Healthy Food on a Budget

With my recent health-kick-up-the-butt, our food has changed quite a bit. Out with pasta, rice, sugar, wheat and baking, in with all the vegetables and good protein. I'm part of the Sleek Geek 8 Week Transformation Challenge (and support group) and have seen a few complaints about how expensive healthy eating can be - this is my attempt to make it a little easier.

The first tip : shop the specials.
I go to the shops with a very short shopping list - with the items I really need for the week - ie tinned tomatoes, coconut milk, milk - but when it comes to vegetables and meat, I almost only shop the specials. Yes, this may mean that you need to be a little more inventive in the kitchen, but you can easily save a few hundred rand a week. Yes, really.

As an example, Pick 'n Pay has recently had a 2 for R25 special on certain vegetables - cauliflower, packets of butternut and pumpkin and mushrooms. So, for R50, you can get enough butternut for a decent amount of soup as well as two packets of cauliflower for mash or rice. I also generally keep certain figures in my head - for example, if beef mince is less than R69.00 / kg, I think it's a fairly good deal. That way, even if a supermarket is showing 'R10 off a kg', but it's still R70.00 / kg, I know it's not much of a special.

The second tip : shop around
However, don't be fooled into thinking certain supermarkets are always going to be cheaper - for example rolled pork belly roast was cheaper at Woolworths, than at Food Lover's Market. FLM, on the other hand had wonderful vegetable specials that we were unlikely to find anywhere else - we bought a box full of fresh produce for R200-00. Including :

1 kg Brussels sprouts

beef mince
3 x cucumbers
2 x broccoli 

1 x cauliflower
3kg beetroot
1kg carrot
Greek yoghurt
1 large sweet potato
1 kg baby tomatoes
1/4 pumpkin
wedge of Gouda

The third tip : fish is your friend
Perhaps one of the healthiest sources of protein, it can also be one of the cheapest. I try to only buy SASSI green-listed fish - but there are both fresh and preserved options. For example, angelfish is delicious and well - priced - sometimes Pick n Pay has it for as little as R14.00 / kg. We also spotted monkfish for R59.00 / kg at Food Lover's Market, and whole smoked snoek fillet for R59.00 at Woolworths - which provided three meals for two people.

It's not just fresh fish that's your friend - tinned tuna is relatively inexpensive, healthy, packed with protein and versatile - from tuna salads, to tuna mayo and tuna fishcakes - it is more than simply a convenient lunch. There's also smoked oysters and smoked mackerel - particularly packing in the omegas, for a relatively good price.

The fourth tip : think differently about meat
In both the type of meat and the quantity. If you're open to specials, you'd be surprised at what you can find - I picked up a whole smoked pork fillet from Pick n Pay recently - it definitely wasn't on the shopping list, or something I would have consciously decided on - but it was relatively cheap (around R60.00) and fed us both for two meals. Chicken livers are also a great source of protein and iron - generally under R25.00 / kg, they're also budget friendly (and here's a delicious recipe to use them). There's more to the meat aisle than mince and chicken breasts.

On the other hand - not all meals need to revolve around meat. Spicy pumpkin soup with halloumi will make a deliciously satisfying lunch - without any meat. Or, add a few bacon bits to it to lend a smokiness - both options are kind on the budget.

The fifth tip : discover the joy of soup

I think the general thought on soup is 'boring'. It's something you eat when you're sick or have nothing else to make on a winter's evening. The truth is, soup can be one of the most satisfying, healthy and cost-effective meals you can make. 1kg pumpkin + some stock + some cream = a satisfying meal for at least four people. Keeping in mind that you can pick up 1kg pumpkin / butternut for R25, it works out to just over R7 a person, a meal. If you want a few more ideas, you can look here and here.

Those are my tips for now. Like you, I'm also learning every day I go to the supermarket - and I'll continue to share my discoveries with you - but I hope this is a little glimpse that may encourage you. Healthy doesn't need to equal expensive.

I am aware that almost everyone's definition of 'healthy' may differ. For the purposes of this post, I define 'healthy' as eating as much real food as possible - fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. As much as possible, nothing that comes in a box, labeled with ingredients.All images taken with a Canon EOS 600D from


  1. Loved this, defo inspired to go to the shops with this "fresh" approach. Thanks for sharing.



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