Nutrition: Eating well on a budget part 1

Tuesday 08 May 2018

Eating well on a budget. I can remember as a child my mother always told people that I ate really well. That interpreted meant that I ate everything and anything that I was given!!

So when I say eating well on a budget I do not quite mean eating anything, but eating well in a healthy way.

We all know that to be well or to try and improve our health what we eat can have a huge impact. This is all well and good but generally healthy nutritious food can be more expensive. This can be a problem for many people because purse strings do not always allow. So I want to show you that we can eat well on a budget with a little thought and planning.

Before we do this let’s remind ourselves what we mean by ‘eating well’.
Eating well means choosing foods that are going to support us and give our bodies the energy and vitality that they need as opposed to foods that drain our vitality.

My second blog that I wrote on April 10th last year outlines the building blocks of a healthy diet. (See link). As you can see that it includes some foods from all of the food groups, proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits and the essential fats. All of our billions of cells that make up our tissues and organs need the nutrients provided by these groups in order to function well.  This includes the cells of the immune system.

I think that you would all agree, It is so easy to eat badly because the food industry makes sure of this. They fill the supermarkets with cheap readymade, processed foods that contain many additives and chemicals which are necessary to make the inferior food look appetizing and edible. It is so easy to fall into the trap of relying on these types of foods simply because of time available to prepare proper food and sometimes the skills to do it. Having said all that I do not want to come across holier than thou, because I live in the real world and I know that there are times when it is not conducive to get in the kitchen and knock up a freshly prepared balanced meal especially if you are not feeling great, and I do know that most of the time the convenience foods are cheaper. If you are counting the cost understandably they may feature,

So let’s see what can we do

  • It is always a good idea to plan the meals for the week and to make a shopping list and stick to it!!! Unless of course there is a special offer on a food that you use regularly and can freeze or store.
  • Lots of articles on budget cooking tell you not to shop on an empty stomach as you may be tempted to buy foods that you would not normally buy.
  • It is worth noting that many of the stores own brands are much cheaper and equally as good. You will soon get to know. For example tinned baked beans and canned fish.
  • I was reading the book called ‘Zest for Life’, by  Conner Middlemann-Whitney who made an interesting point that I have never thought of and that is do 90% of your shopping around the perimeter of the supermarket. That is the aisles selling the fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and meat. If you do venture into the inner aisles where most of the convenience high sugar less healthy foods are sold, stick to the shopping list.
  • As Michael Pollan wrote in his book In Defence of Food, “Do not buy anything that your great grandmother would not recognise as food”.I think all of this is called ‘strategic shopping’.

Anyway let’s now look at some details.
Protein: Any book or article that you read on cancer and diet encourages the use of beans and lentils. This is for very good reasons,

  • All varieties of beans and lentils are a good source of protein, fibre and minerals.  
  • They add interest and texture to dishes. There are so many varieties that you can buy either dried or tinned, have a good look when you next shop. Dried red split lentils are part of my staple because they do not need soaking, cook quickly and can simply be added to dishes.
  • They are inexpensive, much cheaper than meat.
  • They store for a long time so can be bought in bulk either dried or canned. Dried beans are cheaper than canned but need soaking overnight then boiling before they can be used. That is ok if you want to do this in large quantities then freeze them in batches. Personally I use canned varieties because they are ready cooked, I just rinse them before I use them. Lentils do not usually need pre cooking but you will need to check the recipe.
  • They are extremely versatile. Can be used for casseroles, burgers, cold over salads, mixed with rice or quinoa, made into soups, pates and dips. They can be used as a meat extender, that is, put less meat into the casserole or stew and add beans or lentils instead.
  • They make excellent store cupboard foods.
  • If you do like meat then make the most of the cheaper cuts that are equally as nutritious as the expensive cuts they just need long slow cooking like casseroles and stews or invest in a slow cooker.  I love mine and use it all the time. One thing I often do is put the chicken bones in left over from a roast and make my own chicken stock which I freeze until it is the soup season. See blog on meat and health
  • Eggs of course are always available, a good source of inexpensive protein and can be used in many ways. And if you read the conversation messages you will have realised that eggs are really good for you and there is no limit on the amount that you can eat, which is good news for some. Look out for next weeks recipes).

Carbohydrates- foods like brown rice, quinoa, flour and pasta can be bought in bulk and stored which would work out much cheaper. They are filling and of course are a good source of energy, vitamins, especially the B vitamins and minerals.

Fruits and vegetables as we know are an essential part of a healthy diet because of the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that they contain and should make up the bulk of our meal plate, ideally 50%. This however can be a stumbling block as they tend to be expensive and do not store well so need to be bought regularly which can be time consuming and not always convenient A few ways around this could be;

  • Buy when in season as they tend to be cheaper and have a superior nutritional value.
  • Make the most of local farmers markets.
  • When there is a glut like courgettes at the moment, or cooking apples in the Autumn. Buy in bulk and freeze down into suitable portions or make into dishes and freeze ready for another day. For example courgettes make a lovely soup, go well in a vegetable casserole, could use in ratatouille.
  • Make the most of frozen fruits and vegetables if the fresh are not available. They are cleaned and ready prepared which is quick and convenient. There is not waste like outer leaves and stalks that you would have paid for. If they are harvested, frozen and stored under optimal conditions frozen foods offer a similar nutritional profile to fresh since they are usually picked at the peak of their ripeness and frozen immediately. Avoid canned tho’ because the canning process will destroy the nutritional value.

Essential fats: When it comes to the essential fats one of the main sources is of course oily types of fish. Fresh fish can be expensive.

  • Look out for special offers or reduced as they are near the sell by date. I bought some salmon in bulk last week half price as a special offer and froze it in portions.
  • Use canned fish like sardines, salmon, pilchards, tuna and mackerel canned in water or brine. These are of course a good source of protein and will still have some of the essential fatty acid omega 3 which is so important to include in our diet.
  • Extend the fish by making fish cakes or fish pies.

Herbs and spices: make the most of herbs and spices as these can add interest, and a whole new dimension to a basic dish depending on which herbs or spices you choose.
I have tried to illustrate some of ideas I have described by listing simple meal ideas and recipes that you might like to try in next week’s blog.


Blog originally written by Caroline  Aug 2013

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