COST OF LIVING: Nutritionist and Instagram influencer shares what to buy and what to avoid when shopping on a budget – and if canned goods are actually good for you

A nutritionist has shared tips on what to buy when you’re shopping on a budget – without losing out on essential nutrients that human bodies need.
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A nutritionist has shared tips on what to buy when you’re shopping on a budget – without losing out on essential nutrients that human bodies need.

Nutritionist Jessica Sepel shares her top tips to budget whilst still keeping healthy. (Credit: Jam Press)

With the cost of living crisis continuing in the UK, Jessica Sepel, 33, a clinical nutritionist with over 475,000 followers (@jshealth), has taken to Instagram to offer helpful advice on food shopping.

And with consumer prices 6.2% higher in February 2022 compared to last year* – and energy costs and other monthly bills rising – every penny counts.

From which vegetables and meats to choose, how to cook greens to retain the flavour and nutrients, and if canned and frozen goods are really good for you, here are some of Jessica’s top tips.

You can also find below lists of suggested items to buy in each category – protein, vegetables, fibre – with prices from UK supermarkets.


In short: go for what’s in season – as it’s often cheaper – wonky veg and visit local farmer’s markets for staples like potatoes and eggs.

“With savvy supermarket shopping, your food pounds can go further than you think,” Jessica, who is originally from South Africa but now lives in Sydney, told Jam Press.

Nutritionist Jessica Sepel shares her top tips to budget whilst still keeping healthy. (Credit: Jam Press)

“When it comes to vegetables, go for what’s currently in season, on special and locally-grown or sourced, as these vegetables and fruits will have the best value in terms of price.

“Another tip is to purchase the bulk bags of stables such as carrots or potatoes, which are usually more affordable and keep well stored.

“Most supermarkets have ‘imperfect picks’ – fruits and vegetables that may be ‘bruised’ or don’t present as well.

“They are usually discounted but contain the same nutritional value.

“There’s also a misconception that farmer’s markets are more expensive; often the fruit and veggies are more affordable (and you can choose the amount you need/want to pay for, versus pre-packed supermarket selections).”

Carbohydrates are essential for energy production, especially for young children.

Some good options to go for, which are often cheaper, include pumpkin (when in season), peas, corn, sweet potato and white potato, as well as rice and pasta.

Suggestions of cost-effective veggie options based off UK supermarket prices:

  • Broccoli – 55.6p/kg (ASDA)
  • Carrots – 20.0p/kg (ASDA)
  • Garden Peas – 70.0p/kg (ASDA)
  • Cauliflower – 89p/each (Sainsbury’s)
  • Leeks – £2.00/kg (ASDA)
  • Parsnips – 84p/kg (Sainsbury’s)


Not all animal protein is equal in nutrition but it is essential for human bodies to get enough of it every day.

If you are able to choose and have the funds to do so, try to get in a variety of fish and meats, so you get fatty acids into your diet (though you can take Omega-3 supplements too).

Avoid deli meats such as ham etc. as these are often pricier, not as healthy and smaller in quantity.

Or, if vegan or vegetarian (or indeed meat-eater), go for tofu, which is both long-lasting and filling.

Jessica said: “Protein is very important for adults and kids’ growing bodies alike, as it is used for so many functions within the body.

Nutritionist Jessica Sepel shares her top tips to budget whilst still keeping healthy. (Credit: Jam Press)

“Fish, particularly oily fish, such as salmon mackerel and sardines, are high in omega 3 fatty acids which are important for brain health, skin health and hormonal health.

“Meat is a great source of B vitamins and iron.

“Depending on your personal relationship to eating particular forms of animal protein, I generally recommend having a combination of different sources.

“You may also like to try tofu, which is really great as a protein source when you’re on a budget.

“If you’re newer to tofu, you can think of it like chicken in terms of using sauces, spices and herbs to flavour its blander profile.

“In terms of protein sources, you may like to remove/limit the highly-processed meats such as deli meats, bacon, sausages etc, as these are very high in sodium and contain chemicals that are not great for our health.

“These can also be more expensive for a smaller amount when compared to fresh, non-processed meat.”

Suggestions of cost-effective protein options based off Tesco prices:

  • Basa – £11.00/kg
  • Chicken Drumsticks – £1.65/kg
  • Chicken thighs – £2.00/kg
  • Beef mince 20% fat – £3.58/kg
  • Mackerel in olive oil – £0.91/100g
  • Beans £0.35- £0.83/kg


If you are cooking a lot of vegetables, be careful not to over-boil, roast or steam them as this could lead to the water-soluble nutrients being destroyed.

Jessica said: “For example, steaming broccoli until it is completely mushy reduces the amount of water-soluble nutrients (including vitamin C and B vitamins).

“However, a great tip is to save the water after steaming/boiling as this now contains some of those nutrients lost from the cooking process.

“You can add the saved liquid into your soups, bolognese sauce, baby purees or stews.

“Ideally, go for a mix of raw and cooked vegetables in various meals throughout the week.”

Batch-cooking dishes and dishes such as stews will retain the nutrients but offer a ‘fuller’ meal option that you can freeze and keep for longer.


Another nutritious meat-alternative is legumes, both a great source of plant-based protein as well as fibres.

Jessica said: “Many people do not consume the recommended amount of fibre per day and fibre is important for our gut health, bowel regularity and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

“Legumes are a cost-effective and a quick-to-prepare way to boost your fibre intake and are a great addition to a nutritionally balanced diet.

“To save the pounds, opt for canned chickpeas, black beans, white beans, lentils and kidney beans.”

Suggestions of cost-effective fibre options based off UK supermarket prices:

  • Chickpeas – £1.12/kg (ASDA)
  • Black Beans – £1.50 / kg (ASDA)
  • Kidney Beans – £1.75 / kg (Sainsbury’s)
  • Scottish Porridge Oats – 12p / 100g (Sainsbury’s)
  • Almonds – £1.17 / 100g (Sainsbury’s)
  • Sweet Potato – 99.0p/kg (ASDA)


While fresh vegetables may offer more in flavour, you will get the same level of nutrients from canned and frozen vegetables.

However, there are a few things to avoid.

Jessica said: “Canned vegetables are also a great source of nutrients and can absolutely be used if this is more suitable for your budget.

“The only thing to be wary of is to choose BPA-free cans and look out for added salt and sugar.

“Canned tomatoes are known to be nutritious as the lycopene, a type of organic pigment called a carotenoid with many health benefits, is easy to absorb from them.

“Frozen vegetables are also a great option if you can’t afford fresh.”