16:23 11 March 2013
With the cost of living rising, many of us are constantly looking for ways to make cutbacks.
But recent research from the Children's Food Trust has revealed that, worryingly, some families are now being forced to compromise what they spend on basic household food.
A cross section of professionals who work with children were interviewed and a staggering 85% said they believed some were not getting enough to eat, while one third (33%) claimed this was an everyday occurrence.
Almost half (47%) of the workers said they had noticed a change in the type of products in children's lunchboxes as household budgets had gotten tighter. Some children were being sent to school with just a packet of biscuits, or leftovers from the night before, such as cold boiled rice,chips and fish fingers.
Times are devastatingly tough for some families, but for many others, simply doing a little homework about healthy eating on a budget could ease the tension on the purse strings.
1. Define 'healthy'
First things first; before you make your shopping list and start thinking about budgeting, have a basic idea of what you should be eating that constitutes 'healthy.'
The NHS recommends that starchy foods should make up a third of your diet (potatoes, cereal, rice and bread). The rest of your diet should be made up from a variety of protein (meat, fish, eggs and beans), milk and dairy foods (semi-skimmed milk and low fat or cottage cheese) and five portions of fruit or veg a day.
2. Plan ahead
With the above in mind, it's essential that you get into the habit of planning your meals for the week ahead. This will cut the cost of your food bill, avoid wasting leftovers and remove the temptation of spending extra on takeaways and ready meals which are often high in salt, fat and sugar.
If you're stuck for inspiration, check out one of the many online resources for low-cost healthy recipes. The BBC's cheap and healthy recipes come in at £2 or less and the good food channel is crammed full of healthy budget eats.
3. Buy in bulk
It may be more expensive at the checkout upfront - but in the long run bulk buying will afford you big savings. For example, two rolls of 'Plenty' kitchen towel at Tesco costs £1.86. If you were to buy two rolls every week for six weeks, you would spend £11.16 in total. But alternatively, bulk buying 12 rolls in one go would cost you £8.49 - a substantial saving of £2.67.
4. Switch to value brands
It's no secret that supermarket 'value' brands are cheaper. A 500g bag of Sainsbury's penne pasta, for example, would cost £0.95. Switch to its 'basics' range and the price drops to £0.39. Make a homemade pasta sauce to go with it, and you've got a healthy meal for a fraction of the cost of a ready-meal.
5. Seek out the cheapest supermarket
By shopping online using mysupermarket.com, you can find the cheapest place to buy your groceries from. You simply select all your items online, and will then be shown the total cost from Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose or Ocado. Simply select the cheapest one and see how much you've saved.
6. Freeze leftovers
When making casseroles, stews, curries or pasta it's worth making a big batch to avoid wastage and then dividing it up into portions. Anything that isn't used can be put into freezer cartons meaning you've got a healthy and quick meal that can just be re-heated at a later date.
7. Try cheaper alternatives
It can be easy to stick to what you've always known when it comes to food but by trying alternatives, you can find cheaper and healthier options.
For example, if you eat meat every day of the week, why not consider swapping one meal for a vegetarian alternative?
Quorn mince, for example, is high in protein, fibre and amino acids, yet 100% cholesterol free. It also has 80% less saturated fat than even lean beef mince. So next time you thinking of making spag-bol or shepherd's pie, why not give it a go?
Lentils and pulses are also very high in protein and pack a nutritional power punch. They are low-cost (a 400g tin of green lentils at Asda would set you back £0.62) and can be used to bulk up stews and casseroles.
8. Buy fruit and veg when it's in season
It's all very well being told to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, but this can be expensive and often easier said than done.
In-season produce will be the cheapest option as it won't have been imported. However, frozen, canned, bottled and dried all count towards your five a day, and will keep for longer and be a cheaper alternative.
9. Shop at the right time of day
Carefully choosing the time of day you hit the supermarket can have a positive impact on your wallet. Towards the end of the day you will find reduced price shelves where you'll be able to get a variety of groceries at a fraction of the price.
10. Grow your own!
If you have a garden, consider growing you own low-maintenance vegetables such as carrots, green beans and beetroot. If you're a novice there are numerous online resources to help you start your own home-made vegetable plot. Window-boxes and pots on balconies are also a great way to grow your own, so get researching and you'll be green-fingered in no time.
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