[Guest blog] Eating healthy on a budget

Campaign Manager at Meat Free Monday
27 November 2017

When you’re trying to eat greener and more healthily, the last thing you want when you arrive at the checkout is to be greeted by an expensive bill. But filling up your trolley with nutritious, planet-friendly food doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Next time you’re ready to stock up your kitchen cupboards, try these top tips to help you watch the pennies.

Image of fruit and vegetable market.

Think about where you shop

Some supermarket chains and health food shops can be more expensive than others. So it's worth spending a bit of time comparing prices at different ones to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Keep an eye out for small family-run grocery stores and take a trip to your local farmers market to bag yourself some bargains. Shopping at nearby food markets should not only help your bank balance, but you’ll also be supporting local businesses, reducing food miles and investing in fresh seasonal produce.

Be smart at the supermarket

When you’re navigating your way around the supermarket aisles, take your time before deciding what to buy. Try these tips to help you cut down on costs.

  • Buy tinned pulses. Pulses such as chickpeas, butterbeans, split peas and lentils are packed full of nutrients and a great source of protein. Look out for tinned varieties, which are often much cheaper than pre-cooked pouches.
  • Buy in bulk. Ready to use packets, snack boxes and sachets might be convenient, but individually portioned and on-the-go foods are often expensive. So when it come to things like nuts, oats, fruit pots, and packets of rice, couscous and quinoa – buy a big pack and divide it up into smaller portions yourself at home.
  • Buy in the bargain aisle. Head on over to the ‘reduced to clear’ section of the supermarket for shelves stocked with bargain buys. You might find some heavily discounted but delicious fruit and veg which is nearing its ‘Best before’ date. ‘Best before’ means the producer thinks the food is at its best quality before that date, but it’s usually still safe to eat. Bear in mind though that ‘Use by’ labels mean that a food is not safe to eat after the date displayed as it may pose a health risk.

Do it yourself

Spending a bit of extra time in your kitchen preparing your favourite healthy foods and snacks could help to keep your budget in check. Try:

  • Making homemade sauces. Use tins of tomatoes or coconut milk to create your own pasta and curry sauces. These are perfect for popping in the freezer ready to heat up on a day when you don’t have time to cook.
  • Experimenting with your own trail mix. Play with your favourite combinations of nuts, seeds and dried fruits to make your very own personalised trail mix to take with you on-the-go.
  • Creating your own dipping sauces. Dust off your food processor and make your own hummus, baba ganoush or pesto. Chop up a variety of vegetable sticks and get dipping.
  • Soaking pulses overnight. While tinned varieties of beans and pulses are cheaper than pre-cooked pouches – why not go one step further and soak bags of dried pulses overnight for an even cheaper alternative?
  • Growing herbs and spices. To add the freshest flavours to your cooking, try growing your own herbs and spices at home.

Get your 5-a-day the cheaper way

Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables is an important part of a healthy diet. So to help you reach your 5-a-day without reaching your credit limit, try:

  • Buying frozen. Not only are frozen fruit and vegetables often cheaper than fresh, but freezing them helps to preserve their nutrients. You can defrost them as and when you need and add them to your cooking, smoothies and juices.
  • Finding out what’s in season. By buying fresh seasonal produce, you can keep an eye on how much you’re spending, get a variety of nutrients in your diet and help reduce food miles. So think fresh salads in summer and comforting soups and stews during the cold winter months.
  • Looking for loose. By choosing to buy loose fruit and vegetables rather than pre-packaged, you’ll not only be helping your bank balance, but the environment too.
  • Picking your own. For a fun, nutritious and cheap day out – why not head to a nearby farm and pick your own seasonal fruit and vegetables? Fill up while you’re there and freeze anything you take home to use later in the year.

Make a meat free meal

Not only is skipping meat at least one day a week good for the environment – it can benefit your health and help you save money too. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the flavours you love. Try some of these hearty alternatives, and swap:

And for more inspiration, try our Thai Vegetable Curry recipe below to help get you started:

Thai Vegetable Curry

A bowl of Thai vegetable curry 

Serves 4

In just a few decades, Thai food has grown from relative obscurity into one of the most popular cuisines on Earth. This vegetable curry has many of its classic tastes and textures.

For the curry paste:

2 shallots, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 stick lemongrass, finely chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
zest of 1 lime
small bunch fresh coriander
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 small aubergine, cut into chunks
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into dice
8 chestnut mushrooms, halved (or quartered if large)
400ml can coconut milk
6 okra, cut on the diagonal into 3 pieces
8 baby corn, cut on the diagonal into 3 pieces
150g canned bamboo shoots, drained
handful of sugar snaps, cut in half on the diagonal
2 handfuls of beansprouts
soy sauce
palm or soft light brown sugar to taste

To serve:

fresh coriander leaves
jasmine rice
lime wedges

Prepare the curry paste first. Place the shallots, garlic and ginger in a food-processor. Add the lemongrass, chillies, lime zest and coriander stalks (reserving the leaves) and whizz the mixture until finely chopped. You can also make this paste using a pestle and mortar if you prefer.

Heat the sunflower oil in a large sauté pan. Add the curry paste and cook over a medium heat for 1 minute until the mixture smells fragrant. Add the aubergine, red pepper and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute stirring frequently until starting to become tender. Add the coconut milk to the pan with 150ml of water and bring to the boil. Add the okra, baby corn and bamboo shoots and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes or so until the veggies are tender. Finally add the sugar snaps and beansprouts to the pan and cook for another 30 seconds.

Taste and add a dash of soy sauce or teaspoon of sugar if needed. Serve the curry in bowls, garnished with coriander leaves and with jasmine rice and lime wedges to squeeze over.

Recipes taken from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook. Foreword by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney. Published by Kyle Books. Photography by Tara Fisher.

For more recipes and inspiration, check out the Meat Free Monday website.

Launched by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney in 2009, Meat Free Monday is a not-for-profit campaign which aims to raise awareness of the damaging environmental impact of eating meat, and to encourage people to help slow climate change, conserve precious natural resources and improve their health by having at least one meat free day each week.

Suzanne Barnard
Campaign Manager at Meat Free Monday

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