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Eating Healthy on a Budget: Part 2

In part 1 of Eating healthy on a budget (if you missed it you might want to go back and read it here, I talked about why we still need to eat healthy even when the budget is tight, what healthy eating looks like; and I shared a bunch of basic general tips.  Today I want to talk about more affordable protein options.

Of all the foods I listed in part 1, as comprising a healthy diet, meat is often the one that really bumps up the total at the checkout.  Now for those of you who are vegetarian, this doesn’t pose a problem, however it’s still important that you know how to include plant proteins so that you get the full complement of nutrients you need.  Eating on a budget doesn’t have to mean cutting out meat, but one of the easiest ways to reduce the grocery bill is to reduce your meat consumption, and choose alternative protein sources.  And in our Western diet we tend to eat too much meat anyway, so it’s actually a great health choice.  Here’s my tips:

  1. Reduce your meat portion sizes.   We only need about the same size piece of meat as a deck of cards.

  2. Eat meat less often - you don’t need meat every day.  I try to plan in non-meat meals at least a couple of times per week, but you can even do that in reverse and only plan meat meals a couple of times a week.  Good non-meat protein sources include eggs, yoghurt (if dairy is your friend), legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils), wholegrains (such as brown basmati rice, oats & quinoa), nuts and seeds (I know these aren’t particularly cheap but you only need a small amount).

  3. Eat eggs. Eggs are a fantastic source of complete protein and don't cost a bomb. And there's heaps you can do with them - fry, scramble, poach or boil them; put them in a quiche, omelette or frittata; add them into soup or fried rice...

  4. Use cheaper cuts of meat (and I’m not talking cheap rubbishy sausages here which really aren’t that healthy); and look out for discounted meat options.

  5. Pad your meat meals out with more veggies.  One pot meals are easy for this.  For example, when I make spaghetti bolognaise I use about half a kg of mince, and then I put so much veggies in that, that I end up with a really big pot of sauce (which with only 3 of us in the house these days will last us up to 6 meals – so then I have a bunch of frozen meals for the days I need something quick and easy J).  Stir fry is another one that I’ll make with mostly veggies and usually just a small amount of meat (although it’s also easy to make with just veggies & a handful of nuts for protein).

  6. Include organ meats which can be cheap and are incredibly nutrient dense.  If you aren’t used to eating organ meats, then they can take a little getting used to. I’d recommend starting with liver or heart which are more mildly flavoured and adding them into dishes in small amounts or with lots of sauce as your taste buds adjust. 

  7. Make bone broth.  It’s super simple to make and makes a beautiful nourishing base for soups and casseroles.  Personally I prefer my broth bones to be organic as so many toxins are stored in bones, but even organic bones are cheap.  Find an organic butcher (or grocer who has contact with an organic butcher) to source you some bones. 

  8. It’s also a lot cheaper buying dried beans than canned.  It just requires a bit of planning ahead and a bit more time soaking and cooking them.  I usually keep canned ones as well for those last minute dishes that I hadn’t planned ahead for.  (Health tip: be cautious of most cans containing BPA in the can lining. Look for BPA free.  I buy the brand Analisa (stock up when it’s on special).

  9. Choose whole unprocessed grains.  They might cost a little more to start with but really aren’t that expensive and they’re more filling and nutritionally dense.

Soups are one of my favourite cheap meals (especially in winter).  You can chuck in pretty much anything and make them whatever flavour you like (Asian, curried, Mediterranean, Spanish...).  I almost always start with onion, and usually garlic.  Use up whatever veggies you have (especially if some are getting old and you don’t want to waste them).  Add in beautiful nourishing broth and then whatever seasonings and spices you like (herbs and spices pack a great nutritional punch).  If you want to add in more protein (without adding meat) you can add in legumes, egg and even rice.

The thing that’s important to remember when cutting down/out meat is that you still need to get your full complement of essential amino acids.  Eggs are a great alternative (in fact eggs are one of the best complete proteins).  You can read more about complete proteins in my FB post (link at the end of this post), but basically when relying on plant proteins you need to make sure you are including a combination of legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.  That isn’t that difficult - think a vegetable curry with chickpeas and rice; burritos with rice and beans…

In part 3, I’m going to talk about how to include enough veggies and fermented foods affordably.



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