If you’re anything like us, you’ll be keeping a close eye on the purse strings around about now. At this time of year, we often find we’ve overspent on days out, holidays and keeping the kids busy. But we don’t want our get-healthy plans to suffer like our bank account. That got us thinking about the best ways to eat healthily on a tight budget – and, hey presto, here are our top five wallet- friendly tips…
1. Eat the seasons
When you’re trying to reduce costs and eat healthily too, it makes sense to buy fresh produce that’s in season. You can get most things year-round in supermarkets, but check out a nearby produce market or farm shop for something different. Fresh ingredients tend to be cheaper when they’re in abundance – and they taste better too. At this time of year, look out for cheap courgettes, and use them to make this healthy lunch.
2. Buy cheap staple ingredients
Inexpensive food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. My store cupboard and freezer are packed full of all kinds of cheap staple ingredients. Lots of them are own-brand supermarket products, so I always get change from a pound, and they usually tick off more than one of my 5-a-day too. I buy cartons of chopped tomatoes for less than 40p each as they make a great base for pasta sauces or casseroles, as well as tinned lentils, chickpeas and beans, which are my go-to ingredients for bulking up soups and stews. I also stock up on frozen veg so I can use as much or as little as I want, without any waste.
3. Scratch cook
Cooking from scratch can be good for your wallet and waistline. For example, a jar of creamy tomato pasta sauce can cost up to £2 and come in at around 20 SmartPoints per jar! Make your own by cooking chopped onion and garlic in calorie controlled cooking spray for 5 minutes, then adding tinned tomatoes and dried mixed herbs. Simmer for 20 minutes, then swirl in 75g low-fat soft cheese and you’ll have a tasty sauce that costs about 70p and is a cool 2 SmartPoints.
4. Plan ahead
If you regularly find yourself binning out-of-date chicken, curled up ham and wilted lettuce at the end of the week, it’s time to start menu planning. Knowing what to cook across the week helps you to shop more cost-effectively as you’ll only buy the ingredients you need. Use the weekend to plan each of your weeknight meals, and shop accordingly. Include a variety of proteins, such as fish, meat and chicken, and try to keep at least one day meat-free.
5. Love your leftovers
When a recipe serves more than one portion, freeze the rest in individual servings, marked with their SmartPoints value.
Box it up
Buy a sturdy, leakproof lunchbox with separate compartments so you can take leftovers to work for lunch.
Waste not, want not
Food scraps and trimmings can actually be used as key ingredients. For example, dropping parmesan cheese rind into the pan when making risottos or pasta sauces adds loads of flavour, and blitzing stale bread into breadcrumbs brings texture and crunch to all kind of dishes, such as this clever take on gnocchi.
It’s all good
Start ‘root-to-fruit’ eating: spiralise your broccoli stalks and add to a stir-fry, roast cauliflower leaves to toss in a salad, and clean, dry and toast butternut squash seeds for snacks.