Healthy Eating on a Budget

By Clare Nulty Nutrition News   |   24th Feb 2022

Student nutritionist Clare Nulty suggests ways to shop for heart-healthy meals on a budget

Without a doubt, the cost of living in Ireland is steadily increasing and the soaring cost of food has made making ends meet incredibly difficult. Are you feeling that extra strain on your wallet every time you do the weekly shop? Here are some suggestions to help you shop smart for healthy meals and get more for your money.

Be organised and plan ahead

Start by planning your meals for the week ahead. Consider what ingredients you need and those you already have. This avoids overlapping on ingredients, saves money, and reduces food waste. Make a shopping list of what you need, this will help you minimise impulse buying. Organise one day a week to do the grocery shop as shopping more than once a week means you are more inclined to pick up additional items you may not necessarily need. If convenient, shop in your local supermarket as corner shops can be more expensive. Online shopping is a great way to prevent overspending as you can clearly see the price of items in your basket (cart).

Top tip: Plan your meals for the week ahead – make meals with foods that are more likely to go off quickly, first.

Start by planning your meals for the week ahead

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Shop seasonal and buy local

Seasonal produce can be cheaper and usually taste better. This also helps the environment as more energy is needed to grow unseasonal produce. Shopping local also means more nutrients are retained as local produce can ripen naturally on the farm and does not need to travel too far.

Choose frozen and tinned foods

Frozen fruit and vegetables are often just as nutritious as fresh fruit and vegetables, but they have a much longer shelf life. This means less food waste. Most tinned fish excluding tinned tuna is packed with omega-3 fish oils that contribute to a healthy heart.

Top Tip: Always read the food label and chose options low in sugar, fat, and salt. For example, pick fruit tinned in water or juice rather than syrup, and fish tinned in spring water or tomato sauce rather than brine or oil.

Frozen fruit and vegetables are often just as nutritious as fresh fruit and vegetables

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Batch cook

Ready-made meals may seem convenient, but they are costly and often contain high amounts of salt and saturated fats. Batch cooking involves cooking many portions of a meal at once which can then be stored and frozen in portions for later use. This can save you time on busy days, helps control portion sizes, is usually healthier, and causes less food waste.

Back to basics

Meat and fish can often be the biggest expense in your food bill.  Swapping for plant-based foods such as beans, lentils and peas is not only a good way to save money but these foods are also a great source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Root vegetables such as parsnips, turnips, onions and carrots can be used in a range of meals such as soups, casseroles and curries. They are low in price and considered a low-waste option.

When choosing fruit often we think of fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Sometimes these fruits can be more expensive especially when not in season. Choose fruit such as apples, bananas, oranges, and peppers for reduced cost while still contributing to your 5-a-day.

Porridge is another great option, not only does it provide you with lots of fibre, vitamins and minerals it also helps you feel fuller for longer.

Top tip: Loose fruit and vegetables are much cheaper than prepacked, produce less food waste and are more environmentally friendly.

Download supermarket apps to keep an eye out for weekly specials and join rewards programmes.

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Shop smart

Don’t be fooled by ‘buy one get one free’ offers these tend to be for unhealthy foods only, and usually result in more food waste.

Minimise temptation by avoiding the junk food aisles in supermarkets

Choose the less expensive generic brands on the bottom shelf, instead of the luxury and branded products on shelves at eye level.

If you need just one or two items, carry them instead of picking up a basket. If you need three or four items choose a basket over a trolley. This limits the number of unnecessary items you might add to try to fill a trolley.

Download supermarket apps to keep an eye out for weekly specials and join rewards programmes. Some supermarkets offer ‘money-off vouchers’ for your next shop.

Last but not least, always do your grocery shop on a full stomach, this means you’ll buy what you need and nothing more.

By planning ahead and being organised, you can shop smart by eating well and saving more.

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