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Munch Through Credit Crunch With Cheap, Healthy Ideas

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The credit crunch may be tightening our purse strings, but there’s no reason to suggest that a limited budget will mean an unhealthy diet. In fact, the Food Standards Agency in Wales has some useful advice on how you can enjoy a balanced and healthy diet without spending too much cash. There are also lots of healthier, tasty recipes too!

Dr Sarah Jayne Rowles, Head of Dietary Health at FSA Wales, says: 'In times like these it’s really important to remind ourselves that healthier food doesn’t have to cost more. There are lots of delicious meals that won’t cost the earth, and if we store and re-use these correctly we can get the most value from the food we buy.'

Be smart with your shopping

* Plan ahead – What do you fancy to eat throughout the coming week? Make a shopping list that you can stick to so that you’ll be less distracted by less healthy options. Also, why not explore your area? Your local market may be cheaper than the supermarket.

* Don’t shop on an empty stomach – How much more tempting are foods when you’re hungry? Try to eat before you leave home, or grab a healthier snack for your journey to keep hunger at bay and reduce those unnecessary impulse buys!

* Better late than never – You may find that you can catch some late bargains if you shop towards the end of the day.

* Be shelf savvy – Compare prices of different brands. Buy one get one free offers can be great value, but be sure to dash past any offers on foods which are high in fat and sugar or for foods that aren’t on your shopping list.

* Remember the eatwell plate – The eatwell plate shows how much of each food group can make up a balanced diet. This includes:

o plenty of fruit and veg

o plenty of bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods

o some milk and dairy foods

o some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non dairy sources of protein

o a small amount of food and drinks high in fat and/or sugar

So, don’t forget to dedicate a good chunk of trolley space to healthier foods such as fruit and veg. It doesn’t all have to be fresh though – frozen, tinned, dried and juiced fruit and veg all count towards your 5-a-day. Also, foods that are in season may be cheaper.

What kinds of meat are cheaper?

* Whole chicken, stewing beef, or turkey are generally cheaper.

* Minced turkey can be a cheaper and leaner option than minced beef.

* Poultry with the skin on is often cheaper than skinless cuts, so remove the skin yourself at home. Chicken on the bone is also generally cheaper than boneless cuts.

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* Cheaper cuts of red meat are fine, but just be sure to trim off any visible fat before cooking.

The freezer is your friend!

Take advantage of reduced items that can be frozen. Freezing food is a great way to retain nutrients, reduce waste and stretch your money further.

* Be sure to check any freezing instructions and freeze on the same day of purchase.

* Defrost thoroughly in the fridge, try to use it within 1-2 days and be sure to cook until steaming hot. Tips on keeping food safe can be found at the link below.

Basics aren’t always boring…

Why not be resourceful and make your store cupboard ingredients into a tasty lunch or dinner – it needn’t take hours in the kitchen. Dried and canned goods such as pasta, beans, tinned tomatoes and tuna often have a long shelf-life, so don’t leave them at the back of your cupboard gathering dust. Pulses such as lentils and kidney beans contain fibre are extremely versatile and can be used to bulk out all kinds of meals. Check out these simple, scrumptious and cheap recipes:

* Mixed bean chilli - This meat-free chilli goes perfectly in a tortilla, or you could just serve with a crisp salad. A great way to make use of your spice rack too.

* Bacon and tomato risotto - A tasty rice dish that’s sure to fill you up with little damage to your wallet.

* Tuna and sweetcorn pasta - Made up of basic ingredients which means you might already have everything you need to make this popular dish.

More recipes like this can be found on the eatwell website at the link below.

Taste not waste

Another simple way to save money is to think about what you throw away each day and what you could make with your leftovers, providing that they are stored and reheated correctly. You could use some cheap containers or freezer bags to freeze your leftovers for when you fancy a night off from cooking. Also, freezing any left over homemade stock in ice cube trays means that you only use as much as you need.

You could try this great smoothie recipe if you have any fruit lying around that may be slightly bruised or soft – just cut away the bruised bits and have a go at a Banana Velvet.

Fast food on a budget

Takeaways sometimes have good offers, but are not always the healthiest option. So if you really fancy a takeaway, try to make healthier choices such as opting for boiled rice instead of fried, and dry curries rather than creamy and/or coconut ones.

It may also be cheaper to make your own healthier versions at home. Pizzas are often cheaper to make and taste great with low fat toppings such as lean chicken, plenty of vegetables and a small amount of reduced fat hard cheese

More practical takeaway tips can be found on the eatwell website at the link below.

So, its official – healthier food doesn’t have to cost us more. Just be savvy when shopping, creative with cooking and remember to get freezing!

For further advice on making healthier food choices, visit the Food Standards Agency’s eatwell website at the link below.