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Easy (and economical) ways to support nutrition in early years

date November 20, 2020Sarah Scotland


We all know that children need to eat a healthy, balanced diet. This includes five portions of fruit and veg a day, carbohydrates, protein, fats and dairy. With this in mind, nutritionist Sarah Scotland explores the most painless, simple and economical ways to meet this goal and gives her top tips on eating healthily…

1. Save money

  • Vegetables are key to a healthy diet. Eating a variety is ideal as they all have different vitamins and antioxidants. Vegetables don’t have to be fresh, you can buy them frozen or tinned as these are just as nutritious.
  • Beans and lentils are a great source of fibre and protein, and are really cheap. You can easily add them to meals to make them go further and provide more nutrients.
  • Cook with pasta! There are so many different types that can provide a variety of meals.
  • Some great meal ideas are soups, lasagne, pasta sauces, quiches, stews, omelettes.
  • Make life easy for yourself and double the quantities when you cook, so you can save an extra meal in the fridge or freezer.
  • You will save money by making your own sauces. Ready-made sauces, such as those in jars, are expensive and full of sugar.

meals in glass containers

2. Keep stock

Check how much food you already have and only buy what you need. This can make a big difference when it comes to cutting costs and reducing the amount of food you throw out.

3. Plan meals

Keep a list of which meals are popular. If you find that certain meals are not popular, take them off the menu. This will make it easier to plan.

Plan meals so that ingredients and things you make can be used for other meals later in the week.  For example, spare pasta from one meal can be turned into a pasta salad later in the week.  Leftover vegetables can be used to make a sauce for another meal.

4. Stock up on staples

Think about your staples cupboard. Keep stocked up on rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, lentils, flour, and sweetcorn. This way, you’ll always have something to cook with. You can buy these as value brands to cut costs.

pasta, pulses and grains stored in cupboard

 5. Avoid waste 

The average household throws away £60 of food a month. How do you think yours compares? By making some really simple changes you can save money and reduce the amount of food that goes in the bin.

How many plates are scraped into the bin? To understand how much food is being thrown away, fill a separate bin/bag/bowl with meal waste. Keep a note of how much food is wasted for a week. You might be surprised!

Let children help themselves at mealtimes. Not only is it far more economical but the children will choose how much of a certain food that they would like. Children’s appetites vary from day to day.

children eating in childcare

6. Think about portions

A hand is a really good guide of how big a portion size is, especially as hands grow as children grow!

It is difficult to get the portions right every day. There will be times when children are sick and have no appetite, there will be times when they are hungry and want seconds. However, if each child gets the correct portion size, this will help save waste.

  • When buying fruit and vegetables have an idea of how these are going to be used.  Is the fruit going to be a snack?
  • Work out quantities based on how many children you look after, based on these portion sizes and the aim of having at least five portions per day.
  • With vegetables, it may be difficult to know how many and what size potatoes or other vegetables you are buying and how many portions they will provide.  Practice will make it easier. One option is to buy frozen and use as needed.

7. Fruit waste-saving ideas

Here are some ideas for fruit that has lost its appeal but is still fine to eat can be used:

  • Make it into a smoothie.
  • Add to homemade cakes, biscuits or scones.
  • Make into a stewed into a pudding which could then be frozen.

cooking a cake

8. Vegetable waste-saving ideas

Similarly for vegetables that are past their best:

  • Make into a soup.
  • Make into a sauce.
  • Add to a casseroles, pies and omelettes.
  • Save spare potatoes for mashing or making hash browns.

9. Store carefully 

Be careful how food is stored:

  • Try to store food as soon as it arrives using airtight containers.
  • Check the date labels and rotate food so the oldest food is always used first.
  • Keep storage areas clean and dry.
  • Check the temperature of your fridge and freezer regularly.


Learn more from Sarah about how to support children’s nutrition, re-watch Kinderly’s webinar on the same topic.


Sarah Scotland is a Community Nutritionist with a BSc in Nutrition, Exercise and Health. Through her community interest company Wise About Food, she works closely with schools, local councils and primary care networks to help people develop confidence and skills with nutrition and cooking.

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