Trying to feed a family healthy, delicious meals on a budget can be a bit of a challenge, but budget meals don't have to be boring or lack in nutritional value; if you know what to buy:
Musts have budget basics to keep in the fridge, freezer and pantry are:
- Herbs and spices: they can sometimes be pricy to purchase, but they last for ages, add amazing flavour and have some great health benefits too. Start by choosing a few of your favourites and build your collection as the budget allows. I always have cinnamon, mixed Italian herbs and a curry powder
- Rolled Oats: The humble oat ticks all the health boxes, is really versatile, and is about as budget as you can get! Oats are a great example of the benefits of buying home brand products. There is often quite a few dollars difference between generic oats and the branded varieties, despite both products containing exactly the same thing. Remember that manufactures pay to have their products placed at your eye level of the supermarket shelves, so always check the top and bottom shelves for similar products, with a smaller price tag.
- Popping Corn: a bag of basic popping corn is super cheap, it keeps without spoiling pretty much forever and makes a quick, healthy snack.
- Learning to love lentils, chickpeas and beans will not only give your nutrition a boost but are a much cheaper source of protein than and meat. Keeping canned (no added salt) varieties of lentils, chickpeas and beans in the pantry can save a huge amount of time when preparing a healthy meal. Canned varieties are inexpensive while being convenient, but dried verities are even cheaper.
- Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables: They are just as good as fresh and often far cheaper. Keeping canned or frozen fruits and vegetables on hand will help you get more fruit and veg into you day (just be sure to buy canned vegetables with no added salt and canned fruit in juice, not syrup) and, unlike fresh produce, won’t go to waste if it doesn’t get used during the week.
- Buy in season: when buying fresh fruit and vegetables always buy what is in season as these will be the cheapest. The challenges aim to include heaps of seasonal produce each month to make this task a little easier for you.
- UHT milk: Now I don’t expect you to replace all the milk you drink or use in your cereal with UHT, but keeping a few cartons in the pantry to use in baking or cooking (creamy sauces or soups), is far more economical than using fresh milk.
- Buy in bulk: if you can work it into the budget, buying in bulk can be a huge money saver. Products like yoghurt, cheese and meat can be purchased in bulk, portioned (cut in half, quarters etc), and stored in the fridge to prevent spoiling. But remember to use the unit pricing (e.g. $2.00 per 100g) to make sure you really are getting value for money
- Avoid processed foods: once you start to take notice of unit pricing, it’s easy to see that although a box of muesli bars at $5 per box and $4.00/100g, sounds like a relatively cheap snack, this is actually equivalent of $40.00/1kg – which compared to fruit, for only a few dollars a kilo is not such a cheap snack after all
- Cheap cuts: cheaper cuts of meat are a key feature of this month’s challenge. Opting for stewing meats (flank, chuck, blade) rather than premium cuts (rump, rib eye) will save you dollars as will trying out different types of meat; turkey mince and kangaroo mince are cheaper than beef or lamb.
Try some of my favourite budget family meals here