Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people across the UK have been subject to greater financial struggles. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, the UK claimant count has soared from around 1.2 million to 2.7 million since the lockdown began (Office for National Statistics, 2020) Generally, the living expense that people spend the most money on is on food, whether that’s your grocery shopping bill or eating out.

Although it can be challenging to eat a healthy, balanced diet when on a tight budget, there are several ways to decrease your weekly grocery bill and save money on food.

1.Focus on whole foods

It is much more expensive to buy foods such as pre-chopped vegetables and grated cheese instead of the whole vegetable and a block of cheese. It only takes a couple minutes to prepare and can save you lots of money in the long term! Whole grains such as oats are also much cheaper than buying processed cereals.

2. Home cooking

Ready-made processed and packaged foods are more expensive than buying the ingredients to make the dish, and they usually contain many additives such as preservatives and sweeteners. This massively decreases the nutritional value of the food and can increase the amount of sugar and saturated fat that it contains. Cooking from scratch means you know exactly what goes into the food. Additionally, cook more than you want to eat and save the rest for another meal; maybe lunch the next day or for an evening when you don’t have much time. This will ensure you always have a healthy, home-cooked meal ready, to avoid buying convenience foods or takeaways.

3.Fruit and vegetables

Frozen fruit and vegetables can be much cheaper than fresh. Having some stores of frozen fruit/vegetables will also mean you don’t have to worry about them perishing and adding to food waste. They are also still packed with vitamins and minerals! With frozen fruit you can whip up  smoothies or “nice cream (ice cream made from frozen bananas and milk) and you can simply cook the vegetables from frozen.

4.Buy the store’s own brand product.

Supermarkets tend to do their own brand for pretty much all products as well as the branded versions. Think of foods such as milk, yoghurt, oats, cereals, cheese, meat, tinned beans. Supermarket brands are usually cheaper, taste just the same, and have the same nutritional values, so save money by opting for them instead.

5.Eat protein sources other than meat.

Good quality cuts of meat can be very expensive. Cheaper meats are often poor quality and/or processed, and therefore, can contain lots of saturated fat. Purchase foods such as eggs, beans, legumes, pulses and tinned fish as alternatives. These are all cheaper to buy and are much lower in saturated fats, and high in protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre.

6.Be organised and batch cook

If you know you have a busy day and won’t be able to cook lunch or dinner, prepare food the night before. Eating out is always more expensive than cooking, so taking lunch with you instead of buying it out can save lots of money over time.

7.Limit alcohol consumption.

We all love to go for a drink with friends but try to limit the consumption of alcohol on a regular basis. Not only is it generally very expensive, but alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it has a dehydrating effect on your body. If you don’t drink plenty of water with alcohol, it can quickly make you dehydrated.

8.Freeze food.

Fresh foods such as bread and meat (check the packaging) can be frozen to avoid them spoiling and being thrown out. This not only means you will save money by always eating the food you buy, but it limits the amount of food that goes to waste, helping you to contribute towards the fight against climate change!

9.Avoid food waste

If you are interested in finding some recipes you can do with leftover foods then I would highly recommend the following website Love food, hate waste https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/recipes

10.Share recipes with friends & family

If you find some easy low cost recipes then it is a great idea to share these with friends and family so they can also learn more about cooking healthy meals from scratch.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful for you, and you can incorporate some into your routine, leading to a healthier and cheaper lifestyle!

Written by Emily
Gardiner (Student in Natural Sciences) and edited by Debra Williams (Registered Dietitian)