How eating for the planet could save you $1800 a year

If you think eating a healthy and planet-friendly diet has to be expensive, think again. These tips will show you how.

If you have considered making healthy changes to how you eat but have been put off because you think it will cost too much, you’re not alone – but you are likely wrong.

A recent study found buying healthy and more sustainable foods at the supermarket could be cheaper – to the tune of about $1800 a year. And they’re better for the planet, too.

“Surveys show that consumers expect healthy food to cost more,” says Deakin University School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences researcher Tara Goulding.

“That may be because people can buy a cheeseburger for $1 but a takeaway salad costs $10.

“They then assume that if something is more expensive as takeaway, it’s going to be more expensive to buy in the supermarket.

“Some people can also assume that eating healthy means you have to buy organic products – which are more expensive – but you can buy regular fresh products that cost less and are good for you.”

What is a planetary health diet?

The Deakin University research compared the cost of a typical Australian diet supermarket shopping basket, which contained more processed and packaged foods, with a planetary health diet basket. This diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet and predominantly includes minimally processed foods, such as brown rice, oats, wholegrain bread, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, chicken and fish.

The planetary health diet basket was about $35 a week cheaper than the typical Australian diet.

Low socio-economic households spent 17 per cent of their income on the healthier diet versus 21 per cent on the typical Aussie diet.

“The planetary health diet can potentially reduce overweight and obesity issues and reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming,” says Tara.

“Based on projected population growth, how most people eat at the moment and how our food systems and agriculture are affecting climate change, the world will struggle to produce enough food for everybody by 2050. That’s not that far away.”

How to eat for health and the planet

So how can you eat to save money and help your health and the planet?

Shop seasonally

“Shop seasonally, especially for fruits and vegetables. When foods are in season there’s a good supply and that lowers the price,” says dietitian Anika Rouf, of Dietitians Australia.

If you want products that aren’t in season, buy them in tins.

Buy in bulk

Buy healthy staples such as oats, brown rice and pasta in bulk and split the purchases with friends.

“Before you shop, look at what you have in the fridge, freezer and pantry and shop with a list,” says Anika.

“Store foods correctly so they don’t spoil and have to be thrown away.”

Research and plan

Look at online cooking classes and recipes that use healthy ingredients for inspiration.

“You don’t have to eat the planetary health diet every day, but any changes will help you save money, enjoy better health and help the planet,” says Tara.

Written by Sarah Marinos.