Eat Well for Less
Eating healthy food is expensive, right?
It really doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, many ready meals and processed foods cost more than a home prepared meal or snack.
In no particular order, here's my tips for eating healthily without breaking the bank:
- Cut down on meat and fish or even go veggie a few times a week. Vegetables are generally much cheaper than meat. In the UK we tend to focus a meal around meat, often at the expense of eating enough veg. For optimum nutrition, aim for 50% of your plate being vegetables.
- Batch cook. Making enough to put in the fridge or freezer for another day can save on your gas or electric costs, as well as saving you valuable time.
- Get to to know what the cheaper cuts of meat and fish are. A butcher and fishmonger should be able to advise. Usually the cheaper cuts are no less nutritious.
- Make your own. For example, make a pasta sauce with a tin of chopped tomatoes blended with some herbs/garlic/spices and chopped onions or other chopped veg. Hummus is quite easy and cheap to make yourself - essentially a can of chickpeas, garlic, lemon, tahini paste and some oil whizzed up. These can be much cheaper and healthier than the ready made. You can also get ingredients to do things like make up your own curry pastes, spice blends and marinades with a little bit of research.
- Freeze! If a food in your fridge is getting close to its use by date, portion it up and put some in the freezer. You can do this with bread too.
- Use as many resources as you can to make it easier on reciple planning. Two personal favourites are Jack Monroe's Cooking on a Bootstrap website and Miguael Barclay's One Pound Meals series of books.
- If you are struggling financially, your local food bank and initiatives such as community fridges can help. Find your local food bank.
- If you have leftovers, think about storing them for use another time. For example, a portion of leftover dinner can go towards a lunch the next day.
- Learning how to correctly store foods can save you money. For example, buying a big bag/sack of potatoes works out a lot cheaper than buying frozen bags of chips. Learn how to store potatoes, and also many other foods.
- Try to make a list and plan out what you need (including quantities) for your meals and snacks ahead to limit overspends on wastage and impulse buys.
- 'Branded food' is not necessarily better in taste or nutrition. It's always worth trying the equivalent basic/value ranges in your supermarket and seeing what you think of them.
- Frozen food is often cheaper in the long term. It can also be fresher (it's normally frozen not long after being picked or prepared).
- Only get offers when shopping if you have the space in the fridge, cupboard or freezer AND it's food that you know you will use regularly.
- Get to know the usual price of your staple items as many supermarkets will artificially raise the price of an item just before putting them on an offer; such as buy one get one free or 3 for 2, etc. If you end up throwing out food it’s no longer a bargain!
- Stock up on eggs – one of the cheapest sources of protein around and full of essential nutrients. Eggs can be used in so many meals and snacks.
- Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. Your brain will be drawn to all of those things that aren’t on your list and (probably) unhealthy.
- Usually, buying a whole chicken works out cheaper (especially if using it for sandwiches). You may well have enough for several meals/snacks or use the leftovers to make a soup, stew or bone broth (stock).
- Only buy bigger or bulk packs if you have the space and facilities to prevent anything going off.
- Get your fruit and veg from the local market. The market should be a fair bit cheaper and often fresher than what you get in the supermarket. Also, you're helping out local traders.
- Get to know when your local stores ‘golden hour’ is. When food is about to reach its use by or best before date shops will heavily discount to avoid throwing it out. These discounts are often in the last few hours of opening on a weeknight when most customers have been and gone.
- Buying fresh fruit and veg loose is often cheaper than pre-packed. The added bonus is less wastage as you are buying what you need instead of what you may well end up throwing out. Check the prices per kg on the store display labels if in doubt.