Eating healthy on a budget, is it possible nowadays?
You’ve probably noticed: food is getting more and more expensive. In the Netherlands it is as if the prices in the supermarket are increasing by the day. In this article I have ten practical tips for you on eating on a budget but still healthy. Hopefully these tips come in handy!
To start with, you should of course not waste the food you already have in your fridge and kitchen cupboard. That’s where food saving and money saving starts. A while ago I wrote an article on How to reduce food waste, and another one on How to store food. Please consult them for detailed advice.
Do you find yourself putting unused food in the trash every week? Then you must find out for yourself where exactly the problem lies. Are you structurally buying too much? Are you buying too many foods with short expiration dates? Or do you cook portions that are too big? Identify the problem and solve it.
Planning is everything
Eating healthy on a budget requires some planning.
A plan is important for many aspects of life. Of course, it is also important to be able to go with the flow, live in the moment and follow your heart and intuition. But you must plan some practical aspects of life, such as taking care of children or the disabled and preparing food. Planning what to eat becomes even more important when you are busy and/or have a large family. Do you find making a weekly menu too difficult or too restrictive? Then start planning a day ahead. The point is that you go shopping with a plan in your head. This ensures that you do not buy unnecessary things in the supermarket.
And of course, you can always download one of my vegan meal plans if you are looking for a very concrete plan.
Look closely at the prices within categories
Eating healthy on a budget is also about shopping smartly. That may sound stupid, but you’d be surprised how much the prices for a pack of spaghetti can vary, even within the same store. An example from the Netherlands. A 500 g package of spaghetti from Albert Heijen’s home brand costs EUR 0.89. Next to it on the shelf we find a 500 g package of spaghetti from the brand De Secco. Price: 2.59 EUR. Well, this is almost 300% more expensive! Both products are made from wheat and nothing else. The nutritional value is the same. Home brands are generally significantly cheaper than brands that you can buy in all stores. And the more famous the brand, the more expensive it is.
Go for large packs
In general, you pay less for a large package than if you buy the same amount but packed in several individual packages. The difference can be substantial. Especially when we talk about nuts and seeds. But it also applies to grains, flour, dairy, and basically everything.
Exotic doesn’t mean better or healthy
In the Western part of the world, we for sure live in abundance. Globalization means we have foods from all over the world on our shelves. It is logical that if a product comes from far, the price tag will be high (although it doesn’t always work that way: Dutch apples, for example, cost more in the Netherlands than a mango from Kenya). Foods from afar also often have the image that they are healthy. However, that is not always the case. Goji berries are much more expensive than raisins, for example. But the nutritional value of both types of berries is more or less the same.
Pasta is an inexpensive food that fits well into a healthy diet. You can vary endlessly with pasta. By using different types of pasta, different vegetables and different sauces, you can create countless combinations. The healthiest way to enjoy pasta is to eat it with lots of vegetables and a healthy sauce (such as tomato sauce or pesto) and just a little bit of cheese.
Legumes is a collective name for beans, lentils and peas. Legumes are super healthy and cheap. They are an excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and vitamins B1, B6 and B11 (also known as Folic Acid). If you are a vegetarian, legumes are actually indispensable. But even if you are not a vegetarian, legumes are a healthy choice. And you can make so many different dishes with legumes. Think of lentil soup or pea soup, curry, dhal, chili sin carne, legume patties or chickpea stew. By the way, all types of dried legumes can be stored for a very long time, about two years.
Go for misfits
We should of course talk about fruits and vegetables. Expensive or not, they are indispensable in a healthy diet. We must eat them every day.
Do not hesitate to buy fruits and vegetables with an imperfect appearance. In many supermarkets these go away for a reduced price, even though there is nothing wrong with them.
Go to your local market at the end of the day
At the market, the greengrocers very often sell the leftover fruit and vegetables for little at the end of the day.
Start your own vegetable garden
Grow your own basil, mint, parsley or whatever you want on your balcony, windowsill or simply on your kitchen counter. Fresh herbs are a good source of vitamin K, and they are also seasonings that really make a difference in a dish. However, they are often pricey. Growing your own herbs saves you money but also a lot of packaging (think of mini-bunches of fresh herbs that come in a large plastic box at the supermarket).