Did you know that on average Canadians spend around $200.00 a week on food? This amount of course varies from household to household and is different across the provinces and territories.
The Nutritious Food Basket is a survey that tracks the affordability of nutritious foods using a 67 item grocery list containing nutritious food items. Based on the survey in 2015, the estimated cost for a family of 4 was $195.00 per week or $847.00 each month. Since 2010, there has been an increase in cost of 18.4% for the nutritious food basket and these increases continue to climb each year. In fact, the Canadian Food Price Report is predicting a 1-3% increase in food prices this year, with vegetables and foods purchased at restaurants expected to increase most (at 4-6%).
Today I am sharing with you my top 5 tips for healthy eating on a budget. I encourage you to give these tips a try to help you eat healthy and save more!
This example (Cheeseburger + Fries vs. Chickpea Stir Fry) is not comparing the same product, but intended to show you an affordable and healthy meal option. Healthy eating can be expensive, but there are affordable options available. The chickpea stir fry makes 4 servings for under $12.00 versus the cheeseburger combo (1 serving) for almost $10.00.
1. Plan your meals & stick to them
I cannot emphasize enough how important meal planning is! This doesn’t necessarily mean preparing all your meals in advance but rather, having a plan of what you are going to make. This will not only alleviate some of your evening stress, but will also help you save money! We often shop with good intentions of cooking certain meals but when we don’t have a plan those intentions can quickly become wasted food.
PRO TIP: Be realistic when planning your meals. If you know certain evenings are busy, plan a simple and quick meal (e.g., frozen fish, frozen veggies, and quinoa) or have leftovers – perhaps you make a big batch the evening before (e.g., tacos) and save the rest for the next busy evening.
Start small, perhaps you only plan your Monday/Tuesday dinners….do what works for you.
2. Use plant based proteins more often
Good quality meat can be expensive, especially when you are feeding a family of 4+. In addition, there is a lot of research that supports following a plant based diet from improved health outcomes to sustainability, so why not incorporate more vegetarian options? A can or bag of beans cost anywhere from $1.00-2.00, making it a super affordable yet healthy meal option.
Plant Based Meal Ideas:
Chickpea Stir Fry
White Bean Soup & Grilled Cheese – click here for recipe
Lentil Sloppy Joes – see below for recipe
3. Eat seasonally available fruits & vegetables
Eating fruits and vegetables that are in season can save you a lot of money. When produce is in season there is more to go around, which drives the prices down. In addition to being a more affordable option that something shipped from thousands of kilometers away, the produce tends to tastes better and is typically has its peak nutrient content. Think back to last summer – is there anything better than a locally sourced tomato, or a freshly picked strawberry?
4. Avoid purchasing “convenient” food items
Convenient items cost more, hence the word convenience (that is what we are paying for). For example, buying 2-3 whole sweet potatoes cost approximately $2-3, however buying a package of pre-diced sweet potato costs closer to $7. I usually always buy pre-washed salad or baby spinach (convenience purchase), but the rest I try to stay away from. If I know I will be really pressed for time, I buy frozen instead. Frozen veggies are a great option they are convenient, affordable, and available year round.
5. Create a budget & look for sales
Set a food budget and try to stick to it! Having an amount in mind helps to ensure that you don’t over spend eon your weekly trip to the grocery store. It may even help to use cash instead of debit – funds that are specifically for food. It is much easier to account for our spending when we exchange the cash out of our hands rather than swipe our debit cards.
- Meal plan around sales. Be sure to scope out your local flyers or download coupon apps and find out what’s on sale. Based on the sales you can plan your weekly meals and shopping excursions. If it’s a great deal, stock up on the item and freeze!
- Use cash for food purchases. Pick a weekly or monthly limit and take out cash. Do not bring your credit card or debit card shopping (forcing you to stick within your budget).
- Identify how much you are spending on fast food and think about potential ways to cut back (the coffees/teas, lunches, and dinners out can quickly add up).
Angela Wallace is a Registered Dietitian (Nutritionist), Family Food Expert, and Certified Personal Trainer. She specializes in women and child nutrition and fitness. She uses a “non-dieting approach,” with her ultimate goal being to help people find a healthy balanced lifestyle and a healthy relationship with food. Life is busy, and she totally gets that. She is all about helping support people in finding quick, simple, and effective ways to eat healthy meals and get moving more.
Angela enjoys sharing recipes and practical nutrition tips through blogging and several other media outlets. By doing so, she hopes to inspire, educate, and empower women and families to make healthy lifestyle changes that work for them!