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Buying on a Budget

bag of groceries

Healthy eating doesn't have to be expensive

Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a drain on your purse and your patience. What you need is some pre-planning about your family meals, techniques to manage your child’s 'pester power' and some know-how to spot healthy foods.  

Eat well – and save money!

  • Write a shopping list and plan your meals for the week ahead. This helps avoid impulse purchases that may not be the best for your wallet or your health.
  • Set limits on treats – tell your children that each time they ask for something else, one item will be go back on the shelf.
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry. You’ll find yourself buying more than you’ll actually eat.
  • Allocate more of your budget to staple foods that provide the most nutrients, such as breads, cereals, fruit, vegetables and legumes, rice, pasta and dairy. These tend to last longer through the week and form the basis of your meals.
  • Make your meat go further – replace some of the meat you’d usually use with beans or legumes for added fibre.
  • Staple items, like bread and meat, can be bought in bulk. This can work out cheaper and they can be frozen for up to a month.
  • Choose fruit and vegetables that are in season, as they tend to be cheaper and better quality. For more information on buying seasonal produce, go to Buying Seasonal Produce
  • Visit a local fruit and vegetable market. They can have cheaper and sometimes better quality produce - plus the kids will have fun exploring the place!

Pester power

Food companies know how powerful a whining child can be. They also know how to tempt children by positioning products at just the right height.These items can throw out your weekly shopping budget and can also lead to some difficult – and noisy – moments in the store.

If you can manage your children’s expectations, you can keep their demands under control. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when you’re next faced with ‘I want, I want, I want ...’. 

  • Food companies want to sell their products, whether or not they are suitable, worth the money or of benefit to your child.
  • When you say ‘no’, mean it and explain to your child why they cannot have the item For example, ‘it’s too expensive’ or ‘you bought something else recently’.
  • Acknowledge the strength of their desires – ‘Yes, that does look nice’ – while preparing them for disappointment – ‘But you know you probably won’t be able to have that because …’
  • Keep ‘treats’ for special occasions.
  • This week’s ‘must have’ thing is often soon forgotten by kids.
  • Give your kids extra time and attention – this can cut down on demands for things. For example, ask them to help you with spotting items that are on the shopping list. 

Food labels

Nutrition claims on food labels Don’t be misled by labelling claims such as ‘cholesterol free’ or ‘source of calcium’. Take the time to read the nutrition information panel and/or ingredients list located on the package.

  • ‘Sugar free’ or ‘no added sugar’ – The product may not have sucrose but it other types of sugar may be present that contain the same amount of energy (fructose, corn syrup, concentrated fruit juice syrup).
  • ‘Lite’ or ‘Light’ – This doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is healthier (low in fat or kilojoules/energy). These terms may refer to the food being light in colour, flavour, texture, or taste. Even if it does refer to the fat content in the product, it may still not be a healthy option (for example, some ‘light’ potato chips have the same fat content as non-light ones).
  • ‘Reduced fat’ – This fat content may be less than the manufacturer’s standard product but it may not necessarily be less than the next product on the shelf. Some reduced-fat cheeses may still contain up to 25% fat.
  • ‘Cholesterol free’ or ‘no cholesterol’ – The product may contain no actual cholesterol but may still be high in fat, including ‘bad’ saturated fats, which can increase blood cholesterol levels and contribute to weight gain. If these claims are on foods derived from plants, like margarine and oil, they are meaningless as all plant foods contain virtually no cholesterol.
  • ‘97% fat free’ – This is not a trick but you do have to think backwards to get the information you need; 97% fat free still means it still contains 3% fat.


some of the healthiest foods are usually not labelled, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats and fish.