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

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Woman in mask shopping in Woolworths packaged food aisle June 28

With many Australians already under pressure from the rising cost of living, news that food prices will rise is unwelcome.

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

With many people trying to cut back on their grocery costs, the ABC spoke to two licensed practicing dietitians to get their take.

And they say saving money doesn’t have to mean skimping on healthy foods.

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

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

Dietitians Australia spokesperson Anika Rouf agrees.

She says planning ahead is the best way to save money at the grocery store.

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

Canned fish

Canned salmon does not have to be eaten straight from the can.(ABC Great Southern: Tom Edwards)

Why?

“When we try to save, we avoid fish because we associate it with being precious. We think of really nice fish like salmon,” says Dr. Rouf.

She says there are many tasty canned options available today.

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

But watch out for added salt.

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

When no spring water options are on the shelf, she ranks fish in oil over fish in sauces, which often contain more salt.

How much?

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

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

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

Eggs

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

Why?

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

“It’s a great protein to have on the go and very versatile — they can fit into things like sandwiches and salads.”

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

How much?

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

Canned tomatoes

A close-up for a can of canned tomatoes on a silky oak table.
Choose the variety of canned tomatoes with the lowest amount of sodium per 100 grams. (ABC News: Danielle Maguire)

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 put together a dish with the fresh seasonal produce you pick up from the shops.

Ms. Elliston says you should watch the salt content of canned tomatoes as it can vary widely from variety to variety.

Often there will be a few different brands on the supermarket shelf, so it’s best to compare the nutritional information on the back of the cans and choose the type with the lowest sodium content per 100 grams.

How much?

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

Roots

root generic close
Carrots are great additions to a whole range of dishes – they increase the vegetable content and make the meal even longer. (ABC Rural: Kallee Buchanan)
Why?

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

“They’re very versatile. You can eat it raw, in stews and stir-fries,” she says.

“They’re one of those veggies that are very affordable.”

You can rest assured that there is a steady supply of cheap carrots at your local supermarket all year round.

And they keep for a long time in the fridge – making them great to stock up on and treat as a kitchen staple.

“If they start to soften a little, use them in the cooked dish — if you use them in soups and stews, you can’t really say they have softened a little.”

How much?

Pre-packaged carrots in 1-pound bags range between $1.80 and $2.90.

Canned chickpeas, lentils and beans

A close-up of a can of chickpeas on a silky oak surface.
Chickpeas count as both a vegetable and a source of protein. (ABC News: Danielle Maguire)

Why?

Leanne Elliston says lentils are great for making meat dishes like casseroles or spaghetti bolognese that go beyond — stretching leftovers into lunches.

“Suddenly a dish that can serve four people can serve eight or it takes more days.

“You also make it more nutritious and you put more fiber in it.”

Dr. Rouf explains that legumes contribute to both your protein and vegetable count for the day.

One-half cup of cooked dried or canned legumes is considered one serving of vegetables.

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

“You also have a thing for fiber, protein, and healthy carbs,” says Dr. Rouf.

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

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

How much?

Lentils: 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 can and $2.20 for a 425 gram can

The cost estimates are based on the standard prices listed on the national websites of major supermarkets this week. At independent grocers, prices may vary.

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