Ever felt like you can’t eat healthy because it’s too expensive? Instagrammers promoting wellness, organic ingredients and £100 gym leggings can be unrelatable and seem unobtainable.
I read a recipe today for a ‘healthy chocolate fondant’ the ingredients included: Himalayan salt, mesquite powder and vanilla bean powder. It’s no wonder that ‘healthy’ eating appears inaccessible, expensive and pretentious. Would that recipe be un-healthy if you used table salt, vanilla pods/extract and omitted the mesquite powder?… hate to burst a bubble but it wouldn’t.
Eating healthy isn’t complicated and it isn’t expensive.
Here are my tips to tackle your food shop:
FOOD SHOP HACKS
Fruit and veg
Fruit and veg are relatively cheap and these should make up the basis of a healthy diet. Try to opt for whole vegetables and salad rather than getting packaged or pre-cut, this will be cheaper. Supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl and Asda are particularly good for cheap fruit and veg.
A quick vegetable stir fry is a great easy, cheap, healthy meal.
Try to buy seasonally – and this doesn’t have to mean researching and remembering the ‘in-seasons’ of all the fruit and veg, just be mindful of when prices go up and down in the supermarkets, and be prepared to change your shop accordingly. Your peaches may seem really expensive in October so swap them for apples, but enjoy them again in June when the prices come down.
Don’t be afraid to buy frozen. Frozen fruit and veg can be cheaper but just as good. In fact frozen berries often taste more like a treat. With prices such as £1-2 you can buy a range of fruit and vegetables frozen that will last for a few weeks. It reduces waste and allows you to have a variety.
Some supermarkets have also started selling frozen ‘imperfect’ fruit, which is cheaper, in larger quantities and is merely the fruit was ugly or broken but tastes the same.
You can also buy frozen herbs such as: coriander, ginger, chilli and garlic, which are much cheaper than fresh, last longer, and you won’t notice the difference in dishes.
2. Check reduced sections and sales
Utilise the reduced sections. Most supermarkets have them and they are regularly added to, you can get really good deals.
Consider buying a few things and freezing them. Fresh herbs are great for doing this and they often find their way into reduced sections. Similarly, buy a few packs/pieces of fruit or veg when it’s cheap and freeze them. I bought bunches of 4p bananas recently and they’ll last for smoothies and baking for weeks, for only 12p!
3. Embrace the own brand
Just because a product carries a ‘basic’ or ‘everyday value’ own brand label does not mean it is less healthy. The same common sense rule apply – read the label, if the same ingredients are there are there aren’t lots of added ingredients or sugars its good to go. You don’t need to pay for fancy marketing to get a good product.
Infact own brand versions can contain less sugar and additives: Tesco Soya yogurt for example has no added sugar; own brand oats often contain no extra sugar or flavours and the same nutritional values.
4. Creative Carbohydrates
Brown rice, sweet potato, lentils, quinoa, beans and other grains such as buckwheat and freekeh are cheap and easy ways to bulk up meals. They are a great alternative to refined starchy carbs that are still filling and inexpensive.
Small swaps to wholegrain bread or pasta and home made chips can also be just as cheap and easy. Or swap out half your starchy carbs for cheap veg in the form of courgetti ,carroti or cauli rice, butternut squash or steamed veg.
5. Herbs and spices
This is my TOP TIP. Having a good selection of herbs and spices makes eating healthier easy and enjoyable. Roasted veg, meat, fish, and sauces, all go from boring to delicious with some simple seasoning.
Similarly, it’s easy to make a chilli sauce, or homemade curry with limited ingredients and a few spices.
Staying away from pre-made jars of sauce and ready meals is an easy way to stay healthy and to save money. Often people are put off by the idea of making meals from scratch, but many dishes, such as curries, chilli con carne, or tagines, only take 5 herbs or spices that you could easily have in your cupboard which are added to simple bases like tinned tomatoes.
For extra savings: buy seasoning and spices in bulk from local Asian food supermarkets. For some reason, British supermarkets have decided tiny jars of herbs and spices need to be expensive, whereas Asian supermarkets often show that they really don’t need to be. Try making a monthly trip to one and buying big bags of paprika, tumeric, dried herbs etc and save some money.
