Buying food is expensive and one of most people’s biggest bills. But is it possible to eat well for less? As a busy mum of four older kids, I’ve had to learn the hard way how to feed my family on a tight budget. With two teenage boys in the house, any food I buy doesn’t last long!
Here, I take a look at ways to slash your grocery bill but still eat well. I investigate how to feed hungry teenagers or fussy eaters. I also take a look at how to shop for special dietary needs without breaking the bank.
9 top tips to eat well for less
Here are my top tips for eating well for less:
- Write a meal plan – it’s easy to pop a few extra things in the basket, and those small extras soon add up. By checking what you have in the cupboards first and shopping for particular meals, you can plan to eat cheap and healthy meals.
- Stock up your freezer – frozen fruit and veggies are still super healthy and they are often much cheaper than fresh alternatives. My kids love to have frozen fruit with their morning cereal or with some pancakes.
- Plan at least two really cheap meals per week – my go-tos are beans and cheese on jacket potatoes or chickpea curry. Other alternatives include lentil cottage pie and pasta with mushrooms and pesto.
- Cook from scratch – it doesn’t have to be fancy. Learning a few simple recipes like pasta sauce and roast chicken means you can cook hearty, delicious meals.
- Buy cheap cuts of meat – cheaper cuts like braising beef or chicken drumsticks can still make hearty, healthy meals.
- Bulk out meals with pulses and veg – adding a tablespoon of lentils to bolognese sauce helps the meat stretch further as well as being healthy.
- Shop the budget ranges in supermarkets – extra-value porridge oats or cheap cheddar cheese often taste just as good as the more expensive stuff.
- Have some emergency meals in the freezer – when you can’t be bothered to cook, oven chips, eggs and beans are really cheap and still healthier than a takeaway.
- Save up for Christmas food throughout the year – I add to a separate savings account during the year so I can afford to splurge a bit in December.
Can fussy eaters eat well for less?
Is it still possible to eat well for less if you have a fussy eater in your family? I’ve found it helps to think of meals that you can vary according to taste. For example, when having fajitas, tortilla wraps can be served plain with cheese and ham for fussy eaters who don’t like the fajita sauce. Chilli con carne can be cooked without spices, and Tobasco sauce can then be added at the table.
Can teenagers eat well for less?
What about starving teenagers who always seem to be eating? I like to stock up on cheap but relatively healthy snacks like English muffins, crumpets and good old toast. If they get the late-night munchies, they can even help themselves to breakfast cereal.
I’ve also trained my older kids to cook a simple meal themselves so they can cook some pasta or pop a jacket potato in the microwave if they’re desperate.
What about dietary needs?
When my daughter was just two, I found out she had coeliac disease. My first food shop after the diagnosis took nearly three hours as I had to carefully read every label. Still, after a few months, I started to get the hang of things. Here are a few of my top tips to eat well for less on a specialist diet:
- Look for naturally ‘free-from’ food – specialist food is usually expensive, but you can often find naturally free-from alternatives. For example, potatoes and rice are naturally gluten free and also good value.
- Cook from scratch – you don’t need to be Mary Berry. If you master a simple gluten-free sponge recipe, it can be made into fairy cakes or a victoria sponge and used to top fruit puddings. Yum!
- Take snacks with you – it’s really hard to find food on the go if you have a specialist diet. It often limits you to expensive shops and restaurants. Try to take snacks with you to limit the expense.
Eating well for less doesn’t mean you’re not allowed the occasional treat. Homemade flapjacks and ginger cake are my personal favourites. And they’re even better if you can persuade the kids to cook them!
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