Healthy Eating on a budget


So you are in the right head space, off to a great start with the exercises and ready for a whole new life style. You head down to the supermarket picking up the nicest, brightest fruit you can see, collecting all the special offers on everything healthy, doing so well, until you get to the til… has the cashier got it wrong? Your weekly shop has just jumped by 20/30 quid! You go home totally deflated with the little voice in your head saying, “That’s it, we can’t afford to eat healthy, what’s the point!?” Please don’t give up!! I have good news, it can be done. All it takes is a little homework, a little thinking time and a bit of forward planning. I hope my following ramblings help….


Bulk yourself and not your bill!


I don’t know about everyone else but when I’m out shopping I find that I can keep the trolley price quite low until I hit the meat aisle. Buy cheap and it’s a total false economy and yet we want to save the cash. We’ve probably all taken advantage of one or other supermarket meat package deals so I’m sure you will relate. You get home to cook the mince and it’s mostly fat, the chicken shrinks to half its size and both are flavourless and bland.  So what to do? Depending on what way you do your shopping there are two options.Firstly,  If you tend to do one big shop at the start of the month, get a monthly meal planner on the go. See what meat you will need and buy from the butcher in bulk. You will need less than if you are buying the deals as the meat is better quality and wont disappear on you once you start cooking.  Divide the meat up into meal/ week allotments and freeze.  Secondly, I know a lot of people do their weekly shop from their tax credits (or similar) so this isn’t an option. Why not get together with a friend to take advantage of whatever deal the butcher has on, and then split it between you?  Shop around, different local butchers have different deals on so find which one suits you best. If it’s a long term deal then even better for working out your budget. Tuna is another great source of protein too. Who has a budget store near them?? Like 10 in every town right? You can get a good, branded tinned tuna for ⅓ the price of a normal shop. Mixed with a big pasta dish, you can do more with one tin than you’d think!


Without the meat…..


You can still bulk up the protein and be vegan/ vegetarian/ meat free. Protein doesn’t just come in animal form. Green peas contain around 7.9g of protein per cup, same as a cup of milk. Honestly, a big frozen bag of peas, cheap as chips! (Never has that phrase had more meaning than now when frozen chips are one of the cheapest meal bulkers you can buy!)

Dried beans are great and two cups soaked, can contain up to 26g protein!

Chickpeas are full of protein, low in calories and good source of fibre. These can be bought relatively cheap in your local supermarket and a little goes a long way.

Tofu 15-20g per HALF CUP! Buy in your local supermarket for a few pounds. Woman should go easy on this one though.

Dried lentils, hold on to your hats….high in iron, antioxidants, low Gi, can help with weight loss by releasing energy slowly and gram for gram more protein than beef! Where can I sign up??

Soya mince in less than £2 for a 400g bag. One 80g cooked serving will give you around 12g protein, 3.5g fibre and 5.6g carbs.

Eggs, cottage cheese, oat bran and watercress are all good, low cost sources of protein too. Plus you can have so much fun doing watercress heads with your little ones!  Check out your local budget shop too for their dried lentils, beans, peas and nuts.

Eat your greens

Leafy greens, Edamame beans, spinach, peas, brocolli  etc, all frozen after picking when they are ripe and most packed full of nutrients. Make sure you season them well and steam them if you can. Use them to bulk up your meals giving plenty of healthy carbs to go and do your workouts! Buy can buy some ham hock pretty cheap and make a lovely pea soup with half a bag of frozen peas while you’re there!


Want to juice or make smoothies?


No doubt about it, fresh fruit can be expensive.  A little trick I have learnt is to check out the reduced fruit that’s about to go off. Sometimes you get some really unusual things you wouldn’t normally buy, but still packed full of vitamins and goodness. It doens’t have to just be fruit. You can add celery, beetroot, kale, spinach, etc too. Prepare the fruit how you would use it and freeze it in individual bags ready for next time. Bananas and berries work really well too and it doesn’t even matter if the bananas were a little squishy before you froze them. Some of the local shops are now selling ‘imperfect’ or ‘wonky’ fruit and veg and these are fantastic value!


Take your calculator.


Who do you think benefits more from deals, you or the shop…..?  I have given up being surprised every time I discover a new offer that isn’t what it seems. Have a look at the other products alongside the one on offer. Check the price per kg/ml and you will have your eyes opened. Same with eggs, check the price per egg and quite often the special offer can’t match up to the regular products. If you aren’t good with numbers, take a calculator with you or use the one on your phone. 10p here, 20p there, it ALL ADDS UP. Products such as bananas that come in bags for a pound are tempting because they sit there, prepackaged and a nice round number to work with, but how many do you get in a bag? 6? And usually quite small or very hard. Let’s say 16p each. Loose, regular sized bananas are around 12p each.  For less than £1 you can get 2 more and 4p change. Why not keep all the pennies you have saved in a jar and see how quickly they add up?

Instead of buying microwave ready, pasta or rice packets and buy the bags. As an example, brown rice is a really good alternatve. A 1kg bag will cost around £1.75 and contains enough for 13 servings! That about 13.5p per person!


Dietary requirements:


If like me, you have specific food alleregies, it can start to add up on your shopping bill. Quite often you will find reduced gluten free products in the sale aisle. Grab them and stick them in your freezer. If its a full loaf or baps, separate them and put portions into freezer bags to lift when needed. Or, instead of seeking a substitute like a bread or pasta, completely replace the need for these products by finding an alternative at meal times such as a nice bean and lentil salad. The idea here is healthy, clean eating anyway so we want to keep it as natural as possible and reduce the need for processed products.


Grow your own and use your herbs and spices.

Rhubarb, tomatoes, herbs, spuds, cress etc none of which take too much tending to so you don’t have to be green fingered to start. Look in the back of the cupboard to see if you’ve any potatoes that have fallen out of the bag and started to grow roots, pop them in the garden and watch the magic happen! Don’t have a garden? You can grow all your herbs inside or out in a long window sill box. You can buy the seeds again, from our local budget stores. Alternatively, buy the herbs you need from your local store in the little jars.

It can be so tempting to buy the 59p pasta bake jar of sauce and be done, but keep in mind that that is not 59p spent on much more than a jar of chemicals and sweeteners. Let’s compare a value sauce to a value passata, which you can use as the base of a lot of different dishes. The sauce has 15 ingredients including refined sugar, saccharin and modified maize starch. The passata has 3; tomatoes, citric acid and salt. The sauce will last one meal at a cost of approx 45p whereas the passata costs 35p. Add in 70p for some Italian mixed herbs or basil and garlic powder 70p and it starts to look like it’s costing more. However, if you think about it long term, the herbs should last a month even if used regularly. Use this as the base for spag bol, lasagne, pasta bakes, homemade pizza sauce, stir fry or add some cumin, paprika and chilli to make an amazing chilli con carne (remember you can use the soya protein for these too if you’ve haven’t enough budgeted for mince!)


So in summary, do your sums, cook what you need, plan your meals and use your freezer! If a special offer looks to good to be true….you know! My list is by no means exhaustive so always be on the lookout for clever little ideas and share them with your friends.


P.s. these numbers are correct now while I’m typing this, there may be slight variations by the time you get to read this!