A new survey shows that rising food costs in the UK have reduced purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables by 30% in three years... with many poorer families only eating on average 2.7 portions per day.
We all love to budget wisely, don't we? When summer fruits jump in price during the cooler months it can be tempting to grab that £1 Aunt Bessie's family size apple crumble, fibbing to ourselves that it's mostly fruit and it's a warming healthy choice. No, it's not. It's a sugar-laden processed excuse that contributes nothing to our long-term health or training of healthy, happy tastebuds of our families.
Here I'll show you LOTS of easy ways & ideas to Eat your rainbow; cheaper and more pleasurably!
- Frozen and tetra-packed pure fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh. Whilst we're talking about frozen desserts, do pick up a frozen bag of mixed berries. One of nature's natural superfoods, blueberries and their siblings are a storehouse of nutrients and deliciously healthy phytochemicals which boost and protect our immune system. The beauty of frozen fruits and vegetables is how long they last, which stretches their value financially out, too!
- Priceless family times happen in the kitchen, so cook your own comfort food A kitchen warmed by the glow of the oven and everyone mucking in with the preparation - and cleaning up!- creates a cosy family meal to remember. Here are some cost-effective ideas for Rainbow meals:
- Mac-Off! Swap the stodge for just as comforting Cauliflower & Cheese. It's a rainbow too, when we can use purple and green caulis (natural hybrids). Mix in a cup of grated carrot and dot with cherry tomatoes for a colourful, creamy treat!
- Ratatouille, made with the rainbow of red tomatoes, orange & yellow bell peppers, green courgette and purple aubergine
- Multi-coloured world of different textures: just think of a lovely green vegetable that is sooo good for us and kind on the wallet too. Loved by adults and children alike, it's the garden pea. Frozen they can be blended into a deliciously filling fresh soup using vegetable bouillion and unsweetened pumpkin puree, seasoned with herbs and pepper.
- Added to salads they add a sweet bite; stirred into rice they add pretty contrast and children love to mix them into mashed sweet or plain potatoes.
- Speaking of mash, what about using the same vegetable or fruit in a variety of new, clever ways? Instead of mashed potato, have you tried the British favourite, mashed swede & carrot ?
- What about mashed cheap n cheerful celeriac, loved by the Irish, or champ- spring onions or leeks mixed with mashed potato?
- Pureed fruits with bruised skin can make popsicles or stirred into unsweetened yoghurt for a healthy, colourful pudding.
- Diced apples and pears are delicious in a salad (add nuts too for a satisfying winter meal)
- For a really special treat, have a fondue evening using a Rainbow plate of vegetables for main course, and fruits for dessert!
- Experiment: Children can select a different veg to add to the Rainbow each week. If you're clever enough to substitute this for a sweet purchase, there's no end to the fun you can have matching colours & it'll save you money!
- Button yellow squash is probably cheaper than a "banana flavoured" icecream as a treat, a red pomegranate tastier and more fun than a toffee apple, and making sliced beets from scratch so much more satisfying than scoffing a calorie-laden, chemically loaded chocolate pudding!
- Remember our dried Rainbow friends for a burst of sweetness! Leftover or freshly-steamed rice becomes something special, like a Pilaf, when we blend favourite spices such as tumeric with sultanas, dessicated coconut and chopped dried apricots.
- A squeeze of from a fresh lemon or lime also lends brightness and a shot of vitamin C, and leftovers can be sliced and used in tea or water as a refreshing healthy drink.
- Dried fruits can last for months or enjoyed instead of sweets as a high-energy snack.
- Herbs can be a rainbow, too, and here are ways to work them into your budget! Use rosemary stalks as kebab sticks for other veggies and enjoy the fragrant petals they'll add to the food- rosemary is a common plant in many places and picking a little of mother nature's bounty may cost you nothing at all!
- Re: buying fresh herbs. This can seem costly when you only need a little but consider the versatility of a bunch of basil, which is well-known for it's astringent & healing properties, full of vitamin C and anti-oxidants. For instance, you can:
- Whiz up your own pesto with two handfuls of leaves + pinenuts
- Layer the larger leaves with tomatoes and soft cheese cut into discs to make "insalata caprese"
- Tear and add to puree tomato for a healthier sauce as a base for chilli, ratatouille or home-made pizza
- Fold into dough with olives to make an italian scented ciabatta
- Add the larger leaves to a warming thai coconut curry and garnish with the smaller
- Parsley, especially the flat-leaved variety is just as versatile; it's fresh taste brings life to any dish and just a handful is classed as one of our 5 per day.
- Add as much as you like to green smoothies and fresh soups
- Keep the remains of the bunch on the table in a tall glass for family members to nibble on as a snack throughout the day. Trust me, it's addictive!
- One more herb well worth the cost is Coriander or Cilantro.
- With a little planning you'll find uses for this nutrition-packed herb abundant: as a carrot & coriander soup; in warming mexican-inspired chilli or bean bakes; in a fresh salsa blended with tomatoes & onion or chopped finely and sprinkled over salads or guacamole.
- Lastly, whatever time of year you'd like to feed your family healthier on a budget, think to include the exotic Rainbow in jars.
- A few drained sundried tomatoes or olives, sliced pickled beetroot, pickles or artichokes, a handful of caper berries or dried mushrooms added to a dish will turn an ordinary vegetable dish into something singing with flavour!
Who says you can't feed your family deliciously well on a budget? Just remember to buy the freshest, most local or organic produce you can, making sure variety and seasonality are at the top of your shopping list, and you'll have the healthiest, brightest bounty on a budget than ever before!