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With rising fuel costs and inflation, the cost of living crisis has led to many families suffering food decisions which often lead to less healthy food in their diet. As the initiative Veg Power shows, with financial deficit healthy foods such as vegetables, fish and wholegrains are being replaced by cheaper, more-processed, high-salt, high-sugar and unhealthy-fats alternatives. Yet with over 1/3 of global food wasted, contributing to global warming, how can you get more veg and fish on your plate and save the planet too

  1. Olio app

This is a mobile application for excess food that aims to help families access food and reduce food waste. Surplus food is shared in communities. It was founded in 2015 by Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One and is currently in 49 countries. Tessa says ‘as kids we were taught to eat our veggies, so they didn’t go to waste, yet as adults, we’re often desensitised to the amount of unspoiled sustenance discarded worldwide every day’. Olio helps find a home for surplus edibles, including many healthy vegetables. If your family is struggling to access healthy foods, you might find your neighbours have excess they don’t need. Sharing is caring and no one needs to be hungry whilst food is wasted. The Olio app could help feed your family. ‘Too Good To Go’ is another great app for this which all families should use. 

2. Prioritise health- make cuts elsewhere, not on veg.

Vegetables are such an essential part of the diet, and often surprisingly the cheapest. With a 7 serving iceberg lettuce only 60p in most supermarkets and yet a pack of cigarettes costing £7 or a bottle of wine £7-10, why not make healthy budget cuts and prioritise health. 

3. Supermarket initiatives

Many supermarkets such as Lidl and Morrisons offer wonky food boxes where they sell off excess vegetables at cheaper prices. These can be a great way to access reduced price vegetables. Ask in stores for details.

4. Be less fussy with ‘use by’ dates

With fresh food, you can see, smell and taste if something is off or not. Instead of going on food date estimations on food labels (often inaccurate), use your logic to test whether something is in date or not. Smell your milk, touch your vegetables and look at them. You can tell and taste if something is in date or not. Stop food waste and save your veg by not throwing away food that is nutritionally beneficial and tasty, it is literally throwing money in the bin and costing the planet too. Eat what you buy.

5. Eat more of the vegetables you buy

Vegetable peels are often the most high in fibre and good for our gut microbiota and mental health via the gut-brain-axis. Yet most are thrown away. To get more veg on your plate, eat your peels. Also eat the leaves and stems of radish, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and many other vegetables as these are highly nutritious and delicious. Check out the ‘Taste the Waste’ website for great recipes for this.

6. Reduce sugar and sweeteners

If you’re trying to get more vegetables into kids diets, the best place to start is by reducing sugar and sweeteners. These change their flavour palate. After eating too much sugar the taste buds change and bitter vegetables taste less palatable. Sweeteners are up to 1000x sweeter than sugar. If you want kids to enjoy vegetables more, cut back on their sugar intake and you may find that they enjoy their veggies more.

7. Foraging 

Many city alley always, country lanes and private and public parks and gardens are rich with food that is highly nutritious. From blackberries to apples to rosehips and sloes, use what nature has for free and forage for extra veg.

8. Go frozen and try canned in water (not salty brine)

Most frozen vegetables are rapidly frozen fresh vegetables. The speed of this maintains most of their nutritional benefits. Buy fresh vegetables and healthy foods like fish and lean meat when on special offer in supermarkets and freeze excess. 

9. Microwaves and less fashionable (but no less nutritional) food options

Microwaves save money as they are quick and electric and can be a great way to steam vegetables without losing nutrients. With the scientific evidence for radiation effects of microwaves no more certain than that of phone use radiation effects (yet everyone is on their phones), and some studies suggesting they even enhance the nutritional benefits of some foods, these can be a quick way to save cooking cash to help budget for healthier foods. Canned untrendy foods like canned sardines are also a great nutritional option.

10. Heathy fish swaps

Everyone needs omega3 for brains and bodies. Yet, because of demand the prices of the popular ‘big 5’ fish salmon, mackerel, cod, prawns and haddock, often high prices makes these more of a budget luxury. However many other nutritional parallel fish varieties taste the same for a fraction of the price. Swap your salmon for trout, your sea bream or bass or cod for plaice or hake, your king prawns for shrimp, your haddock or mackerel for herring and be adventurous on the fish counter. Monkfish, gurnard, sprats and sardines all taste delicious and are super high in omega3 and healthy at a fraction of the cost.

Higher costs to not need to come at cost to your health. With simple budget and societal, personal and family dietary habit changes, it is very possible for everyone to access good quality, highly nutritional food. It’s up to you what you spend your money on but budget for health and make vegetables a priority. 

Laura Campbell

Science (neuroscience & nutrition), medical, food (gut microbiota) academic, poet, food waste warrior & health, business and brand content writer and editor. With an insatiable appetite for actioning positive change