Eating healthily need not be expensive and laborious.
Get clear on how a little forethought and organisation can save money, time, stress, food waste and discover how to plan your way to culinary calm & learn to get creative with leftovers.
LET’S GET SAVING
Home cooked, freshly prepared food is much healthier for you than take-aways or readymade meals. It is also considerably cheaper.
The key to enjoying home cooked meals is planning. You’ve probably heard the saying ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. Without a general weekly food plan, it will be pure luck if you end up with the right foods in the fridge or cupboard. When this happens it’s more likely that you will end up grabbing the expensive takeout lunch, pastries or sugary shop bought snacks or arrive home with no thoughts for dinner and end up opting for a takeaway.
I’m a firm believer that you do not have to spend a fortune to eat well and that you don’t have to be super organised or rigid, just a little planning can go a long way.
Ready to start?
PREP & PLANNING
Kitchen Audit: once or twice a week, go through your cupboards and fridge and clear out any old or gone off food. Arrange your fridge so that you know what you have and know what you need to pick up before you do your shopping.
Meal Plan: roughly plan out what you might eat for your meals for a couple of days at a time. Which meal feels the most out of control and why? You might choose to start with whichever meal brings the most chaos to your life.
Shopping List: create a shopping list and try to stick to it. Make sure that you have stocked up of storecupboard staples (see below for help on this) so that you always have the basics to throw together a meal.
Get the family involved: if you are struggling with family dinners get the kids to participate. Each week ask them to nominate their favourite dinner and slot that in to the family meal plan. That way, everyone gets the dish that they like most and it’s less likely that they will complain.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Do not go to the supermarket hungry. You are more likely to shop off-list when you do. Consider your usual shopping patterns. What can you change to maximise your efficiency and minimise the risk of impulse shopping when buying groceries?
People often throw large amounts of food away, because they’re not sure what to do with leftovers. Make a commitment to use yours and watch how much money you save. A meal put together using bits and bobs of leftovers can be really satisfying, not to mention speedy.
There are many online resources to help you find easy recipe suggestions for pretty much anything you may have lurking in the fridge. Here are some favourite resources to assist with creative leftover ideas:
Love Food Hate Waste recipes: https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/recipes
Tesco Meal Planner Left Over Tool https://realfood.tesco.com/meal-planner/leftover-tool.html
All Recipes Everyday Cooking Leftovers: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipes/14503/everyday-cooking/everyday-leftovers/
MONEY SAVING TIP 1
Vegetarian protein sources, like beans and lentils, are the most economical. Consider going meat-free one or two days a week. Bean chilli or chickpea curry are so easy to make and last 3 days in the fridge.
You can also stock up on eggs for a relatively inexpensive protein fix. Frittata’s, omelettes or shakshuka are great egg dishes. Try a Spanish omelette and take a wedge of it into work with you or have at home with some salad on the side.
MONEY SAVING TIP 2
Frozen fish is a cheaper option than refrigerated. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s inferior. Often your local supermarket’s “fishmonger” counter fish has been pre-frozen and defrosted for sale, so it isn’t really as “fresh” as you might think.
MONEY SAVING TIP 3
Your local veg shop can often the cheapest places to buy your veg and the quality can be better than supermarkets. You can also consider basing meals around supermarket special weekly deals if budget is tight. Don’t rule out frozen veg either. Frozen vegetables are much more affordable than fresh, and can sometimes even be fresher because they are flash-frozen soon after picking. Not to mention the convenience of simply taking a pack out of the freezer. You also minimise food waste, because you don’t have to discard wilting leftovers lurking in the fridge.
MONEY SAVING TIP 4
Cut down on sugar. Most people have an understanding that sugar is not good for them. Eating sugary food is like a treadmill, with one biscuit creating the need for the next. Sugar creates a blood sugar or energy imbalance, fuels inflammation in the body, and results in weight gain. Consider that the more sugar you eat, the more you need to eat. Sugary “treats” can soon become a three-times-a-day habit. Have you seen the price of a pre-packaged muffin in a garage or a slice of ‘not made on premises but bought in’ cake in a coffee shop?
Depending what sugary treats you’re snacking on, cutting them out (or cutting down) could save you a considerable amount each day.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Fruit and veg is bursting with beneficial plant chemicals that fight inflammation and disease. Different colours tend to represent different plant chemicals so eat a rainbow of colours over the course of the week to get the broadest benefit.
Need some more inspiration to kickstart your new healthy eating plan on a budget? These useful books will help keep your budget and health on track. These can be bought online or in your local bookshop. www.bookdepository.com has free delivery worldwide.
· Economy Gastronomy by Allegra McEvedy& Paul Merrett
· Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver Eat
· Shop, Save by Dale Pinnock
· Eat Well for Less (various different books) by Greg Wallace & Chris Bavin
A well-stocked larder makes cooking meals easier and faster. Having some basics in the cupboards gives you an advantage when it comes to being able to rustle up a decent meal with the fridge looking a little bare.
Chopped tomatoes (sauces, soups, stews and casseroles)
Green/brown lentils (soups, stews, veggie Bolognese, veggie burgers, dhals, etc.)
A variety of tinned beans including: mixed beans/ black beans/ kidney beans/ cannellini beans (stews, chilli, casseroles, dips)
Chickpeas (hummus, stews, salads and curries)
Coconut milk (soups and curries)
Good-quality tinned tuna, salmon and sardines (pasta dishes, salads, fishcakes)
Rice noodles (for stir fry, cold noodle salads)
Ready cooked lentils (great for adding to salads)
Quinoa (uncooked as well as ready-cooked packets for when you’re in a rush)
Dried wholewheat pasta
Cacao powder (for smoothies or healthier treats)
Cacao nibs (a spoonful sprinkled on natural or Greek yogurt with fruit is good)
JARS & BOTTLES
Mustard (wholegrain, Dijon for salad dressings)
Vinegar (red wine, cider, balsamic)
Coconut oil/ olive oil (for frying)
Sesame oil (for Eastern-inspired cooking)
Soy sauce/ Tamari soy sauce
Thai fish sauce
Passata/ tomato puree
Antipasti (sundried tomatoes, black olives, artichokes, roasted peppers, piquillo peppers)
Sugar-free nut butter (Aldi own brand or Meridian to spread on an oatcake for a quick snack)
Sugar free jam (Follain or St Dalfour)
Pesto (basil and sundried tomato – to top fish or meat and add to a baking tray with a selection of vegetables. Basil pesto can be thinned out with extra virgin olive oil to make a lovely salad dressing)
Maple syrup (The Aldi brand is reasonable)
Nuts (unsalted almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans – use for sprinkling onto porridge, yoghurt, salads, stir fries or team with some berries for a snack)
Milled flaxseeds/ chia seeds (to add to breakfast or to make chia pudding or jam https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/10-minute-chia-seed-jam/
Stock cubes or stock pots
HERBS & SPICES
Chilli flakes/ powder
Sea salt/ Himalayan pink salt
Frozen vegetables e.g. peas, green beans, spinach.
Supergreens, Broccoli or Cauliflower ‘rice’ can be used to bump up the vegetable content of a meal. Green Isle is one brand.
Frozen berries of all types
Frozen pomegranate seeds
Prawns and frozen fish
Frozen sourdough bread or wholegrain pitta bread
Homemade meals like soups, stews, chillies, curries. Make in batches and freeze
Fresh chillies (chop straight from freezer)
Fresh ginger can be frozen and grated into dishes
Strong Roots sweet potato fries
Frozen herbs if you prefer not to buy fresh or dried
Pre-vegetables such as onions and peppers
Happy shopping and cooking!