Maximizing Our Food Dollars 

By Julie Hutter, RD, CDE 

With recent increases in the cost of living and inflation, more and more of us are focusing on ways to stretch our food dollars to maximize nutritious foods for ourselves and our families. Whether we are looking to address increased costs or trying to save for a big purchase, stretching our food dollars has been top of mind for many Canadians.  

Although it might feel overwhelming initially, with time and strategic planning, we can find ways to keep our kidneys and our budgets happy.  

Here are some helpful tips to get started: 

  1. Meal planning and making a shopping list ahead of time is a great strategy to avoid over-purchasing, reduce food waste and decrease unnecessary spending. See our blog post for more details. 
  1. Try to avoid grocery shopping on an empty stomach.  When we grocery shop while hungry, there is a tendency to purchase more snack foods and larger quantities than needed. That can result in higher food bills. 
  1. Save money by shopping the sales and by using weekly flyers or phone apps. You can also buy sale items in bulk, and freeze them for later use. See our blog post on this for more information. 
  1. Buy larger pieces of meat, such as a whole chicken or a half side of pork and portion the meat yourself. This will help save money and allow you to portion out protein-rich foods to meet your individual needs. You can also buy poultry with the bone in and skin on, and remove them yourself, to reduce the cost even more. 
  1. Often groceries stores will have a rack of assorted items, including produce and bakery items, selling for 50% off. Typically, these are found near the back wall of your local store. 
  1. Experiment with plant-based meals. Plant-based proteins such as chickpeas, lentils and tofu are typically less expensive than animal proteins such as beef, chicken, and fish. 
  1. Look into your local food banks and community food programs. There has been an increase in services offered by these organizations, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, including bulk cooking groups, meal and food hamper delivery, and community gardens and refrigerators. See our blog post for more information about navigating food banks. 
  1. Try to reuse main ingredients during the week, but in different ways.  

For example, you can use roast chicken: 

Legumes such as lentils or chickpeas can be: 

  • Added to salads 
  • Added to soups and chili, such as Vegetable Chili  
  • Used in a wrap or quesadilla, such as Warm Falafel Wraps 
  • Blended to make hummus or other bean-based dips 
  1. Cook extra servings to freeze into portions for a quick meal later. This can help reduce the likelihood of purchasing convenience foods, which often have a higher price tag.   
  1. Compare produce prices using unit prices to maximize your spending. Unit prices are found in the small print on shelf labels, displayed as a dollar amount per weight or volume. This can help to compare the cost per similar weight of a product to find the best deal. 
a bar code from a food product that shows the price per g