How to reduce your grocery bill without sacrificing nutrition

There are many ways people can save on their grocery bills without sacrificing nutrition and a healthy diet.DOMINIC CHAN/The Canadian Press

Since May, Canada’s food inflation has been close to 10 percent. Dairy and restaurant fare have seen the biggest price increases, followed by baked goods and vegetables.

Soaring grocery prices mean many Canadians are looking for ways to save money.

Data from the September Inflation Report released by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab suggests that three in four Canadians have made significant changes to their grocery shopping as a result of higher food prices.

The nationwide survey of 5,000 people found that many shoppers bought fewer groceries, used more coupons and loyalty program points, and bought more private label and bulk groceries over the past year.

according to dr Sylvain Charlebois, who led the research, “the most important thing people are doing now to cope with higher food prices is to waste less food.”

Some people have also changed their diet to combat food inflation. Seven percent say they now skip meals, a habit that could deprive them of important nutrients.

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There are several ways to deal with food inflation without sacrificing nutrition. However, some of the budget-friendly strategies I may have suggested in the past may no longer apply today.

A recent visit to my local grocery store showed little to no difference between the price of fresh and canned salmon, ounce per ounce. I also noticed that by weight, pumpkin seeds were as expensive or more expensive than almonds, cashews, and walnuts.

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“It’s not surprising,” says Dr. Charlebois in an interview. “Premium groceries now have less premium prices as so many products are now expensive and no grocery store is the same. Over the past year, many consumers have now visited more than one store.”

The following strategies can help you save on your grocery bill.

In-season locally grown vegetables and fruits are cheaper than out-of-season ones.Dmitriy83/iStockPhoto/Getty Images

Buy seasonal products. Now is the time to enjoy seasonal produce like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, winter squash, beets, apples and pears.

Locally grown vegetables and fruits are cheaper than those that are out of season that have been shipped long distances to your grocery store. They are also at their peak when it comes to nutrients and taste.

Buy frozen. Don’t forget the frozen options for fresh, off-season produce, which can be significantly cheaper than imported vegetables and fruit. Frozen produce can also have higher nutritional levels than their fresh counterparts because they are snap frozen right after harvest.

Beans and lentils are a cheaper and highly nutritious alternative to meat and fish.Assorted dried legumes in a glass jar/iStockPhoto/Getty Images

Trade meat for beans. Beans and lentils (eg legumes) are significantly cheaper than meat, poultry and fish. They’re also incredibly nutritious, providing plenty of plant-based protein, fiber, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron.

Set a goal to add more plant-based meals to your weekly menu to reduce the frequency of animal protein consumption. Also add tofu, edamame and tempeh.

If you buy dried legumes, you will need to soak them before cooking. (Lentils don’t need to be soaked.) If you’re using cans, simply rinse and drain; They are already cooked and can be added to soups, stews, chili, tacos and salads.

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Sardines (seen on rye bread) are a cheaper alternative to salmon.Volodymyr Kyrylyuk/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Replace salmon with sardines. If you rely on salmon to get your omega-3s, consider replacing some of that with canned sardines. Ounces per ounce, sardines are typically half the price of canned salmon and fresh Atlantic salmon.

Along with 21g of protein, three ounces of sardines provide 834mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 324mg of calcium, vitamin B12 for three days, and immune-supporting selenium for nearly a day.

Eat sardines on whole grain crackers, serve them on a bed of veggies, sauté them in olive oil and garlic, or add them to pasta.

Add sunflower seeds. Compared to nuts and pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds are significantly cheaper. They are also an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant needed for healthy immune and brain function; a quarter cup provides 80 percent of a daily requirement of nutrients.

A weekly meal plan can help reduce food waste and save on grocery costs.Daisy Daisy/iStockPhoto/Getty Images

Reduce food waste. Create a weekly meal plan and write a shopping list to go with it. So you only buy what you need. (Meal planning can also help you save money by breaking the habit of eating out.)

If you don’t eat everything you cook, freeze it for later use instead of throwing it away. Use vegetable peels and scraps to make stocks and broths.

Buying frozen foods also helps reduce food waste. Unlike fresh produce, it does not spoil quickly. Plus, you only use what you need at a time and store the rest.

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Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based nutritionist in private practice, is Medcan’s director of food and nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD

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