Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach Charlotte Lau gives her tips for eating well on a budget
With the cost of food increasing every month, and with shoppers trying to save money in all areas of our lives, buying habits are set to change. With 60% of shoppers actively looking to save money, it is encouraging that more of us are taking our time to plan our weekly shops and be more aware of what we are putting in our trolley. So whether you’re a savvy student (hello Freshers) or trying to stick to a budget, here are a few ideas to help you shop smarter, cook nutrient-dense meals efficiently and reduce food waste in the process.
Learn to… get to know your supermarket
Supermarkets are set up to tempt you and to maximise spending, so stick to your list and try not to do your food shopping when you are hungry, as studies have shown that we are more likely to buy both food and non-food items when we are! Get to know your supermarket… head to the discount sections, these are usually stocked up near the end of the day. Try cheaper or supermarket own-brand products as sometimes these are no nutritionally different to more expensive brands. Be careful with deals; even if it seems like a good deal consider whether it is nutritious or whether you even need it at all! Get into the habit of comparing the price of products per kg, including loose products, so you can choose the cheaper option. And lastly, try buying frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables as they can be just as nutritious, incredibly convenient as well as often being the cheaper option.
Give it a go… Shop wisely
Get organised by planning your meals for the week; check your fridge, freezer and cupboards before you go shopping so you know exactly what you need and are therefore less likely to over-shop. Being prepared for your food shop can help with reducing food waste, unnecessary purchases or ending up in situations where you need to rely on more expensive and often highly processed convenience options. Make a shopping list based on your budget that contains the staple foods you need (think brown rice, pasta, beans and legumes) as well as specific options for meals and snacks that you plan to have that week (I would recommend keeping this as a rough, flexible guide rather than a rigid plan!). If you have the money, storage space and time to buy and cook in bulk, this is not only helpful with busy weeks but also leads to cost savings in the long run. Batch cooking can also help to reduce food waste as you are preparing food when fresh and often freezing this. It also means that you have home cooked meals ready to go which are more nutrient-dense than shop bought alternatives.
Step away from… nutrition fads and eating out
Many of us are exposed to mixed messages about fad diets, miracle supplements or the latest juice diet, which can be both expensive and detrimental to a healthy relationship with food. Interestingly, the cheapest low-carb diet has been found to be around triple the cost of the cheapest diet that has no carbohydrate restrictions – the key is selecting the ‘right’ carbohydrates. A diet high in wholegrain carbohydrates has many health benefits and with no extra costs, so switch from refined white starchy foods to wholegrain versions, this is a win-win, as wholegrains can provide up to 75% more nutrients than refined grains. Your daily caffeine fix may also be adding to your monthly expenditure, where astonishingly a latte a day could cost you and extra £1,007 a year, so be mindful; fill up your flask and bring your leftovers for lunch.
Charlotte runs Plume Nutrition, where she offers support and advice for weight management, controlling cravings, sleeplessness, stress and increasing energy levels. Find out more at plumenutrition.com
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