I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “eating healthy is expensive”. Or worse – “I can’t afford to eat well,
so I will eat crap instead” – which is not only faulty logic, but also a representation of priority system that will need to be shifted if the end goal is “health”. So there are tons ways to save money at the grocery store – that is the easy part to talk about. But there is also an element of skill/habit-formation involved especially when someone is trying to eat better, which I feel is important and relevant to discuss.
Meal planning is a skill. Grocery shopping is a skill. Food prep is a skill. Cooking is a skill. Clean-up is a skill. They are all separate skills. Not everyone has ALL of these skills, and I too, am a work in progress on all of these. (Anyone else need to vacuum after cooking?) I thank those who have been patient with me in the process – I am learning and trying. Special shout out to Sarah Fragoso for letting me observe your ways in the kitchen, Jessica Lee for showing me how to operate small appliances without ruining them, the food I am trying to cook while avoiding stomach cancer and Travis Berlenbach for teaching me things about cooking methods.
First I want to address why I feel there is an element of skill/habit formation and why it is relevant to this post:
Scenario #1: Sally has been bringing sandwich for lunch to work everyday for her entire life. Sally is wanting to make better choices, so she wants to bring a salad for lunch.
This is going to be brand new habit: meal planning, grocery shopping, preparation and cooking. BUT you know what’s easier than buying a whole new set of different groceries, learning how to cut vegetables, storing them appropriately, buying containers? Buying the pre-made $7-$9 salads from the grocery store for work instead.
“Eating healthy is expensive”. Heck ya it is – when you are buying grocery store salads everyday!
Scenario #2: Sally is committing to the lunch time salads. She went out and bought lettuce, carrots, some mushrooms and chicken. She goes to make her salad and suddenly it doesn’t really look that appetizing. Pretty boring – just a bunch of bland vegetables and some plain chicken. No wonder it sucked! Sally didn’t do any meal planning, obviously forgot to check out Pinterests, blogs, cookbooks for some inspiration. So she “forgets” her lunch at home the next couple days and opts for fast food. End of the week, she looks in the fridge and her vegetables are shrivelled up.
“Eating healthy is expensive.” – Heck ya it is – when its rotting in your fridge and you have to throw it out!
Scenario #3: Sally found a bunch of salad ideas from Pinterest, made a list, bought the ingredients, learned how to store food properly, spent all day cooking and at dinner time – the rest of her family doesn’t want to eat it. Sally made the mistake of telling them that the healthy food she was cooking was gluten-free/dairy-free/Paleo/Vegan whatever. Don’t do that. Or at the very least not before you eat it. If people think you are feeding them hippy juice – thats a kool-aid no one wants to drink.
“Eating healthy is expensive” – Heck ya it is – when you are buying food for 2 different dinners or each family member. If these things are all brand new for you and your family. Integrate new things slowly. Look through recipes together. Ask your kids to help you in the kitchen. I have seen young kids (10 and under) use knives, ovens, elements, kettles, etc. When I was in California, Sarah Fragoso’s 10 year old son, Jaden, made us a 6 course Italian dinner. He planned the grocery list, looked up wine pairings, and did most of the cooking. He was so PROUD of himself and it was absolutely amazing.
My goal when I work with people in my Corrective Nutrition program is to help eliminate barriers so that the habit formation process can happen and be sustainable with a new or modified lifestyle.
So here are MY tips:
Before you even go to the grocery store – you should figure out what you are wanting to eat for your meals and snacks. Find some cookbooks, blogs, recipes, etc that look appealing to you. Bookmark them, save them, dogear them, whatever. Keep in mind, meals don’t always have to be a recipe. Theres nothing wrong with meat and vegetables. Here is my lunch board on Pinterest.
Look through your weekly flyers. You can view your local flyers online or on a app like Flipp. Are you seeing any of the main ingredients in your recipes you picked out on sale at one particular store? Thats where you can do your grocery shopping. An advanced tip would be to learn how to price match with the flyers at one grocery store. I’ve never done this but I know a lot of people who do! (I am just going to give a disclaimer – One of the main reasons I like to save money is that I can spend it on things that cost a bit more like better quality meat. I like to buy my meat locally at the Farmers Market or from Primal Cuts)
Some people grocery shop a couple times a week, once a week or every 2 weeks. Figure out the system that works best for you, your lifestyle, budget, etc. Don’t forget to make a list.
If throwing out rotting produce is a regular occurrence – you don’t have to buy that food anymore. I would always buy the big containers of green mix and always be throwing that out. I know this may be a surprise, but you know what you don’t have to put on a salad? Lettuce. Is there an unwritten rule anywhere that a salad must contain lettuce? Why not have the toppings of a salad in a bowl? You are allowed to do that. However, learning how to maximize shelf life will prevent throwing out food. I LOVE this post from The Kitchn about storing vegetables and fruit. Here is a great infographic about how to buy produce Also, here is an excellent in depth tutorial of how to properly cut fruits and vegetables.
This one should be obvious but: Grocery Shopping when you are hungry = impulse items. Theres no point in doing all the planning, grocery lists to save money when you add a bunch of junk food to the cart at the last minute. When you are buying chocolate, chips, pop, cereal, candy – price matching on grapes becomes kinda pointless, right?
