Making healthy food choices has become even more difficult in the last couple of years due to the rising cost of food. According to CBC News, food costs have risen 7.4% in the last year, which is the largest increase since 2009.
- Make a Meal Plan. Meal planning is one of the most effective ways to help you stretch your food dollars as it helps to prevent food waste. We often waste good food because we buy too much, don’t plan our meals, or don’t store our food properly. In fact, we are throwing out more food than we realize. Research from the National Zero Waste Council found that the average Canadian household throws out over 300 lbs of food per year, at a cost of more than $1,300!
Before you go to the grocery store, have an idea of what you will be eating over the next week and then use your plan to make your grocery list. Having a grocery list can help you avoid impulse buying and ensure that all the ingredients you purchase are the ones you plan on using.
Shopping for items that can be used in multiple recipes will give your meal plan some flexibility. For example, Greek yogurt can be used in a yogurt bowl, smoothie or muffins, and eggs can be used for a breakfast omelette, hard boiled for a quick protein-packed snack, or used in baking.
- Use Smart Substitutes. You don’t have to use the exact ingredients a recipe calls for; instead, make substitutions with some more budget-friendly alternatives. Here are some ideas for substitutions: instead of quinoa for your grain bowl, choose brown rice. Instead of almond butter in your energy bites, choose peanut butter. Instead of ricotta cheese in your lasagna, choose cottage cheese.
- Turn Leftovers into New Meals. Get creative and repurpose leftovers by turning them into a completely new dish. Plain rice one day can be fried rice the next day. Slow-cooked meat can be used for sandwiches, salads, burritos, and more for the whole week. Stir-frying is also a great way to use up both leftover veggies and proteins.
- Opt for nutritious, lower cost ingredients. Some more affordable options include: cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, bananas, oranges, apples, oats, brown rice, sunflower seeds, eggs, and canned tuna or salmon.
- Use Pulses. Pulses (dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas) are not only budget-friendly, they are also nutrient-dense! They are a good source of plant-based protein and fibre, as well as vitamins and minerals, such as iron, folate and potassium. Choose either canned or dried pulses. Canned pulses are convenient and ready to use - just make sure to rinse well with water to reduce the sodium content.
Pulses can be used in a variety of ways. Try using them in soups, salads, baked goods, and as dips. Pulses can also be used in place of, or in addition to, your animal protein, such as ground beef. Try mixing brown lentils with ground beef to help make your meat go further, while decreasing saturated fat, adding fibre and still contributing to your protein intake.
- Check the Unit Price. Compare prices of different brands and sizing of food by using the unit price. The unit price tells you how much something costs per “unit”, usually per 100 grams or milliliters. Typically, larger sizes are cheaper. For example: