New Year, and with Christmas bills biting it can be tricky to eat well if you’re watching the pennies. Mel Wakeman has some tips to keep both you and your budget healthy
With the worry of rising interest rates, travel costs and household bills, many of us don’t have a lot leftover to live on each month. Somewhere in there you need to find enough money to eat. How will you get your 5 a day? My tips will help you to ensure that you eat properly at least some of the time without breaking the bank.
1.Don’t be a food snob
Low-cost supermarkets are your friend. Aldi and Lidl offer great quality food at very cheap prices. Their fruit and vegetables are particularly good value and quality. Saving a little money each week on food adds up over the months and may mean you can do more of the things that you want to do, without busting your overdraft.
2.Happy hour shopping
Pick your moment to shop. Swallow your pride and get the pick of the reduced section. Cut price perishables usually include meat, fish, fruit and veg, so try to limit how many ready meals you buy. Shop an hour or so before stores close, especially before a bank holiday. Pride yourself on becoming a great bargain hunter but eat food before the ‘use-by’ date or freeze it to avoid wastage.
3.Plan your meals
It may sound dull but it can make a real difference. Create a menu plan for the week and then write a shopping list. That way you are less tempted to throw whatever looks good into your trolley and will only buy what you need for the week ahead. Impulse shopping is expensive and it’s easier to balance your diet when you have a list in hand.
4.Leave YOUR Cookie Monster behind
Don’t ever shop when you are hungry. You’ll end up adding things you neither need nor are good for you, or eating half of it on the way round. If you’ve ever done this, chances are you found that when you got back home you still had nothing to eat for the week ahead – nibbles don’t make a meal!
Give yourself rules when the cupboards get low at the end of the week. See it as challenge to rustle up something edible for dinner with just a few ingredients – imagine that you’re in an episode of Ready Steady Cook. I’ve done this at home with my husband. It suits our competitive natures and we have had a lot of fun. Only once was it inedible, so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
6.Bulk it up
Protein, especially meat, is expensive, so bulk out meals with nutritious vegetables that will make your dinner tasty, satisfying and your meals go further. Try adding beans (chickpeas, kidney, cannelini, borlotti or haricot – tins are fine) or lentils as they are high in protein and a great alternative to meat, even if you aren’t vegetarian.
When you are making a meal, particularly if it’s a one
pot wonder (a great way to cook cheaply), double the quantities for cooking, portion it up and stick it in the freezer. That way you’ll always have a fall back plan when you need to eat and you’re less likely to pick up the phone and order a take-away.
Slow cooking is a great way to use cheap cuts of meat and make them into a mouth-watering meal. Stewing, braising steak or oxtail are cheap cuts and if you add plenty of vegetables you will find a little goes a long way. Better still, you can set your dinner to cook before you head off to work and come home to a delicious dish.
We throw away too much food – this is simply money down the drain. Think how you can reuse leftovers and make a new dinner. Soup is always a winner.
Pop ingredients into a pot and play soup roulette. Keep an eye on use by dates both before buying and once it’s in the fridge to avoid wastage.
10. Pack a lunch
I know this can be a tricky one. Who has time to make their lunch in the morning? Well I don’t either so I do it the night before. If you work in an office with a microwave, why not take last night’s leftovers? If not, sandwiches are fine. You can even save money bytaking your own cold drinks or a flask of coffee.