Healthy Eating on a Budget

As modern caring parents, we all naturally want the best for our kids and, as Jamie Oliver interminably can be heard reminding us, good childcare starts with a healthy diet



Growth, development and well-being

Jamie is right. What we put into our kids systems is of paramount importance to their growth, development and well-being.

A healthy, balanced diet of fruit, veg, protein, carbohydrates and fatty acids has all sorts of health benefits for kids and can accelerate learning, which can only be a good thing.

Spiralling food costs

This is all pretty obvious, but how realistic is it for families, especially larger ones on low to moderate incomes, to properly monitor what goes into our kids tummies when food costs are spiralling ever higher?

There are plenty of families who simply can't justify including a crate of organic produce, lean meat and oily fish into the weekly shop.

So are there really cheap ways of including sufficient fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy into our kids' diets?

It seems the answer is yes.

Healthy meals don't have to be expensive

I've been looking at different food blogs and was surprised to discover how tasty and healthy cheap meals can be. (At this point I would remind you that I'm NOT an advocate of faddy 'lifestyle changes' of any description. I can't stick to any of them so for it to work it has to be easily integrated into everyday life.)

Top tips: healthy eating for kids

Some of the advice I found was a bit preachy and I hate being told how to suck eggs, but most of it was very helpful and informative so here are a few of the most useful tips for eating healthy on a budget:

1) Cheap produce. Firstly, find out which supermarket sells the cheapest fruit, veg and meat. It may not be organic in all cases but it's still perfectly good stuff and can be alternated with organic food over the week if that works for you. Better still, go to your local market if you get time, it's often much cheaper.

2) Frozen fruit and veg. You can keep a supply of frozen fruit and vegetables in the freezer. Frozen produce is loads cheaper and is surprisingly nutritious, plus you can easily throw them in to shepherds pies and stews, all counting towards their five-a-day. This works well with canned veg, beans and pulses too.

3) Tinned fish. Tins of oily fish are really cheap and full of omega-3, good for that brain development.

4) Packed lunch. Make packed lunches where possible. They are often loads healthier as you can monitor what goes in. (On the days my son is left to his own devices in the school canteen, his lunch consists of Yazoo, sausage rolls, and pineapple-upside-down cake - so definitely true in my case!)

5) Leftovers. Always use up left over food. This is something I used to baulk at when I first moved out of the parental home. The amount of food I used to throw away was shocking but since having my own family and with skyscraper food prices, that has changed and now I rarely throw anything out (unless it has mould on it).

6) Breakfast. Lastly, the obvious one is to eat breakfast, supposedly the most important meal of the day. Skipping breakfast causes us to crave sugar mid-morning, which is never a good idea.

So that's the healthy diet sorted. Just a shame Easter is around the corner!

Jayne, Working Mum and Freelance Editor

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