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Low-calorie snacks, fruits and vegetables…the cost of healthy foods all adds up, right? Well, that’s what many of us are led to believe. Whilst some healthier food alternatives may cost more than tempting junk foods which are quick and easy to make, there are ways to eat well for less (which we’ll discuss in this article), plus, your body will thank you for it!
Cost plays a big part in the food choices we make each week, but you don’t want these expenses to impact your ability to lose weight or keep your family healthy. Here are some of our top tips for eating better whilst trying to save money:
Take the time to plan out your meals for the week ahead (you may also wish to include family members or friends you live with to ensure everyone is happy with the meal choices). Before you start writing your list, make sure that you check what’s already in your kitchen as you don’t want to waste money on ingredients you already have!
When shopping, you’ll now have a list of items you can tick off as you put them in your basket - no more aimless wandering about! Moreover, it’s also a good idea to do your shopping when you’re not feeling hungry. If your stomach is growling, you’ll be more likely to buy more food than you need (particularly snacks). You can discover healthy snack ideas here.
Try to cook your meals in large batches if possible. For example, you could make several portions of a curry and freeze the leftovers for future meals. Not only will that make your life easier down the line, but you’ll save money and will be less likely to overeat (as you’ll be more in control of your portion sizes).
Equally, if you are unable to finish your meal or have accidentally made too much, you can look to refrigerate this for the following day - perhaps you or your family could enjoy leftovers for lunch.
Whether you decide to freeze or refrigerate, remember to label your leftovers with the date you made your meal so that you enjoy it when it’s safe and tasting its best.
Supermarkets can charge different amounts of money for similar (or the same) items so it’s worth keeping this in mind when deciding where to do your weekly shop. Even if items differ by pennies, it can all add up. Research has indicated that Aldi was the cheapest supermarket in 2021 (Which), and, with food and drink costs rising due to inflation, you want to start making smarter grocery choices for the long run.
Typically, it’s protein such as cuts of meat and fish which can ramp up your food bill. Try to include more vegetables in your meals so that they’ll last you longer. Alternatively, you could consider cutting out meats from some of your meals and opting for vegetarian dishes.
Why not spend some of your free time researching some meals to make on a budget online? Cooking doesn’t have to be such a chore, and you can get the family involved at dinner times too as you learn to create exciting meals! You can also check out the One You Easy Meals app, developed by the NHS to find healthy versions of the food you enjoy and create shopping lists.
You might be making more of the right meals, but you should still be mindful of your portion sizes to avoid overeating. Generally, recommended serving sizes will be included on product labelling, but we can easily serve ourselves and others the incorrect portion for their needs. For example, the portion size you should have can be dependent on factors such as your age or gender. If you’re trying to lose weight but you’re not seeing results, it could be down to portion control. Learn all about how to find the right portion size to suit you here.
As you’re probably already aware, takeaways and meals out can be very costly. After a long or stressful day at work, it can be all too tempting to order food…or perhaps you’re in the habit of ordering food every week. Whatever the reason might be, you want to limit how much you order out as you’re paying for service on top of the food itself.
If you order food as a treat each week, why not look to make your own “fakeaways”? These are healthier versions of the takeout you might order but can save you money (and calories!). On the other hand, if you have a tendency to indulge in takeouts when you’re tired, try to always have healthy pre-made dinners ready to heat up. As mentioned earlier, you can create large batches of meals and freeze them to be enjoyed at a later date. This will prevent you from having to order food as you’ll have a quick and easy solution right at home!
When shopping, try not to add too many unhealthy treats to your basket. Promotions and deals may catch your eye, but you should ask yourself whether it’s really worth it as they’ll contribute to your shopping bill.
Try and opt for healthier alternatives, such as low-fat yoghurts or fruit.
By shopping online, you’ll know how much your shop will cost before you get to checkout. When you physically shop, you may not be aware of how much you’re spending until you’re paying at the till - therefore, online food shops can be the best option as you’re more in control of your spending. Moreover, there’s a range of supermarket price comparison websites (such as My Supermarket Compare) which allow you to browse products online and opt for the cheapest supplier. This will give you insight into the difference in costs across supermarkets and highlight the best places for you to shop to save money.
The time that you shop can also have an impact on your total spend. For example, many supermarkets will discount their food towards the end of the day and this is your chance to grab a bargain! You should also pay a visit to the store’s “reduced aisle” (most will have them) as you may find a great deal on food you could use during the week or even freeze for future use. Please note that these items are generally reduced because they expire that day or may be damaged.
Do you live with someone else? Whether you share your home with a friend, relative or other housemates, why not consider teaming up to prepare meals together? By cooking and enjoying the same meals together, you can split the costs and save money. If the people you live with are keen to be a part of this, sit down together to share some meal ideas, letting each other know of any allergies or food preferences so you can start brainstorming.
We hope that our tips on how to eat better on a budget have been helpful to you. Many of us can feel discouraged by the thought of healthier options being more expensive, but this isn’t always the case. You can be clever about how you plan out your meals and where you shop to cut down on costs in the long run.
If you’re a Dorset resident and you’re looking to make improvements to your eating habits and lifestyle in order to lose weight, we’re here to help! Here at Live Well Dorset, we have a friendly team of expert health advisors and coaches are on hand to support you on your journey to losing weight and getting active.
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