A recent report from The Consumer Council Northern Ireland reported that low income families spend one third of their income on food. Healthy eating on a low income can be a tricky juggling act, but with a few savvy ideas it is possible to eat well on a tight budget.
With food prices on the increase, saving on our food budget is getting harder, but there are things you can do to save yourself some money at the till. Recently I was interviewed with The Consumer Council’s Philippa McKeown-Brown to discuss the report and share practical ideas to help low income families. You can see the interview in full here.
Eat well on a budget
There are things all of us can to eat well on a budget and the Consumer Council have published a useful resource that you can download here.
Before you shop
- First of all, I would recommend eating before you go shopping, as most of us spend more and buy things we don’t need when we are hungry – led into temptation by quick fillers and empty calories.
- Before you shop, check your store cupboard, fridge and freezer to see what you already have. This will stop you overbuying and can help with meal planning, so if you find half a jar of curry paste lurking at the back of the fridge, discover a can of chickpeas and some tinned tomatoes in your larder, you have the basis of a great curry. All you will need is some fresh or frozen veg and some rice.
- Plan your meals for the week ahead so that you know exactly what you need to buy. This tends to stop us aimlessly wandering around the aisles of the supermarket lost for ideas of what to feed our family, and saves us money too.
- Make a shopping list and stick to it. Use your meal planner to do your list.
- Don’t forget your bags for life as this will save you money at the till too.
In the supermarket
- Lots of my clients prefer to shop online and they find it saves them a lot of money when they are not tempted by special offers and buying stuff they don’t really need.
- Don’t be tempted by BOGOFs and special offers. Buy what you need and no more.
- Buy loose items if you can as they work out better value.
- Compare the price per unit e.g. per 100g or per kg instead of looking at the item price. Often foods packed in different sizes look better value, so be savvy and look at the unit price. A good example of this is porridge. The sachets work out about 20p per sachets, but if you buy a bag of oats its about 4p per portion. Same thing, different packaging, clever marketing.
- Make some food swaps e.g. buy bananas instead of berries, or cabbages instead of purple sprouting broccoli. These are still healthy options but much less expensive.
- Have look in the frozen section too. Expensive fruit like berries work out less than half price if you buy them frozen e.g. £10 per kg for fresh blueberries compared rot £4 per kg for frozen ones.
- Check out supermarket own brands as they are often cheaper and healthier than the big brands.
- Budget supermarkets can save you big and they often carry the same brands as most other supermarkets.
- Meat is the most expensive item in our baskets, so think about having a meat free Monday, buy a whole chicken instead of expensive chicken breasts, look out for cheaper cuts of meats that are great in stews and slow-cooked curry or tagines, or bulk out curries, stews and casseroles with lentils and chickpeas to make your meat go further.
I hope these ideas help with your shopping.