One of the biggest challenges to healthy eating can be the expense, especially for those on a tight budget.
In fact, an article published by the Evening Standard early this year suggests that healthy eating is actually a class issue and a concern only the ““worried well” middle classes” are privileged to have.
Healthy eating should be accessible to all but there is no denying that healthier options often cost more than those pumped with added sugar, trans fat and preservatives putting a healthier lifestyle out of reach for many.
But there is still hope.
By making a few small changes we can all transition to a healthier way of life.
Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget
Change your habits and mindset
I believe this is the first thing we all need to do, regardless of our budgets.
Our habits and mindset determine our behaviour. Therefore if we continue to make ill-informed choices and inaccurate assumptions about our health, we’ll continue to get the same poor results.
Review your eating and shopping habits and challenge any assumptions you have about healthy eating on a budget.
For example, do you believe it is too expensive and only for rich people?
Eat in and cook from scratch
Being an eighties baby, takeaways and eating out were rare luxuries when I was growing up. Nowadays, it’s the norm.
It is not uncommon for households to order a takeaway and eat out a couple times a week for dinner. As well as buying lunch every day.
This all adds up.
By cooking and eating at home you have the potential to save a lot of money. You can then spend the money you save on healthier options.
Cooking is also beneficial for your health as you know exactly what ingredients are being used and you have control over your portion sizes.
Plan and prep meals (and snacks) in advance
I recently wrote an article that opened my eyes to the world of meal prepping and it has convinced me to give it a go.
Cooking at home is the first step. But you can save even more money by planning your meals in advance.
Meal planning works by deciding what you will eat during the following week and only buying the ingredients you need for those dishes.
You can then go a step further by cooking all the meals in advance on a Sunday morning or afternoon.
Or, you can simply prepare all the ingredients you need and then store everything in separate bags or containers to freeze or refrigerate for use in your planned meals during the week.
Cook in bulk and use leftovers
Bulk cooking is a form of meal prepping. But, it’s what everyone I know from a Caribbean family has done for years – cook enough to feed the entire family.
With bulk cooking, you simply cook a meal but make enough for the next couple of days.
You can then choose to eat the remaining food as leftovers the next day for lunch or dinner. Or, you can freeze for a meal later that week or the following week.
And if you have the time or you’re feeling creative, you can make a completely new meal using your leftovers.
Shop with a list and full stomach
You’ve heard it many times before – don’t grocery shop on an empty stomach – and for good reason.
It is more tempting to buy items that you don’t need as well as products that are unhealthy.
So always make a list.
It’s as simple as actually checking your fridge, freezer and cupboards.
Adopting the meal prepping approach will make this easier.
An exception to this is if a perishable item that you normally buy but don’t currently need is on offer or has been reduced and can be frozen.
For example fresh herbs, fish, meat or chicken. Sliced bread also freezes well and can be toasted from frozen.
Find out when your local supermarket marks down fresh food
Who knew how much money you can save being a yellow sticker shopper!
Recently my mum and I popped into M&S to get something to eat 20 minutes before closing and we (well my mum) picked up some awesome bargains.
She got a family sized pie for 40p, fresh soups for 20p, cheesecake slices for less than £1, sausage rolls for 25p and more.
Most markets and supermarkets reduce the prices of fresh items at specific times of the day so find out what time it happens at your local markets and supermarkets.
The items have to be in date but the use by date is normally the same or next day. As long as you can freeze the product, it’s not a problem.
And don’t be put off bruised or “ugly” fruit and veg as they’re perfect for smoothies, soups and stews.
Buy in season or frozen
Buying produce that is in season not only saves you money but it also tastes better.
Consider buying in bulk and freezing so you have a supply once particular items are no longer in season rather than buying at an inflated price.
Frozen vegetables are also a viable alternative to the sometimes pricier fresh option and there is actually not much difference in nutritional value.
Avoid buying pre-chopped, grated, mashed and pre-packed fruit, salad and veg as they work out more expensive.
Be adaptable and get creative
Try less expensive cuts of meat and types of fish. Alternatively, reduce or omit the amount you use in a recipe. (Follow these 6 vegan and plant-based foodies on Instagram for veggie recipe ideas and inspiration).
Following a recipe is a nice idea but when you’re on a budget it’s OK to leave out some ingredients as it’s unlikely to dramatically change the dish.
Or you could swap ingredients as this lentil spag bol recipe demonstrates.
Instead of buying fizzy drinks, fruit juice and squash that are all often full of sugar and can be quite costly, stick to water.
You already know that it’s important to stay hydrated. It doesn’t have to be boring either as you can jazz it up with a variety of fruit and herb infusions.
Keep your ingredients simple yet versatile
You’re not cooking to win a place in the final of Masterchef. You just need your food to be tasty and well-balanced.
You don’t need to use hundreds of ingredients. In fact, you should be able to make most meals using less than 5 or 6 items.
Buy ingredients that are versatile and that you can use in a wide variety of dishes, such as whole grains pulses, beans, lentils and peas. They are a great option for bulking out meals. They are also a good way to replace protein if using less or no meat, poultry or fish.
Herbs and spices are your best friend and when used correctly they can make even the most basic dish enjoyable.
Stop being loyal and bougie
Have you been shopping at the same supermarket chain since you left home?
If so, you could be paying more than you need to for some items.
Use MySupermarket.com to find out if your weekly shop is cheaper elsewhere.
Or maybe you’re a bougie shopper and only buy branded products such as Heinz or Kellogg’s.
Do their products really taste that much better than the supermarket own brand or Aldi or Lidl?
Only you can answer that question, but be honest. Do you buy brands for the taste or for the label?
If you make the change, you could add healthier options to your basket or trolley with your savings.
Also keep in mind local butchers, fishmongers, bakeries and farmers markets. They often sell cheaper and better quality produce than supermarkets.
Buy in bulk
This has the potential to save you quite a bit. However, if you’re single and live in a small space like me, it’s not always practical.
If that’s the case speak to a friend or family member about doing it together, that way you both benefit.
Also check the prices beforehand. I’ve been to Costco and Makro in the past and it worked out cheaper to buy from the supermarket.
Both Costco and Makro require membership, so an alternative is to buy online. Again placing a joint order with someone else can also help you to avoid a delivery charge.
Let the trends come and go
It seems like every week there’s a new superfood on the scene. That does not mean you have to try it or buy it.
Despite what everyone on your Instagram feed is saying, healthy eating is not about keeping up with the latest trends and fads.
Don’t give into the pressure to buy the latest product as recommended by popular celebrities or bloggers.
If what you’re eating works for you, keep doing what you’re doing. Only try that new kid on the block if you have spare cash and truly believe it will have a positive impact on your diet.
As you can see, with the right knowledge, preparation and a few small changes healthy eating on a budget is possible.
What tips do you have for healthy eating on a budget?
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