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How to eat well and spend less

You don’t have to become a fitness freak in order to lead a healthy lifestyle – it is all about moderation and small steps. Think about the tale of the tortoise and the hare – small, steady and consistent steps are far better than racing around frantically and wearing yourself out. Anyone can make a start with these small steps.


Opt for home-cooked meals

Fast food, junk food, processed food are all packed with unhealthy fats, salts, sugars and chemicals, and contain very few nutrients. They also cost more than home-cooked meals. So why do they account for approximately 60–70% of the average family food shopping? Most will argue it’s because of their convenience. This book will show you how to change your processed food habit and opt for easy-to-make, home-cooked meals.

Respect your food

Cooking and processing food can destroy nutrients, so it is certainly better to buy fresh ingredients and cook meals yourself at home. However, to gain the most benefit from food, you must learn to treat it with respect.

Nutrients, particularly vitamins, are lost when you boil vegetables. Steaming preserves more of the nutrients and the vegetables will taste better too. As well as buying a steamer, consider investing in a wok; stir-frying locks in both flavours and nutrients. Slow cookers are also a great tool, not just for convenience but also for making nourishing soups, casseroles and one-pot meals. And don’t forget that food doesn’t always have to be cooked at all; in its natural, raw state it is packed with vitamins, so include in your diet salads, smoothies, juices and fresh fruit or vegetable sticks.

Keep an eye on portion sizes

When serving food, we tend to load the plate and overeat. Try using a smaller plate and you will soon be cutting down without really noticing. Use the same principle when feeding your children – they often feel intimidated by an overloaded plate. Far better to give them less and enjoy hearing them ask for more, than to watch them struggle with a large meal.

Get hydrated

Many people confuse thirst signals for hunger pangs. Drink plenty of plain, still water (not fizzy drinks, tea or coffee) throughout the day. This will help rehydrate you and will also keep hunger and headaches at bay.

Avoid pre-packed sandwiches

According to statistics, we spend a whopping £5.3 billion a year on pre-packed sandwiches. But it only takes a few minutes every day to make yourself a tasty, nutritious packed lunch. It’s also much cheaper to make your own. Alternatively, try asking your employer if they will give you facilities to make your own food. We had a stockpot in our office. We all put money into a kitty and every morning we would take it in turns to make soup. By lunchtime, the smell of home-made soup was so appetising no one wanted to go to the sandwich bar.


Whether you are aiming to save money, or to live a healthy lifestyle, or both, you will first need to learn to be a savvy shopper. Most people walk around supermarkets in a trance, picking up items from habit rather than need or desire. Break that mould! Be proud of your desire to save and be healthy. Revel in the challenge and enjoy hunting for those great bargains.

Be prepared

Always, always make a list before shopping. This will help keep you focused so that you’re less likely to buy unwanted or doubled-up items. I cannot emphasise this enough. You can save pounds every week by being organised and following your list. If you only take one thing from this book, please let it be the list making! If all that seems like hard work, you can shop online. The beauty of this is that those magic gremlins actually store your information every time you shop, so when you place your next order, you will be able to check off all your favourite purchases – you will have an automatic list! Remember, if you produce 3–4 weeks’ worth of menu plans, you can reuse these again and again, so a little time spent now will save pounds and time in the future.

Beware of BOGOF/B2GOF deals

These may seem like a good deal, but only if you were intending to buy the product in the first place. Sadly, most of these amazing offers are for the unhealthiest foods, so proceed with caution. Before you buy, remember to compare the price. You may find you are paying more than double when compared to other brands. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the manufacturers or supermarkets are offering a free item out of the goodness of their hearts. This is purely a marketing tool to lure us into buying products we might not normally buy, or to help launch a new range. So, follow the golden rule: only buy if it saves you money, is something you need, and something you will use.

Be guided by your head, not your stomach

Never go shopping when you are hungry. It is a sure-fire way to spend more money. You will get to the checkout and discover your trolley is heaving with crisps, chocolate and biscuits.

Experiment with organic

Organic food is not much more expensive if you shop wisely. I buy from local sources such as farmers’ markets and an organic delivery company. I am also a member of an organic wholefood co-op. Growing your own produce means you can be sure organic principles have been followed – and don’t be afraid to barter and swap produce with friends and neighbours. Above all, it is better to opt for fresh fruit and vegetables rather than processed food – organic or not. So do the best you can and be a savvy thinker.

Shift to lower range products

Downshifting does not necessarily mean jumping from a premium brand straight to a no frills product; look at the middle-of-the-range goods on the shelf. I have noticed no difference in quality for a number of value items, such as dried pasta, flour, butter and even some biscuits.

If you are concerned about your health, read the labels. Some lower range products are actually healthier options than premium brands. Sainsbury’s offer some great fruit and vegetables in their Basics range.

In 2011, Aldi commissioned Manchester Metropolitan University to conduct independent research to compare the difference between its own-label range and brand leaders. The study revealed that 91% of Aldi’s own-label products were just as good as the big brands, with 27% even rated as significantly better than the brands.