How to eat well on a budget
These days, life seems to go by in a blur. I love good, healthy food but with a busy lifestyle, food allergies and a large family, I sometimes need a to stop, take a toll and remind myself of how to eat well on a budget.
I am really pleased to announce that my family and I have joined the Organix No Junk Journey. All through the year, we will be sharing tips with you on how to help little (and big) ones to love good food, including how to eat well on a budget.
We are very excited to be working with Organix as all four of my children have been growing up eating their wholesome, organic snacks that taste great, look fun, contain no unnecessary additives and are made with real ingredients (no flavourings or colourings in sight!).
Today, I will be focusing on how to eat well on a budget. Eating healthy food does not necessarily mean spending a fortune on food shopping or being in the kitchen all day peeling and chopping vegetables or stirring food over the hob.
Some careful planning of what you cook and eat means you can quickly whip up some meals that are easy to put together and inexpensive but tasty.
With no further ado, let me bring you 20 tips for frugal yet indulgent, wholesome shopping (& eating!).
How to Eat Well on a Budget
1- Set Your Budget
Start by setting your budget. Do you know exactly how much you are spending on food? Do you have a strict budget you have to stick to? Is it loose but you worry you might be overspending?
One of my friends has just given birth to her fifth baby and we were chatting about food shopping and budgeting last time we met. She heard somewhere that on average, people spend £100 per person per month (£3.29 per person per day, or £138 per week for our family of 6), which sounds very similar to what we normally spend, including cleaning products, toiletries and extras.
I decided to go a bit further than this and aim at spending no more than £99 for the whole family every week (£2.35 per person per day), and with careful planning, I nailed it last week. Having a set budget gives you focus. Last week, I splashed out on fillet steak, but I will be buying cheaper cuts of meat next week so I can get dishwasher tablets, a couple of cleaning products and stock up on wipes and nappies.
2- Write a Shopping List
Never go shopping without a shopping list as it would be a pointless exercise. You would have to go shopping again. A list will keep you focused and help avoid impulse-buying.
3- Pay in Cash
If you really are on a very tight budget, get the exact amount you are allowing yourself to spend, in cash. By doing that, there is no way you will spend any more that you have and you will have to stick to your budget. That might mean walking around with a calculator, but you will not overspend.
4- Shop Somewhere Else
Try a cheaper shop. If you normally shop at Waitrose, why not try Sainsbury’s?
Tesco shopper? Check Aldi! You might not like it, but you won’t know until you’ve tried!
5- Check Your Receipt
Check your receipt carefully before leaving the supermarket. Sometimes, discounts or offers are not automatically applied.
6- Shop on a Full Tummy
Never ever go shopping when you are hungry as it is more than likely you will reach for sweet treats or biscuits. These treats may be delicious but they won’t help with your plans to eat well on a budget.
7- Check Dates
When it comes to fresh products, always check the ‘use by’ date and maybe have a look at the back of the shelf rather than going for the first item on the shelf.
8- Loyalty Schemes & Cash Back
Check supermarket loyalty schemes as some of them are quite good for saving money, getting cash back or accumulating a pool of money for days out or trips.
Some companies make products for a variety of brands. The products are essentially the same, but packaged differently. Try downshifting from time to time (trying a supermarket’s own brand instead of the brand you usually buy), as you might not notice the difference.
I love linguine pasta. I used to get 500g packs of ‘Napolina Bronze Die Linguine’ for £1.99. The essential Waitrose Linguine (500g) is only 85p and tastes exactly the same. That’s £1.14 saved!
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but imagine if you were doing that with all 20 items in your basket. It could halve your shopping bill! It does not always work, so this will lead to a bit of trial and error. Hubby has been trying Tesco’s Everyday Value porridge, and it really does not taste anything like Quaker Oats. We will revert back to the branded porridge when we run out.
10- Look up and down
Shops are set up to make you spend the most money possible. You will smell baking as you come in (entices you to get some baked goods, right?). The most profitable goods for the supermarket are generally at eye-level. Try to consciously look up and down as you are shopping. You might discover some new favourites that taste just as good and are good for your budget too.
11- Shop Local
Check small market stalls for fruit and vegetables. You can generally get more for your money.
Butchers’ generally give you good value for money, and if they are really nice, they might even sharpen your moves for you for free. They will also give you great advice on how to best cook the cut of meat you are buying, effectively making your food even better.
12- Buy in Bulk
If there are products you eat a lot of, week in, week out, why not buy them in bulk? We eat quite a lot of rice so we always get a 10kg bag of rice. The same goes for Organix Punk’d oaty bars, which I order on Amazon. If I fancy some good cuts of meat, I also like to order a beef pack from Donald Russell.
13- Shop Online
Although ordering a food delivery means you will not be the one choosing your own fruit and vegetables, there are many advantages to this way of shopping for food. First of all, you waste less time and can order your food as you are leafing through cookbooks or watching TV.
