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Eat Healthy With A Busy Schedule And Tight Budget

Sticking to a healthy eating plan can be challenging at the best of times. Throw in a budget and a tight schedule and you’ve potentially got yourself a recipe for disaster. Rest assure, there are ways to ease the burden and ensure your lifestyle doesn’t interfere with your health goals. We chatted with Chef and co-author of the Real Food Kitchen, Cynthia Louise to find out how.

RELATED: 5 Cardio Exercises You Can Do At Home

Ease the burden of food prep

We’ve all heard the notion that preparation is key when it comes to a successful diet, but sometimes slicing and dicing on your day off can feel like a chore. Start by having all of your ingredients in front of you, says Cynthia. That way you won’t be overwhelmed at the task at hand. She also recommends: “Put some music on loud and start chopping… This is a must when preparing food. It makes time fly by and you get all caught up in the present moment.”

Create fuss free meal plans

Deciding on what you want for dinner can be challenging, let alone trying to sort out seven days worth of meals. The solution? Go with what you’re craving, says Cynthia. “I make a note of all the dishes that crossed my mind from the past week, from there I look at what the recipes look like.”

Be sure to incorporate leftovers into your meal plan as they’re “king when you’re on a food budget,” and also factor in freezer friendly dishes. “Before you go to work, take your Indian dahl out of the freezer and pop it into the fridge to defrost. By the time you get home, your dinner just needs reheating on the stove,” says Cynthia.

Make friends with your freezer

Having a pre-cooked dinner ready and waiting for you when you get home is a sure way to ease the stress of cooking, but cheap and nasty frozen meals from the supermarket aren’t going to cut it. For a nutrient dense dinner that doesn’t taste like plastic, cook up a big batch of pumpkin soup or bolognaise at the start of each week and freeze in individual containers. Cynthia says curries, rice dishes, pasta sauces, homemade sausage rolls, Mexican black beans and baked beans are ideal for freezing. “Any bean and legume dishes freeze, so do lots of sauces, dressings, raw cakes and slices,” she insists. You can even freeze herbs and leftover cooked pasta!

Back to basics

If you didn’t have time to create a meal plan or prep any food for the week, instead of opting for takeout go back to basics. Think eggs, avocado, rice and oats – anything that’s versatile, cheap and which will deliver you the required nutrients. “My good old favourite is essene bread (you can freeze that bread too) with lashings of avocado, a pan fried egg and a sprinkle of chopped nuts and seeds,” says Cynthia. “In that I am covering all fats, fibre, carbs, sugars and protein… Saves me every time.”

Create a healthy relationship with sugar

Buying a chocolate bar every time those sugar cravings strike hinders healthy intentions and becomes costly over time. An alternative to this is coconut, advises Cynthia. It’s cost effective at around $2 per nut and is easy to grab and go once cut up. “Smash it on the floor to crack open [then] grab a butter knife and a tea towel – tea towel to hold the nut and the butter knife to leaver the hard flesh out,” says Cynthia. “You can then store the white hard flesh in a container and nibble on it every day – this will for sure stop the sugar cravings.”

Prolong your produce

Waste not, want not! There’s nothing worse than buying a whole heap of fresh produce, only to find it goes off before you make use of it. An obvious solution to this would be to buy as you go, but for some people it’s not really a viable option. If you want to make your fruit and veg go that extra mile, Cynthia insists: “Herbs get wrapped in a paper towel and put somewhere they won’t get crushed, apples and fruit in good containers, veggies to be stored in those green fridge bags and nuts and seeds in the freezer.”
Snag a bargain

While buying in bulk can certainly be cost effective, it’s pointless purchasing 5kg of grapes or two slabs of tuna if you’re not going to eat it. Instead, why not get your friends or flatmates involved and “split the kilos out,” encourages Cynthia. “When you buy in bulk… you buy in larger quantities and that’s a big saving, especially when your tribe gets involved.”

Alternatively, farmers markets are perfect for cheaper produce. And the secret to snagging yourself an even bigger bargain? Head there at the end of the day, says Cynthia. “Big deals are to be had when they are closing the stalls for the day – the farmers reduce beyond half!”

Image Via Dumb Little Man

Spaghetti Bolognese With Hidden Veggies

Good old spag bog has been gracing family dinner tables for decades. The great thing about it, is you can feed a big crowd on a budget, the kids will eat it, you can freeze the bolognese mixture for a quick meal and even pop in a few veggies for extra flavour and added fibre.

