7 ways to save time and money in the kitchen

Eating well doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, healthy meals can be tasty and nutritious without blowing the budget.

There are some easy ways to save money and time in the kitchen, without sacrificing nutrition or taste.

“Healthier eating doesn't have to be expensive,” says Joel Feren, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians Australia.

“Numerous studies have shown that it's actually less expensive to eat better these days than to rely on convenience or junk foods.

“There are some easy ways to make sure we’re eating fresh, and also saving money too.”

Try these ideas for easy, nutritious and low-cost meals.

Buy in season

Buying seasonal fruit and vegetables means they’ll be fresh and high in nutrients.

“Shopping for fresh food that's in season ensures that nutrient levels are at their peak and these foods are probably going to taste better as well,” Feren says.

“Make sure fruits and veggies are at their peak freshness. It's a great way to save money and ensures maximum nutrient levels as well.”

Stock up on long-life foods

Frozen and tinned foods are quick ways of building a meal. They’re usually cheap and loaded with nutrition.

“Choosing frozen fruits, frozen veggies, tinned legumes and pulses are great ways to help save money,” Feren says.

“Use other tinned foods like sardines, tuna or salmon as well.”

While some tinned products - such as tinned soups - can be high in salt, other products such as tinned legumes, vegetables and fish are healthy and nutritious.

“They’re a great way to boost your nutritional intake and reduce food costs,” Feren says.

“Tinned food is incredibly versatile and you can add it to so many different dishes. Lentils and chickpeas can be added to stews, soups, stir fries and curries.”

Love your legumes

If you’re looking for an economical source of protein, you can’t get much better than legumes, says Feren.

Adding legumes to meals will boost the protein and fibre content, as well as micronutrients like calcium, magnesium and iron, he says.

“Legumes are incredibly cheap - you can buy them for 80 cents a can. In terms of an efficient, economical protein source, you can't get much better.”

Common legumes include split peas, kidney beans, baked beans (navy beans), soybeans, chickpeas, four bean mix and lentils.

Legumes are cheaper than other proteins such as red meat and seafood.

Eat mostly plants

Aim to eat a variety of plant-based foods over the week. As well as a variety of vegetables and fruit, try to include lots of legumes and tofu in your diet.

“Legumes and tofu can really help bolster your nutrient intake and save some money.”

Tofu is a valuable source of protein and far cheaper than meat, Feren says.

“A kilo of tofu might cost $8, compared to fillet steak which costs about $30 a kilo. Choosing tofu is going to help reduce food costs in the long run.”

Cutting down on the amount of meat you eat can save money and be better for you.

“So many studies have shown that reducing our reliance on animal-based products is a win-win,” Feren says.

“You're going to save money, increase your nutrient intake and reduce risk factors for certain cancers, such as colon cancer, while improving gut health and heart health.”

Buy generic

Even if you prefer certain brands for some foods, you can save money by choosing generic brands for staples.

“Buying generic brand staples such as rice, oats, pasta and milk can help reduce our grocery costs,” Feren says.

Cook cheaper meals

There are some simple meals that are easy to bulk out with low-cost ingredients, such as soups, curries, stir-fried vegetables and pasta dishes.

“Pasta dishes are really cheap and effective, and generally a crowd pleaser as well,” Feren says.

“You don't necessarily need to reinvent the wheel. There are lots of recipes out there that use some of these cheaper ingredients, and it’s a good way to also help manage your household budget.”

Freeze for later

“Cook once, eat twice,” says Feren.

By cooking double or triple the amount you need for dinner, you can store the rest in the freezer for later. They’re also great to take to work the next day.

Weekends are a great time for a meal planning cook-up. Dishes such as curries, Bolognese sauce, casseroles and stews are all great ‘make-ahead and freeze’ meals.

Joel Feren is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Spokesperson for Dietitians Australia.

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