Healthy Eating on a Budget
With many of us having to watch our wallets at the moment, thanks to Covid-related job losses or being unable to work, it’s important to save money where we can. One thing we of course still need to spend on is food, but eating well at home doesn’t need to be expensive, despite what many wellness gurus might have you believe (no you don’t need to live off activated almonds, chia puddings and kombucha from fancy health food stores). With a little bit of planning and creative thinking we can eat healthily on a very modest budget. Here are my tips:
Buy frozen fruit and vegetables – they contain just as much goodness as fresh, and generally you can get a lot more volume for your money. I love frozen berries on porridge and frozen peas to add to pesto pasta.
Choose loose fruit and vegetables – they tend to be cheaper than the pre-packaged options, not to mention the fact that it’s far more environmentally-friendly to avoid plastic packaging.
Go for cheaper cuts of meat – chicken thighs are a lot cheaper than chicken breast, and delicious when baked. A whole chicken can also be good value as you can get many meals from it. Beef shin is an inexpensive alternative to steak, and can be made into a tasty slow-cooked stew.
Cook more with pulses – pulses are cheap and a fantastic source of plant-based protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are also very versatile - I love making my own hummus with chickpeas, cooking dhal with split peas and bulking out a chilli with kidney beans. Try swapping a few meat-based dinners each week for pulse-based alternatives and you may be surprised at how much you save.
Oats are your friend – oats are super cheap and extremely good for you as they’re high in fibre. Why not use them as a base for your breakfast by making porridge or overnight oats, or bake some homemade flapjacks instead of buying shop-brought treats.
Freeze bread – bread makes up a huge proportion of food waste in the UK. I freeze loaves of bread and packs of bagels and just take out what I need each day. This helps my bread to stay fresh and I waste nothing. If you do have bread that’s getting stale why not blend it into breadcrumbs and freeze them - they’re a great topping for pasta or cauliflower cheese.
Eat your leftovers – I love leftovers, and it doesn’t get much better than lunching on a lovely bowl of curry or pasta from the night before. You could even freeze your leftovers, just please don’t chuck them!
Choose own brands – there is often little difference between supermarket own-brands and ‘luxury’ brands other than the cost, so stick with the cheaper options. (Apart from toilet paper, which in my experience is poorer quality when it’s cheap!) Own brands are certainly adequate for basics like pasta, rice, cereal and tinned goods.
Skip the junk – highly processed foods can be costly and low in nutritional quality, so if you stop buying things like biscuits, fizzy drinks and crisps and you might be surprised at how much you save. If you do fancy something sweet, why not bake your own? That way you can control what goes in and it likely won’t cost as much.
Eat seasonal – seasonal produce can be cheaper than unseasonal food (especially if you buy it at a market), so check out what’s in season. Right now I’m loving apples, leeks, cauliflower and venison!
Shop at local markets – often you’ll find fruit and vegetables are cheaper at a farmer’s market than the supermarket. Not only this but you’ll also be supporting local businesses and your food miles will be far lower, so you can eat with a good conscience.
Plan your meals – make a list of the meals you’re going to cook each week and the ingredients you need so that your weekly shop is focussed and doesn’t just contain random bits that you can’t actually make a meal with.
Shop online - you might want to consider shopping online, so you can avoid grabbing things you don’t need and see how much you’ve spent before you get to the checkout.
Avoid alcohol – we all know it’s not great for our health to drink too much alcohol, and it’s also not cheap. An easy way to save money and improve your health is to cut back on alcohol, whether that’s just saving it for a weekend treat or ditching it completely.
I hope you find these tips helpful, and let me know if you have any more of your own!