While it’s a commitment that can go from the fairly vague to fiercely vegan, cutting down on any food that’s bad for you can always be tripped up by one thing: cost.
Expensive meal plans, stocking up on fresh vegetables and binning seemingly cheaper processed options can make healthy eating feel like it’s going to cost an arm and a leg. The reality is that it’s very easy to look after both your body and your wallet at the same time.
Cook at home
As well as trimming the costs of takeaways, you can also regulate what ingredients are used. Try and restrict the amount of saturated and trans fats used in your cooking, as well as other nutrients that can be bad if not consumed in moderation like sugar. Use your home cooking to prepare in advance too.
Know you’re going to be hungry after a jog around the park? Have some healthy snacks ready in the fridge, or leftovers from a recent meal.
Buy whole foods
Buying your food whole will save money in the long run rather than buying ready-made versions. This can go from anything from pre-packed salads up to microwave meals; just get the ingredients separately rather than pre-prepared products.
A whole chicken is much more cost-effective than buying breasts or legs separately, and you can even make chicken stock out of the carcass. Muesli is a great healthy breakfast, but it’s cheaper per portion if you buy the ingredients individually, instead of ready-made versions which can tend to contain more added sugar and salt.
Buying bulk quantities of nuts, raisins, oats and seeds (or whatever you fancy) means you can make your own for less - and tailor the recipe to your own tastes. Try to pick versatile ingredients that work elsewhere (cashews transfer easily to stir-fries, for example).
It’s also easier to control these recipes and meals based on your dietary needs. If you need to add a certain nutrient to a meal it’s easier to deliver when you’re in control of the ingredients, giving you much more flexibility. Just make sure you don’t buy too much of one particular thing that you won’t eat.
Utilise your freezer
The budget chef knows the value of their freezer. If you cook larger portions you can freeze the leftovers, but it doesn’t just apply to cooked food. You can buy food in bulk or that’s been reduced in price and prepare the portions beforehand, freezing them before you need to use them. This also goes for any food you don’t use in the cooking process, minimising waste.
Ditch the junk
Junk food is bad for you. That’s not a new revelation, but not only does it damage your body, it also is less efficient at satiating your appetite than healthier equivalents. If you cut down on junk food you’ll naturally be less hungry. You can focus on more filling foods as well such as healthy proteins and fibres which will also lower your appetite.
Swap meat for other proteins
Meat - particularly red meat like lamb and beef - can be expensive. There are healthier alternatives that can cost less, such as tofu and jackfruit, and a study in 2019 suggested you could make significant savings across a year with a plant-based diet.
It’s important that if you are planning on cutting out meat permanently or even for certain meals, make sure you replace the nutrients elsewhere in your diet and you may want to consult your GP about this first. Here’s a list of protein-rich alternatives you could use instead.
Go for recipes and cooking techniques that need cheaper ingredients
The internet is awash with cheap and healthy options, from household names like Jamie Oliver to Thrifty Lesley, who offers advice on eating on just £1 per person per day. These are excellent resources on finding tasty recipes on a budget, but also get you more clued up on how to save money consistently with your food.
Using these as well as social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram for cheap, budget food inspiration will open you up to thrifty secrets. You could reappraise previously scorned ingredients such as powdered mashed potatoes, tinned salmon and corned beef, or discover exotic dirt-cheap ingredients like fenugreek.
Better yet, create your own food. Fruit, vegetables and herbs are all things you can grow in your garden, which will have more nutritional value than anything you buy in the shops. Some may be difficult to pull off, but there’s an abundance of easy options even beginners can try.
Eat anything with a pulse
Pulses are one of the best all-round foods on the market, described by the NHS “as a cheap, low-fat source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, (that) count towards your recommended 5 daily portions of fruit and vegetables.”
As such they’re a great inexpensive way to make meals, either as a replacement for meat or as an accompaniment to lower the amount needed for each dish. Lentils can replace mince in chilli or lasagne whilst quinoa can be the main ingredient in curries.
And finally, it may seem obvious but if you feel you are overeating, reducing the amount you consume will reduce costs and enable you to be healthier, providing you don’t scrimp on your essential nutrients.
See if you can make smaller portions, trying everything from using a little bit less milk in your cereal up to eating curries with less rice. Slowly cutting down your intake will lead to a healthy improvement for both your well being and your bank balance.