If you’re trying to be healthy on a budget, eating in is definitely more affordable than eating out. Still, your grocery bill can still add up if you don’t keep an eye on it — the average Canadian household spends nearly $8,000 a year on groceries, and if you’re stocking up on healthy, gourmet items, and fresh produce, it’s easy to overspend without even realizing it.
Here are 10 smart ways to keep your food costs down each week while still eating healthily.
Take An Inventory Of What You’ve Got
Before you head off to the grocery store, take a few minutes to take stock of the contents of your fridge and pantry so you don’t wind up buying more of an item you already have. If there are things that are perishable and need to be used, make sure to pick up whatever necessary ingredients you need to make a dish that uses them. What you don’t want is waste, as we throw out way too much food as it is.
Make A Plan And Shopping List
Not only is keeping a grocery list a time saver when you get to the store, but it will stop you from making impulse buys or grabbing things you think you might need, but probably don’t. This goes for meal planning, too. Yes, planning your week’s menus can be time-consuming upfront, but will save you plenty of time later in the week, particularly if you make dishes that makes leftovers that you can bring to work. Need inspiration? Fitness Republic has tons of healthy and tasty recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Don’t Shop Hungry
Have you ever been to the supermarket when you’re starving? Everything look incredibly tempting and delicious, and you wind up piling your cart high with everything that catches your eye, from a frozen lasagna that could feed an army to a jumbo-sized package of cookies. (No? Just us?) Bottom line: Don’t shop hungry. It will hurt you budget and your diet, too. Skip impulse buys by entering the supermarket on a full stomach.
Shop In Season
Fresh fruits and vegetables are fantastic for you, but when you get a hankering for strawberries in mid-January or clementines in the dead of summer, that can cost you. Figure out what’s in season near you and try to work around that to save big. There’s nothing wrong with buying frozen fruits and vegetables, either. They’re often picked and frozen in quick order, so they maintain the healthy benefits.
Buy In Bulk (Caveat: If You’re Going To Use It!)
Shopping at warehouse stores such as Costco and Bulk Barn can save your household cash, so if you’ve got the storage, go ahead and stock up on non-perishable items. As for things that spoil, be sure to buy only what your family will eat or that you have room to freeze. Buy fresh, cheap produce and freeze it. If you buy in bulk and the excess food goes unused, any savings will be offset by having to throw half of the food out.
Use Coupons And Apps
Go old school, clip coupons and scan your supermarket circular each week. Then download modern-day apps like Apples2Oranges (a price comparison app) and Grocery Pal (which shows sales at your local supermarket and chain stores) to save even more.
Join Your Supermarket Rewards Program
If you’re a frequent shopper, it does pay to join your supermarket’s reward program. Each plan is different, but many offer exclusive savings to members, double coupons or even money off at a local gas station if you spend enough.
Be A DIY-ER
It’s cheaper to buy a block of cheese that you shred yourself at home vs. buying pre-shredded cheese. It’s more affordable to purchase a head of lettuce to make your own salad instead of buying bagged, pre-chopped salads. Tossing a few vegetables into a pot of boiling water along with some seasoning is way more cost effective than buying a carton of vegetable stock. You see where we’re going with this: You pay extra for convenience, so before you reach for the fruit salad in the display case, think about whether you have the time to buy some apples, oranges, bananas and melon and make your own fruit salad at home for less. Additionally, convenient items — like pre-made stocks, which are laden with preservative sand added sodium, or store-bought salad dressings, ditto — tend to be less healthy for you as well, so you’re waistline pays the price, too.
Ask And Ye (Might) Receive
If you’re shopping at the end of the day, ask the bakery if they’re willing to give you a discount on bread or other baked goods. Check with the meat counter to see if any soon-to-expire cuts can be given to you at a discount (most supermarkets mark down their meat between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM). If a plant looks slightly wilted but you don’t care, see if the florist will sweeten the deal somehow for you. It never hurts to ask.
Be Your Own Cashier
A study showed that impulse purchases dropped dramatically when shoppers used the self-checkout option instead of a line with a cashier, both because the wait tends to be shorter and because there’s usually less merch at eye level (like mints or tiny lip balms you don’t need) calling your name.