Healthy eating can get expensive but with the right planning it is achievable. Here, we share some practical tips to stretch your budget.
If you're already struggling with other household bills, the last thing you need is to have to spend even more money on eating healthily. But, thankfully, not spending a fortune on food doesn't mean you have to compromise your health or nutrition. With a little know-how and planning, you can easily stretch your weekly food budget.
Make a meal plan. Planning ahead for the week will give you time to think about your nutritional needs and your budget. Once you’ve decided on your breakfast, lunch, and dinners, write a shopping list of ingredients. don’t forget to check the expiry days on the foods in your cupboards, so you know which ones to use up in your menu.
Select recipes with common ingredients. Try to use recipes that have common ingredients that exist in your cupboards. If a recipe calls for a special ingredient, think about how much that ingredient costs. Will you use it again before it goes out of date? Could you use it for larger batches of meals? It may not be worth buying if you’re only going to be able to use it once.
Plan for leftovers. Cut down on food waste by freezing leftovers, or keeping leftovers in the fridge and making a meal of them the next day (according to the recycling organisation WRAP UK, the average UK family could save up to £700 a year by tackling food waste).
Cook with similar ingredients. Try to use recipes with similar ingredients to cut down on waste. Could you use the same vegetables in both a spaghetti bolognaise and in a risotto? Could leftovers from a roast chicken make a soup or stir-fry? Using this approach for several different dishes each week will make your budget stretch further and avoid unnecessary waste.
Swap fresh for frozen. Not only do they last longer, but they cost less and are just as nutritious. Many frozen vegetables are also resealable, helping you to use only what you need to and avoid any unnecessary waste.
Love your freezer. Lots of healthy recipes can be cooked and frozen in batches, including soups, pasta and casseroles, meaning you can stretch your ingredients and save time cooking throughout the week. Look out for reduced-price bargains in supermarkets that have to be eaten the same day and freeze them as soon as you get home.
Grow your own. If you're lucky enough to have a garden, growing your fruit and vegetables is a great way to reduce your shopping budget. Even if you only have a patio, many types of fruit, veg and herbs can be grown in containers and pots. The RHS has some fantastic advice if you’re not sure where to start.
Shop without a list. Not only will you be tempted to buy impulse items you don’t need, you’ll miss ingredients you need for healthy recipes, meaning you’ll have to make a return trip for the forgotten items. Having a shopping list means that you will only buy what you need, stick to your budget and save time.
Shop when you're hungry. You will end up buying more than you need and be tempted by unhealthy treats and other impulse purchases. Also, be wary of multi-buy offers - they may seem like good value for money, but you may end up buying more than you can actually use.
Buy everything from one supermarket. Shop around for the best prices if you have time. Local markets often sell fruit, veg, fish and meat cheaper than supermarkets. Farmers' markets are also usually cheaper too, especially when you buy produce that's in season. If there are no local markets where you live and your only option is a supermarket, try the store's own-brand foods. These are usually cheaper and are just as nutritious as well-known brands.
Buy too many fresh ingredients. Only buy enough fresh ingredients to last you a few days. Buying lots of fresh fruit and veg at the same time means you might not be able to eat them all before they start going off, wasting your budget and increasing your food waste each week.
Find out more about how you can cut down on food waste - and save money while you're at it - by visiting the Love Food Hate Waste website for recipe ideas and useful tips.
For advice and support on improving your budgeting skills, read our guide on the benefits of creating a budget you can stick to.
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