Making the best use of the ingredients you have
If you have food in the cupboard or in the freezer, this is a good time to use it. You'll probably be surprised at what’s in the back of your cupboards – those good intention healthy buys, such as pearl barley, lentils and dried fruit. As you might not be used to cooking with some of your ingredients, try starting with the ingredient and then track down the right recipe.
- This tuna and sweetcorn pasta bake uses store cupboard staples, and you can use stale bread for the topping, rather than throwing it away.
- Old oats can become a healthy pudding with this apple and blackberry oat crumble recipe. You can swap the apple and berries for any fresh, frozen or tinned fruit.
- Don’t throw away bananas just because they're going brown. They can be combined with old flours or brans in your cupboard to make these delicious banana muffins.
- Tinned fish makes easy pasta sauces and toppings for sandwiches, salads, or jacket potatoes.
- Add pulses such as lentils, beans or chickpeas to dishes like Spaghetti Bolognese or chilli con carne and you’ll add protein and heart-healthy fibre to your diet at the same time.
- Don’t forget the herbs and spices in your store cupboard. Dried herbs and spices are an easy way to add flavour without adding salt, as eating too much salt can increase your blood pressure and can raise your risk of further heart problems.
- Tins of soup are a delicious meal, just add some noodles, rice, croutons (made from stale bread), or leftover vegetables to make the meal go further. Tinned soups are also a great short cut in recipes – lentil soup can be added to meat sauces, cream of chicken could be part of a pasta bake sauce or broths could be a base for a noodle dish.
- Check out this recipe finder for some classic, easy-to-cook, basic recipes that can be adapted to form the basis of several different dishes.
- This cottage pie filling works just as well on spaghetti or in lasagne, or as a jacket potato topping.
Cooking on a budget
Many people’s income has been disrupted but there is help available. If you have food in the cupboard or in the freezer, this is a good time to use it. You will probably be surprised at what’s in the back of your cupboards. The love food hate waste website has loads of tips and recipes for this situation. This free online cookbook includes a seven day healthy eating plan for a family of four for just £18.
Access to cheap food
There are many websites where you can shop for heavily discounted foods and drinks, some are slightly out of date but all are still fit to eat. Check out Cheap Foods who have food from 5p and even toiletries and household goods from 25p.
How to eat better on a budget - fresh food versus processed food
Meat and fish are among the most expensive items on a shopping list, while plant protein often costs less. Pulses (beans, peas and lentils) are nutritious, cheap and work well in place of meat. Don’t be fooled by expensive 'superfoods'. There is no agreed definition for this term and many so-called superfood health claims remain unproven. Simply increasing the volume and variety of fruit and vegetables in your diet is shown to reduce the risk of ill health and needn’t be costly.
Frozen, tinned and dried fruits and vegetables are often cheaper than fresh but keep their nutrients. They also keep for longer, meaning less food waste.
Avoid buying processed foods. You can often make similar dishes quickly and easily for much less. This recipe for pasta sauce costs just 50p for four portions. A jar of shop-bought pasta sauce costs more than four times this price and, as a bonus, you’ll know exactly what’s in it so it’s much healthier.
Waste not want not - save delicious food and fight food waste
On these sites you will find cheap, delicious, perfectly edible food that stores and restaurants have to throw out at the end of the day. Some great examples of this include unsold food from bakeries that have to bake fresh goods every day, or restaurants that didn’t sell all the food they had prepared. On the Too Good to Go website, you can find in date food for heavily discounted prices from big stores such as Morrison's, Café Nero and Yo! Sushi, along with local cafés, deli restaurants and bakeries.
Going to a food bank
If you've been referred, you should be told where the food bank is. If you live in a rural area and can't afford to travel, your nearest food bank might be able to deliver. Call or email them to check. If the food bank's run by a church or other religious group, they'll still help you if you're not religious or from a different religion. The BBC has some information about getting food parcels on its website.
Our top ten tips for eating healthy on a budget:
- Use food at the back of your cupboard or freezer.
- If the ingredient is new to you try starting with the ingredient and then track down the right recipe.
- Use your leftovers. The love food hate waste website has loads of tips and recipes for this situation.
- This free online cookbook includes a seven day healthy eating plan for a family of four for just £18.
- Use cheap food and short dated food websites.
- Use Too Good to Go where you can get in date delicious food from local restaurants and bakeries for a fraction of the cost.
- Fresh food is healthier and often cheaper when made from scratch.
- Don’t be fooled by ‘superfoods’ they are expensive and often the benefits are unproven.
- If you are unable to afford food, think about using food banks.
- There are loads of online recipes for making cheap and healthy meals on line for as little as 30p per person.