December 2, 2023

Healthy Choice

Healthy Choice The Only Solution

Seven ways to shop better and eat healthier on a budget this January

With the cost-of-living crisis affecting most of us on one level or another, it really shouldn’t have to be a choice between ‘heating or eating?’

ou can eat well and healthily, on a budget, if you know the little changes that can make all the difference.

With the average cost of living for a family of four in Northern Ireland in Sept 2022 costing just under £3,000, many will be wanting to find ways and means of saving money where possible.

These are the sorts of questions many consumers will be asking over the coming months:

• When and where should I shop and not shop for my food?

• How can I make savings and still eat well?

• How can I get all the nutrients I need on a budget?

• Should I eat frozen or fresh and does and what freezes well?

• Do I always have to use the cooker/ oven?

• What can I make that doesn’t need cooked but tastes delicious?

• How can I cook a square meal on 1 hob?

• What is easy, quick and cheap and healthy to batch cook?

Here are seven ways to shop better, eat healthier and save money at the same time.

Never shop when you are hungry

Many of us already know this. It is because we tend to make more ‘impulse purchases’, on items that we may not have chosen if we had eaten, (even something small) before doing the food shop, or even just popping in to get ‘a few bits and pieces’. We all know the feeling of going to the supermarket for ‘milk and bread’ and coming out spending £30 before you know it. Supermarkets know where they are positioning items and how this impacts on our purchasing habits and behaviours., i.e. milk and bread tend to be far into the store, so you have to pass by all the other foods and drinks along the way, making us more likely to purchase items we had no intention of buying, (often items with little or no nutritional value). Combine this with being hungry, you may regret it.

Save time, get organised

It may seem like it takes a lot of effort to do this. However, if you carve out a window of time, (even 2 hours, once a week), it could save you time and money in the long run. You can make a curry, while making a soup, while making a pasta salad for example. How? Because a lot of the base ingredients are the same — oil, garlic, onion, vegetables, etc. Some items you can freeze and some you can pop in the fridge. Date them and put a ‘use by date’ on and know you have made the food for the week ahead, which can be a good feeling knowing you have budgeted accordingly.

One pot cooking and one hob cooking

Use a steamer, on one hob, to pre make lunches such rice or pasta or potatoes, vegetables, meat or fish all at the same time on one hob with a steamer stack of three or four pots. Or cook in one pot- a soup, curry, casserole, for example, which will help save on energy bills in the coming months.

Eat uncooked (and sometimes raw foods)

Cold food may not sound that appealing at this time of the year. However, it does save on energy bills, and we already eat a lot of them without thinking about it but we pay over the odds for most of them. Think of salsa, guacamole, pesto, hummus. All these can be made without turning on the oven or cooker. These go great on bread, with carrot, celery and pepper sticks or plain tortilla chips. Even a tin of tuna and salad is another great option.

Buy in bulk

If and when you can as you will save in the long run. Not everyone can afford buying in bulk. However, it may work out cheaper in the long run if you are able to spend now, save later. One way of doing this may be to look online at retailers’ websites at offers and deals on certain items ahead of your shop. Shopping online, can help reduce impulse buys also, but always try and pick an off-peak slot for delivery as this can be costly too.

At times, frozen is best

Frozen ready meals are often ultra-processed as well as ladened with preservatives, so these are not always the best purchasing and consumption choices. However, purchasing fruit and vegetables that are frozen can make financial money saving sense. They are usually frozen when they are at their best, retaining a lot of the best nutrients and locking in the goodness. They work out so much cheaper by buy, as often people look at these options as an afterthought. Frozen avocado is much cheaper, as well as berries for smoothies, and vegetables for soups and curries, for example. They are also usually cut and ready to use, thus, saving on time. Win win.

Work out when your supermarket discounts items

Ask a member of staff what time they put food items in the reduced section. Most supermarkets do this a few times a day at certain times, and this can help you save significantly on food costs. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

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