How to Eat Well While Spending Less on Groceries

Nov 2, 2022

We’ve all seen the evidence – the cost of food is skyrocketing. Have you checked out the price of cheese lately? It’s mind-blowing! Item by item, aisle by aisle, supermarket shopping has become a weekly exercise that’s a combination of mild consternation and severe budget management.

According to a recent article in The Globe and Mail: “Since May, Canada’s food inflation rate has been close to 10 per cent. Dairy and restaurant meals have seen the largest price hikes, followed by baked goods and vegetables.”

The Globe and Mail story, citing an inflation report issued by the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, suggests that three out of four Canadians have made significant changes to the way they shop for groceries due to higher food prices.

The nation-wide survey of 5,000 people found that in the past year, many shoppers are buying less food, using more coupons and loyalty program points, as well as purchasing more privately labelled store brands and foods in bulk.

Stop the Waste

According to Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, who directed the research,

the number one thing people are doing now to cope with higher food prices is wasting less food.

Food inflation is particularly acute for people who, like many retirees, are living on a fixed income. They have made changes to their diet and, possibly, even skipped meals – with potentially damaging consequences for their overall health.

According to a recent report about food inflation carried on CNBC: “When food shopping, it may mean buying less red meat and more chicken or going to a farmer’s market for produce instead of the grocery store. Using coupons and comparison shopping can also help you save money.”

6 Ways to Start Saving

Food inflation has yet to reach a crisis point but, according to The Globe and Mail, there are several ways to navigate the challenge without sacrificing nutrition. Here they are:

1. Buy In-Season Produce

Right now, that includes cabbage, sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, onions and leeks, carrots, parsnips, all manner of squash and pumpkin, beets, apples and pears.

2. Look for Local Produce if Possible

Vegetables and fruits grown in your immediate area are less expensive than those which have been transported long distances. Plus, they deliver more nutrients and better flavour.

3. Buy Frozen

Frozen, except when purchased very selectively, may not be your preferred food option. But it’s cheaper than out-of-season fresh produce, without significant loss of nutrient content. Think frozen peas, corn, edamame, and berries to name a few items that can make a healthy and more cost-effective addition to your meals. Adding frozen berries to a smoothie or pie means the summer flavours we love can be enjoyed all year round.

4. Trade Meat for Beans

Yup, make it a Meatless Monday. As The Globe and Mail story states: “Beans and lentils (i.e., pulses) are considerably less expensive than meat, poultry and fish. They’re also incredibly nutritious, offering plenty of plant protein, fibre, folate, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron.”

5. Substitute Sardines for Salmon

Ounce per ounce, sardines are typically half the price of canned salmon and fresh Atlantic salmon. Three ounces of sardines deliver 834 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 324 mg of calcium, three days’ worth of vitamin B12 and almost a days’ worth of immune-supportive selenium. In short, they’re an excellent nutritional substitute for salmon.

6. Bake Your Own Cookies, Pies & Cakes

The initial outlay for baking ingredients soon adds up to big savings when compared to store-bought baked goods. For instance, a medium sized carrot cake can cost upwards of 8 to ten dollars. Homemade works out to about 2-3 dollars.

Waste Not, Want Not

This was an oft used adage in our home when I was growing up in the fifties. “Learn to love leftovers” was another. And, above all, reduce food waste.

By having a meal plan in mind when shopping for groceries, you’ll be less likely to buy perishable items that won’t get eaten, and subsequently go bad. Our meal plan and shopping list usually covers 4 days of meals, all carefully thought out. By adopting this strategy, we’re more likely to use everything we’ve purchased or divide bulk perishable food items up for freezing – meats and poultry. We also include an egg-based meal at least once weekly – often a quiche or an omelette – for our main meal. Eggs are a very cost effective protein to serve with a salad or steamed veggies.

We’re firm believers in not wasting food. Pretty much nothing gets thrown away. In our kitchen, food waste – food inflation or not – is anathema. We keep zip lock bags in the freezer in which we put vegetable/fruit ends and peelings, chicken bones or other meat offcuts, leftover herbs, etc. that we freeze and then once the bags are full, we use to make homemade stock for soups, broths and stews. Even stale bread is cubed up, zip lock bagged, and then frozen – we’ll use it for making stuffing for roast chicken and croutons for salads. We look at the results as ‘free food’ that would often be thrown away in many households. If you don’t do this already, give it a try! You may be pleasantly surprised how much further your dollar goes.



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