If you’re on a tight budget these days (thank you, gas prices) the thought of regularly cooking healthy meals can seem daunting. In fact, many families find themselves in a rut, eating the same foods over and over again.
However, the good news is that it is possible to cook healthy meals for your family, while sticking to a tight budget.
Here are 10 simple, yet effective tips to help you shop frugally:
- Eat before you shop. This really goes without saying, but if you shop hungry you’ll be more likely to make impulsive purchases. So, make sure you grab a healthy snack, or meal prior to hitting the aisles!
- Take advantage of shopping incentives. If your store offers a frequent shopper program, sign-up to receive advanced notice of special offers. You should also keep an eye on local newspapers and flyers for specials, particularly on the more expensive items such as meats, fruit and vegetables.
- Purchase only what you need. Are you constantly discarding food? Try planning the week’s menu ahead of time, and write a detailed shopping list accordingly. This way you’ll only purchase what you need for the week ahead.
- Shop in season for further savings. If you’re unsure what’s in season in your local area, search the web for a list of items. Another option is to go for frozen produce, which prevents wastage, and can be more cost effective.
- Buy in bulk. When buying apples, oranges, potatoes, onions, etc. it can be cheaper if you purchase by the bag, rather than per piece. However, this is only cost effective if you can use them. Large family packs of meat, re-portioned at home can also be good value for money.
- Cut down on junk food. Soft drinks, chips, and cookies can be a major drain on the family budget, and are bad for your health. If you’re after a treat, try baking a healthier version of your favourite cookies, and switch to water, tea or coffee rather than the more expensive sugar-laden drinks.
- Get creative in the kitchen! Cook at home using basic, whole ingredients as much as possible. If you’re stuck of recipe ideas borrow a book for the library, or check out our recipes at FoodFit.com for inspiration.
- Stretch meals. By adding extra veggies, grains or pulses you can make most meals stretch further. For example when cooking spaghetti Bolognese, substitute half the meat for kidney beans, onions, and carrots; this will save money and make the dish healthier. It’s important to remember that meat should only make up a small part of each meal, rather than being the main focus.
- Make use of your freezer. Cook extra portions of curries, soups, stews, and casseroles, and then freeze for a later date. One-pot dishes can save on prep time, money, and dishwashing, and are the perfect option for those with a busy schedule.
- See eating out as a treat. You can save a considerable amount of money if you make eating away from home only for special occasions. This includes bringing your own lunch to work, which should also make it easier to stick with a healthy diet.
Healthy eating on a budget does take a little creativity, planning, and effort. However, the benefits to both your health and your pocket will make the extra effort worthwhile!