Sometimes, it can seem like eating healthy on a budget is impossible. The so-called healthy items in the supermarket seem overpriced and grabbing a few frozen meals or cheap takeaways can appear to be a better alternative. A lot of the time, items marketed as healthy are not as healthy as they seem – so do not be fooled! As someone who has tried to uphold a healthy diet since my student days, I wholeheartedly believe eating healthy is not a lifestyle only for the rich. Eating cheap and healthy was something I lived by for years and still do so I would always argue eating healthy on a budget is totally feasible! Not only that, I would much rather spend my money on wholesome, good food that will be beneficial for my body than meals that will not sustain my hunger and damage my body in the long run.
Here is a list of simple ways to help answer the question on how to eat healthy on a budget.
Plan your meals
This first tip plays a massive role in reducing the amount spent on food and staying on track with healthy eating. Planning your weekly meals in advance helps you to prepare meals, such as lunch, before hand. Deciding what you want to eat for the week and then popping along to the supermarket for your food shop will help you focus your food shop on just the items that you need.
- Have a list of recipes that you enjoy eating, are healthy and are inexpensive to create.
- Write these recipes on their own index card or document. Keep a list of ingredients and how much are needed.
- On a weekly or monthly basis, pick out which recipes you want to have for each meal time, keeping in mind how long they take to make and what the general cost will be of that meal.
Write a shopping list
Never leave the house without a shopping list and don’t go shopping when you are hungry! Let’s be honesty, when your yummy is rubbling anything and everything will seem appealing. Plan your list around your meal plan and other essentials you might be running low on. Stick to it and you will not find yourself picking up those sale items that you “might” enjoy. If you have a particular food budget, keep this in mind when planning your meals and writing your shopping list. Everyone’s budget for healthy eating will be different so stick to the amount that is sustainable for you!
Cook large portions at home
While there are many healthy options out there in supermarkets and restaurant, the cheapest, safest and efficient way to have a meal is to cook it yourself. Not only are you fully aware of what is going into the meal, you can make as much as you need to keep you going for the next day. Cook enough so the same meal can suffice as lunch or feed more than one person. Freeze what you can so you can have meals ready to go for busy days. Cooking in bulk is always cheaper in the long run.
Pack your own lunch
The amount of money we end up spending in a working week on our lunches if purchased in the canteen or local supermarket really does add up. On days when I have not packed a lunch, I can easily spend between £4-8 on just one meal. Lunches I make myself usually cost me no more than £1-2 to prepare. That difference in money can really add up. Always bring your own lunch, snacks and drinks as this will prove to be the cheaper healthy meal option.
In my kitchen, you will rarely find me throwing away anything. Do not waste ingredients or products you buy. Fruits, vegetables, breads, soups, curries – these can all be frozen if you think you will not eat them immediately. Be organised in your kitchen so you are fully aware of the various essentials you have. Often when our cupboards are messy, we end up buying two lots of the same spices or flour, only for most to be thrown out because we don’t actually end up using them.
Supermarket own brand products
We often find ourselves looking down at supermarket own branded products simply because we equate quality with the price. While this is true on some occasions, many foods that are supermarket own brand are cheaper and have the exact same quality. A good example is a bag of oats: oats are oats regardless of the brand. The extra pennies are usually just for the prettier packaging and marketing.
Buy frozen fruit and vegetables
Opting for frozen fruit and vegetables can help you save as you can buy products in bulk and leave them in your freezer. The nutritional value added to your meals will be exactly the same as if you were buying fresh. Alternatively, you could buy the fresh stuff and throw it into your freezer if you think you won’t use it anytime soon.
Shop in ethnic stores or markets
Various spices, lentils, beans and flour are imported from abroad; when they land in our supermarkets they are often priced incredibly steeply compared to ethnic stores or markets. A google search can often find stores that will sell the same products but with a nicer price tag. Ask friends from different cultures if they can point you in the right direction. You may well be pleasantly surprised!
Find sale items
Sign up to your local supermarket newsletters, even if they are stores you rarely shop in. Many constantly change the offers they have available which means staple items in your diet may be cheaper elsewhere. Buy these products in bulk when you can to reap the benefits in your budget in the long run. When buying in bulk, be aware of useby dates to make sure you don’t end up wasting them.