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How To Shop and Cook Smarter to Reduce Your Grocery Bill

Grocery prices are climbing in 2022. Here's how to cut food costs and keep your family well-fed!
By aha insurance - Dec 24, 2021

At aha insurance we continually explore ways to stay in control of all aspects of life – because we know life is about more than insurance. In our Life Matters series we talk about staying in control of your life and living on your terms. Control feels great!

Food is expensive. Your 2021 grocery bills were high, and you’re probably already dreading planning meals in the new year with soaring rates of food inflation.

Skipping the convenience of meal and grocery delivery apps and cooking more at home are popular ways to save on food. Still, there’s more you can do to keep your pantry and fridge full without blowing your budget. Check out our comprehensive list of the best tips for stretching your grocery budget further in 2022. 

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Make a shopping game plan and organize your inventory.

Plan your meals, make a list, stick to it, and don’t shop hungry! Shopping on an empty stomach with no plan is a good way to end up only buying what looks tasty at the moment without considering your budget or what you want to cook later. Before heading to the store, give yourself time to decide what you want to cook based on your recipe selections and current product sales. 

Every frugal food shopper knows that hunting for deals and organizing your fridge and pantry can help you save. But downloading a few choice apps can make reducing your grocery bill a whole lot easier. 

  • The average Canadian family spends about $1,100 a year on food that ultimately goes to waste. Help reduce food waste in your household and on grocery store shelves by using the Flashfood app to find deals on fresh items close to their best before date. 
  • Download an app like Food Manager to easily track what you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer and when it expires. 
  • Just enter your postal code and use the Flipp app to find the best deals at your favourite local stores. Flipp will find deals on the items you add to your shopping list, track prices to send deal alerts, and allows you to digitally store your loyalty cards.
  • The EmptyMyFridge app also allows you to track your food and expiration dates. You can also search for diverse recipes featuring ingredients you already have while adding items you need to your virtual shopping list. 

Once you carefully stock your kitchen, stay organized by following a weekly meal prep routine so you can enjoy your food at its freshest. 

 

Prevent food waste by buying local & “ugly.” 

Food waste is a major environmental and economic problem worldwide and in Canada. In 2019 the food rescue charity Second Harvest reported that 58% of the food produced in Canada goes to waste. Second Harvest estimates that a third of these 35.5 million tonnes of waste could be rescued and distributed to communities across the country facing food insecurity. 

In addition to using services like Flashfood, you can help reduce food waste by purchasing discounted imperfect produce. Organizations like FoodFund, which operates in the GTA, Waterloo and London Ontario regions, allow customers to sign up for “ugly” and surplus produce deliveries. Don’t worry; it’s just as delicious as the cosmetically consistent stuff you find at supermarkets! Recovered produce offers the same taste and nutrition for cheaper than grocery store prices. 

 

Shop meat alternatives.

Meat is always pricey, but it’s getting more expensive. Meatless Mondays are a long-standing trend, but there are many ways to work affordable plant-based goodness into your meal plan. 

Mix it up with legumes.

Legumes are delicious dietary staples full of protein, essential nutrients and “actual superfood,” fibre. The most affordable way to buy legumes is dried and in bulk. Soaking legumes yourself is easy and helps you pay less per pound than you would for a canned product. 

Canada is a powerhouse for producing leguminous plants or “pulses,” including dry peas, chickpeas, lentils and dry beans. Beans and lentils are a perfect complement or stand-in for dishes that include ground meat. 

Mix beef with pulses to make mouth-watering burgers with black beans and chilli with lentils. Or make legumes the star of the flavour show with recipes like rent week lentil soup and spicy butterbeans on toast

Your gut microbiome will thank you! 

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Learn what’s in season.

Scooping up seasonal locally sourced produce is excellent for your wallet and the environment. Sparing your fresh ingredients a long shipping journey also means they have more nutrients when they arrive on your plate!

Enjoy a hearty plant-based stew made with sweet potato in autumn. Then, continue to squash your hunger into the winter with healthy winter recipes like stuffed acorn squash with curried lentils or maple-dijon chicken with butternut squash and brussels sprouts.

Go for Frozen & canned, or go cottagecore.

If it’s not in season and expensive to buy fresh, buy frozen and canned options. They’re packed at peak freshness so that you can fill your freezer and pantry with nutritious and affordable produce year-round. You can also embrace the cottagecore trend and preserve your produce at home using traditional pickling, drying, curing, fermenting and canning methods

Maximize veggies before you compost.

We know that composting is the best way to dispose of veggies for the planet and your backyard garden. Still, don’t reach for the compost bin until you’ve made the most out of your favourite fresh ingredients. 

