How to eat healthily through the recession (& still have fun with your food)

by sophie on April 19, 2009 · 18 comments

Post image for How to eat healthily through the recession (& still have fun with your food)

Last post we looked at the reality of how people’s food shopping has changed during the recession. Some of it is good stuff like eating plenty of seasonal vegetables, while other aspects, like turning to cheaper cuts of meat are potentially less healthy. I’ve gathered together a few tips for turning those changes in food shopping and lifestyle into healthy ones.

Make staying in the new going out
Rustling up something wonderful at home rather than going out is a shrewd move for both health and wallet. Eating at home means that you have control over what you eat, how it is prepared and the size of your portions. And what better excuse to invite your friends over and use them as guinea pigs for experimenting with whole new area of cuisine? (I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at Japanese cooking but Mediterranean and Indian foods have a similarly strong reputation for combining nutritious ingredients in a flavourful way).

Replace those cheaper cuts of meat with non-animal protein
Casserole and stewing cuts, meat pies and sausages are all generally high in saturated fat and best kept as an occasional treat. More expensive cuts of meat such as lean beef and chicken breast are usually lower in fat which is better for your health, but reducing your total intake of meat seems the best overall strategy. Limiting meat to once or twice a week will save you money, be beneficial for your health and is gaining consensus opinion as the most important dietary change we can make for the environment.  Foods such as tofu, beans and eggs can provide all of the protein, iron, zinc and other valuable nutrients your body would otherwise get from meat.

Find a comfort that isn’t food based

A lot of people are feeling the pressure and it’s easy to see why sales of comfort foods are on the up.  The recession is likely to be here for a while (and even without it life tends to have a way of sending us twists and turns), so now is the time to start thinking about a few boosts that aren’t food based.  Exercise is a fabulous way to improve your mood and there are few activities cheaper than a walk round the block, or or half an hour in the garden. Exercise can also help to ease the health effects caused by more serious financial worries such as depression, anxiety and lack of sleep. For more cheap exercise suggestions these posts on Digeratilife and are good places to start.

If your comfort eating is more boredom based and you’ve already been out and exercised then consider finding some other (cheap) activities to do of an evening (it’s no coincidence that stay-home hobbies like knitting see such a resurgence in popularity in a recession).

Keeping up your fruit intake without relying on imported, tropical fruits
Tropical fruits are expensive and not sustainable after they have been pre-prepared, over-packaged and air-freighted half-way round the world,.  But with the lack of locally grown fruit available at this time of year it can be hard to know what to eat instead.  My compromise is to buy hardier, more locally imported seasonal fruits
(such as European citrus) as well as nutritious frozen summer berries and canned fruits.

Eat a wider variety of seasonal vegetables
To hear that we are embracing seasonal British vegetables is a wonderful recession side-effect. This rise in seasonal vegetable sales has largely been in starchy and root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips.  These are all good nutritious foods, but eating a wider variety of veggies is even better for ensuring that your body gets all of the different vitamins and minerals that it needs.  Eating a range of colours is the easiest strategy to ensure nutritional variety.  The colour most obviously missing from the root vegetable list is green. There are plenty of lovely seasonal leafy green vegetables to try such as brussels sprouts, cabbages, kale, leeks and spinach, with purple sprouting broccoli and asparagus just making their first appearances.

Get inventive with your home baking
A recession makes for a perfect time to stay in and hone those baking skills.  Baked goods are not always the healthiest food and can be high in saturated fat and sugar, but with a bit of experimentation baking doesn’t need to be unhealthy. These are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Try experimenting with your favourite recipes, replacing some of the fat in your baked goods with fruit or vegetable puree or developing a healthier version of your favourite muffin.
  • There are a plethora of healthier grains out there to investigate; wholewheat, wholegrain spelt and buckwheat are three flours that are relatively easily to obtain in the UK, as are whole oats.
  • Don’t limit yourself to baking sweet items either; learn how to make one of the many styles of bread that are baked across the world (I’ve been experimenting with chapatti which are easy and fun to make).
  • Try baking with beans and legumes for a soluble fibre boost, for example these Chickpea blondies (simple to make and tasty) or black bean brownies

Phew, that was a bit of a long post. Thanks for sticking with me. I hope I’ve given you a few ideas to eat well and save a bit of cash. And of course I’d love to hear what you’ve come with yourself.


sara April 19, 2009 at 19:52

Great list of tips! Thanks. :-D

Jillian April 19, 2009 at 20:37

Fantastic article and fantastic, thoughtful tips!
Love that muffin recipe, by the way!

renee anne April 20, 2009 at 02:24

Wonderful post! So very helpful and informative!!

