Eating healthily on a budget
Why eating healthily is important during unemployment
A healthy, balanced diet can help maintain well-being during periods of stress or worry and is an important tool in combatting the mental health issues most commonly associated with periods of unemployment, such as depression and anxiety. Eating a nutritious diet also helps to keep energy levels high – to keep you going during your job search.
Providing a healthy, well-balanced diet for you and your family in times of financial hardship, however, can seem like a real challenge. Here are a few ideas on how to make sure you and your family eat well, even on a restricted budget.
What does a nutritious, well-balanced diet look like
A healthy diet will include a variety of different foods from these main food groups:
- Fruit and vegetables, including different types and colours
- Grain foods, like bread, rice, pasta, cereals, oats and noodles – wholegrains are usually the healthiest option
- Dairy products, including milk, cheese and yoghurt – consider choosing reduced fat options
- Low-fat sources of protein, such as lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and pulses or legumes
Other food groups should be enjoyed in moderation. In particular, aim to limit the amount of saturated fats, added salts and added sugars that you consume i.e. processed foods, sweet snack foods and sugary drinks.
Planning to eat well on a budget
One of the best ways to keep grocery costs down is to plan the week’s meals ahead of time and base your shopping list on the meals you’re going to prepare.
You can also plan to buy and prepare food in bulk, reducing costs, and leaving you with tasty, pre-cooked meals in the freezer.
Substitute expensive products for low-cost alternatives with the same nutritional value.Some good examples include:
- Choosing chicken over more expensive meats.
- Bulking out meat dishes with extra vegetables, legumes, pulses and grains.
- Buying fruit and vegetables which are in season – that’s when they’re cheapest – and buying tinned and frozen varieties at other times.
- Using eggs, tinned tuna (in water), beans, chickpeas and lentils as alternative sources of protein.
Tips when at the supermarket
- Prepare and stick to your shopping list.
- Try supermarket “own brand” alternatives to branded products.
- Supermarkets usually put the most expensive products at eye-level, so look up and down the shelves before choosing your product.
- Check whether special offers really are ‘special’ before taking them up – sometimes it’s cheaper to buy the unbranded product at full price than the branded product on special. Often the best offers for people on a budget are two-for-one on long-life products, like tins, dry pasta and rice.
- Avoid shopping when you’re hungry to limit impulse buys.
- Maintaining a healthy, nutritious diet is important to maintaining well-being during periods of unemployment and it can be done on a budget.
- Planning meals ahead of time and finding cheaper alternatives to your usual ingredients will help keep grocery costs down.
- It’s important to be a savvy shopper: stick to a shopping list as much as possible and make sure you’re getting the best deal on the products you do buy.