Before looking at where to shop for food in Doncaster and how to get there let’s look at some food ideas to eat well for less.

Eat well for less by eating real food

When it comes to eating well for less, I advocate eating real food. That means avoiding processed ‘man made’ foods with low nutritional value.

eat well for less using real food
Eat well for less using real food

Foods containing a lot of sugar

highly processed food such as crisps and sweets

junk food in general (deep fried foods –  etc)

should be kept to a bare minimum. This is because foods are of low nutritional value and generally not good for your health and wellbeing. Also when you look at the prices below, you’ll see that something as ‘affordable’ as a bag of branded crisps at 65p for 32.5 grams, translates to £20 per kilo. Therefore it is far more expensive than most real foods.

Real food consists of easily identifiable ingredients

Think of vegetables and fruits (fresh or frozen), potatoes, rice, pasta, noodles, legumes such as beans and pulses and also wholegrain bread, nuts and seeds, dairy products, eggs, meat and fish.

General thoughts on supermarket prices and foods

Below I’ll give you some price ranges of these ingredients based on a recent trip to a large supermarket. But these are general ranges and please note that prices can vary considerably from season to season. This depends on availability and also from one supermarket to another (even within the same supermarket chain).  

Let’s start off with breakfast.

Expensive and overladen with sugar. Should we wean ourselves off cereals?

But let’s step back in time. Growing up I was a big consumer of breakfast cereals. I ate all the usual suspects, the sweeter the better. If it wasn’t sweet enough, I’d add more sugar, a lot more. I also remember one particular time there was a promotion to get a free football in exchange for seven cut-out coupons, of course this was another excuse to eat more. I also remember the variety packs with individual boxed portions. I usually needed 3 or 4 of these ‘portions’ as one was simply not enough. With hindsight, these cereals were very moreish, expensive and crammed with refined sugars.

Nowadays, I am a big fan of porridge.

I used to think that porridge oats were old-fashioned and boring. The reality is that they are a real food, filling and highly nutritious and yes, very cheap. Typically, a 1kg bag costs around £1, so a 40g portion costs just 4p. I normally cook mine in water, but use milk if you like. It can be cooked on a hob in just a few minutes or in a microwave in less time. Apart from porridge, other cereals can be found from £1-£7 per kg.

Toast and sandwiches work well

Thinking of toast or sandwiches, loaves of sliced bread can be found from £1-£2.50/kg, with each slice at around 5-10p. Depending on what your favourite fillings are, it’s not hard to see that it will cost well under £1 for such a meal.

Cheese is protein rich and can make a real difference to a dish

Try cheese

Cheeses are a popular filling and can range from £2.50 to £20+ per kilo, often with the more mature and stronger flavoured cheeses at the more pricier end. Butter is around £6-£8/kg, but a little goes a long way. Other dairy products such as milk are around 50p-£1 per litre and yoghurts can range from £1-£5 per kg. Plain, natural yoghurts which don’t have the excessive sugars of the fruitier ones, tend to be at the lower price range.

Eat well for less with eggs

Eggs are a great source of nutrition and can be found from 8p-30p each, depending on size and whether from caged chickens, free range, organic etc. So whether you go for porridge or scrambled eggs on toast, these will be well within the under the one pound range per portion.

Moving beyond breakfast, let’s look at some other ingredients for eating well for less meals.

Veg are your best friends

Vegetables can be very affordable, with fresh potatoes, carrots and onions to be found for as little as 60p per kilo. Most others are available at well under £5/kg and there are of course more expensive ingredients such as asparagus at over £12 per kg. I would also add that frozen/tinned vegetables are inexpensive and can be just as good for you. For example, frozen peas and sweet corn can be found for around £1.50/kg. I’ve seen ready meal soups for £1.50 per portion, well given the prices for vegetables, you can make your own vegetable soup very easily for less than 20p per portion.

