I want to show you how you can slash your food shopping bills
AND improve your health; it’s a win-win scenario!
Supermarkets are great at selling us products we don’t need yet making us believe we’ve grabbed a bargain. How many of you have bought 3 for 2 offers only to find you’ve eaten twice as much as you normally would? Yes, you…you know you’ve done it!
Let’s be realistic, any retail outlet is only in the business of profit making, despite their claims to be interested in our health (think fast food outlets in particular!). It is our responsibility to take charge of our health and make positive food choices within our budget.
Here are my top ten tips for eating well and spending less:
Base your meal around vegetables rather than adding them as an afterthought. Shop in markets or farm shops where you can see and handle produce to get the best quality. Get to know your local market trader and you may end up with special offers and extra produce for free. Great vegetable based meals include ratatouille, stir fries, roasted vegetables and risottos.
Make meat and fish go further by eating meals rich in vegetables. Two chicken breasts could be chopped in a stir fry and feed a family of four, whereas if the chicken breast was the focus of your meal then you’d need double the amount (at double the cost!) Two salmon fillets could be roasted and then flaked into warm salads of roasted vegetables – again this is enough for a family of four. Beans and lentils make good meat alternatives and cost next to nothing when bought dried.
Avoid takeaways and fast food. Many people see this as a treat once or twice a week where mum doesn’t have to cook or wash up. I’m all in favour of mum getting a night off (or three) but there are healthier and cheaper ways of doing it. PLANNING and PREPARATION! If you make a casserole, bolognese, a roast dinner (i.e. leftover meat), risotto or soup, then instead of driving for takeaway and paying maybe £30-£40 for a family of four, you simply re-heat the meal and serve with fresh salad or raw vegetables. Don’t forget too that takeaways have far more salt, saturated fat and calories than fresh, home cooked food.
Cut out fizzy drinks, juices and ready made smoothies. If you’re really strapped for cash, just drink water! It’s free, it’s instantly available from the tap and it’s good for you! Bottled water is relatively cheap compared to all other drinks if your country’s tap water isn’t drinkable or particularly tasty. To make water taste better simply add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime, cucumber slices, crushed mint leaves, fresh grapefruit or orange juice. Keep water chilled in the fridge if you prefer it this way, or keep a ready supply of ice cubes. If children drink too many fruity drinks it can damage their teeth and will fill their tummies too much and they won’t eat their healthy home cooked dinner! Adults wanting to lose weight also need to cut the juices and stick to plain water or herbal teas and black tea/coffee (no sugar!) It goes without saying that by cutting out or down on alcohol will drastically improve your health and slash your food bill.
Make food go further by planning your menus for the week and use leftovers in a clever way! Have a look at my Facebook page for two meals I made from chicken skewers and roasted vegetables. Click here: Think about the children’s lunchboxes when you’re planning your menus. Cooking a roast dinner one evening will leave plenty of meat for sandwiches or pasta/chicken/veg pots. If you’re making a dessert like apple crumble or stewed fruit then pop some in individual containers for easy school snacks. When you’re chopping vegetables for dinner, chop a few more for lunchboxes or nibble moments! This may all sound like a lot of work and effort but if you stick with it you will see the benefits in your purse and on your waistline!
Try to buy local produce where possible as it is fresher, cheaper and better for the environment I live on a little island where a lot of produce is imported and therefore more expensive. Buying local will also mean you’re buying seasonal produce. Again, this is cheaper, but from a nutritional perspective you’ll be getting a wider range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients over the course of every year. Here in the UK in September, seasonal produce includes aubergine, beetroot, butternut squash, courgette, leeks, kale, apples, blackberries, plums, raspberries, parsnips, spinach and spring onions.
Buying in bulk will often save you money too, (assuming you can afford to buy the larger amount in the first place) as long as you use it all and freeze or refrigerate for meals later in the week or month. Most supermarkets now show the price per kg and by simply taking a few extra minutes you’ll see that the largest margarine or box of eggs is generally cheaper than smaller ones. Large tins of tomatoes, beans, bags of pasta or rice and multi-packs of tuna and sweetcorn – these are all cheaper when you buy more. Tinned produce has a long shelf life so where possible always buy the one which is cheapest per kg. Try own-brands instead of popular ones as often the product is very similar and if it’s to be used as part of a casserole or other cooked dish you’ll never taste the difference. Beware of false economy though – it’s never worth buying the cheapest bin liners or kitchen roll!
Try to reach a point where all the family eat the same meal. I know that in reality this can be difficult but do persevere as it will be healthier for everyone, not to mention cheaper and less stressful. Never try to bully your family into making changes. You may be ready to embrace a healthier lifestyle but they may need a little gentle guidance; subtle changes are the way forward! For example, if you currently use ready made tomato sauces for pasta, learn to make your own with tinned tomatoes and fresh or dried herbs and spices. Use tomato puree (and a little sugar to counteract the acidity) or tomato ketchup and a dash of Worcestershire sauce or tabasco to spice it up a little. The most delicious tomato sauce is made from roasted cherry tomatoes gently smashed with fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper. Yummy!
Don’t get over-hungry! Remember planning and preparation. Ensure you always have fresh fruit, chopped carrots, pepper or celery, nuts, seeds and dried fruit when you need a small snack between main meals or when you’re running around taxiing the children to various after-school activities. If you’re a nibbler when you’re preparing food then only eat the raw vegetables and pop them in a bowl or plate so you know exactly how much you’re eating. This will cut down on all the crisps, wine, peanuts or toast you’re munching on mindlessly and will make a massive difference to your shopping bill!
Finally, wherever you are now, whatever your current weekly spend, start by keeping an accurate diary for a week or two of everything you buy. Include all your supermarket receipts as well as snacks from the petrol station or convenience store, vending machines, cash given to children for school meals or snacks, meals out in restaurants and takeaways. You may be surprised at how much you’re actually spending! Then using the tips in this post start making a list of where you can save money and improve your family’s health. Little changes that you make for the long term are far more effective than short term drastic cuts
For more healthy food information and nutritional inspiration, visit my Facebook Business page (click on the icon below) where you’ll find photos of healthy, ‘clean’ food and regular updates. If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear from you!
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