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19 November 2023

Ten top tips to manage the cost of living while eating well for MS

In today's world, navigating the cost of living can often feel like treading through uncertain waters. Nutritional Therapist, Sam Josephs, has put together some useful tips for managing the cost of living while eating well for MS.

The rising prices of everyday essentials, coupled with a general ‘cost of living crisis’ underscores the importance of managing finances and sticking to our household budgets. Indeed, the implications of disordered finances can lead to significant stress which may even affect our health.

Good news: the Overcoming MS diet can be followed on a budget

By embracing a diet that avoids meat, focuses on wholefoods, and recommends avoiding highly processed foods, the Overcoming MS Program offers a holistic approach that naturally aligns with a prudent approach to shopping, enabling us to stay on track with our health goals and financial well-being simultaneously. Furthermore, with some smart planning and a little strategic shopping, the Overcoming MS Program can easily be followed whilst sticking to a weekly household budget.

Top ten tips for eating affordably to support MS

Below I have outlined my top ten practical tips which I hope will inspire and guide you to shop healthily and affordably for the Overcoming MS diet, ensuring both your wellbeing and wallet are in perfect harmony!

1. Plan your meals for the week in advance

Protect an hour at the end or beginning of the week to write down the meals you are going to prepare the following week, taking into consideration the schedules of any other people in your household. Create your weekly meal plan, make a detailed shopping list of ingredients needed, and then stick to it in the supermarket to avoid impulsive purchases that can soon add up in extra cost. Focus on including plenty of budget-friendly staples such as wholegrains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.

2. Buy dry cupboard staples in bulk

When possible, buy certain dry cupboard staples like rice, oats, lentils, and beans in bulk. Purchasing these foods in larger quantities can significantly reduce the cost per unit. Look for discounts or offers on these bulk purchases to get the most value for your money.

3. Compare different prices, brands and supermarket offers

Sometimes own-brands or generic options are cheaper than branded items, yet the quality and nutritional value are often the same. Also, take advantage of shop-saving vouchers and loyalty schemes.

4. Frozen fruit and vegetables are a budget-friendly alternative to fresh produce

They are often frozen at the point of picking and can be just as nutritious as the fresh versions and less likely to get wasted. Stock up on frozen berries, peas, green beans, spinach and other essentials to have both convenient and nutritious options on hand.

5. Be sure to use plenty of affordable plant-based protein sources

Choose plant-based protein sources like lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, and tempeh for your main meals of the day. Beans and lentils are cheapest bought dried and then boiled (soak the beans before boiling). They can be bought in bulk too which makes them very affordable.

6. Use smaller portions of fish or seafood to make it go a bit further

If you include fish and seafood you will know they can sometimes be pricey. Try using smaller portions of fish or seafood to go a bit further eg a prawn and chickpea stir-fry will allow you to use less prawns per head, with a tin of chickpeas to add extra plant-based protein; or 1 portion of salmon to make into a noodle salad with added veggies, herbs and seeds to feed 2-3 people. Look for smoked salmon off-cuts for crackers and salad for lunch which is cheaper than buying sliced smoked salmon. Tinned salmon and tinned sardines are a great sandwich filler or salad topper and cheaper than the fresh options whilst still retaining the essential omega-3 oils. Frozen fish and seafood is cheaper than fresh, less likely to go to waste and just as nutritious. Keep your eyes peeled for supermarket offers and discounts, choosing cheaper cuts where possible.

7. Don't let leftovers go to waste – get creative!

Freezers are great for saving extra portions of meals to have as a ready-prepared meal for another day. If you have leftover grains from an evening meal, can you turn them into a fresh salad for lunch the next day? Leftover vegetables from a roast can be repurposed into a stir-fry. They are also delicious turned into soup with a litre of stock. Leftover offcuts of vegetables such as onion skins, carrot tops, potato peelings, celery leaves etc can be boiled up for a delicious homemade stock.

8. Consider how you store your fresh fruit and vegetables

Forget the fruit bowl and store ripened fruit (but not bananas) in the fridge to increase the shelf life. Grapes and berries will spoil quicker once washed, so only wash the portion you intend to eat just before consuming. Storing onions with potatoes will encourage them both to spoil quicker. Some vegetables often bought in plastic like cucumber, peppers and broccoli will keep for longer if allowed to remain in the plastic packaging until consumed, whilst removing the tops from root vegetables like carrots, beetroots and radishes before storing can prevent them from drawing moisture from the root and going bad.

9. Don’t let wilting vegetables in the bottom of the fridge go to waste

Some can even be revived. Did you know you can put a wilted head of celery or fresh herbs in a glass of water in the fridge like a bunch of flowers and they will come back to life? Wilting vegetables or even vegetable offcuts can be boiled up to make a home-made broth, or turned into soup which you can elevate to a quick, complete meal with a handful of leftover wholegrains and some beans. The same goes for fruit – any apples or stone fruit starting to wrinkle can be baked, turned into a stewed apple or a compote for a delicious side at breakfast or even dessert! Bananas starting to over-ripen can be wrapped in baking paper or foil and then frozen to use in smoothies or for ‘nice cream’.

10. Grow your own herbs

Herbs which bring so many nutritional benefits and flavours to the Overcoming MS diet can be grown on a windowsill or kitchen counter. In the fridge, they should be stored in the door to keep them fresh for longer and kept airtight. A clip on the bag will help with this, or wrap them in a damp kitchen roll. Don’t waste the stalks either, chop them finely to add flavour to soups, stir-fries and stews. Excess fresh herbs can be chopped and frozen in ice cube trays with a bit of water, then added to your cooking when needed. Dried herbs are cheaper and last longer than fresh herbs while still packing plenty of flavour, so make plenty of use of these too when managing the weekly shop.

Support your health and your budget

Remember, every small step you take towards mindfully managing your Overcoming MS supermarket budget, is a big step towards supporting your health and maintaining financial security. By adopting certain tips and tricks, you can create a budget-friendly kitchen that supports your healthy eating habits and minimizes food waste. 

Embracing the Overcoming MS diet doesn’t have to break the bank; in fact, it can be a catalyst for smarter spending and resourcefulness. From planning meals to repurposing leftovers, each strategy can help you save money and get the best ‘bang for your buck’ when it comes to filling the supermarket trolley with nutritious foods that will support your health and well-being.