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Tips for cooking and eating well

With the price of food on the increase, eating well can be a challenge for many families. It’s very easy to reach for cheap ready meals, especially if you’ve got a busy life and you don’t have much time on your hands. But cooking fresh food needn’t be expensive or time consuming; it is important for older people to eat healthily and maintain a nutritious diet.

In this guide, people share their advice about making the most of your ingredients and whatever is in the cupboard or fridge.

We hope that older people, their carers and families, find this information useful. Print this page to give to someone you know or use the share button on the right of this page.

Richard's advice for good food on a budget

Plan your shopping. Have an idea of what you’ll need for the week so that you don’t buy too much. You don’t want things to go off before you can use them.

Think about ‘buy two get one free’ offers even if there are only two of you. You can put the third one in the freezer.
Have one or two meat-free days a week. Years ago we couldn’t always afford meat, and it’s getting expensive again now, fish is very good for you and we poach it or bake it in the oven. Or we’ll do a big vegetable casserole with pearl barley or lentils. Because you cook the vegetables in the pot you keep all the vitamins in your stew. and the flavour develops so it tastes even better on the second day.
Be creative with left-overs. Boiled too many potatoes? Turn them into potato salad with some spring onions, mash them for potato cakes or add some leftover cabbage for bubble and squeak.
If you’re out during the day, take a packed lunch. When I was at work you weren’t able to go out and buy a sandwich, and we couldn’t have afforded it anyway. I always made my own and I still do. Make them the night before and put them in the fridge because you never seem to have time in the morning!
Plan your meals so you can buy just the right ingredients and not waste anything.
Look for offers but only buy the ones that will really save you money.
Good food cooked from scratch is more satisfying so it goes further.

Your advice

Have a cooking day every week where you make lots of meals - may be a large stew, cottage pies or a big soup - and put portions in the freezer. That way you’ve got home-cooked food ready to pop into the microwave at the end of a busy day.

I would shop around for the best value cuts of meat like shin of beef for a casserole, and bulk it out with lots of vegetables.  I would buy liver and bacon, or cuts that would do two days like chops. I remember my mum used to give us bread and butter with jelly and custard and I know now it was to fill us up!


Royal Voluntary Service is a member of the Malnutrition Task Force who aim to minimise the risk of malnutrition to make a major difference to the health and quality of life of older people.

Please exercise your common sense when considering these tips and whether to take any of the steps that may be suggested in them.

The tips have been provided by members of the public who have contributed to our Royal Voluntary Service Nationwise campaign so whilst we hope you will find them helpful, we cannot make any promises about their accuracy or completeness and we don’t accept any responsibility for the results of your reliance on them.

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