How to stop rising food costs from derailing your weight loss

The cost of living, including your food bills, might be on the rise, but that doesn’t have to mean giving up on your plans to eat healthier and lose weight. Not convinced? Read on…
Published 30 August 2022

By now, we all know that in the last few months the price of iceberg lettuce hit $12, which has to be some kind of record. But if you think that, and reports that the cost of other healthy foods have risen too, means you’re better off calling a ‘time out’ on your weight-loss journey or delaying starting it altogether, here’s some food for thought.

Two facts about rising foods costs

#1: A fresh, whole-food diet is still the cheapest option for most Australian families

Yep, that’s despite the recent hike in the consumer price index. New research on household family shopping baskets from the University of Wollongong confirms it.

“While we have experienced a major fresh produce price crisis this year, it is heartening to see in this data that the average cost of eating a diet rich in seasonal fruit and vegetables is still the most affordable option in this country,” Dietitians Australia CEO Robert Hunt said in response to the research.

In fact, be smart about it (tip: read on for help here!) and the research shows that sticking to a healthy diet could actually save you between $63 and $78 per week, given the average Australian’s diet is significantly more expensive than eating a nutritious and healthy one.

#2: Healthy, whole-food diets that support weight loss are cheaper than many other ‘weight-loss diets’

That’s according to research from the University of South Australia, released in March 2022.

Comparing weight-loss diets and programs that restrict food groups (like the keto diet) or eating patterns (like intermittent fasting) or that rely on meal-replacement products, with healthy, balanced eating plans that support weight loss, the research found that ‘dieting’ can cost up to $220 more per week.

According to the researchers, on top of the fact that restrictive weight-loss diets can promote unhealthy relationships with food and bump up the risk of nutritional deficiencies, it’s a misconception in Australia that consuming a healthy diet made up of the five key food groups—which is what the WeightWatchers® program is based on—is too expensive.

How to eat a healthy diet without breaking the bank

Keen to eat well, achieve your weight-loss goals and stick to your budget? This handful of tips may help.

  • Eat seasonally

Fruit and vegetables not only taste better and tend to have a longer shelf life when they’re in season, they’re usually cheaper, too. Now that spring has sprung, try healthy recipes that feature seasonal vegetables like Asian greens, zucchini and asparagus, and spring fruit like passionfruit, strawberries and melons.

  • Plan your meals

As well as helping you stick to a healthy, balanced diet, planning meals for the week ahead—and grocery shopping with a list, based on that meal plan—is a simple yet effective way to save money, too. As a WW member, you can use the weekly meal-planning tool in the WW app, or why not pre-order a copy of WW’s latest retail book, Meal-Plan Your Way to Weight Loss? With 80 irresistible, no-fuss recipes, meal-planning for weight loss has never been easier.

  • Avoid wasting food

For something that’s considered a fairly large expense for most households, we certainly throw a lot of food away. In fact, statistics show that, as a nation, we throw out one in every five bags of groceries we buy, which means that more than $1,000 worth of food ends up in the average household’s bin each year. By planning your meals and shopping with a list you’re already on your way to reducing food waste. Other tips include cooking and preparing the right amount of food, storing food correctly to keep it fresh and making the effort to eat or use any leftovers. That’s important, considering more than a quarter of the food we throw away is in the form of leftovers. WW members can also use the ‘What’s in your fridge?’ tool on the WW app to avoid wasting food. Notice you’ve got some chicken, spinach or pumpkin in the fridge that you need to eat before it’s past its best, but you’re stuck for inspiration? Select one or more ingredients you have to hand and the WW app will find a selection of recipes for you to choose from – simple!

  • Cook budget-friendly meals

With a bit of knowledge and creativity, creating healthy, nutritious meals on a budget can be simpler and more achievable than you think. As well as choosing fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season, to keep costs down you can also:

  • Use plant-based proteins, like lentils, chickpeas and tofu, to replace some of the meat in recipes. If you haven’t already, you could also commit to having one or two ‘meat-free days’ a week. You’ll find plenty of meat-free recipes on the WW app.

  • Use canned foods, like tomatoes, legumes, fish and other fruit and vegetables—including peaches and pears, corn and beetroot. They’re often cheaper than fresh options, have long shelf lives, and can be just as nutritious as fresh varieties. Try to choose fruit that’s canned in juice rather than syrup, and looked for vegetables and legumes that are labelled as ‘no added salt’ or ‘salt reduced’. And avoid cans that are dented or damaged.

  • Stock up on frozen vegetables. As well as often being cheaper, storing a selection of these in the freezer means you have options when fresh produce isn’t available or is out of season.

  • Lean on ‘home brands’

These are often much cheaper, without sacrificing quality, particularly when it’s a product that only has one or a few ingredients, like canned legumes, flour or rolled oats.