Published: 03/27/2011 - Updated: 08/14/2019
In these hard times, from the economic point of view, a considerable number of Europeans have difficulties in purchasing food and making efforts to save in the shopping cart. There is a widely held misconception that all healthy foods are expensive. You can eat healthy with low budget, but it may take a little bit more planning.
According to the 2010 Flash Eurobarometer survey, carried out to monitor the social impact of the current economic crisis, nearly one in five Europeans struggled to buy food or other necessities for daily life at least once during the twelve months prior to survey1. Because of this unstable financial situation, everybody cares about the future and tries to cut costs. A clear objective is the shopping cart.
Home meals are cheaper
A recent American study evaluated the cost of buying food to meet national dietary recommendations. They compared the purchase of food from supermarkets and fast food restaurants. Food purchased in supermarkets included large quantities of fruit, frozen vegetables, chicken breast, lean meat, pasta, bread, breakfast cereals and dairy products. Meals purchased in the modern restaurant typically consisted of sandwiches, chicken pie, braised or fried potatoes, juice, coffee or soft drinks. Analysis showed that the cost per calorie if fast food diet was 24% higher than the diet of homemade food. However, this calculation does not include the costs of private infrastructure in cooking or the time to buy and prepare food, so the total savings would be somewhat smaller. Unfortunately, no data are available in Europe for making the comparison.
The guidelines encourage the consumption of cheaper food
It is generally believed that healthy eating is expensive, but supermarkets now offer a wide range of alternatives. In addition, dietary guidelines recommend eating only small amounts of expensive items like meat, fish, chicken and cheese. We really should eat more beans, lentils and other financial products such as bread (whole wheat), rice, pasta and other cereals. Talking about fruits and vegetables, fresh seasonal products are not usually expensive. Consider also frozen and canned vegetables, which are available throughout the year and contribute equally to achieve the recommended intake of these products..
Minimize food waste
In Europe, we throw away large quantities of food each year, often still in their original packaging. This is mainly because the food spoils before we find time to eat or we cook too much and throw away the rest. Some web pages have been created to help minimize food waste, often providing tips to control portions, keep food fresh for longer time, and use the leftovers with new recipes.
Always have a plan
A good way to eat healthily and economically without wasting food is to have a plan. Spend half an hour to decide your weekly menu, look in recipe books or consult one of the many websites where you will get plenty of ideas for preparing healthy food. Check what you have in your pantry, make a list of additional ingredients and stick to your list to make the purchase. Eat something before going to the supermarket, you might as well avoid impulse of buying, as hunger makes us fill our shopping cart with products that we do not need.
- Buy fruit and vegetables in season, and cook with these products as far as possible.
- Create a weekly menu of low cost and healthy.
- Write a shopping list and stick to it.
- Arrange foods in your fridge / pantry so that you consume them before expiration date.
- Measure the portions to reduce waste.
- Learn how to use leftovers.
- Cook double and freeze half for another day.
- Supermarkets often lower the price of perishable goods at the end of the day or on weekends, when approaching the expiration date.
- Share special offers / purchases with a friend or freeze products for later use.
1.European Commission. Monitoring the Social Impact of the crisis: Public Perceptions in the European Union. Flash Eurobarometer, Wave 2, March 2010. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/flash/fl_286_en.pdf
2.McDermott AJ and Stephens MB. (2010). Cost of eating: Whole foods versus convenience foods in a Low Income model. Family Medicine 42 (4) :280-284. Available at: www.stfm.org/fmhub/fm2010/April/Andrew280.pdf