- Natalie Rouse
#HealthyKidsfor£20 - Week Three Overview
Updated: Jan 13, 2021
Hi, I’m Natalie, and welcome to the third week of the Summer Dinner challenge. If you are just joining us, let me start with some background….
When it was announced that the Welsh Government decided to extend the £19.50 school meal scheme for the duration of the summer holidays I was delighted as I am sure this comes as a relief to many parents.
But as a nutritionist, and also a mother, two questions came to my mind…
1) How far could you stretch the £19.50 over a week?
2) Is it possible to reach the recommended nutritional guidance on that budget?
I therefore decided to try and put my knowledge as a nutritionist to good use and also decided that there was only one way to find out the answers to my questions. So…I put this to the test and to share my journey with you in the hope that this will also help to relieve some of the pressure of planning nutritious meals for your families on a budget. Here goes:
What I learnt this week...Channel your inner detective...
Last week I spoke about batch cooking as a more cost effective and time efficient method of preparing meals. This week I decided to explore how I could be more price savvy. I’ve introduced new flavours to this week’s meal plan and shopping list: items like fresh herbs or spices which make for more exciting tasting experiences, but can add up when you're trying to shop on a budget. So how can we make sure we get best value for money, whilst still creating tasty recipes which encourage children to try different flavours. I decided to put my detective hat on and dust off my calculator….
Supermarkets are designed to encourage us to spend more. From scientifically designed product placement designed to catch the shopper’s eye to special offers which tempt us to buy more. So, my first bit of advice is to go in armed. Start by checking your cupboards to see what you have left over and looking up what recipes you can create with your store cupboard items. Use this as a basis to start your meal plan. List everything you will need in advance and don’t be tempted to add those extra little bits – they all add up! Research has shown that people who always make a shopping list are three times less likely to overspend than those who don’t, spending almost £200 a year less on groceries.
Next, don’t automatically be drawn in by special offers and multipack deals. Yes, often you will find a bargain, but it’s only a bargain if you actually need it. If you already plan on using those items, great. If not, or you won’t be able to use them within the use by date, its often cheaper, and less wasteful, to buy individually. As an example, a pack of 3 peppers may seem better value for money than buying 1 pepper, but if you end up throwing 2 out because you haven’t used them, then its wasting money.
Having said this, buying in quantity can be more effective, particularly items with a long shelf life such as canned products, dried pasta, rice, flour. Often you will find larger quantities more cost effective in the long run. In this case, work this to your advantage by incorporating these ingredients into creative meals in the following week’s meal plan.
A great way to check the “real” price of special offers is to compare the price per kg for each product and brand - this is shown on the labels on the shelves. This way you can work out if you are really getting the best deal.
Be flexible with your meals: if a product is on a great deal, can you swap it out for another ingredient you had planned to buy? Also look out for cheaper cuts of meat. For example, you may have planned a meal with chicken breast, but chicken thighs are often cheaper and can be substituted.
Keep your eyes peeled for yellow stickers, or discounted items, but remember to check the use by date and don’t buy it if you don’t need it or won’t use it in time. Coupons can also be a great way of saving pennies. There are many websites and groups on social media who happily share where to find great deals and coupons – follow them.
Check those bottom shelves and look out for supermarket own label products – but don’t always assume they are the cheapest. And a side note on this one: remember to check those traffic lights and nutritional information. Sometimes it’s worth spending a few extra pennies if the nutritional quality is superior.
Finally, learn from my mistake…always eat before you go shopping. Being hungry whilst shopping means you are far more likely to throw in extras to satisfy your cravings!
To get you started this week, here is the meal plan:
And here is the shopping list. Just to add a disclaimer, prices vary by supermarket so may fluctuate from the prices advertised. The shopping list includes the ingredients needed for this meal plan for 2 primary school children. Double the portion sizes and ingredients for adults.
Download the Week Three Pack which contains the meal plan, shopping list and recipes here:
There's only one thing left for you to do! Have a go, get creative, and get sharing your ideas, recipes and meals with us by using #HealthyKidsfor£20 on social media!
Until next week, happy cooking , and happy eating!