Golden rule number one is to never shop hungry—as recipes go, this one has disaster written all over it. When you’ve got the munchies, you're more likely to load up your cart with high-calorie, instant gratification items such as cookies, cakes, or pies. You'll be drawn to ready-made or processed stuff, packed with empty calories, instead of healthy fresh produce. So, be wise—make a shopping list and stick to it, and, above all else, avoid the Evil Aisles. We know you know which ones we mean…
Rule number two—cook from scratch. Ready-made meals can be full of extra sugar, salt, fat and other nasties, and buying fresh produce needn't cost the earth. These days, supermarkets are bursting with great offers. Make sure that you take advantage of all those special coupon deals out there as well. Local markets are also great places to pick up seasonal, fresh produce at competitive prices—and you get extra (eco) brownie points if it's locally sourced.
Rule number three—stock up in advance. A tasty, balanced meal needn't be a complicated affair, and many a delicious dinner involves nothing but simple, ordinary ingredients. Buy basic, cheap items such as tinned tomatoes, pulses, pasta, grains and rice in bulk. Tins are convenient and cheap, but dry pulses are even cheaper (although they may take more time to cook or prepare). And make sure you don't forget those all-important spices as they’re a sure-fire way to transform the most humble of ingredients into a fragrant feast.
Rule number four—make sure you plan your meals ahead. Look online or sit yourself down with a pile of cookbooks and select the recipes you'd like to make for the coming week. Then have a Sunday cook-out when you prepare the main component of the week's meal, such as rice, grains, lentils, or quinoa. You'll save time and money as you'll be less likely to succumb to those all too frequent impulse buys on the way home.
Rule five—eat less meat. An obvious one, maybe, but pretty much everyone agrees that this is good for your health, and good for the planet as well. Whether you're happy to just do meat-free Mondays or ready to commit to a little more, going veggie or pescatarian now and then will reduce your shopping bill and your waistline. Tinned fish is also a good, cheaper alternative—it’s still full of vital nutrients, but it’s also tasty and convenient to boot.
Rule number six—be savvy. Try not to be a label snob when food shopping. For tins and dry goods, supermarket own brands are a good way to save a little so you can spend a bit more on some quality fish or that extra (healthy) treat.
So, there you go. There’s no reason why you can’t have a healthy, nutritious meal for a fraction of the price of a takeaway pizza. Wait, there’s no need to thank us— just tuck in and enjoy!