How to feed your family for less

How to eat well and for less during the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Giorgio Magini

How to eat well and for less during the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Giorgio Magini - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Fewer supermarket trips, a lack of school meals and a fall in income mean some families are struggling to put balanced meals on the table - but you can eat well for less.

Emma Harvey Lawrence is an associate registered nutritionist and a partner of Woolpit Complementary

Emma Harvey Lawrence is an associate registered nutritionist and a partner of Woolpit Complementary health practice. Picture: EMMA HARVEY LAWRENCE - Credit: Archant

Emma Harvey Lawrence is a nutritionist at the Woolpit Complementary health practice in Suffolk and she wants to help families save money on their food bills and use this time to reinforce good eating habits.

“Right now, there has never been a better time to make healthy changes in our day-to-day living,” she explains.

“We are impulsive creatures by nature but we are also habitual.

“Social distancing and government recommendations have suppressed many options for us in respect of ‘out-of-home’ meals but these measures are temporary and there’s an opportunity to utilise our impulses to create some healthy habits.”

Families are cooking for as restaurants are closed and take aways limited Picture: Getty Images/Drag

Families are cooking for as restaurants are closed and take aways limited Picture: Getty Images/Dragon Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Office of National Statistics has estimated the average household in the UK will be saving £169 per month on restaurant bills and takeaway costs, which could be a total of £468 if the lockdown lasts for 12 weeks as initially warned.

While Ms Harvey Lawrence is looking forward to ordering a takeaway or going out for dinner when it’s safe to do so, she says: “Takeaway portions tend to be large, cooking mediums contain high levels of saturated fat and it’s always going to be hard to estimate the nutritional quality of a meal that has been prepared by someone else.”

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Preparation is key

• Invest spare time in some light research: healthy recipe ideas, cheap eats or how to make a favourite restaurant or takeaway dish. See what new things others in the household would like to try or use the Internet and the interests of everyone at home to keep it interesting. Don’t be afraid to try something new!

• Prioritise principles of a balanced diet such as getting your five-a-day. Fruits and vegetables are vitamin and mineral ‘power packs’ that support our immune system, our skin and many other aspects of our health. These can be fresh, dried, tinned or frozen.

• Batch cooking for meals to freeze, or planning leftovers for lunches, cuts down the amount of time in the kitchen - if you’re still short on time.

What can you cook?

• Five-a-Day Family Feasts: Try a vegetable chilli with a minimum of five vegetables – each a different colour to ensure variation (e.g. orange peppers, red tomatoes, purple aubergines, green broccoli, yellow sweetcorn) served with wholegrain rice or quinoa. Or a wholegrain pasta dish with vegetable sauce, blended if vegetables are a battle at meal times.

Both work well as batch cooked items too, as they use up any fresh vegetables that might go to waste, they will freeze well and they are easy to reheat.

• Store cupboard lunches: Mixed bean and tuna salad with peas or sweetcorn and an olive oil, lemon and mixed herb dressing – all from tinned/store cupboard items.

• Simple healthy snacks: Green apple segments with a teaspoon of peanut butter or carrot sticks with hummus are both low in calories and count towards your five-a-day.

• Takeaway night: If you’re missing your local kebab or curry house, try making your favourite from home.

Chicken shish with salad and flatbread is a delicious balanced meal and there will likely be less salt and fewer calories than the one served from your usual takeaway.

• Lighter meals (300 calories or less): Bruschetta is a great Italian dish to try if you like tomatoes - full of flavour and one serving (one large thick cut slice of bread with three heaped dessert spoons of tomatoes, onions and pesto) is roughly below 300 calories.

• Play with portions: Our hands hold the key, if we’re struggling with portions. Using the guidelines from the British Nutrition Foundation, there is an easy way to measure portion sizes with our hands, which are unique to us.

For example, a palm represents an adequate portion of chicken and that portion will naturally be smaller for a child than an adult.

• Exercise: whether it’s following tutorials online or going for a walk, run or cycle. Write it down and make sure there is some form of movement and exercise every day that is enjoyable.

Ms Harvey Lawrence added:“If we can sustain small changes like regular healthy home cooked meals and a little more exercise over a period of ten weeks or more, they will likely become stable habits that are easier to maintain.”