Low cost nutrition – budget food ideas

Give your members, policyholders, or customers access to our Nutrition service – find out more. 



A major cost of living crisis is sweeping the UK, with record inflation making the average food shop more costly than ever before. With so many households experiencing food poverty, more are without access to nutritious food and are relying instead on cheap, high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.

While the size of your supermarket bill might currently feel like a bigger concern than how healthy it is, it IS possible to eat well on a tight budget with a little creativity and forethought. Our Nutrition team has put together these low cost nutrition tips (plus a budget-friendly meal plan) to help support you during this difficult time.


Get Planning

Meal planning is at the heart of budget-friendly eating. It’s estimated that around a quarter of the food we buy is thrown out, so having a clear plan will enable you to only spend money on foods you actually want and need.

Be mindful of the 3-day rule when making your plan. Lots of fresh items or cooked and stored food usually go off around the 3-day mark, so break up your weekly plan into two blocks of three days. In the middle of the week, cook fresh items and move cooked or perishable items to the freezer. This saves you from throwing food away and having to re-buy in the middle of each week.


Be Realistic

Base your meal plan on what you actually like to eat and have time to prepare so you don’t resort to takeaways on busy days.

Review your eating habits in the last week or two and be realistic. At weekends it can be nice to spend hours cooking up something new and interesting, but typically, after a long day at work, you want quick and easy meals to throw together. Factoring this in will help ensure you eat what you’ve bought and don’t get tempted elsewhere.


Shop Smart

Avoid food shopping when you’re hungry or in a rush. Make a list based on your meal plan, and stick to it! Look for offers on items you have on your shopping list but don’t be tempted by offers for items that you don’t need. This could be a false economy if the food ends up uneaten or they replace healthier items on your list.

Opt for value brands where possible and ask a member of the supermarket staff for fresh food reduction times. Shopping towards the end of the day may mean there are extra offers available on foods on your lists. When deciding which product to purchase, use unit pricing (price per specific unit of weight or volume) rather than per item to help you select products that give you the best value for money:


Low cost nutrition - Teladoc Health UK


Local food markets or independent shops can usually offer locally-sourced foods that are usually good for money, particularly if you select seasonal fruits and vegetables. These are widely available, have travelled less than out of season produce, and are therefore less expensive. Get to know your local butcher, fishmonger, and greengrocer as they will know what items are good value. Some supermarkets are starting to sell ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables that are cheaper in price but just as nutritious and tasty.

Batch Cook

It can be tempting to cook as you go, but smaller portions of ingredients often have the highest price per hundred grams.
A cheaper approach is to make multiple portions each time you cook, divide up the cooked food into portions and freeze some for later. This enables you to have future meals ready at the same time it takes to reheat a ready meal or wait for a takeaway.

Stock Up

Build your meal plans around affordable staples. You can create a wide range of meals around a few cheap, filling, and healthy ingredients such as:

Beans and pulses – high in protein and fibre plus low in saturated fat, are often the cheapest way to consume good quality protein. The cheapest meat (such as mince) can contain around four times as much saturated fat as extra-lean meat, so consider having a meat-free meal or day at least once per week. Add chickpeas to curries, lentils to bolognese, and beans to shepherds pies. Almost any leftover vegetables can be made into soup with a tin of cannellini or butter beans added to make it more substantial. Hummus, stew, falafel, chilli and veggie burgers are also tasty options.

A box of free-range eggs – great scrambled or poached on toast, hard-boiled with a salad, or as an omelette with some added vegetables. Eggs are nutritious and filling – truly one of nature’s super foods. Also, great cracked, then stirred into brown rice with some prawns!

Wholegrain rice – the bigger the pack, the cheaper the rice. The World Food aisle at the supermarket is a great place to bulk buy dried rice with a long shelf life. Brown rice will help to keep your digestive system healthy and is more filling than white rice, so a better choice than white versions.

Porridge oats – are highly nutritious and cheaper than many cereals. Jumbo rolled oats will soak up milk or fruit juice if refrigerated overnight or can be added directly to yogurt. Mix with cinnamon and fruit for flavour and make any leftovers into flapjacks.

Frozen fruits and vegetables – can be good value AND highly nutritious. The nutrients are sealed in during the freezing process, so they still count towards your 5-a-day. Rather than buying a small and expensive punnet of cherries or berries, get a large bag of frozen fruit and take the amount you need out of the freezer each time.

Potatoes – incredibly versatile; potatoes can be boiled, roasted, fried, microwaved, served as chips, mashed… the possibilities are endless. Jacket potatoes are a healthy staple with baked beans or tinned tuna for added protein. Give sweet potatoes a go, too, as they are packed with vitamins and flavour.

Frozen or tinned fish – so many options! Tinned fish is cheaper than fresh and doesn’t even need cooking. Tinned salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and pilchards provide an omega 3 hit and are great on toast or added to pasta sauces for a flavour and texture hit. Frozen fish fillets without added sauces or coatings are better choices than fish fingers or other breaded or battered fish, which contain added fat and salt.

Condiments, herbs, and spices – no one finds it exciting to eat the same thing every day, so be sure to add variety to your meals by having a good stock of herbs and spices in the cupboard. Stock cubes are useful for soups, sauces etc. – look out for reduced salt versions. Tinned tomatoes are a must as a base for sauces, while olives, fish sauce, black bean sauce, Marmite (really!), sweet chilli sauce, chutneys, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and soya sauce add depth and flavour.


Meal Budget Food Ideas
  • Porridge made with milk and one sliced banana or a portion of dried fruit on top
  • Porridge oats soaked overnight with yoghurt and frozen berries
  • Eggs or baked beans on wholemeal toast
  • Nut butter and sliced banana on wholemeal toast
  • Mixed vegetable omelette
  • Two slices of wholegrain toast with spread, one boiled egg, and a sliced medium tomato
  • Cheese spread / grated cheese and cucumber sandwiches
  • Lentil and vegetable soup with wholemeal bread
  • Tinned fish on toast served with salad
  • Jacket potato with half a can of baked beans, grated cheese and a portion of salad
  • Egg and tomato wholemeal bread sandwich
  • Cheese salad sandwich made with reduced-fat cheddar cheese, salad, two slices of wholegrain bread, and spread
  • Chicken and vegetable tray bake
  • Wholewheat spaghetti with sardines and cherry tomatoes and a portion of salad
  • Veggie burger with homemade potato wedges and frozen peas
  • Homemade chunky vegetable and bean goulash with brown rice and broccoli
  • Vegetable curry and rice
  • Frittata with peas and carrots or any other leftover / surplus vegetables
  • Chicken and vegetable stew with rice or couscous
  • Rice and peas with mackerel in tomato sauce
  • Homemade tuna and sweetcorn pasta bake served with cauliflower and broccoli
  • Tinned or seasonal fruit served with yoghurt
  • Homemade apple crumble and custard
  • Rice pudding with jam
  • Flapjacks with dried fruit
  • Carrot, cucumber, or celery sticks with hummus
  • Oatcake with cheese spread or Quark
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Frozen berries with yogurt
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Sliced apple with peanut butter
  • Microwave popcorn


Give your members, policyholders, or customers access to our Nutrition service – find out more. 

Author: Sarah West, Teladoc Health UK Nutritionist


Latest Blogs

Send Us A Message

Opinion PDF's

Please enter your email for instant download.