Blog reader Sarah Jane recently commented on the cost of all the various ingredients I use and therefore, should anyone be on a budget, what I would recommend as my top budget buys.
I thought this was an excellent question. I have blogged about living on a budget, and some of the ways I try and save money, particularly on grocery shopping. When I did my big budget challenge I wrote this post on what I learned around saving money on groceries. I also recently re listed my grocery staples (in light of becoming veggie) and how I would try and ‘shop smart’ to get the best value.
From what I eat and buy it might not seem like I stick to much of a budget but I do try! I do give myself quite a generous budget for food shopping – some people buy CD’s, some people go out every weekend for a drink, some people buy designer clothes, I buy healthy food!
I tend to have two separate budgets when it comes to my food: my main food / household shopping budget which I use to buy all mine and James usual staples. When I’m buying the more expensive and unusual stuff (that tends to be bought online or from a health food store) then I use money from my own personal spending budget.
I think in terms of sticking to a budget and buying ‘health foods’ the key thing to remember is that they are not essential to having a healthy diet! The most important foods are fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains etc. I know that even some of these things can be expensive but buying dried beans instead of tinned, plain brown rice, wholemeal pasta and pearl barley and whatever fruits and vegetables are on special offer could potentially save a lot of money – believe me I have given this a lot of thought. Should me or James be out of work and on a serious budget then that would be the plan.
I see ‘health foods’ as fun additions to my diet that add variety and take things to the next level. I think if you are on a tight budget but want to experiment with some more unusual health foods then you should look for items that are going to give you the most bang for your buck i.e. that taste great, have a wide range of health benefits and can be used in a multitude of ways. With that in mind here’s a few of my top budget buys:
Nutritional yeast –
Can be added to salads, pasta, stews and mixed into various sauces for cheesy taste. Its full of B vitamins, plus a big tub of flakes isn’t too expensive and should last you a while.
Raw cacao powder –
Offers similar benefits to cacao nibs but can be used in more ways – blended with avocado and agave to make raw chocolate cups, added to smoothies, used to make raw chocolate, mixed with non dairy or dairy milk to make chocolate milk etc. Its also full of antioxidants and more importantly its bloody chocolate!
Agave syrup –
I use agave syrup in my coffee, porridge, when making various desserts such as tofu puddings, chocolate avocado cups etc. Its around £2.50 – £3 depending on where you buy it, for 250mls which seems to last me a good while – unless I’m using it in a baking recipe I usually just have a teaspoon at a time.
Coconut oil –
I love coconut oil, great for stir fries and roasting as it is better than other oils for cooking at high temperatures. Can be combined with the agave and cacao to make raw chocolate and can even be added to smoothies for healthy fats!
A protein powder –
I’ve used protein powders in my diet for ages now and I love them. The range of varieties and flavours out there is great. See my everything I know about protein powders for more info. They can be added to smoothies, used to make protein pancakes and protein cakes or even protein ice cream. My personal favourite brands are Sun Warrior and Spiru-tein, neither of which are cheap, but for me, I feel they are worth it! There are plenty of much more affordable brands out there too: Holland and Barrat sell a chocolate and strawberry flavour Soya Protein Powder which may be quite highly processed but if used as an occasional addition to your diet to add some extra protein and variety its a good buy.
Of course, what might work better for you depends on your own tastes and lifestyle. See my unusual ingredients posts one and two for more ideas. I would just start by trying out a couple of items that sound good to you and taking it from there.
What are your top budget health food buys?