Food choices & your pocket!

By Shalom Govero (Financial Literacy Trainer, Speaker and Author)

As a financial educator, I spend most of my time talking to people about how to make the most of their personal finances. I love to bring money conversations to the kitchen table. Money management is a huge part of decision-making. The amount of money you have can determine where you live, what you eat, where kids go to school and more. Despite all this, it is possible to have a decent life that is also affordable. 

One area that affects our personal finances is food. The food choices you make can affect your monthly budget and also affect your health outcomes, which in turn have significant financial consequences. Many times we hear, your health is your wealth. What does this actually mean practically?

Let us look at some statistics which relate to our context, Zimbabwe. 

According to Gonde & Chimbari (2019) there has been a shift from our local diets towards ‘westernised diets’ which are high in salt, fatty, and processed foods. These are the main drivers of the increase in diseases such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes. With the increased rate of urbanization in our country, the percentage of non-communicable diseases has gone up. The upward trend is worrying because of the impact this has on personal finances in the long term. Generally, non-communicable diseases are expensive to treat and in our part of the world, a specialist doctor and medication for management of these can be debilitating to finances.

Therefore, we need to relook our diet, food habits and make some crucial changes. The first change relates to philosophy. There are various myths we need to burst. 

Myth 1: Healthy food options (road-runner chicken or small grain mealie-meal such as sorghum) are for those who live in the village with no access to fancy shops or better food options like french fries and so on. I find it interesting how eating junk food shows that you have money. Notably, purchasing food from certain outlets is sometimes attributed to high social status. This sort of thinking makes urbanites shun the real superfoods which include forest fruits like mazhanje or baobab. 

Myth 2: Healthy food options are expensive. I think that this notion holds water in other countries and not our own. We live in a country where growing vegetables, rearing organic chickens, and having fruits are possible if you have a backyard garden or a rural home. Most of us have these at our disposal but we may just need to be organized to put them to good use if we are to do better financially and health-wise. 

Practical tips 

Plan your meals – now I know that this is difficult if you are living on a limited and irregular income. However, it is a necessary step if you want to watch what you eat and stretch your income. If you plan what you will eat, this will help you come up with a shopping list, making it easier for you to shop around before you spend. Impulse buying is a recipe for overspending and purchasing unhealthy food options. This is incredibly important for those who work in office jobs. If you do not plan what you will eat during lunchtimes, it can be costly to purchase the healthier options since cheaper convenient food options are usually junk food. 

Produce your own food – this has become a global trend with many people growing their own vegetables in pots and verandas. However, we are blessed with space, sunshine and good soils. Growing one’s food should be made fashionable once again. You can grow various vegetables (specific to your taste) and add herbs, or even tubers like butternut or pumpkin. You can also grow fruit trees such as mangoes, oranges and lemons. For those with limited amounts of water, recycling water can be a useful tip. Did you know you can water plants with water that you use to wash rice or potatoes? Instead of throwing it down the drain, you can use that to water your vegetables. If you have more space, you can also start rearing your own poultry like rabbits and chickens. These can also lower meat bills and can serve as a source of income.

Watch what you eat – gone are the days where eating more shows that you are doing well financially. It used to be fashionable to eat fried foods, bread with lots of jam, tea with 4-5 teaspoons of sugar. However, salt, sugar and cooking oil are what I term ‘problem foods’ in our diet. Every household purchases these foods every month. It is crucial to limit or moderate your intake and usage of these foods because they can be costly on your monthly budget. Beyond that, increased intake of these foods will affect your health as they can lead to high blood pressure or diet-induced diabetes. 

Furthermore, our diet consists mostly of white starch. Try to replace white starch with healthier options such as brown starches; those in whole-grain bread, brown rice and sorghum. These options are not a favourite for many but with time, your pallet will get used to the taste. 

With these three tips, I do hope you can start examining how your food habits are affecting your personal finances. At the end of the day, what you eat will affect your monthly budget and your health outcomes. 

Shalom Govero is a Financial Literacy Trainer, Speaker, and Author at www.thefinancewiz.co. You can tune into her local radio show on StarFm every Monday morning or contact her directly on +263 788412018

Images from Pexels

Originally published in the 6th Ndeipi Newsletter

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