Shopping on a Budget

With lots of talk about doom and gloom and recession I thought a few healthy diet tips on a budget maybe useful…read on to see how you can maintain a healthy diet without stretching the purse strings.

The shopping basket during the height of the Irish economy saw some new sophisticated additions; fresh coffee beans, expensive wines, pre-prepared gourmet meals and much more. But with all this talk of budgeting and taming down our spending what new additions from our shopping basket should be tailored down and which should we keep? We shouldn’t lose focus of the ultimate issue…our health. The old cliché ‘we are what we eat’ is very true so the challenge is to ensure that any cost saving measures made to our shopping trolleys now do not ultimately result in higher health costs in the future…

So let’s look at some cost saving activities firstly…Be prepared, before you enter the supermarket sit down and write a list. Making a list will help you plan what you are going to cook, eat healthier and importantly save money by not grabbing foods that aren’t on the list. Secondly, never shop when you are hungry…you are much more likely to buy more food than you need. Be wary of special offers like ‘Buy One Get One Free’. They can be good value but often they can tempt you to buy more than you need or can actually use. Also, avoid convenience foods like frozen dinners or precooked deli foods, as they tend to be more expensive.

The next step is to ensure nutritional balance and choosing economical foods that will benefit not only your wallets but your health too. Your shopping basket should contain something from each of the food groups.
Carbohydrate rich foods are the stable of a healthy diet. This is one area where we can really help ensure a good daily intake of fibre by choosing whole grains, high fibre no added sugar low salt cereals like unsweetened muesli, shredded wheat or porridge. The unsweetened cereals can sometimes cost more but the extra fibre and lower sugar content means you get a slow release of energy throughout the morning and it will help you resist snaking and spending money on snack foods mid morning! Likewise choosing high fibre wholegrain breads at lunchtime instead of white bread will help provide you with a slow steady release of energy and minimise the risk of having a three pm slump and more nibbles.

Fruits and vegetables are often the first thing to go from a person’s diet when on a budget. This is an area where we need to ensure an adequate intake and reach the recommended intake of 5 or more portions per day. Some cost saving methods include buying lose fruits and vegetables which will save a few cents and buying fruit and vegetables in season.

With osteoporosis a very real issue in Ireland we need to ensure that we include calcium rich foods in our diet on a daily basis. Choosing yogurts with added probiotics can really help maintain a healthy bowel too. Look out for low fat yogurts with an added probiotic but not one that is filled with sugar. When it comes to cheese we should reduce our intake to about two times a week as it is considered a high fat food. Avoid the more expensive pre-sliced and pre-portioned cheeses which add extra cost.

Protein rich foods should be included at two meals or more per day to ensure an adequate intake. The source of protein you choose can really impact on the cost of your shopping basket. Meat, fish and poultry are all great protein staples but we should take guidance from the World Cancer Research Fund who recommend that we eat plant sources of protein at least three times per week in our diet. Pulses like chickpeas and kidney beans are low fat sources of protein that are high in fibre and importantly are reasonably priced. Try opting for a vegetarian night a couple of times per week and use a low cost but super healthy plant based protein.

Oily fish like salmon, trout, sardines and fresh tuna are great dietary sources of omega-3 and we should try to include them in our diets twice a week. Fresh versions of these fish can be a little expensive but you can opt for tinned options…tinned sardines, mackerel or salmon offer you the benefits of an oily fish without an expensive price tag.

We need to take care when choosing oil and pick an unsaturated fat. A great way of controlling your oil intake is to use a spray oil or buy a spray container yourself and then distill your chosen oil into the spray container. By using your oil like this your will not only reduce your overall oil intake and therefore expense on oil but also reduce your overall fat in take offering many dietary benefits. Go for rapeseed oil, olive oil or sunflower oil.

When it comes to treats this is where we can make real savings. If buying treats for the family the most cost efficient thing to do is buy the ingredients and do some home baking. Baking can be a fun thing to do at home with the kids and you can ensure that you are using healthy ingredients.

So eating healthier on a tighter budget can be easy, meals will still be tasty
and you will probably end up eating healthier food too!

So when it comes to going to the supermarket there are 10 top cost saving tips that will keep your diet balanced and healthy;

1. Choose whole grain products for the increased fibre and mineral content.
2. Avoid rice and pasta dishes that come with their own sauce.
3. Buy lose vegetables and fruits as opposed to pre-packed ones
4. Buy seasonally. E.g. try buying fresh berries in season and freeze them for later.
5. Buy tinned fruit in its own juice for a nutritious dessert options
6. Buy a variety of fresh and frozen vegetables
7. Tinned tomatoes are inexpensive and are great for pasta sauces
8. Meats are usually the most expensive food item. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and then marinate
them or cook them at a lower temperature for longer. But remember less expensive forms of
protein can be equally nutritious
9. Tinned fish provides essential omega-3 for cognitive function and healthy hearts. Plain frozen fish
is often less expensive than fresh fish.
10. Use dried or tinned beans, peas and lentils as often as possible. These are excellent sources of
protein and can be added to soup, casseroles and stews.