6 Ways to Eat Well on a Budget

16 Oct 2017

I often hear people say that they can’t afford to buy healthy foods and it’s easier to rely on cheaper convenience meals than cook from scratch. But I beg to differ! It really is possible to eat well on a budget and continue to put your health first – even amid tough economic times. I have a few simple tips up my sleeve to help you stay on the right track…

Plan and prep

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of sitting down on Sunday nights and planning my meals for the week ahead. Not only does this save me time and effort, it allows me to plan budget-friendly meals too- and put together a smart shopping list. To keep costs low, I look at what my family and I will eat in a week. So, if I want to cook a more expensive meal on a Tuesday night or we’re having guests over, I’ll also plan to cook a few budget-friendly meals to balance it out. A good example of a cheaper, healthier meal is lentil stew with brown rice and veggies or a big green salad with chickpeas or beans for a protein punch.

If you really want to win at meal prep, read my dedicated post on it here.

Shop smartly

A great low-cost way to eat well is to choose seasonal, local produce and only buy what you going to cook rather than wasting foods. For instance, I often shop at local markets on weekends for fresh fruit and veggies, and rather than buying a whole bag of sweet potatoes, I’ll only buy a few for one or two meals. If you have a larger family and you know you’ll get through the lot, then by all means buy the bag, but if like me, you have a smaller family – then only purchase what you need.

Shopping seasonally is much more cost effective than buying foods completely out of season. Further to that they’ll more likely be locally grown which is important not only to support our farmers but to ensure the food we are eating is nutritious and hasn’t been loaded with chemicals to see it through the shipping process.

Go meat-free

The other day, I had a chat with Tammy Fry, Marketing Director of Fry Foods and we both agree that even if you don’t want to cut out meat, fish, chicken or dairy entirely, planning a few meat-free meals a week is a great way to cut costs – and improve your health! Stock up on beans, pulses and meat alternatives.  Meat alternatives are usually free of all the toxins, preservatives, antibiotics and hormones found in animal products and are a great replacement for protein.  They’re also more easily digested, easier to cook and child-friendly (kids love them!).

Pack your pantry with healthy staples

If you’re going to buy in bulk, stock up on wholegrains such as quinoa, oats, rice, barley and wholewheat pasta which have a longer shelf life. I also look at versatile ways to use these staples and make them go further. For example, I’ll whip up healthy oat muffins, plus I’ll make a batch of overnight oats for weekday breakfasts or I’ll make a large rice salad for lunch and then bake a special rice pudding for a dessert later in the week.

Here, I wrote more about why baking from scratch is cost-effective.

Know the difference between the dirty dozen and clean 15

While it’s true that organic food is often more expensive in stores, you don’t have to stock your entire fridge with organic produce. If you haven’t heard of the dirty dozen- these are foods which generally have higher pesticide residues and are chemically treated. So, if you are shopping on a budget- the following foods should be on your organic list;

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Chillies

The good news is, there’s also a clean 15 list which includes foods which are naturally organic and not over-treated with pesticides. These include;

  • Egg plants
  • mushrooms
  • mangoes
  • peas
  • watermelon
  • sweet potato
  • corn
  • pineapple
  • avocados
  • rock melon
  • kiwi fruit
  • grapefruit
  • cabbage
  • asparagus
  • onions

If you’re unsure whether organic is really the healthier way to go. Consider this – according to a Newcastle study which looked at antioxidant levels in foods, researchers reported that organic food contains lower levels of toxic metals – sometimes up to 50% lower than conventionally-grown food. This was especially the case with the metal cadmium, as well as with pesticides. The study concluded that pesticides were four times more likely to be found on non-organic produce. Various studies show that the cumulative ingestion of certain pesticides may have detrimental effects on the body’s nervous- and endocrine systems.

Prep, pack and store portions

If you have the right containers to pack and store your food in the fridge or freezer, sometimes it pays off to buy in bulk. For instance, if you’re making a fish casserole and you buy a large salmon – you’ll probably get 6-8 portions from this. One of my favourite meals to cook and freeze is vegetarian lasagne and it lasts for ages, thanks to my handy Sistema containers. I love that all the containers in the range are fridge and freezer safe. Some of my favourites in the range include;

  • The Sistema Large Split containers for freezing meals in portions such as lasagne or stew.
  • The Sistema Small, Medium and Large Split Fresh Containers for crudités, cheese wedges, pieces of fruit and nuts or seeds.
  • The Sistema 1,5L Round Container or 2L Rectangular Container is fabulous for storing or freezing left-over cakes or snacks from parties. We do it often!

For more info on the incredible Sistema range, see their website here