Healthy meals on a budget
With the price of the grocery shopping hitting record highs, it can be hard to see where savings can be made. But with a little planning, research and inventiveness, you can create cheap family meals without compromising on quality.
Buy for less
When trying to save, it's important to consider when and how you shop. Supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda reduce the price of goods significantly when they're close to their sell-by date, often towards the end of the day. By finding out the time your local store tends to price down its produce and where they put the discounted food, you could make a big saving.
Remember, that when food is past its best-before date (not use-by date) it is safe to eat, provided it still looks fresh. Online retailers Approved Food sell food past or close to its best-before date at a reduced cost, so it's worth checking the site out from time to time.
It's also worth trying out a shop's own-brand or economy ranges. Don't be put off by the labelling – often these are great value with little difference in flavour.
Finally, taking advantage of special offers can mean that you can save by stocking up – but always check the small print. Supermarket buy-one-get-one-free offers (BOGOFs) can sometimes be misleading – make sure that the savings offered are worth it, and that it's on a product you are genuinely going to use. Research current offers in advance as this will enable you to look up easy food recipes and cheap dinner ideas and help you plan how you'll use your bargain buy!
Cooking healthy meals on a budget shouldn't mean compromising on taste. Find out when vegetables and fruits are in season, as this will often mean the price will go down. Try visiting your local market at the end of the day to snag a bargain. Another top tip is to avoid pre-cut packs and prepare your vegetables at home.
Don't be afraid to be flexible and work with what's on offer, rather than sticking to your original plan if you find an item is too expensive – over time you will build a wealth of cheap meal ideas to draw on when cooking or shopping.
When it comes to meat, ask the in-store or local butcher about different cuts – and how to save on the meat content of favourite recipes. Taking advantage of their expertise means you could save without compromising on taste.
Whether you're cooking for two, or buying in bulk, make sure you use up your leftovers. Rather than popping a plastic box in the fridge without thought, actively decide when you will use any unused food and freeze or refrigerate as appropriate. If you're bored of roast chicken or can't think how to use up your leftover spuds, try searching for cheap dinner ideas on the web.
For smaller households, it's worth searching for easy dinner ideas for two that use similar key ingredients. This way you can buy ingredients in bulk, creating a broad range of healthy meals on a budget.
Surf and save
Rather than relying on your existing repertoire or dusting off your ancient cookery book, if you're looking for cheap meal ideas, try checking out the recipes available online. Sites such as BBC Good Food's, Tesco's, Jamie Oliver's and many others are bursting with recipe ideas for people who want budget healthy meals. If the thought of cooking something new makes you nervous, rest assured that these sites offer plenty of easy food recipes that almost anyone can cook up!
When it comes to creating cheap family meals, there are many things you can do to make food go further. Add lentils to your spaghetti bolognaise to increase volume without ruining the taste; or try bulking out your pasta sauce with a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes – not only will this make you sauce go further, it will also make the end result healthier too!
While totting up a weekly supermarket spend can be a bit dull, applying a few of the above ideas might leave you pleasantly surprised.
Find the recipe for you
There are many websites dedicated to helping you create healthy, cheap meals that won't break your budget. We've gathered some of the best to help you get started on those deliciously discounted dishes:
Who said you can't have healthy meals on a budget!