The average Canadian family spends roughly $240 per person per month on food from grocery stores. But if you’re single and living in the city, you know that number is far higher. Living in a major city center, you could easily spend $400 a month on groceries, not including dining out. Property taxes and transportation costs are higher for these businesses and it’s part of the price you pay for the convenience of the city. But the tolls of city life aren’t the only reason why your grocery bill can get so high.
Most busy people eat reactively, meaning they often figure out what they are going to eat the day of or just the day before. We are habitual creatures and tend to fall into a routine that doesn’t have much planning involved. When we eat this way we often don’t make the best choices for our health or for our budget. The best intentions can slip away when you are in a time crunch and need to get fuel in your body to continue on with your busy day.
Fortunately, you can save time and money, and radically improve your health, just by doing a little smart planning ahead of time. Here are five tips that you can implement today to get on the road to a healthier lifestyle while saving money.
Meal Plan and Prep
Like any efficient project, an ounce of planning saves a pound of work later on. Making use of a meal plan can seem laborious at first, and some free-flowing personality types might have a resistance to it, but making your weekly meal plan will save you a ton of time and money by cutting food waste and allowing you to plan your grocery shopping where you will find the best weekly deals.
Planning your meals ahead of time also removes the guesswork later on and frees your mind for other tasks, making your week more productive. It will also have you thinking about different meals and recipes, making you a better cook in the process, and it’s the most effective way to ensure you eat the foods you know you should eat, rather than what feels best at the time.
You can use one of the many apps out there or you can do what I do and go Analog and print off this sample meal planner.
Yes, I am sure you already know that going to the local farmers market allows you to get the best produce at a better price while helping to support the local community. But what if you don’t have a car, aren’t anywhere close to one, or have your Saturday mornings booked up? Using local flyers, in combination with your meal plan, is the best way to save money and get healthy without the farmers market. Fortunately, it’s 2017, so you don’t have to start accepting flyers at home and add to your recycling bin. Great apps like Flipp can show you the best local deals based on a grocery list you create and search for the ingredients for all the recipes you selected for your meal plan.
When you buy produce seasonally, you get fresher food at a better price. The food doesn’t have to travel as far, so it’s not picked as early and doesn’t carry the added costs of fuel, transportation, and tariffs. This is going to be a lot easier if you’re living in warmer climates, but if you’re living in the north like me, you can still enjoy a great variety of foods regardless of the season. Check out a seasonal produce list here.
Buy Foods in Bulk or by Unit Price
Buying foods in bulk, especially dried foods like lentils and beans, is a great way to save time and money. If you find a deal at your local bulk food store or at a discount grocer, you can pick up month’s worth of staple foods at a fraction of the cost. This is generally the best way to go, but it’s not always a failsafe measure for saving money. When looking to buy in bulk, always make sure to check the ‘unit price’ that’s on the pricing label on the shelf where you picked up the item. Something may seem like a deal, but it might only be a few cents different on the unit price. That being said, if you do find a good deal by comparing the unit price of the item, you can take better advantage of it by buying in bulk. You can end up having months’ worth of food and keep your weekly grocery shopping to seasonal produce, making for a much lighter carry if you don’t have regular access to a vehicle.
Switch to a Starch-Based Diet
Contrary to the low carb craze of the 80s and 90s, the teachings of which still plague us today, starches are the most affordable and nutritionally dense staple foods available to us. They will keep you full and improve your health like they have for the human population for thousands of years. And, you will save a lot of money by eating fewer animal products and refined carbohydrates and replacing them with beans and legumes, root vegetables, and grains.
Here’s a quick comparison of the costs of animal products versus starch.
An excellent breakdown of the savings and health benefits of a more starch based diet, by Dr. John McDougall (author of the Starch Solution) can be found here.
You don’t have to go vegan or eliminate all animal products from your diet to save money, but you will improve your health and lower the cost of groceries by switching even half of your meals to being more starch based. And no, you will not be missing out on protein; you will be getting more than enough already from the rest of your diet.
These are just a few of the ways I have found to cut my grocery bill in half, lose some unwanted belly fat, and live a healthier lifestyle. Which one do you think will work best for you?