How to eat healthy on a budget until your next pay day!
It’s January and for many it’s a new beginning of what we will do differently and better this year. It’s also when the reality sinks in of Christmas overspending and the challenge of how we get to pay day at the end of January. No matter what your situation, most of us will feel some level of need to cut back this month. However how we eat does not have to be one of them and indeed eating well on a budget can be done!
To eat well does not have to cost the earth!
So, this month we have compiled some ideas to help you enjoy nutritious food, regardless of your situation, dietary preferences, or tastes without breaking the bank.
It all starts with planning!
Yes, that does mean getting organised and planning your meals for the week ahead! Why, because careful planning will help reduce the food waste going in the bin and reduce the shopping bill! So before you head out to do the weekly shop, make a list of the main meals for the week, even starting with Monday to Friday is a great first step.
Lots of websites ( e.g. Safefood, Tesco) do meal plans that are helpful to give ideas of new recipes to try, as well as making sure you are getting the nutritional content in.
Cooking meals from scratch is also cheaper and you will know what’s in it! If cooking is not your first love, there are lots of easy recipes online to help.
Reducing your meat consumption and increasing your plant intake is good for the gut and the purse!
While meat is a great source of protein it can be expensive, so why not increase your plant-based protein (beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, tofu, tempeh etc) or add them to your meals so that they go further.
Lastly, loyalty cards and money-off vouchers can help reduce the bill too, that’s when we remember them, so why not download the app and make sure that you don’t miss out!
Make it a weekly shop if you can!
While this may not be possible for everyone, making a list based on your meal plan and doing one large shop can be helpful. Some other useful tips to remember when shopping are:
- Bulk buy – dry items that are reduced, only those that you will actually use. Long-shelf life items like pasta, rice, oats, beans, lentils, tin tomatoes, sardines, mackerel and whole grain cereals.
- Buy frozen – fruit and vegetables are often cheaper and just as nutritious as the fresh version. So, if you don’t get to use them straight away they are not wasted!
- Own brand – most of the multiples now do their own brand in some foods. So give them a try as they can often cost less and in some cases are supplied by the original supplier just their own brand.
- Local markets/shops – these can often be sources of local seasonal foods and as well as supporting a local business you are shopping more sustainably.
When shopping, remember that the higher nutritional foods are often on the higher shelf e.g. breakfast cereals and those with a higher sugar content are at eye level.
Finally, don’t go shopping hungry – research shows we spend more on lower nutritional value foods (1).
It’s time to get cooking!
While we all may not be Julia Child in the kitchen, we can still give it a go. Batch cooking is one of the best ways to save money and time, another commodity that we are all short on too!
Batch cooking of stews, lasagnas, chillis, currys, bolognaise or soups at weekends, where you have time to portion, cool and freeze for the week ahead. If the oven is on why not cook a second dinner or roast some chicken for the sandwiches or salads for the week ahead?
Leftovers can always be used for lunch the next day or get creative and make it into something else e.g., bolognaise into chilli, by adding some chilli flakes and some kidney beans and have in a wrap or on a baked potato.
“Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up” – Julia Child
We can save on what we eat while working too!
We can save too when we are at work. By making your own lunch the night before or bringing in leftovers. Salad jars or soups are all great ways to increase our fruit and vegetable intake while at work. As is, bringing in a bag of fruit (apples, organs, pears, bananas) and keeping them at your work desks for snacks.
Some other ideas for snacks are having bags of nuts, oat cakes or crackers so that when hungry you can reach for those rather than something in the vending machine, that may be less nutritious. Bringing coffee or herbal teas to work too might be an option and while it might not seem like you are saving a lot over time it adds up!
So hopefully these tips and ideas will help you save on the shopping bill, but more than that help you to eat well, so that in the longer-term your health as well as your pocket benefits!
- Tal A, Wansink B. Fattening Fasting: Hungry Grocery Shoppers Buy More Calories, Not More Food. JAMA Internal Medicine [Internet]. 2013;173(12):1146. Available from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/1685889