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ideas for more variety and less cost in my diet?

edited 4 August 2009 at 7:03PM in Old Style MoneySaving
46 replies 11.3K views
AmesAmes Forumite
18.5K posts
edited 4 August 2009 at 7:03PM in Old Style MoneySaving
Hi all, I hope you don't mind me posting.

I've been on a diet and changing to healthy eating. From eating total junk most of the time, in a month I've changed to getting my five a day, eating the right proportions, and everything. I've done it with the help of a health trainer and she's agreed I'm doing really well.

I've got two problems now though, firstly I want to cut my shopping bill, and secondly I'm getting bored with what I'm eating. I've got ME and have to buy ready prepared stuff so I'm very limited, I can't batch cook and freeze or anything like that. So here's what I'm eating and spending, any advice would be brilliant.

Breakfast:

Bowl of muesli, semi skimmed milk. £2 a bag of muesli, 86p a bottle of milk. I can't get bigger bottles as I can't lift them, so the two pint ones are my limit.

Lunch:

Wraps (about £1 for 8 depending on offers), with either dry fried egg, humous or own brand philadelphia type cheese, and some veg - lettuce leaves usually. I find with 'normal' bread it goes off quicker and I can't get through a loaf in one go, and I think wraps are healthier.

Dinner (this is where I'm getting really bored).

Meat done in the GF grill machine or fish wrapped in foil in the oven with different herbs, or bought already marinated with different flavours. Usually salmon, I stock up when asda has them for £1 each or 2 for £3. The meat I usually get at the market, it's better quality and cheaper but I've just had a mega whoopsie haul that's stocked the freezer for a couple of weeks. Meat from the butcher is about 70p-£1 per portion.

Easy to cook veg - beans etc that I can just throw in a pan of boiling water, and use a slotted spoon to lift out. On bad days, the steam fresh microwave veg.

Drinks:

diluted fruit juice, a carton lasts me about a week.
coffee.

Snacks:

This is my expensive downfall. I love berries and munch a portion a day. But they're so expensive even now, in winter I wont be able to afford them. I'm not keen on apples/pears etc, but do like bananas. I've got a blueberry plant but it's not very fruitful! So I need some cheap fruity snacks.

Any suggestions, especially about the protein, would be great.

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Replies

  • I can't help very much but Sainsburys do bags of frozen fruit salad so I expect other shops do. You could get your fruit in the winter like that.
    Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination:beer:

    Oscar Wilde
  • Linda32Linda32 Forumite
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    It sounds like a very good diet to me, the only thing I can suggest is if there is a cheaper muesli :confused: and I thought the same as Buxtonrabbit on the frozen fruit but was thinking of Tesco's £1.00 - £1.50 I buy these alot. Fortunately I have fruit from the allotment at the moment. :T

    Sorry not much help
  • edited 30 July 2009 at 8:24PM
    lynzpowerlynzpower Forumite
    25.3K posts
    edited 30 July 2009 at 8:24PM
    This is my expensive downfall. I love berries and munch a portion a day. But they're so expensive even now, in winter I wont be able to afford them. I'm not keen on apples/pears etc, but do like bananas. I've got a blueberry plant but it's not very fruitful! So I need some cheap fruity snacks.
    Markets are good for this if you can get to any- Ive been gettintg straws dirt cheap recently along with 2 punnets from M&S yesterday for 99p ( the big ones)

    Do you like dried fruit- you can get big bags of banana chips/ pinepple rings. Look out in £ shops,. our local one does 2 for a quid, inc mano/ papaya. you can snack easily on these

    I like bananas with honey inpancakes :) or with museli/ honey/ natural yog mmmm

    Get out and about, youll see blackberries are about to crop in london , some others on here have found them cropping already :D bear in mind supermarket are selling UK blackberrys now, so they are gowing somewhere! FREE!

    For lunches, what about Spanish omelette? Summer soups ( pea & mint is one seasonal = example)light salad?

