January might well be over, but that’s no reason to let any of your new healthy habits start to slip. For me, healthy eating is not about dieting and weight loss, it’s about eating the right balance of different foods, which definitely includes the odd treat here and there. It shouldn’t be some fad that you dip in and out of when the mood takes you or when the waistline of your jeans starts to get tight. It’s a lifestyle choice. And ultimately that’s it isn’t it? It’s all about the choices you make.
One thing I struggle with as a mum is trying to come up with different meals each week that suits everyone’s taste buds and yet still remains healthy. When I do the weekly shop I find myself ordering the same old products and quite frankly it starts to become boring and we often end up having the same safe meals week in week out. Part of that is because of trying to please everybody and having to cater for child and adult palates, especially when one child is particularly fussy about what she will and won’t eat. But I wonder whether the other reason is perhaps because I always shop at the same supermarket and therefore habitually choose the same products?
I was recently set the challenge of seeing whether I could stick to a £50 budget when doing a healthy food shop at the Marks & Spencer food hall down at Ocean Retail Park in Portsmouth. I must admit I was sceptical, as I have always been under the impression that M&S is pricey and would usually only go there to pick up the odd treat or maybe one of their dine in meal deals. The benefit of going to this particular store is that the parking is free and there is a wide range of other shops there meaning you can get a few other chores ticked off your to do list in the process.
To say I was surprised with what I managed to get with just £50 is an understatement.
Here’s what I bought:
Fruit and Vegetables
- 1 Lemon – 42p
- 1 Cucumber – 60p
- 1 bulb of Garlic – 50p
- 250g Piccolini Cherry Tomatoes (EW) – £2.50
- 200g Baby Sprouts (EW) – £1.00
- 1kg Sweet Potatoes (EW) – £1.25
- 5 fairtrade Bananas (EW) – £1.00
- 225g Strawberries (EW) – £2.50
- 200g chopped Iceberg Lettuce (EW) – £1.00
- 250g Asparagus – £1.50
- 3 Baby Hass Avocadoes (EW) – £1.50
- 220g prepared Rainbow Vegetables including pak choi, carrot ribbons, red cabbage, tenderstem broccoli, Fine Green Beans, baby corn, salad onions (EW) – £2.50
- 275g High Protein Pea Noodles in an edamame dressing (EW) – £1.50
- 4 large Wholemeal Baps (EW) – 70p
- 6 Wholemeal Pitta Breads (EW) – 60p
- 500g dried Wholewheat Penne Pasta (EW) – £1.60
- 500g whole Scottish Porridge Oats (EW) – £1.50
- 500g 0% fat Greek style Yogurt (EW) – £1.00
- 6 mixed size free range Eggs (EW) – 85p
- 50g Scottish Lochmuir Oak Smoked Salmon ribbons – £2.50
- 100g natural Pecans (EW) – £2.50
- 250g Roasted Vegetable, Olive and Lemon Bulgar Wheat (EW) – £2.00
- 265g Sweet Potato Falafels with a cashew nut and cannellini dip (PK) – £3.00
- 2 x 95g Cheesy Pizzas (TB) – £2.00
- 225g Cheese and Tomato Pasta (TB) – £1.50
- Mild Chicken Curry with fluffy rice (TB) – £2.50
- 160g (8 nuggets) No Chic’n Nuggets in a gluten free crumb (PK) – £2.50
- 2 x No Beef Burger lightly seasoned soya based burger (PK) – £3.00
- 2 x 170g bags of Percy Pigs (Phizzy Pig Tails and Percy’s Percynalities) – £3.00
(EW = Eat Well) (TB = Tastebuds) (PK = Plant Kitchen)
Total Cost of Shop = £48.52
So out of my £50 budget that gives me £1.48 change, which I put towards a £1 bunch of daffodils I’d spotted at the till (because flowers make everybody happy and we all know happy equals healthy) and that still leaves me with 48p.
That’s 31 items of food, a bunch of daffs and some change… I am one happy lady let me tell you!
Now, I realise that this doesn’t cover a whole weeks worth of food for a family of four and of course it doesn’t allow for alcohol or some of the basic store cupboard essentials, but it does cover a lot of dinners and has given me inspiration to try out some different food on the family.
Here are some meal ideas based on the ingredients and products above:
- No Beef Burger in a wholemeal bap, served with sweet potato fries, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber.
- No Chic’n Nuggets, served with sweet potato fries, salad and brussel sprouts.
- Scrambled egg with smoked salmon and avocado served on 1/2 toasted wholemeal bap and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Sweet Potato Falafels with a cashew nut and cannellini dip served with a toasted wholemeal pitta bread and salad.
- Stir fry Rainbow Vegetables with toasted pecans and poached egg.
- Homemade tomato pasta sauce made with Piccolini Cherry Tomatoes and garlic, served with wholemeal penne pasta and lots of veg.
And of course there are the ready meals in the Tastebuds range, which is aimed at kids and includes one of their 5 a day. Now whilst I am not particularly keen on ready meals, as a busy mum I also accept that there are times when you just need to make something quick and easy to ensure the kids get fed. On the nights when they both have clubs to get to and we literally get in from school, run around like headless chickens trying to sort out homework, find the football kit and Brownies uniform as well as shove dinner down their necks, knowing there’s a healthier microwave meal that’s ready in minutes is like a gift from the gods!
I also had a minor food revolution and a major mum win moment this week when I served up the No Chic’n Nuggets to the kids and the No Beef Burger to my meat loving husband without telling them what it was they were eating. The poor unsuspecting so-and-so’s didn’t have a clue! Everything was scoffed and not even one single eyelash was bat, although the looks on their faces when I revealed their chicken nuggets didn’t contain chicken, was absolutely priceless. It’s given me a kick up the backside to try and introduce at least one meatfree day in our week so that we consume alternative protein sources and vary our diets.
My usual weekly grocery bill, including non-food items is around about the £150 mark. So taking that into account and the fact that there would also usually be 2 or 3 bottles of wine on there, milk, lunch box items for the kids and a few weekend treats, I’m actually really impressed with what I managed to buy. It has changed my opinion of food shopping at Marks & Spencer and I will definitely be going there more often to buy healthy food to feed the family.
Oh yeah before I go, let’s just mention the Percy Pigs…. Well, come on it’s all about balance right? And what sane person goes to M&S and doesn’t come out with a bag of Percy’s in their clutches!?!?! It’s basically law 😉
*collaborative post – £50 gift voucher gifted for purpose of this article.