Eat healthily on a tight budget

By Katie Allison

Accredited Practising Dietitian, Diabetes NSW & ACT


You are not alone if you think healthy eating comes with a hefty price tag. Many Australians believe that healthy foods cost more than packaged, convenient or fast food, but this is not necessarily the case.


Healthy eating on a budget really comes down to being savvy and planning ahead.

Try these cost-saving ideas to help you make healthier food choices without breaking the bank:


1. Avoid the hype

Foods that are promoted as being a 'superfood' tend to cost more and may be overrated. For example, a protein ball costs around $3.00 per ball compared to about $1.21 for grain crackers with a small can of tuna. Tuna and crackers are not only cheaper but they have just as much, if not more, protein and make for a great travel snack! Other options could include a small handful of unsalted nuts for around $0.40 or a hard-boiled egg for $0.50 - this even allows for it being a free-range, jumbo egg.


Don't buy into the hype, you are often paying more for packaging or convenience.


2. Fresh is best

Fresh food is packed with nutrition and lower in added salt, sugar or fat. Not only this, but it can also end up cheaper.


The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) highlighted the difference between some commonly eaten fresh versus processed food. For example:


  • A serve of raw chicken is 100g (raw weight)
  • Raw whole chicken = $0.66 per 100g
  • BBQ chicken = $0.80 per 100g
  • Pre-made chicken kebabs = $1.70 per 100g


Although buying a whole raw chook might seem more expensive at first glance, once you work out the cost per 100g, you will see you get the most serves and more bang for your buck from the fresh raw chook.


3. But frozen is good too!

If you find that you are throwing out vegetables regularly, and technically throwing away dollars, try frozen varieties. They are snap frozen after harvest and still hold a lot of nutrition. They can be a healthy, longer lasting option.


4. Drinks

Don't just consider what you are eating but also what you are drinking. Tap water is readily available, cheap, kilojoule free and the best option. Try to carry a reusable drink bottle with you when on the road that you can refill along the way.


5. Shop smart

Before purchasing your food, consider where you will purchase it from. You can often find value for money at farmers' markets, grocers, butchers and fish markets.


Your local supermarket may also have specials. Scope out their catalogue ahead of time to identify deals and when you are perusing the supermarket shelves do not forget to look on the high and low shelves as they can hold some of the cheaper items.


It may be worth buying in bulk. This is especially true for meat products. Buy lean cuts of quality meat when they are on special and freeze until later in the week or month when you may need it.


6. What's in season?

When it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, buy in season to save dollars.






Cherries, lemons, mandarins, nectarines, oranges, peaches, plums, strawberries

Apricots, berries, melons, nectarines, peaches, plums, strawberries


Artichokes, Asian greens, asparagus, green beans, beetroot, cucumber, chillies, fennel, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, silver beet, zucchini, watercress

Asparagus, green beans, capsicums, celery, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, okra, peas, potatoes, radish, sweetcorn, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini



These cost saving ideas can help you eat healthily on a regular basis. Eating healthily can help you to manage your diabetes and reduce your risk of complications, ultimately saving you money on medical bills.


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