Healthy Eating on a Budget – Covid 19 and Beyond

Being able to eat healthily on a budget is a great skill for anyone to have. Making the most of your food and getting value for money always beneficial. At Food Vale, we want everyone to have access to healthy food and eat nutritious meals, whether on a tight budget or not. We’ve created a handy ‘Healthy Eating on a Budget’ guide to help people in the Vale make the most of their food.

If you feel you are developing symptoms of Covid-19, batch cooking some meals before you become too unwell can save you money and make it easier to eat nutritious meals to aid your recovery. Things like soups or stews can be cheap and simple to make, very nutritious and easy to re-heat and eat at a later date.

Cooking from scratch is a great way to save on your shopping bill, as well as being healthier than eating pre-made ready meals. Check out our recipe page for ideas. Also, the Change4Life website (https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes) and the One You Easy Meals app have lots of cheap healthy recipes to try.

If you or your family enjoy a snack, swapping unhealthy snacks for healthy ones can save money. An apple or banana are cheaper than a bar of chocolate or packet of crisps. Vegetables are generally cheap too, such as carrots that you could chop into matchsticks and dunk into a homemade dip.

Eating less meat can save you a considerable amount of money when shopping.

Reducing the amount of meat you use in your meals and bulking them out with vegetables is an easy way to eat less meat. Using half the mince you’d normally use in a lasagna and adding some carrots and mushrooms is a good way to bulk out the meal (and also increase your vegetable intake).

Replacing meat with plant-based proteins, like beans or lentils, in your meals is another simple way to reduce the amount of meat you buy and eat. For example, you could make a curry using chickpeas instead of chicken.

If plant based proteins aren’t for you, buying cheaper cuts of meat can still save you money. Braising steak, chicken thighs, shin or shoulder cuts are often a lot cheaper. They may need a little more time cooking but taste just as good as the more expensive cuts of meat.

Planning your weekly shop beforehand can reduce your shopping bill. See what food items you already have in your store cupboards and fridge and plan meals around these ingredients. Most store cupboard ingredients are versatile and can be used for multiple recipes (e.g. tinned tomatoes can be used to make a chilli, pasta Bolognese, stew or curry). Make a shopping list so you only buy what you need.

Planning your weekly shop not only saves you money but also helps you spend less time in the shop. Making a list in sections (e.g. fruit and veg, frozen food, baked items) means you only visit the aisles you need to.

Going shopping on your own can save you money too as you won’t be persuaded by you partner, children, parents or friends to buy things you don’t need.

Don’t go shopping when hungry as this can lead to unhealthy impulse buying, like crisps and biscuits.

Bulk buying is a good way to reduce your shopping bill. The larger the amount you buy the cheaper per unit it is. Next time you’re shopping have a look at the price per kilo of various food items – such as rice, potatoes or peas. If you arrange to bulk buy certain food items with a group of friends, family and/or neighbours you can all benefit by sharing them out equally amongst yourselves.

Shopping around can also save money. Your local butcher or greengrocer are often cheaper than the supermarkets and sell items individually so you only buy what you need – saving you money and reducing food waste. Different supermarkets also sell food at different prices, so if you have a variety of supermarkets near you visit each one to get the cheapest deals.

Buying tinned or frozen food instead of fresh food is another way to save money when shopping. They are usually cheaper, last longer and just as nutritious as fresh food. When buying tinned fish go for the ones in fresh water rather than in oil or brine. Purchase tinned fruit in their own juice instead of in syrup.

Usually between 7pm and 9pm supermarkets reduce the prices of food that is ‘going off’. If you can pop in during these times you may find you save money on the food you need for the week.

Doing your shopping online may make it cheaper as you’ll be less likely to buy items that you don’t need. You can also see how much you’re spending before you need to pay. ‘Click and Collect’ services are usually free (or have a small nominal fee of £1 – £2) and can save you time and money by not needing to go into the shop.

Choosing cheaper alternatives is a good way to save on your shopping. Most supermarkets have their own brand and value brand food ranges. These are usually cheaper and taste just as good (if not better) than the more well known brands. Also, most own brand foods have less salt, fat and sugar in them so are healthier too.

Loose fruit and vegetables are usually cheaper than ones that are pre-packaged.

If you can, stock up on store cupboard ingredients you regularly use when they are on offer. This can save you money in the long run.

Making the most of your left over food is a great way to save money (and stop wasting it). The Love Food Hate Waste website (https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/) has lots of useful tips and recipes for your leftovers. An average family of 4 can save around £60 a month by simply reducing their food waste.

Food that’s gone past its ‘best before’ date can still be eaten, as this is just a guide. ‘Best before’ means that the quality or taste of the food may not be as good past that date. You’ll need to check that it’s still edible before eating (i.e. no mould, not soft or going watery). The ‘use by’ date is the date you need to stick too. Food eaten past this date can make you ill. You can freeze food on its ‘use by’ date, if you’re not going to use it that day.