Eating healthily when your budget is limited

Some handy tips:

Be an economical shopper

  • Plan your shopping to avoid costly impulse buys.
  • Try not to go shopping on an empty stomach - you’ll be tempted to buy more than you need.
  • Buy store brands instead of well-known ones - they’re usually cheaper.
  • Be wary of BOGOFs (Buy One Get One Frees). They can be good value but often they can tempt you to buy more than you need or can actually use. Or share the cost with a neighbour or friend.
  • Buy only enough fresh fruit and vegetables for the next couple of days, so they won’t end up going off in the bottom of your fridge.
  • Remember when it comes to fruit and vegetables, dried, frozen and canned (in juice, not syrup) are just as good as fresh.
  • Grow your own ingredients: if you live in a flat, plant some herbs in a window box. They're easy to grow and a great way to add some quick and easy flavour to your meals cheaply. If you have a bigger garden, try planting low-maintenance vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots

Ditch the take-a-ways

Try making your own home made convenience foods or take-a-ways and save a pound or a few

Try one of these tasty recipes:

Perfect Pasta

An average ready-meal lasagne can cost £3.99 at the supermarket, and one portion can contain up to 632 calories. Add a cheesy garlic bread and a bottle of coke, and the cost rises to £6.36. But the total cost of this convenience meal may be as bad for your waistline as your wallet, clocking up around 967 calories.

If you swap your microwave meal for a home-cooked alternative, you can save in calories and cash.

For a low-cost meal for one, fry 100g of lean beef mince with half an onion, one garlic clove and a grated carrot. Stir in a tin of tomatoes and 100g of cooked pasta, sprinkle 30g of cheese on top and bake for 20 minutes.

For just £4.28 you can buy enough ingredients to feed four people, at just over £1 per person, and the calorie content per portion is just 703.

You save: £5.29 and 264 calories

Instant Indian

Everyone enjoys a night in with an Indian takeaway, but a korma with rice and naan bread can amount to as many as 815 calories per portion. Buy it ready-made from a supermarket and you’ll pay around £5.13. Order it from a restaurant, and the price could be £8 to £10.

Making your own version is quick and easy, and at around £4.50 for four people, or £1.13 per person, it's also far cheaper.

Fry some diced chicken breast pieces in as little oil as possible until golden brown. When it comes to the sauce, try a tomato-based sauce rather than one that is cream based and higher in fat. You can buy jars of ready-made sauce in supermarkets. Serve with 70g of basmati rice and a plain naan bread. One portion then adds up to just 576 calories.

You save: £4 and 239 calories

Pizza paradise

Pizza is a popular choice when you need a quick and easy bite to eat. But once you’ve loaded on the toppings and added a side order of potato wedges, it’s both expensive and fattening. The average takeaway pizza costs around £10, and if you add a fizzy drink and wedges it adds up to a massive 1,060 calories: that's almost half a woman’s daily allowance.

Making your own pizza is fun and easy, and a ready-made pizza base can cost as little as 99p. All you have to do is add a couple of tablespoons of shop-bought passata sauce for a simple tomato topping. Top with slices from half a ball of mozzarella cheese and some chopped peppers and grill under a medium heat until the peppers are soft. The total cost is £2.91, and the calorie count is almost halved, at 688.

You save: £7.09 and 372 calories

All calorie counts are based on products from a leading supermarket. Products from other supermarkets may vary in price and calorie count, so use these values as an approximate guide only.

Last Reviewed: 31/08/2011