The study may have been made public on April 1st, but it's no joke: seven or more portions of fruit and veg per day is the new benchmark for a healthy lifestyle. But how do you up your intake of fresh fruit and veg on a tight budget?
Buy seasonal vegetables
A lot of fruit and veg is available year-round, but just because supermarkets source food from far and wide to ensure you can stick to your eating habits, doesn't mean you should.
Products are usually cheaper 'in season' (when they naturally ripen in local areas), because their availability is higher and stores can get hold of large amounts at lower prices. Seasonal veg will also have fewer food miles. That means less time in transit, losing nutrients, and less preservatives keeping them 'fresh'. So you'll get more nutrients for your money.
Use tools like Eat Seasonably's handy calendar, or the Love British Food!'s "What's in Season When" guide to find a great selection of seasonal produce that won't break the bank.
Keep frozen backups
Most studies, like this very detailed one from the Journal of Food Science, suggest that frozen vegetables are as nutritious as comparable fresh options. This is mainly because freezing preserves just as well as salt or chemicals. And because they're frozen quickly, logistics aren't as complicated: which means cost savings too.
So while UCL's seven a day study suggests fresh, raw veg is ideal, frozen vegetables are a cheap, healthy option that can contribute to your total on those days when you're too busy to shop.
Canned fruit and vegetables can also count, but beware of products stored with lots of added sugar or salt, as these additives can cause more harm than good in large quantities. You should also be on the lookout.
Ditch store-bought ready meals
Ready meals, chopped veg and salads, frozen pies and lasagnas have a surprisingly high cost, both in terms of cash and chemicals.
It might take a bit more time and planning to drop these easy options, but you'll find you save money, get more of your seven a day, and cut down on undesirable additives.
Make your own
You can save that time back later by making large stews, casseroles, bolognese and so on, freezing them, and defrosting them when you're in a rush or the fridge is running low.
These kind of big, bulk meals are also great for using up veg that's on the turn. And if you cut down wastage by using that veg instead of binning it, you're saving even more money.
Start a meal planner
Once you're armed with ideas, get them down on paper so you can cost them, and put them into action. The simplest way to do this is:
- Use free budgeting software like Money Dashboard to see your usual weekly grocery spend
- Make a list of your meals that add up to your seven a day
- Compare their costs on supermarket's online stores
- Assign meals to a day of the week, starting with the quick perishing items, and ending the week with hardy veg like carrots, or your emergency frozen stock
- Once you've made a few plans, use them on rotation, tweaking them when you fancy a change, or when prices and availability of ingredients change
Posted by Money Dashboard