It can be hard to prioritise eating well when you are on a tight budget or are worried about money, but eating a healthy diet is key to warding off physical and mental illnesses and improving your overall wellbeing.
It is a misconception that eating healthily means spending more money. It is possible to eat healthy foods on a budget and some of the cheapest foods available (such as beans and lentils) are extremely good for you. If you cook your own food from scratch instead of eating processed meals or takeaways, you’ll probably end up saving money overall.
Fruit and vegetables are a really important part of a healthy diet, but these are just as good for you when you buy them frozen. Buying frozen fruit and veg also means that you won’t waste food by it going off, as you can just defrost the amount you are going to use and keep the rest in the freezer. Adding frozen vegetables such as spinach, sweetcorn or cauliflower to your meals is a fantastic way to reach your target of five portions of fruit or veg a day.
Canned goods are another cheap alternative to buying fresh. Oily canned fish such as sardines or mackerel are excellent sources of ‘good fats’ and many fruits such as pineapples and peaches also come in tins. However, when buying canned foods, be sure to check the label, as some contain added extras that aren’t good for you (for example, fruits that come in sugary syrups, or canned tomatoes that have a high level of added salt).
Planning ahead and buying the ingredients you need in advance means you won’t be tempted to ‘panic buy’ when you have no food in the house, which can lead to unhealthy choices.
Some people may find that they spend more money than they realise on snacks while they are out and about, and often make unhealthy choices when they do so. To avoid this, prepare your own healthy snacks ahead of time and don’t leave the house without them.
Beans and pulses are some of the cheapest things you can buy. They can either come dried, in which case you’ll have to be a little organised and remember to soak them overnight, or in cans.
Beans and pulses are great, filling foods to bulk out any dish, and as they are high in protein, they can also replace meat in some dishes (such as chilli or soup).
Meat is one of the most expensive things on most people’s shopping lists, so cutting it out can save you money. If you don’t want to cut out meat altogether, simply cutting down on red meat is good for your health and your wallet. You may also want to consider buying cheaper cuts of meat – if you slow cook lesser-known cuts, you probably won’t notice much difference in taste.
Cutting down on waste can mean anything from making sure you use up all your food before its use-by-date, to correctly chopping your vegetables to minimise waste.
You might also find it helpful to measure out portions (for example, of pasta or rice) in order to minimise waste. Eating leftovers for lunch the next day is also a good way to ensure you don’t end up throwing away the previous night’s dinner.
Growing your own herbs, fruit and veg is a great way to save money, and gardening is a low-cost, enjoyable activity that has been linked to increased wellbeing. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can grow herbs and some beans, fruit and vegetables in a small window box, or even indoors.
Sugary or fizzy drinks are not good for you and can be expensive, so just stick to water, which contains all you need to keep you hydrated. If you want to add flavour to your water, you can add a slice or two of lemon, cucumber or ginger.
There are more calories in alcoholic drinks than you might expect, and as drinking too much alcohol has such negative affects on your health, cutting down or cutting out alcohol is an easy way to improve your overall health while also saving money.