Eating well on a budget in pregnancy

It’s important to eat a balanced diet that includes a good variety of foods. This can be harder if you are on a budget or if you have limited cooking equipment or space. Here are some tips to help you eat well on a budget.

Preparing meals at home can be time consuming and isn’t possible for everyone, but it is often healthier. This is because you know and can control exactly what does into your meals. It is often cheaper than buying readymade or takeaway meals too. Here are some more tips to help you eat well on a budget.

Write a shopping list

Draw up a weekly meal plan, which will help you buy the amount of food you need and avoid throwing any food away. Before you go shopping, look at the ingredients you already have in your fridge, cupboard and freezer. Use them as a starting point for planning what foods to need to buy. Before you head to the shops, be aware that people who shop when hungry are more likely to spend more! 

Bulk prepare meals 

Cook once and eat twice! Make extra portions of your evening meal so you can have the leftovers the next day. You can also freeze leftovers for days when you don’t feel like cooking or have low energy. This is also a great idea for your first few months as a new parent – bulk prepare in advance so you have a freezer full! Find out how to use leftovers safely.


Cheap ready-made meals and pre-prepared food might seem like good value for money, but they are often of low quality. One portion of a meal might seem good value at £1, but you might be able to make 4 portions for £2 - using much better ingredients. 

Save money on fruit and veg

Frozen fruit and vegetables often come pre-chopped and are just as good for you. They are often cheaper than buying fresh and are perfect if you often throw away vegetables when they go bad in the fridge. Fruit and vegetables sometimes cost more pre-packed than loose. Also, pre-packed is not always the freshest and you may end up with more than you need. Look out for special offers on fruit and vegetables in supermarkets. Street markets are often a good place to buy fruits and vegetables and foods are usually cheaper if they are in season or locally grown.

Try supermarket and own brands

There's not always much difference between value and premium ranges, especially when it comes to tinned and frozen items.

Bulk up your meal with vegetables and pulses

Ever tried meat-free Mondays? You don’t have to become a vegetarian, but it doesn’t harm to go meat-free for a few meals a week. You could also help bulk out your dishes with vegetables and pulses (such as beans and lentils) which are full of nutrients and very cheap. Beans are great replacement for minced meat in chilli and chickpeas go really well in a curry. This means you can use less meat and make meals go further. 

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Writing a meal plan every week before we go shopping saves us so much on money and reduces food waste. We tend to freeze our meat as soon as we get home, and the meal plan reminds us of what needs taking out of the freezer the night before.

— Beth

Planning meals and snacks 

The key to eating well is to have a variety of foods, as that is the best way of getting a range of nutrients. 

  • Start with the carbohydrate base. 
  • Will this be potato, pasta, rice, bread? 
  • What vegetables can you add? 
  • Fresh, frozen, canned or raw? 
  • What protein will you have? 
  • This could be eggs, fish, beans, nuts or meat or a meat alternative

£4 a day meal plan 

First Steps Nutrition Trust suggest you can eat well for about £4 a day or £28 a week (costed in 2017). This calculation is based on being able to store foods and cook at home for more than one person. They have lots of ideas for how you can shop for around £28 a week. Here’s an example:

£4 a day meal plan 

Porridge with jam 
Orange juice 
Healthy Start vitamin 

Morning Snack 
Malt loaf 
Decaffeinated tea or coffee 

Vegetable curry with lentil dahl and rice 
Yoghurt with kiwi 

Afternoon Snack 
Small bowl of unsalted peanuts 
Decaffeinated tea or coffee 

Evening meal 
Macaroni cheese and broccoli 

Evening snack 

Crawley, H. (Second ed. 2017) Eating well for a healthy pregnancy. Published by First Steps Nutrition Trust. 

NHS Choices (accessed 12/11/20) 20 tips to eat well for less:

Review dates
Reviewed: 04 March 2021
Next review: 04 March 2024

This content is currently being reviewed by our team. Updated information will be coming soon.