Five nutrients that nutritionists recommend stocking up on when you’re trying to be healthy on a budget

With many Australians already under pressure from the rising cost of living, news that food prices have risen will not be welcome.

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

With so many people trying to cut back on what they eat at the supermarket, ABC spoke to two certified nutritionists to get what they want.

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

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

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

Dietitians Australia spokeswoman Anika Ruff agrees.

The best way to save money at the supermarket, she says, is to plan ahead.

Here are five cheap items that experts say are worth adding to your trolley.

canned fish

Close-up of Australian salmon on a wafer with cream cheese and topped with diced chives.
Canned salmon should not be eaten straight from the can.(ABC Great Southern: Tom Edwards)

why?

“When we’re trying to save, we avoid fish because we associate it with being expensive, and we think of really fancy fish like salmon,” says Dr. Raouf.

She says there are so many delicious packaged options available these days.

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

But watch out for the added salt.

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

If there are no spring water options on the shelf, it ranks fish in oil higher than fish in sauces, which often contain more salt.

What is the price?

canned tuna: Single 95-gram cans range from approx 90 cents to $2.70, depending on the brand

Sardines: Cans of 105 to 120 grams range from 85 cents to $5.25

Canned salmon: Single 95 gram cans range from $1.20 to $2.90

egg

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

why?

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

“It’s a great protein to take on the go and is very versatile—it can go into things like sandwiches and salads.”

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, two large eggs make up the equivalent of a standard serving of lean meat.

What is the price?

Prices for a 12-pack of free range eggs vary, ranging from $4.50 to $9.80

canned tomatoes

Close-up of a can of canned tomatoes on a silken oak wood table.
Choose the variety of canned tomatoes with the lowest amount of sodium per 100g. (ABC News: Daniel Maguire)

why?

Dr. Raouf says the beauty of canned tomatoes is their versatility.

Can be used in soups, casseroles, and pasta.

If you have a few cans, you can toss a plate with whatever fresh seasonal produce you get from the stores.

Elliston says you need to watch the salt content of canned tomatoes because it can vary greatly from one type to the next.

There are often a few different brands on supermarket shelves, so it’s best to compare the nutritional information on the back of packages and choose the one with the lowest levels of sodium per 100g.

What is the price?

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

Carrots

Closing the carrot year
Carrots make great additions to a whole host of dishes – boosting the vegetable content and making the meal more extended. (ABC Rural: Callie Buchanan)
why?

These are some of the vegetables I eat the most, Dr. Raouf says, and for good reason.

“They’re so versatile—you can eat them raw, in stews and stir-fries,” she says.

“It’s one of those very affordable vegetables.”

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

And they keep a long time in the fridge – making them great for storing and treating as a staple in the kitchen.

“If it starts to get a little mushy, use it in the cooked dish—when you use it in soups and stews, you can’t really tell it’s gone a little mushy.”

What is the price?

The price of pre-packed carrots in 1-kilogram bags ranges from $1.80 to $2.90.

Chickpeas, lentils, and canned beans

Close-up of a tin of chickpeas sitting on a silken oak countertop.
Chickpeas are a vegetable and a source of protein. (ABC News: Daniel Maguire)

why?

Lentils are great for making meat dishes like casseroles or spaghetti bolognese, says Leanne Elliston, as you can add leftovers to lunches.

Suddenly a dish that might serve four might serve eight or last for more days.

“You also make it more nutritious and add more fiber to it.”

Dr. Raouf explains that legumes contribute to an increase in the number of proteins and vegetables in the day.

Half a cup of cooked dried or canned legumes counts as one serving of vegetables.

You’ll need 1 cup of cooked legumes to make up for the equivalent of a standard serving of lean meat.

“You have something that brings in fiber, protein, and healthy carbs, too,” says Dr. Raouf.

“It’s a really great food that we don’t gravitate too much to.”

Baked beans are also on this list, but Dr. Rauf says to choose a variety that’s low in salt.

What is the price?

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

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

Baked beans: You can pay between 65 cents for a 420 gram tin and $2.20 for a 425 gram tin

Cost estimates are based on standard prices listed on major national supermarket websites this week. Prices may vary at independent grocery stores.

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