One of the most common barriers to healthy eating is cost. In the UK there is a common conception that healthy food is expensive compared to less healthy items. Supermarkets have a range of techniques to encourage the customer to spend more, putting expensive food items at eye level is just one. Despite this there are plenty of ways to achieve a balanced, varied diet while making your money go further.
In April 2023, 7.3 million adults live in households that said they had gone without food or could not physically get it in the past month, which include 2.6 million children. This is compared with 4.7 million adults in January 2023.
This level of food insecurity has a huge impact on the quality and amount of healthy food both adults and children are consuming across the UK.
A study carried out by the BBC Good Food Nation revealed that:
- More than two-thirds of people (69%) said they considered themselves to be healthy eaters but 28% said they were eating less nutritious food because it is too expensive.
- 3/5 people (60%) have changed what they eat due to the rising cost of ingredients. This includes 16% who said they have cut back on organic ingredients and 12% who said they were consuming less protein.
- 61% admitted that the cost of living had affected their healthy eating habits and diet patterns.
BBC Good Food Nation survey 2023: how we eat now. (n.d.). BBC Good Food. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/article/bbc-good-food-nation-survey-2023-how-we-eat-now
All things considered, with the use of simple steps and savvy shopping it is possible to eat healthily on a tight budget. Our top tips are:
- Plan Effectively - Before doing your shopping take half an hour to plan your meals for the week, including healthy snacks.
- Write a Shopping List - This helps you stick to planned foods and stops you getting drawn into unnecessary multi-buy deals which may end up wasted.
- Don’t Shop Hungry - We are much more likely to reach for indulgent impulse buys if we shop on an empty stomach.
- Supermarket Offers - Those 2-4-1 crisp deals may seem like a good idea but most often you'll just end up eating more due to the large volume of food you end up in your cupboards. Look out for fruit and veg deals instead!
- Use Your Freezer and Cupboard - Frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables are often cheaper and nutritionally superior, have a long shelf-life. Be aware of those with added sugar like fruit in syrup. Freeze left over portions of meals, such as Bolognese. Then you have a meal in the freezer for those times when you're busy. It's saves you buying a ready meal which could be expensive and not as healthy.
- Go Meat Free - Other protein sources like beans and pulses are generally cheaper than meat and lower in saturated fat. Or if you're not keen to go completely meat free uses pulses and beans to bulk up your meal and make it go further.
- Seasonal Shopping - Seasonal fruit and vegetables are often cheaper and are more flavourful.
- Use Up Ingredients - Meals like omelettes, stews and soups are a healthy and filling way to use up left over items that may go to waste.