The cost of living – how to protect your wallet and your health


By Dr Mark Lubliner.

From filling up the car, to buying milk, cost of living and inflationary pressures have impacted many aspects of our lives. Financial pressures can sometimes cause us to compromise on healthy choices, but what if there was a way to look after our finances and our health?

Australia’s census delivered sobering insights into the health of the nation. Nearly half of Australians of all ages (46.6%) had at least one chronic condition, and almost one in five (18.6%) had two or more chronic health concerns[1].

Bupa APAC Chief Medical Officer, Dr Mark Lubliner

We know that a healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet, plays an important role in preventing chronic disease. But for some, the rising cost of living means a review of grocery spending and making compromises.

Bupa APAC Chief Medical Officer, Dr Mark Lubliner

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has confirmed everyday grocery items have increased by 9% in the year to September, and fruit and vegetables have been hit hardest, up by 16%. If you feel you’re spending more for every trolley, you’re right.  In many instances ultra-processed foods can be tempting when it comes to saving money, but we know that ultra-processed foods are more likely to lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, depression and other chronic illness and disease[1].

It’s so much better to rely on wholefoods and those closest to their natural state. So, how can you make healthier choices, while sticking to your budget?

  • Try and buy fruit and vegetables that are in-season as they’re usually cheaper.
  • Don’t be afraid to try the ‘less than perfect looking’ fresh produce that’s sold at a lower price.
  • Another option is to buy frozen fruits and vegetables. They may be more affordable and can be just as nutritious as their fresh friends because they’re snap frozen while ripe. Smoothies are a great way to get extra veg into your day and with some frozen berries, they can also make a filling breakfast.
  • Tinned vegetables and legumes are another cost-effective way to add nutrition to a meal.
  • Try growing some fresh herbs, fruit and veg at home, which you can do in small areas, including vertical gardens and pots. Gardening can also have a positive impact on your mental health.
  • Consider cutting back on red meat. You could try finely chopping mushrooms to bulk out your bolognese sauce (at about half the price of beef mince, per kilo).
  • Look for Australian produce. Apart from supporting locals, you’ll save on transport and the exchange rate.
  • It’s a cliché but write a list and stick to it. Plan your meals and snacks in advance to save you time and money spent on daily shopping.
  • Swapping takeaways for ‘fakeaways’ at home is a great way to save money and some calories too. Here are some ideas: Find a healthier version of your favourite comfort food (bupa.com.au).
  • Checking in on your alcohol intake is another way you might be able to save yourself some money while also looking after your body and mind.

Fuel and transport costs are also up, so for many Australians, the cost of travel is a concern. Where possible, active travel (like walking or cycling) is a great way to save money and keep fit.  On the back of the pandemic, there are also more options for remote working, meetings and even telehealth appointments that could save you time and money. If you live in a regional or remote area, telehealth could give you easier access to tailored care and if you’re in the city, telehealth could reduce your transport costs.

Stress relating to household finances can impact mental and physical health, so it’s important to try and find low-cost ways to manage your stress. These could include walking, gardening, home yoga or reading. It may seem hard at first, but there are ways you can save money and take care of your health too.

[1] Health Conditions Prevalence, 2020-21 | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au)