    With wraps other options are veggie/ meat fajitas / enchiladas or for lunch Ill do a lazy Quesadilla - just wraps lightly spread with lazy chilli or chipotle paste ( if you have) bit of choppe onion, thinly sliced mushrooms/ shreads of rubber chicken. lightly fried in oil you can do this with spray liteif you want to watch the cals:) you can buy cooked chicken for this

    Doyou not have anything with sauces, lke curry, chilli, pasta, I notice no stirfries or anything lke that, what would you choose to eat if money was no object where would you go what would you have! You can recreate it at home :D ( or at least try lol)

    For dinner tonight we are having chicken salad, wraps. OH mght have chips bt I wont bother. Smal chickens ( oakham) are half price in tescos I got a haul for 2.50 and less yesterday. Also they were reducing thier grill pack fresh 6 sausages and 4 burgers to 1.50 so I grabbed loads of these. We usually make our own burgers from M&S mince this is a lot cheaper so worth grabbing.

    I find buying reduced or special offer foods really makes you be creative.

    Today I got a free rainbow trout from mywaitrose, I dont cook that so Im really looking forward to trying that.


    Anyway hope my ramblings of some use to someone!
    :beer: Well aint funny how its the little things in life that mean the most? Not where you live, the car you drive or the price tag on your clothes.
    Theres no dollar sign on piece of mind
    This Ive come to know...
    So if you agree have a drink with me, raise your glasses for a toast :beer:
  • edited 30 July 2009 at 8:05PM
    greenbeegreenbee Forumite
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    edited 30 July 2009 at 8:05PM
    Try swapping milk for yogurt occasionally in the morning with your muesli. I find a 500ml pot lasts me a week. I slice in a piece of fruit (whatever's best value at the time of year - if I have a glut of something I stew it and freeze for winter, so have plums, rhubarb, apple, blackberry & apple, blackcurrants etc available - raspberries & blueberries I freeze uncooked so I can have them occasionally in winter). If you aren't having eggs at lunchtime, have a couple for breakfast with toast and maybe some baked beans (pulses have lots of protein in)

    Lunch - try buying nice bread when on offer and freezing it bagged up in pairs of slices, so you can have a sandwich if you fancy a change. Soup is also good for lunch, with a slice of bread. I also sometimes have rice cakes and take all the bits to work with me and layer cottage cheese, tomatoes and home-sprouted seeds on them (sometimes I have a scraping of marmite too!). You could also cook a bit of pasta and have it cold with your salad. Add some tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, chopped carrots etc to the salad, and a handful of sunflower or pumpkin seeds. For protein I like cottage cheese, hard boiled egg, tuna, smoked mackeral, shredded chicken, grated cheese or flavoured tofu.

    Supper - again, soup is good for a light meal. Or possibly a stir-fry if you can get the veg ready-prepared. Marinade the meat in olive oil, soy sauce and a squeeze of lemon or lime (and maybe a splash of chilli sauce). You can keep it like this in the fridge for a couple of days, so do it when you have a bit of energy ready for when you need it. Noodles are quick and easy to cook and throw in. Personally I like adding silken tofu for extra protein, but this works best with things like ratatouille which may be a bit labour intensive for you (you can stir it into pasta sauce). I make things like ratatouille, pasta sauce and soup in the slow cooker, so it isn't much effort. Fish cakes are also good for when you really don't have any energy. By them when on special offer and keep in the freezer for emergencies!

    Snacks - rice cakes & marmite; hard boiled eggs; dried fruit (my current favourites are dried nectarines and dried plums, but I like dates & figs too!); nuts (almonds, brazils); seeds (pumpkin, sunflower); rice cakes with nut butter & sliced banana; plain yogurt & sliced apple; vegetable juice (long life V8) is a really good way of boosting your veg intake (you should have more veg than fruit)

    Hope this helps!
  • AmesAmes Forumite
    18.5K posts
    lynzpower wrote: »
    Markets are good for this if you can get to any- Ive been gettintg straws dirt cheap recently along with 2 punnets from M&S yesterday for 99p ( the big ones)

    I try the market, but find that the fruit goes off within a day at most, sometimes it's mouldy when I get it home! Even avoiding the ones were what they give you comes from behind where you can't see it it's all stuff that's going off. The farmer's market's fine, but it's only every 2 weeks.

