January can feel like an extremely long month. Pay-day seems like it was ages ago and, often, all we can really do is hang in there. Keeping meals healthy can be difficult but it is possible to add variety to your diet when you’re on a tight budget.
Red meat is a popular choice for a protein source but it is not the only option. There are plenty of healthier and more affordable alternatives such as fish, eggs, chicken, nuts and beans which also add flavour and variation to your diet.
Try out a concept called “Meat-free Mondays”. One or two vegetarian meals per week with veggie protein, such as beans or lentils, could be a great tasting substitute to your regular meat dishes.
Swap fresh fish for tinned fish such as pilchards or tuna or for frozen fish. Tinned fish that is preserved in water is a lot healthier than fish that is tinned in oil. You can even experiment with making your own fishcakes using canned pilchards.
Buying a whole chicken and cutting it into smaller pieces and freezing it for later is cheaper than buying chicken portions. Cut down calories by removing the skin and excess fat. Avoid tinned meat and processed cold meats such as polony, viennas and salami as these are high in sodium and cost a lot too; rather use leftover chicken or pilchards for sandwiches and salads.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Fruits and vegetables are protective foods that prevent diseases so you should make sure that you keep your intake at five servings per day. Try to purchase them during their peak growing time, as they’re cheaper and taste better during this period.
Steer clear of canned fruits and vegetables as often these contain extra unhealthy ingredients such as added sugar and salt. Frozen vegetables are cheaper than fresh vegetables yet just as healthy as they are often packaged and frozen straight after harvest.
Peel your vegetables very thinly in order to keep as much of the nutrients as possible.
This could be the perfect time to start a vegetable garden in your backyard and enjoy organic produce at a tiny fraction of the price.
GRAINS AND CEREALS
Unrefined whole grains are far better, nutritionally richer and less expensive than refined grains. An example of this is brown bread and brown rice.
Maize meal is the cheapest kind of porridge available in South Africa. It is a better and more filling option than instant cereals.
It should go without saying that cake, biscuits, rusks and potato chips are unnecessary as they contain little or no nutritional value whilst also being very expensive.
Samp, corn and rice are a lot cheaper than pasta and could provide much needed variety.
Why not try some of our recipes, such as the Sugar Bean Curry, for some healthy meal options for your family.