Strategies for Healthy Eating on a Budget
With increasing cost of living, many Canadians face the challenge of balancing their budgets with the rising costs of nutritious foods. As a dietitian, I am passionate about empowering families to make healthy choices without breaking the bank. Here are some helpful strategies to stretch your grocery dollars while keeping your family's nutrition in check.
Budget-friendly foods to include in your diet:
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are versatile protein sources that cost a fraction of what meats do. Buy them in the tin or dried.
- Whole grains: Oats, barley, and brown rice are super nutritious and budget friendly when bought unprocessed. Quick rolled oats makes for easy breakfasts, barley is delicious in soup and brown rice is a great side for dinner.
- Seasonal vegetables: Buying veggies in-season can save you money while adding important nutrients to your meals. Frozen vegetables are also an economical way to add more variety.
- Canned fish: While fresh fish can be pricey, canned options like salmon or tuna are affordable and packed with Omega-3s.
- Eggs: A cost-effective protein, eggs can be incorporated into various meals, from breakfast to dinner.
Money-saving tips for your grocery bill:
- Plan meals in advance: Organizing your meals for the week can prevent wasteful purchases.
- Prepare from Scratch: Cooking food at home rather than buying prepared or seasoned convenience items will save you money. Eating at home rather than buying take-out is also more cost effective.
- Buy in bulk: Purchasing staple items in larger quantities often results in cost savings.
- Batch Cook: If you buy in bulk you can batch cook and freeze meals for next week which not only saves you money but also time.
- Limit processed foods: Not only are they often less nutritious, but processed foods can also cost more than their whole counterparts. Avoid pre-cut vegetables and seasoned rice packages and opt to do it yourself.
- Buy frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables if you cannot afford to buy fresh all the time. They are still packed with lots of vitamins and minerals and are just as healthy.
Cutting costs on your food budget:
- Use flyers and coupons: Take advantage of weekly deals and discounts offered in grocery store flyers.
- Reduce food waste: By planning meals and buying only what you need you can reduce food waste substantially. Use the first in first out principle and plan end of the week meals that help use up the leftover produce before you restock such as vegetable soups, stews and stir fries.
- Reduce meat consumption: Consider plant-based proteins or implement "Meatless Mondays" in your home. Legumes are great sources of protein and cost much less than meat.
Canadians are feeling the pinch, and many are making shifts in how they shop and what they buy. In addition to buying less meat and processed foods, foods that have rising prices (like chicken, eggs, milk, and flour) are not going to be purchased as frequently.
Changes in Canadian shopping habits:
- More bulk buying: As a way to save, families are purchasing non-perishable items in bulk.
- Opting for generic brands: Many Canadians are now choosing store brands over name brands to cut costs.
- Growing their own: With food prices rising, there’s an uptick in home gardening, allowing families to grow some of their own produce.
Family-friendly Budget Recipe: Hearty Lentil Soup Ingredients:
- 2 cups dried lentils
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 1 can diced tomatoes (with juice)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Rinse lentils and set aside.
- In a large pot, sauté onions, carrots, and garlic until softened.
- Add lentils, broth, tomatoes, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
- Serve with crusty bread or a green salad.
It is entirely possible to eat healthily and stay within your budget. With a little planning, you can provide nutritious meals for your family without compromising on taste or quality.