When you have a limited, or no, budget for your weekly food shop it’s easy for thoughts of healthy eating to fly out of the window: and that makes sense. Your main priority becomes making sure that you are your family aren’t hungry, so any meal that you put on the table feels like a victory.
However healthy eating doesn’t necessarily need to cost more, and there are a myriad of benefits to ensuring that your diet is as balanced and nutritious as possible. Firstly, eating calorie laden processed foods can lead to weight gain, with comes with its own health problems such as an increased risk of developing diabetes or suffering from heart disease. Secondly, eating a balanced diet, loaded with fruits and vegetables, will help to boost your immune system, making you less susceptible to suffering from seasonal viral illnesses at this time of year. Finally, in children and young adults, ensuring that you are eating a diet that contains a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals will contribute to long term healthy development of both the body and mind.
That doesn’t mean healthy eating on budget is easy though, and we understand why some families choose to make occasional unhealthy food choices. But here are a few hints and tips for eating as healthily as possible on a tight budget:
Freeze Your Leftovers
If you have a freezer, then why not freeze any left overs or food that is about to go off rather than throw it away? This is a particularly good tip for bread (one of the most wasted foods in the UK). Rather than throw away half a loaf of bread, pop it in the freezer before it goes stale: it can be frozen whole or put in 2 slices at a time for convenience. This same rule applies to other food that might otherwise be wasted, such as leftover meal portions, or vegetables that are about to go past their best: simply prepare them and pop them in the freezer.
Cook One Meal
Marketing schemes and TV advertising campaigns may have you convinced you need to buy special pre-prepared meals for your baby or toddler, but in reality they can eat the same dinner as the rest of the family. Cooking just one meal for everyone is a great way to save money: avoid adding salt or too many hot spices to your cooking, and then your dinner can be chopped down for the toddler or blended up for the baby. This will have the added bonus of giving your children the opportunity to try lots of different flavours and meal times, which is great for their development.
Cook from Scratch
If you are time rich but cash poor then why not consider using the cheapest ingredients available to make your meals from scratch? Root vegetables (such as carrot, swede, and parsnip) can be purchased for pennies at this time of year, and are easy to peel, chop, and blend into a delicious soup that packs a healthy vitamin-laden punch. This is a particularly useful tip for individuals who are undergoing detox or rehabilitation from drug or alcohol abuse, as ensuring your diet is packed with as many vitamins and minerals as possible is vital during this process.
If you would prefer a more hearty meal then why not add a cheap cut of meat to the mix (such as braising steak, shoulder or shin joints) which when cooked over time will become very tender and turn your vegetable soup into a delicious stew. Whatever meal you fancy (from veggie-packed soups to spaghetti bolognaise) you will find it much cheaper to cook from scratch if you have the time. Cooking from scratch also comes with the added bonus of knowing exactly what has gone into your food, meaning that you can control your salt or fat intake, and eat as healthily as possible.
Plan Your Meals
Heading to the supermarket without a shopping list or meal plan is a recipe for overspending. Before you leave the house, look in your cupboards and fridge to see what you already have, then use this as the basis for seven different meals: try to choose meals that are healthy but that don’t require expensive or exotic ingredients. Write all these ingredients on a list, and be sure you only add what you know you will eat onto the list: for example, don’t buy a block of cheese just to sprinkle on top of pasta: if you are buying cheese then use the rest in cheese sandwiches (meaning you don’t need to buy ham too) and ensuring that nothing goes to waste. When you arrive at the supermarket, stick to your list and your budget; you’ll be amazed at how much following these simple tips will save.