Spend Food Dollars Wisely
Food Canadians spent approximately 11% of their disposable income on food — much less than in some parts of the world.
Yet, talk about increasing food prices makes consumers nervous. Global demand, severe weather, higher fuel and production costs all play a role in the price of food.
There’s no need to jeopardize nutrition to save money. It takes discipline and focus to shop wisely — but it is very doable. Here are a few tips to help consumers:
Determine what you spend on food; it may be less than you think. Keep track for a couple of weeks. Canadian farm groups celebrated Food Freedom Day on Feb. 7, 2014 marking the date by which the average Canadian earned enough to pay the entire year's food bill. Note that the reference is for ‘food’ only — not for the sea of other items available in your supermarket.
"There’s no need to jeopardize nutrition to save money. It takes discipline and focus to shop wisely — but it is very doable."
Plan! Smart planning is the first step to saving money on food. Plan menus for a week at a time. From those menus and advertised specials, make a list. Remember to check the pantry and fridge so as not to miscalculate your needs. Over-buying and poor management leads to food waste — something that we as Canadians are too guilty of. Every trip to the store adds to your cost. And often an ‘empty pantry’ leads to expensive take-out options.
Learn to cook. Home cooking is the surest way to save and to get the best value for your food dollar. Cook! by Dietitians of Canada (Robert Rose Publishers) contains 275 healthy recipes using Canadian food. Basic cooking methods, nutrition advice and ‘kid approved’ recipes make this cookbook a good investment.
Avoid waste. Statistics Canada estimates that about 40% of all the food produced in Canada goes to waste — perhaps as much as $1,000 per household annually. Clearly, by avoiding food waste we can off-set cuts considerably.
Try paying for food with cash. It’s estimated that those who use plastic spend more and Canadian families are already carrying a great deal of debt.
Buy real food from all four food groups. Choose fresh or frozen produce (yes frozen veggies are nutritious), whole grain breads and cereals, dairy, meat, fish or poultry (or alternatives). Write your grocery list in the same order as the food is presented in your store, reducing your chances of getting distracted by items that are not on your list.
Cut back on processed, ready-to-eat products that are more expensive and less nutritious than fresh food.
"Ask for and use rain-checks if a store runs out of an advertised special."
Buy less-tender cuts of meat. Slow-cook them for flavour and tenderness. Choose healthful and affordable beans and lentils to replace meat from time to time.
Buy in season or join a local crop-sharing program — an emerging trend.
Buy in bulk. Many cereals, rice and rolled oats are less expensive without fancy packaging.
Do it yourself for less. Prepared or semi-prepared food is more expensive per serving. Homemade dressings, cookies and pasta sauces are much less expensive than ready-made.
Quench your thirst with water, not pop.
Shop with a calculator. Check unit price on shelf labels to help determine the best buys.
Look beyond eye level. Often better buys are located above or below eye level.
Ask for and use rain-checks if a store runs out of an advertised special.
Organic can be more expensive. Produce with the least likelihood of pesticide residue are sweet onions, avocados, corn, asparagus, mango, cantaloupe, pineapple, peas, kiwi, grapefruit, cabbage, broccoli and eggplant.
Resist last-minute temptations at the cash register. Be vigilant at the check-out. Mistakes happen where products are scanned twice or even left behind unnoticed.
Ask if your grocer will match a competitor’s price to avoid driving across town.