The Well

Michelle Summerfield | Personal Finance,Blog

How To Eat Healthy On A Budget In Canada

April 24, 2018

Many people hold a misconception that eating healthy on a budget in Canada is more difficult than ever. I’m here to tell you this simply isn’t the case!

Believe it or not, some of the healthiest foods in the grocery store won’t crush your budget as much as you think. So what does? Processed foods.

Did you know that we Canadians spend a whopping 30% of our food budget dining out in restaurants and cafeterias, and buying snacks from vending machines? Ouch. And, according to Health Canada, only 1 in 3 Canadians eats enough fruits and veggies. Diet is the number one risk factor for many chronic diseases.

I’m not sure about you, but I’d like to be healthy now to avoid costly health care bills as I age.

Eating well does not need to cost a lot of money. Here are some of my top tips for eating healthy on a budget in Canada, including eating organically. 

Shop local. Shop seasonally.

Canada has a plentiful local food supply almost year round. Seasonal vegetables are cheaper because of lower transportation costs. As part of your meal planning, head to your local provincial agriculture and food site to see what’s in season.

During the winter months, when there’s very little fresh produce available, switch over to frozen fruits and veggies to stretch your grocery budget further.

Always shop with a plan.

When you shop with a list, a budget, and a meal plan, you’re more likely to avoid all those aisles of processed foods in the centre of the store, come out with healthier eats, and more money left in your wallet.

According to the University of Pennsylvania, by planning a major or weekly grocery shop with a list, you can reduce unplanned spending by 13%. And if you can manage to walk to the grocery store instead of taking your car, you’ll avoid unplanned spending of up to 44%.

Pick your spot for organic goods.

Sure, we’d all love to eat all organic all the time, but buying all organic can easily cause you to overspend. Here’s the thing, you don’t need to buy ALL your groceries organic if you’re eating healthy on a budget in Canada. There are some foods where it really doesn’t make sense. Like what? Fruits and veggies are one area where it doesn’t make sense yet to buy organic.

Every year, Environmental Working Group (EWG) comes out with a “Dirty Dozen” list which ranks the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide levels. But, there’s a problem. According to a Business Insider article, the list doesn’t use a standard test designed to tell if it’s dangerous for humans. In other words, the number of pesticides on the Dirty Dozen list is too small to worry about.

That’s why I go organic only with meats, tofu, and eggs where antibiotics in non-organic have proven harmful. That’s it. Unless I can get the organic item for the same price as its non-organic equal, I won’t buy it. No sale? No organic!

Keep meals simple.

The smartest strategy to save money is to keep meals simple. Buy simple ingredients so you can cook from scratch quickly and easily. Avoid pre-made sauces, dips, dressings and pre-made meals in the freezer aisle. You’re paying extra for all that convenience. 

On a typical evening, I’ll roast organic chicken breasts in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. I’ll also cook up some rice in chicken broth and blanch broccoli. It all takes 20-25 minutes tops, is super healthy (yet still flavourful), and costs so little. $3 per chicken breast, a few cents for 2 cups of organic chicken broth, a few cents for the rice, and for a small portion of broccoli – only 33 cents. The total cost of the meal is approximately $5.

If you’re worried these simple meals won’t have enough flavour, think about using dry spices, lemons, limes and parsley that are low cost yet pack a big flavour punch.

Do a meatless Monday.

For one or more days a week, try focusing on highly affordable and healthy proteins like beans, legumes, eggs, and tofu.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford meat all the time on a low income. Several nights a week, you’ll find me making healthy egg frittatas with kale and mushrooms, or making a chickpea garam masala with rice. Simple, flavourful, and budget-friendly. What’s not to like?

Following these tips for eating healthy on a budget in Canada, you’ll be on your way to becoming a more healthful, happier you (but with a thicker wallet!) in no time.

Bonus tip when you’re on a budget: 

Did you know that checking your credit score and credit report can improve your financial well-being and can help you save money? In fact, your credit score might be a deciding factor in whether you’ll be approved for a personal loan, car loan, or mortgage and can help you secure lower interest rates. Having a good credit score can make it easier to achieve your financial goals. If you haven’t got your credit score from Borrowell, you can do so in under 3 minutes here.

About The Author 

Michelle Summerfield is a professional blogger and the creative director of The Classy Simple Life, a lifestyle design blog aimed at the 40+ woman. The blog started in 2012 and developed into a professional blog in 2017. In addition to documenting her journey to a simpler life, she covers topics such as money management, health + wellness, beauty, solo travel and thoughts on being a creative entrepreneur. Her work has been featured in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life, and the CBC. To learn more about Michelle, visit her website here.

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