THE cost of living is soaring and households are having to make their money stretch even further - especially at the supermarket.

Today, as part of our Beat the Squeeze campaign, the Glasgow Times has asked an expert how to make the most nutritious meals possible on a budget.

Fiona Comrie is Senior Public Health Nutrition Adviser at Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and she's answered our questions about saving money but staying healthy.

Q: What sorts of foods can people eat that are healthy but will also fill them up?

A: We should make starchy foods, such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, the biggest part of most of our meals and snacks.

These types of foods are usually cheap and healthier alternatives to chips and many of them can keep for a while in the cupboard or the freezer.

You can look for healthier versions of foods like chips, such as choosing oven-baked chips, instead of fried.

Higher calorie foods are not always the foods that keep us feeling full - wholegrain versions of starchy foods, such as wholemeal bread and whole wheat pasta, are a good option as they are higher in fibre and can help fill us up.

Fruits and vegetables are also an important part of a healthier diet and should make up a large part of our meals and snacks, alongside starchy foods.

You can cook vegetables in the microwave too, which will save you turning your oven or hob on.

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Q: For some people, five-a-day is an easy target but for others, it can seem quite daunting. Can we have tips about how to boost fruit and veg intake?

A: Eighty grams of fresh, frozen or tinned fruit or vegetables count as one portion.

Adding vegetables is a great way to ‘extend’ a jar of sauce to serve more portions and reduce the amount of fats, salt and sugar in each portion.

Frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables are often cheaper than fresh, and are usually just as nutritious and also count towards your five a day.

Fruit tinned in juice rather than syrup will have less sugar and look for vegetables that are tinned in water with no added salt.

Dried fruit can also count, one portion is 30g. However, it is best not to eat in-between meals to help prevent tooth decay.

Three heaped tablespoons of pulses such as beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas and a small glass of fruit juice or smoothie each count as one portion and each only count once a day.

Any increase in fruit and vegetable intake is a good thing and if we can add a bit of variety with a couple of different kinds, that will help too.

Glasgow Times:

Q: If you were on a tight budget, what would your priorities be?

A: For lots of people, making the change from brands to supermarket versions is a good start. Usually, supermarket or value versions of products are nutritionally similar to the brands, but you can check the labels to find out.

Starchy foods, fruit and vegetables are the basis of a healthy balanced diet so we should think of these first when planning a meal or snack.

Most starchy foods can keep for a while, and bread can be frozen to avoid waste.

Comparing the cost of pre-packed and loose fruit and vegetables, and buying fruits and vegetables that are in season, can also help.

Tinned vegetables and pulses, such as tomatoes, sweetcorn, beans and peas, are great for bulking out stews and sauces.

Trying to swap out some of the meat in dishes for pulses, which are a healthy, cheap and filling source of protein, and vegetables, which can be cheaper (especially if you use frozen).

This could mean replacing some of the mince in a bolognese sauce with lentils and some extra chopped tomatoes. Eating less meat is good for both our budget and the environment.

If you are buying items which are marked down in price because they are at the end of their shelf life, keep an eye on the use-by date once they are in your fridge.

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Q: What are your top tips for saving money on the food bill but also eating healthily and - importantly - making food tasty?

Planning meals and shopping can help us to avoid any extra spending and food waste that can result from ‘top-up’ shopping.

Planning can also help us avoid offers and deals on things that we don't need. If you can, shopping online could make it easier to plan and avoid offers on things you don’t need.

Cutting down on how much we eat out, ‘on the go” or have takeaways can also save money. When we make food for ourselves at home we have more control about what we are eating and can make it to our own tastes.

There are millions of recipes for healthy, cheap and tasty meals available online, which you can adapt to your own needs.


Q: And what about treats such as cake or ice cream - should those be the first things to go if people are struggling?

 A: A healthy balanced diet doesn’t include lots of crisps, biscuits, cakes, sweets, chocolate or sugary drinks.

But we eat them because they taste good and they are promoted and incentivised at low costs, which makes it difficult for us to avoid the temptation to buy lots of them. 

Cutting them out completely might be unrealistic and difficult to keep up, so instead try choosing smaller portions, or buying them less often.

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Q: We hear a lot about superfoods like avocado and chia seeds but these are often expensive. Is it possible to eat a good diet without these high-spend so-called superfoods?

A: Yes, it is totally possible to eat a healthy balanced diet without food fads.

While different fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds will have different levels of nutrients, it’s more important to have as much of a variety as you can, rather than worrying about the specific benefits of one or two foods.

If you like avocado, that’s great, but if it’s not for you, a portion of frozen peas counts just the same towards your five a day.

For more hints and tips see Food Standards Scotland's website Eat Well, Your Way


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