Setting and sticking to a food budget can be tricky, particularly if you’re following a low FODMAP diet. Buying specialty food products such as those that are certified FODMAP Friendly products can be expensive. Often specialty food products include ingredients that are expensive to source, and production volumes may be lower, leading to higher overhead expenses. Additionally, there are costs associated with certifying low FODMAP products, and there may have been large investment in the development process to ensure a flavourful and texturally pleasing product.
The good news is that there are many budget-friendly foods out there that are naturally low in FODMAPs.
Eating seasonally not only supports sustainability, it’s also kinder on your wallet.
- Low FODMAP fruits, vegetables and herbs that are currently in season here in Victoria during Autumn include bananas (stick to the firmer bananas), grapefruit, grapes, kiwi fruit, lemons, limes, mandarins, rhubarb, strawberries, avocadoes, green beans, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, okra, potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, basil, dill, coriander, rosemary, thyme, lemongrass, parsley, mint, oregano and sage.
- Unprocessed meat, chicken, fish, seafood, eggs and firm tofu are all low FODMAP foods. Buy the best that you can afford, and opt for economical cuts of meat and chicken such as chuck or skirt steak (perfect for slow cooking), lean mince, and thigh, tenderloin or drumstick chicken. If fresh fish or seafood just isn’t in your budget, then frozen or canned is a very suitable replacement (more on that below). Meals that are based on animal proteins can be bulked out with vegetables or tinned lentils (drain and rinse well before using).
- Lactose-free cow’s milk, almond milk and rice milk (UHT long-life varieties are often cheaper than fresh varieties) may still be enjoyed on a low FODMAP diet. Lactose-free cheese and yoghurt can be expensive, so you may want to choose regular cheddar or feta cheese, and Greek yoghurt instead as these are naturally low in FODMAPs. These have strong flavours, so you’re able to use less of them without compromising on flavour.
- Spelt bread made using traditional sourdough methods is low FODMAP. There are also a handful of FODMAP Friendly certified breads available such as Alpine Breads Spelt and Sprouted Grains bread, or Helga’s gluten-free Mixed Grain loaf. I find it handy to always have a loaf of bread in the freezer for toast and toasted sandwiches.
Having a freezer and pantry full of low FODMAP foods that are suitable to turn into a meal at a moment’s notice is not only health-giving, it’s convenient and reduces the chance of household food waste. Download the FODMAP Friendly app to check for low FODMAP serving sizes for the foods listed above.
- Frozen fruit and vegetables are generally much cheaper than their fresher counterparts. They’re often picked at peak ripeness and retain their nutrients while frozen, making them a nutritious choice. Low FODMAP options include carrots, green beans, spinach, broccoli, potato, sweet potato, blueberries, strawberries and pineapple.
- Frozen unprocessed fish fillets and seafood such as hoki, dory, barramundi, Tasmanian Atlantic salmon, banana prawns and king prawns are all delicious choices. Opt for varieties that aren’t crumbed or marinated.
- Tinned foods can get a bit of a hard rap, as they can contain high levels of sodium and are commonly referred to as a ‘processed food’. There’s actually nothing wrong with them, particularly when you choose low-sodium options. Low FODMAP tinned foods to look out for include lentils, plain tuna, salmon, sardines or kippers in springwater or olive oil (extra virgin olive oil is a bonus), coconut milk (without inulin), pineapple (in juice), tomatoes, capsicum, jackfruit (fantastic in vegetarian cooking as a pulled chicken or pork substitute) and baby corn.
- Rolled oats, basmati rice, brown rice, quinoa, rice flour, buckwheat flour, rice noodles, konjac noodles, gluten-free pasta (made of low FODMAP grains), walnuts, peanuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds and chia seeds are among the more economical low FODMAP items to stock your pantry with. Some of these foods can still be expensive however, so it’s important to remember that if you know you’re going to use them, it’s a lot more cost-effective to buy them in bulk.
- Condiments, dried herbs and spices are invaluable to cooks both novice and experienced. FODMAP Friendly choices that will add loads of flavour to your food and are worth stocking up on include olive oil, mustard, miso paste, pure peanut butter, tamari sauce, pure maple syrup, ground turmeric, paprika and cinnamon, chilli flakes (please be aware that some people find chilli to be a gut irritant), and dried basil, oregano and thyme. It definitely pays to keep your eyes peeled for price drops or sales on costlier items such as garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil (low FODMAP!), a spice called asafoetida (it tastes and smells remarkably similar to garlic and onion), and good quality stocks and sauces that are low FODMAP certified.
Budget-friendly low FODMAP meal ideas
These Overnight Oats or porridge made with rolled oats, water, the milk of your choice, and a pinch of cinnamon, topped with sliced banana and a spoonful of peanut butter. Scrambled eggs or an omelette made with whole eggs, spinach, tomatoes, and cheddar or feta cheese, served with a slice or two of buttered low FODMAP or gluten-free toast. On a special occasion, make Dutch Pancakes or buckwheat crepes with berries and pure maple syrup.
Falafel Burgers , or a roast vegetable, quinoa and feta salad made with roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini, capsicum, and steamed quinoa, served with a sweet, zingy dressing made from olive oil, mustard, maple syrup and lemon juice. Fried rice made with basmati or brown rice, carrot, zucchini, green beans, asafoetida, egg and tamari sauce. For something different, try this Korean Seafood Pancake.
Low FODMAP Bolognese, or lemon and chilli tuna pasta made with gluten-free pasta, tinned tuna in olive oil, lemon juice, chilli flakes, broccoli, spinach and garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil. Whip up a teriyaki sauce-style stir fry with rice noodles, chicken or prawns, capsicum, carrot, broccoli and a sauce made from miso paste, tamari sauce and maple syrup. Winter Chicken and Vegetable Soup, or a tomato-based beef and carrot slow-cooked stew served with mashed potato. Turmeric baked fish with basmati or brown rice and salad, or lentil curry made with tinned lentils, coconut milk, potato, spinach, asafoetida, turmeric, cinnamon and chilli flakes, served over rice.
To summarise, a low FODMAP diet doesn’t have to be expensive, and there’s no reason why it can’t be enjoyed by someone on a tight food budget. Use the tips in this article to start stocking your fridge, freezer, pantry and fruit bowl with some of the suggestions listed, and in no time you’ll become a confident low FODMAP cook, used to working with seasonal foods and what you’ve got on hand.
Written By Lauren Sedger, Nutritionist.
Reviewed By Charmaine Duong, Dietitian.