Healthy eating has the reputation of being expensive and some of the latest superfoods and trendy ingredients can be pricey. However, healthy eating can actually save you money and even benefit the environment as well as your health. Read on for our top tips…
The average Irish household bins between €400 and €1000 worth of food annually, or up to 1/3 of the food we buy in some cases. Most common foods wasted include milk, bread, lettuce (c.40% of lettuce gets thrown away), yoghurt and other fruit and veg.
If you want to know how much you are wasting, a good tip is to put all your food waste for one week in a container. That way you can also see which foods you are wasting and buy less or store differently in the future.
4 food habits to save you money
- Get into the kitchen
Cooking at home from scratch is always going to be cheaper and usually saves 20 – 40% of calories too. You don’t need to be an expert cook and many people struggle with ideas rather than the cooking itself. Make a list of 10 or 15 simple meals that you can make and use free online recipes for ideas.
Where you can, cook in bulk so that you are making enough for 2 or 3 meals and get leftovers into the freezer. A slow cooker can be a great help, where you can simply add your ingredients, switch it on and leave it for 6 – 8 hours. These are available in most electric shops and cost around €30 in the sales.
Preparing lunch at home and bringing it with you can be a huge saving, as much as €25 per week or over €1000 per year. This also helps to reduce food waste. One of the best things to make for lunch is soup, which is always cheaper to make and a great way to use up tired looking veg and left-over meat like chicken. It’s ideal to bring to work or to school in a flask and can include as many as three portions of veg. Or make an extra portion of dinner and put it straight into a container in the evening, ready to take to work the next day.
Cook tired looking fruit – apples, pears, plums…. – to make fruit compote. Serve with yoghurt or on top of porridge
- Get organised. Plan like a pro and cook in bulk
Getting organised helps you to spend less, waste less and save time. Spend a few minutes at the weekend planning your meals for the forthcoming week, even for 3 or 4 days
Use your plan to put your shopping list together and stick to it. Check what you have ‘in stock’ first and what needs to be used up. We spend an average of 20% more without a list.
When you can, spend a couple of hours cooking at the weekend so that you have at least 2 or 3 meals ready for during the week.
Be careful with special offers. These are good for perishables or for things you can freeze but can encourage you to stock up on foods you don’t need or that you will end up throwing away.
Use perishables first. A tip is to highlight perishables like berries and meat on your receipt and to stick that on the fridge so that you remember to use those first.
- Use your freezer
Frozen fruit and veg are often just as nutritious as those that have been sitting in the supermarket for weeks and much cheaper. For example, frozen spinach is usually less than ¼ of the price of fresh and is perfect for adding to pasta sauces, smoothies and stews. Fresh berries are another example of a much cheaper alternative and great to use in smoothies. Or cook them briefly and have with porridge. Other great frozen veg options include sweetcorn, peas, peppers and stirfry mix
Batch cook and store additional meals in the freezer for busy days. Just remember to remove the night before and defrost in the fridge
Use your freezer for left overs that you would otherwise end up throwing out. Freeze left over herbs in ice cube trays in a little wine or olive oil. Freeze overripe bananas and add to smoothies or blend to make instant banana ‘icecream’. Freeze sliced bread and just take out a slice as you need it. Freeze yoghurt and use within a month. The texture will change but it’s perfect for smoothies. Freeze cooked meat and use in stir fries and other dishes
Get into the habit of ‘eating down’ your freezer once or twice every year, so that you use up everything within the recommended time frames and save yourself more money. The value of the average freezer contents is €300
- Make some simple swaps
For many of us, meat is the most expensive item on our food bill and reducing the amount we eat can benefit our health and wallet. Swap expensive cuts for cheaper e.g. stewing beef and whole chicken instead of breasts. Have at least a couple of meat free days per week and replace meat with vegetable-based protein like pulses. Get some meat free meal ideas from Jamie Oliver
Buy seasonal veg and add variety with frozen veg.
Don’t worry about exactly following recipes, especially with exotic ingredients that you will only use once. You can often substitute with something else, especially if you have a small stock of dried herbs and spices. See some easy substitutes here.
Some of our favourite recipe sources
BBC Good Food – thousands of recipes with clear instructions
Little Green Spoon – fabulous healthy recipes from the wonderful Indy Power
The Healthy Chef – great recipes and ideas with an Ozzie twist
Naturally Ella – lots of tasty recipes, although you may need some specialist ingredients