The recession has shriveled the income of millions of South Africans, not to mention pushed up the prices of everything from food and petrol to medical aid and school fees. Belts have never been so tight as everyone tries their best to weather the global economic meltdown.

There’s one purchase that it would be unwise to stint on, however.  Vegetables and fruit. In fact, when times are bad, your health is paramount and the best way to maintain it is to eat healthily and avoid the expense of doctors bills and pharmacy accounts. Illness also damages the economy by way of absenteeism and poor performance levels at work or at school. And now, as winter creeps up on us, it’s vital that we stave off the flu with the help of vitamin, mineral and phytochemical rich veggies and fruit.

Getting your recommended 5-a-Day (five servings of veggies and fruit) is easy and inexpensive if you follow a few sensible guidelines, says Leigh-Ann Silber, registered dietitian and a trustee on the 5-a-Day for Better Health Trust.

“In the cold months ahead, you can prepare delicious vegetable soups and freeze them for later use, for instance, or with little effort you can grow your own vegetables,” says Leigh-Ann. “There are many ways to save while maintaining a healthy diet, keeping in mind that good health is your strongest weapon against tough times.”

5 Money saving tips from 5-a-Day

• Prepare enough vegetable soup for several meals and freeze the leftovers:  Use two or three containers to avoid having to re-freeze.

• Grow your own vegetables:  Invest a little in seeds, and get a lot of vegetables in return. In the cooler months to come, try indoor pots or a small greenhouse.

• Buy fruit and vegetables that are in season: Retailers and your local green grocers are where you’ll find the freshest in-season produce, for good prices.

• Buy in bulk and share the cost with family or friends: Buying big with one shop can save a lot of money and many people can benefit.

• Stock up on frozen vegetables: These are easy to prepare and the nutrient content in frozen veggies is perfectly preserved. Also, there is no wastage.

Have you found that buying less meat and poultry ease up your budget a bit?