Johanna April 20, 2009 at 03:43

lots of good ideas – I also keep dried fruit in the house and have that some days when there is no fresh fruit about – not sure about how budget-friendly that is but it helps me get my fruit intake in some way

Elaine April 20, 2009 at 05:09

Excellent post, Sophie. Was it long ? I didn’t notice ;-). You express these ideas to try in realistic, creative, appealing ways. Thank you.
(I see Kathryn tweeted about your post tonight so I will wait until tomorrow to RT it.)

johanna April 20, 2009 at 09:29

hi sophie, this is a very useful post. i have always chastised myself for being such a snob and (almost) only buying fillet, but then i don’t eat meat all that much anyway – it had never occurred to me that the health benefits are a real good excuse, of course!
with regards to new grains, I have to admit i am a bit of a carb addict and (since the nutrition module in my naturopathy course) have discovered quinoa, which not only has the same comforting qualities as your usual carb, buu also contains all your essential AAs… beautiful. I eat it at least twice a week now, the kids even more often. i have yet to try amaranth and I could be more inventive with other flours in my breads – but i am always worried that i might lose that perfect look of a French country loaf ;-)

Sophie April 20, 2009 at 10:09

Lovely tips, thanks so much!!
Beautiful post!

Alex April 20, 2009 at 12:31

Wow – wise words…

Arwen from Hoglet K April 20, 2009 at 13:00

I’m fascinated by that chickpea blondie. Chickpeas, tahini and linseeds sounds like such a savoury mix, so I’m amazed to see a cake recipe like that.
It’s nice to hear tinned fruit getting a positive mention. I often wondered if it was as good as fresh.

Patty April 20, 2009 at 14:05

Tropical fruits and veggies are great tasting bargains. Fruit salads with cut melons, grapes and berries can be so expensive, but insert some papaya and mangos instead and it’s way less inexpensive.
A lot of tropical fruits and vegetables come up from the Caribbean, Central and South America.
I always check out the tropical aisle in my produce section for some great bargains.

Scott April 21, 2009 at 02:19

Great article. I have also found it useful to visit your favorite food companies websites and sign up for their newsletter (if they have one). You can often get a bunch of coupons and discounts by doing this.

Emily April 23, 2009 at 09:52

Great tips as ever.
Japanese recipes definitely get my vote by the way – I went there recently and as well as loving the whole place, the food was fantastic (noodle & veg soup topped with sweet tofu was my favourite). I’d love to get some do-able recipes for Japanese food!

Sophie April 23, 2009 at 22:27

Thanks sara, Jillian and renee anne – glad you enjoyed the post!
Johanna – that’s a good one, dried fruit is generally pretty budget friendly, plus extremely convenient
Thanks Elaine, realistic but appealing was just what I was shooting for :-)
Johanna, yes, I much prefer to eat veggie most of the time and have a piece of good quality piece of meat very occasionally. And there are stacks of health and environmental reasons to eat this way. Quinoa is a great find isn’t it? We have it quite often and at all times of day, even breakfast. You’ll have to pluck up the courage to try amaranth flour and let me know how it goes (it’s not that easy to come by in the UK so do let me know if you find a source)
Cheers Sophie and Alex!
Arwen – the chickpea blondies are good, definitely a recipe to try
Patty – I guess it depends where you are. We have the opposite situation in the UK. Tropical fruits are really expensive, particularly papaya and mango
Signing up for coupons from your favourite companies is a great idea Scott
Emily – a trip to Japan must have been very exciting (and so much food to try). I’m looking out for a decent Japanese cookbook (also do-able, home style recipes) so do let me know if you know of one/find one

Sam April 23, 2009 at 22:46

And if you’re in Australia, cry at the fact that berries usually $40/kilo :(

Katie May 3, 2009 at 23:15

Great ideas! Love your blog!Thanks for the tips!

Kirstin May 4, 2009 at 00:23

A lot of great tips, regardless of the recession! I’m glad that local farmers markets are finally opening up, lots of local fruits and veggies.

Tessa May 5, 2009 at 04:05

Great tips Sophie! I adore your blog :)

Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. May 14, 2009 at 19:26

Great tips. I have recently particpated in a hunger challenge.
I do find that going back to eating like in the “old days” = at home, less expensive food – which usually means more local, seasonal, less meat, etc – is more affordable, not to mention helathier.
I think that eating less meat actually helped me lose weight.

Previous post:

Next post: