WHAT you eat makes a big difference to your mood, energy and waistline – but at a time of such financial uncertainty, finding food that is healthy and affordable can seem overwhelming.
When you’re hungry and pushed for time and money, processed and fast food can seem like the easiest option.
But these foods are often loaded with calories, sugar and salt.
Eating healthy on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy mealtimes. You can eat better on a budget by planning meals in advance, cooking at home and revising shopping habits.
Here, Dora Walsh, a Transformational Registered Nutritionist from UK Health Radio shares her top tips…
She says: “You may say eating better, healthier food is expensive. But I’m delighted to show how cost-effective healthy meals can be, even on a budget.
“You start to save money when you become clear and learn exactly which healthy, budget friendly food foods need to be in your shopping basket.
“When you plan ahead, start to organise, prep and cook at home vs eating takeaways, deliveries and ready meals, your health, energy and bank balance move into credit vs debit.”
COOKING AT HOME
One of the best ways to eat better on a budget is to cook at home, says Dora.
This way you will know what you will eat for the week ahead. She says: “Plan your breakfast, lunches and dinners for the week to include the food groups needed at each meal.
“These are healthy proteins, complex carbohydrates, good fats, and phytonutrients that don’t break the bank. Planning becomes easy, and you can batch cook to save money and time.”
The expert nutritionist advises that making a carefully selected shopping list with the healthiest food groups – that don’t break the bank – is a great tip for eating better on a budget.
Healthy proteins: Frozen fish, chicken or turkey breast or drumsticks, tinned tuna, eggs, lean lamb or beef mince, pulses.
Complex carbohydrates: Wholegrain rice and pasta, rolled oats, sweet potato, parsnip, butternut squash.
Good fats: Bottled olives, raw nuts and seeds.
Phytonutrients: Peppers, fresh or tinned tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, leeks, celery, courgettes, onions, garlic, peaches, frozen berries, tangerines, apples, pears.
MAKE YOUR OWN ‘READY MEALS’
Dora says households can easily save money and eat healthier by making their own frozen ready meals at home.
She says: “Save time and money by batch cooking healthy meals to stock in your freezer to reheat for lunch or dinner.
“Things like lamb or beef bolognese with tinned tomatoes, spinach, garlic and onion, chicken and vegetable curry or lentil curry with mixed vegetables are great budget batch cook ideas.”
Elsewhere Sophie Wedlock-Smith from SW Nutrition agreed that budget meals do not need to be unhealthy.
She even believes that healthy meals can be as cheap as £1!
She says: “£1 meals are very achievable and in these uncertain times it’s important to become more creative in the kitchen while doing so in a financially viable manner.
Save time and money by batch cooking healthy meals to stock in your freezer to reheat for lunch or dinner.
“It’s about becoming savvy and planning ahead and preparing from scratch, which means you will know exactly what is in your dish and no breaking down of complicated recipe labels.”
Sophie says the best foods you can eat that are cheap and nutritious include pulses and legumes, frozen vegetables and fish.
CHOOSE INGREDIENTS THAT CAN BE USED IN MULTIPLE MEALS
The expert recommends batch cooking in advance and overlapping ingredients for recipes to eat better on a budget.
She says: “When using vegetables, utilise the whole thing. For example using all of a cauliflower and utilising the whole vegetable and the leaves too.
“They taste delicious seasoned with chilli flakes and drizzled with olive oil and then grilled until crisp. Or buy wonky vegetables as they are cheaper and still tasty and nutritious.
“Buy vegetables that are reduced and almost at their sell by date and freeze them immediately. This way you will still benefit from the vitamins and minerals.”
Sophie suggests having simple, quick recipes with just a few ingredients is key to budget healthy eating.
For example onion, peppers, tomatoes and chicken thighs with brown rice can easily feed a family of four for £1 each and this can be batched cooked in-advance.
Meanwhile Charlotte Turner and Nourhan, Registered Nutritionists at the Health Nutritionist Clinic, have a number of key tips to help people eat better on a budget.
They said: “Choose wonky to watch those pennies grow!
“Choosing frozen, tinned and wonky fruits and vegetables when buying your weekly food shop will not only encourage you to meet your 5 a day but will also save some money.
“It is estimated that by choosing frozen, tinned and wonky veggies, you can save around £6 to £10 pounds a week for a family of 2-3 members.”
Swapping to tinned or frozen also has the added bonus of reducing food waste. All frozen, tinned and wonky options are perfectly nutritious, tasty and are also more budget friendly.
ALWAYS CHECK THE SUPERMARKET’S BOTTOM SHELVES
Another tip they shared is to get to know retailer discounts – and make the most of bargains by looking for local retailer’s discount aisle.
They added: “Plan your meals and be a basement shopper.
“Planning and writing your grocery list will encourage you to avoid impulse buys that increase your shopping spend and may also result in food waste
“Remember that supermarkets have designed the whole shopping experience to make you want to buy more.
“Often products at eye level tend to be the most expensive, heavily marketed and often the most tempting to buy.
“We suggest being a basement shopper. It may not sound glamorous but by looking at the bottom shelves you will save quite a few pounds per week.”
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For more cooking tips and tricks, here’s how to eat healthy food every day but still indulge in your favourite treats – and you can even have pizza.
And this is how to eat well for £20 a week – and it’s recipes all the family can enjoy.
Plus we revealed how to batch cook a vegetarian bhuna curry.