The West

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Fast food can be easy and incredibly cheap (think $1 burgers) which begs the question: is healthy eating too expensive?

Nonsense, says thrifty shopper Cath Armstrong, the author of Eat Well, Save More - Feed Four People for $80 a Week who also runs budget advice website

With just a little planning, Ms Armstrong shops for her family of five once a month, with fortnightly top-ups of dairy, fruit and vegetables, for under $400, including toiletries and cleaning supplies.

"For a family of four, the bill would be about $320 per month," she said.

While once-a-month shopping might not be for you just yet, Ms Armstrong said if you wanted to slash your grocery bill the first thing you needed was a plan.

"That plan is an inventory, a meal plan - create a list and hit the shops," she said.

Doing an inventory ensured you were not buying things you already had and helped you plan all your meals using ingredients you had so they were not wasted.

"Having a meal plan also removes the temptation to pick up takeaway on the way home because you're running late and there is nothing for dinner," Ms Armstrong said.

"But best of all it stops every single family member asking you one by one 'What's for dinner?' Once you know what you'll be eating, you can make up your shopping list, adding only the ingredients you need to round out your meal plan. Be specific. Buy the exact amount of ingredients you need - this saves you money and waste."

Some people will argue that eating healthily these days is always expensive. Ms Armstrong strongly disagrees.

"This is a common perception but it's not true. If you buy only fresh, unprocessed ingredients and cook from scratch, you'll save money. The initial ingredients may seem to cost more but you only need a few good-quality basic ingredients that go a long way to be able to prepare a lot of different meals."

Ms Armstrong added that although processed products may seem cheaper per item you need more of them to prepare your meals.

"When you have really good ingredients, you need less to be satisfied, so portion control is much easier, which is also good for our figures," she said.

"That brings me to another advantage of eating real food - you'll be healthier. You'll have fewer trips to the doctor, less pharmacy expenses, less time off for illness, all of which save you money."

The West Australian

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