Five nutritious items dietitians recommend stocking up on when you’re trying to be healthy on a budget

As many Australians are already under pressure from the rising cost of living, news of rising food prices will not be welcome.

The National Food Supply Chain Alliance has warned that grocery prices could rise 8 percent by this time next year.

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While many people try to cut costs at the supermarket, ABC interviewed two accredited dietitians.

And they say saving money doesn’t mean cutting back on healthy food.

“It’s a very common thought that healthy eating is going to be expensive – it doesn’t have to be,” says Leanne Elliston of Nutrition Australia.

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“It’s about knowing what to look for.”

Dietitians Australia spokesperson Anika Rouf agrees.

She says the best way to save money at the supermarket is to plan ahead.

Here are five inexpensive items that experts say are worth adding to your shopping cart.

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Canned fish

Close-up shot of Australian salmon on a cream cheese wafer and topped with chopped chives.
Canned salmon does not need to be eaten directly from the tin.(ABC Big South: Tom Edwards)

Why? Why?

“We avoid fish when we’re trying to save money because we associate it with being expensive, we think of really fancy fish like salmon,” says Dr Rouf.

He says there are so many delicious canned options these days.

“Something as simple as lemon and cracked pepper can be pretty tasty.”

But keep an eye out for added salt.

Dr Rouf says fish in spring water is the lowest-calorie option.

If there’s no spring water option on the shelf, it usually outperforms fish in oil over fish in sauces with more salt.

How much?

Canned tuna: Single-serve 95 gram boxes approx. 90 cents to $2.70 depending on brand

sardine: Tins weighing between 105 and 120 grams range from 85 cents to $5.25.

Canned Salmon: Single-serve 95 gram boxes range from $1.20 to $2.90.


Eggs in an egg carton.
Eggs are an easy way to increase your protein intake.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)

Why? Why?

Dr Rouf says eggs are a good source of protein and are often much cheaper than meat.

“They’re great protein and versatile to have on the go—they can go to things like sandwiches and salads.”

According to Australia’s dietary guidelines, two large eggs are equivalent to a standard serving of lean meat.

How much?

Prices for 12-pack free-range eggs range from $4.50 to $9.80.

canned tomatoes

Close-up of a can of tinned tomatoes on a silky oak wooden table.
Choose the canned tomato variety that has the lowest sodium per 100 grams. (ABC News: Danielle Maguire)

Why? Why?

Dr Rouf says the beauty of canned tomatoes lies in their versatility.

They can be used in soups, stews and pastas.

If you have a few tins on hand, you can toss a plate with the fresh seasonal produce you bring from the shops.

Ms. Elliston says you should be mindful of the salt content in canned tomatoes, as they can vary greatly from variety to variety.

There are usually several different brands on the supermarket shelves, so it’s best to compare the nutritional information on the back of the boxes and choose the type with the lowest sodium per 100 grams.

How much?

Depending on the brand, canned tomatoes typically cost between 75 cents and $2.40.


carrot generic close
Carrots make great additions to a number of dishes – increasing the vegetable content and making the dish feel even longer. (ABC Countryside: Kallee Buchanan)
Why? Why?

Dr Rouf says these are some of the most commonly eaten vegetables, and for good reason.

“They’re so versatile, you can make them raw, stew, and stir-fry,” she says.

“They’re one of those very affordable vegetables.”

You can count on a constant supply of cheap carrots at your local supermarket all year round.

And they stay in the fridge for a long time—making them great for stocking up and using as a kitchen staple.

“If they start to soften a bit, use them in the cooked dish—when you use them in soups and stews, you can’t really tell if they’ve softened a bit.”

How much?

Prepackaged carrots in 1-kilogram bags range from $1.80 to $2.90.

Canned chickpeas, lentils and beans

Close-up view of a box of chickpeas sitting on a silky oak wooden surface.
Chickpeas are considered both a vegetable and a source of protein. (ABC News: Danielle Maguire)

Why? Why?

Leanne Elliston says lentils are great for making casseroles or meat-based dishes like spaghetti bolognese—she hands over leftovers for lunch.

“A meal for four can suddenly be for eight or takes more days.

“You’re also making it more nutritious and putting more fiber in it.”

Dr Rouf explains that legumes contribute to both your protein and vegetable counts throughout the day.

Half a cup of cooked dried or canned legumes is considered a serving of vegetables.

You will need one cup of cooked legumes to create the equivalent of a standard serving of lean meat.

“You have something that also brings in fiber, protein and healthy carbohydrates,” says Dr Rouf.

“It’s really great food that we don’t shoot often.”

Baked beans are also on this list, but Dr Rouf says to opt for the salt-reduced variety.

How much?

Lentil: Between 80 cents and $1.90 for a 420 gram can

Chickpeas: Between 80 cents and $2.20 for a 400 gram can

Haricot bean: You can pay between 65 cents for a 420 gram can and $2.20 for a 425 gram can.

Cost estimates are based on standard prices listed on major supermarket national websites this week. Prices may vary in independent markets.

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