How to Eat Well on a Budget
10 Ways to Eat Healthily and Cheaply
If you listen to all the doom-mongers, this year will not be a picnic in the park. Although we might be staying in more and buying less luxuries, the way we eat shouldn’t be the first thing to feel the pinch. After all, eating a good meal can lift your mood massively and make you feel more ready to take on the world and anything it has to throw at you. It’s still possible to eat really well whilst saving a bit of money – here’s how to do it.
1. eat seasonally
Eating food in season doesn’t just give you brownie points for saving on food miles and supporting British farmers. It also means food in season is in abundance in markets and supermarkets and so is more likely to be cheaper. You might have to get a bit more creative with your cooking (especially doing the winter root veg season!) but you’ll be eating fruit and veg with more nutrients because its had a lot less way to travel and spend in storage.
2. eat less meat
Decent meat isn’t cheap so why not think about having it a bit less. Instead of including meat in your food every night, try to have 2 or 3 meat free days then you can afford to spend a bit more money on free-range or organic meat. You don’t have to go totally veggie – what about having a hearty veggie soup with a few of rashers of really good bacon as a base or some pasta tossed with flaked tuna, lemon juice, capers and red onion.
“Buying stuff loose means you can get exactly as much as you need”
3. …and if you really can’t eat less meat, buy cheaper cuts
Eating cheaper cuts means you can afford to buy really good free-range or organic meat without paying a premium. Look out for pork belly and shoulder, beef shin and brisket, breast of lamb or shoulder of lamb. They’ll need a bit longer cooking to get to their best but will have even more flavor than the leaner cuts. Start boning up on your slow cook stews and roasts.
4. stop going for packaged convenience
Everyone knows ready-meals work out more expensive than cooking from scratch but supermarkets have also made it really easy to pick up bags of fruit and veg rather than buying them loose. Buying stuff loose means you can get exactly as much as you need and you won’t be left with half-bags of mushy carrots and potatoes at the end of the week. Don’t be embarrassed to just buy two carrots if that’s all you need. Putting them straight in your basket without using those plastic veg bags will get you extra eco brownie points.
5. love your freezer
If you’re making a pasta sauce, soup or stew, make double. You’re already doing all the work and you can start stocking up your freezer with ready-to-go goodies for those nights when you can’t be bothered to cook and you’d normally get a takeaway. Then you’re only ever 15 minutes away from a home-cooked meal.
“Chinese, Indian and pizza can be made at a fraction of the cost of a takeaway”
6. stock up your store cupboard
Make your store cupboard the starting point for all your cooking. Keep it topped up and you’ll only have to add a few extra ingredients to knock up a quick meal. Store cupboard stars are things like tinned tomatoes, pasta, coconut milk, thai curry paste, risotto and basmati rice, concentrated stock, dried noodles and soy and chilli sauce.
7. take on the takeaway
You might think it’s impossible to compete with takeaways, especially if you have kids. But Chinese, Indian and pizza can be made at a fraction of the cost of a takeaway. For quick fixes next time you’re shopping buy frozen pizza bases or pizza base mix or a really good indian curry paste.
8. spread out your shopping
If you shop in one supermarket you might get some bargains but you will top up your bill in other ways. Shopping around at discount stores, markets and online means you’ll snap up the bargains. Make a list of what’s cheap where and plan your shopping accordingly. With a bit of practice you’ll be saving pounds – especially if you know when and where the reduced offer yellow labels are most prominent.
“Stick to your list”
9. don’t ignore the basics
Most supermarkets offer ‘basic’ lines. Things like tinned tomatoes, cheese for everyday cooking, and out of shape fruit and veg are brilliant buys so take advantage of them.
10. resist buying on impulse
The biggest enemy of budget is a hungry person trawling a supermarket. Take away the temptation of visible available food and you can’t impulse buy. Check your cupboards first, make a list then do a shop online. You’ll be surprised how much money you save.
5 cheap after-work meals for two in under 30 minutes
Thai sweet potato curry
Heat 2 tbsp red Thai curry paste in a pan then gradually stir in 1 tin coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and add 1 peeled and chunked large sweet potato and simmer until tender. Stir in 1 bag chopped spinach until just wilted. Serve with basmati rice.
Peanut chicken noodle salad
Cook 150g thin egg noodles until tender then drain and rinse under cold water. Slice 1 cooked chicken breast, 2 spring onions, ¼ cucumber and 1 red pepper into strips. Mix 2 tbsp peanut butter with 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil and enough boiling water to make a dressing. Toss the noodles chicken and veg with the dressing.
Pasta with Mediterranean roast veg
Put 1 large diced courgette, 1 red onion cut into wedges, 2 cloves garlic (still in skin) in a baking dish with 4 tbsp olive oil. Bake at 180C/gas mark 4 for 15 minutes then add 2 handfuls cherry tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of its skins and mash into the oil. Cook 200g penne or fusilli pasta until tender, add to the dish and toss everything together.
“Take away the temptation of visible available food”
Broccoli and feta frittata
Break a small head of broccoli into florets and simmer in salted water until tender then drain well. Heat a knob of butter in a small frying pan and fry a sliced red onion until softened. Add the broccoli and cook for a minute then pour in four beaten, well-seasoned eggs. Cook until the bottom has set then crumble over half a packet of feta and put under a grill until top is set. Cut into four wedges.
Instant pea and smoky bacon soup
Fry four rashers chopped smoky bacon until crisp. In another pan cook 1 chopped onion until soft. Add 200g frozen peas and 500ml chicken or veg stock. Simmer for five minutes then blend until smooth. Season and stir in the bacon.