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Journal entry

Eating Healthy Is Getting Expensive!

Julia Burt RD

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the cost of food after the release of Canada’s Food Price Report 2019, which predicts food prices to increase between 1.5% and 3.5% in 2019. Equating to an extra $411 per year, this is concerning for many Canadians who already struggle to purchase healthy groceries for their families.

What’s worse – vegetables are leading the price surge, with an increase of up to 6% compared to last year. While part of the reason for this is actually positive (an increase in demand for produce), drier weather overall in North America and Mexico is resulting in poorer crops, meaning the supply can’t keep up with the demand.  This makes it even more difficult for people to reach the recommended five servings of veggies per day if they are grocery shopping on a budget.

It’s not all bad news – meat and seafood prices are predicted to decrease, due to a combination of factors including a greater interest in plant-based diets and an increased supply in meat worldwide. Overall, though, the estimated increase of a yearly grocery bill to $12,157 for healthy food is quite daunting.

So, what can we do to cut costs while still maintaining a healthy diet? I get asked this by my clients a lot, and the recent news of increasing food prices is making this question even more common. To make things a little easier, I’ve put together a few tips and tricks for to help save money while still prioritizing your health.  

Invest in cooking: We all know that cooking at home costs less than eating out or ordering in – especially since, according to the 2019 Price Report, Canadians are expected to spend an extra $143 on restaurants next year. Cooking does not have to be complicated – learn a few simple techniques through free online tutorials and keep a repository of your favorite, quick meals that you can rotate throughout your week.

Avoid grocery shopping when you’re hungry: We’ve all been there – going to the grocery store famished, only to buy way more than planned because everything looks delicious. Plan grocery shopping times on a full stomach to ensure that you stick to your list.

Get to know food prices: Take note of the regular prices of food items you buy most often. This will help you determine which stores have the best prices and if you are getting a good deal.

Plan ahead: Take a weekend day to plan the bulk of your meals and snacks for the week ahead. Write a grocery list, but before you do – take inventory of your cupboard and fridge to make sure you aren’t buying things you already have in stock.

Choose cheaper alternatives: Go with no-name/store brands more often – these are no less nutritious than brands with fancy packaging and can sometimes be half the price. Cereals, pastas and canned items are often available in no-name brands.

Use coupons wisely: Coupons can (obviously) help you save money on food, but don’t just use them for the sake of it – make sure you use them on foods that you would purchase and eat regardless.

Buy in-season: In-season fruits and veggies are usually cheapest. Check out this availability guide to see which type of produce is in season in Ontario (all other Canadian provinces have similar guides as well!)

Check out the Best Before/Expiry dates: There’s nothing worse than purchasing food and realizing when you get home that it expires the next day. Always consider the Best Before/Expiry Date before purchasing something to ensure you have enough time to finish it.

Don’t put all your eggs in one organic basket:  Organic foods, like fruits and veggies, are always more expensive than their conventional counterparts. If you can’t afford organic produce, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t purchase fruits and veggies at all – the health benefits of regular fruit and veggie intake far outweigh the (negligible) negative effects of pesticide consumption.

Go frozen and canned: Frozen fruits and veggies are often cheaper than fresh, will last a lot longer, and are just as healthy (or more – as they are harvested during peak nutrient availability) than fresh produce. Canned foods like beans and chickpeas are not only cheap, but great sources of plant-based protein and fiber.

Like many things in our society convenience costs money and food is definitely no different. Having a strategy to handle your meals and groceries will take a lot of the stress related to cost and time for prep out of the equation. Try keeping these tips in mind when planning your meals. If you stick with it you will probably surprise yourself with what you save while still maintaining a nutritious and fulfilling diet! For more strategies to shop healthy on a budget, contact a nutrition professional like a Registered Dietitian.  If you have any strategies that you have found that work for you please share them with us. We’d love to hear from you and get your feedback!

Until Next Time!

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