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7 tips on how to eat healthy food while on a budget

Eating healthily doesn't need to be expensive. Here's how to save money and get good, healthy food at the same time.
 

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Our experts

JANE FREEMAN, dietitian and sports nutritionist, Food Equation

SUSIE RUCKER, nutritional therapist, Body With Soul

1. Look for Cheaper Superfoods

Superfoods can be expensive, but you can save money by choosing alternative ones. Instead of kale, for instance, which can cost as much as $8 or $9 a kg at supermarkets, you can opt for chye sim, kang kong or kai lan, all of which cost well under $2 a kg at supermarkets, possibly less at wet markets.

Jane Freeman, a dietitian and sports nutritionist at Food Equation, says these dark-green leafy vegetables are equally deserving of superfood status as they are high in vitamins and minerals, so you can eat them without feeling like you’re missing out.

And instead of salmon, Susie Rucker, a nutritional therapist at Body With Soul, suggests sardines and mackerel, which are also rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Be Your Own Butcher

Buying a large cut of meat and sectioning it yourself is cheaper than buying pre-cut meat, says Susie. If you don’t have the knife skills to do this, you can still buy a larger cut and ask your butcher to portion the meat for you. “A large boneless beef roast, for instance, can be portioned into small steaks. This will end up costing less than buying individual steaks,” says Susie.

The same goes for chicken. It’s cheaper to buy a whole bird and cut it into smaller sections at home, rather than buying a tray of already-sectioned parts. Then, simply freeze the individual portions and take them out whenever you need them.

 

Also read: 8 health habits that can actually be bad for you

 

3. Don’t Buy Packaged Foods – Make Your Own

We pay more for pre-packaged items for the convenience of it, but you can save quite a bit if you do the work yourself, says Jane.

Instead of buying muesli, you can make your own with inexpensive and easy-to-find ingredients like rolled oats, honey and dried fruit. There are many good muesli recipes online and it’s not difficult to find one you like. Best of all, because you’ve made it yourself, you know it’s free from preservatives and other additives.

Other clever ways to save on packaged foods: Grate your own cheese instead of buying pre-grated cheese; tear up leaves from a whole lettuce instead of using pre-packed salad kits, and cut up whole potatoes to make wedges instead of buying pre-cut frozen fries (which are usually loaded with oil and other ingredients you don’t need).

Of course, there are some packaged foods that are inexpensive and healthy, that you could stock up on, Jane adds. Think tuna, kidney beans and black beans, corn kernels and tomatoes.

4. Buy Budget Cuts of Meat

Give cheaper cuts of meat a go. The best-value beef cuts include brisket, skirt, flank and shin, while good-value lamb cuts include the shoulder, chump and breast. If you’re buying pork, go for spare ribs, cheeks, chump and neck.

Susie says that slow cooking is a great way to make the most of these cuts. Place the meat in a crockpot or slow cooker with some water, herbs, onions and carrots, and cook it for a few hours over low heat, until the meat is super tender and falls off the bone. The result is a hearty stew packed with flavour and nutrients.

5. Plan Your Menu Ahead of Time

“If you know what you want to cook, you’re less likely to buy ingredients you don’t need, which will probably just end up in the trash,” says Jane. “When you go shopping for groceries, bring along a shopping list and stay focused. Buy only those items you need to prepare the meals you’ve planned.”

To save even more, browse the weekly specials at the supermarket and plan your menu around those ingredients, she adds.

 

Also read: REVIEW: The 6 best peanut butters to buy

 

6. Buy Red Meat That Is Close to Its Sell-by Date

In some cases, you can save up to 50 per cent, says Jane. The meat is still edible so you don’t have to worry about food poisoning – just be sure to freeze it once you get home if you don’t plan to use it right away.

“Don’t try this with fish, though,” Jane warns. “Fresh fish is always the best, but you can get away with eating red meat that is close to its expiry date.”

7. Make Two Or More Dishes Out of One

Susie says it’s easy to make several tasty and nutritious dishes from one cheaper dish or ingredient. For example, you can prepare a big batch of chicken broth and divide it into three small batches. Blend one batch with cooked pumpkin and herbs to make a hearty soup, serve the other with spaghetti, diced chicken and vegetables for a comfor ting chicken noodle soup, and use the last batch as a base for congee.

Another idea is to boil a large amount of cannellini beans, throw in a few handfuls of tomatoes, diced vegetables, rice or pasta to make minestrone soup; or mash a batch of boiled beans and combine it with veggies and tuna for wholesome tuna burgers.


Grab a Healthy Meal To Go

The menus at these cafes are designed around healthy ingredients and cooking methods – and they’re affordable too.

YOLO

#01-01, 12 Gopeng Street, tel: 6221-3029; www.yolofood.com.sg

If you love local and Thai food, you’ll enjoy Yolo’s low-calorie versions of popular dishes – Health Kicked Chicken Rice ($10.90), which uses brown rice and red cabbage, Prawn Pad Thai ($12.90), which has tofu, veggies and almonds, and Chicken Larb ($11.90), with glass noodles, cucumber and lettuce.

THUNDER TEA RICE

Various branches; www.thundertearice.com.sg

The traditional Hakka dish is a yummy, healthy combo of brown rice or rice vermicelli topped with chopped tofu, fried ikan bilis, various vegetables, peanuts and more. The dish comes with a side of lei cha, made from tea leaves, herbs, sesame and nuts. Believed to have medicinal properties, the lei cha is poured over your rice or noodles before eating.

REAL FOOD

#B1-52/53 The Central, tel: 6224-4492; www.realfoodgrocer.com

The food here is simple, organic and healthy. On the menu are robust salads like Orange and Pumpkin Vinaigrette ($10.80), made with roasted pumpkin, sweet potato wedges, orange slices, olives, radishes and herb greens, and hearty mains like Dumpling Noodles ($8.90), served with brown rice udon, and Mushroom Noodles ($7.80).

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