by Anne Finch, Accredited Practising Dietitian for LiveLighter

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Tasty food doesn't have to cost the earth, and with a few savvy cooking tricks we can turn out tasty meals. Here are some of our favourite cheap and cheerful ways to eat delicious, healthy food all year round.  

Spice spice, baby

Beans, peas and lentils are nutrition powerhouses, cost less than $1 a serve and are so, so flexible. Think Mexican-inspired bean soup, warmly spiced lentil dhals and fragrant Moroccan chickpeas. Investing $5 in some versatile dried spices and combining them in different ways works out cheaper than buying single-serve spice mixes and pastes and gives you more control over the flavour. Ground cumin, coriander and smoked paprika are some of my favourites.

jar of spices

Go for canned and frozen

frozen vegies

Some of our favourite fresh vegies are more expensive at the moment, so it’s a great time to try out canned and frozen options. For a cheap and delicious green side dish, fry off garlic, add frozen green beans, frozen peas and fresh or frozen broccoli. Toss around and finish with a drizzle of olive oil, pepper and a good squeeze of lemon (hopefully free from a neighbourhood tree!).

Soup-er savings

A packet of soup mix (dried lentils, barley, beans etc) + stock (homemade or powdered is cheapest) + the last of the vegies lurking in the crisper = a wholesome, delicious and nourishing soup that can feed an army for just a few dollars. Fancy it up with a swirl of pesto, some tasty dip or a strong cheese. Perfect winter food.     

Cook root-to-leaf

mushrooms in the bin

Now is not the time to let good food go to waste! Keep an eye on your perishable foods, even putting them in a more prominent spot in the fridge so you can take action before they get icky. Wilted herbs can be frozen in olive oil in ice-cube trays, brown bananas are THE BEST for baking, and sad vegies (stems, leaves and all) can become delicious soup in a jiffy. We've got loads of tips over here to help the planet and save your hard-earned dollars.  

Get vegie-curious

Meat is often one of the more expensive elements in a dish, so why not try some tasty vegetarian alternatives? Beans and legumes are a steal, and tofu, eggs, tinned fish and cheese are still usually cheaper than meat. You don’t have to go full vego to save - cut down on meat portion sizes and bulk up meals with cheaper foods. For example, add a tin of lentils to a Bolognese, throw some peanuts into a stir-fry or add potatoes or tinned beans to a casserole or curry.  

plant foods

This is just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce) for saving money on food! We've got a webpage devoted to it, a booklet that you can download, and a recent blog with some of our favourite recipes under $2 per serving. Got tips on how to save? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section below. 


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