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How the cost-of-living crisis may harm your health

By now, most Australians will have heard about stores charging $10 for a head of iceberg lettuce and shoppers snapping off broccoli stalks before heading to check-outs.

There is no doubt consumers are facing the worst cost-of-living crisis in many years.

Household budgets are already feeling the squeeze and many WA families are being pushed into cutting corners on eating healthily and staying fit just to keep their finances in check.

This is leaving experts worried about the harm rampant inflation will have on the nation’s overall health.

“While most of us try to eat healthy foods as much as possible, we know that many families are doing it tough and are having to adjust what goes into the trolley when doing the weekly shop,” explains LiveLighter dietitian Gael Myers.

“However, there are a number of ways families can keep their grocery bills down and shop healthily.

“It is important to keep eating well because it can help us manage our weight, reduce our risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and 13 types of cancer, as well as giving us more energy and improving our mood.”

Ms Myers says buying seasonal and locally grown produce will slash the price of your grocery bill.

Choosing frozen or canned vegetables, if you need more variety, is another great way to get the nutrients you need for a bit cheaper, she adds.

Meal prepping rather than buying takeaway is another big saver as is comparing unit prices and buying in bulk, where you purchase larger packs that work out cheaper and then split them into smaller serves using containers.

Five simple tricks to save money and stay healthy:

Choose seasonal and locally grown produce. Fresh fruit and veggies are usually on special when they’re in season. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s locally grown and on special, it’s probably in season.

If something is out of season, check out frozen, dried or canned varieties. This is often cheaper than fresh produce with a much longer shelf life. Once picked, fruit and veggies grown for freezing and canning are processed immediately, sealing in nutrients. Scientific studies have found the vitamin content of frozen fruit and veg is comparable to fresh, and in some cases even higher.

Try out the home brands. These are often much cheaper and are just as good quality as branded versions. This is especially true for products with only a few ingredients, like tinned tomatoes or rolled oats.

Bulk out meals with plants: Add extra veggies to a stir-fry, replace half the mince in a bolognaise with tinned lentils or send your burger sky-high with extra salad.

Shop the specials. Check out the end-of-day specials on items that are close to their “use by” date. Use online shopping sites to find specials that help you cut down your grocery bills. Stock up on staples like tins of beans, tuna and rice when they’re on special.

Source: Gael Myers, dietitian, LiveLighter WA

Affordable fruit and veg in season at WA shops this winter:

Fruit:

· Apples (varieties such as pink lady and sundowner)

· Bananas

· Kiwifruit

· Mandarins

· Nashi pears

· Oranges

Vegetables

· Avocados

· Beetroot

· Broccoli (still quite expensive at the moment)

· Brussels sprouts

· Cabbage

· Carrots

· Cauliflower

· Celery

· Leek

· Potatoes

· Sweet potatoes

Keep fit on a budget

Pressure on household finances might mean you need to ditch the gym membership but there are ways you can maintain a positive fitness routine for free.

Curtin University human movement expert Kevin Netto says it’s hard to beat the simple old-school exercises that cost nothing.

He says running is a great way to keep fit.

High-intensity interval training, in particular, can have the same benefits as a gym workout, he adds.

He suggests using park benches for step-ups, dips, squats and lunges in between sprints to elevate the heart rate and work the abdominals and lower body.

Water bottles filled with sand or rice will do the job of hand weights.

If you’re not a runner, walking for at least 30 minutes at a speed that makes it difficult to maintain a conversation will also do wonders for your fitness.

Tip: Parkruns is a free weekly event designed to keep people moving. You can walk, jog or run. Visit parkrun.com.au to find one near you.

As the cost of fresh food skyrockets, a WA mum reveals her secrets for feeding her young family without compromising their health.

It might sound like a wartime measure but mum-of-two Alycia Simmonds is combating the cost-of-living crisis by growing her own fruit and vegetables.

The 35-year-old from Carine was already careful with her family budget but has taken it more seriously since inflation has started to bite.

“With the increasing cost of groceries and petrol, we have had to find ways to balance the budget,” explains Ms Simmonds.

“As a family with young children, it’s been really important we continue to eat a healthy diet and have found it helps to buy seasonal fruit and vegetables, decrease the amount of meat we eat at dinner and bulk up meals with more vegetables such as mash or broccoli and add lentils and beans to curries and mince dishes.

“We also save on money by having a vegetable garden.”

With lettuces now costing up to $10 each, Ms Simmonds says the obvious solution was to plant her own.

She also swaps her homegrown produce with others to boost the variety of fresh food on her family’s plates.

“Lettuce is so easy to grow and I usually just buy punnets that are partially grown which only costs a couple of dollars and they have six lots of iceberg lettuce so you don’t have to pay $10 for one,” she says.

“We also grow cucumbers and sugar snap peas and all the things the kids love eating lots of and we have just put in broccolis.

“My parents grow beans, spinach and those sorts of things and we do regular produce swaps.

“For the kids’ lunch boxes, instead of buying packets of popcorn, I spend about $1.50 on kernels and use my air popper to make 50 bags out of that $1.50.

“I am moving into those sorts of things more now after seeing how much my food shop has increased and it has really helped us manage.”

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