Going out for groceries? Here’s how to keep your weekly shop cheap and healthy

A trip to the supermarket is one of the few reasons we’re leaving the house these days – and for households on a tight budget, there are ways to stock up that won’t hurt your heart or hip pocket.

The Heart Foundation is reminding Australians that heart-healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive, and urging shoppers to stay safe as the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis are felt around the country.

Heart Foundation Director of Health Strategy, Julie Anne Mitchell, says a healthy diet is a key ingredient for protecting your heart, throughout this pandemic and beyond.

“It’s more important than ever to keep up healthy habits and eat nutritious foods during this time, and it doesn’t have to break the bank,” Ms Mitchell said.

“There are some tips you can follow when doing your weekly shop to choose heart-healthy foods that will save money and avoid wasting food. Frozen vegetables, brown rice, chickpeas and tinned fish are just a few staples you can keep on hand for healthy and budget-friendly meals at home (see listicle below).

“It’s also essential to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 infection when you go to your local supermarket or grocery store to grab provisions.

“As recommended by the Department of Health, you should practise good hygiene, including washing your hands before entering the store, using a tissue and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and avoiding close contact with other customers.”

Poor diet is the leading contributor to heart disease, Australia’s single biggest killer. Unhealthy, nutrient-poor foods make up more than one third of the average person’s daily kilojoules.

“That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to cut back on highly processed products and put healthier foods in their trolleys – think plenty of fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains, a variety of healthy proteins and fats, and smaller amount of animal-based foods,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Australians who are self-isolating or in quarantine are also advised to look out for healthier options when doing their grocery shopping online.”

Keep your pantry healthy on a budget:

  • Action plan: Make a grocery list and stick to it. Check what you already have in your fridge and pantry and only buy what you know you will use to avoid wasting food.
  • Eat the rainbow: One of the best ways to stay healthy is to fill up on plenty of fruit and vegetables. The more colourful the mix the better. Frozen or canned vegetables and fruits are good alternatives when fresh produce is hard to buy or too expensive, and they keep for longer. If you are buying canned versions, try to choose the ‘no added salt’ or ‘low salt’ versions. Pick fruits canned in juice, not syrup.
  • Mix it up: Buy more plant-based sources of protein, in line with the Heart Foundation’s updated dietary advice. Tinned or dried beans, lentils and chickpeas are cheaper and are healthy options for your pantry, or try tofu to keep in the fridge. Eggs or canned fish (such as tuna or salmon) are also cheaper and easy to prepare.
  • Cheaper cuts: Look for less expensive cuts of meat to use in stews, soups and casseroles. Cut off visible fat before cooking.
  • Go for wholegrains: Brown rice, wholegrain pasta and rolled oats are budget-friendly staples for healthy cooking. Swap white bread for a wholegrain loaf and freeze some of it.
  • Snack smart: Go for a handful of unsalted nuts or a small plate of cut up fruit to curb afternoon cravings. You could also buy popping corn and make homemade popcorn. It’s best to either have it plain (no added salt or butter) or flavour with other herbs and spices. 
  • Healthy hydration: Skip the aisle of sugary soft drinks and energy drinks and make water the drink of choice. It’s healthy, hydrating and free.

Stay safe while shopping 

  • Good timing: Get groceries only when you need to and try to shop at quieter times to avoid crowds. Organise your list by areas of the store to limit the time you spend there.
  • Go the distance: Avoid close contact with other shoppers (keep at least 1.5 metres apart), and only touch items you are going to purchase.
  • Hand hygiene: Wash your hands with soap and water before going into store and take along alcohol-based hand sanitiser. If possible, disinfect your shopping trolley with wipes.
  • Contain coughs: Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue and dispose of tissues properly.
  • Cards not cash: Use tap and pay if possible, to avoid handling cash.
  • Keep it clean: Remember to clean and sanitise frequently used objects such as your keys and wallet.