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Healthy eating on a budget

Good eating doesn’t have to ‘break the bank’. 

Here are some ideas on making healthy but cheap choices at mealtimes, and some tasty recipes to try out. 

What is a balanced diet? 

To eat a balanced diet we need to eat a wide variety of foods. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and starchy foods (such as bread, rice, pasta, cereals, and potatoes). Try to cut down on fatty and sugary foods.  Look at the ‘eatwell plate’ to give you an idea of how much of each food type you should eat.  

Shopping tips

  •  Plan meals in advance so you know what you need to buy and how much of it.
  •  Try to use a shopping list to avoid impulse buys. Use a basket instead of a trolley for midweek shopping – the sheer weight of the basket of shopping will prevent you from buying too much.
  •  Try to shop after a meal. If you are hungry you are likely to buy more.
  •  Compare the cost per weight of items (usually shown on the price stickers on the shelf), don’t be deceived by bulky packaging.
  •  Supermarket own brands are usually cheaper and still nutritious.
  • Look out for special offers and weigh up the advantages. Some foods on special offer need to be used up quickly. ‘Buy one get one free’ offers are good value if you can store the food and use it before it goes out of date.
  • Buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season as they are cheaper than fruit and vegetables that are out of season.

 Cooking your food

  • Cook vegetables in as little water as possible, and use boiled water from the kettle, rather than heating the water in the pan, to save on fuel costs.
  • If using the oven, get the most use out of it. For example, if you are cooking a stew, also use the oven to bake some potatoes and braise the vegetables in water. 
  • Grill food rather than frying, it doesn’t cost any more and you won’t need to use oil or fat.
  • Use electrical gadgets such as steamers and slow cookers as they are often cheap to run. 

Convenience foods to have in 

  • Tinned beans (for example, baked beans, kidney beans)
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Tinned fish (for example, tuna, pilchards, sardines), especially if in brine, spring water or tomato sauce)
  • Canned meat (for example, corned beef)
  • Tinned fruit (in juice, not syrup)

Dried foods to have in

  • Lentils, split peas and so on for stews and soups
  • Dried skimmed-milk powder, for sauces
  • Pasta – for quick, filling meals 

Frozen foods to have in

  • Frozen vegetables – just as nutritious as fresh and sometimes cheaper
  • Fish fingers, fishcakes and frozen fish – good value for money
  • Frozen meat and poultry – can be cheaper than fresh

Some cost-cutting ideas

  • Make meat go further by mixing beans or lentils with mince or meat dishes (for example, baked beans in shepherd’s pie, lentils in Bolognese sauce, kidney beans in chilli. This also increases the fibre in the meal.
  • Add lots of vegetables to stews, casseroles and so on as this adds fibre and makes the meal go further.
  • Don’t buy too many biscuits, sweets and cakes. They are often high in fat and sugar and nutritionally not good value for money.
  • High-fibre breakfast cereal (for example, Weetabix, branflakes) with semi-skimmed milk makes a cheap and healthy snack at any time of the day.
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