Overpriced meat? Experts warn that cutting it without suitable substitutes can be dangerous

With rising grocery costs, you might stare longingly at lamb chops, put back on those juicy steaks, or ditch the meat altogether.

While sky-high meat prices have forced some consumers to look for alternatives to cut their grocery bills, dieticians warn it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

So how can you safely reduce weekly shopping?

Planning is key, according to North Queensland Registered Dietitian Vivienne Salu.

“Having wise recipes and shopping – if you do, you can save a lot of money, but it’s all about planning,” she said.

Vivienne Salu says there is a real risk that malnutrition due to poverty will increase due to the rising cost of groceries.(Provided)

Ms Salu warned that iron levels often drop when cutting red meat, especially in children and women.

“You just need to be aware of having iron-fortified cereals, looking for places where you can get your iron, and having vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, fruits, juices, berries, dark green or orange vegetables or a salad to help vitamin C absorb iron from low-iron foods,” she said.

If you’re not ready to take the plunge and forego meat altogether, Ms. Salu suggested simple ways to stretch your meat a bit more, like adding canned lentils to spaghetti bolognese.

“When it comes to making protein meals, for example, a stir-fry only uses thin slices of beef or lean chicken, so you only need to use 100 grams per person, instead of a fillet of 200 grams each,” she said.

“By adding more vegetables, you still get small amounts of animal protein to flavor and make a great meal.”

Hands chopping vegetables on a long wooden board.
Vivienne Salu says using meat to flavor a dish and fleshing it out with vegetables is a healthy way to cut down on its intake.(Unsplash: Maarten van den Heuvel)

Soaring meat prices are reflected in the produce aisle, so sticking to what’s in season can help cut costs.

“Weekend markets are the cheapest place to buy your fruit and vegetables if you have time to stock up at the weekend. They are often half the price of supermarkets,” Ms Salu said.

“Buy frozen vegetables in bulk. Frozen is as good as fresh, as long as you don’t overcook them.”

Ms Salu said canned vegetables were also an affordable option.

“They don’t contain folate or vitamin C because they’re destroyed in the canning process, but you still get the carbs, protein and fiber, so use cans with the fresh produce as well,” said she declared.

Farmers sell fruits and vegetables.
Experts say picking up fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets is a great way to save money.(ABC: Amanda Collins)

Do not suffer in silence

As cost of living pressures mount, Nutrition Australia warns there could be long-term health implications for a nation that is already experiencing a rise in obesity.

“I’m concerned that cheap, convenient and highly processed foods are starting to take a bigger place in people’s diets and that could have health consequences,” said dietician Leanne Elliston.

It was a concern shared by Vivienne Salu, who said that without adequate education and increased financial support, especially for those dependent on government payments, malnutrition due to poverty would become more widespread.

“Iron deficiency is a third world problem, but we’re going to see more of it because people can’t afford meat,” she said.

Top tips before you hit the shops

Ms Elliston said it was a bad idea to go shopping on an empty stomach as hungry shoppers bought more than they needed.

“Get an idea of ​​what you already have in the fridge and pantry,” she said.

“Try to stick to the plan of what you are going to give the family… look for budget ideas and recipes.

“About half of the recipes meal should be vegetables, about a quarter could be a meat option or an alternative like eggs, legumes, tofu, nuts. The last quarter is carbs, that’s rice , pasta or potatoes or grainy bread option.”

Perri's dog runs beside the vegetable garden
According to Nutrition Australia, planting a vegetable garden is an affordable way to stay healthy.(Provided: Perri Chaplin)

And if you have even more time up your sleeve, adopt your green thumb.

“If you have space in your garden or have a balcony, you should consider growing your own produce,” Ms Elliston said.

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