It may seem impossible to eat healthy food when you’re trying to stick to a tight budget, but it is entirely doable with a little forward planning.
If you find yourself splurging on takeaways or coughing up cash on not-so-tasty convenience food and then end up wondering why you spend so much on food, these healthy hacks are for you.
Here we show you how to stick to your food budget and eat healthy, delicious meals at the same time.
How to Eat Healthy on a Budget: Top Tips
1. Plan, Plan, Plan!
If you go to the supermarket without having a plan of what you’re going to eat for the week, you’ll no doubt end up chucking whatever looks good into your trolley.
We’ve all been there, but that way of shopping can be a disaster for your healthy-eating goals AND for your purse.
Therefore, it’s essential that you plan your meals ahead of time; this way, you can be sure to make the most of your staples, and you’ll know what extras you need to buy to turn a meal from rudimentary to refined.
It’s best to plan your meals around what is on sale, so be sure to check the supermarket ads before you start your planning.
Then, once you’ve seen what’s on sale and what sounds yummy, come up with a menu that centres around that, using your staples (see hack #2) as the backbone of your meals.
Recipes can be found easily online – just type “healthy inexpensive meals” into your search engine of choice – then, once you’ve decided on what looks good, make a list of ingredients.
If you can double up on ingredients, even better. Don’t forget: plan for three meals, as well as for any snacks.
2. Stock Up On Staples
Plus, you don’t have to buy all your staples at once. Plan on buying one or two per week, and in no time you’ll have a pantry that will make cooking up healthy meal a doddle. Some basics to consider are:
- Rolled oats
- Rice (Basmati or jasmine and brown)
- Whole grains (couscous, freekeh, quinoa etc)
- Dry beans (or tins if you prefer- kidney, black beans… whatever you like)
- Tinned chickpeas
- A nice jar of mustard
- Wholemeal flour
- Tins of tuna
- Tinned tomatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil (it’s worth splurging on oil, so make sure you get a good one)
- Red wine vinegar
- Baking powder
- Soy sauce
- Potatoes (normal and sweet)
Fridge and freezer:
- Frozen vegetables
With these staples on hand, you’ll have no trouble whipping up a quick meal after work instead of getting on the phone for a cheeky takeaway!
The rest of your meal can be planned around fresh produce, which will be the main reason for your grocery shop once you’ve stocked up.
3. Cook from Scratch
When you cook from scratch, you know exactly what’s going into your food. So you’ll save yourself some money, AND you can make your meals as healthy as you want them. It’s a win-win situation.
Avoid convenience food at all costs, or have as a very occasional treat.
With convenience food, you are paying for just that… the convenience. But the food itself is often lacking in any nutritional value and can’t compete with the taste of a lovely, home-cooked meal.
Come up with a few recipes for nutritious dishes that can be made in under 30 minutes and you’ll improve both your health and your finances.
4. Cook with Beans and Whole Grains
Beans and whole grains, such as quinoa, barley and brown rice, are not only super healthy and nutritious due to their protein content, they are also inexpensive as you only need a small amount each time you cook with them.
Plus, they bulk up meals such as chillis and soups in a really splendid way and leave you feeling fuller for longer.
5. Buy Cheaper Meat
Don’t think meat is off the menu just because you’re sticking to a budget. Instead, go for cuts of meat that are just as delicious but a lot kinder on the purse strings.
For example, if you’re used to stocking up on chicken breasts, give chicken thighs a try instead (they are delicious, trust us!).
If you’re worry about the added fat, you can trim off any excess before cooking them.
If you manage to bag a bargain on a tougher cut of meat but are unsure of what to do with it, stick it in the slow cooker and make a stew while you’re at work; a slow cooker is a hero product when it comes to making tough cuts of meat tender and juicy, plus you’ll come home to a house that smells amazing, and a ready-to-eat dinner to boot!
6. Buy in Season
If you’re trying to eat more healthy foods, fresh veggies and fruit will no doubt feature heavily on your shopping list. In order to save a bit of money, try and buy only what is in season.
Because fruit and veg is in abundance when it’s in season, it makes sense that it ends up costing less (plus fruit and veg in season tastes SO much better).
And, if there is something you love, whether it be gorgeous summer strawberries or spring’s offering of asparagus, it’s worth freezing some of it while it’s in season so that you have it for the months when it is more expensive due to its scarcity.
7. Don’t Make Meat the Star of the Show
Consider having a couple of veggie nights each week, and when you do have meat, try and stick to meals where you can add lots of veggies and whole grains as well: think curries, fajitas, stir-fries, stews, soups etc.… all delicious, yet a lot better for your health and your budget.
Now it’s Over to You
Do you have any tips on how to eat healthy on a budget? We’d love to hear from you!
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