Wellbeing

5 Steps To A Cheap And Nutritious Pantry

If perhaps there’s been a little over-indulgence in the spirit of summer, the start of the new year is a wicked time to get your healthy eating back on track. Our nutrition and wellness expert Jacqueline Alwill, shares five simple tips to help stock your pantry full of healthy ingredients, without breaking the bank.

One of the main things I hear people say when they go down this road is, “Ugh, it’s so EXPENSIVE”. So before I take you through how to make it a less costly process, remember that a) tasty, nutritious food is way cheaper than the doctors bill, a packet of antibiotics and time off work and b) you can’t put a price on your health. If you don’t have your health then life feels VERY different.

There are two fairly important factors to keep in mind when you’re in the supermarket tossing up between a packet of quinoa and a frozen pizza which is half the price. Once you start opening those road blocks in thinking, and move towards more creative ways to do health with good food by your side, you are already ahead in your own race.

Take a walk down isle three with these strategies, and you’ll find plenty of bang for your nutritious buck.

#1 Buy one, use it three ways

I remember purchasing my first packet of buckwheat and knowing only how to use it as a substitute for rice. Seeing it sit on my shelf not being used was frustrating, and put me off wanting to buy other whole food ingredients. It felt like a waste of money. But as time progressed, I got more creative. My strategy with any new ingredient (traditional or trending) is now this: if I buy it, I find three ways to use it in my cooking repertoire.

In this case, buckwheat went from just a rice substitute to a porridge, a bread and a salad. Boom chicka boom! This strategy is fab when you’re buying any fruit, veg, herb, spice, grain or whichever whole nourishing food sparks your interest. There will be no waste, it’s money well spent and if anything, you’ll fall in love with it more.

#2 Write a game plan for the week ahead

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Good health and nutrition comes with planning. You can’t pick up the phone and call in nutritious food as you can Thai take-away. So be at peace with that, put a plan in place and you’ll be on fire. Each weekend before you do your grocery shop, write a meal plan and buy for at least four days worth of meals.

Mix it up, but look at some ingredients that feed across more meals so there’s not food waste left sitting in your fridge or pantry at the end of the week. Food is best when fresh, but your attitude won’t be as fresh if you find yourself throwing things out.

#3 Prep by portion

This helps not only your bank balance, but your head space too. A bit of planning in terms of what you like to eat means you can buy more bulk packs – meat, chicken, legumes, nuts, seeds are all great examples – prep some, and freeze the rest. Measure and divide so you can pull them easily from the freezer in the coming weeks. I love this for meals such as soups, stews, curries, marinated meats and snacks with nutritious punch – who doesn’t love a raw bliss ball? It’s a time and money saving match made in heaven.

#4 Think of your gut as a garden

This is one of the more interesting ways I try to help people look at their health. There’s a couple of components to this: firstly, the gut feeds on good bacteria which comes in the form of pre and probiotics we find in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and miso, for example. When we eat these pre and probiotic rich foods we feed our internal garden (our gut) so it can flourish. It absorbs the nutrition in our food so it can ‘grow’ like a healthy garden. It’s a pretty sweet way of looking at it.

My other rationale in the gut/garden approach is that if we similarly look at our diet and consume predominantly plants we are doing mountains for our health simply because they’re so rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, phytochemical, fibre– I could go on and on. However, when it comes to budget, plant foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains) are some of the more economical kicking about. If you base your diet primarily on plants – let’s say about 65 to 70% of your meals – it’s actually so much cheaper than you think.

Processed foods seem cheap when you buy them, but they don’t give your body the nutrition it needs and you’re often left craving more after them. Whole unprocessed foods satisfy the body, and long term people often find they aren’t as hungry on a whole foods diet because they feel so satiated by their meals. Winning, right?

#5 Shop seasonal, shop local

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Ingredients for the seasons are going to be far more cost effective than those completely out of season. Furthermore, they’ll more likely be locally grown which is important not only to support our farmers, but to ensure the food we are eating is nutritious – and hasn’t been given a five fold dressing of chemicals to see it through the shipping process.

Some cheap seasonal fruits and veggies to get your mitts on in Australia for the warmer months are:

  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • cherries
  • grapes
  • nectarines
  • melons
  • peaches
  • raspberries
  • strawberries
  • asparagus
  • beans
  • cucumbers
  • eggplants
  • zucchini
  • mushrooms
  • leeks
  • snow peas

Remember to think creatively in your approach to good nutritious food, shop with your smarts about you and enjoy the journey in health. There is no greater wealth than health.


Jacqueline Alwill is a qualified, practicing nutritionist, personal trainer, whole foods cook and mum. She is passionately committed to improving the health, wellbeing and happiness of all individuals.