A guide to cheap and healthy cooking

Feeling the pinch? Eating well doesn't need to cost the earth – use our top tips along with storecupboard staples for quick, healthy and affordable favourites.

Bowls of chilli

Being on a budget doesn't mean you have to compromise on nutrition. Read our tips on getting the most out of simple storecupboard staples in your cooking, along with delicious recipes for using them. We've also got advice on shopping locally and using seasonal ingredients.

Budget-friendly healthy storecupboard staples

1. Potatoes

Two jacket potatoes filled with mushrooms

Simple spuds are an essential source of energy and are packed full of vitamins B6 and C while their skins are high in fibre.

Recipe suggestions: mushroom jacket potatoes or plain baked potatoes

Also check out more healthy jacket potato recipes and healthy potato salad recipes

2. Pulses

Pot of double bean and roasted pepper chilli

Cheap, low-fat and packed with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, adding your favourite pulses to meals will immediately give their healthy credentials a boost. Three heaped tablespoons of lentils, beans or peas counts as one of your five-a-day.

Recipe suggestion: double bean & roasted pepper chilli

Discover more healthy bean recipes

3. Wholegrain pasta and bread

Wholewheat spaghetti with avocado sauce and basil on a plate

White pasta and bread are made from refined grains, which, although light and airy, are nutritionally lacking compared to their raw ancestors. Wholegrains retain their goodness and are therefore considered a quality carbohydrate, having a positive effect most notably on digestive health.

Recipe suggestion: wholewheat pasta with broccoli & almonds

Find more wholewheat pasta recipes and wholemeal bread recipes

4. Garlic and onions

Broccoli and onion salad in a square dish

Great in soups, salads and stir-fries, these simple staples are packed with anti-bacterial properties and nutrients. Both are at their nutritional peak when consumed raw but are still a worthy addition to warm dishes – just don't cook for too long or at too high a heat in order to preserve nutrients.

Recipe suggestion: broccoli with fried onion and garlic

Read more about the health benefits of garlic and health benefits of onions

5. Tinned fish

Fishcakes on white plate
Tinned fish such as tuna and sardines have many of the health properties of their fresh counterparts at a fraction of the price. Make sure you always have a good stock in your cupboard for a hit of protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for healthy skin, hair and nails.

Recipe suggestion: feelgood fishcakes

Try more healthy fish recipes

6. Oats

Overnight oats in jars topped with fruit and yogurt

A bag of oats goes a long way and is just the thing to start the day. Enjoy as porridge, in bircher potshealthy breakfast muffins and overnight oats.

Recipe suggestion:  overnight oats  

Read more about how to make porridge and the health benefits of oats

Tips to eat well for less

Use seasonal produce

Roasted carrots, cauliflower and grains bowl

In season fruit and veg is often cheaper than imported groceries. In January, make the most of forced rhubarb and root veggies like carrots, turnips and swede.

Shop local

Two bowls of celery soup

Get your fruit and veg from the market for bags of bargains and a wide variety of home-grown grub. Pick up overripe fruit for healthy smoothies and cheap veg for satisfying soups and stews.

Be veggie-friendly

Sweet potato, spinach and lentil dahl

Vegetables generally cost less than meat, so save your pennies and cook up vegetarian soups, curries and one-pots, many of which can be frozen for convenient midweek meals.

Use your leftovers

Spring tabbouleh salad on a plate

If you're guilty of throwing away food, get in the habit of having your leftovers for lunch or reusing in another dish the next day. See our guide to using your leftovers safely and get great ideas for waste-free food.

Find more budget healthy ideas

Top 10 healthy budget dinners
Cheap & healthy recipes
5 of the best budget healthy superfoods
Top 10 healthy storecupboard recipes
Cheap & healthy family meal plan

What are your top tips for healthy eating on a budget? Leave a comment below...

This page was last updated on 25 January 2019.

Our recipes have been analysed by Kerry Torrens, a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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