Grocery shopping, menu planning, and creating nutritious meals on a budget. These are all things you might be thinking of right now as we all adjust to life with social distancing and trying to shop less. To help, we have created some tips to get your started.
To start, one of the best things you can do is to plan your menus. For many people, menu planning isn’t something they do regularly but it is a great way to save money, reduce food waste and in this case, reduce the number of trips to the grocery store during a pandemic.
Here are some steps to take when planning your menu:
- Make sure to factor in things you already have at home. Take some time and look at what you already have in your cupboard. This will provide a great starting point, help you to use what you have and to save you money.
- Aim for one week of meals to reduce the number of visits to the grocery store. Include breakfast, lunch and dinner in your planning. Typically, breakfast and lunch tend to be items that are the same from day to day – cereal, toast, eggs, sandwiches, soup, salads, or leftovers. For dinners, plan out 6-7 days worth of meals, depending on how many people you have in your house and how often you have leftovers. Factoring in leftovers is a great way to reduce waste and often can be turned into another meal.
- Don’t forget to consider your snacks as well, especially if you have kids in the house.
- Some of the regular brands you might buy may not be available so be prepared to substitute certain items. In addition, some stores may have limits on frequent items so buying extra might be difficult for items like bread, milk and eggs.
- If you would like to make sure you have a few extra items, consider buying one or two extra items every time you go to the store, but make sure you have a plan for how you will use them. Consider things that have a longer shelf life. There is no need for panic buying. Our grocery supply chain is secure.
Now that you have started to plan your meals, let’s look at how you can create budget friendly meals.
- Use what you have in your fridge, freezer or cupboards as a starting point.
- Don’t, or try not to, buy much more than what you need to make your planned meals. Stick to your menu, write a grocery list from what you have planned and only buy what is on your list.
- To save money, consider foods in season, and when not in season opt for frozen or canned produce or look at sale items when planning your meals. For produce, also consider buying items that last longer such as potatoes, squash, onions, apples, cabbage, carrots and Brussel sprouts.
- One of the easiest ways to have budget friendly meals is to incorporate plant based proteins such as peanut butter, beans, lentils and tofu. Not only are these good for you, but they are less expensive and last longer on your shelf.
- Do you enjoy muffins, cookies or other baked goods? If you have time, prepare more of your baked goods at home. They will be less expensive if you prepare them yourself rather than purchasing the premade ones from the store.
Many of us may be starting to clean/declutter rooms or closets in our house. But….When was the last time you went through your freezer or did a thorough cleaning of your fridge? Take this time to empty everything out and organize your freezer or fridge to see what you actually have in there. Once that is done you can defrost your freezer or give your fridge a really good cleaning. Throw out anything that may be expired from your fridge, especially the stuff way at the back or hidden in the bottom of your produce drawers. Once again, use this to help plan your menus and use up the items that you have on hand.
Finally, this might be a great time to try out new recipes, if you have the time and interest. Just remember that meals don’t have to be elaborate or gourmet, simple is sometimes better and cheaper.
Here are some simple ideas that you can try:
- Breakfast – oatmeal with fruit, whole grain bread with banana and sliced peanut butter, poached egg with whole grain toast and fruit
- Lunch – salad with canned tuna, chickpeas or boiled eggs; vegetable soup made with frozen veggies, canned broth and noodles or rice; pita with canned salmon or leftover meat and fresh veggies (lettuce, tomato, cucumber)
- Dinner – tuna melt; spaghetti with meat or lentils, canned sauce and frozen veggies (such as spinach); burritos made with a tortilla wrap, rice, canned corn, black beans and salsa