Good eating doesn’t have to break the bank.
Here are some ideas on making healthy but cheap choices at mealtimes, and some tasty recipes to try out.
What is a balanced diet?
To eat a balanced diet we need to eat a wide variety of foods. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and starchy foods (such as bread, rice, pasta, cereals, and potatoes). Try to cut down on fatty and sugary foods. Look at the ‘eatwell plate’ to give you an idea of how much of each food type you should eat.
- Plan meals in advance so you know what you need to buy and how much of it.
- Try to use a shopping list to avoid impulse buys. Use a basket instead of a trolley for midweek shopping – the sheer weight of the basket of shopping will prevent you from buying too much.
- Try to shop after a meal. If you are hungry you are likely to buy more.
- Compare the cost per weight of items (usually shown on the price stickers on the shelf), don’t be deceived by bulky packaging.
- Supermarket own brands are usually cheaper and still nutritious.
- Look out for special offers and weigh up the advantages. Some foods on special offer need to be used up quickly. ‘Buy one get one free’ offers are good value if you can store the food and use it before it goes out of date.
- Buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season as they are cheaper than fruit and vegetables that are out of season.
Cooking your food
- Cook vegetables in as little water as possible, and use boiled water from the kettle, rather than heating the water in the pan, to save on fuel costs.
- If using the oven, get the most use out of it. For example, if you are cooking a stew, also use the oven to bake some potatoes and braise the vegetables in water.
- Grill food rather than frying, it doesn’t cost any more and you won’t need to use oil or fat.
- Use electrical gadgets such as steamers and slow cookers as they are often cheap to run.
Convenience foods to have in
- Tinned beans (for example, baked beans, kidney beans)
- Tinned tomatoes
- Tinned fish (for example, tuna, pilchards, sardines), especially if in brine, spring water or tomato sauce)
- Canned meat (for example, corned beef)
- Tinned fruit (in juice, not syrup)
Dried foods to have in
- Lentils, split peas and so on for stews and soups
- Dried skimmed-milk powder, for sauces
- Pasta – for quick, filling meals
Frozen foods to have in
- Frozen vegetables – just as nutritious as fresh and sometimes cheaper
- Fish fingers, fishcakes and frozen fish – good value for money
- Frozen meat and poultry – can be cheaper than fresh
Some cost-cutting ideas
- Make meat go further by mixing beans or lentils with mince or meat dishes (for example, baked beans in shepherd’s pie, lentils in Bolognese sauce, kidney beans in chilli. This also increases the fibre in the meal.
- Add lots of vegetables to stews, casseroles and so on as this adds fibre and makes the meal go further.
- Don’t buy too many biscuits, sweets and cakes. They are often high in fat and sugar and nutritionally not good value for money.
- High-fibre breakfast cereal (for example, Weetabix, branflakes) with semi-skimmed milk makes a cheap and healthy snack at any time of the day.
Please don’t get caught out this winter, make sure you prepare your home with our cold weather precautions leaflet.
We’ve included details of the support that is available to low-income households this winter.
View the leaflet here: Cold Weather Precautions
We know that money worries can cause a lot of anxiety and impact our health in different ways. Below are contact details for organisations who can help if things are feeling too much. Please don’t hesitate to contact them and don’t feel like a burden – they know things can get on top of all of us and want to help!
- Breathing Space – 0800 83 85 87 www.breathingspace.scot
- Salvation Army – 01463 234123 – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mikeysline – text 07786 20 77 55 for support – www.mikeysline.co.uk
- NHS24 - 111 – www.nhs24.scot
- Shout Crisis Text Line – for support in a crisis, Text Shout to 85258
- Rethink Mental Illness – Monday – Friday, 10am – 2pm, different types of therapy and medication; benefits, debt money issues; police, courts, prison; your rights under the Mental Healt Act – 0300 5000 927 We are Rethink Mental Illness
- Mind – 0300 123 3393 – email@example.com - 5pm to midnight
Cost of living payments
You could get up to 5 different payments depending on your circumstances on a particular date or during a particular period:
If you receive qualifying low-income benefits you could receive 3 payments.
