5 A day vegetarians

Variety is the key to a healthy balanced diet. You don’t have to stick to just fresh fruit and vegetables or buy organic varieties, which can be expensive.

There’s no scientific evidence that organic food is healthier. Eating organic is a personal choice and many people do so for environmental reasons.

Remember that fruit and vegetables that are fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced all count towards your 5 A Day, so there are many ways to include a variety of them in your diet at a lower cost.

Try not to waste the fresh fruit and vegetables you have bought. If they have seen better days, don’t automatically throw them away.

You could use up overripe bananas with some other fruit, or 1% fat milk, in a liquidizer to make a homemade smoothie.

Wrinkly peppers may not look great in a salad, but you can still add them to cooked dishes to give flavor and color.

Shriveled carrots or any other withered vegetables can be used to make hearty soups or stews.

Leftover veggie lunch

Taking your own lunch into work can help you make healthier choices since you can decide what goes in it. It can also be much cheaper than buying lunch out.

“Make your own sandwich fillings from leftovers,” says Taylor. “Or if you cook the night before, cook an extra portion and take it to work with you the next day.”

If you invest in a flask, you could take in homemade soups or stews, which can be eaten with bread.

Ideas for using leftovers

  • rice: use in a salad
  • ripe banana: make a smoothie
  • leftover vegetables: blend to make a soup
  • mashed potato: make bubble and squeak

Store cupboard basics

A well-stocked store cupboard plays an essential part in creating healthy budget-friendly meals.

Here are some ideas for basic ingredients to keep in good supply:

  • rapeseed oil (often marketed as “vegetable oil”, so check the label to see if it contains rapeseed oil) contains omega 3 fatty acids and can be used as an alternative to olive oil
  • lemon or lime juice can be used in salad dressings and is cheaper than balsamic vinegar
  • wholemeal flour can be used to make your own bread – it’s easier than you think
  • canned beans and pulses are cheap, particularly own-brand varieties – choose no or reduced salt and sugar varieties, and rinse under the tap before using
  • tinned tomatoes are a basic ingredient in many dishes, including pasta and casseroles
  • dried pasta is delicious when cooked with simple sauces and can also be used in pasta bakes
  • rice is a useful staple – choose brown rice as it contains more fiber
  • noodles are quick to cook and go well with stir-fried vegetables
  • couscous is ready in minutes and great with roasted vegetables
  • red lentils don’t require soaking before use – try delicious and easy-to-make dahl recipes
  • dried soya mince can be used in many recipes – it’s great to use for a spaghetti bolognese or a vegetarian chili
  • baked beans are a vegetarian staple and a source of protein – choose lower salt and lower sugar varieties
  • vegetable stock cubes are great for adding flavour to sauces – use reduced-salt varieties
  • dried herbs and spices give your food more flavour and help cut down on added salt
  • yeast extract (such as Marmite) is a source of vitamin B12 – use reduced-salt varieties
  • soy sauce is tasty with noodles or rice and stir-fried vegetables – beware of its high salt content and choose reduced-salt varieties.

Pasta, rice, noodles, and couscous all make very good bases for meals to which you can add vegetables and pulses.

If you have a window ledge, grow some fresh herbs from scratch. It can be a lot cheaper and less wasteful than buying bunches from the supermarket.

“If you can grow some of your own produce in your garden or an allotment, you could save money,” says Taylor.