Stephanie Reed. Health & Nutrition contributor

Stephanie Reed. Health & Nutrition contributor

Health news. A healthy diet is essentially quite simple: it is one where about 50% of your diet is made-up of vegetables and leafy greens (half raw and half cooked), about 20% of fruit, 10-15% grains and potatoes, 10-15% seeds and nuts and a nominal amount of meat, fish and dairy.

So why is it such a challenge for many of us to maintain a healthy diet? I believe that it requires more focus to eat healthily because our supermarkets and local stores are packed with foods that are nutrient-poor and damaging to our health. Foods that are made with sugar and white flour are promoted and sold to us as a cheap way to ‘fill the belly’.

But eating more healthily doesn’t have to be more expensive. In fact, knowing when, where and how to shop can actually cut your food bill – and boost your health.

Here are some tips to help you save money at the checkout:

  • Create a meal plan for the week. There are many meal plans available on-line for free. With a plan you will buy only what you need – saving you money by stopping you from adding extras to your basket  ‘…just in case’.
  • Shop alone. Leave children and partners at home to avoid pressure to buy unhealthy snacks, cereals and sweets. If those things are not in the home you and your family will eat them less often.
  • Eat something at home just before you go shopping. If you shop on an empty stomach you’re more likely to grab sugary cakes, biscuits, pastries.
  • Shop on-line. Order your groceries from any supermarkets in your area that will deliver to your home. Compare prices and look out for special deals and vouchers for healthy staples. The supermarket website will also save your shopping lists. Create a list for each weekly meal plan to make shopping quick and easy.

    Photo courtesy www.theguardian.com

    Photo courtesy www.theguardian.com

  • Don’t buy fruit and vegetables in packaging. You’re paying for the plastic. Pre-cut and wrapped produce costs more money; though this is usually hidden in the way it is priced. Only when you take the time to work out the weight, the number and the price per kilo do you realize they’ve put the price up!
  • Visit your local open market at the end of the day, while the stall holders are just packing-up. You’ll be able to get produce at knock-down prices that they would otherwise have to throw away. Supermarkets also sell fresh produce at reduced prices to clear their shelves.
  • Buy only organic or free-range meat to avoid the hormones, anti-biotics and GM (genetically modified) animal feed that cheap, intensively reared animals have to endure. It’s a little more expensive, but just buy less of it. Better quality meat eaten less often will give you a long list of health benefits.
  • Buy dried pulses as a cheaper and tastier way to add protein to your diet. Soaking and cooking them in bulk is easy. You can then freeze the cooked pulses in meal-size portion and add them to a soup, for example, to make a quick meal. Choose from aduki beans, chick peas, kidney beans, haricot beans. No need to soak mung beans or lentils.
  • Cook double. Prepare double quantities of the dish(es) you are preparing. Then freeze one of them which can then be a quick meal for another time. This is the way to create your own ‘convenience food’ –  where you have the control to include natural wholefood ingredients and avoid artificial additives.

Begin with an intention to gradually change your food choices; shop wisely. Then watch your food bill go down and your wellness go up!