- Spring 2023 = £301
- Autumn 2023 = £300
- Spring 2024 = £299
If you receive qualifying disability benefits. you will receive a one-off payment of £150 in Summer 2023.
Pensioner households will receive a one-off payment of £300 in Winter 2023/24.
You do not need to apply, you will receive these payments automatically if you are in receipt of qualifying benefits
The Scottish Welfare Fund
The Scottish Welfare Fund provides two types of grants to people on low incomes, depending on their circumstances (these do not have to be paid back):
- Crisis grants for people who need help quickly because of an emergency or disaster.
- Community care grants help people on a low income live independently in the community or ease pressure on families
Contact The Highland Council on 0800 083 1887 or find out more at Benefits - Scottish Welfare Fund | The Highland Council.
Child & Family Payments
A wide range of grants and other forms of support are available for families with children from pregnancy through early years and right through primary, secondary and further education.
Full details can be found at www.costofliving.campaign.gov.scot/children-and-families
Help from Energy Suppliers
Many energy companies have support funds and hardship grants available for customers who are struggling with their energy bills. Here's a list of those we know:
Customers from any supplier can apply to British Gas Energy Support Fund - apply for a grant on the British Gas Energy Trust website
Find out more about what support your supplier is offering:
- Scottish Power Hardship Fund - apply for a grant on the Scottish Power Hardship Fund website
- Ovo Energy Fund - apply for a grant on the Ovo Energy Fund website
- E.ON Energy Fund - apply for a grant on the E.ON Energy Fund website
- E.ON Next Energy Fund - apply for a grant on the E.ON Next Energy Fund website
- EDF Energy Customer Support Fund - sign up to the priority services register to apply for a grant on the EDF Energy website
- Bulb Energy Fund - apply for a grant on the Bulb Energy Fund website
- Octopus ‘Octo Assist Fund’ - apply for a grant on the Octopus website
Energy Bills Support Scheme
All households should have received a £400 energy discount, starting from October 2022. Paid in monthly instalments from October to March.
Please note: if you have a pre-payment meter that hasn't been upgraded to a 'smart' meter you will receive energy bill discount vouchers via text, email or post that you can redeem at your usual top-up point.
Previously the limit for topping up was £49 per transaction - however, this has been increased to £99.
If you have not received these vouchers or would like some help to claim them please get in touch with Citizen's Advice.
Winter fuel payment
If you were born on or before 25 September 1956 you could get between £250 and £600 to help you pay your heating bills. If you receive the state pension or certain benefits youwill be paid this automatically Otherwise, you may need to make a claim by calling 0800 731 0160
The Warm Home Discount Scheme
An additional £140 energy discount may be available to find out if you receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit or if you have a low income and meet your energy supplier's criteria. Find out more at www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme
Child Winter Heating Assistance
This benefit from the Scottish Government was first paid in 2020. It's a payment to help disabled children and young people and their families with increased heating costs over winter. It's paid once a year. The payment for Winter 2022-2023 is £214.10. Find out more at www.mygov.scot/child-winter-heating-assistance
Energy saving light bulbs:
Traditional bulbs such as incandescent, or filament bulbs, only convert about 5% of the electricity they use into light, meaning energy is wasted. Switching bulbs can help you save money.
Compact Flourescent Lamps (CFLs): Use about 75-80% less electricity than a traditional light bulbs and last up to 10x longer, but are usually more expensive and not as widely available.
Light Emitting Diodes (LED bulbs): Use about 10-25% less energy and last 25x longer. These currently offer the best value for money.
Halogen bulbs: Energy saving halogen bulbs lower energy by 20-30% and are cheap to buy, but have a shorter lifespan.
