Five golden rules for healthy eating on a budget

Eating food you’ve prepared at home is not only healthier for you, it’s also considerably cheaper. But in order to end up with the right foods in the fridge or cupboard, the key is in the planning. Here are some great tips: 

> Include protein at every meal and snack. Protein keeps energy levels stable and is essential for the body’s growth and repair, and healthy skin and nails. It’s found in meat and poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, lentils, beans, pulses (like chickpeas), quinoa, nuts and seeds. Protein should make up a quarter of your meal (about the size of a clenched fist).

MONEY-SAVING TIP: The cheapest sources of protein are vegetarian sources, like beans and lentils. Consider going meat-free one or two days a week.

> Eat plenty of fibre. That means lots of vegetables – likely more than you are currently eating. The recommendation is 5 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit (ideally low sugar fruit like berries, apples, pears, plums, which contain many immune-boosting plant chemicals – anything grown in the UK) a day. Fibre keeps energy levels constant, balances your hormones, fills you up and keeps you regular.Remember – eat a rainbow of colours.

MONEY-SAVING TIP: Greengrocers are often the cheapest places to buy your veg. Don’t rule out ‘basics’ and ‘essentials’ ranges in supermarkets (it usually means they’re not regular shapes and sizes) or frozen veg either. It’s cheap, often frozen soon after picking so it’s very fresh, and offers the ultimate convenience. And you are likely to waste less.

> Choose healthy fats. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat or put on weight, but some fats are healthier than others. The body loves omega 3 fats, which boost mood, support the stress response, and reduce inflammation. They are found in oily fish (salmon, trout, halibut, cod, fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. Other healthy sources are avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.

MONEY-SAVING TIP: Frozen fish is far cheaper than refrigerated. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s inferior. Often supermarket ‘fishmonger’ counter fish has been frozen.

> Think carefully about starchy ‘carbs’. Many diets rely heavily on white pasta, bread, rice and potatoes, but these (especially when eaten without protein) can unbalance your blood sugar levels and cause you to store fat. Swap to healthier wholegrain alternatives; brown rice, wholemeal pasta and bread, and sweet potatoes, and ensure this element takes up no more than a quarter of your meal.

MONEY-SAVING TIP: Many people bulk up meals with starch, especially on a budget. Your body will love you for bulking meals up with veg instead.

> Cut sugar. Most people have an understanding that sugar is not good for them. Eating sugary food is like a treadmill, with one biscuit creating the need for the next. Sugar creates a blood sugar or energy imbalance, fuels inflammation in the body, and makes you put on weight.

MONEY-SAVING TIP: Depending what you’re snacking on, cutting it out (or cutting down) could save several ££ each day.

Economy Gastronomy by Allegra McEvedy & Paul Merrett
Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver
Eat, Shop, Save by Dale Pinnock


Michele Scarr is a registered Nutritionist, Health Coach and Lecturer and author of and the author of 10 Steps to Superhealth.
You can download her Energy ebook from


Main image:  Brunel Johnson via Unsplash 
Food: Ella Olsson via Unsplash