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October 17, 2018 | By: Gursh Singh

How to Shop for Meals on a Budget

Saving Money

We get it. After a long day, it’s tempting to just swing by the drive-thru for a burger and fries. Other times, it’s easier to forgo the pots and pans—and keep the kids happy—by ordering pizza (fast food that comes right to your door? Yes please!) But while drive-thrus and deliveries can be quick and convenientespecially now with services like Uber Eats, Foodora and Skip the Dishesthey can also take a toll on our budget.

8 Ways to Save on Food

1. Cook at Home

Canada’s Food Price Report says Canadians can expect about a 60% increase in cost this year when eating out (which equals to approximately $210 per person). The good news? Grocery store prices won’t be subjected to these same price hikes, so that’s even more incentive to eat at home. Cooking at home is not only good for your wallet, but good for your health—research shows that people who eat home-cooked meals regularly consume less sugar and fewer processed foods, leading to higher energy levels and better mental health.

2. Find Food Substitutes

A recipe may call for some fancy cheese or some expensive cut of meat—but that doesn't mean you have to use it! With most dishes, you can often find cheaper substitutes than what is actually called for. The Cook’s Thesaurus is a good source of ideas for food substitutions. And don't be afraid to be a little creative and step outside of the box. The other night I was making pasta sauce but I didn't have any meat to add to it...but I did have humus, and it was a pretty good protein substitute.

3. Forget Brand Names 

I know it can be tough—name brands are our go-to food, and they make shopping so easy. But the idea that “if it costs more, it must be better,” isn’t always true. If you take a look, you’ll see most of those “generic” or private-label brands actually have very similar or even the same ingredients as their name-brand counterparts. It’s just that name recognition that we crave. Once you’re past that, dig in! And enjoy the savings.

4. Check the Lower Shelves

Here’s a quick tip—look for items on the bottom shelves. Grocery stores put their pricier items at eye level, but you’ll typically find cheaper options on the bottom shelves. (This of course is not the case if you take a stroll down the cereal aisle. Most grocery stores will put the children's cereal on the lower shelves for those parents who bring their kids with them shopping.) 

5. Get Coupon Conscious

Clipping coupons can be a hassle. But today, there are apps for that, and they actually pay you back. Checkout 51 gives you money back on certain products after you purchase them. All you have to do is take a photo of your receipt, upload it, and once approved (usually within 48 hours) you’ll see money in your account. Once you’ve reached $20, you can request a cheque. While some items might earn you 25 cents, others could get you a whole handful of loonies. It all adds up! And if you prefer a printable coupon in hand, check out Save.ca, a great site for searching flyers, circulars, and coupons, and once you find what you want, they’ll email you the coupon.

6. Keep a Shopping List

This might seem like a no-brainer, but many people hit the store without a plan. They may know they need milk or bread, but then wind up buying many other items they don’t need. Keep a list, whether written out or typed into your phone, to avoid impulse buys and items you don’t need.

7. Watch Impulse Buys

This goes hand-in-hand with having (and following) your shopping list. Sneaky retailers know all about temptation, so once you’ve successfully navigated through their store sticking to your list, they try to get you one more time and fill the checkout aisle with chips, candy bars, gossip magazines, gum and sugary sodas. Some countries in the United Kingdom have already passed legislation banning junk foods from checkout lines, and the not-for-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest is also trying to enact similar action across popular Canadian and American-based retailers. In the meantime, don’t let their sneaky tricks get the best of you—keep your eyes on your cart during checkout, and if possible, don’t bring the kids shopping with you—you know they’ll want those goodies.

8. Don't Shop Hungry

Our stomach can easily take over our brain when we’re hungry, encouraging us to buy foods we don’t really need when shopping, so try to eat before you head to the supermarket. Studies show that hungry shoppers spend almost 65% more than their full-bellied counterparts.

These are just a few ways to save when you’re planning meals or going shopping.

If you have some ideas of your own, we’d love to hear about them! Post them in the comments section below. And if you’re struggling financially and it seems like no amount of coupon clipping can help, give us a call at 1.800.267.2272. Our counselling is completely free, and we can offer financial advice to help you become debt-free and get back on your feet.



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