We’ve all heard the cliché right? That to eat healthily you need to spend big. Turns out, it’s not quite a cliché after all. Eating right really does cost you more.
So when the IEA recently realized a document stating that eating healthy is cheaper compared to junk food, I could only shake my head, while devouring my £3 pallet of strawberries we just picked from the local farm. It seems the more I focus on fresh home grown food, the more pounds I seem to spend.
Let’s use the IEA example, shall we?
They say that instead of buying a burger for a £1, you could buy “a kilo of sweet potatoes, two kilos of carrots, two and a half kilos of pasta, ten apples or seven bananas.” And that “the government’s daily recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day can cost as little as 30p.”
I’d love to know where they shop!
For a pound in Aldi, I could get 4 potatoes or a pack of fun-sized apples I suppose, but that’s not really a meal, you couldn’t eat all them alone, and say you’d be full up.
My main issue is that laziness is mentioned.
Now, I’m a self-employed mum of two with a husband that works long shifts five days a week.
I shop at Aldi, where I can get a 1.5kg bag of frozen chips for 85p, and that could make at least four or five meals.
Basic fact. You could eat chips by themselves but can’t eat vegetables on their own.
You might be shaking your head right now, but I suppose this all depends on how poor you’ve actually been or are.
Some weeks, we’ve had a budget of £18 to feed the four of us, and I can tell you that is hard work to try and fit healthy meals into that.
Yes, we buy as much as we can frozen, from our strawberries and mixed peppers, even our onions, but the basic truth is, if you want to sprinkle blueberries over your Weetabix or give the kids a banana for school, you have to buy fresh, and that means eating it before it goes off.
My time, like all mums is precious. I try my best to cook healthy food for the family, even batch cook at times. But even I, who has a job working from home, runs out of time regularly or has two children clinging to my legs, means that making food from scratch is almost impossible, and calling me lazy makes it sound like I sit on my arse all day.
I can tell you, that some nights I’ve stayed up till midnight batch cooking and freezing just for the kids to not eat it or say it’s gross. Then I have to make two meals, and the list goes on.
Now, I’m not talking about takeaways, we all know they are expensive and that making your own fake away recipe is cheaper, but even that isn’t healthy. It still contains fats, oils and chances are only one of your five a day.
Here’s what gets me though: I spend a lot more on codpieces than I would on frozen fish fingers or on chicken breasts to make nuggets. Factor in my time spend making them from scratch, and they work out A LOT more expensive.
Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong, and healthy food isn’t expensive but that sugary and hyper-processed foods are just so much cheaper. Health be damned!
In the meantime, though, I have to stay focused on what’s in our pocket.
Feeding the kids a variety of food is important to me, but so is actually being able to afford to eat.
If you’re in the same boat, here’s some tips I use to try my best to keep the bill down but still eat health-ish.
What are yours? Is it just sitting down as a family to eat all the same meal? Is it weight loss? Is it quickness? Decide and plan from there.
Mine is moderation. I want the kids to try new foods (as I’m a fussy eater myself) but also to eat, so they aren’t clearing out the cupboards all day. These means simple meals. Think sausages, mash, and tinned vegetables or cheesy cauliflower pasta.
I would say only 10% of what we eat would be classed as healthy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t eat fruit and vegetables, we might just eat more one day than the next.
This is by far the biggest way I stay on budget. I make list as I go, and as I use something, then meal plan on shopping day for the week, My fundamental rule: No repeat trips back to the shops. (I can’t be the only one that runs in for four pints of milk and comes out with 50 quid’s worth of food.
Freezer & cupboard space
If it doesn’t have to be fresh, then don’t but it like that. Bananas, plums, pears and apples, things that the kids snack on, you have no choice over.
Vegetables for your stir fry or fruit for the morning smoothie you do. As long as it’s packed in its own juices, then it’s just as healthy as its fresh companion.
Check what’s on special offer and amend your healthy eating recipes to that. If mushrooms and baby corn are on Aldi’s Super Six one week, then we’d be having loads of curries and mixed stir-frys. If it’s mangoes and oranges, then I’d swap them in for the plums and pears.
The Sad Truth
Recently, a YouGov survey was published saying that nearly 70 percent, or two-thirds of British households, found that healthy food and drink were far more expensive compared to unhealthy products.
That same survey found that an astonishing 40 per cent of 18 to 34 years olds said they couldn’t afford to buy healthy products because of their price.
If that doesn’t say it all, then I’m not sure what does?