With our dropping loonie, expenses are on the rise--including the cost of food. Many people are starting to "penny pinch" and being more selective about their food choices. At the grocery store this week, I had to forego the asparagus that was being sold for $7.49/lb. I love asparagus but I’m not willing to pay that much for it. So, how do we continue to eat healthy on a tighter budget? Follow these 5 important tips:
1. Spend 15 minutes at the beginning of each week and meal plan. Meal planning can help create balanced nutritious meals, prevent food wastage, and alleviate the stress of not knowing what to eat. A meal plan allows you to easily create a grocery list which can keep you on task for your food purchases. Before you head to the grocery store, take inventory of your fridge and cupboards to avoid buying items you already have. By having a meal plan based grocery list, every item you buy will have a role in your food consumption which means less food wasted. Food wastage is a huge problem in our country. In fact, Canadians throw out the equivalent of approximately 31 billion dollars each year in food waste.
2. Opt for more *frozen vegetables and fruit. Most people think that frozen produce is an inferior choice in comparison to fresh--not true. In reality, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables have the same nutritional value. Furthermore, they keep well and are ready (whenever you are) to be added to your meals. Items such as frozen green beans, carrots, green peas, spinach can pack a lot of nutritional value without a big economic hit! Choose plain frozen vegetables and fruit without any salt, sauces, or additives.
Ways to include some of my favorite frozen vegetables and fruit:
- Frozen spinach--great addition to most pasta dishes, such as lasagna or spaghetti
- Frozen green peas--delicious in soups, rice, quinoa, and whole grain macaroni
- Frozen berries--add to help create a healthy smoothie or consume with Greek yogurt for a snack
- Frozen green beans--makes a wonderful side dish with a drizzle of olive oil and sliced almonds or can be added to casseroles and soups
*No Name or in-house brands will be less expensive
3. Choose "no salt added" canned vegetables or "no sugar added" canned fruit. In a pinch, these products are great to have on hand especially at the end of the week when you are running low on groceries. From a nutritional perspective, I prefer fresh or frozen produce as most canned fruits and vegetables have salt or sugar added to them. Try and choose no salt added canned vegetables or no sugar added canned fruit whenever possible. If these products are unavailable, rinse your canned vegetables to reduce the sodium or salt content. BPA-free cans are also becoming more widely available.
4. Avoid buying the "pre" vegetables...yep, "pre-washed", "pre-cleaned", and "pre-cut". People gravitate towards these products because they are convenient and prep time is reduced. However, these items are significantly more expensive than what you would purchase without all the "pre"! Try to prepare your fresh vegetables right after a visit to the grocery store. Cut up your carrots, celery, peppers, etc. and store them in containers in the fridge that make it easy for you to grab and go. Do the same thing with lettuce; wash, rinse and dry your lettuce and store it in a container in the fridge for easy access to make a delicious salad.
5. Fall in love with pulses---nope, not your heart beat---beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils! Pulses are such a fabulous and economical source of protein, fiber and iron. Black bean burritos, chickpea hummus with pita, Spanish rice and pinto beans are all delicious main entrees that are easy to make and keep your budget in check. If you're not keen on the idea of having pulses as your sole source of protein, consider adding them to meat-based dishes to stretch your dollar. For example, adding beans to chili will provide extra fiber, more interesting flavors and textures. Try adding black beans or lentils to your lean ground meat the next time you make burgers. Aim to include pulses at least 2 times per week. In need of some inspiration? Pulses Canada has some great recipes.
Here’s a quick video from last winter that give a few other helpful hints: http://globalnews.ca/video/1901743/nutrition-on-a-budget
Happy (affordable) grocery shopping!