There are a million reasons why people don’t eat the foods they know they are supposed to; no time, lack of knowledge, no cooking skills, fussy eaters… the list goes on. But the one I hear a lot is that eating healthy food is expensive, and I suppose it can be if you don’t plan ahead and do your homework, but I promise you it can be done. I thought it might be helpful for me to detail how I’ve learnt to eat clean on a budget. I’d like to point out that I currently work in a very nice job for minimum wage, so when I say I have to scrimp and save I really mean it!
I’m extremely late on the band wagon here, but I can’t sing the praises enough for this website. It is a place where you can buy good quality meat in bulk and have it delivered to your door. This has saved me so much money that I can’t see my life without it now. I most recently bought a hamper for £55 which included 22 Chicken breasts, various burgers, meatballs, mince, sausages and steaks which will keep me and my husband fed for the next month. This means I only have to buy grocery stuff like fruit and vegetables each week so although the initial cost might seem expensive, you can simply pick up fresh produce each week. I normally spend an additional £10-15 each week.
When my meat delivery arrives I will prep what I need for the next few days then I’ll freeze the rest. Try and plan ahead at this point and think about how much you need for each meal. Take sausages for example; I know we won’t want to eat a 10 pack of sausages over a few days so if I was to freeze that entire pack I might end up wasting some of them when I come around to cooking them. My solution is to cook all 10 sausages first, then freeze them in portions of two. This means I can leave out two at a time and know that they can be tossed in my lunch box or eaten for breakfast without planning to use the rest of the packet.
With regards to vegetables I like to chop these up ahead of time to make sure I use them up before they go bad.I don’t know about you but sometimes the thought of chopping a pepper for dinner is just too much effort so I toss some frozen green beans in the microwave and leave the pepper to go bad in the fridge. If I get three peppers I will chop them all up and maybe add in a chopped onion and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge. This can quickly be added to omelettes, stir-frys, salads and stews without any preparation needed. I find this particularly helpful when it comes to making breakfasts and preparing lunches for work.
I buy fruit every days to stop it going bad and I ALWAYS buy bananas buy the weight because they are ridiculously overpriced when you buy them in the those pre-packaged bags.
Buy in bulk
OK you can’t always afford to buy big packs of things but in my experience some things are just way cheaper that way. Bags of potatoes and sweet potatoes are generally better value when bought in bulk as are dried fruits and nuts. I spent a lifetime buying little 60g portions of almonds for £1 when you can buy 200g for £1.50. Head to Home Bargains and pick up 1 kilo of dried fruit for a few quid and you can make your own little bags of trail mix and have them in your gym bag for snacking emergencies.
Minimise your snacks
I’ve found the cheapest way to snack is to avoid snacking as much as possible. Yes, it might seem stupid but why let yourself get caught out on the way home from work starving when you could just eat enough beforehand? I’m not saying I don’t ever snack, but I don’t necessarily factor it into my meal plan for the day. Instead I try to eat enough at my main meals so that I can survive happily until the next one. The focus for me is on adequate protein and carbohydrates to keep me full and my blood sugar levels stable for a few hours. This way I don’t get that crazy feeling of “I need to eat all the Dairy Milk RIGHT NOW”, instead my hunger gradually increases over time until I’m ready for my next meal. If I do get hungry I will have an apple or some nuts stashed in my bag just in case, avoiding the temptation to spend a few quid on a disappointing protein bar or pre-packaged fruit.
The advocates of clean-eating are forever advising that we “avoid the middle isles” of all supermarkets, and I find this basic tip to be rather helpful when it comes to sticking to a budget. If you think about it the most basic ‘clean’ food for cooking (meat, vegetables and fruit) are generally found near the entrance of the supermarket. The deeper you venture into the shop is where you find all the tempting treats like cereals, ready meals, desserts and whatnot. I don’t know about you but this is where I’m way more likely to succumb to special offers and unplanned items that aren’t on my shopping list. If you eat simple meals created from one ingredient foods (e.g. steak with sweet potatoes and green beans) you are cutting out the need for expensive – but often nutritional lacking – food. A multi-pack of cereal bars for £1 might seem like a cheap snack idea but the truth is you are likely to crave MORE food in the long run because the it’s not substantial, satisfying or nutritionally dense.
Do you have any tips for eating clean on a budget?