Tasty, Healthy and Affordable: Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget
9th April 2021
Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget
If you’re trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle and eat more balanced meals, there’s no need for your portions to shrink dramatically while your food bill soars overnight, as many “healthy eating” fad diets will have you do. A sprinkle of goji berries here, a handful of chia seeds there, and before you know it, your weekly shop costs more than your rent!
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. The Food Effect approach to healthy eating is all about enjoying plenty of simple, healthy, fat-burning foods that are great for you and good value, too. Eggs, tuna, beans, lentils and good old-fashioned porridge oats are staples of the approach, as well as less expensive but no less nutritious vegetables, such as cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, and onions.
Unrefined carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and whole-grain bread are far better options with very little difference in price.
A good supply of healthy protein is also essential for staying slim and satisfied. If corn-fed chicken and organic salmon are too pricey, there’s no need to worry – eggs, tinned tuna, sardines, chickpeas, kidney beans, low-fat natural yoghurt and cottage cheese are cheaper ways to get your fill of protein, without any compromise on quality.
Healthy fats are also essential for health and weight loss (yes, you need good fats to burn fat!), and these can be found in a handful of nuts, a tablespoon of peanut butter or a tin of sardines, none of which will break the bank.
One of the best ways to save money and eat healthier is to cook from scratch. This need not be time-consuming or complicated. You can make a batch of soup or stews to heat up throughout the week, and have these with some whole-grain bread or pitta that you keep in the freezer, or some brown rice, whole-wheat pasta or couscous.
The weekends are a good time to batch cook – make a big batch of meals or staples (such as brown rice or pasta) that you can pop into the fridge or freezer. This will help you to resist the temptation to splurge on takeaways or ready meals after a long day of work. You can take leftovers from dinner in a Tupperware for lunch, instead of picking up a sandwich from a supermarket or deli, which is no doubt more expensive and far less healthy.
Avoid impulse buying snacks during the day, which are probably unnecessarily expensive and pile on the calories. Instead, pack fresh fruit (an apple in your bag travels well!) along with some raw nuts, which you can portion into mini Tupperware or ziplock bags so that a whole big bag lasts you through the week. This portion control tip will help you avoid eating the whole big bag in one go (not very hard to do!), saving you both money and calories!
Shopping smart is key to eating healthily. You definitely don’t want to go food shopping if you’re hungry as you’ll spend more on unhealthy food like high-fat junk food and sugary snacks. Instead, make a shopping list in advance and stick to it - the best way to eat healthy is to not buy the unhealthy food and drinks in the first place. As a general rule, the outer aisles of a supermarket tend to be full of fresh produce, meat, dairy and bread, while the inside is where the processed food lives. This is good to remember as you can simply stick to the edges of the shop.
Another tip is to buy frozen fruit and vegetables, such frozen berries, peas, sweetcorn and spinach, which are just as nutritious and far cheaper. There’s also no wastage with things going off in your fridge if you don’t have a chance to use them!
Buy in bulk – rice, pulses and spices often come in big bags that are much better value for money. Head to bigger supermarkets for more choice and cheaper options.
For all your fridge ingredients, a healthy hack is to store your healthiest items like fruit and vegetables at the front and hide unhealthy options at the back. Alternatively, you could store the healthy food in transparent containers and hide the junk food in opaque containers - whatever works best for you.
Start your day right with a healthy breakfast - if you eat breakfast normally. It’ll set the tone for the rest of the day and encourage you to make better decisions throughout. Protein-rich foods are a great alternative to sugary pastries or cereal and it may fill you up enough to stop you overeating later.
Eat slowly to make every meal and snack count, and give your brain and body the time to register its satiety signals. This will prevent unnecessary overeating – helping you save money AND lose weight!
As a general (but not perfect) rule of thumb, if it can’t be grown or raised, don’t eat it. This will help you avoid all the harmful additives of processed food. Instead, why not grow your own produce? If you have the time and space, consider buying some seeds and cultivating your own delicious crops which will save you tons of money and taste so much better and fresher, encouraging you to eat more. Herbs tend to be the easiest ingredient to grow for beginners.
