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Updated 23 April 2013

Good nutrition on a shoestring

Every time you go to the supermarket, it’s a shock when it comes to paying for your purchases. Here’s how to keep your head above water.

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Every time you go to the supermarket, it’s a shock when it comes to paying for your purchases. Here’s how to keep your head above water.

Worldwide changes in eating patterns and ever-growing transport costs have seen food prices soar in recent months. And, experts warn, there’s no relief in sight.

If not you, then someone you know might already be struggling to make ends meet. Unfortunately, good nutrition is non-negotiable. One has to try to eat a varied, balanced diet – even if your budget is tight.

So, on a mission to try to find out how to give one’s money that extra bit of stretch, we asked the Nutrition Information Centre from the University of Stellenbosch (NICUS) for help. They responded with a basic 7-day menu (see below). They also provided the following great money-saving tips:

1. A protein-rich food such as dried beans, meat, fish, eggs or cheese, or a combination of these, should form part of the main meal every day. Legumes are a good substitute for animal products, which can be expensive. For example, foods made from soya have a high nutritional value and are much cheaper than foods made from animal protein.

2. Make meat go further by “stretching” it with other foods, for example by adding more dried beans, lentils, potatoes or other vegetables to stews. Lentils and chicken combine well in a curried dish.

3. Mix mashed, cooked dried beans with mince or fish to make meat loaf, fish cakes or meatballs.

4. Choose meat that has less bones and fat. This means that soup bones are a bad buy. Buy a packet of dried beans instead – it’s better value for money.

5. Buy tinned fish, e.g. pilchards or tuna – it’s generally cheaper than buying fresh fish.

6. Buying a bigger chicken usually yields more meat and less bone proportionally than a smaller chicken.

7. Buy less tinned meat, polony and other cold meats and sausage. Processed meat is usually expensive and often contains fillings like fat, gravy, vegetables and/or cereals in large quantities.

8. Skim milk powder can be an economical form of milk. Look for the Real Dairy mark as this guarantees high nutritional value. Steer clear of coffee creamers: they aren’t made from milk and don’t contain the nutrients that build bones and teeth.

9. Use yoghurt, condensed milk and evaporated milk sparingly, as these items can be quite expensive. Buying a large tub of yoghurt (500ml or 1 litre) often works out cheaper than buying small containers (175ml).

10. Don’t cut down on fruit and vegetable intake. These are “protective foods” that guard against disease. Rather save money by buying more vegetables (fruit is generally more expensive). Fresh fruit and vegetables are also cheaper than canned or frozen ones.

11. Buy fruit and vegetables in season and cook them in different ways for variety. Limit the purchasing of expensive vegetables such as mushrooms, green peppers and bean sprouts. Find cheaper ways to flavour dishes.

12. Buy unrefined foods whenever possible. Refining makes a product more expensive and the process strips it of fibre, vitamins and minerals. For example, standard brown bread is often cheaper than white bread, and generally much cheaper than special breads and rolls.

13. Save by buying maize meal – the cheapest kind of porridge. Maltabella or oats porridge generally cost three times as much, and instant cereals are even more expensive.

 

7-day economical menu
This basic menu can be used as a guideline to balanced, economical meals for one week:

DAY 1
Breakfast and/or snack

Maize porridge, with low-fat milk and sugar
Brown bread, with soft margarine and jam
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

Lunch and/or snack
Brown/wholewheat bread, with soft margarine and baked beans
Sliced tomato
Seasonal fruit
Low-fat milk

Supper and/or snack
Rice/maize rice
Beef
Cabbage
Carrots
Sunflower or canola oil
Seasonal fruit
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

DAY 2
Breakfast and/or snack

Maize porridge, with low-fat milk and sugar
Brown bread, with peanut butter
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

Lunch and/or snack
Brown/wholewheat bread, with soft margarine and jam
Seasonal fruit
Low-fat milk

Supper and/or snack
Maize porridge, cooked
Pilchards, canned
Tomato and onions
Cabbage
Pumpkin
Sunflower or canola oil
Seasonal fruit
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

DAY 3
Breakfast and/or snack

Maize porridge, with low-fat milk and sugar
Brown bread, with soft margarine and jam
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

Lunch and/or snack
Brown/wholewheat bread, with soft margarine Boiled egg
Tomato
Seasonal fruit
Low-fat milk

Supper and/or snack
Samp & beans: 1:1 cooked Spinach
Carrots
Sunflower or canola oil
Seasonal fruit
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

DAY 4
Breakfast and/or snack

Maize porridge, with low-fat milk and sugar
Brown bread, with peanut butter
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

Lunch and/or snack
Brown/wholewheat bread, with soft margarine and jam
Seasonal fruit

Supper and/or snack
Chicken giblets
Sweet potato
Green beans
Pumpkin
Sunflower or canola oil
Seasonal fruit
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

DAY 5
Breakfast and/or snack

Maize porridge, with low-fat milk and sugar
Brown bread, with soft margarine and jam
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

Lunch and/or snack
Brown/wholewheat bread, with soft margarine and pilchards
Sliced tomato
Seasonal fruit
Low-fat milk

Supper and/or snack
Rice/maize rice
Lentils
Green beans
Carrots
Sunflower or canola oil
Seasonal fruit
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

DAY 6
Breakfast and/or snack

Maize porridge, with low-fat milk and sugar
Brown bread, with peanut butter
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

Lunch and/or snack
Brown/wholewheat bread, with soft margarine and jam
Seasonal fruit
Low-fat milk

Supper and/or snack
Samp & beans: 1:1: cooked
Tomato and onion
Spinach
Pumpkin
Sunflower or canola oil
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar
Seasonal fruit

DAY 7
Breakfast and/or snack

Maize porridge, with low-fat milk and sugar
Brown bread, with soft margarine and jam
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar

Lunch and/or snack
Brown/wholewheat bread, with soft margarine
Egg
Tomato
Seasonal fruit
Low-fat milk

Supper and/or snack
Chicken
Potato
Split peas
Carrots
Sunflower or canola oil
Tea/coffee, with low-fat milk and sugar
Seasonal fruit

Read more:

Healthy eating on a tight budget
Put your money where your mouth is
10 rules for a healthy diet

 
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