Dec. 10, 2019

Healthy Shopping on a Budget

President's Blog
Margaret Hudson
President, Burnbrae Farms
4th Generation Farmer

Whether you aim to reduce food waste, use coupons or buy affordable ingredients, there are steps you can take to reduce your grocery bill. But can you still eat a healthy diet while sticking to a budget? You sure can! In fact, studies comparing the price per weight of various foods show that healthy options are often cheaper. For example, 100 grams of scrambled eggs or chickpeas is less expensive than 100 g of salmon or steak.

So, while you can buy expensive healthy foods, such as avocados, chia seeds and almonds, you can also buy affordable healthy foods, such as eggs, sunflower seeds and peanuts. Here are 10 tips to help make every dollar count when you’re shopping and prepping nutritious meals.

Before you shop

1. Stick to a plan: If you think through which dishes you are planning to prepare for the coming week, you can make a precise grocery list and shop for only the ingredients you’ll need. You won’t buy too much, which will help reduce food waste. Poor planning often leads to buying food that spoils before you make it, and that’s no way to value your hard-earned dollars.

2. Shop with a list: After you know what your meal plan is, make a list of the items you need to buy, then stick to it when you’re shopping! This will help reduce money spent on impulse purchases. Before you shop, check your fridge and pantry to see what you already have, so you don’t buy items you don’t need.

While you shop

3. Choose bulk items: If you are prioritizing cost over convenience, you can save money by buying in bulk instead of purchasing ready-made products. For example, buy dried lentils instead of ready-to-use canned lentils, or buy a bag of carrots you need to peel instead of baby-cut carrots that don’t require peeling. When you do the work yourself, you save money.

4. Buy frozen when fresh isn’t in season: When we were kids, my mother hosted a corn day with friends and family on the farm.  We would pick fresh corn, husk and blanch it quickly in hot water and freeze it in plastic bags.  My mother used to save and wash the plastic milk bags, the ultimate in reusing and saving money. We enjoyed fresh corn all winter long from our own farm. While not everyone has their own farm, you do have access to fresh, local vegetables and fruits when they are in season and more affordable because they are so plentiful. Buy those items in the summer and fall, and you can always rely on frozen produce when the fresh options are not as affordable. Vegetables and fruit are flash-frozen at the peak of freshness, so the nutrients are locked in, which makes frozen just as nutritious as fresh options. An easy DIY tip, you can also buy in-season berries, peaches, corn, peas, etc. and freeze them yourself.

5. Replace meat with other proteins: For many people, the most expensive part of the grocery bill is certain cuts of meat. While items such as beef and pork are an excellent source of protein, they are not the only option! You can also satisfy the ‘protein’ portion of the plate with eggs, which are, overall, much more affordable.

6. Don’t shop when you’re hungry: Okay, how many times have you arrived at the grocery store after work, and munched down a whole bag of chips while you shopped because you were starving? It’s better to shop when you’re full. In addition to reducing mindless munching, it also helps curb the number of impulse purchases you’ll make.

7. Stock up on sale items: Check flyers and get coupons (from websites or apps) to get the best deals. But remember, it’s not a deal if you use a coupon for an item you’d never usually buy or that you don’t really like! Only buy sale items that you know you’re going to eat and enjoy. Sort out the good quality deals from the frivolous add-ons, and stock up on cleaning products, healthy foods and other staples that you'll definitely use.

When checking out

8. Use cash-back apps: Many grocery stores now offer apps that track your spending and provide money back when you reach a certain point level. You just need to scan a barcode (either on an app or from a wallet card that the store provides), and the store’s computer keeps track of points for you. I recently had a free $200 grocery shop from simply using points!

9. Try price matching: Not all grocery stores have this policy, but some do: if you notice a well-priced item at a competitor’s store, show proof (such as an ad or coupon) at your store and they may match or beat the price.

When you get home

10. Cook in batches: Now that you have stocked your fridge and pantry, it’s time to cook. That means instead of ordering delivery online, plan to cook the items you’ve purchased! Make large batches so you can cook more efficiently,  store some prepared food for the next few days, and freeze portions for busy days (and reduce food waste). You can also store dry items like nuts, seeds and grains in the fridge or freezer to prolong their life.

Hopefully these tips will help you slash your grocery bill and still enjoy the perks of a healthy diet.

Margaret Hudson

President, Burnbrae Farms