Eating on a Budget: A Guide to Eating Well Without Breaking the Bank
Updated: Jan 11
Written by: Kristen DaSilva, PHEc Dietetic Intern
So, you’ve survived the holidays and you’re back to work, school, or a somewhat normal routine. You may be feeling relaxed and recharged, or you may be feeling stressed. The holidays can be expensive! With all that gift giving and feasting, you may be heading into the new year on a tighter budget. I have some tips and tricks to help you save money on food, so you have one less thing to worry about! Here are eight tips to help you save money and time both at the grocery store, and in the kitchen.
1. Plan your weekly meals, and do it on a full stomach
When thinking about what you’re going to eat for the week, try not to do it on an empty stomach. When you’re hungry you’re going want to eat everything you can think of! If you eat lunch or a snack and then think about your daily meals you will have a clear mind and be able to choose delicious recipes to make for the week. Write them down on a calendar or white board to keep track!
I know what you’re thinking, recipes are overwhelming because they contain so many ingredients that I’m never going to use again! I’m here to tell you that they don’t have to be! You can find recipes that take less that 30 minutes and have 10 ingredients or less. When you’re planning your meals find simple and quick recipes that will nourish you and won’t take all night to make! Also consider crockpot recipes that you can throw in the slow-cooker in the morning and by the time dinner rolls around, its ready!
When thinking about your meals, try to include at least two vegetables, a protein food (shrimp, chicken, beef, tofu, beans, etc.), and a grain or starch (potatoes, rice, corn, pasta, etc.). Try to choose whole grains more often and a variety of foods to maximize nutrients in your diet.
Ask for buy in from your partner or children, or simply include some of your favourite foods. Others can be very helpful in giving ideas about what to make for dinner!
2. Same ingredient...multiple ways!
When planning out your weekly meals, try featuring different ingredients. For example, this week your star ingredient can be bell peppers, so look for different recipes that include bell peppers. If you have children, this is a great way to learn about different vegetables and talk about why that vegetable is good for you! If this seems overwhelming, skip the trivia and use different vegetables each week to include variety, so you’re not eating the same vegetables week after week.
Choosing recipes that have the same ingredients will save you money as you can buy in bulk, and you’ll be sure to use it up before it goes bad!
Making recipes can be intimidating due to the numerous ingredients some require, but if you choose recipes to have ingredients that you can use more than once your money will be put to good use and feed you for the whole week!
3. Make a grocery list...and stick to it!
So now you have your recipes planned out for the week, what a relief! Use the recipe ingredient lists to make a grocery list. Add on any snack foods, like fruits, cheese, nuts, seeds, etc. to ensure you have healthy snacks available when you feel like you need something to tide you over until your next meal.
Having a grocery list saves you time and money in the grocery store since you know what you need and you can get it. It also decreases food waste, since the ingredients you buy will be the ones you’re sure to use during the week!
Planning your snacks ahead of time will also save you money since you won’t be reach for as many packaged or processed foods to munch on during the week. These are the sneaky items that drive up your grocery bill without you noticing!
4. Cook in larger quantities and enjoy leftovers
Cooking for more than one meal is a great time saver! When you cut up all your ingredients and cook them together at one time it takes much less time than if you were to do that each day. If you find you’re too busy to cook most nights, try making a simple and short recipe that will nourish you, and be an easy lunch, or dinner, the next day!
5. Buy frozen vegetables and fruit
Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones, except they’re often cheaper and stay longer in the freezer. Sounds like a win-win to me! Throw the fruits into a smoothie, and the vegetables in any of your dinner recipes for an easy way to incorporate a variety of colours into your meals.
6. Buy cheaper vegetables, legumes, and fruits!
Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and legumes into your diet is a great way to eat more plant based foods! Beans and legumes are a great source of protein and go a long way! Bags of dried beans are often fairly cheap and can be stored for a long time. If you aren’t a fan of preparing dried beans, choose the canned beans with no added salt, just be sure to rinse thoroughly! Incorporating more beans and legumes into your diet is a great way to boost your protein intake, with much less of a cost compared to animal proteins.
Certain vegetables can be lower in cost including broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes. These vegetables are also so versatile can be added to so many different recipes or prepared in different ways! If you like sweet potatoes, try cutting them into stripes and baking them as fries, mash them, or cut them in half and bake them skin side up! There are so many ways to prepare vegetables that keep you enjoying them in all their glory!
7. Buy less processed foods
Eating pre-made or prepared foods saves you time in the kitchen, but you’re paying for it! Foods that are chopped, peeled, or cleaned for you are more expensive than the whole food.
Instead of buying chopped garlic in oil, buy cloves instead. Buy the whole pineapple and cut it yourself! These little things add up to make a big difference on your grocery bill!
8. Buy generic brands
Big brands are more expensive than generic brands and for no good reason! Generic brands can have the same quality and nutrients as the big brands, but for a lot less. Choose generic brands more often to cut the cost of some of your main ingredients.
Now you know how to drive down the cost of your grocery bill and will have easy to make dinners thanks to your meal planning! Wishing you a happy shopping trip and great success in the kitchen!