Try to keep store cupboard foods handy

Store cupboard staples such as rice, pasta and noodles are also very affordable. I’ve seen rice and pasta from as little as 50p/kg to around £5/kg, whereas noodles were in the £4-£8/kg range. In many cases there is often little difference in quality and taste between the cheaper and more expensive versions. Sometimes there are differences in shape and textures, but sometimes it just comes down to your individual preferences. Funnily enough spaghetti was a childhood favourite and even though I’ve eaten many other versions since then, still remains among my favourites. Would you be surprised to learn that you could make a basic pasta for 4 people for as little as under £1 worth of ingredients? That’s just under 25p per portion. Let’s look at the ingredients:

500g of spaghetti, 25p
1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 35p
1 large onion, 4p
A handful of mushrooms, 35p   

Fibre is good for you and fills you up

If you need more fibre in your diet, and it seems we all could do with more, do consider the wholegrain versions of bread, rice and pasta. For potatoes, you may want to sometimes use sweet potatoes instead as these also have more fibre. 

Try pulses for a change. They can bulk out meat too

Try nutritious pulses

Other nutritious store cupboard items are pulses and beans which include ingredients such as broad beans, chickpeas and lentils can be found for £2.50-£5.00/kg.  Dried versions are usually cheaper than tinned versions, but still good value. Do consider making a lasagne or shepherd’s pie with half the amount of meat and substituting with tinned mixed beans or lentils. In addition to the cost savings, this has the added effect of adding a smother richer texture and flavour, more fibre and most people won’t notice the difference – I actually think it tastes better.

Fruit is healthy – try more of it

Fruit is a great snack/dessert and can be found in the wide range of £1.50 (e.g. pears) to over £15 per kilo (e.g. cherries). Frozen berries can be found for around just £4/kg, whilst dried fruit can cost as little as £2.50/kg. With a little imagination, you can make layered ‘cheesecake’ pots using crushed biscuits as your base, followed by a layer of natural yoghurt, topped with chopped fruit.

Try all kinds of fish to vary your diet

Meat and fish bump up the cost of eating well

When it comes to meat and fish, these ingredients will generally be more expensive, but the devil is in the detail as there is a wide range of prices depending on the cut and quality. Yes, there are expensive cuts of meat (e.g. upwards for £40 per kilo for filet of beef) and expensive fish (e.g. fresh tuna can be in excess of £25/kg). However, there are many less expensive options that are just as good for you and at a fraction of the price. Minced beef or lamb can be as low as £2.50-£3.50/kg. Pork is in the £3.50-£7.50/kg range, depending on the cut. If you are open to eating offal, then these are nutritious options to consider. For me, liver, onions and mushrooms was a childhood favourite, but if you haven’t grown up with these cuts, they can be perceived as unpalatable, but believe me, can be delicious, but I appreciate that it is not for everybody. Fish can be found for as little as £3/kg for sprats, mackerel for £6/kg, whilst frozen cod fillets can be found for just £8/kg.  

Chicken goes cheap sometimes!

Chicken is generally much cheaper than beef or lamb, but there is a big price range in chicken itself. For example, you will often be much better off buying a whole chicken than buying specific parts, because with parts you are again paying for processing and convenience. Buying skinned chicken breasts may be around £9 per kilo, but buying whole chicken (with skin and bones) will be around £2.50 – £4 per kilo. It only takes a couple of minutes with a sharp knife to skin and separate the breasts, but if you want to pay for the convenience of someone having done this for you, then be prepared to pay the price, or do it yourself and pocket the savings.

Chicken is versatile if you want to eat well for less

I should mention for the sake of completeness, that buying the cheaper cuts (e.g. drumsticks, wings) individually can be cheaper than buying a whole bird (even though there is some processing involved) because they exclude the more expensive breasts.  The other great thing about buying a whole chicken, is that with a little knowledge and cooking skills you can repurpose leftovers as ‘new’ meals. So, you can have a Sunday roast chicken meal with roast veg and potatoes, use the bones to make a stock for a soup or a risotto and any leftover meat for use in sandwiching fillings, in a salad or in another meal (anyone for chicken pasta bake or fajitas or stir-fry?).  

