Having had a little moan the other day about the cost of healthy eating, I started to wonder if it was just me that found it expensive? Apparently not! A few people on Twitter mentioned that they struggle to eat well within a budget, and a Google search quickly found the same too. Yet I know people who are on Slimming World that are feeding a family of five for approximately £80 a week…there’s only me and my other half at home and we struggle on £100 a week! So I am determined to find a way of eating healthily, but for a more reasonable cost. I must point out here that I used to spend a bit of money on a weekly shop, yet would end up buying takeaways and not counting this as ‘shopping’…so make sure that you aren’t misleading yourself as I was prone to do!
First of all, investing in a slow cooker and a food flask will save you money in the long run…my reasons for saying this will become clear! Secondly, once you’ve stocked your cupboard with herbs, spices and stock cubes, it is quite cheap to rustle up a tasty meal with your supplies. I find that shopping locally, in Asian supermarkets, means I can buy bigger bags of herbs and spices which work out a lot cheaper than buying in larger supermarkets. Food soon becomes bland and repetitive unless you use herbs and spices to change the flavour – you can have an Italian flavoured veggie bolognese, a fiery Mexican chilli, and a Moroccan dish, with the same basic ingredients – but changing the flavours of the herbs and spices used means that you keep your diet interesting and your taste buds satisfied!
Another money and time saving tip, is to put a portion of whatever you are having for dinner aside before you serve up. You can then freeze it for another day…and I promise that you won’t miss the extra bit you’ve portioned off!
In terms of saving money on your weekly shop, make some sensible swaps. Just as you would choose wisely if you were eating out, choose wisely when you are shopping. Swap branded foods for basic foods – rice, pasta, baked beans, milk, cereals. Slimming World actually tells us in the Food Optimising book that you can swap any branded cereal for the supermarkets own brand – so porridge oats, bran flakes, wheetabix…all much cheaper if you buy the ‘Smartprice’ versions! Fruit is also cheaper if you buy the basics range – a bag of apples in Asda ranges from £1.35 to £2.50, but a Smartprice bag is only £0.84 and a bag of Smartprice pears is only £0.90…two of your five a day for a week for less than £2.
Frozen fruit and vegetables are fantastic value for money – yes, the basics ranges are great too. Just check that you are buying the stuff without added sugar and oils…easy to spot on the labels. Frozen fruit and vegetables can actually be more healthful than their supposedly fresh counterparts. This is due to the fact that they tend to be picked and frozen at the point of ripeness when they are packed full of nutrients, whereas imported fruits and veggies have often been picked under-ripe, travelled thousands of miles, and stored in warehouses before finally hitting our shelves – not exactly fresh and nutrient dense! Plus, every Tom, Dick and Harry has been handling your veggies – urgh! Chose frozen vs fresh and you’ll not only save money there, but you could save money by stopping those costly vitamin and mineral supplements that most of us don’t need. You can buy frozen spinach, peppers, mushrooms, stir fry mixes, cherries, berries and all sorts of wonderful stuff…not just broccoli and cauliflower!
Something that I do regularly is bulking out my dishes with lentils. I only started doing this partway through last year, as I knew that lentils were a great way of adding protein and fibre in a cost effective way. Nutritious and low in calories, a small handful goes a long way. Lentils are great for thickening up soups and stews too and a 2kg bag costs £3.50 at Asda…even cheaper if you shop at an Asian supermarket…and a bag that size will last a while! I have also started using pearl barley, and the packets of dried pulses that can be used in soups and stews.
I have recently noticed that if I keep my mushrooms fairly chunky when I chop them, they create the illusion of meat due to their texture when cooked. Given that they are a great deal cheaper than meat, I use them regularly to bulk out bolognese, risottos, stir-fries and curries. In fact I don’t think there has been a day recently that I haven’t eaten them!
Frozen chicken chunks from Asda are also a bit of a bargain. They are pre-cooked, so can be defrosted and used in salads, or just thrown into curries and my favourite chicken noodle soup! It goes a lot further than a pack of fresh chicken breast does and costs about £2.50 for a decent sized bag that would easily do a meal for four people.
Eggs are another favourite of mine – with omelettes and scrambled eggs being a regular part of my week. They are free on all plans with Slimming World, and since health professionals have admitted that there is no evidence that they increase cholesterol, you can enjoy them! My sister rustles up a mean Spanish omelette using sliced tinned potatoes, onions, mushrooms, mixed peppers and a HE of cheese on the top; serve it with salad – it really does taste lovely! It’s also great eaten cold for lunch the following day too.
Stocking up when the supermarkets have offers on is another money saving idea. Asda always seems to have offers on items such as low fat Supernoodles, savoury rice, cous cous, mugshots, yogurts etc. Just check that they are syn free or low syn, and stock up your cupboards. I do not advocate the use of pre-packaged foods – as I like the fact that Slimming World promotes the use of fresh food and cooked from scratch meals. But let’s face it, there are always times when we need a quick meal or when we just need a snack to keep us on track…and cupboard staples like this are essential. You can even freeze yogurts if you do stock up, and enjoy a frozen treat to ensure that the use-by date is not compromised! Obviously looking out for the yellow sticky ‘whoops’ labels will also bag you a bargain…cook something with the items that evening and freeze it if you can’t use it immediately.
That slow cooker I mentioned can be used to cook cheaper cuts of meat. The longer cooking times means that tougher cuts of meat will soften up and taste fantastic. Stewing beef, mutton, and even goat, all taste wonderful in stews and curries – add some lentils, mushrooms and frozen veggies, along with some of those herbs and spices, and you’ve got a filling, cheap and tasty meal for you and your family to enjoy.
