Sometimes it can be difficult to eat healthily when you’re on a tight budget. However, there are loads of foods you can eat that are good for you but won’t be too hard on your pockets.
Follow these 11 tips below to stay on track with healthy eating without breaking the bank.
Don’t be afraid to use beans from a can. Foods like red kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas or lentils are really good for you and can also be a great substitute for meat.
Tinned beans are a good source of nutrition, great for your heart and digestive system, are low in calories and will help lower your cholesterol levels. Not only all this but they’re cheap and very easy to use.
If you’re wondering what to do with them, they’re a great addition to soups, stews and salads, making the meal more filling. Plus if you’re only using a small amount of meat then the beans are a great source of extra protein.
Beware though, sometimes tinned foods can contain a high amount of sodium. If you can (haha), go for the no added salt variety or rinse them before eating or cooking to remove as much sodium as possible.
Try some of these great tinned bean recipes:
Bulk out with dried foods
Another great way to add protein to a dish without spending too much on meat is to use dried foods like dried beans, peas, lentils or chickpeas. They’re even cheaper than their canned counterparts but they do take a bit more time and effort to cook.
Dried beans will usually need soaking overnight (although some recipes say you don’t have to) and then cooking. On the plus, they don’t contain any sodium at all and are a very healthy option.
If you don’t want to completely ditch the meat then how about about making a bolognese with half minced beef and half lentils?
Try out these dishes made delicious by adding dried beans:
Fresh fish is another luxury item which can often be quite expensive. Luckily using tinned fish is a great alternative. Try tuna, sardines or salmon to get a dose of good fish oils and omega 3. Sardines are the most healthy option out of those three but they also have the strongest flavour.
If you’re getting tinned fish (and this mainly applies for tuna), try and go for the cans labelled ‘ethically sourced’ or ‘pole caught’ as this is the more sustainable and environmentally friendly option.
There are lots of things you can make with tinned fish. Why not try salmon fish cakes, (which can also be frozen after cooking) or a tuna pasta bake with a creamy sauce. Or you could try sardines with a tin of tomatoes, some fried onions, garlic and some fresh herbs – this would make a delicious addition to a bowl of whole-wheat pasta.
Try these tinned fish recipes:
Frozen veggies are often cheaper and good for you too. Don’t automatically assume that they’re not healthy just because they’re from the frozen aisle. Nearly all frozen vegetables have their nutrients still in them as they’re frozen as soon as they’re prepared.
Plus they will last for ages in the freezer. There are all sorts of frozen vegetables available; peas, carrots, sweet corn, broccoli, cauliflower or a combination of different veggies. So you’re bound to find something that you like.
Sometimes the texture of frozen vegetables isn’t quite the same as it’s fresh counterparts but the beauty of them is that you can just throw a handful into whatever you’re cooking without worrying about peeling or chopping them.
Frozen vegetable recipes:
Whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and oatmeal
Keep an eye out for special deals on things like whole-wheat pasta and brown rice, these items are fine to be stored in your pantry until you’re ready to use them.
Whole-wheat pasta is lower in calories and carbs but higher in fibre and nutrients. Brown rice is also full of fibre and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Both of these options are cheap and filling too.
Oatmeal is another great whole grain that is really good value for money and makes a tasty and filling breakfast. It’s very easy to cook and you can add a handful of seasonal fruit or a spoonful of honey to give your breakfast a little natural sweetness.
Try these recipes:
Freeze meats ahead of time
If you find meat on offer then plan ahead and buy more than you would usually. You can divide it up into portion sizes (depending on how many will be eating) and freeze it to eat at a later date.
It’s always best to remove the meat from any bulky packaging before placing in your freezer. Freezer bags are usually best as they will take up the least space.
Just be sure to label everything with the date and the type of meat to avoid confusion when it comes to defrosting!
Refer to this guide for how long meats will last in the freezer.
Be flexible with your ingredients
Be flexible with your cooking where possible. If you’re unable to get a certain ingredient but have something similar on hand then just use what you’ve got.
For example if turkey mince is on offer then try using that as a healthy alternative to beef mince. How about a turkey mince lasagne? Or a lamb mince bolognaise?
Or if a recipe asks for parsnips but you only have carrots in the fridge then go ahead and use up your carrots.
Don’t have self raising flour, only plain flour? That’s perfectly fine too, all you need to do is mix together these three ingredients from your pantry:
1 cup plain all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Lookout for healthy foods close to their sell by date
When you’re at the grocery store, keep an eye out for fresh vegetables that are about to go out of date. Supermarkets will reduce them heavily to sell them off quickly, especially at the end of the day. If you’re in store near closing time, be sure to keep an eye out for any good deals.
Almost any vegetable can be thrown into a stir fry or even something as simple as a vegetable tray bake. Just chop up your veggies, put them in a baking tray, add some olive oil, a handful of herbs and bake in the oven until tender.
Slow cook it
Use that slow cooker! If you see a cheaper cut of meat then don’t be afraid to cook it in your slow cooker.
Cooking cheaper (and sometimes tougher) cuts for longer will break down the meat, making it more tender and soaking up any flavours that you add to it. The perfect meal for those cooler winter evenings.
Eat what’s in season
Always look for the fruits and vegetables that are in season, they are guaranteed to be cheaper and better tasting.
Go for vegetables like leeks, Brussel sprouts, kale, spinach and parsnips in the winter. Then when the summer rolls around, you’ll want to buy green beans, corn, eggplant, radishes and okra.
Don’t be afraid to try vegetarian meals
If you’re a big meat eater, don’t be afraid to swap out for one meat free dish a week, going vegetarian will save you money. It actually has health benefits too – reducing your cholesterol, cutting calories and lowering blood sugar levels.
So maybe think about making meatless Monday a new thing!
How about trying a vegetable lasagne with eggplant or mushrooms? Or a vegetable minestrone soup? Or a pea soup?
Hopefully this will give you some ideas for eating healthily on a budget. If you have any ideas, feel free to add them below!