My favourite way of doing an online order is by putting everything I need or fancy in my basket. At the end, you can then alter your order to ensure you are sticking to your budget. Last week, I really wanted to eat fillet steak, which costs an absolute fortune. As I was getting towards the end of my order, I realised I would never stay within budget if I did not make any changes. I removed 2 of the 4 fillet steaks and replaced them with organic minute steaks for the children. They did not spot the difference! I also removed smacked salmon and cream cheese for one of our lunches. We could make do with houmous, avocado and crispy bacon bagels.
14- Batch Cooking
Cook double the amount you need and freeze. I always do that with things like garlic butter, cottage pie, lasagne (I generally make 4 & freeze 3), pasta sauce, jalfrezi curry and Rougail Saucisse (sausage stew). This is a great way to stock up your freezer so you always have some healthy budget meals to hand.
15- Cook from Scratch
Buying a dozen carrots, peeling them, washing them and chopping them is always going to be cheaper than buying carrot batons. They will also be a lot nicer and fresher.
Cooking from scratch is cheaper than buying convenience food. It tastes better too! Take artisan bread for example. Making your own artisan bread is as easy as it gets (check my recipe!) and it costs about 10 times less than buying a ready-made loaf that will not even taste half as nice.
16- Make Your Food Go Further
Here are a few clever tricks to make your food go further:
- When I make lasagne or pasta sauce, I like to use steak mince. To make it go further, I only use a little steak meat and bulk up with red lentils and a bit of sausage meat. It tastes even better!
- Rather than letting bread go stale, freeze it and pop a slice in the toaster every time you need one.
- Freeze ginger and grate it (frozen) whenever you need it. You can do the same with chillies.
- Before your fresh herbs start looking sad for themselves, chop them finely and pop then in an ice cube tray with olive oil. You can then use the frozen cubes straight away in a hot pan.
- Buy frozen fruit for smoothies. It is much cheaper than fresh fruit.
17- No Waste
- Made too much smoothie? Freeze what is left into lollipop moulds (straight away!).
- Too much pasta? Serve it for lunch with salad dressing, chopped cucumber and tomatoes.
18- Compare Prices
- Use price comparison websites or apps to ensure you are getting the best deal, every time. Hubby uses mySupermarket weekly to check whether offers are genuinely a good deal. I only discovered the app a week ago, but I love it already!
- When you click on an individual product on the website or app, it gives you the option of comparing the price for the product in different supermarkets. It also provides a graph with historic information. so that you know how much that product has sold for in the past. This tells you whether today’s price is such a good deal (sometimes, an offer is not a good deal…).
For example, I buy Organix Goodies Organic Soft Oaty Bars every week. In the app, I typed ‘Organix’ in the search bar and it came up with a range of products. I quickly found the one I wanted, and at the moment, the best offer is in Waitrose. Below that, you can see that the ‘Price Today’ is 28% below average, and a graph shows me the oaty bars are the cheapest they have been in the past 11 months.
- I love this app! You can also enable price alerts so you can find out when the price drops for your favourite items. It’s a quick and easy way to eat well on a budget by making sure you’re not paying more than you need to for your most-loved foods.
19- Good Offer or Not?
Offers and discounts are not always as good as they appear to be. For example, you can get really good, cheap items in the pound shop, but I have started to notice the difference in size in some items. Their Mars bars for example are smaller than the ones you would normally get in a supermarket, so are the bottles of fabric stain remover. You can also get better deals somewhere else. Thick bleach works out cheaper in Tesco than in the 99p shop. Do not assume everything is cheaper in a 99p shop.
20- Meal planning
Giving some thought what you are going to eat in the week ahead is by far the most effective way to eat well on a budget.
Before you tackle your meal plan for the week, double-check what you already have in your fridge, cupboards and freezer so you have a starting point. It is more cost-efficient and less wasteful to build meals around what you already have.
This is the best way to avoid wastage, ensure you are eating healthy, wholesome meals every day. As the meals you eat have been carefully planned around your lifestyle, you are less likely to deviate from the plan. For example, on a Tuesday when you have to take Sophie to ballet after school and Johnny to his swimming lesson, you know feeding the children will be a tight affair so you are not going to go into anything complicated. Tuesday is pasta night as it is the quickest meal you can whip up for them. On Sundays however, you can fill your boots and have a two-hour cooking session if you so wish.
Here was my healthy eating on a budget meal plan for last week:
- Leek & Potato Soup with Homemade Seeded Bread
- Tartiflette with Salad
- Mushroom Risotto
- Rougail Saucisse (sausage stew)
- Fillet Steak, Mash and Beans
Lunches & Treats
- 6 lunchboxes
- Hot Dogs
- Avocado, Crispy Bacon & Houmous Bagels
- Brie & Basil Sandwiches
- Fry up (bacon, mushrooms, beans, eggs, bread, Halloumi)
- Pitta filled with Salad, Houmous, Avocado & Crispy Bacon
- Cucumber & Carrots Sticks Dipped in Houmous, Cheese and Bread
If you fancy a peek at our food shopping haul from last week, check this video on budgeting for a large family meal plan and how to eat well on a budget.
Have you got any more tips on how to eat well on a budget?
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.