It often seems like eating healthy foods is pricey.
Salads and healthy snacks seem overpriced and outside of your budget. Grabbing a few frozen meals or cheap takeaways can appear to be a more attractive alternative to your wallet.
Healthy eating on a budget is not impossible! As someone who successfully (I think!) upheld a healthy diet during university on a student budget, I would argue healthy eating is not just for the wealthy.
It can be tricky to get started with healthy eating on a budget if you are unsure on how to go about it.
This does not mean it is impossible.
It just requires a little bit of extra thought that will be well worth it in the long run!
These apply to families eating on a budget as well as university and college students living on a budget.
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.
By bringing your own pack lunch and snacks, you avoid picking at snacks others may offer you that are not healthy.
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.
A great way to use up vegetables is to whiz them up into a soup!
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 often imported from abroad; when they land in our supermarkets they are 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!
Plan your meals
Planning is a must to help you eat healthy on a budget. Meal planning on a budget will help you reduce down the amount of money you spend on food, cut down on waste and stay on track with you 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.
Meal planning helps avoid quick trips to the pizza shop when you don’t know what to make for dinner.
- 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
Key tip: Never leave the house without a shopping list and don’t go shopping when you are hungry!
Let’s be honest, when your yummy is rubbling anything and everything will seem appealing!
Once you have a meal plan for the week, you can put together a shopping list of the ingredients you need as well as other essentials you might be running low on.
Stick to your shopping list and avoid picking up those items on sale that you might enjoy later.
Buying items on sale that are not on your shopping list will only put up your shopping bill.
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 most 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.
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 use by dates to make sure you don’t end up wasting them.
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