How to eat healthy with low income
Jollof Rice with vegetables

How to eat healthy with low income

This post is a continuation of the previous discussion on how to eat healthy with low income. I explained in the first part the fact that no single food that can be termed healthy or unhealthy. It is the way we use foods that defines our food habits as healthy or unhealthy. Since habits can be learned, therefore, healthy food habits can be learned and maintained. It only takes determination to make the decision and stay with it. One of the reasons why people often end up with unhealthy eating habits is the misunderstanding that healthy food choices are costly and are beyond the reach of the common man.

A survey was recently conducted by a colleague in the Southwestern part of Nigeria to investigate peoples’ understanding of healthy food choices. It was appalling to know what people perceived as healthy foods. Foods that are generally costly, imported, and sold at the famous fast foods outlets were perceived as healthy foods.

Taste is always a strong determining factor when people are considering healthy eating as a lifestyle. I hold this view as well. If the food tastes unpleasant, the chances that you as a consumer will include it in your diet on a regular basis are very small.

I like to emphasize at this point that you should endeavour to prepare your meals at home. As a matter of fact, it is cheaper, safe, uncomplicated and very delicious. Your home-prepared foods will definitely end up delicious. You certainly have no control over prepared ready to eat meals sold at the various food outlets. Preparing your meals at home opens you up to the following possibilities and benefits.

  • You can take advantage of low prices by buying your foodstuffs from the farmers’ market and specials or promotion sales.
  • You will ensure the safety of your foods because you know the ingredients that go into your meal.
  • You can take advantage of the different cooking methods to develop special aromas and flavours.
  • You will include different types of foods in your meals; thereby achieving diversity one of the hallmarks of healthy eating.

I will be demonstrating with recipes on how to eat healthy with low income. It is not only possible but the resulting meals are delicious. Though recipes described here are developed in the Nigerian context, they can be adapted in other regions of the world using locally available foods.

Pounded yam with spinach and fish stew


YamHalf of an average size tuber (approx. 1kg)
Water8 cups
Spinach3 cups (shredded)
Smoked fish (e.g. mackerel, hake etc.)1 average size
Palm oil3 tablespoons
Onions1 medium-size
Red bell peppers6 medium-size
Red chillies3 small size
Tomatoes6 medium-size
Salt½ teaspoon (to taste)
Spices (such as mixed herbs, curry, thyme, coriander, etc.)As desired



Into a pot with 4 cups of water, add the yam (peeled and cut into pieces) and cook by boiling for 15 minutes. Pound the yam into a malleable paste using the mortar and pestle; the wooden apparatus used in preparing pounded yam in Nigeria.

For the spinach and fish stew, first grind together the bell pepper, chillies, tomatoes and onion using a blender, attrition mill or the grinding stone. Clean up the fish, remove the bones and break them into chunks. Add the oil in a pot, add the ground mixture and cook for a few minutes. Afterwards, add the fish, salt and the spices and cook further. Stir in the vegetables and allow simmering for 5 minutes.

Additional tips: Vegetables could be varied or increased as desired, however, subject to seasonal availability. Aside from palm oil, other types of vegetable oil such as sunflower oil, ground-nut oil and soybean oil can also be used.

Serves 3 adults

Serve the pounded yam with the spinach and fish stew and enjoy. Pounded yam is a traditional food of great relish in Nigeria.

The meal can be enjoyed as lunch or supper.

Total cost: N650.00

Cost per person: N217.00

Note: The cost of yam is often subject to seasonal variation, making it significantly costly at the offseason. However, the meal can be enjoyed on a low budget at all seasons but particularly when yams are in season.

Cocoyam pottage with vegetables and fish


Cocoyam9 medium-size
Frozen fish (Mackerel)1 medium-size
Water3 cups
Leafy vegetables (Amaranth)1 cup (shredded into pieces)
Onions1 medium size (grated or diced)
Tomatoes2 medium size (ground into paste)
Tomato paste1 small tin (75gm)
Vegetable oil3 tablespoon
Bell pepper (Optional)1 large (ground into paste)
Salt½ teaspoon (to taste)
Spices (such as mixed herbs, curry, thyme, coriander, etc.)As desired



Peel the cocoyams and cut them into small pieces. Chop the onion, tomatoes and pepper. Put the coco-yams in a pot; add the water, tomato paste, chopped onion, tomatoes and ground pepper, salt and spices. Cook on low heat. In a separate pot, boil the fish in slightly salted water with spices added. Remove the fish bones and keep aside. In another pot, sauté the leafy vegetable in the oil until they are tender but still green, add the fish. Combine the sautéed vegetables and fish with the cocoyam bulk and mix together, allowing for partial mashing of the cocoyams in a way that the cooking water is absorbed.

Serves 3 adults

The meal can be enjoyed as a breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Total cost: N600

Cost per person: N200

Additional tips: Other varieties of vegetables such as spinach, pumpkin leaf; “ugwu”, cabbage, green peas can be used.

Soaked gari with roast peanut


GariI cup
Roast peanutsI handful (15gms)
Sugar2 teaspoons or 2 cubes of sugar
Powdered milk1 sachet of 20gms powdered milk



Soaked gari is a traditional food popularly enjoyed as refreshment during the hot afternoons that characterize the tropical warm weather of Nigeria. Gari is a product obtained from roast fermented grated cassava. As a result, gari comes in the form of a precooked food product.

Add 1 cup of gari into a cereal bowl and add drinking water to submerge the gari. You may wish to rinse and decant the water in order to discard any floating particles and or reduce the tartness. Add a little more water, the sugar and stir in the powdered milk. Mix up the mixture and enjoy with the peanuts.

Serves 1 adult

This dish could be enjoyed as a sumptuous lunch.

Total cost: N60.00

Note: Alternative to peanuts includes peanut cake (Kulikuli), dried fish, smoked fish and roast meat.

Jollof rice with vegetables demonstrates how to eat healthy with low income


Rice3 cups
Water5 cups
Meat stock1 cup
Leafy vegetables (Pumpkin leaf “ugwu”)1 cup (shredded into pieces)
Onions1 medium-size
Tomatoes8 medium-size
Tomato paste1 small tin (75gm)
Vegetable oil4 tablespoons
Bell pepper (Optional)4 medium-size
Chillies2 medium-size
Salt½ teaspoon (to taste)
Spices (such as mixed herbs, curry, thyme, coriander, bay leaves etc.)As desired



First grind the tomatoes, bell peppers, chillies, and onion together into a puree using a blender or attrition mill. Sauté the vegetable in a little oil, add salt to taste and set aside. Into a cooking pot add the oil and sauté the tomato paste for a few minutes. Add the stock, water, spices and salt. Bring to a boil. In the meantime, wash the rice, drain and add into the boiling mixture. Stir the mixture, reduce the heat and allow simmering for 25 minutes. Remove the heat, add the vegetable, give the mixture a quick stir to ensure the ingredients are well-distributed, cover and let the rice rest for a few minutes till all liquid is fully absorbed and rice grains are nicely fluffy.

Serves 4 adults

Serve your jollof rice and vegetables with a piece of meat, fish or chicken as desired.

Total cost: N900 (Roast chicken; 4 pieces of drumstick inclusive)

Cost per person: N225

This dish can be enjoyed as a sumptuous breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is very delicious and quite low on the pocket.


With these recipes, I have shown how to eat healthy with low income. Note that none of the meals contains less than 3 food groups. I urge you to make healthy eating a lifestyle and not an occasional intake. I hope you will take these recipes to your kitchen and enjoy.

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