Save money on food
People spend an average of £38.50 per person per week on food (consumed both at home and away from home).1 COVID-19 has had a massive impact on people’s income over the last several months and as a result, I have been receiving more queries on how to eat a nutritious diet while on a limited budget.
Here are my top 5 tips on reducing the cost of your weekly food shop without sacrificing nutritional value:
1. Choose the lowest cost options from each food group.
Many people believe that healthy eating is expensive. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t — it really comes down to what choices you are making and your time and motivation for preparing food. There is usually an inverse relationship between cost and convenience — the more pre-prepared and convenient something is, the more expensive it tends to be. So to cut costs, stick with basic ingredients and generic brands and do as much food preparation as possible yourself.
Low-cost protein options
Vegetarian options tend to be the least expensive – legumes (eg. lentils, split peas, baked beans, kidney beans, chickpeas – dried or tinned); eggs; peanut butter and tofu.
Meat can be one of the most expensive items on your food bill. Use meat as an “accent” instead of the main focus of a meal and choose less expensive options including brisket, shin, neck, liver, tinned tuna, sardines, a whole chicken (spread over several meals), or mince (drain the fat). One-pot meals where you combine a small amount of meat with a vegetarian protein option such as lentils or chickpeas, can also make a recipe go twice as far. Don’t forget to jazz up recipes with dried herbs and spices – inexpensive doesn’t have to mean boring!
Low-cost vegetables and fruit
Homegrown vegetables are the least expensive option, but frozen vegetables are the next best thing (…with the added bonus of having no waste).
Other options: Fresh vegetables (purchased in season), tinned tomatoes, passata, pure fruit juice, vegetable juices and bananas. Just be sure to choose the plain options and watch out for added sugar, salt and fat.
Low-cost dairy options
Fresh milk and plain yogurt are the best options here.
Low-cost grain products and starchy foods
Porridge oats, pasta, brown rice, wholemeal bread, potatoes and wholemeal flour (for making homemade bread, pasta and chapatis), can really round out a meal for just a few pence — especially if you buy these items in bulk.
2. Cook from scratch whenever possible.
This is easier said than done depending on whether someone has a cooker at home, in addition to pots, utensils and enough funds for gas and electricity. This also makes the assumption that someone knows HOW to cook, and that is a huge challenge for many people. Fortunately, there are lots of great Youtube videos that can walk someone through making a basic recipe in the comfort of their own home.
3. Have a plan
The average family with children throws away £60 of good food per month. 2 Planning your meals for the week allows you to take advantage of bulk offers and can massively reduce food waste. You can also batch cook and freeze the leftovers saving you both time and money.
Since most people hate meal planning, I often help clients come up with a master spreadsheet of all of the meals they know how to make. This allows them to “plan” quickly and easily by picking ideas off the master spreadsheet. I generally group items by soups/pasta dishes/beef or pork dishes/chicken dishes/vegetarian options/new recipes.
Low-cost meal ideas:
- lentil soup or split pea soup with homemade wholemeal bread
- dhal/beans with rice or homemade chapati
- stir-fried vegetables with tofu on brown rice
- baked beans on wholemeal toast with tinned tomatoes
- jacket potato with tinned tuna and frozen veg
- vegetarian chilli with brown rice
- omelette with vegetables and wholemeal toast or diced potatoes
- peanut butter sandwich on wholemeal bread with a glass of pure orange juice and yogurt
4. Shop online (if you can get free delivery)
This allows you to choose the least expensive options (which are often hidden on the bottom shelf of most supermarkets), avoid all of the in-store temptations and lets you know the price before you get to the till.
5. Check out these resources for low-cost recipes and other helpful tips
- British Nutrition Foundation – Healthy Eating on a Budget
- Skint Chef
- BBC Cheap and Healthy Recipes
- Money advice service: Cheap healthy meals
- Yummly: Cook with what you have
For more information on inexpensive meal ideas or to refer a client, contact Specialist Nutrition Rehab at 0121 384 7087 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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