It can be hard to eat well on a budget, and there is always the temptation to buy cheaper less healthy food when trying to make ends meet.
Here are some useful tips to make eating a healthy balanced diet more affordable:
Make a list and stick to it
Plan your meals for the week in advance, and make a list of the food you'll need to make it. Try not to be tempted by the tasty treats that might be on offer, and stick to the list you've written. If you don't need it, don't buy it.
Put healthy foods in your shopping basket first
Whether you buy online or in a shop, collect all of the healthy items first, and make sure you review what's in your basket regularly. This will mean that when you get to the unhealthy foods, your basket will already be full, and you'll be less likely to buy junk food you don't need.
Don't shop on an empty stomach
You're much more likely to buy things you don't need if you feel hungry. Try to plan your shopping trips once you have eaten.
Cook large portions and eat them again another day
Try to make big dishes like curries, casseroles, or soups, and put them in the fridge or freezer to eat again later in the week. If you do this, you save money by buying ingredients in bulk, and you reduce the amount of leftovers. It also saves you from having to prepare another meal.
Look around for special offers in shops or online, but only buy things you need. Don't be tempted to buy things you're not likely to eat, just because it's a good deal. Compare the price per unit of items rather than the total price of the item. For example, when buying packaged vegetables you should compare the cost 'loose' per kg or lb, as opposed to the price per packet. You could also try going to markets to buy foods, which may be cheaper.
Try meat-free proteins
Canned beans and lentils are a good and cheap source of protein. Try going meat-free for one or two days a week, and replace your meat with beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, or eggs.
Try to buy fruits and vegetables which are currently in season. Not only will they taste their best, but they will be cheaper. It's also better for the environment.
Buy in bulk
If there's something you tend to eat a lot of, try buying enough to last you for a long time. Foods that have long shelf-lives are great for buying in bulk. Just make sure you check your cupboards regularly, so things don't get forgotten about or wasted.
Use your leftovers
If you find you're making too much food and have a lot of leftovers, try using them to make a new dish. You can combine different foods into stews, stir-fries and casseroles.
Other information and advice
Essex Libraries have a useful booklist you may be interested in reading called 'Eating Well'. This list contains some titles on affordable eating.