The cost of living crisis has pushed up food prices and has meant that we are all now looking at how we can save money on basic food shopping items. However, if you have a chronic bowel condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and follow a low FODMAP diet, then trying to keep prices low whilst maintaining a gut friendly diet can be difficult.
What is a Fodmap diet?
Following a low Fodmap diet involves avoiding certain foods that irritate the bowel, such as dairy, wheat, and some fruit or vegetables1. By avoiding such irritants, you may be able to improve your gut health over time.
Here, we have some tips that we can all use when food shopping, plus some low FODMAP foods that are easier on the pennies. If you are considering following a specialist diet, please make sure that you speak with a dietician before embarking on any dietary changes.
Check your cupboards
Remember to check your cupboards, fridge and freezer before you go shopping!
Sounds like an obvious thing but we’ve all been to the supermarket to find out that we already had the ingredients needed, after all. Going through your cupboards, fridge and freezer beforehand will guarantee that you only buy what you need.
Plan meals and create a shopping list
Planning what you are going to eat for the week ahead will not only help you to budget during your food shop but it will also help to take the stress out of what to eat, especially when you are short on time or lacking energy. Creating a shopping list will help you to stay on track in the supermarket and not be lured by a hungry brain.
Consider cheaper cuts of meat
Quite often it’s cheaper to buy a whole chicken and butcher it down yourself or the legs and thigh rather than chicken breasts. Looking at alternative beef cuts such as brisket or flank that can be slow cooked and just as tasty as steak. Quite often at the end of the day, supermarkets will reduce the price of some of their meats and these are useful to snap up and freeze for another day.
Prepare Fruit and Veg at home
Buy loose fruit and vegetables items and prep them yourself.
If you are able to, consider buying loose fruit and vegetables as this means you only buy what you use, creating minimal food waste. It is also cheaper per unit as you are not paying for the preparation and packaging. It’s kinder on the planet and you can compost your peelings too!
Frozen can be your friend!
If you struggle with veg prep, then it may be worth considering buying frozen vegetables. They are often considerably cheaper than fresh prepped and packed veg and will last longer. Despite misconceptions, frozen vegetables don’t contain less vitamins or minerals than their fresh counterparts as they are often picked and frozen straightaway.
Bulk out your meals
Cupboard staples such as chickpeas, rice and certain lentils can bulk out meals.
Chickpeas, rice and lentils are great staples that last in your cupboard for ages, available either pre-prepared or dried and can be used alongside veggies to create a cost effective gut friendly meal.
Check out the ‘per unit’ costs
It’s worth knowing that supermarket labels will show a ‘per unit’ price, so although a product might seem cheaper, it might not be as cost effective overall as buying a similar product with another brand. Multi-buy offers can also be tempting but make sure that you can use the product in good time, or that it will store well until you’re ready to use it.
Consider what time you shop
Many supermarkets will start to lower the price of certain fresh foods that are nearing their sell by date towards the store’s closing time so it can save you money to do your food shop in the evening. This can be especially useful if you buy ready cooked meat products as delis will need to sell off the day’s produce.
You can get some great offers by signing up to do your first online shop with a supermarket. Quite often, they will entice you with offers of shopping discounts to get you to sign up. It’s worth looking at all the different supermarket sites and seeing what offers are available to you.
Seasonal foods can often be lower in cost than foods that are grown all year round, or imported. With the autumn season upon us, now is a great time to try out recipes with squashes and pumpkins!
The ‘sniff’ test
There is a difference between a ‘best before’ and a ‘use by’ date. Best before, means exactly that. A product is at its best before that date and in most cases is still safe to eat after. You can use the ‘sniff test’ on best before products as a sensory cue as to whether a food is safe to eat and this can help to extend the life of your food. For foods with a ‘use by’ date, such as fresh meat, the sniff test wouldn’t be appropriate as these foods can still contain harmful bacteria that we can’t see or smell.
Low Fodmap food options
Some budget low Fodmap foods you can consider looking out for include:
- Carrots (fresh or frozen)
- Broccoli (fresh or frozen)
- Green beans (fresh or frozen)
- Tomatoes (fresh or canned but check there are no added garlic or onions in canned)
- Squash/ Pumpkin
- Canned lentils
- Canned tuna (good protein alternative)
- Rice (white or brown)
- Peanut butter
- Rice cakes
- Consider chicken thighs or legs rather than chicken breast
- Firm tofu as a meat substitute
We hope that this gives you some ideas, but as always it’s important to check with your healthcare provider or dietitian before embarking on any dietary changes. We’d also love to hear what your thoughts are and your ideas on gut friendly recipes in these challenging times.
You can find out more about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), symptoms and treatments on our website https://www.bladderandbowel.org/bowel/bowel-problems/irritable-bowel-syndrome/
1 – NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/further-help-and-support/