HomeScience & TechCost of Living Crisis Forces Australians to Cut Back on Fresh Produce

Cost of Living Crisis Forces Australians to Cut Back on Fresh Produce

The cost of living crisis is prompting Australians to tighten their budgets, leading to reduced spending on fresh fruit and vegetables. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicates a drop in fruit and vegetable consumption in 2022-23 compared to the previous year. This exacerbates an existing problem, as most Australians already fall short of the recommended dietary intake of two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. In fact, only 4 percent of Australians meet these guidelines.

Despite the importance of fruit and vegetables for a balanced diet, many are struggling to afford fresh produce. However, there are alternatives to ensure adequate intake of these vital food groups.

Alternatives to Fresh Produce

Frozen Produce

Contrary to popular belief, frozen vegetables can be as nutritious as fresh ones. They are often higher in certain nutrients like vitamins C and E because they are snap-frozen close to the time of harvest. Minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium remain at similar levels in frozen produce compared to fresh. Additionally, frozen produce helps reduce food waste as it allows for portion control.

Frozen vegetables are ideal for roasting, steaming, and using in soups, stews, casseroles, curries, pies, and quiches. Frozen fruits can be incorporated into breakfast dishes or used in baking.

Canned Produce

Canned vegetables and fruits offer a cost-effective and convenient alternative to fresh produce. The canning process preserves the produce without the need for additional preservatives. Although there is a slight decline in heat-sensitive nutrients like vitamin C, canned produce remains a valuable source of vitamins and minerals. To minimize nutrient loss, add canned vegetables later in the cooking process and freeze any unused portions.

Fermented Foods

Fermentation preserves vitamins and minerals and may even enhance the nutritional profile by creating new nutrients and improving nutrient absorption. Fermented foods also contain probiotics, beneficial for gut health.

Tips for Getting More Fresh Produce on a Budget

•Buy in Season: Seasonal produce is cheaper due to local availability and reduced import costs.

•Embrace Imperfect Produce: “Ugly” fruits and vegetables, which are not physically perfect, are often sold at a discount and are just as nutritious.

•Reduce Waste: Plan meals and shopping trips to minimize waste. Freeze produce if it’s not likely to be used before it spoils.

•Swap and Share: Use websites, apps, and local council initiatives to swap or pick up excess produce from others.

•Gardening: Grow your own herbs, tomatoes, chillies, and other produce in pots, reducing costs and encouraging less waste through personal investment in the food.

By exploring these alternatives and strategies, Australians can continue to maintain a healthy diet despite the financial pressures of the cost of living crisis.

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