While not every healthy food is a 'bargain buy', it's a common misconception that eating healthy food costs more. There are many overpriced 'superfoods' that are marketed as being essential purchases for health, but often this isn't the case. With adequate planning and preparation, you can enjoy a healthy and varied diet at an affordable cost.
There'll always be an initial start-up cost when building your pantry and stocking your fridge, but these ingredients generally last a long time, so it works out cheaper in the long run.
Not convinced? Let's break it down. A £3 meal deal sounds like great value at first glance; a total of three ready-made meals for £9 per day. But let's compare this to a planned menu as below:
- Breakfast: Greek yoghurt and berries
- Lunch: Homemade vegetable frittata with salad
- Dinner: Baked white fish fillet and mixed vegetables (cooked from frozen)
While this would cost you around £17.50, the quantity of food purchased would last you for four days. Taking a closer look at the figures, when divided by 12 meals, the cost of each meal would be only £1.45. This is a savings of 50% when compared with the store-bought options. A meal prepared at home will also be more nutritious.
Additional tips for cutting down food costs
1. Use markets, fruit/vegetable stores, and local butchers
Fruit, vegetables, and meats are often marked up in supermarkets. Buying foods from your local farmers market or fruit shop can be a much cheaper way to shop. These foods are also often fresher, meaning they'll last you longer. Take a look at this website to find your closest farmers markets.
2. Cook in bulk and freeze portions
Cooking in batches can save you both time and money. Freeze any leftovers to have for a quick meal at another time, or eat the leftovers the next day for lunch.
3. Bulk out your meals with legumes, lentils, and vegetables
Vegetarian sources of protein are often cheaper than meat. Pulses, such as beans, lentils, and peas, are some of the most affordable foods on the supermarket shelf. Try having a meat-free meal a few times a week, or use these in dishes to replace a portion of meat, e.g. chilli con Carne with kidney beans or chicken curry with chickpeas.
4. Buy whole chicken or cuts of meat
Pre-cut and packaged meats (such as sliced ham or chicken portions) are often more expensive. Instead, buy an entire chicken where you'll get more meat and can use the carcass for making stock, or a whole joint of gammon. You can cook these, then slice and freeze in individual portions to have at another time.
You can also look for cheaper cuts of meat, which may take a little more time with cooking but are a great way to save money. For example, braising steak, shin, brisket, or shoulder can be slow-cooked to break down the fibres in cheaper cuts and make them more tender.
5. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables that are in season are typically much cheaper. Before you plan your meals for the week, take a look at this seasonal calendar to help you determine what will be most cost-effective.
6. Choose frozen or tinned
Frozen fruit and vegetables are cheaper and often more convenient than buying fresh. They come pre-chopped and ready to use - and they have the same nutrient quality as fresh.
7. Know your kitchen
Get to know what you have stored in the freezer, fridge, and cupboard. You might find you have enough ingredients to make a meal. You can also plan your meals around ingredients that you already have.
8. Check for cheaper brands
Cheaper brands of the same product are usually located high or low on the supermarket shelves, with the more expensive ones at eye level. Making a quick cost comparison in the supermarket may take a bit more time, but it will save you money at the check-out.