    Do you like dried fruit- you can get big bags of banana chips/ pinepple rings. Look out in £ shops,. our local one does 2 for a quid, inc mano/ papaya.

    I don't like dried fruit because it's so packed with sugar! I once switched to eating loads of dried fruit and put loads of weight on, when I checked the info I was eating the same number of calories as 5 mars bars a day!

    I like bananas with honey inpancakes :) or with museli/ honey/ natural yog mmmm

    Get out and about, youll see blackberries are about to crop in london , some others on here have found them cropping already :D bear in mind supermarket are selling UK blackberrys now, so they are gowing somewhere! FREE!

    I have mobility problems and often can't leave the house

    For lunches, what about Spanish omelette? Summer soups ( pea & mint is one seasonal = example)light salad?

    salad's a good idea thanks, I can't make my own soup though because of the preparation and washing up that's involved. I know that sounds like a cop out, but I get so much pain in my wrists, and in my back if I stand for any length of time.

    With wraps other options are veggie/ meat fajitas / enchiladas or for lunch Ill do a lazy Quesadilla - just wraps lightly spread with lazy chilli or chipotle paste ( if you have) bit of choppe onion, thinly sliced mushrooms/ shreads of rubber chicken. lightly fried in oil you can do this with spray liteif you want to watch the cals:)

    Like the idea of some of those!

    Doyou not have anything with sauces, lke curry, chilli, pasta, I notice no stirfries or anything lke that, what would you choose to eat if money was no object where would you go what would you have! You can recreate it at home :D ( or at least try lol)

    I can't make sauces or stir fry because of my wrists, woks are too heavy for me to lift into the sink and out. Even opening tins can be too much.

    For dinner tonight we are having chicken salad, wraps. OH mght have chips bt I wont bother. Smal chickens ( oakham) are half price in tescos I got a haul for 2.50 and less yesterday. Also they were reducing thier grill pack fresh 6 sausages and 4 burgers to 1.50 so I grabbed loads of these. We usually make our own burgers from M&S mince this is a lot cheaper so worth grabbing.

    I find buying reduced or special offer foods really makes you be creative.

    Today I got a free rainbow trout from mywaitrose, I dont cook that so Im really looking forward to trying that.


    Anyway hope my ramblings of some use to someone!

    Sorry if it sounds like I'm being negative, but it's a real problem finding things that I can actually cook. I've been referred to occupational therapy so hopefully I can get some gadgets, but I don't think it'll help a huge lot.

    Linda- it's the cheapest muesli (asda's own) that I like. I have thought about making my own though. Not sure what grains etc to use, can I just get porridge oats from the supermarket and mix in some seeds and raisins etc?

    Frozen fruit I find to be quite bitter, but I haven't tried all the brands, just asda cherries. They're frozen raspberries are good though. I'll check out more, thanks for that tip BRG and Linda.
    Unless I say otherwise 'you' means the general you not you specifically.
  • AmesAmes Forumite
    18.5K posts
    greenbee wrote: »
    Try swapping milk for yogurt occasionally in the morning with your muesli. I find a 500ml pot lasts me a week. I slice in a piece of fruit (whatever's best value at the time of year - if I have a glut of something I stew it and freeze for winter, so have plums, rhubarb, apple, blackberry & apple, blackcurrants etc available - raspberries & blueberries I freeze uncooked so I can have them occasionally in winter). If you aren't having eggs at lunchtime, have a couple for breakfast with toast and maybe some baked beans (pulses have lots of protein in)

    The problem with yoghurt is my self control, if I get a 500ml pot or pack of 4 I can easily eat them in a day, although self control with food is the next thing I need to work on so I'll give it a go next week. It was also suggested to me by a friend that I could freeze yoghurt for an ice cream type indulgent snack. I saw some little pots in the pound shop that would be perfect, so I can divide it up to reduce temptation. Thanks for reminding me about that! I think eggs or beans for breakfast would be too much, I'm not a big breakfast eater.

