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How To Eat Right When Money’s Tight

Food | Lifestyle

There are so many exotic new ‘superfoods’ on the shelves that it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we need them to be truly well. Whilst it’s fun and interesting to experiment with whatever your favourite might be (I’m fond of the mighty chia seed myself), they can be expensive.

When cashflow’s good, maybe that’s ok, but what about in the leaner times? Does our health need to take the hit for a less than healthy bank balance?

Hell no! Here are some shopping tips as well as delicious ideas to teach you how to eat right and nourish your body without emptying your wallet.

But First, Get Organized

Before you even think about heading to the shops, scribble down what’s already in the fridge, freezer and cupboards. Not down to the last grain of salt, but get an idea of what’s in there that can form part of a meal.

This has saved me more money than anything else—working with what I’ve already got, I write a menu for the whole week. Keeping it simple! Breakfast is usually oats, yoghurt and fruit, and lunch is a chunky homemade soup, vegetable omeletteor leftovers. I decide what I’m going to make for dinner each evening, then write a list based on that.

Stay with what’s in season to keep costs down; forced and imported produce is so expensive and never tastes that great anyway, so work with what’s happening now.

Stick To Your List!

I know, that bakery section smells sooooo good, but keep walking! You’re not going to let those marketing dude smell-wafters suck you in, are you? The exception is the reduced section—I often pick up some fruit or veg that’s close to its sell-by date as long as I knowit’ll get eaten.

So what’s on that weekly menu? Well, beans are your friend. You can get the dried ones and soak them and cook them for hours, but the tinned ones are very cheap too and a lot more convenient. Ditto with chickpeas, and barley and lentils are quick to cook and so versatile. These babies are all chock-full of protein and fibre, they’re delicious in soups, casseroles and dhals, and they’re satisfying.

Hearty, one-pot dishes like I just mentioned are just the ticket when cash is tight. Make a great big pot of root-vegetable, barley and bean soup—that will see you fixed for lunch all week. Think big bowls of spicy red lentil dhal and warming casseroles. If you eat meat, then eating much less of it and experimenting with vegetarian dishes is a surefire way to save money, support the environment and boost your health.

How about a sweet potato and chickpea casserole to warm the cockles? If you do choose to eat meat, you can buy cheaper cuts (beef shin or cheek, chicken thighs) and slow-cook them into tenderness.

Eat What NEEDS Eating

Keep a watchful eye throughout the week on what’s getting close to the end of its days. We throw away so much food in the west and there’s no need with a little planning and awareness. If you have fruit or veg that’s about to die then make a soup, turn it into a smoothie, juice it, turn fruit into a compote or make a stock.

And stock is a great thing to always have in stock! Don’t waste money on those salt-laden bought ones, you can make a great vegetable, fish or meat stock so easily and freeze it for soups and casseroles – a quick Internet search will give you lots of recipes.

But Wait, There’s More…

  • Frozen fruit and veg have almostas many nutrients as fresh, so forone-pot dinners and pie fillings they’re an economical option, especially berries and peas.
  • Get your oats! Rolled oats are super-cheap and make a brilliant breakfast as homemade muesli or porridge. Full of fibre, they lower cholesterol and were recently found to be as effective as probiotic capsules to keep your digestive flora happy!
  • Eggs are quick, versatile, yummy, cheap, and full of protein. Organic ones cost just pennies more than cage and ensure that the chicken has been properly treated.
  • Finally, how about a little baking? A single shop-bought muffin that’s full of icky stuff costsmore than baking a big, healthy carrot cake full of wholegrain goodness and…well, carrots, that will do treats for the whole household all week!

So I hope you’ve found some inspiration there for keeping your bank-balance AND your body healthy! Be organised, experiment, and bon appetit!

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