Healthy eating on a budget?!


This week I finally caught up with my deliciously scrumptious friend who has just had her second perfect little baby-kins!

After general gossip and catching up, we moved onto the subject of healthy eating – obviously having an eating disorder taints most food conversations! However, I generally have an interest in food and its health benefits, before Anorexia healthy eating was a passion of mine and it made me remember how it felt to think normal about food and have a normal conversation.

My friend is super keen to feed her growing family in a cost effective healthy way and both are actually proving difficult. Breakfast being the most important meal of the day was proving a challenge, trying to find a filling, quick healthy breakfast is not as easy as you think; resorting to either oatmeal in the winter & shredded wheat or weetabix in the summer. Oatmeal/porridge is cheap, healthy & filling. After reading every nutritional table on cereals she found Weetabix and shredded wheat have the least offensive amount of sugar and added ‘stuff’ per 30g serving than most.

One morning out of interest my friend weighed out what the recommended 30g per serving looked like and nearly cried! The family easily eat twice the recommended 30g amount for breakfast!!

Having looked into this myself the 30g servings we are all recommended to be the ‘ideal’ portion size are frankly misrepresentation, in my opinion to make the nutritional facts look better to us and the colour coding traffic light system food producers have been forced to use.

How about changing the servings to 100g and be honest in what we are all eating, not everyone has the sense or even care whether they are eating the 30g recommended servings, who has time to weigh their food?!

Food Budgets.

My friend has a weekly food budget of £40 for two adults, a toddler and new baby. The choice to eat healthy is greatly dictated by her budget. It really ANNOYS me ‘unhealthy’ food is so much cheaper and easier to buy! I am under no illusions that unhealthy food is much cheaper to produce as its usually produced in mass quantity using the cheapest ingredients possible.

What does unhealthy food mean to me? Microwave meals, processed mince, processed sausages, processed hams, sugar laden soft drinks, sugar laden cereals, crisps, biscuits, processed frozen food and the list goes on. Interestingly if you shop for these foods you will easily achieve a weekly food budget of £40 a week.

What does healthy food mean to me? Fruit, vegetables, chicken, turkey, tinned fish, fresh fish, reduced sugar soft drinks, healthy cereals, nuts, wholewheat carbs, yoghurts. Now you try buying enough healthy food to sustain four people for £40 a week; its near on impossible. I have tried!!

When you don’t have a choice! For my friend its about making each meal go as far as possible – so she is effectively forced to buy cheaper cuts of meat, pasta & other high carb foods to ensure her family are full and not walking away from the table hungry. She is fully aware the food she is buying is not ideal or necessarily that healthy, but having no choice as ‘healthy’ food just cannot stretch into her budget. That’s not to say they do not eat fruit & veg but just not as often as they would like. She is an amazing cook and will make the effort to ensure meals are varied and taste delicious no matter what the ingredients.

I am pretty sure she is not the only one struggling to eat healthy on a budget, when a family view buying chicken breasts as a treat, I think thats really sad and not in a ‘look at me I am poor’ way!

Why do supermarkets not bring down the price of seasonal fruit and vegetables? There is no need for seasonal broccoli to be more expensive than a bag of haribo – OK I know the production methods and size of the producers have a lot to do with prices, but that is no excuse as (having worked in the food industry) I know the majority of supermarkets will put 40% margin at least on food!!

The sad truth is, I do not believe we as people care enough, we pay the prices for food and shut our mouths. What surprises me is that even with all the food programmes on television, teaching us how to eat, how to shop better, how to eat healthy – there is still a huge lack of knowledge about food and its benefits or negative impact on our bodies. Is it because we are all to busy??

What can we do as consumers? We could complain, complaining is not a natural instinct for British people, we prefer to moan in privacy – but complaining should be embraced! Emails make it even easier to complain, you do not even have to look anyone in the eye! Write to your local MP and raise the issue of food prices, chances are they won’t be able to do anything about it but if enough of us do so they might at least read it.

As someone with an eating disorder, I am more aware of unhealthy food than most and not necessarily in a good way, I could easily tell you the calories/sugar and fat content in most food but in a positive way my eating disorder has given me a knowledge and a passion for healthy eating and as I start to recover only healthy, wholesome and nourishing food will be part of getting well again.

Why not set yourself a task and try eating on £40/week and see how you get on! Equally feel free to share your budget recipes….



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