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How to cook healthy meals on a budget

If you have resolved to get healthier in 2020 by changing your eating habits, congratulations are in order. It’s never too late to start cooking and eating more healthily. One barrier that often prevents us from eating more healthily is the perception that healthy food is expensive and time consuming to prepare. But is this true?

Yes, cooking healthy meals on a budget can be tricky, but guess what? You do not have to spend a fortune every week on expensive produce to prepare delicious, healthy meals.

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Here are a few tips to help you prepare healthy meals at home while ensuring your wallet stays healthy too. Some are tried-and-tested favourites, but others might surprise you.

Plan ahead before shopping

Planning your meals for the whole week and shopping with a list can help focus your visit to the supermarket. Wherever possible, it’s a good idea to plan your meals around the fresh produce you buy (such as lean meat, low fat or fat-free dairy items, and fresh or fruits and vegetables). This way you’ll only buy what you need and avoid any waste. After all, fresh produce spoils faster than processed or frozen products. 

Some supermarkets have apps and websites that can help you find and but more healthy options, so it might be a good idea to spend some time exploring options for the supermarkets you use most often. Here are a few more money-saving grocery shopping tips worth checking out.

Buy from farmers’ markets

Local farmers’ markets are perfect for buying flavourful homegrown produce at the peak of its freshness and at a lower price than you might find at the supermarket. If you choose fruits and vegetables that are in season, you can save even more. Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, for example, tend to be cheaper in winter; while lettuce, tomatoes, and strawberries are cheaper during the summer months.

You can find information about nearby farmers’ markets by searching online or looking in your local newspapers.

Shop from the frozen and canned sections

Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are just as good for you as fresh ones. They are usually frozen or canned as soon as they are picked or prepared, meaning they maintain their freshness. And they cost far less! Another benfit here is that you always have healthy back up meal ingredients should your plans need to change during the week.

Have at least one meat-free day a week

Vegetarian meals can actually be as delicious, interesting, and healthy as meat-based meals, but at a fraction of the cost. Beans, peas, lentils, brown rice and oatmeal are good alternatives to meat. They are delicious, easy and quick to cook, and are packed with essential nutrients such as protein and fibre. Using them as a substitute for meat at least once a week can help stretch your budget further.

Use leftovers to make a second meal or a side dish

With a bit of imagination, you could use leftovers from previous meals to make tasty second meals or side dishes, stretching your budget further. For example, you can add leftover cooked or raw vegetables to omelettes, salads and casseroles or add them to wholewheat pasta to create tasty, healthy, and low-cost meals.

Leftover canned fruit can be thrown onto oatmeal to create a perfectly healthy and nutritious breakfast. For leftover baked chicken, you can cut it into strips and add it to a salad. Or maybe combine it with chopped onions, garlic, spices, tomatoes, and beans to make a low-cost, healthy meal in minutes.

It is possible to transform even the most humble leftovers into a delicious second meal that is entirely different. All it takes is a little creativity on your part.

Start batch cooking

Batch cooking is a great way to save money and keep control of your healthy food budget. Smaller packs of healthy ingredients are more expensive per gram, but if you intend to cook in larger batches, you can get around this by buying larger, better value packs at the supermarket.

Beyond the price advantage, preparing meals in batches means that you do not have to cook from scratch every night. It also means less dashing to the supermarket for last-minute ingredients, avoiding unhealthy and expensive impulse buys.

Find recipe ideas online

The internet is full of great recipe ideas that are both easy on your pocket and healthy for your body. Created by food lovers and experts from all over the world, these recipes can inspire your next healthy menu.

Final word

By making a few smart choices, cooking and eating healthily need not be expensive. In the long run, it can help you live a longer, healthier and more active life. 

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