Shopping at places that you don’t normally shop at is what the budget conscious and savvy shopper does. Venturing outside of Asda, or Tesco, can reap rewards! Poundland for example have Dorset Cereals muesli, Go Ahead bars and Quaker porridge oats in stock this week…and anyone who eats muesli knows that Dorset Cereal is not a cheap brand. Aldi also do something called ‘Super 6′ – six fruits or veg for 59p…this weeks offer includes a whole pineapple, six kiwi fruits, three bulbs of garlic, a cucumber, a mango, and a pack of chestnut mushrooms – fantastic! Their bacon and cooked meats are fantastic too; I’m quite fussy about my meat (oi – less of those rude thoughts!) and won’t eat fatty or tough stuff! They do a range called ‘Specially Selected’ which is their premium brand, yet it still comes in cheaper than most of the own-brand supermarket items and they have some lovely stuff – minty lamb shanks which are syn free on an original day for example. The cheese is great too; a low fat soft cheese (75g as a HEA) is only 49p a tub, and they also do low fat mature cheddar and low fat cheese slices – marvellous stuff!
The following is a list of cheap meal suggestions:
Mushy pea curry – sounds rank, tastes wonderful!
Moroccan chickpea stew.
Jacket potato with various fillings – I like chickpea dhal, cheese and beans, tuna and sweetcorn with mayo etc.
Pasta is so versatile, just add any veg you have along with some passatta, herbs and chilli for a lovely veggie dish, and add some of those chicken pieces I mentioned and turn it into a pasta bake for the following night!
Chilli is another good meal that can be bulked out with veggies, beans and lentils. A large packet of extra lean mince – usually on three for £10 – can make at about six portions if it is bulked out. You can have it with rice, syn free chips, or jacket potatoes!
Omelettes – I’ve already mentioned. but they are a great source of protein, cheap and filling. Have them fried, scrambled, poached or boiled and you can enjoy them at any mealtime.
Casseroles, stews and soups done in the slow cooker – cheap cuts of meat cooked long and slow with mash are warm and filling.
Stuffed butternut squash, stuffed peppers, stuffed marrow – a great way of supplementing your five a day and you can use a packet of savoury rice for a quick and easy meal.
Pasta’n’Sauce with added veggies – bake in the oven with a HEA of cheese on top!
I’d be happy to expand on the above suggestions if you want recipes – but just experiment and enjoy learning to cook with some cheaper items.
I posted a quote on my Facebook page the other day – ‘The key to eating healthily? Avoid any food that has a TV commercial!’, and the same goes for budget food…it won’t often have a TV commercial!
Onto the usuals then…
My other half is off on a jaunt halfway across the country later on today to watch his beloved football lose! They are a 99% sure thing to lose, yet he still follows them – and people think I’m the deluded one?! Anyway, I had a good nights sleep, but woke up still feeling rubbish from the bloody cold and sounding like a forty a day smoker. I managed the BodyPump DVD before the horses, and then we headed off to sort out the electric fencing which they decided yesterday would be fun to destroy! Once we had finished at the stables we then quickly popped to Asda as the other half needed ‘supplies’ for his trip and wanted me to make him a packed lunch…torture in a way, as I love sandwiches, but couldn’t have them today – oh well, if I can’t eat them, I may as well put my energies into making them nice for him! After dropping him off at the football ground to catch the fan coach, I had an evening of the TV remote all to myself to look forward to, and the dog to keep me warm!
Lunch: Chicken, noodle and veggie soup.
Dinner: Chicken, veggie rice and mint salad.
Snacks: Fruit pot, Muller light, four Finn crisp topped with garlic and herb Philli light.
Another lovely food day – it genuinely doesn’t feel like I’m on a ‘diet’ most of the time…apart from when those wedding plonkers on the KFC advert start tucking into their box meal under the table! I wasn’t feeling great this morning, so had a banana just to kick start things and have my tablets. Lunch was lovely – I really do love this soup, I just need to be careful that I don’t have it too often and start hating it! Dinner used a leftover piece of chicken from last night and I rustled up a little salad with a difference…as I’m not a huge lettuce fan I only used a bit of it with cherry tomatoes quartered, cucumber with the soggy seeds taken out and finely chopped, finely chopped onions, finely chopped pepper, celery chunks and then a spoon of mint sauce stirred through it – lovely!
Exercise: BodyPump, Boxercise, Sit-ups, Dancercise – forty minutes.
No, I didn’t get on the treadmill…I’m still not over this cold and woke up with a dodgy tummy too. So I got on with everything else and was planning to do the treadmill when I got home. As I kept feeling like crap though, I made a promise to my other half that on Saturday, Sunday and Monday I would definitely get my bum on the treadmill and would jump from 11 minutes to 15 minutes…what have I done?! I will need an oxygen tank on standby!! Watching Supersize vs Superskinny last night put things into perspective for me, and showed me how much progress I was making. The lady in America which they ‘used’ (yes, I do think they exploit these people!) as a scare tactic actually weighed less that I do now. Our body proportion are different, and we have differing health issues, but the very fact that I am able to get off my arse and do some form of exercise just showed me that I am not letting this weight beat me. And I want to go over to America and show some of these people that they too could do it, little by little! Anyway, enough of that!
Loads of squishy hugs and happiness,
Weight Loss Bitch xxx
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