50 diet friendly options from the value ranges

Attempting to eating healthily on minimal money 

I start every New Year with the best of intentions about eating less and moving more.
Sometimes I manage to make it through a few days or weeks or months.
And sometimes I just end up reading WeightWatchers magazine while chomping left-over Christmas chocolate.

So many of the fashionable healthy eating fads seem to involve spending an arm and a leg in search of smaller limbs – from chia seeds to coconut oil, steak, salmon and spirulina.

I’m also a bit suspicious of “low fat” labels and processed diet foods, which seem to replace the fat by bumping up sugar, sweetners and assorted weirdness, and push up prices in the process.

Realistically, I’m more likely to stick to an “everything in moderation” approach which is heavy on fruit, veg and home cooking. Perhaps I can refer to it as clean eating, and jump on that particular trend?

Despite much faffing around and falling off the wagon, I have managed to shed a stone and a half since this time last year, while still trying to keep our shopping bills in check. I’d rather my weight loss looked more like a downward slope, and less like a heart rate monitor, but hey at least I’m lower than I started.

So in case it’s helpful to anyone else out there trying to lose pounds without spending too many of them, here are some of the kinds of ingredients I recommend from the value ranges. It reflects my own preferences – so for example I like the tinned grapefuit, but don’t like tinned mandarins, and recommend the marmalade and lemon curd even if I don’t like Basics jam.

I’ve used examples from Sainsbury’s Basics, but there are similar versions from Morrisons Savers, Tesco Everyday Value, Aldi Essentials and ASDA Smartprice.

FRUIT
As I found on Live Below the Line, shoehorning fruit into a minimal budget is tough.
Opting for tinned and frozen versions does cut costs, as does buying seasonal fruit, which means things likes apples, satsumas and pears right now. I rely on big bunches of bananas, too.
Other examples from the Basics range include:
Tinned pineapple in juice – 35p for 227g
Tinned peach slices in syrup – 35p for 411g (drain off the syrup first)
Tinned grapefruit segments in syrup – 35p for a big 539g tin (again, drain the syrup)
Apples – 80p for at least 4, if you’re willing to take a lucky dip on the variety and size.
Pears – 80p for at least 3, which again can be a different sizes and varieties.
Sultanas – 85p for 500g. Good in baking, on porridge and in cous cous
Grapes – £1.25 for 500g if you need a treat
Frozen berry mix – £1.50 for 400g

VEG
If I lived nearer to Aldi, I’d stock up on their Super 6 fruit & veg every time I passed.
In the mean time, value range fresh veg tend to come in odder shapes or larger quantities, but are still fine in soups, stews and stir fries. Tinned or frozen options are often cheaper than fresh.
Tinned sweetcorn – 30p for 198g
Carton of chopped tomatoes – 35p for 400g, but keep an eye out for “3 for £1” offers on other brands.
Tinned peeled plum tomatoes – 35p for 400g
Carton of passata – 35p for 500g
Tomatoes – 65p for 450g NB size will vary, from cherry tomatoes to big slicing ones
Carrots – 75p for 1.5kg
Frozen mixed vegetables – 80p for 1kg
Mushrooms – 85p for 400g (not the cheapest by weight, but can add a lot of interest)
Onions – 90p for 1.5kg
Mixed peppers – £1 for 600g
Frozen peas – £1.40 for 1.2kg
Courgettes – £1.75 for 1kg

DAIRY
Low fat natural yogurt – 50p for 500g
Mozzarella – 50p for 125g
Soft cheese – (ie Philadelphia equivalent) 75p for 300g
Greek style salad cheese – (ie feta equivalent) 75p for 200g
Skimmed milk – if you can drink it before it goes off, it’s cheaper to buy a big 4 pint/2.272 litre bottle for £1 than shell out for a litre of Basics UHT skimmed milk for 65p.

PROTEIN
Protein tends to be a real budget-buster, especially as lean cuts of meat and fish tend to more expensive. Using dairy products and vegetarian options like eggs and pulses tend to be cheaper, although you’ll need to look outside the value ranges for alternatives like chick peas, lentils and pearl barley.
Options within Sainsbury’s Basics include:
Tinned kidney beans – 30p for 400g
Tinned baked beans – 25p for 420g (you can always rinse off the tomato sauce if you just want to use the beans)
Peanut butter – 65p for 340g
Tuna chunks in brine – 70p for 160g
Frozen white fish fillets – £1.70 for 520g, good for curries, fish stew, fish pie and fish kebabs.
Prawns – £3 for 300g if you’re pushing the boat out
Eggs – I try to buy free-range eggs, and a bigger box of mixed weight eggs is likely to be cheapest, so £2 for 15 from Sainsburys and Morrisons. In contrast Basics barn eggs cost £1.25 for 15.
I haven’t been brave enough to try the Basics cooked ham slices (65p for 125g) or smoked back bacon (£1.50 for 250g).

CARBS
Brown and wholewheat versions are likely to leave you fuller for longer.
This is a pain because the value ranges tend to be stuffed with super cheap white pasta, white flour and white rice.
However, there are some healthier options:
Wholemeal bread – 40p for 800g
Wholewheat Breakfast Biscuits –  (ie Weetabix equivalent), 95p for 24
Porridge oats – for some reason Sainsbury’s doesn’t do a Basics version, and charges £1.20 for 1kg of own brand oats. At Morrisons you can get 1kg of M Savers oats for 75p.
Crumpets – just for a treat, 40p for 6
Plain flour and self-raising flour – 55p for 1.5kg. Work just fine for baking and cooking, even if wholemeal flour would be healthier.

STORECUPBOARD
Stock cubes – 30p for 10 x 10g cubes, whether chicken, vegetable or beef
English mustard – 35p for 180g, to add a kick to sandwiches and salad dressings
Mixed herbs – 50p for 13g
Marmalade – 30p for 454g
Lemon curd – 30p for 411g
Honey – £1 for 340g, good for cooking too.
Milk and dark chocolate – 35p for 100g. OK I admit it’s a bit of a stretch including chocolate on a list of recommended diet friendly foods, but bear with me. Value range chocolate is good for cooking, but unlike a bar of Cadbury’s, I can leave it in the cupboard for long enough to actually make it into a recipe. Result – I eat less chocolate.

Anyone else attempting to lose pounds without spending too many? Any recommendations for healthy eating options from the value ranges? I’d love to add more to my list!

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4 Comments

  1. 12th January 2016 / 5:01 pm

    Basics bacon is fine, just check the packs to find the one that has least fat. I buy the "cooking bacon" packs from wherever I can find them, and that meat is usually chunky and well worth buying.

    • 12th January 2016 / 5:04 pm

      Thanks for the top tip about basics bacon. I've bought the cooking bacon in the past, but tend to end up spending a lot of time trimming off bacon fat! Reckon the Sainsbury's version is better than the Morrisons one.

    • 30th December 2016 / 10:55 am

      Basics bacon is fine, I use it all the time. If it is chunky pieces, you can either use it in casseroles with lots of veg and red lentils, or something like that, or bash it out flat and thin with a rolling pin.
      You can render the fat and use it for cooking, gives delicious flavour to all sort of things. If you really don't want to eat it, cut it up small for the birds
      Personally, I leave the fat on when I grill it, and the heat from the grill renders it out, no effort on my part!

  2. 12th January 2016 / 6:29 pm

    You can eat healthily and well on the budget and basic lines, as your list shows. I can't add anything to it I'm afraid you seem to have covered most of it very well 🙂