How do you balance saving money / healthy living / time constraints / ethical issues etc?(24 Posts)
I've been thinking a lot recently about how tricky it is to balance:
- Wanting to save money and get good value
- Wanting to be healthy and eat good foods without gaining weight
- Having a very limited amount of free time, with constraints of full time job and commute etc
- Trying to be ethical and do things like avoid waste, buying ethically-raised meat, supporting small businesses rather than massive tax-dodging ones like Amazon
It really does seem hard to get it all right. For example
- At the supermarket it's cheaper per kilo to buy a massive pack of carrots than the loose ones, but will I end up using them all or throwing some out? The organic, free-range chicken is practically twice the price of the cheaper stuff, can I justify it on a budget?
- The cheapest way to eat healthily is to buy lots of veg and stuff and make soups / salads / stews etc, but this is pretty time intensive and sometimes after a long day at work getting in at 7pm I just don't feel like peeling and chopping a mound of veg to turn it into something delicious...ready-made stuff seems much more tempting but it is likely to be a) more expensive and b) less healthy. Plus it means the veg I have bought is going to start to go off and risk being thrown out...
- I watched Hugh FW's programme on waste and supermarkets, and it made me really angry and not wanting to buy veg from supermarkets any more. So I decided to try to find ways to buy from producers, but that doesn't seem to be possible where I live...so I decided to go to the market, which was great but it is on Saturday mornings from 8am to 1pm, which means I have to get a shift on in the morning to try to get a rough meal plan together, get to the market, get cash out, etc...then I still need to make a separate trip to the supermarket for other stuff.
- I need to start doing Christmas shopping, by far the easiest and cheapest way to do it is online through Amazon, but I really hate their business model and tax-dodging policies. Otherwise I have to spend chaotic Saturdays trying to get things in 'real' shops (everything is closed on Sundays here) or buy from smaller online shops where delivery is usually expensive.
How do the rest of you balance all this stuff? I don't know where my priorities should be!
An interesting post. I don't have the answers but I have thought about these issues and often feel conflicted.
Where we live, its easy to shop little and often, so I do waste less, and I can cycle to farmers' fields where I can buy whatever vegetable is in season. I've also started buying less but better meat.
I think batch cooking can solve a few of these if you have room for a larger freezer.
I batch cook for the frugal side as I live alone with small ds and we eat healthier and cheaper with home made ready meals and throw nothing away any more.
It's not just the obvious meals, you don't need to buy extra ingredients to make a vegetable curry just to off load your extra veg, I would for eg use the carrots I need in my recipe then roast up the rest, freeze spread out on a baking tray then bag when they are frozen, roast potatoes, parsnips and beetroot freeze exactly the same way (just oven them to reheat so they are still crisp), freeze cooked jacket potatoes, if you have a joint of meat you can freeze the remaining meat in gravy and microwave.
Then add the obvious soups, stews casseroles you can cook every night like you eat frozen ready meals, but you know its homemade, healthy and cheap. cooking in bulk means you can use an afternoon off to bash out loads of meals at once saving your big oven being on every day to cook from raw (I just reheat in a hologen oven, v cheap to use) so you save on your electric bill to, and cook when you actually have time to throw yourself into it and enjoy it rather then when its a necessity.
We could all eat less meat to eat higher welfare.
I find buying online and collecting from store possible from most shops I would go to, collecting the purchase is way less time consuming than selecting it, so I prefer to select at home while my dc is in bed rather than drag him around the shops.
I was disgusted by that program this week, all those parsnips I was just thinking why the hell isn't someone cooking those to sell as a product if they aren't attractive enough as in ingredient, the ready meal industry in this country is huge.
There are some things I won't compromise on... Free range chicken, organic dairy and veg too where possible. Equally I don't like ready meals personally, and won't feed them to the kids, so plan very carefully to ensure that on nights I will be late home we have a slow cooker meal, I batch cook where I can.
I try to use farm shops where I can, I do run out of time sometimes! Amazon is my main unethical vice I must admit, the app is just too handy.