    Lunch - try buying nice bread when on offer and freezing it bagged up in pairs of slices, so you can have a sandwich if you fancy a change. Soup is also good for lunch, with a slice of bread. I also sometimes have rice cakes and take all the bits to work with me and layer cottage cheese, tomatoes and home-sprouted seeds on them (sometimes I have a scraping of marmite too!). You could also cook a bit of pasta and have it cold with your salad. Add some tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, chopped carrots etc to the salad, and a handful of sunflower or pumpkin seeds. For protein I like cottage cheese, hard boiled egg, tuna, smoked mackeral, shredded chicken, grated cheese or flavoured tofu.

    like the salad type ideas! I noticed that there's some low fat grated cheese in asda, so I might get some of that. I love smoked mackaral too.

    Supper - again, soup is good for a light meal. Or possibly a stir-fry if you can get the veg ready-prepared. Marinade the meat in olive oil, soy sauce and a squeeze of lemon or lime (and maybe a splash of chilli sauce). You can keep it like this in the fridge for a couple of days, so do it when you have a bit of energy ready for when you need it. Noodles are quick and easy to cook and throw in. Personally I like adding silken tofu for extra protein, but this works best with things like ratatouille which may be a bit labour intensive for you (you can stir it into pasta sauce). I make things like ratatouille, pasta sauce and soup in the slow cooker, so it isn't much effort. Fish cakes are also good for when you really don't have any energy. By them when on special offer and keep in the freezer for emergencies!

    Can I use that marinade for meat and then grill it? It sounds really nice, without the heavy pans I'd need for a stir fry.

    I've got a tiny one person slow cooker, so I could do things in that fairly easily. Just don't know what!

    Snacks - rice cakes & marmite; hard boiled eggs; dried fruit (my current favourites are dried nectarines and dried plums, but I like dates & figs too!); nuts (almonds, brazils); seeds (pumpkin, sunflower); rice cakes with nut butter & sliced banana; plain yogurt & sliced apple; vegetable juice (long life V8) is a really good way of boosting your veg intake (you should have more veg than fruit)

    Didn't think about a hard boiled egg as a snack! I've been told to avoid nuts though because they're so high calorie.


    Changing the ratio of veg to fruit is also a challenge I need to take, I much prefer fruit to veg!


    Hope this helps!

    Yes it does!
    Unless I say otherwise 'you' means the general you not you specifically.
  • edited 30 July 2009 at 9:10PM
    greenbeegreenbee Forumite
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    edited 30 July 2009 at 9:10PM
    I've got no idea why this has changed to italics :confused:

    The problem with yoghurt is my self control, if I get a 500ml pot or pack of 4 I can easily eat them in a day, although self control with food is the next thing I need to work on so I'll give it a go next week. It was also suggested to me by a friend that I could freeze yoghurt for an ice cream type indulgent snack. I saw some little pots in the pound shop that would be perfect, so I can divide it up to reduce temptation. Thanks for reminding me about that! I think eggs or beans for breakfast would be too much, I'm not a big breakfast eater. I'm not crazy about plain yogurt (especially if I get the low-fat stuff!) which is why I get it! I just take out a couple of spoonfuls a day to have with my muesli (which I make cheaper as I make it myself, but this probably isn't an option for you at the moment, but may be when you've got the hang of the other things). It's also nice if you make it up the night before, as the oats are then softer.


    like the salad type ideas! I noticed that there's some low fat grated cheese in asda, so I might get some of that. I love smoked mackaral too. Don't worry too much about having full fat hard cheese - just have a little less of it. You aren't eating a vast amount (have more salad, less cheese and enjoy the flavour), so concentrate on the quality. Smoked mackeral can be heated up in the oven for a bit of variation.


