Tips to reduce the cost of making fresh healthy food and avoid ready meals | Personal Finance | Finance newsbhunt

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Families worried about the rising cost of food have been encouraged to make sure they stick to healthy options – as this can still be affordable.

Buying fresh ingredients to prepare at home rather than having fast food or ready meals can be more expensive but there are ways people can keep these costs down.

Kate Arthur, nutritionist at the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board), spoke to Express.co.uk about some of the key things people should do to reduce their costs while still eating healthy.

She encouraged people to try their hand at cooking fresh meals, saying: “While it can be tempting to rely on ready-prepared processed meals, cooking simple dishes from scratch is often more budget-friendly and healthier.

“Basic recipes like pasta with homemade tomato sauce or stir-fried vegetables with affordable cuts of meat like pork medallions are not only easy to prepare but also allow you to control the ingredients and flavours, making them both nutritious and cost-effective.”

Another tip to bring down costs is to batch-cook meals. A person can do this simply by increasing the amount they cook when making their favourite meal.

Budding cooks can cook three or four times as many portions as they usually would and then freeze some of the portions for later. This suits dishes such as bolognese, curries, casseroles and soups.

People wanting to eat more fruit and vegetables can reduce their bills by opting for frozen, dried and canned varieties. Another tip is to buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season when they will also be cheaper.

Shoppers can also buy these items loose so they get exactly the amount they need and buy some fruit that is yet to ripen so it lasts longer.

Wholegrain versions of bread and pasta, or brown rice, can also be very cheap while being a good source of fibre. These can easily be integrated into breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Families can also use their leftovers, such as from Sunday lunch, to go in sandwiches, wraps and salads, reducing the cost of these meals.

Ms Arthur looked at the case of making a Chinese meal, to compare the cost of a takeaway versus making a similar meal at home.

She said a Chinese takeaway can cost between £7 and £15 for one person and this cost can go up when making a larger order for families or groups.

However, this could be a lot cheaper to make at home. She explained: “You may need to make an initial investment, buying staples like soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice, and other seasonings but these ingredients can be used for multiple meals.

“You can then buy affordable meat such as lean pork fillet, vegetables of your choice and noodles to make a delicious home made pork stir fry for less than £7 to feed a family of four.”

She warned that poor-quality diets can lack essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed for overall health. This can lead to health issues affecting the immune system, bone health and other areas.

She said: “There is a common perception that convenience and processed foods, such as ready meals or fast food, are quicker and more convenient than preparing fresh, healthy meals.

“They are also often marketed as fun, indulgent, and a source of pleasure creating positive emotional associations with these foods from a young age. In addition, there is a misconception that eating healthy is more expensive.

“These perceptions can lead people to opt for those more convenient, more processed options, especially during busy schedules or in times of stress.

“While fresh produce and lean proteins such as lean red meat can have upfront costs, the long-term health benefits may outweigh the perceived financial barriers.”

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