There’s a general misconception that you have to spend a fortune to eat healthily - household food budgets are a commonly cited reason for not eating well – yet the reality is that there’s nothing more cost effective than cooking from scratch with simple nutritious ingredients. It may take a bit more time and planning but it certainly doesn’t cost more to eat a healthy balanced diet.
If you’ve started this year with a renewed sense of motivation to improve your diet, yet are worried that your food shopping bills are going to escalate, we’ve got the perfect article to help you get started!
Have a read through these 10 simple tips to discover how you can eat well and stick to a budget:
1) Make a list and stick to it! – Our in-house Nutritionist Laura Murphy swears by this tip and says it helps her to stick to budget when supermarket shopping. Laura said, “What I usually do on a Saturday or a Sunday is sit down with my cookbooks and have a look through for new recipes for the week ahead (breakfasts, lunches and dinners). I’ll make a plan then check my cupboards, fridge and freezer and make a list of what I’ll need from the supermarket. My list follows the supermarket layout so fruits and vegetables come first, then dairy etc. I find that I’ll usually shop the perimeter of the supermarket first and then anything else at the end. My golden rule however is that I never, ever deviate from the list! This helps me to control what I spend on food and also avoid food wastage. I do my main weekly shop at the weekend and a smaller top up shop of fruits and vegetables mid-week.”
2) Shop at lower priced supermarkets – This may sound like an obvious tip yet many people still aren’t taking advantage of pretty much like for like produce but at generally lower prices at supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl. Aldi also have a weekly promotion called the super 6 where they offer a range of different types of fruits and vegetables for 49p. The range differs every week but often includes basics such as apples, carrots, potatoes etc.
3) Use your freezer – Using your freezer is the best way to get the most out of fresh produce. Freeze any fruit that’s starting to get too ripe in smaller bags and add to smoothies at a later date. Hardly anyone ever uses the whole bunch of fresh herbs that they buy for a recipe so freeze what’s left over so you can easily add to dishes in the future. Make soups and stews in large batches and freeze in individual portions ready for a quick lunch or evening meal. Frozen berries are much cheaper than fresh and are great to throw into smoothies. Packs of frozen vegetables are great to have in the freezer too, for an inexpensive daily veg boost. Take advantage of offers at your local butchers when you buy meat in larger quantities – just ask your butcher to portion into smaller bags that you can freeze. Here’s a great guide to what you can and can’t freeze and for getting the most out of your freezer:
4) Make good use of leftovers – Many people throw away leftovers at the end of a meal yet these can often be turned into a nourishing lunch or dinner for the next day and save you lots of pennies in the process. Here in the nutrition office we’re often seen munching on last night’s dinner for lunch the next day. We often swap recipes for creative ways to use our leftovers too. These range from using a chicken carcass to make bone broth, leftover veg and gravy from a Sunday roast to make a comforting pie the next day (top with a bit of grated cheese and mash, breadcrumbs or pastry) or simply using up leftover meat in a salad for lunch. Angela Ramsden, our Technical Administrator in the Nutrition Department, definitely wins the prize for ‘the most ingenious way to use up Christmas leftovers’ with her delicious ‘Turkey and prosecco risotto’, with leeks and sprouts, and ‘Christmas dinner pie’ (basically chop up leftover turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, yorkshire puddings, sprouts, etc and simmer in a pan with leeks and some stock, adding in any herbs you fancy, then place all in a dish, top with a splash of homemade gravy and cover with pastry) – she still has portions in her freezer to cheer up dark January nights!
5) Eat more beans, chickpeas and lentils – Bags of lentils and tins of chickpeas and beans are super cheap and incredibly nutritious. You can add them to soups, stews and salads for an inexpensive alternative to meat or fish. If I’m making a classic family dish such as a cottage pie, bolognese or chilli, I’ll often use only half the suggested amount of meat and beef up with beans, chickpeas or lentils instead. This increases the nutritional content and significantly reduces the cost. I find this is especially effective with a curry or similar dish that has lots of added flavour with herbs and spices.
6) Buy dried herbs and spices & nuts and seeds in bulk – Herbs and spices add plenty of flavour and an extra dimension of nutrition to your dishes yet they can be expensive. Indian supermarkets often sell dried herbs and spices in large bags at a fraction of the cost of the small jars you get in the supermarkets. The same is true for nuts and seeds; these can cost a small fortune in small bags yet are much more cost effective when you buy in bulk away from the supermarket. You’ll easily find nuts, seeds and nut butter in bulk online.
7) Cook from scratch – It takes more time but it’s the only way to really eat well and save money. Many food companies have jumped on the bandwagon when it comes to ‘healthy’ ready meals and these are often sold at hyper-inflated prices. To eat well on a budget you need to cook meals from scratch using fresh ingredients. The healthier muesli and granola type cereals can be ridiculously expensive too. A simple bag of porridge oats costs a fraction of the price and is just as good for you.
8) Shop at 7pm? Do a bit of digging and find out what time your favourite supermarket discounts their fresh produce. Most will do it at a set time of day and if you’re prepared to do your food shopping at this time you can expect to save a significant portion off your weekly shopping bill.
9) Eat normal fruit and veg – This tip came courtesy of Rob Sackett, our Marketing Coordinator. He’s a fan of eating normal, seasonal fruits and vegetables and is continually surprised by how much you can save without compromising the nutritional quality of your diet. He says, “there’s so much talk in the press about the latest superfoods such as ‘pomegranate’ or ‘purple sprouting broccoli’, and the latest ‘must-have additions to your diet’ that people forget that a simple apple or carrot are still actually really good for you! I eat ‘normal’ fruits and vegetables and try to eat with the seasons and find that I save a fortune by doing so.”
10) Get creative – It’s not very often that there really is ‘nothing in’ for tea, yet it’s something that’s said on a regular basis. Before you nip to the shops for a last minute meal, have a look through your fridge, freezer and store cupboards and you’ll usually find the basis of a meal. The beauty of having the internet nowadays is that there are literally millions of recipes at your fingertips, so get creative and make use of what you already have in. Those little ‘nips to the shop’ can soon stack up money wise and are best avoided if you want to stick to a budget.