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Tips for Eating on a Budget

Eating well on a budget can be a challenge. Here are 10 tips to help you get started.

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Make a shopping list on your phone or a sticky note and do your best to stick to it.

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Making a list will help you stay focused on only purchasing the items you need, and lessen the chance of buying things out of impulse.

Have a strategy for grocery store shopping.

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Look for items on the top and bottom shelves as the most expensive brands are kept at eye level. Check out the weekly grocery flyers to see what’s on sale when you’re planning your shopping. You can also download a coupon app such as Flipp or to find deals available in Canadian grocery stores. Try to avoid shopping when you’re hungry as you are likely to buy more than you need, or things you don’t need.

Shop at discount or low frills grocery stores.

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Discount or low frills grocery stores generally offer lower prices because they do not have non-essential features like fancy packaging, decorated aisles or extended hours. Another option is small fruit and vegetable stores, which often have lower prices on their items.

Try to buy what’s in season.

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The BC Association of Farmer’s Markets has information about what’s in season each month. Typically foods that aren’t in season are more expensive as they are brought in from outside of Canada.

Buy frozen and canned fruits and vegetables.

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Buying frozen and canned fruits and vegetables is a great idea all year round. They tend to be less expensive, and a great way to limit food waste. Frozen fruits and veggies are an alternative to fresh products, and have many of the same nutrients as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Buy items in bulk when you can.

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It’s much cheaper to buy many items in bulk – beans, rice, pasta, nuts, seeds, spices, baking items, etc. Try keeping items like nuts, seeds and flours in the fridge or freezer to extend their shelf life. However keep in mind to buy what you need for the meals you’ve planned to limit food waste, especially for foods that easily spoil.

If you have a tight budget, try to avoid buying snack size, single serve or pre-prepared items.

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Snack size, single serve items or pre-prepared items (like grated cheese or cut fruit) are often more expensive. For some folks, this is important for convenience and safety. If you can, try creating your own snack size or single-serve items when meal prepping and invest in kitchen tools like a grater, peeler and sharp knife.

Look for less expensive cuts of meat or larger packages.

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You can freeze and use less expensive cuts of meat or larger packages for several meals. Or, try and use beans or lentils in your meals. They are a good source of protein and cheaper than buying meats.

Look for store brand or generic items while shopping.

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A store brand or generic item is often cheaper than a name-brand item. If possible, compare the unit price (price per 100ml or 100g) of the food you are buying. Check out this handy unit price calculator to help you easily uncover the better bargain.

Get support from community resources.

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Even on a budget, some people may not have regular access to enough food to maintain their wellbeing. This is called food insecurity. If you are experiencing food insecurity, reach out to your local food bank to see what options are available for you.

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Want to explore and learn more? Here are a couple options that will help you.