Buy through 'essentials' for cheaper bulk buying. You can order with friends.
Go semi vegetarian. Instead of meat, buy chickpeas, pulses in bulk
Batch cook with a slow cooker. Freeze extra meals (stews,soups,
Meal plan. Work easy meals for busy days
I do a lot of slow cooker cooking and tend to buy veg from supermarkets in the most cost-effective option (like bigger bags). It means I sometimes cook veg which isn't at its freshest but stews etc are quite good for disguising those. We don't buy organic or free range as I'm not convinced that it's worth the extra cost.
We're city centre based, and only shop 1-2 times a week, carrying everything home by public transport, so convenience is a priority for me, and means that I pay a bit more to use local/metro type supermarkets which aren't always cheapest or ethical. Farmers' Markets are all quite expensive around here, and on weekends (when we're busy with extracurricular stuff) so not really an option. I figure our one-child no-car family has a small enough carbon footprint to make up for the ethical evils we do indulge in.
I don't find ready meals good VFM or healthy but we sometimes pick them up in our local supermarket as they get reduced by quite a bit, then stash them in the freezer for busy/lazy days.
Thanks for the replies everyone. Glad to know it isn't just me who hasn't found all the answers yet!
Re batch cooking: I think it just feels like another time-consuming chore I would have to do on my precious weekends, that is the issue. I really like cooking with a glass of wine in the evenings most of the time as a way to wind down after work, its just those cant-be-arsed nights that are the problem. I think maybe what I need to do is make double the amount of certain meals when I am making them, things that freeze well. That wouldnt actually involve more work or time, but it would involve me planning ahead enough to remember to buy double the ingredients. Need to try to find a way to make this happen.
Rabbit - I think your example of cooking and freezing carrots that are about to go off is a good one, I really need to do this more. As ever, its laziness and lack of time that is the issue...but I need to just stop being lazy and do it!
Sunny - I have been trying to cook more and more vegetarian dishes recently, I think it solves both the ethical and money problems. I love all veg so it isn't an issue, but DP is a bit more picky and DSS pickier still, that is what holds me back. They are very confirmed carnivores! Maybe I need to find more exciting vegetarian recipes...
We are luck live rurally and have a really good local butch baker and green grocer. Don't ever buy meat or veg from supermarkets. It's much better quality no more expensive. So only use supermarkets for tins etc.
We use the slow cooker a lot as both work full time. Never use ready meals - off freezer tea.
Also like to use charity shops for clothes and other items have had some crackers. Helps that OH runs one.
Still use Amazon/eBay of a lot. I don't have an issue with their tax position they are playing the system like most business large and small. And lots of small traders trade on both Amazon and eBay.
Our very small company used our corporation tax write offs as much as we can be against losses or capital investment. As long as we make a profit for the next 3 years we won't pay any CT as written off on a major IT project.
Do hate the massive amount of waste in our society. Never ceases to amaze me what ends up in the charity shop or worse the tip.
so do your batch cook on weekend evenings if you prefer. Remember it is quick, cheap, easy; pick two.
you don't NEED to do retailmas shopping, and especially not from Amazon. The best way to reduce waste and save money is to buy less. Stop buying rubbish. Easy!
What I do:
Don't eat meat.
Any veg left over going a bit soft - chop it a bit, roast it, blend it with tinned toms after = healthy pasta sauce. Takes minutes of actual time. Chuck in freezer.
Find local cheap greengrocers rather than market if you can. Buy British stuff rather then what is on shopping list.
Don't buy sweets, cakes, biscuits etc. Saves money and if it isn't in the house I can't eat it.
Green smoothies in the morning. Chuck in kale and some superfood stuff in a blender along with frozen fruit and water/milk, at least I know I've had 1 or 2 of my 5 a day then.
Instead of batch cooking separately, make vast quantities of your evening meal and freeze the leftovers. Works well with soups, stews, bolognese type sauce, chilli, and won't take much longer than cooking anyway. Also it means some evenings you don't have to do any cooking.
Grow your own herbs etc when you can.
