Food price pressure: Can you eat cheaply and healthily?

Inflation means that many prices go up.

Food price pressure: Can you eat cheaply and healthily?

Inflation means that many prices go up. In this country, food is particularly affected. So are there now worse or even unhealthier meals? "You don't have to spend more money on food, you have to redistribute it," says one nutrition expert.

So far, the consumer centers have assumed that the cost of food is an average of twelve percent of the household budget. In 2022, the proportion has risen, because many groceries meanwhile have to dig much deeper into their pockets. In May, for example, cooking oils cost almost 65 percent more than a year ago. Butter rose 43 percent in price. Flour, eggs and meat also have significantly higher prices. The price increases are becoming more and more of a problem, especially for people with low incomes. A survey by the German Institute for Food Technology (DIL) in Quakenbrück and the Lower Saxony state initiative for the food industry came to the conclusion at the end of June that those surveyed now primarily focus on special offers and look out for cheap groceries. But is it still possible to eat well and, above all, healthy?

Nutritionist Jan Bahmann does not rule this out in principle in an interview with However, he qualifies that one must proceed with caution. From his point of view, there are foods that you can easily do without. This includes meat, for example. "You can save money if you just eat less of it," says Bahmann. Eating meat also has no health benefits. You can therefore simply reduce it to once or twice a week. If you otherwise eat very fatty meat, you live even healthier with it.

It's a bit more complicated with fish. Overall, fish is slightly less affected by inflation. The price increases for fresh fish fillets, cod and smoked fish are the highest at around 13 percent. However, fresh salmon, for example, is very versatile in its preparation and is also healthy because of the omega-3 fats it contains. However, this applies to all fatty fish, including mackerel and halibut. Halibut is usually more expensive than salmon, especially when smoked, while mackerel is usually cheaper. Maybe you can avoid that. "Omega 3 fats could also be supplemented or taken from plants, for example from walnuts," explains Bahmann. That would also be cheaper than buying salmon. In order not to consume too many calories from nuts, one should consider that the omega-3 requirement is already covered with three to four walnuts.

For economic and health reasons, it makes sense to avoid all sugary drinks and even bottled water. "In many regions you can easily switch to tap water," says Bahmann. You should check the water quality of your supplier for this. Only in rare cases is the water from the tap harmful to health, for example if the house still has old lead pipes. If you can switch completely, you save considerably. Tap water is about 100 times cheaper than bottled mineral water.

A sufficient supply of liquid ensures more concentration and performance, a better metabolism and fresher skin. Last but not least, drinking water prevents obesity by regulating hunger and helping to eat smaller portions. As a guide, the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends that adults drink around one and a half to two liters of water per day.

Dining out is the most costly, followed by home delivery and finally ready meals from the supermarket. In principle, every food is more expensive the further it is processed. "Cooking yourself, on the other hand, is unbeatable," emphasizes Bahmann. Not only does this save you money, you also have control over how much fat and salt is included, for example. "You'll probably eat healthier that way."

But if you cook yourself, you need time and have to buy ingredients. Added to this are the increased energy prices for stoves and ovens. The various factors can hardly be completely offset against each other. But with good planning of what you want to cook in the next few days, you can at least keep the shopping effort within limits. Of course, preparing food takes time. "But when you go to the restaurant, you also have time to go, you wait for the food," Bahmann points out. Many cooking sites now have the option of limiting the preparation time to 30 or 45 minutes in their filter functions. The more you cook these dishes, the more practice you get.

In addition, a meal that you prepare yourself does not always have to be cooked. "Natural yoghurt with berries and maybe a bit of sweetness is super quick and cheap and relatively healthy," explains Bahmann. The same goes for fresh salads.

When it comes to side dishes, potatoes are healthier than pasta, but they also cost a little more than pasta. In addition to oatmeal and vegetables, potatoes are among the foods that Bahmann recommends as the basis for a healthy diet. Vegetables should either be seasonal and regional and are therefore usually a bit cheaper because there is a large offer. But you can also confidently opt for the frozen goods, most of which are just as healthy and nutritious.

According to Bahmann, you can do without organic products when it comes to fruit and vegetables, especially at discounters. "The organic seal here does not mean that no pesticides are used, but that organic pesticides are used. Just because they are natural, they are not necessarily better. An example is copper sulphate." In the case of meat, on the other hand, organic is associated with significantly better animal husbandry and, for example, with less use of antibiotics and is therefore the more expensive but better choice.

"You don't have to spend more money on food, you have to redistribute it," says Bahmann. Instead of meat and white bread, which are expensive in some cases and unhealthy in others, there should be more vegetables and protein-rich foods in the basket. The nutrition expert recommends dairy products such as quark or not too fatty cheese and vegetables such as broccoli, soybeans or edamame. And even if eggs are more expensive than they were a year ago, they are still one of the healthy, cheaper foods. They are healthiest when cooked.

Incidentally, many of these recommendations make the diet more climate-friendly. This also applies to the tip to use up all the food you have already bought.

(This article was first published on Sunday, July 17, 2022.)

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