Cost and calories are two of the things we place importance on when we’re choosing our meals. We all want to eat well and enjoy our food without breaking the bank, giving our bodies everything they need to thrive and energize us. However life isn’t perfect, we all lead busy lives and it’s often far too easy to ditch the home cooking and order in instead. But if you need to lose a few pounds and gain a few pounds, then it’s time to start eating smart. Here are five ways you can serve up tasty meals every day without hassle, expense or ruining your health!
Plan your meals
One of the best things you can do for both your waistline and your wallet is to plan your meals. There’s nothing worse than getting home after a long day, realizing there’s nothing to eat in the cupboards and giving up and ordering a takeaway. Not only is this expensive but it’s incredibly unhealthy, especially on a regular basis. One way you can find meal inspiration is on Pinterest; create a recipes folder and save anything you like the look of. Then each week when you’re planning ahead what to have you can look in the folder and write down seven meals you’d like to make. Either get a notebook and write down the meals you plan on making on each day, or you could get a chalkboard and mount it in the kitchen. Each week, write what you’re going to have for the seven days ahead on it for everyone to see. Bear in mind your schedule too, if you know you have a very busy day in the week then plan something quick and simple for that day.
Shop to a list
Once you know exactly what you’re eating for the week, you can buy ingredients based on these meals. This stops you from filling your trolley with junk or getting sucked into deals and discounts- which actually cause you to spend more money since you weren’t originally going to buy the item in the first place! Go to the supermarket and follow your list closely, you’ll save yourself so much money on impulse buys doing this. Write a list on your phone’s notes or download an app- or stick to the good old fashioned pen and paper method. Either way, walking aimlessly into a supermarket with no plan will mean you walk out with plenty of things you didn’t really need- many of them probably being not too great for your health.
Stock up your pantry
With a well-stocked pantry, you can always rustle up a healthy and tasty meal without the need for fresh ingredients. A good store cupboard stash can also make daily cooking easier, all of the recipes you pick will require a certain amount of herbs, seasonings, and spices so having them on hand makes things simpler. While it can cost money upfront to buy things like herbs and spices, cans of vegetables, big bags of pasta, rice and other grains, these will all last you a long time and will make your weekly shop cheaper. Instead of buying five items for a recipe, for example, you might only need to buy two or three. If you’re cooking on a regular basis, you need your stash of ingredients that crop up in most meals. Write a list; there are lots of ideas online about what you should include in your store cupboard but of course, it largely depends on the things you cook. Once you know what ingredients you will need and use the most often, then go out and stock up your pantry. A good tip for maintaining your pantry is to transfer ingredients into glass lidded jars. Not only will this keep them fresher for longer but you’ll keep pests out- insects and rodents can chew through cardboard but not glass! Use a label maker to label what everything is along with its expiry date. Pantry items will last a long time but not forever so you’ll need to know how long things are good for.
Make healthy swaps
It’s a common misconception that eating healthily is expensive. But this really isn’t the case at all, in many cases, you can make a big difference by making a few healthy swaps. Buying wholemeal bread, pasta or rice instead of white, for example, is far healthier and no more expensive. Sometimes it’s your cooking method you need to adjust, instead of deep-frying chips you could air fry them instead; Healthy But Smart have a list of the best ones to buy. Instead of buying big portions of ground meat for things like bolognese, chili con carne, and lasagne, buy half the amount and bulk it up with finely diced vegetables and lentils. Since meat is the most expensive part of most meals, doing this will save you money. It’s also a great way to get nutrition into kids, once the meal is seasoned with sauce and everything else that goes with it, it’s difficult to tell that the meat has been bulked out with veggies.
Utilize your slow cooker
Again, because meat is the most expensive part of most meals, one way you can cut costs here is to buy cheaper cuts. These do tend to be tougher, however, with low and slow cooking they will come out perfectly tender and delicious. Slow cook with potatoes and vegetables for a cheap, healthy and delicious stew- or look into slow cooker recipes which will adapt your favorite meals to be cooked in the crockpot. One reason that many of us choose expensive and unhealthy convenience foods is that we feel that we don’t have the time or energy to cook. The slow cooker is great for these situations, throw a few ingredients in the morning and by the evening you have a fully cooked meal. You don’t need to stir the pot and you can even go out to work all day and leave it switched on. It can save you time, effort, money and help you stick to eating healthy home cooked foods.