Here are our tips to help you stretch the food budget further, while not compromising on the very fundamental thing we all need to thrive - nutrient dense food.
Legumes, beans and pulses
These not only last well, but are wonderful to bulk out meals such as soups, bolognese and stews. They fill meals with fibre and nutrients, keeping you fuller for longer. Due to their fibre rich content, legumes, beans and pulses may help to reduce total low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, balance blood glucose levels and support gut microbiome as part of a balanced healthy diet.
If you can get your legumes, beans and pulses at a bulk food store, great! Buying bulk is the most cost effective and health conscious method - with the added bonus of minimising plastics that have implications for our health and the environment.
No bulk stores near you? Bagged dried staples are also a great choice. Tinned is ok too, but it can be a bit of a win some/lose some, as while most tins are now Bisphenol-A (BPA, a chemical that is used to harden plastics and is known to cause severe negative health consequences) free, tins are still lined with a plastic coating. Because of the high heat and pressure used to sterilise tinned foods, beans can end up a bit soft, so if you can, we recommend using dried beans. It takes a little more effort - a soak overnight is a handy way to keep meal prep times down - but the benefits really are worth it.
Eat for You have some cracking recipes that use legumes in our recipe ebooks.
This Red Lentil Dahl is the perfect low cost recipe to add to your meals rotation.
2 tbsp of Cooking Oil of your choice - we used coconut
1 Brown Onion chopped
1 Garlic Clove crushed (10 mins before cooking)
2 x 2cm piece of fresh Ginger, grated
1 tsp each of Cumin Seeds and Mustard Seeds
2 tbsp Turmeric Powder
1 tbsp Garam Masala
2 medium Carrots diced
1 tin diced Tomatoes
2 cups Split Red Lentils
1 tin coconut milk
Juice of 1-2 Limes (to taste)
Handful of Coriander and flat leaf Parsley
Salt and Pepper
Yogurt or Sour Cream to serve if you like
Using a heavy based saucepan on a medium heat, add 2 tbsp your oil, chopped 1 onion & 1 crushed garlic clove. Cook until the onion is soft ~8 mins. Add the 2x2cm ginger, then the 1 tsp each of cumin & mustard seeds. Cook for 2 minutes until you can smell the aroma of the seeds and they start to pop. Add 2 tbsp turmeric & 1 tbsp garam masala, then mix well, coating all of the vegetables. After ~2 minutes add 2 diced carrots, 1 tin tomatoes, 2 cups lentils and 400ml water. Mix together well. Add 1 tin coconut milk and bring the dahl slowly to the boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer for ~30 mins, until the lentils are just cooked. Add the juice of 1-2 limes, handful each of coriander and flat leaf parsley, salt & pepper to taste and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with natural yoghurt or sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh coriander leaves.
Can be served alone, or as a side with a grain of your choice, crusty sourdough, or Indian specialties roti or chapati.
Look for food that isn’t ‘pretty’
Market shopping, fruit and vegetable stores or farm gates can be filled with bargains if you have the time to look. It is a great way to buy seasonally and locally with the added bonus of meeting your hardworking, local producers. This perfectly imperfect food tastes just as good (sometimes better), and helps to eliminate food wastage.
Buy in season as often as possible
There are many great websites that indicate which foods are in season, when and where. Seasonal eating is more in tune with how we are truly meant to eat. Think of the abundance of beautiful citrus we are provided in the winter months, loaded with vitamin C. Or the juicy, refreshing watermelon during the summer months, perfect to hydrate us. The more attention we pay, the clearer it is that mother nature has everything we need in abundance when we need it.
Seasonal food is more likely to be fresh and accessible and it is often cheaper too. Don’t be fooled by the availability of fruits and vegetables all year round in major shopping centres. Farmers have not overcome the seasonal limitations to growing our favourite summer fruits all year. Instead, this is what happens:
- The fruit is picked early (before ripening) during its natural growing season, it then goes into long term storage and in the ‘off’ season, the produce is chemically ripened.
- Or, we import the produce from overseas. This comes with other challenges, such as how pests are managed between borders.
Either way, the result is that you miss the peak of food's nutrients, flavour and value.
Food preservation in all of its forms is key. See bulk kale on special? Buy and freeze! A few cabbages? Make some kimchi! Bananas going brown? Turn them into banana bread or freeze for smoothies! Find yourself throwing out the stems of certain brassicas? Keep them! Blend them with some other vegetables to create pasta sauces or pestos (see recipe below).
There are so many savvy ideas. Just because food is starting to look a little sad doesn’t mean it belongs in the compost (and certainly not in the rubbish bin). Think soup, omelette/frittata, juice, smoothie or stewed fruits.
