Contrary to popular belief, convenience foods, ready meals, diet supplements, etc, are not more affordable than cooking meals from scratch, with fresh “real” ingredients.
As part of my weight loss journey, I recently argued with a friend that what he had just eaten as a ready meal (which barely seems to provide enough satiety for a solitary person) could be replicated, at home, by myself, and for the same price as his ready meal, I could produce the meal for four people.
The next time he visits, I’ve volunteered to demonstrate how I could create the entire meal in my slow cooker and feed the entire family the same nutritious, tasty meal for the same price as one ready-made serve.
It’s a common trap to fall into. I started out the same with my dieting this time around. I’d stock up on ready meals for me, yet then find myself expending as much time as it would take to cook a family meal as I did cooking just for the kids then heating up a ready meal for myself. So I decided to stop using them, save money, and become a better, more organised, healthy eater.
Making Healthy Home Meals
We set our minds onto the “diet track” and automatically gravitate towards the popular ready-made, calorie-controlled frozen meals. These average at about $6.50 a portion (sometimes less when on sale, but on average, around this mark). For $6.50, you can easily make a full, family-sized portion of the following healthy meals at home yourself:
- Lean Mince Tacos with salads and salsa
- A variety of pastas (I personally love making pastas with lots of fresh vegetables such as zucchini and other garden vegetables, but with no meat)
- Soups are very affordable meals and low-fat / full of goodness. Carrot, Tomato & Zucchini and also Tomato and Spinach are two of my favourites.
- A variety of salads with lean meat (slice it thinly so it distributes throughout the salad and add another protein like light cheese, or boiled egg.
- Vegetarian pizzas – load them with vegetables and make them on wholemeal bases.
1. Buying Fresh Produce
Where and how you buy your produce makes a large difference, as does the types of foods you source. Local markets and ethnic stores can be wonderful places to shop – fish produce and even kitchen staples are often much more affordable than at your regular grocery store and more than likely fresher.
2. Use Tomato Based Sauce
When making dinner choices aim for tomato-based pasta sauces over creamy ones. Create fresh vibrant salad dressings based on vinaigrette with touches of lime and sweet chilli rather than mayonnaise based dressings.
3. Brown Bag It
“Brown Bag It” rather than buying shop-bought lunches when it comes to work lunches for the family – and when preparing theirs, prepare your own to avoid running out of time during the day to prepare yourself a nutritional lunch, and try and get the family on board when it comes to eating well.
4. Shop in season
Find out what fruits and vegetables are locally in season and integrate them into your diet rather than sticking to old favourites which may in fact be more expensive.