No excuse not to cook cheap healthy eats

TRY THIS: A better idea than taxing fast food and fizzy drinks is to provide classes and resources to help people get the basics right.
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TRY THIS: A better idea than taxing fast food and fizzy drinks is to provide classes and resources to help people get the basics right.

People love to blame others for problems they'd rather not tackle on a personal level. Take the great "fast food versus healthy eating" debate.

While many families are struggling to put food on the table, we're also becoming a nation of chubsters.

This glaring contradiction is apparently all the Government's fault. Supposedly, it's far too expensive to eat healthily. Somebody must do something. Won't anybody think of the children?

To hear some of the more rabid speakers, you'd think that fast food company-employed thugs were standing on street corners, stealing wallets and forcing burgers down helpless citizens' throats.

The truth is much less sinister. Earlier in the year, I wrote an article myth-busting the cost of healthy eating.

When you compare the greasy goodness of the take-out strip with supermarket-bought healthy fare, the healthy option is actually roughly two to three times cheaper.

That wasn't convincing enough for some people, who busted out bizarre comparisons such as "petrol is cheaper than milk".

Here's hoping they don't pour it over their morning cereal.

Buried within the whirlpool of whinging were a couple of very valid points.

Many people simply aren't equipped with the skills and nutrition knowledge to cook cheap, healthy meals.

If they weren't taught in school, they might not have been fortunate enough to have a mum or dad who showed them how to wield a spatula.

Taxing fast food and fizzy drink or removing tax from fresh fruit and vegetables won't make a jot of difference to this problem.

A better idea is to provide classes and resources to help everyone get the basics right. That's where the Federation of Family Budgeting Services come in.

Their clients sometimes have as little as $80 to $100 a week to spend on for for a family of four.

With that grim fact firmly in mind, the service has teamed up with the Heart Foundation to create a healthy cookbook with recipes that cost no more than $2.50 a serve.

Called Cheap Eats, it has a whole section on the bare basics, like how to cook rice or prepare vegetables, and is formulated so you can make do with minimal kitchen equipment.

Even by trying out just one of the recipes each week for a family of four, you'd easily save $520 over the course of a year.

If you're wondering about the blatant plug, the book doesn't cost a cent.

You can download it by clicking here, or request a hard copy from your local budgeting services or the Heart Foundation's resource department.

If you want to eat healthily on a shoestring budget, then yes, there is going to be a lot of mince and frozen vegetables in your future.

While the meals aren't exactly gourmet, Kofta with spicy tomato, couscous and yoghurt went down a treat, and you can't really argue with $2.50 a serve.

For generations, scrimping mums and struggling students have lived on low-cost, healthy fare, rather than splashing out on tasty takeaways and then crying poor.

The financial freedom credo is all about learning new skills, and achieving independence.

Budget Busters accept there's no such thing as a free lunch. There is, however, such thing as a bloody cheap and nutritious one.

Sunday News