I often hear people say eating healthily is expensive. Sometimes it’s true: organic foods are more expensive than their non-organic equivalents, whole wheat bread and pasta is more expensive than white and so-called “superfoods” are often pricey.
But it’s perfectly possible to eat healthily on a budget; in fact some healthy options are even cheaper than the unhealthy ones!
Read on for my top tips.
1. Cook from scratch.
This is by far the best thing you can do to save money. Ready-made foods like frozen chips or pizza may seem cheap, but if you work out the cost per meal you will almost certainly find that cooking from scratch is cheaper. For example, a pouch of pre-cooked rice is around 50p for two portions, while cooking wholegrain rice yourself works out as about 6p per portion.
Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, if you don’t feel confident, borrow a recipe book from the library and have a go. If you are short of time, batch cook a big pot of soup or stew to last the whole week, or put portions in the freezer for the days you know you’ll have less time.
Check out my super easy home-made soup recipe to get you started.
2. Waste not, want not.
Only put on your plate what you will eat and put the rest straight into a Tupperware for the following day. Even if the leftovers are not enough to make a full meal on their own, could you get creative and add it to something else to make up a meal? Perhaps leftovers from Monday and Tuesday could be combined to make a meal for Wednesday? This will certainly save you money and could help stop you overeating too.
3. Eat seasonally and locally.
While it’s true that some fresh vegetables and fruit are expensive, these are usually varieties like peppers, aubergine and tropical fruits that have travelled from afar or are difficult to grow. Local and seasonal varieties tend to be far cheaper. For example, in ASDA just 60 pence will buy you any of the following – a cabbage, a swede (use to make healthy root vegetable mash), a kilo of onions, more than a kilo of carrots, two little gem lettuces or 6 apples. All healthy and cheap options!
4. Don’t diss the frozen isle.
We don’t tend to associate the frozen isle with healthy foods, but actually there is nothing wrong with buying vegetables and fruit frozen, and in fact it has been argued that it’s healthier as the vitamins and minerals are locked in. This can also be a cheap option: a kilo bag of peas from ASDA is just 68p for example. Frozen berries are also a good option and are considerably cheaper than fresh.
5. Replace meat with plant protein.
Meat is expensive; replace it with beans, chickpeas and lentils which are all very cheap sources of good quality protein and, unlike meat, also contain beneficial complex carbohydrates and fibre while being devoid of fat. The cheapest option is to buy them dried – chickpeas and beans will need soaking overnight and boiling for an hour; but if you are short of time, pre-cooked tinned beans are also inexpensive (30p for a tin of kidney beans in ASDA). Add the cooked beans to stews or sauces where you would usually use meat.
Dried Red lentils are a brilliant store cupboard essential. All the benefits to your budget and health as beans but they are really easy to prepare: no soaking required, and they cook in just 20 minutes. Add them to soups and sauces to thicken and make hearty and filling.
Try out these bean and lentil recipes which all work out as under 50 pence per portion.
6. Drink water and herbal tea.
Sometimes the healthy options are the cheapest. Plain water is the healthiest thing you can drink, and you can get it out the tap for free! So give the fizzy drinks a miss and save yourself money as well as improving your health. If it is hot drinks you go for, how about a peppermint tea? Herbal and fruit teas don’t dehydrate like caffeinated drinks and a box of peppermint tea from ASDA will set you back just 98p for 40 teabags: that’s less than 2 ½ pence per cup so no bank breaking there.
7. Skip the unhealthy snacks.
People often complain that healthy snacks are more expensive than unhealthy ones. But not snacking at all is even less expensive! Not snacking between meals could also help your health since it will give your digestive system a rest and could help you lose weight. If you do need a snack between meals, a healthy and inexpensive option could be oatcakes or carrot sticks with home-made hummus. Hummus is easier than you think to make and cheaper than shop-bought. Check out the recipe here.
8. Know what to buy organic.
If you would like to buy organic but can’t afford to all the time, get familiar with the “dirty dozen, clean fifteen” (a Google Image search will give you the full list). Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and onions contain very little pesticides so are fine to buy non-organic; while others like tomatoes and peppers tend to be crops where more pesticides are used so these are best to buy organic.
9. Pack your own lunch box.
If you have lunch at work or college, don’t buy expensive, readymade sandwiches. Find a suitable Tupperware box to use as your lunch box and fill it with salad leaves, leftover cooked vegetables, beans, potatoes or whatever else you have to hand. Add salt and pepper or spices and herbs and a teaspoon of olive oil to make it tasty. This is a better option for both your health and your wallet.
10. Make porridge for breakfast.
It doesn’t take long and you can flavour it with fruit to make it sweet. Not only is this a healthier option than sugary breakfast cereals but it also works out much cheaper. For example a 340g box of ASDA’s “rice snaps” cereal costs 89p but a kilo of ASDA’s porridge oats is even less at 75p. Oats are a great source of slow-release carbohydrates and contain some protein as well as beneficial beta-glucans (good for the immune system), anti-oxidants and vitamins and minerals.