I’m on a tight budget

Read the whole of the “excuse busting” series as one great article: How to stop making excuses and start making changes

Today’s excuse is “I can’t afford to eat healthily because I’m on a tight budget and can’t afford diet foods.”

The first myth here to banish is that losing weight involves eating “diet foods.” It might involve eating less chocolate and more vegetables, but you do not need to go out and buy Weight Watchers’ ready meals, Special K cereal, Slimfast meal replacement bars or any branded products at all.

Think of one food-related expense which you can save money on: that mid-morning coffee from Starbucks? The chocolate bar from the vending machine every afternoon? Expensive diet shakes that don’t fill you up?

Save on sandwiches

If you really think you can’t afford to lose weight, take an honest look at your weekly menu. Do you buy your lunch out? I was shocked to read in the Guardian today that someone starting their working life now should expect to spend over £70,000 on lunches before they retire – an average of £4.37 a day.

Try taking packed lunches instead: one of my favourites is a pitta bread stuffed with ham and lettuce, which works out far cheaper (and tastier) than plastic-packaged alternatives.

This is what it costs for a week’s worth of lunches:

  • 5 pitta breads (35p)
  • ½ tub light cream cheese (35p)
  • 200g pack wafer-thin ham (£1.35)
  • ½ iceburg lettuce (38p)
  • 1/6th jar Branston small chunk pickle (19p)

= a grand total of £2.63

You could easily spend that on a single sandwich.

Fresh, tinned or frozen?

Don’t skimp on your five-a-day just because you’re on a budget. Many fresh fruit and vegetables are impressively cheap – carrots cost about 6p each, for example, onions about 10p. Smallish apples are about 25p. Potatoes are always good value, especially if you buy in bulk.

For out-of-season or exotic fruits, buy tinned. A small can of pineapple rings will set you back 25p, compared to £1-£2 for a fresh pineapple. Tinned peaches are also good, especially as a base for a fruit salad.

Bags of mixed frozen vegetables are also excellent value: they require no chopping or preparation, and won’t turn to mulch in the bottom of your salad drawer.

Vegetarian value

Meat is much more expensive than vegetarian sources of protein. Try having a couple of meat-free evening meals during the week. A tin of mixed beans can work well in chilli, and tofu can replace chicken pieces in a stir-fry. Many (though not all) meats tend to be high in fat, too, so you’ll be helping both your wallet and your diet. If you’re not sure what to cook, there’s several vegetarian options (V) on the recipes page.

Read the whole of the “excuse busting” series as one great article: How to stop making excuses and start making changes

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