Seven tips to eat healthier on a tight budget
Strapped for cash but want to maintain your new year's resolution to eat well? Here are some tips from bloggers in the know
IF you’re on a tight budget, you’ll want to limit the number of times a week you eat out — and no cash-savvy individual wants to be spending their spare money on expensive Marks & Spencer lunches or late-night takeaways.
But a lack of funds does not mean that you can’t maintain a nutritious, tasty diet. So, with that in mind, we look at the best ways to stay healthy and save money this year, with help from food bloggers Pippa, from pippacolecooks and Chloe, from ninegrandstudent.
Nobody wants to spend the weekend making bulk meals for the week ahead, but it is one of the best ways to ensure your lunches are done for the week. Nothing is worse than a Wednesday-morning scramble to find something to put in your wraps and by prepping ahead, you can’t be tempted to nip and grab something unhealthy from the corner shop.
Student food blogger Pippa (21) advises buying a few staples and basing your meals around them: “Sweet potatoes and spinach
practically became my middle names in first year. I used them
as the basis of a number of meals, but changed them up with a
modest collection of spices.
“Stock up on cumin and garam masala for spiced dishes, paprika and barbecue sauce for something a little smokier and keep a couple of window herbs — coriander and rosemary would be my shout —
for tray bake and one-pot dishes.
“With this small collection to vary the flavour, you don’t need to shop with an ingredient list the length of your arm.”
Don’t punish yourself
Pippa advises students to “plan in the occasional lunch/brunch trip” and you’ll keep those cravings at bay the rest of the week: “Have a weekly revision brunch with friends and use the café space to work after you’ve eaten. It’s not something you can do every day, but it’ll hopefully give you a sufficient café fix to boost your mood.”
Cut out expensive meat cuts and replace them with meat-free alternatives, says Pippa: “Do this without ethos or agenda, merely with thoughts for your pocket.
“You’re soon going to crash through your budget if you try to base every meal around meat, especially prime cuts such as chicken breast — one of the most expensive and least flavoursome, in my humble opinion. At least buy thigh if you need that meat hit.
“Get your hands on tinned pulses; dried are even better value.”
Spruce up your lunch
According to Pippa, cous cous is a cheap and easy way to spice up your lunchbox: “Cous cous is an absolute saviour. Instantly more exciting than a sandwich and a cheap way to add bulk to a salad.
“Throw in some feta and roasted veg; add a spoonful of leftovers from the night before — be it fajita mix, spicy one-pot or veggie stew — or simply chuck in some hummus and grated carrot,beetroot, courgette or any salad ingredient you fancy.”
Another favourite and cheap veggie is beetroot, which Chloe likes to work into her lunches: “Chop some of the vac-packed stuff and roast with salt and pepper for around 20 minutes. Let cook, then toss with lentils and salad leaves. Goat’s cheese is also good here if you want to be a bit more fancy.”
Buy cupboard staples
Chloe praises healthy staple ingredients: “You can’t go wrong with pasta — just weigh out a proper portion — and I find oats are great for breakfast, but you can also turn them into cookies. I also think eggs are pretty good value for money and I like lentils/beans for bulking out meat dinners cheaply.”
Co-ordinating with other friends can help lift the burden of cooking, saves money and is much more fun than cooking and eating alone.
Setting a regular date to dine together on a rota of cooking and buying the food versus doing the washing-up is a great way to save money and socialise.
Buy fresh produce loose
Buying packs of veg is more expensive and doesn’t allow you to buy as much as you need — one person cannot possibly eat a big bag of fresh food and it will go to waste alongside your cash. Simply buy exactly what you need for the week to save surplus and money.
But also buy food that will keep long-term (tinned food, pasta, sauces) in bulk. If products that you like are on offer, buy them and stash them for later on.