This week we’re told that food banks are being used more than ever, by the charity The Trussell Trust, which argues there is a clear link with welfare reforms. The charity reported that it had helped more than 150,000 people in the three months from April 2013, which is the month when changes to the benefits system kicked in. This represents an increase of 200% on the same three months last year. The Trust said that 52% of the people it had helped said they turned to food banks because of problems with benefits: an increase of 21% on the previous year. (1)
So can healthy eating ever be a priority for families in these times of economic hardship? There’s no doubt, it does require some effort, basic facilities and equipment, cooking skills and careful budgeting. But nutritious meals don’t have to be expensive – here are some ideas to reduce your grocery bill….
1. Buy foods with a long shelf-life in bulk or during BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) offers. Foods such as dried or tinned pulses are cheap and nourishing, and can be used to bulk out meat dishes such as Shepherd’s pie, lasagne, and spaghetti bolognese.
2. Buy tinned or frozen fruit and vegetables if fresh produce tends to get wasted. Tinned and frozen still count towards your 5-a-day (just make sure there’s no added sugar or salt).
3. Shop at the end of the day and use or freeze your bargains! Supermarkets often sell off bread, meat and fish which have reached their ‘use-by’ dates at less than half price.
4. Beware ’superfood’ hype. Remember healthy eating is about balance and variety, and not about buying expensive ‘superfoods’ with designer labels and often dubious nutrition claims attached.
5. Shop seasonally. Its usually cheaper to buy fruit and vegetables grown in season in the UK .
6. Shop around. If you shop online, use a supermarket comparison website to see which supermarkets offer the best prices for the products you want to buy.
7. Get your chopping board out! If possible, avoid pre-prepared fruit and veg, as you will be paying more for it, and it will also go off more quickly.
8. Serve up soup. Blend leftover cooked veg from yesterdays meal with stock, add some cooked pulses and seasonings, and heat thoroughly to make cheap nourishing soup.
9. Be prepared. Carry snacks in your bag or car, such as a bananas, plain rice cakes or dried fruit and nuts to avoid paying over the odds when you’re out and about. Bag a water bottle too for hydrating on the go.
10. Healthy Start. If you’re pregnant and on benefits, have children under the age of four, or pregnant and aged under 18, you may qualify for Healthy Start vouchers. These can be spent on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables and infant formula. For more information go to www.healthystart.nhs.uk/
Ready to take the ‘eat well for £1′ challenge?! Click here for more budget-stretching ideas from the BBC…
1. BBC (2013) Food bank charity attributes growth in usage to welfare reforms. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23263011