Serves 6-8


1/2 pack spaghetti

1/2 kilo mince meat (try mince turkey for something different)

1 finely diced brown onion

1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 jar tomato based pasta sauce

1 tin tomatoes or use freshly diced

1 tin baked beans in tomato sauce

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 finely diced red capsicum (optional)

1 teaspoon oil

1 tablespoon mixed spaghetti bolognese herbs or a combination of Basil, Oregano, Marjoram, Rosemary, Sage or Thyme

1 tablespoon water

Salt and pepper to taste

Grated cheese (Parmesan or something simple is preferable)


  1. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add oil and spaghetti. Cook on high until al dente and strain. While this is cooking you can make the bolognese sauce.
  2. Heat a large non stick pan and brown onion, garlic and mince meat. Add water to keep from sticking. After the mince is browned, add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on. Stir regularly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  4. Remove from heat and serve on top of spaghetti with a sprinkle of grated cheese.


If you want to increase the fibre, replace the baked beans with a drained can of 3 bean mix. It will also add texture and is even appreciated by those who aren’t keen on beans.

By Kim Chartres

Spring Racing Fashion on a Budget

Strapped for cash but desperately need a new outfit for the Races? Rest assured, it is possible to find an outfit on a budget!

Read our helpful hints on how you can dress for the Cup, but still have enough money to place a bet!

Be honest with yourself – are you really going to wear that crazy fascinator again? The biggest mistake a new race goer can make is spending hundreds on a designer hat, when there’s so many affordable options available.

Buy something plain and dress it up with feathers, ribbon or other accessories.

Or if millenary isn’t your thing, turn to your shoes to spruce up your outfit. Remember, standing on your feet all day calls for an appropriate pair of shoes… which is also more likely to be a pair you can wear again.

Hunt for bargains
At this time of the year, and with the change of season, a lot of retailers are clearing stock, so don’t shy away from those sale racks. Getting your dress half price means you won’t feel so guilty about that new bag purchase!

Don’t forget to visit your favourite factory outlets, like Uni Hill Factory Outlets in Melbourne, where you can pick up a new frock, shoes and accessories for the price of just one full-price dress alone!

Jazz it up
There’s nothing wrong with reinventing an old classic.

Take out your favourite LBD or a block colour dress and hit the shops in search of some accessories. If you’re accessorising a monochromatic shade like black or white then don’t be afraid to add a pop of colour.

Chain store chic
Large retail stores are a great place to start when shopping for affordable race wear. They always cater to the spring racing season, which makes it easy to find an outfit to suits your personal style.

What’s your Spring Racing style?

Image via Ozsale.com.au

Staying Stylish On A Budget

Emily Chantiri, author of The Savvy Girl’s Money Book, shares some insider secrets on how to look chic while saving cash.

1. Set yourself an annual clothes allowance

It’s fine to buy clothes and shoes but set yourself a limit. A savvy girl knows she has planned for her annual allowance and can spend this when and how she likes, with no nasty surprises when the bill comes in.

2. Don’t be a trigger-happy shopper

We all get pleasure from buying new things, but don’t shop in an emotional state or it will prove costly. Be aware of your state of mind, and if you are stressed, call a friend or go for a walk (in the opposite direction to the shops).

3. Take a friend shopping, not a group

It’s great to go shopping with a girlfriend who will tell it to you like it is, but shopping with a group is not a good idea. It slows you down and you’ll be bombarded with a whole lot of conflicting opinions. Even if your friends mean well, you’ll end up with mixed messages and end up buying unwisely. Leave the group experience for the nightclubs.

4. If you like designer clothes, train yourself to wait for the sales

I swear the seasons begin earlier and earlier each year! To keep track of when they start, get onto the mailing list of the fashion houses to keep informed of upcoming sales before the general public.

5. For basics, aim to pay a basic price

If you find a good-looking white T-shirt at Target or Just Jeans, stock up and save a heap. Several years ago Sharon Stone caused a stir as she walked down the red carpet at the Oscars. The paparazzi asked who had designed her outfit, which included an elegant body-hugging, basic black T-shirt. She stunned them with the news that she’d bought it at the inexpensive US chain The Gap.

6. Buy to fit your real body – not your dream body

This is tough for any woman but it’s time to come clean about your body image. Whether you are think, plump, tall or small, choose the clothes that compliment your body. You will get so much more wear out of them than in ill-fitting piece that you hope to fit into ‘one day’.

7. If in doubt, leave it out

Wait 24 hours or at least until the end of your shopping expedition for something you’re not quite sure about. If you’re still unsure either bring a friend for a second opinion or don’t buy. They might be sold in the meantime but that is a risk worth taking. There will always be another item around the corner.

What are your tips for staying stylish on a budget?