Grocery shopping can be expensive. Here are 7 tips from a Registered Dietitian to shop smart!
1. Plan your meals
I usually pick 3 meals and 1 snack I absolutely want to cook throughout the week. I make enough to have leftovers and I try to re-use the same ingredients in multiple recipes. I also have the contents of my pantry, fridge and freezer in mind when I plan my meals to limit the shopping that will need to be done. Websites such as Epicurious’ Pantry Recipe Tool can be very useful. You list the ingredients you have on hand, and they will come up with the recipes!
2. Make an organized grocery list
Using the ingredients needed for the recipes in your meal plan as a base, make a grocery list. I also add things to it, like 2 or 3 fresh fruit options to have as a snack or dessert throughout the week.
I use flyers and I price check a lot. Especially now, with online shopping made available, it got so much easier to compare prices between stores!
Then, I organize my grocery list per store and per category to use my time efficiently once I’m at the grocery store. Here’s an example of how I categorize them:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dairy and eggs
- Condiments, oils, and spices
- Canned goods
- Frozen foods
I make my list on the Notes app. That way, I always have it on hand, and I can make it a shared document with my family so they can add things they notice we are running low on throughout the week!
3. Limit processed foods
Convenience comes at a price! Here are some budget-friendly swaps you can do without too much trouble:
- Shred cheese yourself. Not only it will save you money, but it will make it melt better. Did you know that pre-shredded cheese is coated with starch to prevent it from sticking together – therefore, melting!
- Replace boxed chicken tenders with homemade. You just need to coat sliced chicken in olive oil and a mix of breadcrumbs and spices, and bake them!
- Make a quick salad dressing by mixing olive oil, balsamic vinegar and/or lemon juice, salt and pepper in a mason jar.
- Make your own granola by roasting oats, nuts, seeds and cinnamon in a pan. Fresh granola every time!
However, there are some nutritious exceptions:
- Frozen fruits and vegetables
- Low-sodium canned legumes and vegetables
- Canned fish in water
- Low sodium broth
- Snacks such as unsweetened applesauce, crackers, natural popcorn or hummus.
When you’re selecting processed foods options, have this checklist in mind:
- The 5/15 rule: If a nutrient is listed at below 5% of the daily value, it contains “a little” of it. Anything that is more than 15% is “a lot”. Use this tip to select processed foods that are low in salt (sodium) and high in fibre.
- Look for no added sugars. Even if they are “natural sugars”. Added sugars are added sugars! Keep in mind that the general Canadian recommendations are to limit added sugar to about 50 grams per day, ideally less than 25 grams per day. It adds up pretty quickly knowing that a can of soda contains almost 40 g.
4. Make low-cost protein choices
Plant-based protein such as tofu, legumes, nuts, seeds, and textured vegetable protein are nutritious and won’t break the bank. Eggs and canned fish are also great options!
5. Shop smart
Did you know that it is required in Canada to list the price per unit on the price label? Get your magnifying glasses out, because they can be really small. You will be surprised. Sometimes, the house brand isn’t always the cheaper option, buying bigger items will not save you more money and items on sale are not always the best value.
Another way to save money is to buy in bulk when shopping for small quantities. When you try out a new recipe that needs a spice you already know you won’t use often, get only what you need from the bulk store. I remember it costing me 5 cents for coriander seeds!
Shopping local can also help you save a few bucks, especially on produce. Did you ever need leeks? They come in packs of 3 at the grocery store, then you’re stuck with 2 leeks that you don’t need. You can buy one on its’ own at the market!
6. Use resources in your community
Farmers’ boxes and community gardens are examples of ways to save money and support your community!
7. Be gentle with yourself
The hardest thing with a grocery list is to stick to it. So be realistic and flexible. Take some money out of your budget to eat out. Make some convenience foods available (yes, I always have a boxed pizza and a Mac and cheese box on hand). Let yourself buy something you really want, like ice cream, a bag of chips or fruits you want to discover!
- Never shop for food on an empty stomach!
- Shop online and pick it up later! Someone else gets to follow your list, with no risk of deviating from it.
- Use loyalty programs, price match, cash-back apps and even coupons if you need them!
I hope these tips will help you. Let me know in the comments below what tips you use to save money on groceries!