A little effort can make nuts taste even better

Nuts and seeds, which are nutritionally rich, can range from £2.50 to over £20 per kilo. These are great for snacking and if you like the flavoured versions, my view is to buy them in their natural forms and then pan roast at home for a few minutes, adding your own ‘secret’ mix of flavours – it will taste better and be considerably less expensive than the ‘luxury’ versions.

Oils can vary from £1.50 to £14 per litre. Used sparingly for stir-frying, a little goes a long way.

Sourcing Food in Doncaster – In my experience, wherever you go, the best value for food is usually found in the large supermarkets and food markets. Doncaster is blessed with an abundance of great such food sources:

Want to eat well for less? Use Doncaster Market

Doncaster Market is in the town centre and has a full array of food offerings. With both covered and outdoor markets they offer a wide range of fish, meat and fruit and veg stalls. I’ve always been a big fan of food markets, not just for the sensory experience itself, but also striking up interesting food conversations with the traders and specifically with the topic at hand, there are also bargains to be had, which the supermarkets may not be offering. I also like the idea of supporting local businesses.

Looking at the supermarkets we have the full spectrum dotted around Doncaster, including Aldi, Asda, Co-operative, Iceland, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Tesco.

Use a shopping list to eat well for less

Supermarkets can be a great source of choice and value, especially if you walk in prepared. This means walking in with a pre-prepared shopping list of ingredients you need to cook your meals for the week and staying focussed. Here are a few things to be aware of. One of the great things about supermarkets is that they can offer a wide range of choice. However, this can be an assault on one’s senses as there are lots of ‘traps’ to get caught by, but don’t let this put you off, as armed with your shopping list and being laser focussed on value will see you emerge at the checkout the winner.  

Watch where you shop

Be aware that their ‘value ranges’ are usually found on the bottom shelves, with the branded more fancy, pricier versions conveniently at eye level. You may find yourself being bombarded with offers to entice you to buy more. Remember that an offer is only good to you if you actually wanted the food item or something similar in the first place. I did notice that some food items are priced per unit rather than per kilo. E.g. pears were sold by the kilo, whereas similar size avocados were sold at a price per avo. Is this for your convenience or confusion?

Avoid the impulse

Another thing to be cautious of are ‘impulse purchases’ – things you had no intention of buying when you walked in (it wasn’t even on the shopping list). This has happened to me many a time. On one occasion to the bemusement of my family, I came home from the supermarket with an apple tree! I’m pleased to say that several years on, in my small garden, it is still bearing fruit.

Home delivery? Online shop? Are you spending more?

When it comes to getting to these food destinations, unless you are fortunate to be within walking distance, other than your own mode of transport (e.g. cycling, driving) your other choices are public transport such as buses and taxis. Whilst a return bus fare to the supermarkets of £2 may seem expensive (especially if done daily), when incorporated as part of a weekly shopping trip, it pays for itself many times when compared to ‘convenient’ eating. When going to the shops is not possible, many of the supermarkets offer home delivery services and online ordering, so this is another option to consider, but look out for the varying delivery charges and minimum order amounts. It is however easy to keep an eye on the total cost when doing an online shop!

Be flexible and have focus to eat well for less

In conclusion, to eat well for less, plan and prepare a weekly shopping list, go to the markets and be flexible and focussed, sourcing real food ingredients to cook your meals. Very soon you’ll see your money goes a lot further and you will be eating better.

Gabriel Casper is the author of A Happy Foodie Ate: The Busy Food Lover’s Guide to Keeping Fit and Eating What You Want, available as an e-book on Amazon and coming out in paperback soon.

The book’s website also has a blog about various foodie topics Follow on twitter: @aHappyFoodieAte