The power of influence to help families cook healthy meals on a budget

Date : 26 April 2021

Natasha Maynard

Nutrition & Scientific Affairs Manager

With many households experiencing financial uncertainty heightened by the pandemic, and perceived higher cost being the main barrier to healthy and sustainable diets, I explore the tactics used by M&S and footballer Marcus Rashford to inspire families to cook healthy meals on a budget.

Boosting Free School Meals Vouchers

Last year, retailer M&S offered additional support to families receiving the government’s free school meals vouchers by funding an additional £5 to every weekly £15 voucher redeemed at M&S.

M&S’s senior nutritionist Laura Street also developed a downloadable weekly meal planner to help parents shop and prepare five simple, nutritious breakfasts and lunches for under £20 for two children. The online planner includes hints, tips and mealtime inspiration, all with minimal food prep, as well as tips on avoiding food waste.  

Marks and Spencer weekly meal planner
Image: The weekly meal planner was downloaded over 13,000 times (Image source: M&S 

The announcement from M&S received support from footballer and leading food poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford and attracted significant media coverage and reach across social media.

Marcus Rashford tweet
Image source: Twitter

Full Time Meals with Marcus Rashford and Tom Kerridge

Since setting up the Child Food Poverty Task Force last year, Marcus has continued campaigning to #EndChildFoodPoverty and in his latest move joined forces with Chef Tom Kerridge to launch ‘FULL TIME: Get Cooking with Marcus and Tom’.

As part of this 12-month programme, a different recipe will be released on the @FullTimeMeals Instagram video series each week, and recipe cards in supermarkets, schools, and food banks. Each recipe will feature a QR code linking through to the ‘FULL TIME’ Instagram page where users can access short-form tutorial videos, hosted by Tom, Marcus and a selection of celebrity guests and families.

The 52 easy to follow recipes were chosen for being filling, nutritious and “pocket friendly” with easily available ingredients.

Full Time Meals with Marcus Rashford and Tom Kerridge
Image source: Facebook @FullTime Meals

Motivating change through influencing tactics

Perceived higher cost remains the main barrier to healthy and sustainable diets, with our Appetite for Change research revealing that 38% of consumers think it is more expensive1. But other things including people liking the taste of their current food (24%), being creatures of habit (23%) and a lack of familiarity (17%)1 also act as barriers to eating well.

Making the first steps easy is key to helping people overcome these barriers. Things like recipe cards and influencers can help lead the change and inspire easy first steps towards healthy and sustainable diets. Making the switch seem easy, affordable and low effort is critical, and these initiatives do just that.

Through our Appetite for Change research, we worked with behaviour science experts to identify practical actions that food businesses can apply to help shift consumer behaviour towards healthier and more sustainable diets. The five approaches include signposting, placement, product, incentivisation and influence.

Though not always obvious, people are easily influenced by others.

From celebrity influencers to recipe cards, consider how you can use social influences to help lead and normalise change, inspiring others to follow.

For example, recipe cards and online inspiration can help to make the first use of unfamiliar ingredients feel easier and the use of celebrities and influencers can also bring an element of familiarity and trust to inspire trial of new recipes or less familiar ingredients.

1Swap promotional poster
Image: This concept recommends simple ingredient swaps to help people liven up family favourites. We tested this, alongside others, in a quantitative online survey with 2,000 UK consumers as part of our latest Appetite for Change research. It was the top performing concept, indicating consumers would consider taking action. 


1 Appetite for Change (COVID-19 update - September 2020)

How to apply behavioural science shortcuts to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption in the wake of COVID-19