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Eating on the Cheap

January 8, 2013 by Andrea Godfreyson, Registered Dietitian

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Eating on the Cheap

Growing up, money was tight, so we ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches.

We also became overly familiar with boxed mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs, canned beans in tomato sauce or my number one favourite (at the time): noodles with tomato soup and grated marble cheese. Basically anything white or orange. During university, I have to admit that, at 25 cents a pack, I turned to instant noodles more than a few times to get through the month.We all do our best to feed ourselves and our families when money is tight. Sometimes it can feel like healthy eating isn’t possible. 

Over the years I’ve learned from others. Being a dietitian and spending most of each day thinking and talking about food has helped too. I now feel able to make healthy choices for less. A little planning makes a big difference. I have a feeling I’ll never eat instant noodles again.

Ten ways to save money on food:

  1. Look for sales - Read flyers (print or online from home). If foods you like are on sale, plan your meals around the deals. 
  2. Plan your meals for the week - Think about how you will use ingredients. If you’re buying broccoli but only need ½ the amount for a recipe, pick a recipe for another day that will use the rest, or buy frozen broccoli. There will be no waste and the rest can be saved for when you need it. Plan when you will eat leftovers.
  3. Choose foods in season or try frozen - Foods like fresh berries are expensive when they’re out of season. Try frozen for good quality and better value. 
  4. Make a list and stick to it - Include all the ingredients and snacks you will need for the week. 
  5. Shop once per week - Save money and time by not making daily or regular trips to the store.
  6. Cut down on convenience foods - Ready to eat or prepared foods usually cost more for less food. When your meals are planned, you don’t need to rely on convenience foods. You will know what’s for dinner and you will have what you need to make it. You can even prepare dinner the night before so when you get home you only have to put it in the oven. 
  7. Compare brands - Different brands might have very different prices but be almost of the same quality. Read labels to get the best value. 
  8. Buy bulk - Buying just the amount you need of ingredients you don’t use very often saves money and helps avoid waste. 
  9. Use a slow-cooker or dutch oven - Cooking meat slowly can transform cheaper cuts of meat into a tender delicious meal. 
  10. Eat beans, lentils and canned fish - Tasty, filling and nutritious, these foods are inexpensive and can be used in so many different ways.

How do you make healthy choices on a budget?

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Comments (3)


Posted on Tuesday January 8, 2013 a 11:36am

I am always looking for ways to stretch my dollar and reduce my trips to the grocery store/bakery. With 2 teens in a bread-loving family, I recently started making my own bread and in addition to knowing it's a cheaper alternative, I am really enjoying the routine! I either whip up a 2-loaf batch (flour, salt, yeast, water) at night, leave to rise and then bake in the morning, or whip it up in the morning to bake at night. Regardless of when I make it though, the first half loaf tends to disappear very quickly! I switch it up and make all white, or 40-60% whole wheat, maybe throw in a little wheatgerm....and next I am going to experiment with some flavours next, maybe cinnamon raisin, cheese and chives ... the opportunities are endless and the result is always yummy.

hurrell's picture

Healthy Families BC

Posted on Wednesday January 9, 2013 a 10:21am

It's great to hear that you're enjoying your time in the kitchen, making bread from scratch. There really is little better than fresh bread straight from the oven! We're certain your kids are just as excited as you are about all your plans to add other ingredients for new tastes. Happy baking! Andrea


Posted on Thursday January 10, 2013 a 8:52am

I have teenage sons who are always looking for snacks after school. Rather than premade pizzas etc I bulk buy extra lean hamburger and cook it all up with onions and spices and then freeze it on cookie sheets. Then I crumble it up and put in in ziplock bags. The boys (and my husband) can take out a bit and put it in a pita, on a microwaved potatoe or any way they choose for a quick meaty cheap snack. They love it and I save money.


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