Today’s headlines from Safe Food suggest that low income households in Northern Ireland need to spend at least a third of their weekly income to buy healthy food. Here at Vital Nutrition, we work with lots of community groups and individuals struggling to make ends meet on lower incomes. With careful planning and a little imagination, it is possible (and enjoyable!) to eat well on a budget.Here’s a few ideas for you:
1. Be a savvy shopper. Look out for the cost per kg instead of the cost per unit, as you can often make big savings this way – especially on fruit and veg. Don’t be tempted by 3 for 2 offers, as they are often on expensive products and usually means you buy more than you want to.
2. Check out the frozen food aisle for frozen vegetables, fruit and fish. We have come a long way from frozen peas and there is now a big range of great vegetables available to steam, stirfy or roast. Berries and cherries are often expensive to buy fresh, but can be very economical to buy the frozen version, and there is less waste.
3. If you can, shop at the end of the day when stock tends to be reduced if it is close to the sell by date. This food is still perfectly healthy and can keep for ages in your fridge.
4. Buy fresh foods such as fruit, vegetables and meats in small amounts and more often since they go off easily.
5. Shop locally. Contrary to popular belief, local butchers, greengrocers and bakeries can be cheaper than the big supermarkets.
6. Bulk out stew, bolognese, chilli and curry with pulses like chickpeas, butter beans or lentils to eke out another portion or two. I like to add puy lentils, a leek, peppers, onion and carrot to my spag bol and use less meat, which tends to be the most expensive ingredient.
7. Use your freezer and freeze leftovers in portion size.
8. Use “generic” supermarket brands instead of classic brands. They often contain the same ingredients but are cheaper.
9. Eat more fish! Fish tends to be very economical, especially if you choose less popular types like pollock and mackerel, rather than cod and salmon. Wrap in some foil with a few herbs from a pot in your garden & serve with new potatoes and steamed veg.
10. Make a shopping list to plan your meals and stick to it!