It can sometimes feel difficult to eat well when strapped for cash. Fresh fruit and vegetables can seem expensive and in these current times, some foods may also be hard to come by.
This blog provides ideas to help build a simple meal plan which incorporates all the food groups that make up a healthy diet. A shopping list can be created from your meal plan which ultimately saves money, reduces impulse buying and minimises waste.
A healthy diet as you know is made up of mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, wholegrains, lean proteins and healthy fats. It is also important to incorporate sources of calcium for bone health.
Lean protein, a portion of wholegrains and plenty of vegetables should all feature in both your lunch and evening meal. Fruit, nuts and some dairy foods or dairy-alternatives can then be included as part of breakfast or between meals. Always try to keep to a routine and avoid frequent snacking or grazing!
To begin, write down some meal ideas that you fancy for breakfast, lunch and evening meal across the week. Look online for some healthy recipes for inspiration. Swap out white bread, rice, potatoes for wholegrains, quinoa and sweet potato etc. if needed.
- Plant-based proteins can be cheaper than buying meat and are also naturally low in fat and high in fibre. Opt for tinned or dried chickpeas, lentils, pulses and beans
- Chopped nuts and seeds can be sprinkled onto salad for extra protein and these last a long time in the cupboard
- Stock up on wholegrain pasta, brown rice and quinoa etc. Buy larger packets as these work out cheaper overall. Avoid pre-cut chips or microwave rice which can be more expensive and are less healthy
- Buy whole loose vegetables rather than pre-packaged salad or multipacks. This way you only pay for what you need, it is cheaper and there is less waste
- Include some oily fish in your diet, ideally twice per week. Tinned salmon, mackerel and sardines all count! Just avoid those in sauces or oil
- Prepare cooked meals in batches and freeze into portions. This way you always have a convenient healthy option for those busier days and could save money on ready meals and takeaways
- Many herbs can be frozen and thrown straight into a pan to add flavour
- If you are not a fan of tap water, invest in a water filter, which in turn will save money on bottled drinks and cordials. Infuse chilled water with lemon or cucumber for a cheaper and tasty thirst-quencher
- A varied diet is encouraged but that does not mean you cannot repeat the same meals in a week. This ensures you use up the ingredients in your fridge but you can still swap out the items on your plate to keep it interesting
- Fresh salad, fruit and vegetables should not spoil if you are eating the daily recommended amount. That is half a plate full of vegetables or salad at both lunch and evening meal. Fruit can be eaten around 3 times per day
Why not give it a go?
You may find you need to increase your spending on certain foods such as fruit, nuts and fish but you’ll be saving in other ways, particularly if you avoid the end of aisle offers! Biscuits, cakes and crisps can seem like a bargain but they provide no real nutritional benefit and you could save money by not buying them at all. Keep these treats to special occasions and out of sight at home.
Get your family involved and create a plan together. This way everyone can benefit and keep healthy on a budget.