Eating healthily is so important to me, even more so since I became a mum as I want Noah to grow up eating real food and to grow up understanding that quick and easy doesn't have to mean ready made. I'm not saying that there isn't a place for convenience food; I'd be lying if I said I have never bought something that I could shove in the oven on a busy or stressful day but this is certainly not what I would recommend to clients so why would I want that for myself or my family?
Before having Noah I was a lot more carefree when it came to our food budget; I had a full time income after all. I would think nothing of eating out several times a week in fancy restaurants and quirky cafes, buying snacks from every health shop I walked past and cooking from recipe books most days. It had become all too easy to go out and spend anything up to £30.00 buying in all of these new ingredients just to make one meal so things had to change.
I started looking at ways that we could reduce our food bill and still eat well and found loads of helpful advice. These are my top tips for eating healthy on a budget, they have worked well for us and hopefully will for you too;
1. Plan your meals
Plan your food for the week ahead; this means that when you do your shopping you only buy what you need. Not only does this save on budget but is also means that you will be less tempted to buy a takeaway as you "have nothing in".....therefore saving your waistline too!
I still love cooking from a recipe book; I'd actually love to write my own one day (a girl can dream!) and I still use them every single week... Just not daily anymore. Making a recipe has become a treat now and when I'm choosing what to make I will make sure that I can use up any left over ingredients for another meal, particularly if they can't be frozen (see point 5). Alternatively, I will double up ingredients when making a recipe (if it calls for only half a bag of vegetables) so that I can have a ready made meal for the next day (or I'll freeze for a later date if possible).
2. Add in some vegetarian or vegan meals
Beans and pulses are so much cheaper to buy than meat (and a lot better for you unless you are buying good quality meat). There are 1000's of great plant based recipes out there and over the coming weeks I will be adding some of my favourites to the website. Even if you aim to have 1 or 2 plant based meals a day you should notice your bank balance increasing and it is also much better for the planet.
3. Shopping wisely
Places like amazon often sell things like brown rice, quinoa, nuts, seeds, pastas and plant based milks in bulk at a fraction of the price of your local supermarket. It means working out storage space but having a few cupboard staples readily available can be really helpful for throwing a meal together on a busy evening too.
Shopping locally at a farmer's market can also save a lot of money, the food is often fresher and tastes much better. Buying fruits and vegetables that are in season can work out cheaper too.
4. Make your own snacks.
Shop bought snacks can be really expensive. You can make your own energy balls for roughly 50p per ball vs the average cost of £2.00 per shop bought energy or protein ball. You can make a huge batch of hummus for around £1.00 that will keep well for 3-4 days in the fridge, use this on rice cakes or with vegetable sticks for a really cheap, but protein rich snack. Roasted chickpeas are delicious and are very inexpensive to make. They make a great alternative to nuts or crisps and can be flavoured simply with sea salt, chilli powder, even cocoa powder and cinnamon for a sweet snack.
5. Keep waste to a minimum
If you have spare veggies left over at the end of the week, rather than throw them out roast them all to use in salads, which will make them keep an extra day or two or make up a soup and freeze it. This way you have an extra meal readily made for you in the freezer for when you are time poor.
You could also blanch the veggies and freeze them in freezer bags/ pots ready to make smoothies. (Blanching the vegetables/ fruit before freezing them helps retain as many nutrients as possible). Simply wash and chop the vegetables and add to a pot of boiling water. Let the veg cook for a minute or two (no more than this) then remove the veg and place into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Add to a freezer bag or pot and you have a ready made batch of smoothie ingredients for a quick and easy breakfast/ snack.