    Can I use that marinade for meat and then grill it? It sounds really nice, without the heavy pans I'd need for a stir fry. Yes you can - and you can swap the soy sauce for a splash of red wine, or add honey to the soy version too. A little 5-spice powder and some chopped garlic (or lazy garlic if it is easier for you) can be added for variety. If you use a traditional seasoned metal wok rather than a non-stick one it's much lighter (and doesn't need washing - you just wipe with kitchen roll and leave it on the hob ready for next time!). I have everything prepared and ready, cut very small so it doesn't take long to cook, and then stir it round and add in some noodles or rice.

    I've got a tiny one person slow cooker, so I could do things in that fairly easily. Just don't know what! It would make things a lot less effort for you. You can chop vegetables when you have the energy, and chuck them in - how about chopping an onion, an aubergine, a courgette, adding a tin of tomatoes (or if tins are a problem, then Sainsbury's do them in tetrapak cartons, or you can add quartered fresh tomatoes and a little water) and some herbs, and a packet of silken tofu - you've then got a protein rich vegetable stew/pasta sauce which can be eaten with bread, pasta, jacket potato or rice, or just on its own. You can eat one portion and freeze another. Once you get used to using it, you'll probably find it helps you a lot.

    Didn't think about a hard boiled egg as a snack! I've been told to avoid nuts though because they're so high calorie. Hardboiled eggs are great snacks - plenty of protein, not too many calories (and apparently we can now have up to two a day, although that might get a little dull ;)). They're also handy if you're going out as they're already packaged! Nuts are fine as long as you eat them sensibly - no more than one portion a day, and about 6 nuts in a portion. I have tablets that have to be taken with food, and have been told one brazil nut is a good thing to have with them if I'm not really hungry.

    Re. the dried fruit - make sure you get it without sugar (so avoid mango, pineapple etc - prunes, dates, figs, plums, apricots, nectarines, apples, pears & peaches are fine) and keep portions small - one or two of a large fruit, no more than 6 of a small one.


    Changing the ratio of veg to fruit is also a challenge I need to take, I much prefer fruit to veg!
    The veg juice is really good for this, as are seeds for sprouting at home (my current batch is broccoli & alfalfa) - and variety is important too both to stop you getting bored, and to maximise your nutritional intake.

    It's sometimes hard for those of us who don't have the mobility/energy/strength problems to realise what the limitations are for others, but there are always things you can do, and it will get easier with time as you experiment and adapt things to suit your lifestyle. Make the most of the times you're feeling good to make sure you have plenty of things available for the bad days, and hopefully with the improvement in your diet you will gradually find you have more energy and strength.

    Best of luck, and do come back and let us know how you get on, and ask more questions if you need more ideas!
  • greenbeegreenbee Forumite
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    Ames wrote: »
    Linda- it's the cheapest muesli (asda's own) that I like. I have thought about making my own though. Not sure what grains etc to use, can I just get porridge oats from the supermarket and mix in some seeds and raisins etc?

    I didn't read this before my last reply. Making your own muesli is great!

    I use a combination of: jumbo oats, porridge oats, wheat bran, oat bran, wheat germ, millet flakes, rice flakes, buckwheat flakes, barley flakes (whatever I can get - health food shops are really good for variety).

    I then add - chopped nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts) ... you may want to get someone to chop them for you ... and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, hemp) and no added sugar dried fruit (chopped dates, dried figs, dried apple, dried apricots, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried pears, dried nectarines, dried peaches and if I really have to, raisins/currants/sultanas!)
    Ames wrote: »
    Frozen fruit I find to be quite bitter, but I haven't tried all the brands, just asda cherries. They're frozen raspberries are good though. I'll check out more, thanks for that tip BRG and Linda.

    If you have room in your freezer, buy raspberries & blueberries when they're cheap and freeze them yourself. Otherwise those a probably two of the best for buying frozen. Fruit tinned in fruit juice is also good, as it has no added sugar, although the flavour is different.
  • AmesAmes Forumite
    18.5K posts
    Thanks for that, I'll look out for cheese. I like feta so that's probably a good option. So, feta, tomato and olive salad sounds good, and I can do the same with pasta for a bigger meal. so there's a bit of variety already!

    Thanks for the marinade ideas! What's a seasoned metal wok, how would I know it's one of those not the traditional kind? I like the idea of it not needing cleaning!

