Yes! You can eat well for less

January 27, 2023

For plan members, sponsors and administrators

Share this “Wellness on a budget” series of articles with your plan members. We can’t control the economy or the rising cost of living, but there are ways to maintain health, wellness, and nutrition during tough economic times.

Yes! You can eat well for less

You’re not imagining it. The price of food is going up. And up. In fact, food prices rose 9.7 per cent this past May alone.1 It’s not just expensive items, like steak, but the staples: fruits, vegetables, flour, and cooking oil. While you may feel powerless against rising prices, there are things you can do to take control of your food costs and still eat healthy.

Try these healthy eating tips to eat well for less. Not only will your wallet thank you, but you’ll also feel better, too.

1. Plan meals for the week (or at least a few days).

  • Remember the early days of the pandemic when we all tried to limit how many times we went to the store? We planned our meals in advance. It was a good idea because we saved more on our grocery bills. When you know your ingredients and you go shopping with a list, you can choose stores that might offer them at a lower cost, and you only buy what you need. When you plan your meals, you’re less likely to see food go to waste.
  • Get to know Canada’s food guide. It is a great tool to help you plan your meals. It’s no longer a hard-to-follow pyramid, it’s a dinner plate of portions. And the website is great! It offers recipes, tips for healthy eating and other resources.
  • Try a recipe exchange. Do you feel like your meals are more of the same old, same old? Do you order take out because you can’t face another night of the same meal you had last Thursday and the Thursday before that? Your friends and family are probably in the same boat. Ask them for some recipes you can try. Bonus points if they’re extra healthy! Or try the library. They’ll have cookbooks and magazines full of recipes for free.
  • Many people are trying the latest social media cooking trend. These can be fun! The good thing is you’re cooking at home and not eating out so you’re saving money. However, some aren’t very healthy and be mindful that the ingredients aren’t over your budget.
  • Check your Group Benefits plan. Your plan may provide support from a dietitian. This can be a great help, especially if you have picky eaters or people with allergies you need to feed.

2. Don’t shop when you’re hungry (or in a hurry).

  • This is the worst time to grocery shop. Because you’re hungry or in a hurry, you’re more likely to make impulse purchases – or even bypass the grocery store altogether and order expensive take out.
  • Reconsider the pre-made food at the grocery store. It may be quick, but it’s more expensive, and often less healthy.
  • It can be tough to do a good meal on a weeknight, but there are things you can do to make it quick and healthy. Prep the meal the night before or on the weekend: chop any vegetables and gather your ingredients in one place. When you make something, consider doubling it and freezing it for a future meal. For example, you can double, or triple your recipe for spaghetti sauce and then freeze in containers. Add some beans and spices and you have chili for another night.

3. Shop smart.

  • The grocery store has a ton of sales every week. Many mark food down for quick sale. They may have too much or it’s close to the expiry date. If you’re going to eat it before that date, it’s a good choice. You can also freeze many items that are close to expiry. They’ll be fine when you’re ready to eat them.
  • Use the unit cost shown on store shelves. Stores don’t just show you the price on the shelves. If you look closely, you can see the cost per unit, like litre or gram. A good example is toilet paper. One brand may be on sale, but if you look closely, the cost per sheet may be more than another brand. So, you may think you’re saving money, but you’re not.
  • Buy in season and local. This is a great rule for fruits and vegetables. The next best choice is frozen fruits and vegetables. They’re flash frozen so are as healthy for you as fresh. Limit your fruits and vegetables from cans. They’re often loaded with sugars or salt.
  • Use your points wisely. If you collect store points, save them for a time when you know your food bill will be higher, like during the holidays.

Eating well for less doesn’t have to be hard. It’s just good common sense and some extra time management. Try these tips. You’ll feel better, about your wallet and your health!