One time I paid $9 for organic eggs. To this day, that still boils my blood. Get your eggs from the Farmer’s Market. Don’t be fooled by buzzwords where it doesn’t matter. Organic means the chickens ate food that was organic. Heres the thing: Happy chickens eat bugs while they are out roaming and scratching in the grass. Also applies to organic candy. And if you see Gluten-Free tomatoes – don’t buy those either. (Side note: every time you buy egg whites in a carton – you are personally insulting me and my hens. Rest in peace, ladies.)
One of my go-to places for eating out is Mucho Burrito. I LOVE burrito bowls. It cost about $10. However – if you spent $20 on ingredients from the grocery store, you could make more than 1 bowl. You would probably make 3 or 4. At least if you are making it at home, you can get a real serving of meat… unlike the teaspoon you get at Mucho.
Organic Butter is unreal expensive – and similar to the organic eggs – organic butter means the cows ate organic feed. Happy cows eat grass. That will be labels at “pastured cows” or “grass-fed”. Are you willing to pay $9 for sub-optimal butter? I stock up with the grassfed stuff for $2.99-$3.99 when I go to the USA or I’ll have friends bring it back for me.
If you are looking to buy better quality – buy a cow/half cow/quarter cow (or pig). You will save some money, support local business, vote proactively in a really messed up food system and get cuts of meat that you may not otherwise buy. (If you are in the USA reading this – Massa Natural Meats ships throughout the US. Wendy and Duane are lovely people!)
I get asked a lot about coconut oil. I remember when the only place you could get coconut oil in Peterborough was at Joanne’s Place. You can literally get this anywhere now. I’ve even bought it at Winners in the HomeSense section. The caveat with coconut oil is that is must come in a glass jar.
If you want to see a major shift in your wallet – trying drinking only water from your Brita water filter for a month. Get an Insulated Klean Kanteen and take it with you everywhere. This includes; (Starbucks, Tim Hortons, K-Cups (grind your own coffee and use your reusable BPA free k-cup), pop (or soda… you Americans), tea, alcohol, drinks at restaurants, etc.
Take a look at your spending – which should be obvious. I recently started using the Mint.com and it shows you in a pie chart – how much you are spending eating out, gas, bills, etc. I’m not going to sit here and tell you the things you should and shouldn’t buy – thats not my place – but “eating healthy is expensive” cannot be an excuse when: you pay for a gym membership and haven’t been in months, when you are a regular at the Michael Kors store, out at the bar every weekend, etc. It’s all about priorities and there is absolutely nothing wrong any of those things but own your decisions without complaining.
*Note from Ally: Please welcome this addition to my post by my friend and client, Jenn Hayes. I have virtually known Jenn for a few years through Facebook , and this past year she has become a client of mine participating in several of my programs. Jenn and I share a common interest in the “life hacking” department. I asked Jenn if she would do a guest post on the topic of saving money at the grocery store and I hope she will regularly join us with her words of wisdom. Without further ado, please enjoy her first article!
When Ally asked me to guest post for her blog I was super excited that I was going to be able to share a few of my grocery shopping techniques with others. With the exchange rate, employment rate, lack of wage increases and higher prices over all, shopping for groceries has become a daunting and expensive task. Here a few things I do to help cut down on the cost of my groceries.
13) Flyers are your best friend. Read them all over – even if you don’t shop there. Many grocery stores will price match if you find a lower price for the same item at another store. You may be thinking “I don’t want to carry those flyers around with me to the store”. You don’t have to. There are apps available for both the iPhone and Android devices that allow you to access the flyers from your smartphone. My favourite app is called “Flipp”. The app allows you to browse all flyers in your area and even “clip” items out of each flyer. This makes it much easier for price matching.
14) Coupons – look for them, check their expiry date and value. High value coupons can be found for many household products on websites and can even be requested from some manufacturers. If you’re interested in learning how to coupon there are many groups on Facebook dedicated to “Couponing”. We even have a Peterborough group. The internet is your best friend. You can also find many coupons online. (We like the Savings Guru one)
15) Buy in bulk – Whenever there is a sale at a grocery store for an item that is highly used in my home I stock up. This will save the headache in the future of having to pay full price when you REALLY need it. I also buy some items at Costco.
16) Money saving apps – There are quite a few reputable apps available for both the iPhone and Android devices that have money back offers each week for various grocery items. Checkout 51 is one example.
17) Store loyalty programs – Many grocery stores off a points system that can be used to purchase groceries in the future. My favourite is the PC Plus program at the Superstore. (You can also use the PC Plus program at No Frills and Independent) The way their point system works seems to be much more profitable than any other store I’ve shopped at. The system tracks your shopping preferences and will provide offers tailored to your needs. The PC Plus program has been available for about a year now and in that year I have managed to accumulate $250 of free groceries/items through the PC Plus program. You can get your card from any cashier at the Superstore OR If you are a PC Financial customer, you can have the points Plus system added right to your debit card. There is also an app you can download that will load your personalized offers to your card. For more information you can visit the website – https://www.pcplus.ca/
Hopefully, after using a few of the tips above you’ll be keeping more money in your wallet while grocery shopping! If you have any others tips, feel free to leave them in the comments!