One common nutrition goal for people is trying to improve the quality of food they’re eating. Be it creating more variety in the diet or having more nutritious snacks or fueling for performance. But, is eating healthier really that much more expensive?
In reality, it’s as expensive as you make it – for example, if you’re doing your shopping in health food stores and only buying organic fruit and veg this is going to bump up the price. Or if you decide to buy €3 protein balls/bars every day instead of making 10 for more or less the same price. You’re straight away saving €18 per week and this is only one small change so what else could you look at doing?
1. Meal plan
Before you go shopping plan out your meals for the week, and using this meal plan you can create a shopping list! Check your fridge, cupboards etc to decide what you need and what you don’t. And when planning your meals – keep it simple and consider what foods you enjoy. Can you use Monday’s leftovers for a different meal on Tuesday? Fajitas, stir-fries, and curries are always great options.
Including plant-based foods like tinned beans or lentils can be a cheaper alternative to meat if you had a goal of having meat-free days or wanted to incorporate more plant protein.
2. Stick to the shopping list
While shopping, as best as possible try to stick to the list you made. As various offers such as 2 for 1 can be portrayed as the better option. But if you are not going to use it then it’s; 1. A waste of money and 2. you may end up overconsuming such foods.
On top of this, check nutrition labels to see if various products like snacks or readymade meals line up with your goals/plan for the week. I.e do you require high-carb snacks prior to workouts or do you need to include more protein snacks throughout the week?
When it comes to fruit and veg, usually veg that hasn’t been pre-chopped will be cheaper (again this comes down to convenience and if you have time). For example, 350g of chopped veg = €2.20 compared to a 1kg bag of carrots = €1.10, more than double the amount for ½ the price. Or 1 packet of chopped fruit = €3.00 compared to a banana + apple + orange = €1.46, again ½ the price for the same amount. So, these are just small things to be mindful of when in store!
The same can apply for fresh vs tinned foods e.g. 160g salmon fillet = €4.70 compared to 213g tinned salmon = €4.29 – this is especially beneficial if you have a high protein diet, it’s just a case of looking at small changes.
TOP TIP – if you can shop in the evening or at night, the supermarkets tend to create more offers – which could be convenient for saving a few €€€.
3. Bring snacks with you
When out for the day or heading on a long trip, this can be when you end up spending more on food than you anticipated. So, again if you know you’ll be heading away, it’s worthwhile including this in your weekly shopping plan.
Again, this is a way of lining your snacks up with your goals and your budget e.g. 6 own-brand granola bars = €1.65 compared to in most shops 1 granola bar = €1.40, therefore getting 6x the amount for the same price and same great taste.
4. Batch cooking
Now this is not for everyone but certainly a way of keeping to your meal plan and saving money. Batch-cooking meals can be a great way of ensuring there’s always a backup option e.g. making 5 servings in one go, freezing 3 of the servings and using them next week. This way you’re not getting bored of the same foods, still hitting your nutritional goals and having a plan B if you find yourself caught out during the week!
5. Shop around
Own brand vs well-known brand, of course, the bigger brands are always going to be more expensive. And for some of us, we do have loyalty to a brand but again if you’re looking to make these small changes it’s worthwhile testing them out and finding if you can commit to making this change.
For example, see below the same foods but 1 is own brand:
Tesco’s own brand:
Tesco Rice Cakes Milk Chocolate 105G €0.72
Tesco Bolognese Pasta Sauce Jar 500G €0.80
Tesco Choco snaps (coco pops) €0.79
Tesco Carrot bag 500g €0.69
Tesco baked beans €0.55
Tesco Fusilli pasta 500g €0.70
Tesco Grated Mozzarella 250g €1.59
Tesco Rice pudding 400g €0.49
Tesco Irish Beef Meatballs 349G €2.50
Tesco Fresh Milk 2 Litre €2.19
Tesco Spinach 350G €1.90
Tesco Roast Chicken Breast Pieces 150G €2.49
Bunalun Organic Chocolate Rice Cakes 100G €2.30
Dolmio Bolognese Original Pasta Sauce 500G €2.40
Kellogg’s Coco Pops 295G €3.30
Gilfresh Carrot Batons 500G €1.59
Barilla Fusilli 500G €2.75
Charleville Mozzarella Grated Cheese 180G €3.50
Ambrosia Low Fat Rice Pudding 400G Tin €2.45
Mccagheys Turkey Meatballs 400G €4.50
Avonmore Milk 2 Litre €2.49
Total Organics Organic Spinach 200G €2.79
Carroll’s Roast Chicken Pieces 100G €3.00
So, overall, yes healthy eating can be expensive if you make it, but if we set aside some time each week to carefully plan and try not to get caught by “health food” advertisements, it does not have to be. And when it comes to planning:
1. Opt for foods we enjoy
2. Shop around to find what and where works best for you
3. Keep it simple i.e. if you enjoy the same foods each week, there’s no reason to change it.
No different to everything in life, nutrition and planning comes down to trial and error and when you find what suits you best, you’ll never look back.