Originally posted in March 2017, updated in November 2019 with even more awesomeness.
Yes, you can eat well on a budget!
People often cringe over the extra cost of organic foods, fresh produce, or quality meats, but in reality with a little advance planning, we can be frugal and maintain clean healthy eating at the same time. It all starts in your kitchen.
Keep your kitchen organized. Before you go to the grocery store, try to organize your fridge, drawers, cabinets and anywhere else you store your food in the kitchen. By doing this you can visualize what you really need. This will help you prepare a shopping list that includes only the ingredients you need – so you don’t get swept up in the sales at the store!
Meal Planning. Another good idea is making a meal plan for your week. This means planning in advance the specific meals and portion sizes you’ll have for the upcoming week, and including any others you’re cooking for too. This also serves as accountability to maintaining serving sizes – if that’s all you’ve prepared, no worries about overeating! Meal planning gives you purpose in the grocery store, while keeping your waistline in check!
Collect Coupons. The next step is to check out flyers, coupons, and websites for deals. Nowadays you can easily download some apps to your smartphone for free, like Flipp, reebee etc. These apps also compare the prices among stores. You can adjust your meal plan and shopping list according to the products that are on sale. If you planned on green beans with Tuesday’s dinner, but broccoli is on sale and beans are not, you can substitute with broccoli for this week instead. You’re still getting your greens, but saving a little money.
Buy In Bulk. Consider buying things in bulk when available and on sale. Freeze the food in smaller, individual sized containers for later use. You could also try planning the day and time of your grocery excursions. Some supermarkets might have specific sale days or reduced items in the evening. For example, some grocery stores offer 15% off every first Tuesday of the month.
Buy In Season when possible, otherwise frozen is good too. Now that you are in the grocery store, try to buy fresh vegetables and fruit when they are in season. These are usually less expensive at this time and you can freeze extras for later.
In some Canadian cities where we have snow and below zero temperatures for several months of the winter, buying local and in-season can be a challenge. But frozen veggies and fruit are a very good alternative, as they are usually frozen from fresh with no added ingredients.
Chose Generic Brands. You might also consider some less expensive and generic brands. This can be an easy way to save money as well.
Consider more budget-friendly protein options. Meat can be costly. Alternative sources of protein are nuts, tofu, beans, lentils, and other legumes. Check out our Vegan/Vegetarian recipes here!
Once you’re home, become a multitasking, meal prepping, money-saving hero with these tips:
- Chop extra fruit and vegetables when preparing meals so you have extra for lunches, snacks, and meals the next day.
- Save the water from cooking veggies for use in soups or stews, or to use in smoothies. This water has many nutrients that have been leached out from the vegetables.
- Save run-off liquid from cooking mushrooms for use in a sauce.
- When buying in bulk, you can transform a case lot of tomatoes into a tomato sauce and freeze it. When green onions or celery are on sale, buy a bunch. Chop it up and put in sandwich baggies to be pulled out of the freezer for use in soups and such later on.
- Cook twice the chicken or ground beef you need and either keep extras in the fridge to make chicken salad, chili, and spaghetti sauce the next day or freeze them for later. I’ve even freezed whole baked chicken breasts, and am delighted that they have the same great taste and texture when thawed out.
- Reorganize the fridge regularly. Try to keep items that are quick to spoil in plain sight instead of hidden in the back or tucked away in drawers.
- Finally cook on the weekend (or during your days off). You can freeze-meals for the upcoming week like soups, stews, casseroles, pasta dishes, chili, and yes even chicken breasts! These will come in handy, especially on busy days.
Use those leftovers!
- Prepare casseroles, wraps or salads from potatoes, pasta and rice leftovers. You can also transform these into soups and desserts.
- Transform vegetables leftovers to a pureed soup.
- Use up chicken and vegetables leftovers to create a tasty Chicken pot pie.
- Prepare a day-old roast chicken or turkey breast on a green salad, with some combination of vegetables, chickpeas, trail mix, berries and some cheese.
- Leftover cooked grains (quinoa, rice) are a good, nutritious and filling addition to any soup.