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Feeding Children on a Budget

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 6 Mar 2012 |
Junk Food Cheap Budget Food Plan Fresh

When times are tough, food budgets can get squeezed, but it’s not difficult to eat well (or perhaps even better) for less.

Avoid Junk Food

Though junk food looks cheap, it’s cheaper to make your own alternatives, and it’s better for the children (and the parents!) as well (see ‘Alternatives to Fast Food for Kids’). Avoid food targeted at children too, as this is often more expensive, and some food, such as children’s pre-sweetened cereals can be high in sugar too. Even though fizzy drinks can look cheap, water straight from the tap is healthier and it’s free.

Buy Cheaper Food

Street markets and farmers’ markets can be great places to buy a wide range of fresh vegetables, which are cheaper than the supermarket ones and have less packaging. Vegetables and fruit from street markets may not be as uniform, shiny and perfect as that in supermarkets, but taste just the same, or even better. Local and in season fruit and vegetables can be cheaper than those shipped from the other side of the world (and kinder to the planet) and leftovers can be frozen – and home-grown ones taste the best, even if just a few leaves of lettuce sprouted in a window box. Tinned or frozen fruit and vegetables can be a good buy too.

Try switching from brand names to supermarkets’ own brands – these often taste as good. Also, look out for the value versions of some basic foods, such as rice, pasta, fresh and vegetables and tinned tomatoes or tinned kidney beans. Look at the ingredients lists carefully though – some value foods can be padded out with extra fat or sugar.

Make Food Stretch

Think about buying different cuts of meat – for example, a whole free range or RSPCA Freedom Foods chicken can cost about the same as a pack of two chicken breast fillets and will stretch to four meals – hot roast chicken, cold chicken legs for salad, smaller pieces of meat stripped off the carcass for a chicken omelette or curry, and then the bones boiled for stock to make a risotto (pudding rice is cheaper than risotto rice and just as good) or soup.

Cheaper cuts of beef, lamb or mutton make a wonderful stew in a slow cooker, and the advantage is that if it’s switched on in the morning, supper is ready in the evening when the children come home from school.

When using mince, buy a good quality lean mince but extend it with dried or frozen vegetarian mince. Then mix in an egg, breadcrumbs and finely chopped onions for burgers, tinned kidney or baked beans for a cottage pie, topped with mashed potato, or plenty of tinned tomatoes and herbs for a bolognese sauce.

Throw Less Food Away

UK households throw away 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, costing the average family up to £420 a year.

To reduce wasted food, look at portion sizes, to avoid cooking too much, and then use leftovers more – mix leftover mashed potatoes with tinned tuna or leftover poached fish make great fish cakes, and leftover vegetables with curry paste or powder and tinned tomatoes make a quick and easy vegetable curry.

Another way to avoid wasting food is to plan meals a week ahead, and then use this plan as a basis for a shopping list.

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