A man has lost four stone and saved money making meals using marked-down food from his local supermarket.
Dean Simpson Humphreys feared he’d never get the scales to balance but has gone from 18st to just under 14st, and swapped his 2XL joggers for a mere medium. The former NHS manager hatched a plan to make meals using ‘yellow sticker’ food and lost more than four stones by saving pounds.
He said: “Money was tight because I’d had to give up work to look after my husband, Gary, who has a number of serious health issues. I piled on the weight eating a diet of fast food because it gave me a good feeling when I was finding things tough.
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“But I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and get the same feeling from the food I was eating, but it had to be on a budget. So I went around the supermarkets looking for priced-down food, especially fruit and veg – the stuff with all the sticky yellow labels on – and started coming up with lots of different meals and recipes using it.”
Dean admits he felt awkward at first: “I was embarrassed buying all the marked-down food, but at the end of the day I was doing it for me and food is food, regardless of what price it is.” The 45-year-old from Belle Vale, Liverpool, even set up his own Instagram page – 1dsh1 – to share his meal ideas and was spotted by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s team who asked Dean to create meals for a new TV show they were trialling .
Dean said: “I’d cook with ingredients they’d sent me and send my ideas and creative meals back to them. I got great feedback and told Jamie was really impressed with what I’d sent. Knowing I had such good comments from Jamie Oliver gave me a real confidence boost when I was losing weight and certainly helped me to shift it.”
Dean joined Slimming World in the summer of 2016. He was struggling to cope with caring for his husband who’d been diagnosed with a spinal tumor, chronic lung and liver disease, and diabetes, among other conditions.
As Dean raced back and forth from hospital while trying to hold down a full-time job with Health Education England, the stress and worry took its toll. In just eight months he put on more than four stone with a constant diet of fast food.
He said: “My clothes didn’t fit me, I had pain in my knees and hips, and I even struggled to bend down to pick things up. But it wasn’t hard to see why I’d put so much on.
“My breakfast was a McDonald’s double sausage McMuffin with a hash brown and hot chocolate, lunch was pie, chips and peas from the chippy or a petrol station sandwich on white bread, and tea was often a raw and pineapple pizza, or a Chinese takeaway of prawn crackers and prawn toast, sui mai, plus chicken foo yung with fried rice, curry sauce and chips.”
And that’s not including the snacks that Dean grazed on in between. Dead said: “I am a real snacker. I’d have two or three packets of crisps a day, and think nothing of eating a whole packet of Ginger Nut biscuits with my cup of tea.”
As Dean’s physical health plummeted, so too did his mental health: “I was told on more than one occasion to prepare for the worst with Gary, and it took its toll. On one occasion I went to Manchester overnight with work and I was staying in a hotel. My mental health was rock-bottom and I sat with pills thinking about ending my life.
“I couldn’t cope – and when someone from work asked me if I was okay, I broke down. I knew I did want to be here – but something had to change.” Dean left work to care for Gary-which he still does now-and joined Slimming World to shed the excess stones which were adding to his problems.
He said: “I wanted to eat healthily but it can sometimes be expensive and, having given up work and gone onto benefits – which took time to come through – we didn’t have a lot of money.
“So I started shopping for marked down, yellow sticker food and, once a week, picking up a bag of food which would otherwise have been thrown away from a surplus food charity like Zero Waste Liverpool for free. (I also use the ‘too good to go’ app which has discounted food from shops and restaurants and costs about £3.50 for a meal that can feed two or three people).
“You don’t know what you’re going to get or be able to buy, so I started coming up with creative recipes using the food I’d got and sharing them on my Instagram page. You’d be amazed at what you can do – I can now do a Sunday roast for next to nothing for eight people, with cauli, broccoli, carrot and suede mash and roast potatoes, all cooked the Slimming World way, with meat from six or seven chicken thighs I can pick up for about £1.82.
“I even take a meal each to two elderly ladies who live on their own nearby!”
Breakfast is now a fruit and fiber cereal with fat-free Greek yoghurt and strawberries and raspberries and Eat Lean blueberry syrup – all Syn-free – while lunch is humous and carrot, celery, and cucumber sticks.
Dean said: “Tea will be a chilli, or a midweek roast, or lasagne with Eat Lean cheese which has a fraction of the fat,” adds Dean. “And if I want a snack, I’ll have fat-free Greek yoghurt mixed with peanut butter powder, with apple. Everything is adaptable to Slimming World, and I love it.”
As did Jamie Oliver, Dean added: “He [Jamie] liked my meals and recipes so much I was even asked to trial his new app, Jum, and give them feedback on that (so I can thank Jamie for all his support). It’s now the colors and creativity of food that excites me and it’s amazing the meals you can make from cut-price food.
“I now spend hours walking my whippet, Smokie; doing things like squat challenges to raise money for charity, and cooking up a storm. I feel so much better, mentally and physically, and I can show that healthy eating doesn’t have to break the bank.”