So, its that time of year where everyone is watching their pennies! Maybe you overspent at Christmas, you're saving up for a holiday, you're trying to get your finances in order, or you have a sudden cost you didn't envisage such as problems with your car or a speeding fine! Whatever it is the chances are that as you are reading this, like me, you are thinking that you need to spend at little as you can on food whilst still eating healthily! It is easy to use the excuse of cost to mean you eat rubbish foods, I have done it many times over the years but the reality is that with the right foods and meal plans you can stick to a healthy eating plan like Slimming World and eat well on a budget!
So, I have been doing Slimming World almost 2 years now and as a mum to a disabled child I am on benefits and as such on a budget. This is not something I am ashamed of because raising Ben is harder than any job I have ever done! I live on my own with Ben and do not have much money so have to save money where I can. I have lost over 10 stone by eating on a budget so I know it can be done and as such thought I would do a post with my hints and tips for all those of you who may be wondering if you can carry on with a healthy eating plan or join Slimming World whilst being careful with money!
If you can use a variety of shops to do your food shopping so you can get the best deals and make the most of the offers at different shops. If you are buying fresh fruit and vegetables the quality and longevity of them will not vary much between stores but the prices can vary dramatically!
Use common sense with best before dates and know the difference between best before and use by dates! Use by dates are dates after which it is advised not to eat the food due to the growth of bacteria and eating food after a use by date can cause health issues. Best before dates however are more of an advisory that the food is usually best before that date. Fruit and vegetables very often last a good few days or longer after these dates and the date should be used merely as a guide. Look at the item and see if it will last longer. You can usually tell by appearance if fruit or vegetables are still ok to use, so use your common sense, why throw it away if you can use it! If you think you will not use an item before it will go off then freeze it, or use it to cook something then freeze what you cooked, try to waste as little as possible!
Make meals with seasonal fruit and vegetables! At the moment root vegetables are very much in season and most places have them very cheaply whereas courgettes are a bit pricier. Fruit is much more susceptible to price changes and whilst apples and bananas are generally a similar price all year round, strawberries, nectarines and cherries vary dramatically at different times of year. What I am saying is try not to be too rigid in what you eat and think about the things you like that are in season and reasonably priced when meal planning.
When you follow recipes substitute expensive items for cheaper ones if you want to keep the cost down whilst often not changing the meal dramatically. For example a mixed mushroom risotto using a variety of exotic mushrooms would be very expensive to make whereas you could follow the recipe to make it and use white closed cup mushrooms and just call it a mushroom risotto for so much cheaper and still enjoy the meal!
Brands....are they that important? So, you always buy the passata that is 95p a carton, you like it so why change? The cheaper one is around 35p a carton, it is only 60p cheaper, saving 60p wont make much difference will it? No that one 60p wont but if like me you often get through 3 cartons a week, that would be a saving of £93.60 a year, now tell me you don't want to even try the cheaper one! Obviously that is a drastic example but the principal is still the same!
Use your freezer! If you see something that is good value and you have freezer space buy it, you might not need chicken breasts this week but if they were half the normal price when you want them next week you will have saved some money! Far too many people, and I used to do this too, only buy food for the recipes they need that week. Obviously there are times when money means you do not have the spare cash to buy something you wont use straight away but if you know for sure you will use it and it is cheaper than you usually pay than in the long term you're saving money and by doing this every week you can plan the next weeks meals around the bargains you put in the freezer!
Buy reduced items close to their best before dates, especially if they will last longer than the date on them, and plan meals or adapt a meal you were planning around it! I buy lots of reduced items, I would buy more but often due to being a single mum it is difficult to get to the shops at the best times. If you find out the times your local shops reduce things with that days date on though you can often snap up a few good deals!
Meal plan where you can. By meal planning you reduce the risk of going food shopping and just picking up things you think you will use and then getting home and realising you now bought things you didn't need that weren't even a bargain! It is so easy when shopping to see things like eggs and because you often use them pick them up without even thinking if you need any! By meal planning and writing a shopping list you are less likely to end up with a cupboard full of things that don't even go together!
Leftovers! Obviously it is best to try to cook the right amount for a meal but if you do have leftovers don't throw them away, have them for lunch the next day, or plan to make enough for lunch the next day! If you cant use your leftovers most things can be frozen or put in the fridge for a few days. Waste very little and this will save you money too!
Make low cost but yummy meals such as casseroles, soups, pasta bakes and jacket potatoes. Meals do not have to be expensive to be nice, adding herbs and spices can change a meal so much yet adds very little cost!
Hungry, bored, or thirsty? If you eat less then it costs less! Obviously you still need to eat your meals and snacks but I am sure I am not alone in eating sometimes when I am bored or thirsty! If you can get your head around this and only eating when you are actually hungry not bored, thirsty or emotional eating then this inevitably saves a little money too!
Check out your local market. It isn't always the cheapest as some of the supermarkets have good deals on so it is worth knowing what prices you pay for items first but sometimes really good bargains can be had at the market and of course getting to know your market seller can often get you little discounts or extras thrown in free!
My Supermarket app.....I use this to compare prices in the supermarkets of branded items so I always buy it when I can at the cheapest place! This is excellent for things like Ribena, Babybels or Pepsi Max that I use regularly and can vary in price a lot if they are not on offer!
Check your receipts and use store loyalty cards, the Asda Price Guarantee, money off coupons, and other such offers but always only buy what you need or will use, do not be tempted to buy something because you get an extra few points if you buy it. If you would not ordinarily buy that brand and it is on offer, unless it makes it cheaper than the usual brand, don't be tempted, the shops want to take our money, they want us to be tempted, don't do it!
Use frozen fruit, vegetables and meats where possible as it is cheaper, in some recipes it doesn't taste as nice with frozen vegetables, but for many you cant tell at all!
The Pictures of meals throughout this blog post are all meals I have made that have cost less than £5 for 4 servings, some due to reductions or seasonal items, some would be that price whatever time of the year! I hope this gives you some ideas. Happy moneysaving!
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