Shopping trolley in a supermarket

Healthy eating budget tips

Eating a heart-friendly diet on a budget

13 September 2023

With the cost of living increasing across Australia, we’re all keen to find ways to cut back on the grocery bills.

Eating on a budget shouldn’t come at the cost of our health though, so we’ve put together some ideas for how you can keep your wallet happy while still eating a heart-friendly diet.

1. Swap meat for legumes and tofu

Legumes, such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, and tofu (derived from soybeans), are great for your heart due to their low saturated fat content, fibre, protein, folate, iron and a host of other essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, one of the common themes in The Blue Zones (regions across the globe with the longest life expectancy) is a diet rich in legumes.

Not sure if you’re ready to make the switch? Try halving the meat in your meals and using legumes to make up the remainder.

2. Buy what’s in season

The most affordable fruits and vegetables tend to be the ones that are in large supply, aka the ones that are in season. Eating seasonally also tends to mean fresher produce, and more variety throughout the year – which means more likelihood of a well-balanced diet.

3. Remember that frozen is just as good as fresh

Seasonal produce is a great choice, but don’t overlook frozen fruits and vegetables. These products are frozen soon after being picked, which means they maintain their nutrition content and, in some cases, may even be fresher than the produce you get at the supermarket. Keeping a bag of peas, beans, carrots, and the like in the freezer means you always have vegetables on hand when you need them and are less likely to be wasting money throwing out unused fresh produce.

4. Check price per kilo when looking for veggies

We all know vegetables and fruits are great for our heart, but sometimes the price can be eye-watering (looking at you berries…). That doesn’t mean you can’t still buy fresh on a budget. The trick is to look at the price per kilo of different fruits and stock up on the cheapest produce you can find. This will generally depend on seasonality and supply.

5. Buy fresh fish and lean meat when on sale and freeze for later

If you’re looking to buy fresh fish, seafood, or other heart-friendly lean meats but are worried about the price tag, consider buying items that are on sale or reduced due to being close to their use by date and then freeze them. Just be sure to check first that the product hasn’t previously been frozen and thawed.

6. Skip the supplements and spend the savings on wholefoods

Supplements can be an unnecessary cost, especially when you can get those same vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. Instead of buying vitamin C, grab some fruit; instead of fish oil, grab a tin of tuna; instead of that fibre supplement, try psyllium husk, bran or wholegrain breads and cereals.

7. Buy tinned tuna and salmon

Some fresh fish can be on the expensive side, but tinned tuna and salmon are cost-effective and just as beneficial for your heart due to their omega-3 content. Being a tinned product, they also have the benefit of having a long shelf life, which can help minimise food waste.

8. Plan your meals

The average Australian household throws out a staggering $3800 of food per year – that’s a huge amount of wilted lettuce you swore you’d eat this time. When doing your grocery shop, consider all the different ways you can use each item and then base your week’s meals around your purchases.

9. Stock up when things are on sale

Tuna half price this week? Add a few tins to your trolley. Same goes for frozen fish, nuts, olive oils, and other heart-friendly foods, which you can find on sale regularly.

10. Keep in mind that a healthy diet doesn’t need to be fancy

A tuna and salad sandwich on wholegrain bread and a piece of fruit are just as good, if not better, for your heart than that expensive ‘superfoods’ salad and cold-pressed juice. Sticking to the basics is a win for your wallet and your health.

If times are really tough and you’re tempted to go for cheap staples like instant noodles, remember a piece of wholegrain toast and some nut butter is packed with fibre and healthy fats and won’t break the bank.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years