In today's fast-paced world, where living costs continue to rise, it's crucial to adopt smart and economical strategies for everyday tasks. One area where we can make a significant impact on our finances is food shopping. By embracing economical food shopping practices, we can not only save money but also promote healthier eating habits for ourselves and our families.
Planning Ahead and Making a List – Make a shopping list
I have found myself filling up my grocery cart with food items that I didn’t need because of a special sale, or enticing marketing that often get thrown out – for example, lettuce. I like the idea of using it as a side for my meals, but without planning my meals ahead, that often doesn’t happen. The first step in economical food shopping is to plan ahead. Before heading to the grocery store, take a few minutes to review your pantry and refrigerator to identify what items you need. Create a shopping list that includes essential ingredients for your planned meals, as well as any staple items that you might be running low on. Having a list helps you stay focused, avoid impulse purchases, and reduces the chances of forgetting something important.
Compare Prices and Look for Discounts
When at the grocery store, take the time to compare prices between different brands and product sizes. Check the price per gram on the shelf price tag. It should be broken down into price per serving, or price per 100g. Often, generic or store-branded products are more cost-effective without compromising on quality. Look out for sales, discounts, and special offers to save even more on your purchases. Consider using loyalty cards or digital coupons offered by the store to get additional discounts. We use PC points at Loblaws (Superstore, Shoppers and No Frills), and often save $10-$40 per purchase with this point system.
Buy in Bulk and Freeze
Buying in bulk can be an economical way to save money, especially for non-perishable items like rice, pasta, canned goods, and frozen vegetables as you are not only saving on cost of food, but also on gas, time and packaging requirements. Consider purchasing larger quantities of meat or poultry and freezing them in smaller portions. For example, we purchase a grass-fed long horned cow from a local farmer and share it with 4 other families. The price is significantly cheaper than the grocery store prices, it doesn’t contain nitrates, you choose the cuts and it’s portioned AND delivered to you fresh. It is the most economical choice if you have a deep freezer (and ¼ cow will fill up the deep freezer!).
Seasonal and Local Produce
One of the best ways to save on fruits and vegetables is by purchasing seasonal and locally grown produce. Not only are they fresher, but they are often more affordable compared to out-of-season items that have to be shipped from distant locations. Visit local farmer's markets for fresh, budget-friendly produce that supports local farmers and the community.
Reduce Food Waste
Economical food shopping goes hand in hand with reducing food waste. Be mindful of expiration dates and plan your meals to use perishable items before they go bad. Grocery stores are great at turning over product, but they aren’t always perfect. Always check the expiry date on food products. Consider repurposing leftovers into new dishes or freezing them for future use – like stews, pot pie, soups, pasta sauces and smoothies. By minimizing food waste, you can stretch your food budget and contribute to a more sustainable planet.
Cook at Home and Meal Prep
This is a huge one. Eating out or ordering takeout frequently can take a toll on your wallet – when I was living communally in my 20s, I had a strict food budget of $200 per MONTH. I used to batch cook, was mindful of food prices and followed the above-mentioned points and it was achievable (keep in mind, that was 10 years ago…with todays inflation, you’re looking at $400 food budget for a single person using these same tactics). I had a roommate who had similar expenses (as we lived in the same house), but always ate at restaurants. Their monthly food costs were upwards of $1800 for a single person!! Eating out makes a big difference.
Cook at home as much as possible. Not only is homemade food typically healthier, but it also allows you to control portion sizes and ingredients, further optimizing your budget. Consider meal prepping on weekends to save time and ensure you have ready-made, cost-effective meals throughout the week.
If you are not sure how to cook, we offer cooking classes for kids, youth and adults.
Economical food shopping is not about sacrificing quality or taste; it's about making smart choices to optimize your grocery budget. By planning ahead, creating a shopping list, comparing prices, and taking advantage of discounts, you can significantly reduce your food expenses without compromising on the nutritional value of your meals. Embrace the benefits of buying in bulk, choosing seasonal and local produce, and reducing food waste to make the most of your hard-earned money. With a little bit of mindful planning and consideration, you can establish economical food shopping habits that benefit both your wallet and your overall well-being.
Written by: Jamie Gervais-Rietveld
B.Sc. Nutrition and Food Science