How healthy are the 'budget' ranges?
You can’t lift a paper or turn on the TV without some comment about the credit crunch and rising food costs but did you realise we are paying on average £15 more for our weekly food shop? Even some of the basics such as a loaf of bread have increased by 20%, pasta has doubled in price and a dozen eggs now cost 50% more than they did this time last year.
One of the obvious ways to cut your bills is to buy the supermarkets’ cheapest ‘basic’ or ‘’value’ ranges or buy from the discount supermarkets if you’re not already doing so but you may wonder just how healthy they are.
In general the supermarkets’ own label products offer good value for money especially for cupboard supplies such as canned tomatoes or frozen peas. In fact a handy ingredient like a tin of chopped tomatoes from an economy range can cost as little as 20p for 400g. (If you do want to bag these bargains scan the lower shelves in the store because the economy ranges tend to be stocked away from eye level!)
Other useful purchases from these ranges include porridge oats, brown rice, quinoa and wholemeal pasta. These are all great store cupboard stand-bys and are as nutritious as the more expensive versions. For example don’t be fooled into thinking you need special “quick cooking” porridge oats for microwaving – good old rolled oats (at a third of the price) will be just as effective and in fact more nourishing than those premium products.
Discount supermarket ranges can also be perfectly healthy. At Lidl, for example, where I checked the shelves recently, a handy drink for a packed lunch is the Vitafit Apple Juice which is 100% fruit with no added sugar (5 x 250ml) and costs just £1.09. They also offer some healthy snacks to ward off the munchies such as whole Californian almonds for £1.69 for 150g; dried apricots (89p for 250g) and a dried fruit & nut mix for just 79p for 200g.
Their dairy products also offer good value for money. An example is their “Naturis Yogurt” a low fat yoghurt at 35p for 500g which is great for adding to cereals, topping soups or using as an ingredient in bolognese sauce or curries. For individual portions try “Proviacit Yogurt Pur” (4 x 150g) for 59p to which you could add some chopped pear or apple and top with toasted flaked almonds for a healthy dessert.
A word of warning though. When you’re shopping from budget ranges you do need to read the labels to check that excess levels of fat, salt or sugar haven’t been added to the products to keep the price down. Understanding what constitutes “a lot” or “a little” of ingredients such as salt, sugar and fats is an important factor in being able to tell whether a product is a healthy choice or not.
For example, economy canned fruit in “natural juice” is a better option than fruit canned “in syrup”, similarly a “juice drink” which might appear good value may in fact contain little actual fruit but plenty in the way of additives! Look for 100% juice with no added sugars to ensure you are actually making a contribution to your 5-a-day.
Print, cut out and keep the handy wallet card below to help you when you're shopping: