Eat well on a budget

Caroline Cassidy

The obesity crisis in the UK seems to make headlines daily, and in response the Government regularly reminds us about eating well and exercising more. Yet a recent survey suggested that many British families simply can't afford to eat healthily, with only one-in-10 people managing to hit the recommended five-a-day fruit and veg target each week.

A tight budget shouldn't mean you have to give up on your healthy eating goals though. Here are some top tips to help you eat well for less.

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Make a list
Planning meals ahead can help you save money on impulse purchases when you hit the supermarket, many of which will end up being those high-fat snacks that do little for your health. Remember to check what kitchen cupboard staples you have left so that you can plan your meals around those, and make a list of exactly what you need for the week ahead before you go shopping.

Don't be tempted to buy more than you need. According to Love Food Hate Waste, the average British family chucks out almost £60-worth of food each month, so stick only to what it says on your list.

Homecooked meals
According to a study by Public Health England, one in every six meals in the UK is eaten out of the home. That means we're spending big money on restaurant dining and takeaways, and often those takeaway treats are high in fat and salt - and great for expanding your waistline. Cut back on your weekly takeaways and not only could you save as much as £800 a year, you'll be eating a fresher, healthier meal into the bargain.

Double up
Simple soups, casseroles and stews are a great way to feed a family, and given that there are often excellent deals on cheap cuts of meat such as chicken thighs, stewing steak and mince, not to mention veggies, you can save money by cooking a double load and freezing what doesn't get eaten for another day. If chicken is a big favourite in your house, it's worth buying a whole one rather than the pre-packaged breasts. The latter are often more expensive and you won't get the thighs, drumsticks and carcass to use for stock. Add plenty of vegetables and/or pulses to your cooking, both of which are a great source of fibre to keep you feeling full. It will bulk out your meal and stretch it even further.

Leftovers can also be put to good use as a healthy lunch for the following day, so divvy the remainder up into portions and you've got a few ready-made, home-cooked meals that means you won't have to nip out for an often pricey, and high-calorie sandwich or snack.

Buy frozen
Those buy-one-get-one-free offers are all very well, but when it comes to fresh fruit and veg, many of us end up throwing out produce simply because it has already gone past its best by the time we get around to eating it. Don't dismiss frozen fruit and veggies as a great way to get your five a day. They are usually picked and frozen in a very short space of time, and therefore retain most of those health-giving nutrients. You won't have to worry about them going off, and in many cases they come chopped and ready to throw into the pot, which is particularly helpful if it's difficult to find time to cook from scratch.

Trade down
Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis claims you can cut as much as 30 per cent off your shopping bill simply by buying the cheaper brands. In recent years, budget supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl have been doing big business, and their products often beat their bigger rivals on taste as well as price. Alternatively, switch to own-brand staples like pasta, bread, and tinned goods, so that you can still enjoy a healthy, homecooked meal without a huge bill at the till.
Know your supermarket
As use-by dates approach, supermarkets are keen to get rid of their remaining stock, and that means there are bargains to be had if you time it right. Most of the big names offer fresh items at greatly reduced prices towards the end of the day, but they often differ as to exactly when. Keep your eyes peeled to see when the bargain section is stocked if possible, and use it to your advantage if you haven't already got a meal planned for the day.

And finally, remember there's no need to sacrifice fabulous flavour just because money's tight. There are plenty of online resources that offer great advice and recipes for eating well on a budget. Try Change4Life's meal mixer, Love Food Hate Waste, The Skint Foodie, A Girl Named Jack or The Resourceful Cook for inspiration.

Do you feed your family healthily on a budget? What tips would you give to others? Leave your comments below...

Ridiculously Cheap Superfoods Less Than $1 Per Serving
Ridiculously Cheap Superfoods Less Than $1 Per Serving