Healthy eating on a budget is not impossible, but it will require a bit of extra effort. I've picked up a lot of good tips from my family over the years my Aunty Ruth is a very resourceful cook and my Daddio being a relentless bargain hunter. This has stood me in good stead over the years and hopefully I can pass on some pearls of wisdom in this post.
Planning is key to living on a budget, know how much you are going to spend on each meal,how many servings you can get out of the meal, ingredients you can use in future meals without them going out of date etc. Once you know what your cooking for the week compile a shopping list of everything you will need. This will help you avoid making any impulse purchases.
Check in the papers adverts or online supermarket websites for price checks. You can save yourself a lot of money if you shop around.
Buy in bulk. This may sound strange but if you have planned well, then you should know how much of any ingredient you will need for the month. It is often considerably cheaper to buy larger quantities because it has saved the producer money on packaging. Be sure that the ingredients will keep for the month mind, think things such as pasta, rice, pulses and tin canned goods. If you have a large freezer then you can freeze meat, milk and bread.
Check for special offers in store, and if you can afford to stock up on the long shelf life products. At the end of the day supermarkets will discount the items that will be at the end of their shelf life, you will probably need to eat these items by the next day however, but check the meat section around 7-7.30pm and you can find good cuts or sausages much cheaper, just freeze them if you are not eating on the day.
Frozen vegetables tend to be cheaper than the fresh varieties but still count towards your 5 a day! You can use them as and when you need them and it cuts down on any wastage. *Just a little note any leftovers/passed used by date makes useful fertiliser for growing your own fruit and veg.
Growing your own fruit and vegetables can be a worthwhile investment as you can produce a variety and in great numbers and save you self some moola. Why not get involved with some friends or neighbours? Each grow something different and then you can trade with each other later on.
Use leftover Vegetables to make soups and salads. When you make your own soup, you can add as much vegetables a you like and you can control the amount of other ingredients such as salt, stock and fat. Finely chop some leftover veg and any leftover cooked meat and add to couscous to make a fast and nutritious meal.
If you have any bones leftover you can boil them with some leftover veg and herbs to make some stock, which come in handy for soups, risotto and gravy..also tastes amazing!
In season fresh fruit and vegetables are often cheaper as well as more flavoursome. Any overripe soft fruit can be chopped up and mixed with some frozen berries to make tasty smoothies.
Canned oily fish is cheaper to buy than fresh fish. They are a good sauce of omega-3 fats which help to keep the heart healthy, they are easier to prepare and have a long shelf life. Keep the salt content to a minimum use the fish in spring water. It is recommended that we eat two portions of fish a weekend at least one of those should be oily.
Start your day with porridge, it's cheap and has no added salt or sugar. You can add your own options for taste, honey is a sweet alternative for sugar. You could also Add sliced banana, apple or raisins for a healthy option. If you would prefer a non warm option try mixing oats with plain low fat yogurt and some grated apple and cinnamon.
Make your own frozen meals by doubling your recipe and then freezing. This is a great time and money saver. You should be thinking of meals such as soups, stew, lasagne's, bolognese, chili and cottage pies. Some meals you can prepare then freeze or some you can freeze the left overs after you cook the meal. Make sure to transfer any food to reheat into a suitable container!
Items such as canned tomatoes, beans and pulses, rice, pasta oatmeal and barley are low cost items and are a useful and healthy addition to bulk up meals and make them go further. Add them to soups, stews and casseroles. Beans and pulses are a good source of protein and fibre, where as rice, pasta and oatmeal are a good sauce of carbohydrate and also can boost your fibre content of your diet.
Make your own healthy packed lunch for the week. Pre-make sandwiches and keep in the fridge to save time and effort. Often you have other important things to do, or are too tired to prepare lunch for the next day at work, so this way you can relax and not waste money having to buy lunch because you didn't have time too or forgot to make them the night before. Not only will this save you money but will also help you control what you eat. Leftovers can make a much tastier and healthier alternative to processed lunch meals which can often be high in salt and fat.
Watch your portion size! Try not to cook more than you need, measure out food like pasta and rice before you cook instead of guessing. This will help you with overeating as well as save money.
Vegetables and beans tend to cost less than meat, so try adding more vegetables to your meat based dishes. The meat will go further saving you money and it will help keep the saturated fat content of the dish down too.
and really this is a no brainer...
Limit your eating out. Its often easier to grab a quick meal on the go, but you pay extra for that convenience. Careful planning is essential if you want to save money and eat healthy.
if you have some valuable cost saving tips please pop them in the comment section and we can add them to the list too.