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Eating cheap and healthily this winter

With food prices rising it can seem expensive to buy the healthy foods we need in order to eat well. Happily, with a few simple tips and cheats, getting good, nutritious grub can be a piece of cake.

As winter tightens its icy grip, it’s easy to be drawn to eating stodgy carbs and lots of sugar for a comfort fix – too much of which is an unhealthy and an expensive way to eat. There is no escaping that we have to eat to live, but with food prices rising it can seem expensive to buy the healthy foods we need in order to eat well. Happily, with a few simple tips and cheats, getting good, nutritious grub can be a piece of cake.

Buy what’s in season

When it comes to fruit, vegetables and meat it makes more sense to buy what’s in season. If you want strawberries in December you can get them, but they probably come from half way around the world and you have to pay for the privilege. By eating what is in season locally you get the freshest, tastiest produce at the best prices.

Organic or not?

Whether you decide to buy organic food or not should be a matter of personal preference, not one of cost. While it is true that the production of organic goods is more labour intensive, another reason for their high price is that the UK’s domestic supply is not enough to meet demand, so many organic goods have to be imported to satisfy consumer needs, hence adding to their price.

The way around this is to try to buy as much of your organic produce from local suppliers and farm shops. Not only will you be paying a fair price, but you are supporting your local economy, and not contributing to the harmful levels of emissions that excessive transport of goods cause.

Buy in bulk

It is no surprise that buying in bulk makes sense because you get more for your money. But who wants 96 tins of beans, even if they do work out at only 15p each? While you might not be able to eat your way through the international bean mountain or a whole cow on your own, if you join forces with friends to bulk buy certain items and share them out, you will be saving money as well as making fewer trips to the shops.

The freezer is your friend

Are you making the most of your freezer? In order to run cost efficiently and effectively it needs to be as full as possible. Make healthy soups from leftovers and freeze these for quick lunches. Cook bulk batches of tomato-based sauces, which can be frozen and used as a base for a variety of dishes, from bolognese to curries. Scour the freezer aisles at your local store for the best offers and stock up for the future.

Give yourself some treats

It’s no fun being good all the time, so don’t forget to include some little indulgences in your diet. Red wine is still getting a good press for increasing longevity – when drunk in moderation – but cocoa could be even better for us.

Chang Young Lee, professor of food chemistry at Cornell University, found that the antioxidant content of two tablespoons of pure cocoa powder is almost two times stronger than red wine, two to three times stronger than green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea. It seems the antioxidants in hot cocoa protect brain cells from oxidative stress that can lead to Alzheimer's and other disorders, so if you want to stay smart, get your chocolate fix now.

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