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Organic, free-range, locally sourced. Foods with these on the label are being touted as the most healthy and most ethically produced grocery items out there. But with these labels also comes the risk of budget blow out. The average price of a dozen organic eggs is $13 compared with barn raised corn fed hen’s eggs at $3.25 a dozen.

So how do we stay healthy while still keeping on budget? Here are a few grocery shopping hacks that can help you stay healthy and on budget.

Shop at the grower or weekend market

Shopping at the local early morning market on a weekend will always save you burning a hole in your pocket.

The produce market growers can’t sell to a chain supermarket can sometimes have small blemishes or inconsistencies, for example slightly browned bananas or oversized pumpkins. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these fruits and vegetables. When growers can’t sell these to supermarkets they’ll often sell them at a reduced price at the weekend markets.

The produce available at a market or growers is always going to be fresher and offer a more diverse range of fruits, vegetables, herbs and seasonals than are offered at your regular supermarket. Why? Because it comes straight from the grower’s farm! Not only that, but markets are where a lot of cafes and restaurants shop. Many of those restaurants need to grab specialist menu items for their regional cuisines; particularly when it comes to things like masses of fresh herbs for curries and the like.

Buy in bulk

There are a lot of great ways to buy in bulk. Asian food stores are known for their great selections of bulk imported items. Whether you’re after herbs and spices, rices and grains, or dried fruits, at these types of stores there’s always a good bargain to be had.

Statistics NZ found that households could cut costs in half by buying in bulk. And when 18% of your income, on average, is spent on food that 50% reduction looks very enticing.

Buy healthy alternatives to expensive ingredients

A lot of recipes call for expensive ingredients that can easily be swapped out for a more affordable, and equally as tasty, option. Often these alternatives can be a healthier choice, without straining the weekly shopping budget.

Here’s a list of easy recipe cheats. When a recipe calls for:

  • Almonds/Cashews/Pine Nuts - If you’re making a pesto, sauce or salad that calls for these nuts, try substituting them for seeds. Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are particularly great as alternatives (and cheap). They make great, healthy snacks too.

  • Butter - Consider using vegetable oil or canola oil, particularly when baking or creating sauces. These oils are lower in fat and are also available to buy in bulk (cheaper!)

  • Chicken breast - this is always the more expensive cut of chicken. But with a lot of recipes, curries and stir fries especially, you can swap in cheaper cuts like chicken pieces, chicken nibbles, or chicken wings and still offer the same nutritional benefits.

  • Coconut oil - you can try using cheaper oils like canola, that won’t affect the flavour of your food as much as coconut oil, and are much more widely available..

  • Red and White Wine - This is usually used to boost the flavour of a recipe, or to help tenderise the meat. Using a stock made from stock cubes (or even home made if you are good at boiling up old chicken bones) will work as a healthier and cheaper option.

Use budget friendly healthy recipe ideas

All Kiwis love a good potato topped pie from the local bakery, but unfortunately our waistlines will suffer if we dive into them too often. But never fear, if you can’t bear the thought of giving up your Pie Day Friday or weekend fish n chips, then here are some ways to make them a little healthier.

  • Kumara Topped Pie - This Kumara Topped Pie can be made family size. And while it looks a little different to the bakery’s potato topped pie, the kumara is low glycaemic index (GI) and a much better choice of carbohydrate.

  • DIY Fish n Chips - Nutritionist Nadia Lim has come up with a healthy version of the classic Kiwi fish n chips. If you’re not into panko breadcrumbs just the regular kind will do. You can find these in your bulk bin section at the supermarket, or make your own by toasting some bread, and crushing it up.

  • Banana Ice Cream - You won’t believe it but you can make one ingredient banana ice cream. And what’s that special ingredient? Bananas of course! Take a bunch of bananas and pop them in the freezer. Once they’re frozen you’ll need to peel them, then pop them into a food processor. Whiz them around until you get an ice cream / sorbet type consistency. And there you have it, banana ice cream. If you want to make it a little different try adding some honey.

The Heart Foundation offers some free healthy food cookbooks for download on their website and The Healthy Food Guide has a massive collection of easy recipes full of healthy ingredients.

Download our free Good Life Guide. It has a great range of practical tips on staying healthy.

Further reading