Cheap ways to get your five-a-day

  • By Natalie Hardwick - Deputy editor - bbcgoodfood.com

Packing in your daily quota of fruit and vegetables needn’t cost a fortune. The BBC Good Food team shows 10 ways to buy smart, nutritious ingredients on a budget.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to eat well. Even getting your recommended five-a-day can be affordable – that’s if you make the right choices. Supermarkets are packed to the rafters with tempting fresh food, but imported fruit and vegetables can be the most expensive options. Make a plan of action before you go shopping and ensure you pick up nutritious ingredients that are the most value for money. Our portion infographic shows you exactly what constitutes one of your five-a-day, so it’s a great page to bookmark and familiarise yourself with. 

10 affordable ways to get your five-a-day

Tinned tomatoes 

Tomato sauce

It turns out this much-used canned product is a nutritional powerhouse too. Two whole plum tomatoes count as one of your five-a-day. What’s more, tomatoes release more nutrients as they cook because the cell walls break down, which is ideal as we so often use tinned tomatoes for sauces. You can buy cans for as little as 20p and there's often very little difference between budget and premium tins. Even expensive brands can contain preservatives to help the tomatoes stay firm. Organic canned tomatoes usually don’t, but here the cost-saving may be negated.  

Try it yourself... 

Healthy versatile tomato sauce
Red lentil, chickpea & chilli soup
More ways to cook with canned tomatoes

Frozen berries…  

Frozen berry yogurt
According to the NHS, it’s a myth that frozen fruit isn’t as healthy as fresh. Certainly food frozen at source doesn’t perish during travel and it’s argued by some that the process actually locks in nutrients and accentuates flavour. We’re huge fans of frozen berries, which can be made into smoothies, compotes or instant frozen yogurt. What’s more, they allow you to eat summery berries like strawberries and raspberries the whole year round without the cost implications of eating out-of-season imported produce.  

Try it yourself... 

Instant frozen berry yogurt
Berry Bircher
Super berry smoothie

… And vegetables

Creamed spinach

The same benefits apply to frozen vegetables, and supermarket basic ranges offer brilliant value for money here. Frozen cauliflower, spinach, sweetcorn and green beans are ideal for cooking with – be aware that some of the original texture can be lost in the defrosting process – and adding a few handfuls to curries, casseroles and sauces is a guaranteed nutrient boost. You can also freeze your own veg to minimise waste. Our guide gives practical tips on how to prepare things like broccoli, beans and asparagus for a trip to the freezer.  

Try it yourself... 

Ways with frozen spinach
Ways with frozen peas
Ways with frozen sweetcorn


Lentils 

Lentil ragu

Lentils are one of our all-time favourite things to cook with. Cheap and nutritious, they act as an incredible flavour sponge, so with the right recipe they can taste sensational. Most lentils don’t need to be soaked before use, even the dried ones. Split red lentils can be the most inexpensive, usually costing under £1 for a 500g bag, and are best used for soups and sauces. Firmer puy lentils are slightly more expensive but are a good option for salads. Amazingly, only 3 tbsp of lentils constitutes one of your five-a-day, plus they’re packed with fibre, protein and carbohydrate. Talk about a superfood. 

Try it yourself... 

Cauliflower, olive & lentil tagine
Lentil kofta with orzo & feta
Our best-ever lentil recipes


Chickpeas 

Curried chickpeas

Another storecupboard favourite we can’t get enough of is chickpeas. Dried chickpeas offer the best value for money but they require soaking, so canned versions win on the convenience front. You can even use the water from the can (known as ‘aquafaba’) as a vegan substitute for egg whites. You only need 3 tbsp of chickpeas to get one of your five-a-day, and we particularly like them roasted for a snack or heavily spiced as a healthy side dish with curry. 

Try it yourself...

Chickpea, tomato & spinach curry
Chickpea & coriander burgers
Our best-ever chickpea recipes


Canned peaches 

Peach melba crumble

A single tinned peach provides one of your five-a-day, so a can of them should contain enough for each member of the family to receive a fruit hit. The caveat that accompanies canned fruit is that is it usually comes in sugary syrup – even tinned fruit in juice, rather than syrup, can contain a lot of sugar. That said, if eaten occasionally it’s a good way to sneak extra nutrition into desserts and drinks. 

Try it yourself... 

Tinned peach crumble
Peach Melba smoothie


Sweet potato

Sweet potato fries

Regular white potatoes don’t count as one of your five-a-day, but sweet potatoes do. They're usually more expensive than traditional spuds, but as a source of complex carbohydrate they're fantastic value for money, and like other orange fruit and veg, they're contain nutrients like beta-carotene. You need a whole potato to get a full portion, so use it as you would a regular potato – baked, mashed, as chips... the possibilities are limitless. 

Try it yourself...

Healthy chicken & sweet potato stew
Spinach, sweet potato & lentil dhal
More ideas for cooking with sweet potato


Dried fruit

Porridge

Love them or loathe them, dried raisins, currants and sultanas count towards your five-a-day. Just one tablespoon equates to a portion, so think about that next time you're pouring out your breakfast cereal, making porridge, cooking rice or garnishing a vegetarian salad. 

Try it yourself...

Apple & sultana porridge
Spaghetti with walnuts, raisins & parsley
Spinach with raisins, pine nuts & breadcrumbs


Eat seasonal… 

Seasonal food at a market

This might sound obvious, but eating what’s in season can – but not always – be cheaper. Consult our seasonal calendar before shopping or speak to your local market stallholder or greengrocer to find out what’s in abundance. Often a glut of produce means a marked down price. 

… and local

Local food market

Food that has travelled a few miles down the road will inevitably be cheaper to get from field to fork than something that’s been flown around the world (and if this isn’t the case, ask yourself why). Markets and greengrocers can be the best means by which to eat local produce, but supermarket packaging features place of origin, so take time to read labels. Even if the cost-saving is small, it’s an eco-friendlier way to shop. 

More on five-a-day and healthy eating… 

12 ways to get your five-a-day
What counts as five-a-day?
How to eat more fruit and veg
How to sneak more veg into kids' diets
How to eat a balanced diet
Cheap & healthy recipes

Do you eat five portions of fruit and veg a day? We’d like to hear tips for reaching your quota or what you find difficult about reaching your recommended amount. 

Comments, questions and tips

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UK4
14th Jul, 2017
And don't forget to think for yourself - the 5 a day rule was picked from the air, and some the of rules for 10 a day are ridiculous. The studies on 800g of fruit and veg a day didn't say to eat 10 different fruit and veg, just that people who ate greater quantities seemed to die less of certain diseases and cancers. I count my morning blended (not juiced) smoothie of spinach, blueberries, apples, and seeds as 3 of my 10 a day - just because I mix them, doesn't logically mean that they turn into 1 a day as suggested! If I eat spinach with lunch or dinner, I count it again - why not?! And having a baked potato instead of meat, well baked potato contains plenty of vitamin C and fibre so for sure I will count that as 1. The rules are silly, getting people to replace meat and junk with fruit and vegetables should be the aim instead of making it seem impossible.
UK4
14th Jul, 2017
Read "How Bad are Bananas" to dispel a few myths about food miles and local food being better for the environment. Food grown in the UK in heated greenhouses can have a bigger carbon footprint than food shipped across the world, surprisingly.
whats4t
27th Jun, 2017
Doesn`t rinsing tinned fruit remove some of the sugar form syrup and juice?
UK4
14th Jul, 2017
For sure
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