And lastly, drink plenty of water (tap water is perfectly fine!) to help you fill up and improve digestion.
Here are a few super-saver meal and snack suggestions:
Yoghurt with Berries and Seeds
Serve one pot of low-fat natural yoghurt (150g) and add ½ cup mixed berries + 1 Tablespoon pumpkin/ sunflower seeds, 1 tsp of honey and cinnamon to taste.
Scrambled Eggs on Toast
Spray a pan with oil and heat. Beat two eggs and cook until set, stirring constantly. Serve on 1-2 slices of whole-grain toast with some freshly sliced tomato.
Cook 50g porridge oats in 1 cup of milk, until liquid has absorbed and porridge is cooked and thick. Serve with a drizzle of honey, a small handful of chopped nuts or seeds and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Peanut Butter on Toast
Spread one slice of wholemeal toast with 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter and a drizzle of honey. Serve with fresh fruit such as an apple or pear.
Soup and a Roll
Make your very own healthy soup (such as Carrot or Red Lentil Soup – Recipes can be found on the blog section at www.thefoodeffect.co.uk ) and serve with a small wholemeal roll and a green side salad.
Cottage Cheese Salad
Mix ½ cup (~120g) low-fat cottage cheese with mixed salad or vegetables (lettuce or spinach leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, grated carrot, red or yellow pepper) and season with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper. You may like to add 3 Ryvita crackers OR Brown Rice Cakes OR 1 slice whole-grain toast.
Tuna & Sweetcorn Salad
Mix ½ regular size tin of tuna (in water/ brine) with 1 Tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise and one small tin of sweet corn. Serve alongside a mixed salad or vegetables (lettuce or spinach leaves, cucumber, tomatoes, grated carrot, red or yellow pepper) tossed with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Serve one tin of mackerel in tomato sauce with ½ red pepper sliced, chopped cucumber and 1 chopped tomato. Serve over a mixed salad/ spinach leaves
Make 1 grilled chicken breast (150g) OR a cooked/roasted chicken thigh without the skin. Add steamed vegetables like roasted green bean, broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus and season with garlic powder, herbs, salt and pepper. Serve this alongside ½ cup cooked brown rice OR ½ baked sweet potato
Vegetarian Roast Dinner
Cook one vegetarian burger (e.g. Fry’s brand) and serve alongside one small baked sweet potato (200g) and roasted vegetables (e.g. courgettes, mushrooms, red peppers, red onions) cooked with olive oil or spray oil and seasoned with herbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Pasta with Cottage Cheese
Cook 70g of whole-wheat pasta and combine with 1 cup ready-made (jarred) tomato “Marinara” pasta sauce and ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese. Serve on top of large bowl of fresh spinach leaves OR steamed green beans or broccoli
Baked Sweet Potato with Tuna & Salad
Bake a medium size baked sweet potato (200g) to go with ½ tin of tuna (in water/brine) + 1 tbsp. low-fat mayonnaise. Serve with a mixed green salad and diced tomato wedges seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
1 large fresh fruit (e.g. apple or pear) and 2 Ryvita or oatcakes
1 large apple and 1 tbsp (15g) of peanut butter
2 sticks of celery topped with 4 tbsp of low-fat cottage cheese
1 apple or pear and 1 handful (~12) of raw almonds
1 mini-box (14g) of raisins and 1 handful (~12) of raw almonds/cashew nuts
A small bunch red grapes (50g) and 12 almonds
2 tangerines/plums and 1 handful (~12) of raw almonds/cashew nuts
4 dried apricots and 1 handful of raw peanuts
1 handful of raisins and pumpkin seeds
Pre-cut carrot sticks and 2 tbsp of reduced-fat hummus
2 oatcakes with 2 tablespoons of low-fat cottage cheese and sliced tomato
2 brown rice cakes/oatcakes and 1 tbsp (15g) of peanut butter
2 cups of low-fat (salted) popcorn
30g dark chocolate (anything 70% or above)