Set a budget for Xmas and don't go over it. If another site is more expensive than Amazon, just buy less.
I do feel your pain though, and we probably eat more baked beans and freezer sausages than I'd ideally like as a result but I figure once a week doesn't hurt...
I had many of the same time, money & ethical issues with my groceries.
I was spending loads of time meal planning (healthy, varied, easy, acceptable to toddlers - hard!), then trying to balance doing a big online supermarket shop once a month (all we could afford) with a local market (cheap but v time consuming). And endless, endless topping up at the local expensive coop.
I've recently started ordering from Riverford, which seems like a massive extravagance but it is working out so much cheaper. It just turns up, regardless of whether I tweak the order. There's enough to feed us all, it's all organic (including the meat) I can meal plan when it's here & it's whole produce so I am cooking from scratch. I do a fortnightly top up at the local B&M & asian grocers for tinned toms & beans, cheapo biscuits, nappies & fresh herbs.
We do not have lots of money (joint income is about equivalent to the national average salary for one person). It's reduced our spending on food by about 1/3 though.
Amazon - can't help. Buy with them loads
Puy lentils are very meat like. You could easily make cottage pie and use half puy lentils, half beef
We have bought riverford for the last three years too (inspired by my sister) and each week I look at what's in the box and based all my meals on the veg there. It means meals are varied and we are always trying new dishes.
I've learned you can't, you have to pick what is most important to you and focus on those.
For example, I can't afford organic chicken, but I try to avoid the really cheap chicken and I use free range eggs.
I buy some (but not all toiletries) at the body shop and lush as not tested on animals and fair trade.
I would love to shop at my local fruit and veg market but it's too awkward to get too.
I focus on why I can do but I don't beat myself up about stuff I can't do for whatever reason. When my situation changes eg more time and money, I may do more.
You don't need to cook a proper dinner every night. Omelette, or beans on toast, or cheese on toast are quick, easy, cheap and healthy. Follow with fruit/ yogurt, and its plenty. Even my constantly hungry 6 footers are satisfied with this a few times a week.
Yes agree with omelette, jacket potato option some nights
I do the much laughed at classic of as big a roast as I can do on Sunday, then meals through week. A large chicken will do us initial meal, a couple if lunches and a couple more dinners including soup from stock.
If you want to lose weight then seriously think about 5:2 or similar fast diet. It is so so cheap and the freedom on the days where you eat means you have more choices about what leftovers to eat etc.
Sorry, I see you just want to avoid gaining weight. You could do 6:1 (or even just 5:2 but eat a reasonable amount on your 5 days to maintain- I do this)
Grow own veg, then you will hate to waste any of it
Freeze any extra food or swap veg with neighbours for something else
Only buy veg in season eg strawberries in June
Make your own birthday & xmas presents
We buy quite a bit from our local market. We visit the butcher every week. Can't stand supermarket meat. I mix up where I buy online from. I am a small business myself and try to support other small businesses. I do buy on Amazon a lot for convenience. I am trying to spread my wings this xmas and shop around for stuff not just head straight to the amazon app!
I use a couple of cashbook sites and always go to them first when shopping online. I make sure I collect read points for wherever I can. Just got a much wanted Lego advent calendar for ds this evening for free from tesco with clubcard boost. Only had clubcard points from our old energy supplier!
Time is a major constraint for us so I do choose convening of cost and ethics. We do cook from scratch 95% of the time though as we don't like processed food. There are three of us so we cook for four and freeze a portion. Comes in handy for lunches or quick meals after a long day.
I suppose I prioritise them as follows
High Quality (lots of veg)
Good value & ethically produced (about even)
We eat a lot of veg. Ur right, can't tick all boxes.
I have really focused on meal planning, batch cooking and portion size control, this way you can pay more for better sourced food , you don't waste it. For me cutting sugar was a big thing because you find you enjoy preparing and eating fruit and veg more. HTH
I am like ginger dad in that respect, I buy second hand but quality clothes, for my house, my friends & I do this for Christmas presents. I have even trained my husband to buy decent fishing tackle cheaper😊 second hand.
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