You don’t have to buy trendy foods no one has heard of to eat healthy. Many healthy foods are affordable with a few shopping and preparation tips.
Food prices are rising and eating healthy on a budget is a challenge. Life gets hectic and you grab for cheap fast food options. Why?
Our global food system is set up to help big food companies get even bigger. Our food system prioritizes convenience of hyper palatable high calorie foods over food quality.
This is why obesity is rising and life expectancy is declining.
There are ways you can eat healthy and save money. And no, I’m not going to sell you on the beans and rice diet. That is absurd.
Food is to be enjoyed. You just need to be willing to get creative in the kitchen, adjust your shopping strategy and invest a tiny bit of time in preparation.
Here are some tips to get you started with eating healthy on a budget in Canada.
Buy in Bulk
I get that you may not work your way through a 10 pound bag of carrots before it goes. Bear with me.
Even if you’re not shopping for a big family, costco, superstore and other bulk stores saves you a ton.
Costco does a great job with organic foods, including vegetables, grains and meat. Some of the vegetables at costco are pre-cut, making meal prep breeze.
But costco also has cost effective frozen vegetables, fruit and meat that will last a year in your freezer.
Frozen fruit and vegetables are often more nutrient dense that fresh. This is because they are frozen directly after being picked, preserving them naturally. Fresh fruit and vegetables may lose some nutrients in transport.
Beans, grains and canned foods can be bought in bulk and stored safely for a long time in your pantry.
What do I buy at costco? Almond milk, avocado/coconut oil, frozen berries, lemons, granola bars, fish oil, pasta, canned wild salmon, almond flour, tea, organic zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, oats, cereal.
For meat I recommend buying bulk from your local farmer if possible. Some farms do cattle shares where you can buy part of a cow, or simply buy bulk direct from the farmer.
Many natural farmers commute to cities monthly to sell their meats, whether at farmers markets or on monthly deliveries.
Prep at Home
You may struggle with this, and I get it. If preparing food and cooking is not your thing, you’re going to struggle to eat healthy on a budget. You need to decide what is important to you.
Cut down on your prep time by buying fruit and vegetables pre-cut (and/or frozen). Better yet, put on music and cut vegetables once or twice a week, then store them in your fridge for use.
Simplify your eating by cooking one or two dishes per meal. This can be a massive stir fry, pot of soup or big pan of roast vegetables for salad throughout the week.
You don’t have to spend your Sunday meal prepping. Just set aside an hour to slice vegetables and cook a few staples ahead of time. This way you’re winning your week by eating well.
What do I do? I’ll roast two big baking sheets of vegetables from pre-cut bags from costco. Cook some pasta, rice, salmon or beef liver (more on that later) while that is roasting.
Then I have easy ‘bowl-style’ lunches for the whole week. Takes me one hour.
Occasionally, I’ll cook a roast in the slow cooker. It takes two minutes to prepare in the morning with a few spices, chopped onion and some water. Then you come home to a great meal with tons of leftovers.
Have you noticed that avocados are available year round in your local market, but the price changes?
That is because those avocados were shipped from Mexico. Depending on the season, they may be easier to farm and ship or not.
A quick 30 second search can tell you which fruits and vegetables are in season, saving you a ton of money. I’ve been known to bulk up on seasonal vegetables when the price goes down.
Get Comfortable with Sameness
We are built to seek novelty and variety. If you struggle with eating leftovers or the same thing for breakfast or lunch everyday, I get it. You’re fighting our biology.
If this is you, I have some tips! Try one or two simple ingredient swaps to transform your boring meals.
You can also add a different meat or protein to your everyday meal to liven things up.
Stock Your Pantry
Many foods last years in the pantry. This presents a great opportunity to stock up when pantry staples go on sale, like rice, beans, pasta, quinoa, flour, oats, etc. While you’re at it, checkout our Satisfying Lentil Soup Recipe.
Canned foods are okay in moderation. When I’m busy, I’ll build my meals around canned wild salmon.
Hot pantry tip: rotate your foods. First in first out is how you should handle your pantry to ensure that five year old can of beans doesn’t get to 10.
With pantry basics you’re equipped to cook healthy meals on the fly without having to shop or order in.
Use Your Freezer
Freezing is a wonderfully natural means of preserving food. And this isn’t just for buying bulk frozen items like berries and vegetables.
You can freeze your cooked meals to have later. Or you can freeze some of your meal prep for later use.
The later works great for using your slow cooker or soups and stews. You can prep all your vegetables, portion your grains and meat, then freeze. I did this to make chicken soup last week.
When you’re ready to use, just toss it all from the freezer directly into your pot or slow cooker. This gives you a low cost, painless and deliciously healthy meal.
Buying meat in bulk from farmers then freezing is a great option as well. Meat from the grocery store is generally a bad idea from a quality and price perspective.
Be Flexible When You Shop
Conventional wisdom tells you to make a shopping list, stick to the outside of the grocery store and never to diverge from the plan.
This is great advice, but misses the opportunity for sales and serendipity. Often times there are flash sales on items that stores need to move asap.
This is a great savings opportunity for you and me. I’ll often take a quick scan through store flyers on my way in and store shelves for sales.
A couple times a year I end up with three massive cauliflower heads in my fridge for two dollars.
But I also make use of them, making lots of Low Carb Cauliflower Soup. Gifting soup is amazing in the winter.
The point I’m making is this: you need to adopt a flexible mindset for prep and shopping to save the most money.
Don’t Force Your Meat Consumption, Get Creative
You don’t need as much meat as you think. Meat generally is the most expensive portion of our plate. I’d recommend eating less fast food and conventional grocery store bought meat.
When you do eat meat, please support local farmers who practice regenerative agriculture and raise animals with respect and integrity.
There you have it, my tips for eating healthy on a budget. I’m sure I missed a few things. I’d love to hear from you.
What are your tips for eating healthy on a budget?