  • Save veggie scraps for flavourful vegetable stock
  • Don’t overlook slightly sad citrus: Make juice from soft oranges, limes, grapefruits, etc., freeze it for later or use it to flavour your water for a boost of vitamin C. 
  • Remember, you can use citrus zest to flavour everything from baked goods to salad dressings. 
  • Growing vegetables from scraps is a brilliant way to give veggies like scallions, lettuce and celery a second life!

 

Embrace the humble potato.

Versatile, nutritious and best of all, almost dirt cheap! Spuds and root veggies are perfect for bulk buying and keeping for a long time under proper storage conditions. Don’t forget to save your beet, radish and turnip greens for salads, stir-fries and stews!  

Try these wonderful potato-centric recipes from Struggle Meals:

  • Russet potato pancakes (aka latkes) with apple compote 
  • Chunky Yukon Gold potato leek soup with bacon (or tempeh bacon)
  • Spanish red potato omelette (tortilla) 

 

Try these cost-cutting tips for carnivores.

There are ways to save on meats too – Like with produce, getting more food for your money boils down to careful shopping and meal prep as well as making the most of your leftovers.  

  • Explore Different Cuts: Try shopping for meat cuts that can be trickier to cook but can also be just as tasty and more affordable. Go for: chicken thighs over boneless-skinless chicken breasts, skirt steak and brisket over filet mignon and ribeye, and pork shoulder over pork chops. To achieve optimal tenderness: Invest in a slow cooker to make cheaper cuts of meat tender with a longer cook at a lower temperature. Proper braising also helps give meat that melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  
  • Stretch your protein: There are plenty of ways to add meat to a dish sparingly while maximizing flavour. Use less expensive ingredients like eggs, breadcrumbs, veggies and legumes to fill-out meatballs, burgers, meatloaf, dumplings and taco filling. Or use small amounts of meat to flavour already flavourful dishes like pizzas, stir-fries, omelettes and soups. 
  • DIY Butchering: The more you can process a meat product yourself, the less expensive it will be per pound. Save by purchasing whole poultry and larger cuts of red meat that you can trim yourself. 
  • Reduce Waste:  Due to the resources that go into producing meat, it’s good for the environment and your wallet to reduce waste as much as possible. Buying a whole chicken is a good way to save on the cost of meat per pound, even when accounting for the weight of the bones. Put bones and skin to good use by making a nutritious stock. You can also use leftover meat in a huge variety of recipes, from salads and sandwiches to stroganoff, ravioli and shepherd’s pie. 
  • Take advantage of butcher specialsFind out what meats are on sale, and don’t be shy about planning meals around what’s available for the best price. Butchers often have deals on deli meat ends, products nearing their best before dates, and offer packages containing various meats at a discounted price. 
  • Don’t Forget The Cheese: It’s not meat, but it is another dietary staple derived from animal protein. Buy your cheese in blocks and have plenty of deliciously cheesy recipes lined up so it doesn’t go to waste. 

 

Stock up on your favourites in bulk

Bulk buys are only a deal if A) you buy foods you like and will actually use reasonably quickly, and B) they don’t go to waste due to improper storage. Your favourite non-perishables are always great to buy in bulk. Don’t underestimate the value of a versatile bulk buy when you need to whip up a quick weeknight meal. 

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According to Emily Farris and the editors of Epicurious, the best foods to buy in bulk include: 

  • Grains you already use often and can substitute in many recipes. For example, if quinoa is your favourite, stock up and use it in any recipe that calls for a similar grain like rice or couscous. 
  • Bulk up on your favourite dried beans and lentils and use them again and again in your favourite soup, stew, chilli, salad and sloppy joe recipes. 
  • If you’re a fan of seafood, canned fish is an economical protein option for casseroles and on-the-go sandwiches alike. 
  • Suppose you like tomatoes and a variety of tomato-based dishes. In that case, there’s no better shelf-stable option than highly-versatile canned tomatoes. 
  • When shoppers think about buying frozen food in bulk, they typically think of veggies and meats, but frozen fruit is a smart bulk buy as well. 
  • Ghee is a clarified butter product that doesn’t need refrigeration. It can be an alternative to bulk buying regular butter if you don’t have enough space to store it in your fridge. 
  • When it comes to cheese, vacuum-sealed hard cheeses will last the longest in your refrigerator. 

 

If you buy your meats in bulk, make sure you have enough freezer space for them before they expire. Use deals on family-sized portions and seasonal sales on items like turkey and ham to stock up (without hoarding) on all the meat protein you’ll need for months to come. For best results, cut, package, and freeze your meat in serving-sized portions and use a vacuum sealer to get the freshest taste by avoiding freezer burn. 

If you buy more food than your family can eat, you can donate it to your local food bank to help your community. 

Staying within your budget can be a challenge for even the savviest grocery coupon clippers. As we brace for further hikes in food prices, we all need money-saving tips to help us stretch less money into satisfying meals to feed our families. 

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