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‘Lockdown’ meal planning on a budget
By MyBudget Editor

Facing a lockdown or period of isolation means we may need to be a little more creative in the kitchen. One of the biggest questions is how to plan for meals that are tasty, affordable and nutritious, based on foods that don’t spoil quickly. MyBudget spoke to Queensland nutritional therapist Amber Sagal and she spilled the beans on health-enhancing, budget-wise meal planning.

1. Prioritise whole grains, pulses and beans

Amber says: “Animal sources of protein tends to be more expensive, whereas beans, rice, and oats are easy to store, and they’re nutritious and cheap. Lentils, chickpeas, butter and black beans come in cans and the dried versions are even cheaper. You can substitute lentils for meat in recipes such as pasta sauce or burger patties, and a lot of people wouldn’t pick the difference. Soak and cook dried beans and then freeze them in batches.”

2. Invest in basic spices

Amber says: “Mexican spices, like cumin and paprika are great, as are Italian spices, like thyme and oregano. Curry powder is a good staple for your pantry too. An easy, cheap, healthy dinner would be a curry made from curry powder and a tin of coconut cream, with chickpeas and your choice of frozen veggies, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Canned coconut cream is another affordable favourite of mine because you can add it to curries, smoothies, rice and lots of other dishes.”

3. Think Buddha bowls

Amber says: “Buddha bowls are a really easy way to combine different foods into a meal. You take a base ingredient, like rice, potatoes or beans, and then you add various veggies, condiments or protein, like tinned tuna or a boiled egg. A Mexi Buddha bowl could have black beans and rice seasoned with spices as the base, and then whatever frozen or fresh veggies you have available.”

4. Go easy on animal protein

Amber says: “Meat is an important source of vitamin B12, but you don’t need to eat meat every day or in large quantities to get the recommended allowance. Once a week is fine or using meat as the side dish instead of the main event is a great way to save money and make your grocery budget go further. A good source of B12 for vegetarians is nutritional yeast.”

5. Buy components, not the processed packaged version

Amber says: “Breakfast cereals are expensive and usually not very nutritious. It’s better to buy oats and make porridge. To make sure you’re getting healthy omega oils, add one tablespoon of chia or flax seeds. They’re a bit more expensive, but you’re only using one tablespoon. Dressings are another example. Olive oil mixed with vinegar and a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper is healthier and a lot cheaper than packaged dressings.”

Amber’s lockdown menu essentials:

  • Dried or canned beans (chickpeas, lentils, black beans, butter beans, cannellini etc.)
  • Rice (any type, but brown rice is a good prebiotic for gut health)
  • Potatoes
  • Rolled oats
  • Spices (cumin, paprika, thyme, oregano, curry powder)
  • Canned coconut cream (or milk)
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Canned tuna (consume in moderation)
  • Fresh or frozen veggies
  • Fresh or frozen fruit
  • Eggs
  • Meat (in small quantities)

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Did you know…? MyBudget’s free budget consultation service is now being provided over the phone and the customised budget plan we design is yours to keep. For more information, contact MyBudget on 1300 300 922 or enquire online.

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