How to shop healthy – without breaking the budget!
-Aug 5, Caroline Blight, Nutrition -
Many people think that eating a healthier diet is expensive – but that doesn’t have to be the case. Smart shopping and not being lured in by fancy packaging will help you keep on budget – or even save you money on a less nutritious shop.
Check out own brands
You may buy certain branded products because you always have, or maybe they are the brands you had as a kid. But so often the store branded equivalent is the same inside as the products that the big names will charge more. Check out the labels and give own brands and their economy lines a go. For items like oats it’s likely to be difficult to tell the difference between the two items at all. There may be a couple of things you feel are worth the extra money, but in some cases staying away from the big names means you will save half or more. And all those savings really add up over the month and year.
Select your organic products carefully
We all want to make sure we fill our bodies with the best food and choosing organic is a goal for many who wish to avoid pesticides which are used on so many crops. But some fruits and vegetables are more heavily treated than others. What this means there are some which are not really worth the extra expense. The ‘Clean 15’ includes avocados, sweetcorn, mangoes, aubergine/eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower and broccoli. These are commonly found to contain no or minimal pesticides with less than 1% of avocados and sweetcorn containing pesticide residue.
Cheap foods are superfoods too
Have you noticed how foods labelled ‘superfoods’ are more expensive than those which are not? Luckily all fruit, veg and wholegrains are super for you no matter what the label. If kale is looking pricey, pick up a more common Savoy cabbage. Choose foods in season which will be at their best when it comes to flavour and nutrition too.
Also shop smart in a supermarket. Check out the global aisles when looking for foods which may have only just become trendy here, but are staples in other parts of the world. You will find cheaper spices, dried pulses and beans as well as grains in larger and more economical bags. The packaging might be different but what you are getting is the same.
Also remember you can tweak recipes and sub in seasonal or cheaper items. Instead of asparagus you could use French beans. If you don’t have quinoa then couscous will probably work. Don’t buy a whole bag of something you are unlikely to finish just for a single recipe as you will have wastage and your dish will then be that more expensive. Look at what you have or what is available and make changes to your dishes.
Related: Do we really need superfoods?
Buy frozen or canned
Using frozen ingredients is such a great way of minimising waste and often time too. Frozen peas and broad beans are higher in nutrients than their fresh relatives as they were immediately frozen and so the nutrients locked in. Also think of the time you will save on shelling! There’s no worries about eating the foods in the right order from the fridge or items being binned as you had a change of plan or found they went off faster than expected.
Canned tomatoes are a far cheaper alternative to fresh in sauces and mean you have the fuller flavour all year around. Tinned fish is also a great way of including more omega-3 rich fish in your diet and frozen fish also works out a lot cheaper than fresh. Bear in mind that on many supermarket fish counters the shellfish arrives frozen for sale as fresh anyway.
And don’t be fooled by food labels
Clever labelling can make some foods seem like they have more ethical or nutritional value than they actually do. Which means they can charge a higher price. Make sure you understand what the logos and slogans on foods really mean so you know what you are getting and if it is worth paying extra for. Knowledge will help you make economical choices when you are shopping.
Read on: What food labels are really telling you
Meal plan around offers
Many supermarkets list their offers for the week online or have leaflets detailing what they will be stocking and reducing the following week. Use these as your main ingredients in meals so you are buying at the lowest possible price. It can also be worth shopping in more than one chain store. If you tend to do a big shop then a top up, make sure they are from different places and you can take advantage of the different offers in each. Some health food stores also have offers which are rarely found in supermarkets so make in a habit to check in every few weeks and stock up on some speciality ingredients.
Making your own is often cheaper
When it comes to less nutritious fare, making your own is not usually economical as they are providing cheap ingredients in bulk. But when it comes to super and health foods they usually cost a premium. The good news is many are actually easy and far more reasonable if they are made at home. For example, energy balls can be made in five minutes with nut butter, some seeds or nuts, dried fruit and spices. You can tailor them to your tastes too. So if you love coconut make sure it’s in the mix. You will likely make around eight for the price of one of the premium brand versions.
Vegetables are generally cheap but vegetable based ready meals can be shockingly expensive. If you are often strapped for time bulk cook and freeze ahead your own ‘ready meals’ to whip out and replace the shop bought version. Not only will you save money but you will also cut the amount of hidden sugar and salt you are consuming.