Eat healthy and save money

Eat healthy and save money

Eat healthy and save money

Author: Paul Hollinrake, Researcher & Trainer in Public Health/30 August 2018

There is no doubt that some healthy foods can be expensive, therefore it could be argued that it is difficult to eat well if you are on a tight budget. However, this blog explains 10 ways that you can eat healthy whole foods without having to spend more on food.

But how much do we actually spend on food? The Office of National Statistics (ONS) collected data from 375,000 households during the past sixty years to investigate the spending trends of UK families.  According to the ONS families in the UK spend just 16 percent of their disposable income on food, this is very much different from 1957 where one-third of a family’s income went on food. In contrast to this, spending on leisure goods and services has risen from 9 percent in 1968 to 19 percent by March 2017. It should be noted however that incomes had risen over this period, therefore allowing families to spend proportionately less on the essentials.


Food for thought – what is your situation?

1. You have sat down, looked at your budget and cut out all the unnecessary expenses each month. However, despite this, you cannot afford to spend more on food.

2. You spend a high percentage of your income on unnecessary things, have no budget in place each month and complain about how much food costs.

Regardless of which of the above categories you fall into, if you think food is more expensive overall, then maybe you need to think again. Food Inflation in the United Kingdom only averaged 2.55 percent from 1989 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 13 percent in August of 2008 and a record low of  -3.30 percent in February of 2015.  The Inflation Rate in the United Kingdom averaged 2.58 percent from 1989 until 2018. So food is not actually costing us more than average inflation, however, assuming that you value your health, then there are strategies available to help you eat better, whilst sticking to the budget. Here are ten top tips to help you.


Eating healthy and saving money
1. Buy non-processed plant foods

Vegetables, fruits, peas, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds in their natural form are not expensive compared to their processed counterparts. These non-processed foods are not marketed or put into expensive packaging.

2. Check out the expiry date

Foods close to the expiry date will be marked down, but make sure to use ASAP or freeze.

3. Damaged goods

Look for products that may have small dents, tears etc. in their packaging. Note that these do need to be non-processed foods i.e. oils, nuts beans.

4. Buy in bulk

Although it will cost more upfront, they are cheaper and will cut down on packaging.

5. Plan your meals, take a shopping list and pay with cash

Use one day each week to plan your meals, make sure to check out what is already in the fridge and cupboards to see what you already have to avoid buying again. Taking a shopping list and sticking to it prevents purchasing more expensive items and being side-tracked by unhealthy offers. Make sure to look at the top and bottom of the shelves as these are generally where the cheaper non branded versions are.  It is also easier to overspend with a card than cash as this creates more awareness of what you are placing into your basket.

6. Do not shop when you are hungry

If you go to the supermarket hungry, you are more likely to stray from your list and impulse buy. Very often these are foods that are not good for you or your budget.

7. Do a budget review

As previously mentioned we are currently spending more on leisure goods and services than food. Perhaps you could change your mobile phone contract, change TV, broadband packages/suppliers or utility services. Perhaps even walking or cycling instead of driving. Some of these will free-up money that can be spent on food.

8. Eating out

Is eating out a daily or weekly event? If it is, only eat out on special occasions. Cooking and eating at home also means you know exactly what is going into your meals.

9. Use your leftovers

Cooking large meals will save you time and money. Leftovers can be used for lunches, frozen for future meals or used in soups or casseroles.

10. Seasonal food

Local foods that are in season are generally cheaper and contain higher amounts of nutrients and flavour. This is because they have not been shipped from other countries. Check out for some local producers in your area.

Fresh fruit and vegetables that have been transported to your store from abroad are usually only in season for a short while and generally do cost more because of this. However, frozen foods avoid the pitfalls of this, are available all year and come in larger bags. These are usually just as nutritious as fresh. By using frozen foods you also have the benefit of only using what is needed and therefore avoid waste and save money.

Take home message

Eating healthy does not have to cost you more. If like the average family in the UK you are spending 16% of your budget on food, then first consider where the other 84% is going, it may well be time to free up some of that income. Once you have done this then follow these top ten tips:

1. Buy non-processed plant foods
2. Check out the expiry date
3. Check for damaged goods
4. Buy in bulk
5. Plan your meals, take a shopping list and pay with cash
5. Do not shop when you are hungry
7. Do a budget review
8. Eat out for special occasions
9. Use your leftovers
10. Buy local seasonal food and frozen fruits and vegetables

Further reading

Big Barn, Discover Local Food,

Office for National Statistics,

Trading Economics,


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