk.
Whole grains are full of nutrients. Brown rice, wholemeal flour, and meal bread are a little bit more expensive than overly-processed, white varieties, but they are worth the cost. Oats are an excellent choice, and relatively inexpensive. Whole grains supply fibre, B vitamins, minerals (such as iron, zinc, and magnesium), antioxidants, and good fats. Keep costs down by looking for deals and buying in bulk.
Aim to eat some cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, cauliflower, or bok choy), and dark leafy vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and rocket) every day.
Look for seasonal fruit and vegetables, as well as ‘specials’. Generally, starchy vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, and pumpkin), onion (an excellent addition to most meals), apples, bananas, and oranges are affordable. Frozen vegetables are a great choice, too – and they last for ages!
Nuts and seeds can be expensive, but they are only required in small amounts and can significantly boost your nutrient intake. They supply healthy fats, protein, fibre, and plenty of micronutrients.
Mr McKibbin says another helpful tip is to avoid food waste:
“Don’t let good food go bad. When you allow food items to go off, you may as well be throwing money on the compost! With a little planning, you can make the most of your food purchases and ensure you always have enough to eat well.”