Trust me, when I say we are both poor – recent graduates [~2-3 years ago] piles of student debt, car loans, rented places, starting careers and early/mid twenties. Food is essential for life and it is expensive, the cost of food has risen by ridiculous amounts in the past year in Canada…see evidence here, here, here AND here.
We want good, healthy food without the hurt in the wallet. Find out how we manage.
Now even though we just linked you 4 very depressing new articles, don’t read too much into it – it’ll just make you very sad. Instead, keep on reading here to see what we do to stay positive and eat healthy, delicious food that keeps us feeling full and happy campers everyday.
First off let’s start with how we save money, then we’ll get into how we meal prep to make sure we do not waste an ounce of that food!
How we Save Money
Generally speaking, we cook with the sales and the seasons. The main areas to save money are in:
- Buying in Bulk
- Eating Seasonally
- Sales – flyers, price matching and apps!
Buying in Bulk saves so much money; try a bulk store or the bulk section of the grocery store. They are so much cheaper than off the shelf. Examples of things to buy in bulk are:
- Stock Cubes
- *Note: sometimes I find nuts are NOT cheaper, so keep an eye out*
Seriously never buy spices down the spice isle, they are a huge waste of your money – you are basically paying for the jar. It is not worth it, not when you can buy in bulk! When it comes to making broth, stock cubes are the greatest! Stock and broth whenever you need it! Just drop the cube in about 2 cups of boiling water and dissolve, they take up such little space and last forever!
Of course, not everything bulk is found at the bulk store! Don’t forget to stock up on cans of diced tomatoes, chickpeas, black beans etc. when they go on sale. We can usually find a 19oz can of chickpeas on sale for 77 cents! They’re a great source of nutrition, and don’t weigh heavy on the wallet!
Eating Seasonally makes a huge difference on the bill at the checkout. Buying fruits and veggies when they are in season also means there is a higher chance you can get something grown locally, which helps drive down the cost.
We love going to Farmer’s Markets in the summer time. We can get SO much produce that we find lasts longer than the grocery store AND tastes better!
Substitutions are also a fantastic option, especially if you’re an adventurous eater. This was a HUGE one for us when we were in university – neither of us ate much meat, because neither of us could afford it. But that didn’t mean that our nutritional intake had to suffer.
- Chickpeas are a great source of protein and great to add into a vegetarian dish as meat is expensive to have with every meal.
- Ground turkey sales – not only can it be SO much cheaper, it’s also SO much healthier for you than ground beef [win-win].
- Buy that cheap can of tomato sauce and flavour it with spices and veggies to make a MEAN pasta sauce …for PENNIES.
Freezing is also a great way to save money, especially if you have lots of freezer space. If you can buy lots of anything at a good price… do it, especially if it’s something you are going to eat on a regular basis. Why pay more for something when you don’t have to, right?
- Freezing that bag of fresh ginger will make it last FOREVER [also, grating frozen ginger is really easy!].
- Freezing butter, cheese [shredded] and homemade sauces.
- Freezing meats (BACON) when on sale,
- And remember to use it up and rotate through the stock!!
Sales and Apps can also be super helpful, if you’re the type to flip through flyers. Look for sales on olive oil, dish soap – things you’re going to need that don’t expire for a long time. Flipp is one of our favourite apps – it collects all the flyers in your area, and allows you to search for a specific item to find the best price for it.
Now most of this was covered above, but scope out the flyers, do your research, figure out when the good sales are and stock up! Make that freezer your best friend! Even shopping at different grocery stores can make a huge difference (we’re looking at you, No Frills and T&T). We’re young! We gotta do what we gotta do!
Other Tricks that don’t fall into the categories above:
- Store green onions in a cup of water on the counter for longer life.
- Growing fresh herbs on the balcony, backyard, or patio in pots instead of buying fresh [to be honest, buying fresh herbs is a large waste of money – I would rather use dried if can’t grow fresh myself]
- The cost of bread vs. flour, and the 10 kg bags of flour compared to the smaller bags [10 kg bags of flour are the cheapest].
RARELY, if ever, do we pay full price for groceries – we’d prefer to spend that money on wine 😉
How We Plan our Meals
Check out our downloadable meal planner template: weeklymealplanner.ptagrey
J: I start with one thing I really want to make that week. Sometimes because I’m craving it, sometimes because I saw something in the flyer on sale and had an idea of what I wanted to make with it. From there, I judge how busy the week is and how many more meals I want to plan. Sometimes I only plan breakfast and lunches and no dinners on particularly busy weeks, other times I plan out everything! Let life do it’s thing and figure it out in between. I generally do not have meat for every meal – that can be very expensive. I also always try to have one meal out of the week using something from the freezer. Got to keep that rotation going! I do use the attached meal planner as I make my grocery list at the same time. I love going to the market and buying what’s in season and developing a meal plan based on that. You will find your own rhythm if you give it a chance! Some weeks you just can’t plan everything down to the last snack, and sometimes you can!
T: I am a bit more of an impulse eater, BUT I also like to do meal prep at least once a week. This is a great strategy if you’re a little slow on the get-go in the mornings some days (Hi, 5 am, how are you?). Gone are the days I worried about what I would eat for breakfast or lunch, long past are the days that I would drop into a fast food restaurant more times than I would like to admit for a bite to eat because I had skipped at meal or two. I try to spend a Sunday afternoon prepping a breakfast and lunch for the week – with lunch, I try to make 2 options so I can alternate every day, and with breakfast, I often make our Breakfast Jars feat. Chia Jam, as I can change the recipe every week. When I grocery shop, I tend to go in with an idea of what I want, but let the current prices sway me one way or the other. And of course, I let myself indulge once in a while in some fancy ingredients, something really special. It REALLY helps keep the impulse to buy lots of expensive, yummy things at bay.
Conclusions and Takeaways
Knowing that it is okay to splurge sometimes when you know the rest of the meal cost PENNIES.
We first learnt it all from Budget Bytes, but we’ve expanded, shared secrets and continued with that philosophy in mind. You can have all the food you want and still not break the bank in doing so. People say they can’t believe how well we eat for what we have – but it’s all down to what you want and not giving up that taste because of money.