Budget 2012. Cost of a healthy diet

Posted by Shaleen Meelu on Sunday, 18 March 2012 in General

Is it possible to eat healthily on a tight budget? 

My mother is a volunteer for an organisation called 'Home From Hospital Care'. Volunteers support patients who need practical support when returning home after spending time in hospital. She told me that a recent client in her late forties needed help shopping. She suffers form severe arthritis and is unable to work. Her income is £67.50 a fortnight. £21.00 of this goes on gas and she spends £28.00 on a fortnights worth of food shopping. I wondered whether it is possible to purchase a balanced diet on this budget. Mum responded - 'Shaleen, she doesn't have a cooker. She has just moved into a flat with no carpets, no cooker, no furniture and therefore has to purchase packaged meals.' Iceland offer the kind of meals she can afford and although there is variety, these are clearly not nutritionally balanced. 

So, then I start thinking about how to boost the nutrition quality. Frozen and canned vegetables are available at relatively cheap prices. But if you look at prices at the same shop, the chances are you are unlikely to be able to achieve five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Possibly one portion but certainly not any day to day variation . So, I guess, the answer is no. It is not possible to achieve a balanced diet if you are on benefits of £67.50 a fortnight and have restricted facilities at home. 

I understand the importance of encouraging those who can to work but clearly there are individuals and groups who can not..through no fault of their own. The reason I am able to eat well and exercise hard is to do with luck as well as preference. I think that those of us who can maintain good health should prioritise this. Those of us who are unfortunate need to be supported and not blamed for laziness or lack of will.

In the meantime I'd be interested in discussing the following

  1. How can nutritionists work with supermarkets to increase the nutrition quality of cheap meals?
  2. How can we encourage individuals to focus on nutrition quality as well as cost of food? 
  3. I wish somehow I could earn points for my good health and pass these over to those who need better access to services...is there an economic model for this?
I'd welcome any feedback! 





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Hi, my name is Shaleen Meelu and I am the founder of Healthy Futures. I’m also a registered nutritionist and I have helped over 3,000 people embark upon healthy living programmes.


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