Can you afford to eat healthily?

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It’s been going on for a few months now: after a long, lovely summer of beautiful produce spilling out over the shelves, and salads full of colourful, nutritious food that kept us all happy and healthy, suddenly, we seem to have hit some sort of produce Armageddon.

Bought an avocado recently? I saw some on sale the other day – for $7.50 each. EACH! Lettuces average between $4 and $5.50, and even that winter staple, broccoli, seems to be going for around $3.50 a head. So, by my maths, a broccoli, avocado and lettuce salad would now cost a minimum of $10.

How much??

If you think it’s all gone a bit nuts, you’d be right. According to Statistics NZ, vegies are a whopping 31% higher than they were at the beginning of winter 2016. That’s a massive jump by anyone’s standards.

There’s no doubt about it, eating well is more expensive than eating badly. I did a quick cost comparison of a few items to see just how different prices are:

500g tub store-brand margarine: $1.50
500g slab butter: $5.00

420g store-brand baked beans: $0.80
250g round green beans: $3.29

1.25 litres store-bought cola: $0.89
1 litre store-brand milk: $2.29

18 multipack corn chips: $5.00
18 apples (based on 5 apples per kg): $9.60

600g loaf white bread: $1.00
750g loaf Vogels Soy & Linseed: $4.99

Crazy, right? But all hope is not lost. The good news is that fruit is much cheaper at the moment: mandarin and kiwifruit are particularly good value – on average, 3% cheaper than this time last year.

There are still ways of eating well though. I came up with a few ideas, but please do share on www.facebook.com/eatscooksreads if you’ve got more ideas. After all, we’re in this together, right?

5 ways to eat well without breaking the bank

  • Eat seasonally. At the moment, some seasonal food like broccoli and cauliflower are above average prices, but costs vary significantly depending on where you buy. Farmers markets, independent stores and local grocers often have great deals.
  • Tinned and frozen are often just as good! If you can’t buy your favourite food fresh, check out the frozen or tinned sections. This Super-Green Winter Wellness Smoothie packs a massive nutrition punch using two frozen spinach balls; and this deliciously spicy salsa tastes amazing when made with a tinned plum tomato.
  • Turn on the tap! Drinking water is the best option anyway, but when you’re paying through the nose for a less healthy option, it’s a no-brainer! If you don’t like the idea of boring old water, spice it up a bit by adding a leaf or two of crushed mint, a slice and a squeeze of lemon or orange, or chucking a few frozen berries in the glass instead of ice cubes.
  • Use the tools you have. Got a food processor? Buy a cabbage, a couple of carrots, some light mayo and some pumpkin seeds. Shred the cabbage and carrots together, mix through the pumpkin seeds and mayo and season. Loads of coleslaw, for about half the price you’ll pay for the ready-made stuff.
  • A little of what you fancy… You’re actually better off having less of the good stuff, than having stacks of the bad stuff. I know that sounds obvious, but if you love a toasted sandwich, then make a fantastic one, with the ingredients you love most, rather than making a couple or more that are empty calories. For a truly fantastic toastie, mix finely-sliced red onion and grated cheese, and place, along with a slice or two of ham or turkey, between 2 slices of really good bread. Cook slowly in a pan or on a grill, turning often and gently pressing together. Allow plenty of time for the cheese to melt, and when you’re sure it’s oozy and perfect, serve with a dollop of your favourite chutney and some raw carrot sticks.

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