Contributed by Tim Wheatcroft
Eating can be expensive. Every time we go to the supermarket it can seem like we’re getting less for our money. Supermarkets don’t want you to eat healthily. They don’t care how you eat. They don’t care about obesity and they certainly don’t care if your food bill is draining you each month.
Most people are looking for the magic answer: what is going to halve my food bill? We can’t give you one answer, but we can give you some pointers…
Take me, for example. It may appear that I eat pretty healthily ALL the time and that I spare no expense for super healthy foods. That’s completely untrue. I am a university graduate with debt, a car, rent, bills and trying to build up a business. So I too shop on a budget. I now compete in powerlifting which is an expensive hobby, without financial return, and means I have to make weight and control what goes in my basket and in my mouth. Personal trainers and fitness professionals are not super human robots that never have a cake or biscuit!
I think before anyone reads on, I need to be as honest as possible (as I am with everyone). If you were really honest and listed all of your expenses for the month, how much more money could you make available for your shopping?
For those who read through these and they don’t apply, just skip past and read the advice
Smoking – If you smoke, how much do you spend a week on cigarettes?
Takeaways – if you have one or two a week, how much is that costing you per week and per month? £50-100? Not farfetched when you add it up.
Alcohol – whether it is 1 bottle a week, one binge drinking session per week or a whole lot more, again, add it up and see how much it is costing you per month
Sweets, biscuits, treats, fizzy drinks, frozen pizzas, ready meals, cereals, cakes, pies, chocolates. How much of your food bill is this taking up?
If all of these apply to you, then to be frank: I don’t really think you can claim to not have enough money to eat healthily.
If even just two of them apply I still don’t think you can claim to not have enough money to eat healthily.
If only one of these things apply, I’d suggest reducing the amount of it and sparing up some free cash to spend on products that are going to make you healthier, make you feel better about yourself and help towards your goals -whether that is weight loss, muscle gain or performance-related.
So what are the common nutritional red flags? How can they be solved cheaply?
Here are the most common deficiencies we see with new clients:
We’re hugely fortunate that we are born where it just comes out of our taps, nice and cold, and is cheap. There are hundreds of benefits of keeping well hydrated. ALL help with weight loss and performance.
If you’re feeling drained and depleted, get a pick-me-up with water. Dehydration makes you feel fatigued. Water helps the blood transport oxygen and other essential nutrients to your cells. If you’re getting enough water, your heart also doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body.
Water helps improve the digestive process and is imperative in maintaining a healthy urinary tract and digestive system. Lack of hydration is also a big cause of headaches and hunger. If you feel really hungry, try downing a 500ml of water before you reach for food.
If you’re thirsty, you’re probably already slightly dehydrated. Stay on top of your water intake. Simple steps to start with: if you can only manage a half pint at a time, have that after each tea or coffee. Then build more into your day from there.
Vitamin and minerals
For your diet to be considered healthy I want what you eat to be as nutrient dense as possible. Common sense needs to apply to what you’re putting into your trolley. I can’t change the price of food or tell you where is cheapest but I can advise on what should making up the majority of your trolley.
Fresh vegetables are must for any shopping trolley. Take this for example:
1) Butternut squash £1
2) Courgettes 50p
3) Peppers £1
4) Onion 25p
5) Garlic 25p
Roast together, put in a box in the fridge, and you’ve got a enough veg cooked for 4-5 separate meals. £3 is pretty decent value for money. Add a sweet potato and a chicken breast (another £1-£1.50) and overall you’ve got a far cheaper meal compared to a pizza.
Let’s take that frozen pizza. Not completely devoid of nutrition density, but in comparison to a plate of roasted fresh vegetables and some spiced fish, I think we all know which is better for us. Realistically how many of the family will that pizza serve? I’ll answer that one first: if I were to eat that there would not be any leftovers!
Supermarkets want you to buy doughnuts, crisps, cakes, chocolate bars because it’s really cheap for them to make, and REALLY easy to sell. Don’t be fooled into buying the stuff that they put at the front of the store. It has the highest mark-up, and that’s usually because the ingredients are cheap and nutritionally poor.
Lacking in protein
High protein meats and fish are always going to appear pricey compared to other items. There’s little we can do about that. Using the local butcher is often pricey, but it comes down to quality of food.
Protein is so important for weight management, and it comes down to how badly you really want to achieve your goals. Do you want it enough that you will replace fish fingers with a smoked haddock? Or replacing frozen breaded chicken for fresh chicken?
If you’re willing sacrifice £1 biscuits, £1 boxes of brownies and £1 fizzy drinks then £3 extra on chicken, beef, and fish is no longer ‘expensive’.
My biggest tip when it comes to protein is using online butchers, unless you have a local butcher that’s reasonably priced – often many will do you a deal for buying in bulk.
Have a look at the bundle offers that online sellers, and local butchers, offer. If you budget for a bulk buy then you will save yourself a LOT of money compared to small, frequent purchases.
A big tip when it comes to protein would be to go for the cheapest cuts of meat. Ask your butcher what are the bits of meat that don’t sell as well, and if he’s willing to do a discount on them.
For beef, try:
- Top rump
For lamb, try:
- Middle neck
For pork, try:
- Frozen tilapia, river cobbler or pangasius
All of these will be cheaper and do what we want to do for you = up the protein in your diet!
Morrisons, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and loads of other supermarkets are available. Subscribe to their newsletters and find out their best offers each month – buy one get one free’s, 3 for 2’s, half price items, and all the other deals they do. Check out the growing appeal of Aldi and Lidl – the quality on offer there now is vastly superior to the offerings in the past.
It may mean an extra trip to a second supermarket, but if it saves you £10 a week? £520 saved over the year doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Find out when everything gets discounted and put onto the discounted shelf! This will literally save you a load of money if you’re lucky and time it right when you go. I can guarantee 85% of stuff that goes out of date in supermarkets will be fine for more than a week. Chicken, fresh veg, yoghurts, fruit and loads more all goes for next to nothing most nights in supermarkets.
To sum up, I don’t have the answer for eating on a budget, but prioritising what is important to you, and making healthier lifestyle choices overall will results in better adherence to a ‘healthy eating’ regime. Hopefully those tips can implemented into your regime and make a nice difference to your shopping bill overall!