Budget Meals

by Zahara Chowdhury
Budget Meals

We often associate healthy eating and living with a costly budget. Avocados, nut butters and salmon...not necessarily the cheapest of ingredients, but ones some of us associate with optimum health. At Tone & Sculpt, we’re here to let you know that eating healthy, balanced meals is for everyone, no matter what your budget! In fact, you can eat a balanced, nutritious and wholesome plate on a pretty low budget. Our in-house dietitian, Nicole Ramirez, has put together a range of budget recipes from breakfast to dessert that will keep you energised and full, without clearing your bank account! 

Firstly, what does it mean to ‘eat well’? 

We are overwhelmed by the amount of information out there on a nutritious lifestyle. So much so, that sometimes we decide it’s easier just to continue as we are. Here, we simplify what eating well means and what you need to know as a general rule of thumb!

Our dietitian Nicole has been telling us all about a balanced plate. Although some of us count calories - and, absolutely measuring our calorie intake and energy output is how we can control weight and fat loss - it isn’t necessarily the most flexible or varied way to judge a balanced plate.

Why?

- Calorie counting is based on numbers, not necessarily what we are putting into our bodies.

- Calorie counting doesn’t take into account all relevant fitness goals whether that be to build lean muscle mass or to increase your protein intake. 

What we do need, even if we are counting calories, is a combination of macro and micro nutrients. These make up your plate. Within these and sometimes, additional supplements, you will find micro nutrients: vitamins and minerals. Your body needs a combination of both for you to lead a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

However, this is where we should be mindful of calorie counting as you could easily fulfil your daily calories by eating a load of chocolate, compared to fuelling your body with wholesome, nutritious meals! There is nothing wrong with the odd snack here and there, however we must remember our bodies are like plants (stick with me on the metaphor): we must feed them the food they need to grow tall, stay bright and look alive! 

Budget Health

Many of us see eating well as expensive because of our current supermarket shop. If you are buying processed foods such as ready meals, sauces in a jar or even frozen meals for your family, they often work out more expensive than buying the raw ingredients you need to eat well. You’d be surprised at how easily you can eat tasty, nutritious meals that are so affordable. Below area list of hints and tips that you can implement from today to start eating well on a budget! 

- Make time: our food bills are often high because we don’t plan. We need to set aside time and invest in doing a little bit of research to begin with on meals we would like to cook and eat. This might take a bit of time in the first couple of weeks, but soon enough you’ll be saving money and time with your new, healthy meal plans!

- Meal planning: on a weekly basis (usually a Sunday) sit back, relax and make a comprehensive meal plan for your breakfast, lunch and dinner. This will help you list the ingredients you need to buy in your shop and stop you from filling your cart with unnecessary quick fixes - saving money and your health! If you don’t know where to start, use the Tone & Sculpt nutrition guide to access recipes and shopping lists (including the quantity of ingredients you need for each meal) to help you. The function is fantastic as you don’t even need additional pen and paper - the app can be your shopping list!

- A balanced plate: just remember, a balanced plate will help you with quantities and therefore batch cooking and portion control. Your plate should be filled with:
Half a side of green vegetables
A quarter of protein
A quarter carbohydrates
A ‘thumb-sized’ amount of fats

- Don’t waste: love food - hate waste! One of the easiest ways to save money and eat well on a budget is to eat all the food you cook! When cooking from scratch you have a few options to prevent waste:
Make the exact amount you want to eat by using the right quantity of ingredients;
Batch cook so you can freeze leftovers for another day - one of the best ways to save money
Use leftover dinner for tomorrow’s lunch!

- Raw ingredients: Buying loose aubergines, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and courgettes (the list is endless) works out a lot cheaper than buying ready meals with them in it! You can then choose the ingredients you want for your meals and love everything you eat, knowing there are no preservatives or excess sugar in your meals.

- Frozen fruit, veg and poultry: If you are short on time or lead a hectic lifestyle, why not buy frozen spinach, broccoli or frozen meat? You can keep these in the freezer and use as and when you need. They still hold their nutritional value (little difference between the two and in the grand scheme of things, frozen is fine!) and make cooking so much easier! Plus, when you are buying bags of frozen veg or frozen meat, you can take out what you need and continue to freeze the rest - definitely a money saver! 
Cooking from scratch: no matter what way you look at it, cooking from scratch will always save you money. You’re not paying for any additional marketing or brand labels and you can control the quantity!  

What Do I Buy?

The Tone & Sculpt app can help you decide what to buy and keep in your cupboards, fridge and freezer. However as a quick overview, below are a list of foods we think will help!  

Veg: aubergines, sweet potatoes, courgettes, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, onions, green beans, spinach, kale

Protein: fish, chicken, red meat, eggs

Cupboards: olive oil, tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn, tuna, chickpeas, beans, lentils, peanut butter, oats, mixed nuts, brown rice, wholemeal wraps.

...just to get you started!  Organic ingredients are ideal, however again, if you are budgeting, buy raw ingredients to suit.

And it’s as simple as that! Eating well doesn’t need to be pricey; you can feed yourself and your families, sometimes for less than a pound per meal! We’d love to hear from you - please share your budgeting tips to eat healthy and balanced meals with us below! 

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