Does eating healthy foods really have to break the bank? Or can you still make healthy, nutritious and balanced meals on a budget?
When you hear the phrase “healthy foods,” what comes to mind? Leafy greens, balanced dishes, or eye-catching price tags? According to new research from yfood, 41% of Britons associate healthy food with unaffordable prices.
With the cost of food (and the cost of living) continuing to rise, it’s no wonder that nearly half (47%) of us have turned to social media to find recipes. What better way to find fun, healthy, and affordable recipes than to see what others are already making? However, this has led to more confusion about what is actually healthy and unhealthy.
Previous research has shown that nearly half of Brits have no idea what to eat, while 49% of us don’t understand what the ‘correct’ portion size looks like. No wonder a third of adults don’t eat fruit every week, while nearly half (46%) don’t eat any vegetables at all on a weekly basis.
Only a fifth of us cook meals from scratch – however, we only do it twice a week. However, cooking at home is full of benefits: It’s often healthier because you know exactly what’s in your food, it can be a fun activity to do with friends and family, and it’s cheaper than eating out or takeout. For many, it can be a conscious form of self-care.
Here, we share seven quick tips to help you get started.
Quick Gains for a Healthy, Balanced and Affordable Diet
Our average food bill is set to rise by £380 in 2022. For those of us on a budget, this seems like an insurmountable hike. But there are ways you can make small changes to help you save money without sacrificing food quality, variety, or nutritional benefits.
1. Planning is the key
It can be tempting to pick out what you need for one meal on the way home each night, but planning ahead and doing one “super store” can be much more cost-effective. If you can, think ahead and plan meals for a week: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not only does this help you avoid impulsive purchases when you’re on hiatus a few times each week, but it can help you plan around your ingredients, rather than just what you envision (or what’s on a discount label but may not be healthy.).
Dietitian Angelika Cutuk-Short shares her healthy seven-day family meal plan to help you get all the vitamins and minerals you need. Angelica explains, “Having amazing recipes is great — but making the menu, shopping for the ingredients, and preparing those recipes is the first step to good health. Failing to prepare is setting up for failure. Choose the recipes you like, print them, put them in your shopping list, And buy the ingredients, make them and enjoy them knowing you and your family are eating healthy.”
If you’re thinking of doing one big store that feels daunting, or you’re struggling with a meal plan for an entire week, try this simple shopping list to get you started. Mixing and matching these ingredients is enough to prepare a variety of healthy meals, and many options are available in canned or frozen varieties – which means less food waste and often larger quantities that you can freeze for later.
2. Back to basics
Healthy meals don’t have to be expensive or complicated. If you find yourself struggling for inspiration, stocking up on general food necessities can be a way to ensure you’re getting nutritious (but still delicious) meals. Ellen from Nutrition Resource shares more about creating a simple shopping list, wardrobe storage tools, and how to keep cooking simple to make sure it’s affordable, easy, and fun.
3. Eat seasonal and wine
Dietitian Lucia Stansby (Dip CNM, mBANT, mCNHC) explains more about the importance of seasonal foods when trying to eat better and spend less.
“Fruits and vegetables in season are cheaper, rich in vitamins and antioxidants, and a much better alternative to out-of-season imported goods. If you buy fruits and vegetables in season, you may be overburdened with one type of produce. The same thing happens if you decide to go and pick berries or mushrooms. The best solution is Ferment those products. They will last for months to come, and will be an excellent aid to the health of your gut.”
4. Make enough for leftovers (or consider cooking in batches)
Making enough leftovers for lunch the next day can be a great way to save time and money. Stacking main dishes with lots of extra veggies can make things worse, but if you’re looking for a solution that can help you save time in your daily schedule, consider cooking in batches.
Bulk cooking works on the idea that you make time to cook in bulk, to freeze you and last for a long period of time. This could mean making Sunday your day for cooking and meal prep for the next week, or it could mean preparing up to a month’s worth of dishes in one day.
Katie of The Nutrition Company shares two affordable vegan recipes (and a vegan alternative) that you can make year-round as healthy, freezable comfort food options. Or try this great selection of lunches, breakfasts, and snacks for inspiration.
5. Buy frozen
As Lucia explains, frozen foods can be just as healthy as fresh. “Many people shy away from frozen staple foods like spinach, peas, or broccoli, for no reason. Vegetables are frozen once they’ve been picked, so many vitamins and antioxidants are retained. Studies show that frozen peas contain higher amounts of vitamin C than fresh peas.” “.
6. Adaptability is key
Going to the supermarket with a menu in mind is great, but once you gain more confidence in cooking, getting off the menu has the potential to save money as well. Keep an eye out for deals on store staples that are easy to incorporate into recipes, such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, and canned or frozen vegetables.
7. Replace it
Switching from brand names to stocking alternatives is a no-brainer. But have you thought about replacing supermarkets with local markets? You can often find cheaper deals on fruits and vegetables, and many markets have stalls offering deals on meat, cheese and eggs as well.
If going to the supermarket is your only option due to time, location, or lack of other options, that’s okay! Kimberley Neve, MSc, ANutr, explains more about how to beat supermarkets and healthy shopping.
“Most of us realize that supermarkets have their tricks up their sleeves to get us to spend more; however, we have a certain confidence in them to provide us with our basics and offer the best deals. They have an interest in spending as much as possible on each visit. This can be a problem if you’re trying to stick to a budget and it often is Harmful to your health too, as most offers and promotions are for less nutritious foods like biscuits and chocolate.
“If you’re trying to shop healthier, have a list of what you want to buy and ignore promotions at the end of the aisle. Look down for healthier and cheaper products. Don’t shop hungry. Consider shopping online where it’s easier to follow your list and not be tempted by options. least food.”
Cooking from scratch: free and healthy recipes to get started
Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re an inexperienced cook, or worried about potentially wasting ingredients, working through recipes can be a great way to get started. Check out The Nutritionist Resource’s free, healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. From vegetarian dinners to the best picnic options and healthy versions of favorite takeaways, serving healthy food for less can be quick and simple once you’ve gained more confidence in the kitchen.
Why is healthy eating so important?
Healthy eating is not about losing weight. Ensuring a balanced diet affects not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. What you eat can have a big impact, from reducing seasonal affective disorder symptoms to increasing fertility, lowering high blood pressure to combating fatigue, stress, and lower energy levels.
Eating healthy food can improve your mood, health, and wellness. Working with a dietitian can help you make healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes that fit your personal needs, while keeping them easy (and enjoyable). Find out more about healthy eating and how to create a balanced diet with Nutritionist Resource.