Healthy eating doesn't have to break the bank. Read on to discover my top 5 tips on how to save money and still eat healthfully.
With the cost of living rising everywhere, eating healthily can seem like an almost impossible task sometimes, especially when a punnet of blueberries costs more than a readymade pizza in many supermarkets.
While there’s no denying that government incentives and food policies need to change if we are to feed ourselves and our children healthy food in the years to come, there are some things you can do now, to make eating healthily more affordable for you and your family.
Here are my top 5 tips for how to eat healthily on a budget.
Tip #1 - Plan in advance
This is one of my top tips when helping clients eat healthily: plan what you’re going to eat for the week in advance (I do it on a Sunday), make a list, then take it with you when you do your food shopping. Going to the supermarket with a list, rather than just 'winging it', reduces the likelihood of impulse purchases (most of which are probably not going to be healthy!) and stops you from buying too much (and wasting food). It therefore saves money and helps you stick to buying healthier items.
Planning your meals in advance also ensures that you won’t be caught out during the week. We all know that feeling when we suddenly realise we have nothing to take to work for lunch, or we get home from work after a long day and there’s nothing in the fridge... Those are the times you’re more likely to order takeaway or to have to buy lunch out, which is invariably more expensive (and usually less healthy) than making something at home.
Tip #2 - Freeze leftovers
My second top tip, not just for saving money, but also eating more healthily in general, is batch cooking on a Sunday. This saves you time during the week, as you already have a delicious, healthy dinner waiting for you in the fridge after a long day at work. But it also saves money, as it’s usually cheaper to make a larger amount of food in one go, portion it out, and freeze what you don’t need (often veggies come in large bags anyway, which is often more than you need for one recipe). That way you know you have healthy meals just a freezer away, for those days when you just really can’t be bothered cooking, or when you forget to prep (it happens to the best of us!).
Stick with simple, reliable recipes in the beginning... Vegetable soups, stews, and lentil daal, are some of my favourite cheap, healthy and delicious meals.
Tip #3 - Rely on cupboard staples (and bulk-buy them!)
A good tip for saving money is to try to use the same ingredients several times throughout the week, so that you’re not wasting food and not having to buy so many ingredients. For example, say you buy a bag of fresh coriander to use in one of the meals you’re making... But you only need a handful, so the rest of the bag would normally go to waste (and be expensive for just one meal), unless... you plan to make other recipes that also need fresh coriander that week!
This is especially true for cupboard staples, as you hopefully already have them (so don’t need to buy them each week), and you can use them multiple times throughout the week. For example, I make an amazing tahini sauce just from blending tahini and tamari (both of which I always keep in the cupboard) that I use throughout the week on top of stir-fried veggies, roast veggies, salad, you name it!
You can also bulk buy these kinds of cupboard staples, which works out much cheaper than buying a small container from the supermarket. While we’d all love to support local, independent shops, sometimes you have to do the most economical thing, and bulk buying things like brown rice, seeds, tahini, and even some superfoods like cacao nibs and goji berries can save you a ton of money over the course of the year. We usually get ours from places like Costco, but Amazon UK also has some great bulk superfoods (such as the WholeFoods brand, or Sevenhills).
Tip #4 - Keep it simple
There’s no doubt that the fancier you get with your food the more expensive it’s going to become. Particularly if you’re trying to go plant-based or to cut down your animal consumption, then keeping it simple (at least in the beginning) will save you a lot of money, rather than, for example, trying to just swap animal products for fake meat products (some of which are not particularly healthy anyway). The same is true of ‘superfood’ products; while they can be a great way to add extra nutrients to your diet, they are not essential for a healthy diet, and can be really expensive (although see the point above re bulk buying, as this can bring down the cost of superfoods!).
When I was a student, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on food, but I still managed to eat healthily, as I relied on super simple meals like lentil daal, vegetable soup, pasta with a simple homemade tomato sauce, and so on. Leek and potato soup, for example, is a cheap but healthy meal that uses locally grown veggies. Since potatoes grow in abundance here in the UK you can get a large bag for a low cost (and, again, you can make a huge batch and freeze the leftovers).
Simple food doesn’t have to be boring, either. This is when herbs and spices (like cinnamon, turmeric, dried oregano, etc.) are so important – not only in adding flavour to dishes, but also for their own health-promoting properties. Make sure your pantry is stocked with dried herbs and spices so that you always have them on hand.
Tip #5 - Grow your own, or join a co-op
My final cost-saving tip is to try to grow as much of your own produce as possible. If you have a garden then devote some space to easy-to-grow fruit and veggies, particularly things you tend to eat frequently. If you don’t have a garden there are still ways to develop your green fingers... you could find out if there are allotments in your local area, for example, which you would rent for the year (this can also be a great way to meet new people and get tips from others on what grows best, etc.). If you have a balcony or small bit of outside space you could also just grow things in pots – spinach, tomatoes, even potatoes can be grown easily this way. Or if you only have a windowsill, you could still grow small pots of herbs or leafy greens, which are not only super nutritious but also the items that we tend to waste the most (since we usually only require a handful per recipe, but you often have to buy a large bag).
Another option is to look into joining a Co-op, or getting a vegetable box delivery from a local farmer. This can (sometimes) be a cheaper way of getting organic veg (which would be otherwise unaffordable for many people), although you can’t always be fussy about what you get (you often don’t get to choose, you are just sent a random assortment of what’s in season).
I hope I've shown you that healthy eating doesn't need to cost the Earth.
With my top 5 tips (planning in advance, freezing leftovers, relying on cupboard staples, bulk-buying produce, keeping it simple, and growing your own) you can eat healthily for less.
Let me know in the comments below if you already do any of these things, or if you have any other top tips I haven’t mentioned!
If you’d like more advice on healthy eating or getting started on a plant-based diet, follow me on social media and subscribe to the newsletter. If you’d like more personalised advice, book in for your free consultation today.