Energy Saving Tips
- Turning your thermostat down by one degree saves £80 per year on average
- Turn radiators/heating to low settings in rooms that aren’t used
- Only boil what you need in the kettle
- Clothes will still dry on a washing line in colder weather
- Electric airers are a cheaper alternative to tumble dryers
- Many clothes can now be washed at 30°C clothes and using ‘quick’ settings on your washing machine
- Use draught excluders and thermal door curtains to reduce draughts
- Turn off all appliances not in use
- Wear warm clothes at home and use blankets to help you keep warm
For more visit www.homeenergyscotland.org or call 0800 808 2282
The website run by TVs Martin Lewis is proving an invaluable source of help to many across the country. If you have online access, check out the range of advice offered in coping with cost of living increases at www.moneysavingexpert.com
Maximise Your Income From Benefits
Recent figures suggest as much as £15 billion of benefits people are entitled to remain unclaimed each year.
Maximise your income by making sure you receive all you’re entitled to.
For assistance, you can contact the Highland Council Welfare Support Team on 0800 090 1004, your local citizens advice bureau or Social Security Scotland on 0800 182 2222.
You can also complete free and confidential online checks of your entitlements using online benefit calculators at www.entitledto.co.uk/benefits-calculator or benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk
Council Tax discounts for people
The initial council tax bill for a property assumes there are at least 2 residents aged 18 or over. A full charge for council tax, water and waste water is then applied. You may be able to get a discount for any of the following reasons:
Single occupancy - including where the second adult in your home is disregarded for any of the following reasons.
- Severe mental impairment
- Care leavers
- Students, apprentices and youth trainees
- Careworkers and carers
- Working away from home
- Patients in hospital, care or nursing homes
Social tariffs for households on certain benefits
Currently nine broadband providers offer so-called social tariffs for those on certain benefits. However, according to regulator Ofcom, while they are available to an estimated 4.2 million households that receive universal credit, only 55,000 have signed up to the schemes.
Ofcom says this means millions are missing out on an average annual saving of £144 each.
Getting on top of debt
Help is available if you’re struggling with debt – however bad it gets.
If you’re struggling to make payments, contact your local citizen’s advice bureau or one of the debt advice agencies listed below as early as possible – their services are free, confidential and there to help.
- Money Advice Scotland Helpline – 0800 731 4722
- Citizens Advice Direct – 0808 800 9060
- Step Change Debt Advice Line – 0800 138 1111
- The Money Advice Service – 0800 138 7777
- National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
- Christians Against Poverty – 0800 328 0006
There are a number of food banks across Highland. To receive help from one of these food banks, you need to be referred by one of the food bank’s partner agencies, like your GP, health visitor, or social worker. If you prefer, you could make an appointment at your local Citizens Advice Bureau, or contact your Housing Officer.
Once you receive a referral, you will be given a voucher to take along to your local food bank. You will be provided with a three-day food supply, along with recipes to help you make the most of this food.
You will find lots of information online about the help that is available, but if you are unable to do this, then please see below:
- Highland Food Bank, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey - 01463 717 630 / 07875 332 696
- Highland Food Bank, Dingwall Free Church Hall, Dingwall - 01349865112 / 07782 551854
- Highland Food Bank, Capstone Centre, Obsdale Road, Alness - 07884 869 021 / 01463 717630
- Highland Food Bank, St Duthus House, Tain - 07884 869 021 / 01463 717630
- Highland Food Bank, Carnegie Library Building, Sinclair Terrace, Wick
- Highland Food Bank, 13 Princes Street, Thurso
Other local food projects
You do not need referrals for the Local Food Banks, and Community Larders and will be able to find opening times and availability on your local community noticeboard.
If you’re lucky enough to have some items to spare then donations are always welcome.
Most people find it easier to manage how much money they have coming in and going out by writing it down. If you don’t already do it, creating a weekly, fortnightly or monthly budget is a great way to work out how much you have available to spend and make informed choices about what you spend it on. We’ve provided a simple template below that you can use or you may wish to try some free budgeting tools available online Work out your budget - Citizens Advice Scotland, Budget Planner | Free online budget planning tool | MoneyHelper