7 genius tips to eat well on a budget from food investigator Cherry Healey

Eating well as a family doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune on food, insists journalist and busy mum of two, Cherry Healey.

Her motivation for promoting tasty and nutritious food is making sure her children, Coco, 8, and Edward 4, don’t feel guilty about the foods they eat.

‘I want the kids to feel really peaceful about what they eat,’ says the presenter of Inside the Factory, who battled with an eating disorder herself for many years. ‘I’m not doing it to be righteous, it’s just the way they’re going to feel happy in their heart.’

For her, eating well means buying products with ingredients she recognises, avoiding too much salt, sugar and flavours, and buying organic food that you know has been made ‘to the highest standard’. But Cherry also says she eats everything in moderation, even convenience food ‘when it’s needed’.

Here are her seven tips for eating well without spending a fortune.

Cherry Healey in a supermarket

Credit: Double Shot

Plan ahead and cook from scratch (if you can)

While it may seem like a big task, planning family meals for the week will ensure you know exactly what you need, so you won’t over spend or become tempted by last minute convenience foods, which are often less healthy and more expensive.

‘Prepping a shopping list and family meals for the week helps me stay one step ahead,’ says Cherry. ‘I don’t always have time, but generally cooking from scratch is cheaper than buying pre-prepared meals, plus you feel like you’ve conquered your own Everest!

Remember, cooking from scratch doesn’t have to mean spending hours in the kitchen. We have plenty of 15 minute recipes the family will love.

Shop around

Supermarket basket

Credit: Kritchanut/Getty

Once you have your shopping list, try to shop around for the best offers. Check online to save time and ensure you don’t miss out any great deals.

Small independent shops and grocers are great for seasonal fruits and vegetables, according to Cherry. Buying produce in season is usually cheaper as it will have travelled less distance to your plate.

Cherry also suggests shopping at the end of the day at farmers’ markets and supermarkets: ‘There may be a little less choice, but you’re likely to get some great bargains.

Make a ‘bung it all in lasgane’

It’s obvious, but using all of the food you buy means you’re getting more for your money.

‘One of the best things you can make is a ‘bung it all in lasagne’. That is just the best way to use up every last bit in your fridge,’ says Cherry. ‘Chop all your leftover veg and meat, and then you make a lasagne. All you need is the pasta layers and the cheese sauce and the rest of it you can make up. It always tastes really good, you can freeze it’

Cherry also says she sometimes cooks extra portions so she can have homemade ready meals in the freezer for days when she has less time. Casseroles and lasagnes can last up to four months in the freezer, while chilli con carne can stay frozen for up to six months. Fruit, blanched veg, bread and even cake dough can be kept in the freezer for various lengths of time.

Go organic – but focus on staples first

Pasta in bags

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Going organic is a great way of eating healthier produce. Organic foods are those that have been grown on farms which avoid pesticides or chemicals, and livestock have been given a better quality of life.

It means you know exactly what’s in your food and what isn’t. Organic food has a reputation of being more expensive, but Cherry argues that isn’t always the case.

‘Buy organic staples like potatoes, carrots and onions, and store cupboard essentials like baked beans, pasta and canned tomatoes. It’s a good swap, as they’re often a similar price to the same non-organic option,’ she says.

Buy cheaper cuts

Organic meat is generally one of the more expensive things to swap out. However, there are ways of getting organic meat into your diet without breaking the bank.

Buying cheaper cuts, is a great way to buy organic meat without spending more than you can afford. Switching out beef cheeks, brisket or mince instead of steak is a great option; pork belly instead of loin; or even using offal like liver and kidney.

Slower cooked organic cuts of meat are really tasty, and it works brilliantly if you’re able to take a little more time with your cooking,’ says Cherry.

Check the label

When buying pre-prepared meals or snacks, the best thing to do to make sure you’re purchasing something healthy is to check the label. Cherry has partnered with baby and toddler snack brand Organix in a new video to try and help parents know how to choose the best snacks for their kids.

The key, she says is to look at the ingredients. Crisps, for example, can be really unhealthy but if you choose the right crisps, there’s no need to feel guilty.

‘One of my favourite things to do with the kids is a crisp cocktail. It sounds really naughty,’ she says. ‘We pick a classic film, then get loads of crisps, put them in a big bowl and share them. But I choose crisps like Organix which have no added salt whatsoever. So it looks really beautiful and feels like a real treat, but it’s actually a guilt-free snack.’

Cherry also says frozen fruit and veg can be a cheaper alternative to fresh produce, and it can be ‘just as good for you’. But, she says check the label to make sure nothing has been added, such as sugar,

Less is more

Another way to save is to cut down on meat. Vegetarian meals can be cheaper, and ingredients like beans and lentils are especially filling.

High quality meat is more likely to have been treated well, is more sustainable – and if you’re buying smaller amounts of more expensive meat, it’s far less likely to end up in your bin.

Cherry adds: ‘If you do spend a little more money, then you know you’re never going to waste it,’ she says.