Eating Well on a Limited Income

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Eating healthy on a limited budget can be a challenge. The tips below will help you find lower-cost healthy choices in the grocery store. This will help you to stretch your dollar to save money and eat well. Use Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide to plan your meals.

Steps You Can Take

  • Make home cooked meals as often as you can. Pre-prepared foods such as grated cheese, salad mixes, and vegetable sticks cost more - you are paying for the preparation!
  • When you have the time to cook, make extra to store in the freezer. These frozen leftovers can be used for quick meals when you're short on time, instead of picking up an expensive preprepared dish.

Tips for grocery shopping

  • Plan your meals ahead and make a shopping list. Check your fridge and pantry to see what you have at home and use what you have on hand. Stick to your shopping list!
  • Find food on sale by reading grocery store flyers. Plan your meals around what's on sale.
    • Learn usual food prices so you can quickly tell what's on sale.
    • The foods displayed at the end of the aisle may not be on sale. Compare sale prices and "specials" to the normal price.
  • Buy only what you need
    • It's a good idea to buy foods you eat often in bulk or on sale. Be careful not to buy too much. If it spoils before you can eat it you won't save any money. Fresh food like fruit and vegetables may spoil before you can use it up. Share large amounts of food with friends or family.
  • Don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry because you may end up buying more food than you need.
  • Limit high energy snack foods and drinks such as chips, chocolate and pop as they are expensive and offer little nutrition. They often have too much fat, salt, and sugar. Buy them for occasional treats only.
  • Shop at grocery stores. Prices are higher at convenience stores, and they have less variety.
  • Shop around the edge of the grocery store to find many of the basics. Items at eye level may be more costly. Look at the upper and lower shelves too.

Tips to choose lower cost foods using Canada's Food Guide

  • Meat and Alternatives
    • Buy larger packages of meat, poultry and fish when they're on sale. Divide them into single portion sizes (½ cup or 2 ½ ounces) or the amount used by your family at one meal. Store in the freezer.
    • Instead of meat, have dried or canned beans and lentils, tofu, eggs, and peanut butter 1 or 2 times a week. They cost less!
    • Canned fish in water easily substitutes for fresh fish in many recipes
  • Vegetables and Fruit
    • Choose pieces of fruit that won't ripen all at once and go to waste. Buy 2-3 pieces of each fruit- one that is ripe, another that is almost ripe, and another that is green.
    • Buy fruit and vegetables that are in season. These are often cheaper and taste better. Choose canned, frozen or dried fruit and vegetables when fresh ones are not around or are too costly. They are healthy choices too!
  • Grain Products
    • Buy flour, rice, oats, and pasta in bulk. They cost less because you save on packaging.
    • Buy whole grain bread, tortillas, and pita bread in bulk or buy extra when they are on sale and store them in the freezer
  • Milk and Alternatives
    • Buy larger portions of milk and yogurt. Put them into small containers to have when you're away from home. Use skim milk powder in baking instead of fresh milk.
    • Try a store brand or no name product. You might enjoy the taste just as much and they are often just as healthy.
    • Some cheeses freeze well. Buy cheese on sale and use it in pasta dishes, casseroles or on pizza.

Additional Resources

HealthLinkBC Medically approved non-emergency health information and advice.

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide - My Menu Planner

Last updated: April 2011

These resources are provided as sources of additional information believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of publication and should not be considered an endorsement of any information, service, product or company.

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Dietitian Services at HealthLinkBC (formerly Dial-A-Dietitian), providing free nutrition information and resources for BC residents and health professionals. Go to Healthy Eating or call 8-1-1 (anywhere in BC). Interpreters are available in over 130 languages.

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