Would you feed your family on purely tinned food?

It could save you a fortune...

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Would you feed your family on just tinned food?

Money's tight for most of us just now, thanks to wages stagnating for ever. In fact, most people's buying power has shrunk over the past few years, thanks to high inflation.

When money is tight and bills are high often the only place left to cut back is on groceries.

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But, if you're anything like me, that doesn't mean you're willing to cut back on the amount of fruit and veg you feed your family.

It's well known that we need at least five a day and it's also well known that most of us don't manage that.

Cost could definitely play a role in that. A few years ago academics at the University of Cambridge published a report that suggested healthy foods like fruit and vegetables were typically around three times pricier than foods that were high in fat and salt - like frozen pizza.

Anyone who shops regularly knows that fresh fruit and veg can add an awful lot to your food bill.

So when a new initiative called Love Canned Food suggested I could save money without compromising on health by stocking up on more canned food I was interested.

I decided to go a week buying canned food instead of fresh whenever I could, and see whether or not I saved money.

Price differences

To compare prices fairly, I looked at the mid-range options for both, not the cheapest or the more luxury versions.

Fruit and meat seemed to be consistently cheaper, while vegetables could go either way.

Of course, price is not everything. One key way I saved was because I wasted less food. Instead of buying fruit and veg and watching it rot (which I am sometimes guilty of – especially the last few pieces of fruit in a bag) I had a neat row of tins.

However, we also saved money because we snacked less on fruit as a family and that's not a good thing.

Instead of picking up an apple or pear as they walked past the bowl, my children had to ask me to open a can and find them a bowl – it was definitely less easy for them to pick healthy snacks.

Eating tinned versus fresh

Credits: Felicity Hannah

Tined pie (right) vs fresh (left)

When I offered two of my children one entirely tin-based meal and one from fresh and frozen, they both chose the fresh meal over the one from a can/freezer.

The colours were brighter and so the food looked more appealing generally.

However, NHS guidance on healthy eating makes it plain that tinned fruit and veg counts towards your five a day, doesn't go off as quickly and is often cheaper.

Credits: Felicity Hannah

Tined fruit (right) vs fresh (left)

And Love Canned Food's own nutritionist Azmina Govindji says: "Sometimes there's no fresh fruit and veg in the house, yet we know it's important to have at least five-a-day - keeping canned varieties in your cupboard might encourage you to include them in your meals.

"A survey based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggests that adults who eat canned foods have better intakes of vegetables and fruits than those who don't eat canned foods at mealtimes.

"So, as an example, if you're having spaghetti Bolognese and there's no salad in the fridge, simply open up a can of sweetcorn for a nutritious accompaniment. Get into the habit of adding canned pulses to minced meat dishes, casseroles and soups to easily increase your intake of fibre."

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A tin-can emergency fund

Credits: LIVERPOOL ECHO

Do you have an emergency food cupboard?

One really useful way to get more from tins and cans is by building up an emergency store cupboard. You can't stockpile fresh fruit, veg and meat but you can add one extra tin a week or every few weeks to your shopping.

After a while you have a whole collection of cans ready for a month where money is a bit tighter than usual – you won't need to skimp on fruit, veg, meat and fish because you've got it all banked at the back of your cupboard.

Will I keep doing it?

By day three of eating mostly tinned food I began to feel like I was on a post-apocalyptic diet. Tinned fruit and veg may well be stuffed with all the nutrients you need, but it definitely lacks the crispness and bite of fresh.

What's more, I had to be very careful to look for produce that had been canned in spring water rather than salty brine, oil or syrup because otherwise I was allowing unnecessary salt and sugar into my family's diet.

However, I certainly saved money on fruit and I did waste less food, particularly on hot summer days when fruit especially seems to go from ripe to rotten within hours.

So will I do keep heading for the tinned aisle instead of the fresh section? Yes and no.

I will certainly add more tins to my basket – it's a great way of ensuring there is always some fruit, veg and fish in my home so I can always add extra goodness to my family's meals.

However, I realised that I could also make more use of frozen produce and avoid waste that way.

With a tin of fruit or veg I have to ensure we use the whole can, but with a frozen bag I can simply take what I need and waste nothing at all.

But what really matters is that I realised it's possible to save more, waste less and still feed myself and my family a broad range of fruit, veg and meat – I just need to use my cupboards and freezer more sensibly.

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