This is my mantra. There’s no need to spend a fortune on good, wholesome food for a family. So you’ll excuse me if I have a little rant today. I promise I did sleep on it first though!
Healthy, wholesome food is about being careful to eat more fruit and vegetables, eat in season, cook more from scratch, eat less meat protein, making the most of store cupboard staples, and planning ahead a bit.
Last night I watched a new series on BBC1 called “Eat Well For Less“. You can instantly see why I would be interested in such a series. The title promised a lot to me. There’s even a feature on the BBC “iWonder” page about how you could save money and eat well. I settled down in anticipation.
Did it live up to my expectations?
Well it certainly showed a family how to save money on their food budget. That much is true.
Did it show them how to “eat well for less”? If you call eating a lot of convenience food, high salt food, over-processed food and generally meals that appeared to be lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables eating well, then stick a big tick beside that question. The thing is that I don’t, I don’t believe that’s a way to eat well. I believe that’s a way to eat yourself into a myriad of health problems. I’m not the only one.
Some advice on the show last night bothered me:
- Concentrated juice that tastes the same as whole juice will save you money. There was no mention of the nutritional difference between juices and fresh fruit. For the record, I think it’s always better to either juice yourself and drink immediately if you want to drink a juice OR eat a piece of fruit is always the better option from a nutritional point of view. I’m no expert but I know this is better.
- Cheap sliced pan is just as good as expensive sliced pan. Neglecting to mention the difference between Chorleywood proved loaves and sourdough, no discussion of how cheap (or easy) it is to bake your own bread, even if if it is a quick soda bread or made in a breadmaker, it will always be better than a shop-bought sliced pan in my opinion. If you don’t believe me, ask the lovely people behind Real Bread Ireland.
- Cheap sausages will ooze more fat when you cook them on a grill. No mention of how even expensive sausages probably contain pork that has eaten GMO feed, more than likely has had antibiotics in their diet at some point in their life cycle, or of salt content. All fats are not equal, nor are all sausages. My own free range sausages would fail that test hands down with no GMO feed, antibiotics and very little salt.
Overall what jumped out at me from the show last night?
A little bit of food skills education goes a long way. If the family featured knew how to cook more healthy, wholesome food from scratch they’d save far more money than swapping out branded items. It’s something that I harp on about regularly.
Yes you will save some money if you substitute out brand-name X for own-brand Y when it comes to things like convenience food. Particularly things like cereals, bread, pizza, sausages, burgers, chips, crisps, biscuits, tinned beans, and more. I don’t believe that you’re feeding your family well for less though. You’re simply replacing one type of convenience food for another. What about the levels of salt in the food you’re eating? What type of fats are you consuming? Are you eating enough fruit and vegetables to stay healthy?
I’m not talking about eating clean (side of washing up liquid with your meal madam?) or jumping on the latest health food bandwagon, nor am I talking about following a healthy eating diet that might cost you as much as €83 for dinners for 2 people over 1 week.
To give you an example of how this works, on average I budget about €70 for food per week for our family of 5, with a further €20 per week (more or less) for cleaning materials and cosmetics. I could spend more if I choose to. Things are not as they were when I first started squeezing the family food budget. I originally cut back on the amount we spent on food when we physically had less to spend. Nowadays we eat so well on this budget that it’s easier to continue to stick to it, and use the savings elsewhere.
Yesterday I went shopping for the first time in a fortnight. Himself managed to sneak some treats in the trolley; we also got a bag of seed potatoes for the allotment, some cut flowers for the kitchen, a balance cushion for my work chair that I had wanted to get, and I restocked the store cupboards. Not forgetting that I picked up cleaning materials too.
We still spent less than €135 on our shopping.
The fridge is full of dairy, fresh veg and fruit. The freezer has plenty of meat, homemade stocks and sauces, along with a couple of meals that I prepared on a batchcook day. The store cupboard is groaning with dried beans, rice, pasta, noodles, dried fruit, and baking ingredients.
Sticking to my tried and tested method of planning ahead, keeping a track of what we have in stock in the store cupboards, and knowing how to cook healthy meals from basic ingredients works. It just works. I believe in it so much I even wrote a book (including recipes) on the topic because I know that if I can do it, anybody can. It’s called Wholesome: Feed Your Family Well For Less.
I’m off to drink a pint of my relatively expensive tea. It’s probably the only item that I don’t compromise on when it comes to budgeting for groceries. It might get my blood pressure down a bit after writing that. Might!