    The slow cooker idea sounds good, I've also seen a bigger one in asda that I could do bigger portions and freeze bits, and it's plastic so it's lighter for washing and things. It's going to have to wait a few weeks though cos I've got a tight month in August.

    I'll have a look at the nuts and dried fruit, if I get them and portion them into little bags I'll be able to make sure I only eat the right amount.

    I've tried getting some bits of veg to grow myself. I had some salad leaves on the windowsill but they died, and I've got a couple of courgette plants that seem to be doing ok, although there's no sign of any veg! I got a couple of strawberry plants too but they've died. I kind of feel bad though cos my neighbours do my garden for me and it seems mean to eat all the produce myself, there's not enough room to grow enough for more than one person though.

    There's a health food shop in town, I think I'll go in and buy a variety of oats and seeds and things, hopefully I can make a decent muesli myself.

    I think I'll have to get another freezer at some point, I was already thinking of it. It'll cost more to run, but at least I can get organised with plenty of food ready for bad weeks.

    Thanks again for all the help, you're doing great at thinking of limitations and ways round them!
    Unless I say otherwise 'you' means the general you not you specifically.
  • greenbeegreenbee Forumite
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    Ames wrote: »
    Thanks for that, I'll look out for cheese. I like feta so that's probably a good option. So, feta, tomato and olive salad sounds good, and I can do the same with pasta for a bigger meal. so there's a bit of variety already!
    That's great - you're having ideas already! Red onion is nice with feta, tomatoes & olives too!
    Ames wrote: »
    Thanks for the marinade ideas! What's a seasoned metal wok, how would I know it's one of those not the traditional kind? I like the idea of it not needing cleaning!
    Scroll down on this page - carbon steel woks are light, and you season them much like cast iron pans. You can wash if they get really dirty, but they're fine with a wipe before and after use once seasoned.
    Ames wrote: »
    The slow cooker idea sounds good, I've also seen a bigger one in asda that I could do bigger portions and freeze bits, and it's plastic so it's lighter for washing and things. It's going to have to wait a few weeks though cos I've got a tight month in August.
    Don't spend any money on anything new until you've got into the habit of using the SC - you don't want to waste money. Work with what you've got for the moment.
    Ames wrote: »
    I've tried getting some bits of veg to grow myself. I had some salad leaves on the windowsill but they died, and I've got a couple of courgette plants that seem to be doing ok, although there's no sign of any veg! I got a couple of strawberry plants too but they've died. I kind of feel bad though cos my neighbours do my garden for me and it seems mean to eat all the produce myself, there's not enough room to grow enough for more than one person though.
    I just sprout seeds - everything else is hard work, and if I can't be bothered to go shopping, with those and a yogurt maker I can avoid malnutrition for a week or so!
    Ames wrote: »
    There's a health food shop in town, I think I'll go in and buy a variety of oats and seeds and things, hopefully I can make a decent muesli myself.
    I hope they have a good selection. They should have good dried fruit yet. If money is a bit tight, try to get a one or two things each week until you've got enough to make the muesli and then you can make a big batch that should last you a while. [/quote]
    Ames wrote: »
    I think I'll have to get another freezer at some point, I was already thinking of it. It'll cost more to run, but at least I can get organised with plenty of food ready for bad weeks.
    As above - don't spend money until you've tried the new routine and worked out whether it is worthwhile spending the money.
    Ames wrote: »
    Thanks again for all the help, you're doing great at thinking of limitations and ways round them!
    I'm procrastinating... I've got a job application to do some work for and I really don't want to! I've had mobility problems myself in the past, so know what you mean about lifting - dropping hot pans isn't fun... it can take years to learn (the hard way) to adapt, but when you do it all seems so easy :rolleyes: You'll get the hang of it, and then it won't feel like a limitation, although people might think you're a bit odd because of things you do! For example, I find lifting UP difficult, but lifting down is fine - so all my heavy stuff in the kitchen is kept high up, which confuses people!

    I hope you can find a few strategies in here that will help make things easier for you.
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