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How to diet cheaply

diet foodI’m gradually getting back on the dieting bandwagon. Last year I lost four stone, but what with Christmas and near-compulsory chocolate eating I’ve put six pounds back on. That means I still have nearly two stone to lose before I’m no longer considered overweight. That feels like a huge mountain to climb, but it’s a mere molehill compared with where I was last year.

But now there’s a new problem. Christmas wasn’t only hard on my waistline but on my bank balance too. I seriously need to save money on my shopping. But of course cheap food is mainly the sugar/fat/salt/additive heavy stuff that might be delicious but is bad for weight watchers. Look at any diet and you’ll see it’s stuffed with lovely fresh fruit and vegetables and lean protein. At this time of year, most of the nicest fruit and veg is imported and hence expensive – parsnips and carrots might be cheap and British but they are starchy root vegetables and not ideal for the dieter. Cabbage doesn’t cost much but you can’t bathe it in butter or oil to make it palatable. Good protein is pricey too. Carbohydrates aren’t, but you can’t eat endless amounts of pasta/rice/bread and hope to lose weight.

So if I want to shift the pounds and eat well, do I need to buy expensive stuff or give up, become a barrage balloon again and live on chocolate and crisps? I’m attempting to find a middle way. Firstly – and this sounds counter-intuitive – I don’t go near supermarkets. I get a delivery once a week from Ocado (I pay about £1.50 a month for any number of free deliveries between Tuesday and Thursday). This stops impulse purchases. Take off all the non-food stuff (cat food, washing powder etc) and I spend about £50 a week to feed the two of us (we don’t eat out or have takeaways). A lot of that is on vegetables. I only buy apples and oranges for the boy – fruit is packed with sugar, after all, even if it is the natural kind so I mainly eat on vegetables. Whole lettuce is cheaper than bags and I manage without pricey bunches of herbs. That makes cooking a bit dull, but most things are palatable with lemon juice or chilli sauce added.

I freeze bread which means I’m less tempted to eat it and it lasts longer. Protein is limited to chicken, 5% fat mince, eggs and tinned tuna. I’ve taught myself to cook rice after relying on pricey micro-rice for years. Tinned pulses are only about 50p a can if you go for the cheap ones and work out less expensive than cooking them yourself once you’ve factored in the fuel costs. Similarly, while baked potatoes are cheap and good for dieters, cooking them costs a lot unless you zap them in the microwave which means going without lovely crunchy skins. Sweet potatoes with 0% yoghurt and chili sauce are an occasional treat. Soup uses up any elderly vegetables. I make Bolognese in quantity (with 5% fat mince and cheap tinned tomatoes) and freeze it in portions. The boy has it with pasta; I eat it with salad.

If I keep to this plan, then hopefully I should see results on the scales soon – without damaging my bank account further. There’s plenty of advice on how to diet cheaply online (see this sensible advice from the NHS). I do also pay about £5 a week for Slimming World membership – the weekly weigh-in keeps me on track. I haven’t been for a month: fingers crossed next week I’ll be back in the black weight-wise.

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Thursday, 23 May 2019