Why is 'healthy food' so expensive?! Or perhaps it's just that processed stuff is so cheap and always on offer?
Eating healthily can stretch the bank balance but there are ways to cut costs without losing out. It may need a bit more thought and time to do this successfully but as one famous supermarket says, every little helps. Here are my Top 10
1. Eat at home!
Although the cost of an average pub meal has gone down, we are spending more than ever before on eating out. Yes it’s great when we can’t be bothered to cook but not so great for the piggy bank. Added to this, restaurant meals are often more calorific and we eat 20%-40% more calories when we eat out compared with eating at home!
Make your own lunch! Seriously you'll save a holiday's worth by not spending a fiver on buying lunch at work 5 days a week.
I know this sounds dull but for me, this makes the biggest difference. Do a menu plan for the week and then write a shopping list. This way you are more likely to just buy what you need (especially if you do an online shop) and you can also plan in the use of leftovers. Plus you can ensure you eat a range of foods over the week so get your quota of fish, lean meat, rice, pasta, potatoes and different vegetables etc.
3. Shop around!
I am a serious bargain hunter and refuse to pay for overpriced food. The battles going on between supermarkets continue but seem to be doing us a favour when it comes to driving prices down.
Economy ranges have grown and when it comes to rice, pasta, potatoes and yoghurt, there really isn't much difference. With the likes of Aldi’s Super 6 offers, you can't go wrong with their fruit and veg. 59p for vine tomatoes and 29p for beetroot sounds great to me. Try their own brands too, you may actually prefer them.
4. Visit the bargain corner
I often check out the reduced section - there aren't always offers worth having but if you see a bargain and it's freezable, it will be perfectly safe to store til later once you've decided what to do with it. Going shopping an hour or so before the shops closed used to be a great way to save some pennies but it's not so easy now we have 24hr opening. Before a bank holiday however, supermarkets have to get rid of perishable produce so practically give it away
5. Go Wonky
For some strange reason, our supermarkets think our fruit and veg should be perfectly smooth, symmetrical or spherical. Yet when we go on holiday, the range of lumpy, bendy and wonky produce is incredible. And it often tastes better too! If you are lucky enough to be near a Morrisons or Lidl that offer reduced price wonky veg boxes, go get em!
6. Don’t go shopping with the Cookie Monster!
Don’t ever EVER go shopping when you are hungry. This is a BIG MISTAKE! You lose all sense of rationale and become an impulsive shopper – you’ll only end up throwing loads of junk in the trolley (or eating half of it on the way round) and it will only be when you get home you realise there is actually nothing proper to eat! Unplanned spending can mean a shock at the checkout!
7. Go seasonal!
Seasonal veg is often cheaper (as is frozen and tinned). Having said this, you don’t have to stick to fresh – there really is no significant difference in the vitamin and mineral content of fresh, frozen or tinned produce so go with what suits your budget and storage space.
8. Bulk it up (with beans)!
Protein, especially meat is expensive so bulk out your meals with nutritious beans and vegetables that will make your dinner tasty and satisfying, and your meals will go further. Add chickpeas, butter beans, kidney beans, cannelini (as in baked bean) beans or lentils – in tins are fine and really cheap. All these are high in protein so a great alternative to meat, even if you don’t want to be a vegetarian.
9. Cook slowly
Slow cooking is a great way to use cheap cuts of meat and make them into a mouthwatering meal whilst saving time. Stewing, braising steak or oxtail for example are very affordable. Chuck in a load of veggies or beans as above and you’ll be able to feed the 5,000! Better still, you can set your dinner off before you go to bed / work, it will do it’s magic and dinner will be ready when you need it. Autumn and winter is also perfect for this type of satisfying, comforting food.
This is also a no hassle way to batch cook – portion up the meal / leftovers into freezable containers and you’ll always have a fall back plan so you’re less likely to pick up the phone and get a take-away or nip out because you haven’t got the time / energy. If your family members are like ships passing in the night, they only have to reheat it when they are ready.
10. Get creative
Give yourself rules when the cupboards get low at the end of the week. See it as a challenge to rustle up something edible for tea with just a few ingredients – a bit like ‘Ready Steady Cook’ if you have ever watched that. I think I've only once nearly killed my husband when it was inedible 🤣
If you need some budget cooking ideas, Jack Munroe is amazing!
Check out her website Cooking on a bootstrap
I’d love to know if you have any more ideas...............