One of my goals this year was to have a better relationship with my finances, and truly work to a budget. However I have also been on a health improvement and wellness journey over the last few years, and I was conscious that just because I was working to a budget, I didn’t want my healthy food choices to slide. This meant I had a new sub-goal (is that a thing?): healthy eating on a budget! When people say they can’t afford to eat healthily, in some ways I do understand it, for example two filets of fresh salmon can easily set you back £4 – which is currently nearly 8% of my weekly food budget (for context, I live alone, and have decided to give myself £30 per week to spend on food). However, I have learned that I can shop smart, and still manage delicious, nutritious recipes!
3 tips for healthy eating on a budget:
1. Batch cooking is your best friend
This was one of the earliest things I did when I was broke many years ago. I learned how to cook, and I learned how to cook big and cheap! My favourite recipes are spaghetti bolognese, chilli, chicken stew, scouse (a type of beef stew), vegan chickpea and sweet potato stew… honestly the list is endless. The best thing about all of these recipes though is that they can be bulked out with vegetables which is great for your health, as well as your wallet. This is pretty much the secret to all big cooks, go lighter on the meat than you do the veg! Let’s go through the costs involved with a spaghetti bolognese (I got these from Asda, April 2022):
£1.90 – 500g Beef Mince (also if you’re super broke, look at dried soya mince – soak it in stock and it does the job)
£0.60 – 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
£0.34 – 1/4 tube tomato puree (more if you feel like it)
£0.20 – 2 x brown onions
£0.20 – 500g carrots
£0.60 – 250g mushrooms
£0.50 – 4/5 stalks celery
£0.40 – 4 cloves garlic
Total: £4.74 – I got 8 medium sized portions out of this
(add cheap pasta – Asda is £0.30 for a bag so total price is just over £5, you’re looking at about £0.63 per meal!)
2. Shop the discounts
My family all used to find my love of getting a bargain quite entertaining, but I’ve been doing it ages now and I think they’ve finally realised I might be onto something! In the above recipe, the meat is by far the most expensive thing on the list, so instead of waiting to buy it full price when you want to cook, if you have a freezer, keep an eye on all the stuff going out of date that day and see if there is something you can use in the future.
I don’t often buy fruit and veg that is yellow-labelled, mainly because I don’t shop for the day I’m eating, but the majority of the fish and meat I get is all marked down. One of my favourite things to get discounted is fresh fish. Salmon is really good for you, and I know I don’t eat enough fish (it’s just not my favourite thing!) however as I mentioned at the beginning, it’s also really expensive when you look at your cost per portion compared to something like what I did above. However, I got 2 filets of Salmon from the Co-op by me last week for £1.70 – they were reduced from nearly £4, and a couple of weeks before I got a beef roasting joint for £6.97 when it started at £14.52.
To take advantage of these I do have to go to the shop quite regularly, but as long as I don’t mindlessly buy anything else, it definitely pays off in the long term!
3. Plan in advance
I used to be terrible for getting to the end of the day, and then I would realise I didn’t have anything sorted out for my dinner. This would either result in a last minute rush to the shop, or it would end up with me having a takeaway. Neither of these options are cost-effective, and on the whole, they’re not healthy either!
Now I try to take a bit of time at the beginning of the week to think about what I want to eat day-to-day, and I review my freezer to see if I either have some batches of food made in advance, or alternatively if I have some meat/fish frozen that I can put in a dish. This planning doesn’t take long, and if I do want a pizza or something on a Friday, I just put it on the board (bonus points if I got it in the reduced section!)
I leave this plan in front of me while I’m at my desk, so when I get peckish I can look forward to whatever delicious meal or snack I know I’ve got prepared and prevent myself from ordering in something, or buying emergency biscuits!
I hope these tips have been useful, in the future I’ll try and post some of my cheap and healthy favourite recipes for you to try. In the meantime, please let me know in the comments of any of your favourite meals that I need to try, or if you have any great tips!