Herbs and spices shopping list
- Chilli powder
- Dried Coriander
- Dried Basil
- Mixed herb
- Peri salt (great for roasted veg and chicken)
Try adding tumeric, paprika, cumin, chilli, salt and pepper to tinned tomatoes for a healthy chilli sauce. Add basil, mixed herbs, garlic, chilli for an italian style tomato sauce.
FOOD PREP HACKS
6. Love your lunch box
One of the easiest ways to save money and eat healthier is to take lunch to work/school/university. The average UK office worker spends £5-10 on food every day for lunch, and this could mostly be saved by a bit of preparation.
Try making 3 lunches on Sunday night and 2 on Wednesday for convenience, or take leftovers from dinner.
You’ll soon be surprised how much you will save, and how much easier it is to make healthy choices when you’re not reaching for the first thing in the shop at lunch time.
Additionally, pack healthy snacks: again this is much cheaper than eating out. Rather than trying to ‘resist snacking’, and end up reaching for a chocolate bar at 3:30pm when hanger strikes, plan ahead. Healthy snack choices are better than not snacking at all, as they maintain blood sugar levels and cravings, and avoid binges.
Try popping popcorn kernels in a pan and taking them in Tupperware, take chopped fruit and yogurt, or selections of nuts and dried fruit. Maybe try making some healthy treats such as these banana bread blondies, or energy balls to satisfy cravings without reaching for a sugary snack.
8. Bulk is best
Meal prep might sound like a bore, but try making Curry or tomato sauces and freeze a batch instead of buying jar or tinned sauces. Or make full meals such as chilli, stew, or even risotto and freeze portions for future.
Manage your time – the idea that it is quicker to get a takeaway or drive to a McDonald’s every night is ridiculous, but so often quoted as convenience. If you spend even 15 minutes getting ‘convenience food’ each night (driving to and from a takeaway or waiting for a delivery), you could actually save time by spending 1 hour/1 hour and a half of a weekend meal prepping. Meal prep is also much cheaper than takeaways or even pizzas and shop bought convenience food.
Love your left overs – as well as making meals to have later in the week, try saving some dinner for the next day’s lunch to save on buying out and halve your meal prep time.
9. Make lists
If you’re effective and efficient with your time and planning you can make a few meals and have all your dinners and lunches ready for the rest of the week.
Plan out your meals: for example buy a selection of veg, tinned tomatoes, turkey mince and some beans. You could make a chilli, meatballs, and a curry and serve with sweet potato, rice or brown pasta, with enough meals for the whole week.
Lunch can be left overs from dinner, or cook up 5 chicken breasts in different herbs and spices at the weekend and a pan of quinoa or rice and serve with salad for lunch for the week.
10. Outside the supermarket
Lastly, this is a section for anyone who WANTS to try or use some of the extra ingredients that can add to a healthy, nutritious diet. If you’re into healthy baking for example, this may be useful to find some of your healthier ingredient alternatives.
But note: cacao powder, chia seeds, and cacao nibs are NOT necessary for a healthy diet. If like me you enjoy healthier baking and experimenting further with nutrition, then these are great tips to make it cheaper and more accessible. However, you do not need to spend money on these sort of ingredients to be ‘healthy’, despite what social media may tell you.
Buy some items on Amazon. If you’re into healthy baking this particularly can be key. For example: Cacao powder is £8-12 in the supermarket for 250g, whereas £10 will buy you 1kg on Amazon – Sevenhills Wholefoods Organic Cacao / Cocoa Powder 1kg.
You don’t need fancy ingredients
Don’t be fooled by fancy ingredients – they can be great and don’t get me wrong, I love trying a new product or ingredients, but if you’re on a budget you don’t need organic Himalayan salt, expensive protein powders or extra refined matcha powder to have a healthy diet.
I often feel that people are deterred from healthy eating because it gets clouded with ‘wellness’ and expensive products. The basics of a healthy diet can be cheap and accessible.
Stick to fruit, veg, whole grains and some handy herbs and spices and you’ve got a the key to eating healthy on a budget.