I recently was asked to host a nutrition workshop at the Helen Bamber Foundation, which helps disaffected human beings in the throes of being legitimised. Their allowance for food is around £18 a week so I was demonstrating how to create a balanced diet and what to cook for maximum nutritional benefit. It is an unfortunate reality that the attendees were limited to a weekly budget of between £15 to £20 per person to feed themselves but we showed them that it is possible to eat healthily and well with a little forward planning and preparation. For protein we used dried chickpeas, lentils, split beans, black beans and then bought a really good piece of fresh squid, which is a cheap source of protein and omega 3. Other cheaper fish like Dorade from the bream family, skate, catfish, red mullet, sardines and mackerel are also great sources of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids and are widely available. Omega-3 fatty acids lower your risk of heart disease mainly by lowering triglycerides and countering inflammation. You can find these fats in other sources such as spinach, wheatgerm, walnuts, flaxseed and pumpkin seeds but the very best source is fish. Sourcing fish bones from the fishmonger or animal bones from the butcher are also great for making stocks which can be made into nourishing soups with the addition of vegetables and grains such as barley, buckwheat or millet. Leftover cooked rice or barley can be used in salads and other savoury dishes but can also be used to make sweet dishes like a ‘porridge’. Couscous is also a great carbohydrate ingredient and inexpensive – you simply add boiling water to the grains and watch it puff up, so you don’t even need a cooker or hob to prepare this. The versatile and anti-oxidant sweet potato can be baked or roasted in its skin or chopped and added to stews and casseroles. It can also be peeled, boiled and mashed. Whole grains such as porridge oats have been shown to lower blood pressure, promote healthy gut bacteria and reduce the risk of diabetes, they also lower cholesterol which can help to protect against heart disease and are cheap to buy and versatile to use. Add flavourings such as cinnamon, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, raisins, sliced banana or stewed apple for a filling and nutritious breakfast. Eggs too are an inexpensive source of protein and can be boiled, poached or scrambled or used beaten to coat slices of bread and fried to make French Toast or made into pancakes. Wholemeal pitta pockets make great portable sandwiches for snacks and lunches – fill with salad, sweetcorn, tomatoes, cooked pulses or feta cheese/fried halloumi cheese or tinned mackerel and dress with natural yogurt and cucumber. For more substantial main dishes, use cooked rice and vegetables to stuff peppers then bake; roast seasonal (and therefore cheaper) vegetables in large batches then make the leftovers into soup with the addition of grains or pulses. Barley-based vegetable stews are cheap to make and highly nutritious or add chicken meat and/or carcase for additional flavour. Other low-cost ingredients to enhance flavour can be experimented with, for example, garlic, ginger, chillies and cinnamon. Why don’t you give it a try and see how far you can make a £15 per week food budget stretch? Would love to hear how you get on.
About Elizabeth Peyton-Jones
As a naturopath and food and health expert, Elizabeth Peyton-Jones takes a holistic approach to help you revitalise mind and body. She is passionate about healthy eating: her aim is to help people understand that what they eat is fundamental to the way they look and feel, and that small changes to diet and attitudes around food can awaken a more energetic and positive outlook on life.