Healthy eating is a challenge at the best of times and when you’re restricted by a budget it can be even more difficult. Add into that equation the demands of picky children or a houseful of people on different diets and you could find yourself spending a huge proportion of your monthly income on feeding all those hungry mouths. However, it is possible to make sure that everyone is well fed without leaving your budget seriously depleted – here are a few tips on how to do it.
Fruit and veges are a winner
No matter what the different diets in your household you can normally please everyone with fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are gluten free, dairy free, they don’t contain animal products and they can be served in a way that everyone can add something to them to create a dish that suits their tastes. They are also cheap if you know how to buy them. Opt for seasonal fruit vegetables as these are the most cost effective – anything that has had to travel to get to you is likely to be more expensive, as well as fruit and veg that is being specially grown out of season. In November the most seasonal fruits and vegetables are: white and red cabbages, leeks, cauliflower, potatoes and kale, as well as apples and pears.
Be innovative with your food
The average family throws away £60 of good food every month according to Love Food Hate Waste. Learn to be innovative with what you have in the cupboard, rather than going out and buying new items every time supplies get a little low. For example, you can make soup out of just about anything – add a stock cube to a combination of vegetables, throw in some herbs and then a carb such as pasta, rice or barley and you have a filling meal you can create with everything from chopped tomatoes to leeks and potatoes. If you need some inspiration then get online and look at the ways that other people are using food innovatively – some of our favourites include using leftover vegetables such as courgettes in cakes, stripping down a roast chicken and putting it into a salad, sandwich or pie the next day, and making any over ripe fruit that you’re tempted to throw away into a delicious, spiced compote. If you need some inspiration then get the family involved – a prize for the most ingenious use of leftovers and store cupboard contents.
Learn how to make the basics
You’ll find that you’re able to be a lot more versatile in the kitchen if you know how to cook! Basics such as making pastry and/or crumble toppings, knowing how to make a pancake batter, a simple sponge cake, a loaf of bread, a tomato sauce, a cheese sauce and a soup will allow you to create something from whatever you have in the cupboard. Plus, these basics are often made from cheap ingredients, such as flour, yeast, milk and water, and you’re likely to already have them sitting around the house. You can create healthy versions of the family favourites once you learn how to put the components together and you’ll be avoiding all the extra sugar and additives that come in the shop bought varieties.
Spontaneity just doesn’t work with budgeting, whether you’re trying to keep food spending under control or reign in clothing or travel costs. On a Friday, sit down and plan your meals for the following week and then buy what you need to get started at the weekend. If your family has a hectic week schedule then spend some time on a Sunday preparing a few dishes in bulk that you can then freeze and/or portion out during the week. Planning has two advantages – first of all you will only buy what you need at the supermarket, which helps to avoid overspending and, second, you can put some thought into dishes and ingredients that can contribute to more than one feed – for example, cook a giant pasta bake one night and give it to everyone cold for lunch the next day. Cook extra vegetables with your roast on a Sunday and then make Monday night’s dinner a bubble and squeak or vege rostis. Make a huge batch of stewed fruit at the start of the week and this can be dished out for breakfast or topped with seed crumble for a healthy pudding.