Frozen meals are more readily available than ever before - speaking to how time poor many of us are. But this is something that is relatively easy to do yourself. Cook extra and freeze for weeks when you know you will be busy.
Here’s another recipe to add to your repertoire.
‘Use it all’ broccoli pesto
1 broccoli - florets and stem (small to medium size)
3/4 cup walnuts or nut of choice
1 small bunch of basil (2 largish handfuls is fine)
½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
½ cup parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
Boil broccoli florets and stem, once bright green colour (blanched) add to blender. Keep the water the broccoli was boiled in aside. Blend all ingredients to a food processor, plus a dash of the boiled water. If the pesto is still too thick, blend again with another dash of water.
Add this to pasta of choice, over roast veggies or as a dip.
By using the stem, you are ensuring that the pesto is nutrient dense, bulks out your sauce and that you are creating zero waste.
Bulk out meals
Utilising some filling carbohydrates (that also pack nutritional value) makes meals more substantial and can help stretch out your meals to make enough for leftovers for lunch the next day. Add brown rice, quinoa or starchy vegetables to soups and stews or serve with a side of whole grain sourdough.
Grow your own sprouts
Sprouts require no garden at all, only a windowsill! You can grow these nutrient dense greens for your entire family in a very small space. Kits are available, but you just need a ~750ml mason style glass jar with a mess lid and seeds from your favourite greens. You can sprout kale, broccoli, mung beans, and so many more. Just add a small amount of seeds (1 tablespoon only - you’ll be blown away by how big they get). Soak overnight in a small amount of water, rinse in the morning and angle the jar so the water runs off. Repeat the rinse twice daily for 3-5 days (always store the seed jar on the angle to drain). You’ll soon see them sprout. Wait until they shoot a couple of green leaves and they are ready to eat.
Whilst it may seem very meticulous to some, meal planning really does help when trying to stick to a budget. Shopping once (if you can) and then having your week planned and organised so there are no last minute dashes to the store or takeaway shops facilitates budgeting, healthier eating and minimising food waste.
Think dirty dozen and clean 15
If buying all organic produce is outside of your current budget requirements, consider purchasing foods from the ‘dirty dozen’ as organic, and the rest from conventional sources.
Subscriptions are available for many favourite brands, local fruit and vegetable stores, or items you purchase regularly. As a bonus, subscriptions are usually offered at a discounted price and may include free shipping. You can find Eat for You subscriptions on each of our products (and yes, we offer discounts AND we ship free!)
Make your own snacks
Love our bars but don’t have room in your budget for regular purchasing? We have recipe e-books that showcase some of our most delicious bar recipes (as bliss balls), meaning you can make your favs at home! Great options for budget snacking are DIY trail mixes, muffins that can be frozen, bliss balls, cut veggie sticks and don’t forget the good old apple, mandarin and banana.
‘Anytime I’d say “i'm hungry” as a kid, mum would say, ”eat a piece of fruit”. It was a great test of whether I was really hungry, or just looking for some salty pre dinner snack!’ - Dr Hayley.
Buy cuts of meat that aren’t premium, and utilise a slow cooker
Anything can taste beautiful and tender when slowly cooked, and the tougher cuts of meat are often far less expensive and the perfect addition to these recipes. Slow cooked meals have the added bonus of being prepped early in the day so that dinner is ready and waiting for you with minimal effort.
Grow your own
Starting your own veggie patch is an addictive hobby that then turns into something nourishing and nurturing. If you have even a little bit of space, herbs, potatoes, tomatoes, peas and leafy greens are super easy to grow and bring so much joy when harvested. Have surplus produce? There are many swap groups out there that allow you to trade excess produce for something you don’t have much of.
Don’t underestimate the influence of being thirsty on your desire to eat. Ensuring we maintain adequate hydration will help our bodies digest, meaning we get maximum nutrient absorption from our food so that we get the most out of everything we eat.
Hopefully some, if not all, of these tips have been useful for you. We understand that shopping organic, home compostable wrapped food is not accessible to everyone. This type of stuff simply costs more to produce because yields are generally lower while organic farmers transition away from standard practices, and need to support recovery of the soil.
Another consideration, when weighing the immediate financial cost of choosing organic produce over conventional produce is the other costs for ourselves and our families. The environmental destruction and long term health implications of conventional farming are two of the biggest considerations.
We continue to be passionate about ensuring that everyone has access to good quality food. This value system is at the very core of who we are, and the reason behind our 50% profit donation, the sharing of our recipes and our commitment to batch nutrient testing our food, because we need to eat less food when what we are eating is rich in nutrients.
We’d love to hear from you - let us know if you implement any of these tips via the socials @_eatforyou on instagram, or you can email us at email@example.com