We all know that it’s important to follow a balanced diet of nutritious foods to stay healthy. However, a lot of people find it difficult to make good choices in the grocery store, whether it’s because the healthier items are more expensive than the less nutritious ones – or because we don’t always know which foods are best for us.
If it’s true that we are what we eat, we can’t really afford to not make smart decisions when it comes to food.
Thankfully (and contrary to popular belief) eating well doesn’t have to mean buying costly foods or shopping at pricey health food stores (though if you can afford to get your groceries at your local farmers market or health food store, by all means do). It can actually be quite easy to eat well while saving money on your grocery bill each month if you follow these simple suggestions.
#1. Plan ahead
Before heading to the store, you should always check the store’s flyer to see what’s on sale and make a list of what you plan to buy.
Your shopping list should include staples and items that are on sale or in-season. If you have the time, you can visit multiple grocery stores to take advantage of sales at each place. If that’s not an option, pick the store that usually has good deals. Know what you are able to spend before you start shopping and match it to your list in order to avoid impulse buys.
#2: Track your total
You’ve probably noticed that the cost of the contents of your shopping cart can add up quickly. To avoid being surprised at the cash, keep track of what your total will be as you add each item to your cart or basket.
A little careful planning can satisfy your knead to save dough.
Use the calculator on your phone or a notepad if you need to. Seem like a hassle? It’s a great way to figure out which items really aren’t worth what they bring to your table.
Tip #3: Make healthy choices
Begin your shopping by circling the store’s perimeter, where the produce, bakery, meat and dairy sections usually are.
Fill your cart up with fresh foods (make an effort to choose items that are on sale). The food in the aisles is usually more processed – and therefore less nutritious – and is often more expensive, though there are exceptions: lentils, beans and other legumes, and brown rice, barley, steel-cut oats and other whole grains are extremely healthy, filling, inexpensive food choices.
If you are not already incorporating them into your diet, now is a good time to start. Your wallet and your body will benefit.
Tip #4: Buy in bulk
More often than not, choosing the largest size of something is the cheapest option (think family-sized cereals and large bags of potatoes, onions and carrots, for example).
Buy in bigger quantities when possible. If you’re only shopping for one, try splitting purchases with roommates or friends. And when non-perishable items – like canned vegetables, beans, pasta and pasta sauce, cereals, crackers, flour, spices and dried fruit and nuts – go on sale, stock up! It will mean a slightly larger cost upfront but you’ll be saving yourself money in the long run.
Tip #5: Keep leftovers
Did you know that more than $27 billion of food goes to waste in Canada annually? This food waste happens at many different levels and is caused by various factors, but more than 50% of it is from food thrown away by Canadian consumers.
Pictured: a healthy snack and colour-coordinated wardrobe.
Just to put things in perspective, $27 billion is more than the combined GDP of the 32 poorest countries in the world. Next time you go to toss out an uneaten portion of your meal, remember that you are essentially throwing away part of the money you spent on groceries. You can easily save your leftovers for another meal (or a snack, if there isn’t much left).
Tip #6: Make use of your freezer
Your freezer is your best friend. Seriously. A fantastic way to save money (and time) while eating well is by cooking in large batches and freezing half of what you make. Doing this not only means that you’ll always have ready-made meals on hand, but you’ll also save on prep and clean-up time and can take advantage of sales on vegetables, grains, beans and meats. Soups, stews, curries, pies and pasta dishes freeze especially well (see below for inexpensive recipe ideas). So instead of using your precious freezer space to store frozen pizzas, spend just a few hours each week cooking and divide up the finished product (use half for your meals that week and freeze the rest).
Tip #7: Look for simple, inexpensive recipes
There are dozens of websites and blogs filled with easy, healthy recipes that use low-cost ingredients (vegetarian meals in particular are usually really inexpensive to make). Here are a few to get you started:
You can also check out these recipe compilations:
Hungry for more? Check out these 10 money-saving tips!