Tuesday 13 August 2013

Healthy living on a budget

As a family, we have recently been working on eating a more healthy diet. This has many benefits but we have found that it can lead to higher food bills: 50% higher in the first month. OK, we also went away that month but some of this was buying more vegetables, chicken breasts and fish.

I was brought up on the maxim that feeding dessert saves money and this is true. It is cheap to make an apple crumble from apples from our tree and that means that the main course is less expensive. Of course, often dessert was fruit but changing to having dessert as mainly uncooked fruit costs more. Yes, we can plant more fruit bushes and plan to do this but they won't produce instantly.

It also seems that the cheaper main courses are stuffed full of saturated fat: quiche, home made pizza, lentil bake and homity pie. They all contain either pastry, cheese or both! 

So what have we done?
  • Planted more. Younger daughter wanted to help with the Family Diet so she has planted salad.
    There is more growing in the kitchen. We've also planted spinach and Christmas potatoes, in bags,
    so that there will be new potatoes as an alternative to roast. Plans are afoot to plant more currant bushes.
  • Frozen vegetables are often much cheaper than fresh. We are keeping more bags of frozen veg in the freezer.
  • Tried to sort out some new meals. I've not found any suitable veggie recipes that will be generally acceptable. Please let me know if you have any frugal veggie meals that are not high in fat. 
  • Added pulses to meat. We did this anyway but it means that it is necessary to use far less meat.
  • Using fruit from the garden. Our blueberries only gave us a few berries as they are young plants but enough to enliven porridge and blackcurrants which were more plentiful have been used in the same way.
  • Wild blackberries are now taking the place of the, almost ended, blueberries and blackberries.
Has anyone else done this sort of dietary transformation? Do you have any recipes that you recommend?

Hearts for Home Blog Hop

Frugal Family 2013


  1. Hi Sarah, we generally do most of what you are now trying to do. Along with gleaning from the hedgerows, we also try any use the PYO farms. This year our apple trees succumbed to a mildew sickness and only produced 8 apples between 3 trees! So we are going to stock up at a PYO in September ;o) and do a bit of preserving along the way. We bake our own bread - no yucky preservatives in home-baked. I've grown pumpkins, leeks and potatoes too (along with allot more veg - some successful some not) - lovely soup ingredients.

    We have always been a fresh veg only family, but after a bit of research I have learnt that frozen veg is more likely to have a higher nutrient content that those we buy in the store as they are picked at their prime and flash frozen locking in the goodness. What we buy in the store is picked before it's prime so that it ripens en route and in store thus never reaching it's full nutritional goodness - interesting! (There are some exceptions though)

    I also make my own sandwich fillers rather than buy. We make Lemon Curd, and jam - better and cheaper than store-bought.

    This year we made our own Elderflower Cordial and froze it - healthier than squash. You can get the recipe here: http://bugsbeetlesandbarefootdays.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/free-food-from-hedgrows.html

    I posted 10 healthy lunches (some can be dinners too). Here's the link: http://bugsbeetlesandbarefootdays.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/10-easy-homeschool-lunches.html

    I'm interested to see what others post as I am always looking for healthy and new options for my family :o)

    1. Thank you so much for the ideas. I like the idea of making elderflower cordial. Must look at your healthy lunches-we eat soup which I make but need some variety!

  2. I use loads of frozen veg, most greens and mixed peppers. I never had the tip about serving a dessert to save on portions so I need to think more about that. I have started to make after dinner rolls in the breadmaker to give a little extra at a meal. There is a good recipe on my Pinterest board. Charlotte had a lovely elder flower cordial;) we're also trying to get more wholesmeal flour in. Whole grain rice we have found we like too. Did I send you Pauline's lentil pie recipe? We have also been trying the Quinoa after that recommendation. I agree fruit and veg are a serious price now though. Do you make bread and butter pudding for a frugal pudding?

  3. Hi Sarah,

    I have made a similar switch - have been trying out the so called Paleo Diet since last December. This diet is based on what our hunter-gatherer ancestors presumably ate, i.e. lots of fruits and veg, nuts, lean meat, fish and vegetable oils (olive/avocado/walnut etc) - and no (or far less) refined sugars, processed food, dairy, wheat and starchy food. I have also found this change to a healthier diet to be expensive at the start (and it still is, sometimes), and am still in the process of finding ways to make this way of life more affordable. What helps me is buying seasonal products (from the market or local shops, if possible) and foods that I know will keep me going for a while, like nuts and eggs. For breakfast, I usually have a smoothie plus nuts plus a boiled egg; lunch is harder because I try to avoid bread altogether so I have to be creative which takes up a lot of time sometimes. (Dinner leftovers make a good lunch though.) I find that cooking large batches helps save a lot of money and time. When I run out of recipes I usually go to bbcgoodfood.com; they have a good healthy recipe collection (as well as paleo recipes).

    1. Thank you, that is interesting. We eat a fair amount of bread so can guess that changing to a diet with no wheat might be challenging. We've had a few meals from the BBC healthy collection and you have reminded me that I need to look at it again. The older children made the Mexican chicken stew with beans and quinoa which was a winner.
      I like the idea of eating more nuts.

  4. Sprouting is a neat project to add some fresh vegetables in the winter. I'm also planning to experiment with fermenting some of the basic, inexpensive foods. We've often done sauerkraut, but carrots are also an option.

    Making your own yoghurt can save a huge amount of money, and if you can raise a few chickens on kitchen and garden scraps, with a bit of extra grain, you'll have the healthiest eggs imaginable.

    It's a big thing to change your diet, but remember, it's super-important to have healthy food. Spending on healthy whole foods can pay back in energy, better learning, happier moods, and more.

    1. Annie Kate, thank you for reminding me about sprouting. I have done some sprouting in the past but need to research more and particularly timescales and tying in with meal plans. It is also something that my little ones haven't done and will enjoy.

  5. Dear Sarah,

    I am catching up on your blog posts and enjoying many of your articles - one of the foods God has blessed our family with is pearl barley. It is now a staple of many of our meals in our home and I am constantly amazed at its versatility and price 55p for 500g. I make it many ways. simmer on low heat in milk +/- cream as a breakfast for my daughters or snack, or saute with onions garlic and chilli - add peppers and canned tomato and water for a simple risotto or saute with bacon mushrooms onions garlic and chilli and add milk for a very rich dish! Iceland frozen spinach can be also added to either. The £1 spinach is great cooked from frozen in garlic and butter (I guess you can tell I love garlic).

    God bless and keep you and your family in Jesus' name

    1. Thank you, Renee. I haven't really used pearl barley so thank you for the tip. Frozen spinach is great and I love the idea of it cooked with garlic and butter-yum!