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Eating on a Dime

by Maxine
Posted August 3 2010 10:57pm
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Convenience foods may seem convenient, but they cost your wallet – and your waistline – in the long run. Eating well doesn’t have to break you wallet, sometimes just a little planning can save you financially and help improve your family’s health.

You’re running late and just need to pick up a few items at the grocery store – you rush in, strap your toddler into the cart and swoop through the aisles tossing in this and that. You need things for dinner tonight, snacks for preschool, lunch fixings for your older child and something to feed your partner and yourself too… Before you know it, your cart is full and you’re on your way, grabbing some pre-made sushi from the ‘to go’ kiosk as you swing by. You and your partner can eat that tonight – it’s too late to start making a big dinner anyway.

Most supermarkets are full of pre-made meals these days and with lots of busy working parents they can seem like just the thing when time is short and demand for dinner high. It’s easy to spend way beyond your means when it comes to groceries and many families do – the average Canadian household spends $6,910 a year, or about 11% of its income, on groceries.

Convenience foods may seem convenient, but they cost your wallet – and your waistline – in the long run. Eating well doesn’t have to break you wallet, sometimes just a little planning can save you financially and help improve your family’s health.

Planning Ahead

Plan ahead. It can be tough, but make a list of what you need before you shop. Then remember to bring it with you when you head out to the store. This is a key step to eating well on a budget. 

Our experts have put together the following strategies to help you plan your menu ahead of time.

  • Set a 15-minute pocket of time each week in which to plan your meals. It will help you avoid unforeseen expenses for last minute items. Remember to save your menus! Soon you'll have a wide variety to choose from each week.
  • Make meals from fresh ingredients whenever possible. They're healthier, less costly and the food you cook will have less salt and fat than packaged foods.
  • Check to see what ingredients you already have and what you'll need to pick up before hitting the food aisles. This will help you avoid doubling up on ingredients.
  • Post your weekly menu on your fridge. This will serve as a handy reminder to defrost or marinate any dinner ingredients ahead of time. You'll also satisfy everyone's curiosity about what's for dinner.

Shop Smart

When shopping for groceries, it's possible to be penny wise and health conscious. Use these tips to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your grocery dollar even further.

  • Take a moment to choose the store where you'll do your shopping. Not all pricing is equal. A quick comparison of grocery store flyer specials can help you find the best deals. You can start to save before you begin to shop.
  • Have a snack before you shop. A full stomach can help you control many urges to shop outside of your list.
  • Resist the impulse buys of attractively displayed convenience foods.
  • Practice perimeter shopping. Start with a quick trip around the outer aisles of your supermarket. This is where you'll find plenty of fresh greens, fish, meat and dairy selections.
  • Choose locally grown seasonal produce. These items are grown close by, so they're usually more affordable and they haven't lost as many nutrients. Buying locally grown seasonal produce is also better for the environment.
  • Remember to get everything you need for the week. Many convenience stores make you pay for their convenience with higher prices. So stock up and avoid those extra mid-week shopping trips for milk, eggs and other staples. This also gives you more time with your family and reduces your daily stress.
  • Take the challenge! Any attempt to add a new routine to an already packed day can be a trial. But with a little bit of planning and savvy shopping, you'll soon reap the benefits in your wallet and in your health.

How does your family save at the grocery store? Do you have any tips to share with other parents? Leave a comment below and let us know the ways you save!

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