Healthy Eating on a Limited Budget
As the “triple-dip” recession looms and purse strings are tighter than ever, it can be a real challenge to stick to your healthy-eating resolutions, with prices on the rise. There is a perception that so-called ‘healthy’ food is more expensive than junk or processed food, but that’s not necessarily true. With a little planning ahead and a willingness to take a flexible approach to your shopping and eating habits, there’s still a lot you can do with a limited budget, so here are few things for you to try.
Think vegetable protein
Good quality meat and fish are becoming increasingly expensive, and with the recent food scares about the provenance of some of the supermarket meat, this could be just the time to increase your intake of vegetable protein foods. Large bags of dried lentils, kidney beans or other pulses are really good value, simple to cook and keep for ages. Lentil casserole or vegetable chilli are simple to make and very tasty, and lentils or chickpeas added to a salad make it a much more satisfying meal. Pulses are not just a great source of protein, they’re also rich in fibre (providing sustained energy levels and ensuring a healthy digestion) and key minerals such as zinc and folic acid. They have the added benefit of containing plant compounds with hormone-balancing properties, so including these in your diet a few times a week has many health benefits, as well as being kind on your wallet.
Try your hand at making your own bread
If you’ve got a houseful to feed, then you’re probably getting through a lot of bread and it all starts to add up. Bread-making is easier than you think and you don’t need to have a bread-maker or be an experienced baker to give it a go. Not only does home-made bread taste delicious (and is free of preservatives) but you can experiment with different wholegrain flours which are rich in B vitamins and magnesium, as well as fibre. It’s always going to work out cheaper than buying a specialty loaf from the supermarket, especially if you want to go organic. The added bonus with this is that it can be a great activity to share with children, as they love to help out with the kneading.
Take a packed lunch to work
It’s easy to spend about £5 a day if you’re a regular at one of the popular lunch outlets, and it’s never going to be as tasty, as filling or as healthy as something you could make for yourself with fresh ingredients. It’s important to plan ahead though, so that you have the right foods in the fridge and so that it doesn’t add to your stress levels during a busy week. Adding plenty of protein to a salad or a sandwich in the form of chicken, chick peas or hummus, quinoa or chopped egg, for example, will keep you going for longer and help you avoid spending money on pricey snacks mid-afternoon. If you’re making a sandwich, then choose fibre-rich wholemeal or granary bread and make sure you add plenty of salad, as well as meat or fish. Leftovers from the night before are also a really good option, so think about preparing an extra helping at dinner time, so you can enjoy a hot lunch the next day that’s free of charge.
Change your shopping habits
Fresh vegetables in the supermarket can be quite expensive, either because they’re out of season or because you’re buying more than you need, if they’re not sold singly. Visit your local farmers’ market, where the produce will be fresh and seasonal. You can buy as much or as little as you want, according to your budget and if you go just before they close, there are often bargains to be had, as they won’t want to take stock home. Local seasonal produce is likely to be much richer in nutrients than exotic, out-of-season vegetables, as intensive farming, travel and storage all tend to deplete vitamin and mineral content.
Ditch bottled water in favour of good old tap water
Buying mineral water every day is an expensive habit, so drink tap water instead. Invest in a water filter jug, as this helps improve the taste if your water is heavily chlorinated, and keep a bottle in your bag so that you can top it up at work or the gym. Don’t let yourself be intimidated into ordering bottled water when you eat out, as this can really add to the bill at the end of the meal. Not only will this save money, but it will encourage you to boost hydration levels, improving concentration and focus, supporting optimal digestion and promoting skin health.