With the rising cost of energy and goods, the British people are having to take greater care in budgeting living costs to be able to pay bills and buy food and drink. The challenge of an unaffordably expensive grocery bill is the last thing we need, especially for those who are already struggling financially or have a large family to feed.
There has been an annual price rise of 11.6% when it comes to milk, sugar, and tea bags as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Food insecurity is rising, especially for those who have children. People are worried about how they will feed their children with the inflation of food prices. Furthermore, the cheaper food options can be unhealthy and excessive consumption of unhealthy foods can lead to serious health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other weight-related conditions.
In this article, we will provide you with 9 straightforward tips on how to eat healthy on a budget.
1. Variety is key
Our tastes vary at different times depending on our mood or environmental factors such as weather. On a sweltering day, we would benefit from a crispy, cold salad and on colder, dreary days it is a warming bowl of soup that hits the spot. Your meal plans should be based on foods that you are sure to enjoy. So it’s important to create a meal plan that is healthy but also satisfies the taste buds!
If you ate the same thing every day, you would get bored pretty quickly. Adding variety to your weekly meals can help you sustain healthy diet changes in the long run. Consider your favorite food items over the past few weeks and incorporate them into your plan, trying to make small substitutes or changes to make the meal healthier.
Examine the foods you particularly crave. Even if they are decadent, there is still a place for these treats in your plan as long as you are mindful of portion size and balance out the day with other nutrients. Try answering these questions to help create your healthy meal plan.
2. Use simple recipes with fewer ingredients
There are many healthy recipes out there that do not require many ingredients. This helps save money on food shopping but also by following simpler recipes, you reduce cooking time too. The benefit of having fewer ingredients is that your meal will require fewer steps to prepare and can easily become a staple in your household! Simple meals can be just as delicious and it’s a far healthier option than processed or ultra-processed ready-made meals, which cost more per portion and you may not fully understand what has gone into your meal.
Some recipes only need 5 ingredients. Here are some examples:
- Sweet and sour chicken. Ingredients:
- 2x 200g chicken thighs
- 150g fine rice noodles
- 200g sugar snap peas
- 2 tablespoons of Worcester sauce
- 2 teaspoons of chili jam
- Tofu fried rice. Ingredients:
- 6 spring onions
- 250g of brown basmati rice
- 2 heaped teaspoons of chili jam
- 2 large free-range eggs
- 150g firm silken tofu
- Lamb hotpots. Ingredients
- 3 red onions
- 400g lamb neck fillet
- 6 teaspoons of mint sauce
- 4 teaspoons of umami paste
- 500g potatoes
3. Include healthy carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are a major food group and provide us with the energy we need to function comfortably. The key is to select healthier carbohydrates that will keep you full for longer, such as whole grains. Whole grains are often similarly priced to refined options but are a lot more filling and kinder to your digestive system.
For example, when it comes to selecting breakfast cereal, porridge oats are a healthier option but also cheaper if you buy a bigger pack. Topped with a little honey or fruit, oats make for a tasty, sweet option for breakfast. Oats also contain fiber and nutrients which will improve your health and are naturally gluten-free.
So, next time you’re selecting carbohydrates as part of your weekly shop, explore the different varieties on offer and try whole grains instead.
4. Food with a long shelf life
Another tip to eating healthy on a budget is using foods from the store cupboard. Many foods have long-lasting expiry dates meaning they can be stored for months or even years. By using existing foods from your cupboard, you are budgeting your meals and making use of existing resources.
Check your cupboard to make sure you do have existing stock but also make sure that they are still within date. Store cupboard foods can also be bought on offers from your supermarket so look out for deals on pasta, rice, and canned products and stock up!
Examples of ingredients that can be stored and turned into meals include:
- Tomato puree or chopped, can tomatoes – can be used for homemade healthy pizzas or sauces for pasta.
- Lentils – can be used for soups, curries, or casseroles.
- Rice or pasta – include brown varieties of these foods as these are healthier but also pack more flavor.
5. Cut down on food waste
Each year, we waste millions of tonnes of food which could have been consumed instead of thrown away. In the current situation with our economy, it is best to make as much use as possible of food and don’t waste something if it is still edible.
Make the most out of your leftovers. Leftovers can be used the next day or turned into alternative meals by combining them with other ingredients. You can be creative with this!
For example, if you were to eat roast chicken the night before, you could turn it into a chicken sandwich or soup for the next day’s lunch. Be tactical with leftovers and think about what other meals you can create with them.
6. Cook it all from scratch
Ready-cooked meals can be useful and quick to make at times but these are not usually healthy options. Frozen pizzas, microwave chips, and other ready meals are generally high in saturated fat and salt. When trying to eat healthily on a budget, the best way to do this is by cooking from scratch.
When cooking from scratch, you are:
- In control of the ingredients and the amount you use
- Can use inexpensive ingredients which are nutritious such as oats or eggs
- Select cheaper options that may be on offer or sold in larger quantities
Another quick tip when cooking on a budget is to use a slow cooker. These use less energy compared to an oven so therefore, you are reducing your energy bill cost whilst cooking your own, healthy meals.
7. Trying plant-based meals
Many people out there love meat! It is not hard to see why as many cuisines from around the world incorporate meat within their selection. However, meat can be expensive and some people continue to have a meat-heavy diet either because they enjoy it more or believe that they can only get protein from meats such as beef and chicken.
However, there are alternative protein sources that are just as delicious, healthy, and also cheaper. So when cooking on a budget, incorporate and learn how to cook plant-based meals which use lentils or pulses as they contain protein but also offer a variety of other nutrients that meat cannot provide.
Plant-based options are also healthier as they have less saturated fat and more fiber. Not every dish has to be plant-based but you could add a spin on a meaty classic such as spaghetti bolognese or for chicken fajitas, by replacing the chicken with soya, Quorn meatballs, or tofu. Try swapping one of your weekly meat-based meals for a plant-based alternative.
8. Batch cook and freeze
Cooking ingredients for one-time use can be expensive and energy-draining. Purchasing smaller amounts of ingredients can be more expensive too so an alternative is to cook in volume. You can prepare batches of food and freeze them, meaning you’ll have multiple servings in reserve which just need to be defrosted at your convenience.
Whether you find yourself regularly short of time for preparing meals or have a large family to prepare for, batch cooking is a great idea! Not only does it save time and money, but it can save your waistline too as you will have put forethought and planning into what your meals and portion sizes are going to be. This can certainly help you avoid the temptation of opening up Uber Eats or Deliveroo on a busy day.
As a quick tip, use fresh ingredients when batch cooking, since these will last longer when frozen, resulting in your meals having a longer expiry date.
9. Energy-efficient cooking
When it comes to cooking, pressure cookers as mentioned earlier and microwaves are energy-efficient ways of cooking and in turn, save money on your energy bills. Slow cookers will depend on the temperature you set them but can work out to be cheaper than cooking with an oven.
However, when cooking with an oven, there are some tips to help with energy saving such as cooking meals together instead of separately. If you are roasting beef, roast it alongside the vegetables at the same time.
Another tip is to double-cook portions so that you have a meal for the next day. And when there are approximately 5-10 minutes left of cooking, turn off your oven as the heat from the oven can help cook the remainder of your meal.
A benefit of cooking with a microwave is that foods lose fewer nutrients. As a microwave is used to warm up foods quickly, there is less time the food has to undertake cooking. This is useful when cooking vegetables as boiling them in a pot of boiling water on the hob can remove the nutrients from the vegetables.
We hope that these tips will help you prepare healthy, satisfying meals at a reasonable cost for you and your family!
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