Living on a budget is tough. And when you love food as much as I do, it’s even more difficult. I could happily spend hundreds of dollars at the grocery store each week, on fancy cheeses, the best fruits and veggies, and fun snacks.
But, as a soon-to-former student with dreams of traveling and paying off my student debt, spending hundreds each week on anything isn’t an option.
I actually end up spending about $25-35 each week, and I eat WELL. No I don’t get to eat cheese every week, but you definitely won’t catch me living off of Kraft Dinner. And while you don’t need to aim for my low grocery budget, it’s always good to save a little cash at the grocery store.
Everyone knows the basics of reducing your grocery bill – only buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, get a points card for your main grocery store, and buy perishables when they’re on sale, but here are a few more tips for keeping your groceries cheap and your belly happy.
1. Change where you shop. Yes, we all like to shop at large, well-organized, brand name grocery stores, but you always end up paying more. I buy my basics at No Frills, a low-budget grocery store that’s just a bit further away from me than the higher end store. I buy anything I can at a bulk store, including baking staples like flour and sugar, health foods like chia, flax, and hemp hearts, nutritional yeast, and popcorn kernels! (Which, by the way, are insanely cheap compared to microwave or pre-popped popcorn!)
And I go out of my way to buy my produce at a market. Depending on where you live, it might be cheaper to buy produce from a farmer’s market, but for me, it’s cheapest to go to the large markets in Chinatown. Sure, things aren’t laid out as nicely as in a big grocery store, but I always find fresh (and often local) fruits and veggies for a fraction of what I would pay elsewhere. Plus it’s fun!
2. Be vegetarian. Or at least reduce the amount of meat-based meals you eat. Obviously I want everyone in the world to be vegetarian for a lot of reasons, but when it comes down to it, plant-based meals are MUCH cheaper than meat-based ones. Think of how cheap dried beans or lentils are, or even a block of tofu, compared to a chicken breast. Eat less meat, and you’ll find you’re saving a lot of money each week. (Plus, your health and the planet will benefit as well!) Pictured above: about $4 worth of vegetarian protein. And it’s SO many meal’s worth!
3. Make 1 recipe to eat most of the week. This probably saves me more money than anything else. When you’re making 4 or 5 different recipes in one week, buying ingredients for all those recipes ends up costing you a small fortune. Instead, I make one recipe (usually the one that I’ll end up posting on the blog) and then eat it for my lunch or dinner for the rest of the week. Then for my other meals, I’ll make simple things like salads or eggs. This doesn’t have to be boring though – you can mix up the recipe throughout the week to keep it fresh and exciting. Tacos become taco salads, burgers can go on a bun one day, in a wrap the next, and on a salad the next, and you can even make something like these vegetarian meatballs and eat them in a collard wrap for lunch the next day.
4. Think simple, and jazz it up at home. The best example of this for me is breakfast. Now I love cereal, and I love being able to eat different kinds of cereal. But cereal is really expensive. So instead, I have oatmeal every morning for breakfast. You can buy it at a bulk store and it costs cents compared to the dollars you’d spend on cereal. Plus oatmeal is the BEES KNEES. Check out some of my favourite oatmeal recipes here and here. My absolute favourite oatmeal is just flavoured with brown sugar, cinnamon, and peanut butter, with some chia, flax, and hemp hearts.
5. Stop eating out! Bring your lunch to work, have something easy to make when you get home so you don’t get takeout, and you’ll save SO MUCH MONEY. Eating out is expensive. You don’t have to stop it entirely, but you’d be amazed how much you save when you bring lunch to work and stop ordering in for dinner. And that’s money you can spend on cheese, or a nice dinner out with people you care about.
Hopefully these tips help you save for whatever you’re dreaming for! What do you do to save money on groceries?