This is not going to be a particularly glamorous post. Even when I’ve been at my absolute most broke, I still loved making fancy meals, and feeling healthy. Quit wasting money on sauces, fancy sprouts, unnecessary Pret, and get into pretending you’re luxe whilst keeping on a budget. Here’s a quick 10 tips for saving money and still eating well, and healthy – let me know if you have any suggestions!
1 – Spices.
It gets boring AF using the same ingredients constantly, and curry pastes, sauces, stir fry thngs, they get stupid expensive. If you can get a few particular spices in bulk, you can use them forever – and learn what works! My suggestions for 5, if you’re super tight, are:
- Garam Masala – for literally any curry
- Paprika – for making anything taste fancy AF
- Italian herb seasoning – Meat, stews and pasta sauces
- All-seasoning – This sounds basic, but use it on roast potatoes, veg, chicken, anything that needs a savoury taste, and I promise the food is 100% better.
- Chinese 5-spice – It’s for chinese food. It will also make your packet noodles ridiculously good.
Buying all the above together is less than £5. If you can get these, lemons, and garlic, you can basically start making curries/chillies/stir frys/stews and marinades with any tins of veg, frozen veg, leftover meat and some onion. Don’t waste money on pricey versions of spices – go to a Poundland or another ‘bargain’ store and stock up. My fave here is a UK store called The Range that sells these amazing spice packs for 99p and last ages. You literally add garlic and onion to one of the spice sets and it makes a curry paste.
Re; herbs – they’re always going to be cheaper dried. If you’re making a salad then stick with fresh, but if you’re doing a marinade/big pot of food, dried is gonna taste just as good and last a hell of a lot longer.
2 – Do a weekly food plan, and a weekly shop – stick to it.
I don’t want to sound over the top but supermarkets are evil and they want you to buy everything. They are literally designed to get you to buy more stuff. The best way to handle temptation to buy all kinds of extra tat that you don’t need? Go less often! I do weekly shops now online because we’re shopping for 2, but my method used to be taking a rolling suitcase and list of food to the nearest supermarket, and keeping blinders on whilst i find everything I need.
There are some good ‘weekly food plan’ templates and stuff over here –
10 Practical Meal-Prep Tips | Downloadable Meal-Plan Template | Easy and Healthy Recipes
Even now, a weekly shop for 2 of us costs £50, and we alternate on who buys – if you’re only spending £25 a week on food, imagine how much you can save for all kinds of other activities!
3 – Buy things in bulk where possible.
Hey, stop squandering your money on Uncle Ben’s microwave rice you fool – buy 1kg at a time. It’s literally so cheap, and if you’ve got ya spices from #1, or even just chicken stock, and your frozen veg from #5, you can make that shit for like 5p.
Same goes for less perishable veg like potatoes, onions, garlic, and other grains/pulses – cous cous, quinoa, even popcorn.
4 – Set aside time on a weekend/day when you’re not working to prep for the gods
I usually end up doing this on a Sunday afternoon but obviously we don’t all work 9-5! I’m going to do a larger post about this when I get the chance, but the basic layout for a mad-successful , healthy budget meal prep that isn’t going to be the same food every single day is:
- Meat/Protein – Lay your protein out on a tray in the oven with 3 different spices/marinade combinations – a great example of that is here, but you can do it with tofu, mushrooms, fish, whatever works with your diet.
- Veg – Boil it, stir fry it, roast it – just pick 2 or 3 veggies and prep them the same way, but store them separately
- Salad – make a mega-batch of salad that’ll last a while – a good example is a cabbage slaw, or a greek-style couscous.
From this, you can mix and match throughout the week for some non-boring food that feels expensive but costs next to nothing – on this day, I also like to pre-brew a load of coffee to ice and take to work.
5 – Buy Frozen Veg
Frozen healthy food has almost the exact same nutritional value as fresh, and it’s cheap as hell. For £5, I normally get 1kg green peas, 1kg green beans, 1kg slice peppers, and a 500g pot of frozen fruit for smoothies etc. At the minute I’m pretty into the frozen veg mixes as well – they’re just really easy to heat up in the pan quickly. Make sure you get diverse veg that you can use in a combination of meals that you like.
6 – Get lentils and pulses uncooked, not tinned.
I’ve legit still got about half of a 2kg thing of green lentils in my cupboard that cost £1.50 and I’ve been using them regularly for the past few months. I know tinned lentils don’t seem that pricey but honestly, they don’t even taste as good. Get chana daal, split peas, red lentils etc. in bulk, uncooked, for a healthy staple that has almost no impact on your budget.
When you’re ready to use them, put them in a pan with 2x the water and some veg or chicken stock (or your spices aw yeah) and any veg you have in, and you can get some amazing stews and daals together in no time, at no cost.
7 – buy the non-preferred types of meat, and do more with them
Chicken breast is mad expensive – get chicken thighs or chicken wings. Get mince! Hell, the other day I just got a whole (organic) chicken for £6, roasted it, and we used it for like 3 meals for two in a row. If you’re already gonna do meal prep, it’s really not a big time sink to get this stuff sorted, and it saves so so much money.
8 – If you want fancy herbs and garnishes – grow them!
Don’t buy poncy sprout pots when it takes about 2 days and some damp tissue to grow them from raw lentils. I stupidly bought one of those ‘protein power’ sprouty pots from Tesco the other day, it’s a mega waste. You can get the same lil sprouts, packed with protein, by growing them in your fridge.
Also, wtf, cress is 26p, just get cress.
9 – Get some basic meals under your belt that you can use for any and all leftovers
A curry, a roast thing, and a soup, maybe? Once you’ve made 3 or 4 of each of these types of food you start to get the hang of it. For example, with a curry, you only need spices, onion, garlic, and chopped tomatoes – add any veg, meat, tinned food, chickpeas, and you’ve got a curry. Get a feel for these, and have them to hand whenever you’ve got leftovers and you want to hold off on the shop for another day.
10 – Review what you’re not actually using weekly.
If you’re buying it and it’s going out of date, get a longer-lasting version, or get rid of it altogether! I always end up doing this if I don’t stick to my meal plan, which is why I’m about to go stir-fry an obnoxious amount of broccoli to prove to my partner that it wasn’t a waste.
I hope this helps – any more suggestions for eating well on a budget? I’d love to hear them below 🙂
Lots of love,