Shannon Crocker, RD PHEc
7 Foods To Help You Eat Well and Save Money Too!
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
I wrote this article which was originally published on Canadian Food Focus (I am a contributor to the site); I tweaked it to share it with you here. Canadian Food Focus is a gathering place to tell our Canadian food and farming stories -- check them out!
Lately I’ve been looking a little more closely at my grocery bill. I'm not sure that food prices have gone up; I think it's more likely because we are not eating out at all right now (or going out) and so we're spending most of our budget on groceries.
Either way, the rise is real and I’m paying more attention to how I spend my food dollars. Meal planning, including budget-friendly foods and meals, and having a plan to use leftovers helps so we don't waste food and money.
I know I’m not alone on wanting to nourish my family without breaking the bank.
Can you eat well on a budget?
One of the greatest concerns I hear when it comes to eating well is that it’s expensive. I’ve got some simple strategies that might flip that concern into the compost bin.
I use the online flyers to find deals and compare prices between stores. Since I'm limiting trips into stores, I'm ordering online when I see those sales if I can.
Heading into the store, I try my best to stick to my grocery list and try not to get side-tracked by end-of-aisle “specials” on foods I don't really need. I stock up on a few staples (not hoard!) when they’re on sale even a little bit.
And the main must-do strategy for saving money: cook more meals at home -- something we're all doing right now. Eating prepared meals and take out is expensive and takes more out of your food budget than you might think.
You don’t have be culinary graduate to be great in the kitchen. Meals don't need to be gourmet to be delicious or nutritious. Basic ingredients can be the difference. Here are 7 basic, budget-friendly foods that I buy that help me make simple meals and eat well.
7 Foods that Help Me to Eat Well and Save Money
1. Legumes. These plant-based protein foods are budget buddies and highly nutritious. Canned black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and dried red lentils are easy for making salads, soups, and chili. Bags of edamame (young green soybeans) are always stocked in my freezer for quick power bowl salads.
2. Canned tomatoes. Cooked tomatoes are especially high in an antioxidant called lycopene that’s linked with protecting your cells from damage. Canned or bottled diced or crushed tomatoes are ideal for making a simple pasta sauce, soup or stew.
3. Frozen berries. During local berry season I enjoy a lot of fresh berries. In the winter, I only buy them when they're on sale. Berries are bursting with flavour, and with fibre and health-promoting antioxidants. But I also buy frozen berries all year long and especially right now; they’re less expensive typically and just as nutritious as fresh and super in smoothies, fruit crisps and overnight oats. Defrosted and added to yogurt is a scrumptious dessert.
4. Plain Greek yogurt. From breakfast power bowls to smoothies, we eat a lot of Greek yogurt in our house. Greek yogurt has more hunger-crushing protein than regular yogurts. It still goes on sale right now, so that’s when I buy a few of the big tubs (they’re more cost-efficient).
5. Whole Grains. The health benefits of whole grains, like oats and barley (both big Canadian crops!) are well documented, especially in terms of heart health. Since they have a long shelf life, I stock up when they go on sale. Oats, with heart-healthy and gut-friendly fibre are a breakfast staple in our house; they are also far less expensive than packaged breakfast cereals. Barley is a great addition to soups and salads, extending your meal for cents a serving.
6. Value packs of meat and eggs. Lean meat is nutrient-rich and packed with easily absorbed iron and zinc (important for a strong immune system) and a little goes a long way! Buy the big packages and divide them up into meal-size portions (freeze some) for better value. Eggs are one of the most affordable protein-rich foods in the grocery store. I buy them in the 18-packs for better value.
Eggs-cellent tip: There’s no need to buy brown eggs – nutritionally, they are exactly the same as white eggs, but they cost more!
7. Reduced-price produce. I’ve saved the best ‘till last! For optimal health, it’s recommended that you fill up half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Reduced-price produce helps keep that portion of your plate highly affordable. I’ve seen some amazing deals like six apples for $1.00, two heads of broccoli for $2.50 and six tomatoes for $2.00. Buying this less-than-perfect produce helps reduce grocery store food waste too.
I can’t be the only one who sees the opportunity of a bunch of perfectly over-ripe, brown-spotted bananas on the reduced rack at the grocery store? Not only are they a super deal, but they make amazing banana bread, smoothies and muffins.
Stay healthy and well,