Money-saving special: Eat well for life with one easy shop!
It starts with having the right basics in your pantry. These essential ingredients will change the way you eat without breaking the budget.
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The latest food trends always seem to focus on a few expensive ingredients that promise to change your life forever.
If only it were just that simple. The truth is, you can eat healthily without spending a fortune at the health food store, or buying the latest ‘superfood’ — and you’ll save a load of cash, too. Here are our best money-saving tips!
Back to basics
Ready-made meals may look like an attractive option when you’re time poor — but they’re usually a false economy.
Cooking from scratch can be almost as quick, and is cheaper and a whole lot tastier. And forget about top-of-the-range ingredients. You can still get the same amount of nutrients and great flavour from budget buys.
Find good value
Check out the new ‘Odd Bunch’ and ‘Imperfect Picks’ initiatives hitting stores such as Harris Farm Markets and Woolworths.
You can buy wonky-shaped, but still fresh, fruit and vegies that wouldn’t usually make the shelf. They’re sold at a heavily discounted price, saving you money. It also helps stores cut down on food waste.
This got us thinking about other well-priced ingredients. Below you’ll find the best-value, healthiest ingredients that will help you make quick, nutritious, low-cost meals for the whole family.
At the shops
Dollar-saving tips for the supermarket.
1. Think outside of fresh
Canned or frozen fish, veg and fruit tend to be cheaper than fresh, but are just as nutritious. There’s minimal preparation needed (saving you time), zero wastage and a long use-by date.
2. Scan the shelves
You’re more likely to buy products that are at eye or hand level, or have more shelf space. But these are usually the best sellers, and they’re not necessarily the cheapest brands. So look up and down to check if there’s a similar product for a better price.
3. Be bargain savvy
‘Buy two for the price of one’ is only good value if you were planning on buying that product in the first place, otherwise it’s making you pay more than you were originally (like none!). But if you think it’s a healthy buy and a good substitute for your usual purchase, then it’s a money-saver. Also consider the use-by dates and whether or not you have the storage space.
4. Know your dates
The ‘use-by date’ shows when a food should be eaten by, due to health reasons. However, the ‘best-before date’ refers to the date when a food is at its optimum. Eating foods a few days, or even weeks after this date is acceptable and should not cause you any harm.
5. Don’t be a brand snob
Generic-labelled basics such as beans, canned tomatoes, flour, pasta and rice do the job just as well as the expensive brands.
6. Take a time check
It’s usually more expensive to buy time-saving ingredients such as pre-chopped veg and meat, bagged lettuce and grated cheese. Ask whether they really save you that much time in the kitchen — could you rope in an extra (free) pair of hands at home to help with basic prep instead?
Love your leftovers
How to reinvent last night's dinner.
Sunday roast: Make a speedy and tasty stew by simmering cooked meat with leftover veg in a small amount of stock, then stir in a handful of fresh or dried herbs and frozen vegies just before serving.
Pasta: Mix cooked pasta with your favourite tomato-based sauce and some frozen veg, then top with grated reduced-fat cheese and bake – try our Creamy pasta bake with ham and vegies. Or do as the Italians do and add leftover spaghetti to frittatas.
Vegetables: Brighten up roasted vegetables such as capsicum, pumpkin and sweet potato with an easy dressing of harissa paste and orange juice, then toss together with crisp salad leaves and a small handful of toasted nuts or seeds. Yum!
Mashed potatoes: Freeze any spare for cottage pie, or mix with canned fish, frozen peas and spices to make simple fish cakes.
Rice: Freeze, then transform into a quick fried rice with vegies and a dash of reduced-salt soy sauce, and top with a fried egg.
Five money-saving pantry staples...
SunRice Brown Rice,$3.20/1kg
Regular brown rice is a third of the price of microwave pouches and adds fibre to your diet. Freeze leftover cooled rice in portioned zip-lock bags. Simply reheat in boiling water for 1–2 minutes.
Ardmona Rich & Thick Basil & Garlic Chopped Tomatoes,$1.80/410g can
With the addition of herbs, garlic and tomato paste, these chopped tomatoes double as a flavoursome pasta sauce. And it also means you won’t be throwing out any wilted bunches of herbs.
Coles Australian Free Range Eggs, $4.60/12 eggs
One of the best fast foods around! And so versatile, too. You can boil, poach or scramble them, or make a hearty omelette or frittata with them. Plus, eggs are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. So get cracking!
Woolworths Select No Added Salt Five Bean Mix, $0.80/420g can
Canned beans are easier than soaking and boiling dried ones, and these have no added salt. Add into salads, soups or bolognese sauce for a fibre and protein hit.
ALDI Tuna Chunks in Springwater, $1.99/425g can
There’s so much versatility in one can, plus you’ll boost your intake of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Add canned tuna to everything from sandwiches and salads, and to pasta sauces and pizza toppings.
Think like a bargain hunter
Tweaks that will save you cash.
1. Take stock before you shop
Check what you already have in the kitchen and plan your meals around items that need using up.
2. Time it right
Stock up your fridge when the supermarket is marking down chilled items such as fish, meat, dairy and veg. This is often done just before closing time, or at the end of the week.
3. Make extra
Batch cooking may take time, but it can save you lots of fiddly prep on a busy weeknight and it saves money on takeaways for evenings when you don’t feel like cooking from scratch. Find recipes for easy soups, casseroles and curries to cook in bulk on this website.
4. Go meat free
A few vegetarian meals every week will help meet your five-a-day target, boost fibre and even cut food bills. For inspiration, try our delicious plant-based recipes: