With food prices on the rise, fuelling well is becoming an increasingly tricky challenge. If, like me, your food bill accounts for a big chunk of your weekly spending then you’ll be feeling the financial pinch. Here are 12 ways to cut your food costs without compromising your health or performance.
- Swap recovery drinks for milk
Milk is a near-perfect recovery food. It’s cheaper than branded recovery drinks and research shows that whether you opt for cow’s or soya, milk replaces lost energy and is a fantastic source of protein (around 3g/ 100ml). To get the most out of the milk in your fridge drink 500ml immediately after your workout to optimise recovery. If you want to give yourself an even bigger boost, mix 200 ml milk, 3 tbsp plain yogurt, half a banana and a handful of strawberries in a blender or smoothie maker.
- Make your own energy drinks
Instead of an energy drink, all you really need is some sugar (or maltodextrin*), water and salt. Typical isotonic drinks come in at a concentration of around 4 – 8% sugar. To make your own, add 45g of sugar to a 700ml bottle with a dash of no-added sugar squash or lemon juice, top up with warm water and allow to cool. If it’s a hot day – and your sweat losses are likely to be heavy – add ¼ teaspoon of salt to the mix. Alternatively, just take your water bottle and fill half of it with fruit juice and the other half with water, adding a pinch of salt if needed.
*You can buy maltodextrin inexpensively online. Made from corn, wheat or rice starch, its relatively tasteless, has minimal sweetness so can be mixed with sugar and/ or squash or fruit juice to your own taste.
- Swap sports drinks for bananas
Instead of branded sports drinks, have bananas with water – they produce similar performance benefits in a 75-km cycling time trial as sports drinks, according to an Appalachian University study. In the study, cyclists consumed 0.2 g carbohydrate/kg of body weight every 15 minutes either from a sports drink or bananas. It made no difference where the carbohydrate came from; the cyclists performed the same. One banana provides 20g carbohydrate.
- Swap energy chews for dried fruit
Products like energy chews and other sugary ‘performance treats’ are great but if you want to save money while you’re training, then dried fruit will work just as well. A study by researchers at the University of California, US, found that raisins consumed every 20 minutes during exercise were just as effective as sport chews for maintaining blood glucose levels improving performance, and produced no unwanted gut symptoms despite the higher fibre content. A 40g portion of raisins or two Medjool dates supplies 30g carbs, equivalent to 4 chews.
- Eat less meat, more pulses
There’s no denying that meat is expensive, so cutting down or cutting meat out completely will save you a ton of money. An Oxford University study found that (whole food) vegetarian or vegan diets can be up to one third cheaper than a meat diet. Even a flexitarian diet can reduce household food bills by 14 per cent. You can get plenty of protein, iron and fibre from pulses instead. Why not try using lentils in your Bolognese instead of the mince. Or beans instead of meat in curries and stews. You don’t have to go the whole hog – you could just use half as much meat and bulk out your meal with pulses. You still get plenty of protein, but it costs you less.
- Make your own protein bars
- Make your own energy bars
These delicious energy bars are quick and easy to make, require no baking and are a brilliant snack for long endurance workouts. Made with oats, dried fruit and nuts, they provide a perfect combination of nutrients to sustain your energy levels.
- Swap out of season for in season
We all get used to eating certain foods year round but it’s cheaper, healthier and tastier to buy fruit and veg that are in season. You’ll be doing your bit for food miles too. Buying directly from a farm shop or a veg box scheme can be a handy way to help you munch month by month. Find out what’s in season in the UK here.
- Don’t be a slave to ‘Best Before’ dates
Most fruit and vegetables can be eaten beyond the Best Before dates on the packaging. The best-before date just tells you how long they’re in prime condition for. So don’t bin something just because it’s passed the ‘best before’. In fact, many supermarkets have ditched the ‘best before’ label altogether to reduce food waste. But if something’s passed it’s ‘use-by date’, then it’s not safe to eat and you should throw it out.
- Meal prep
Preparing meals ahead of time – ‘batch cooking’ – can help you cut costs as you’ll always have something to eat rather than resorting to meal deliveries or last minute ingredients at an expensive convenience shop. Each time you make a meal, scale up the quantities and store the extra portions in the fridge or freezer. Most meals will last in the fridge for up to three days or up to three months in the freezer. One- pot, one-pan and one-tray meals – pastas, soups, stews, stir-fries and curries – are a brilliant opportunity to use up what’s left in your fridge.
- Rethink your coffee habit
A coffee can kickstart your day – and your workouts – but the cost soon adds up if you buy one every day. Popping to a coffee shop for a £3.50 coffee sets you back £70 a month on the habit. You could get a reusable cup or flask so you can make coffee at home and take it with you to work.
- Smarten up your storage habits
Do you keep potatoes and bananas in the fridge and then find a lot of it is going to waste? That might be because your storage habits aren’t working to keep your food fresh. Bananas, onions and potatoes should all be kept in a cool dry place like a cupboard to keep them fresher longer. Store green leafy veg such as spinach and salad in plastic containers with a crumpled paper towel in the fridge. Keep broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in loose plastic or an open plastic bag in the vegetable crisper
This is an abridged version of my feature in Cycling Weekly https://anitabean.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Feature_Shoestring-fuelling.pdf
The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition, ninth edition is the definitive practical handbook for anyone wanting a performance advantage. This fully updated and revised edition includes guidance on:
- maximising endurance, strength, performance and recovery
- the most popular sports supplements
- relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S)
- hydration strategies
- nutrition for masters athletes, young athletes and plant-based athletes
- nutrition preparation for competition
- gut health and how to avoid gut problems during exercise