Healthy eating on a budget
Food prices have risen almost twice as fast as rent in the past five years so we've put together some helpful tried and tested advice from Mumsnetters on how to eat really well, without spending loads and thrown in some extra tips and recipes from the British Heart Foundation.
- More advice on eating on the cheap
- 21 lentil recipes that are quite nice actually
- Meat-free Monday recipes
- How to budget
- Jack Monroe's cheap substitutes for fancy pants ingredients
10 tips for healthy eating on a budget
If you're feeling the pinch, but don't want to fall back on frozen ready meals, have a look at these tips for affordable ways to a healthy diet on the cheap.
- Eat seasonally - it's better for you, your wallet and the environment
"If you're willing to buy in bulk in season, then freeze or preserve, buy from farm stalls, or places that let you pick your own. It can work out very cheap."
Food prices come down when there is a glut of any kind of food and, when it comes to fruit and veg, an extra bonus is that produce tastes much better when it’s in season. Check out our Mumsnet seasonal fruit and veg guide here.
- Healthy ingredients can be pricey, so shop smart
"I reckon I spend at least £20 more if I go to the store."
The cost of buying healthy ingredients like fruit and veg from the supermarket can add up quickly, so look online to compare prices, and use value brands (especially for canned goods, brown rice and wholegrain pasta). And don't forget any local markets or greengrocers for fruit and veg- the difference can be staggering.
- Don't bulk buy healthy food unless you can use it
"The ones to avoid are the 'Buy 2 for £3' offers on things you didn't actually need, or for fruit that's about to go because it's over-ripe etc."
While buy-one-get-one-free deals are usually a great way to save money on things like frozen veg, fish, fruit, wholegrains, etc, make sure you're able to eat it before it goes off, otherwise it's a waste of money. And be wary of deals that promise savings on expensive items, but in fact are just a way to get you to part with your hard-earned cash. Long life items like brown rice and lentils are a no-brainer though.
- Pulses and lentils
"They are perfect - especially for tomato based dishes. I love lentils. They are so good for you too."
Adding pulses to bulk out a meaty meal is a great idea. Not only is it far cheaper than replacing it with meat, but it's also full of protein, iron and other great nutrients, while still retaining all the flavour. Check out these 21 recipes from Mumsnetters that use lentils if you want a bit of inspiration.
- Think you're getting a good deal? Compare like with like
"I check the 100g prices of everything."
Seemingly good deals on expensive, healthy food can be tempting, but make sure you check just how much you're getting for your money. Compare the labels to see how much you get per/100g. (Larger packs are almost always better value - but only if you're going to use it all!)
- Plan your meals in advance
"I try to plan so that I can make the most of my shop, so I can avoid using one carrot out of a bag etc."
It's a no-brainer, but by making (and sticking to!) your humble shopping list for a meal plan for the week, you can make sure you have everything you need without having to fall back on a greasy value pizza because you had to throw out Sunday's leftovers. Make a meal-planner and get inspiration from Mumsnetters' favourite cookbooks.
- Take advantage of the Aldi Super 6
"I think their fruit and veg is better than the bigger supermarkets, especially the Super 6. I try and meal-plan round the super six as much as possible"
If you're budget-conscious then you've probably scoped out your local Aldi already, but you may not know about the ever-popular Super 6 deal. It changes weekly, offering six different fruit and veg at 49p each, much beloved of savvy Mumsnet chefs.
- Freeze leftovers - and use them!
"I try to use as much as possible. Even small amounts get frozen in old baby tubs."
Another obvious one, but when you're knackered, having leftovers in the freezer will stop you from ordering a fatty, expensive takeaway. Things like healthy casseroles, soups, curries and breadcrumbs freeze especially well. This thread is packed with cook-to-freeze healthy recipes.
- Get the most out of your oven
"If I cook with the oven, after I have finished I leave the oven door open so that the remaining heat spreads throughout the house."
Baked potatoes are healthy and cheap, but you're wasting energy if you don't put other food in the oven at the same time. Save on your bill by cooking other meals simulatenously, like a casserole (recipe further down the page) to freeze for another day. Afterwards, leave the oven door open to heat the house.
- Become a part-time veggie
"Eat more veggie food. My meat-eating DP costs three times to feed than I do."
Meat is expensive, so alternate meat days with vegetarian days. Alternate meat-eating days with vegetarian days, and consider less attractive, but still healthy cuts of meat, like liver and kidneys. Just make sure you don't bulk out your meals with sugar carbs - try lentils or beans. Check out these 10 great vegetarian recipes from Mumsnetters.
Budget healthy meal plan
Get ideas for how to eat healthily on a budget with this day meal plan from the British Heart Foundation.
Breakfast: Porridge made with skimmed milk; banana; glass of pure, unsweetened orange juice
Lunch: Lentil soup, tinned or home-made (pictured); wholemeal roll with unsaturated fat spread
Evening meal: Jacket potato with baked salmon and frozen peas
Snacks: Two satsumas; small handful of unsalted peanuts; low-fat fruit yoghurt
Healthy recipe ideas
These two recipes are full of nutrients, easy on your wallet, and best of all, absolutely delicious.
Chunky vegetable and bean goulash
Cost: £1.49 / portion
• 1 onion, chopped
2. Cover and bake in oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven; stir in canned beans. Re-cover and return to oven; bake for a further 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from oven.
3. Blend cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water in a small bowl. Stir into vegetable mixture. Heat gently on top of stove, stirring continuously, until mixture comes to the boil and thickens slightly. Simmer gently for 2 minutes, stirring.
4. Sprinkle coriander over top and garnish with a swirl of soured cream, if you like. Serve with cooked brown rice or couscous.
Chicken and vegetable traybake
Cost: £2.26 / portion
2. Meanwhile, slash each chicken thigh a couple of times with a sharp knife. Place chicken in a bowl, drizzle over remaining oil, add dried herbs and black pepper; toss to coat chicken.
3. Remove roasting tin from oven; nestle chicken thighs between vegetables. Tuck tomato halves, cut-sides up, around vegetables. Return to oven; roast for a further 45 minutes or so until chicken is fully cooked
4. Serve immediately, squeezing garlic out of the skins as you eat. Serve with a mixed leaf side salad or crusty bread, if you like.
Last updated: almost 3 years ago