How to eat well on a budget

How to eat well on a limited budget

With the rise in food costs, you may be wondering how to continue to eat well without breaking the bank! We've got a few tips to help you out on this healthy quest.

You've probably noticed that prices at your local grocery store have been on the rise lately. This is something that is felt both in Canada and Europe. In June of this year, food inflation reached significant highs in may European countries according to recent data from the United Nations. In France, it reached 14%, while in Germany it went up to 13%. The United Kingdom saw the highest rate of inflation at 17%. By comparison, Canada saw food inflation of 9%, which is double that of the United States. So, how do we manage to keep eating well? Find some tips here! 

What does it mean to "eat well"?

Let's start with the basics.
Eating well can mean a lot of different things. You may very well not have the same idea of "eating well" as someone else does.
For you, it might mean eating nutritious foods, or tasty foods, or even foods that correspond with your emotional or social needs. According to Nicole Darmon, eating well means "covering your nutritional needs, without eating more or less than you need, having a varied diet with a good balance of animal and vegetable products, and lastly, limiting consumption of products that are high in fats, sugars or salt."

What about nutritional recommendations?

You have most likely heard the recommendations of eating "five fruits and vegetables per day" and "avoiding foods that are high in fats, sugar and salt" (that Nicole just mentioned). But, according to Nicole, you don't have to follow these recommendations to the letter, but rather consider them as directives: "The most important thing is to take a step in the right direction."
Nicole also explains that these recommendations have evolved over time. Diet and nutrition professionals have noticed that there are different ways to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Today, it's about "eating more fruits and vegetables" and "reducing consumption of meat" and "eating more fish," etc. 

Eating well on a limited budget

Nicole explains that, if you have a limited budget, you can buy foods that cost less like non-premium products and store brand items. That's a great idea! She notes that there is absolutely "no risk to your health when consuming base ingredients or foods that contain few ingredients" like pasta or rice.

How to eat well on a budget

Should you still choose brand-name products?

It is more important to have a balanced diet than it is to choose a certain product base on its brand: "Whether you buy a store brand cookie, or a brand-name cookie, it doesn't change much. What counts, is that you shouldn't be eating too many cookies." 

Choosing raw foods and/or non-processed foods is a healthy and economic habit to get into, even if it may sometimes seem counterintuitive. It is true that "on a tight budget, we will instinctively choose foods that are high in calories but cost less: think pasta, chips and cookies", explains Nicole. If this sounds like you, don't worry! It's a very natural reflex since it can often be "difficult to buy more foods that are costly but have fewer calories, like fruits, vegetables or fish." Consequently, we have a tendency to "reduce our consumption of fruits and vegetables and eat more sweet and starchy foods." It's not ideal, but it's not too bad. There are "a few strategies to implement, because eating well on a budget is difficult," says Nicole, "but not impossible."

Our tips... 

➡️ Rethink your brands

Start by buying the same type of products from a less expensive brand. Nicole gives the example of pasta and rice. 

➡️ Eat less meat 

Another thing you can do is eat less meat. Nicole recommends reducing your consumption of meat and eating more fruits and vegetables. Nicole confirms that it is possible to eat a balanced diet without eating meat: "There is no risk, and many benefits for your wallet, your health and the environment."

The Public Health Agency of France recommends choosing poultry more often and limiting the consumption of other meats (pork, beef, veal, sheep, lamb and offal) to 500 g per week (which is equal to approximately three to four steaks) and limiting the consumption of charcuterie to 150 g per week (approximately three slices of cooked ham)." Finally, in the interests of diversifying food choices, it is preferable to "alternate meat, poultry, fish, egg and legumes during the course of the week."

Once you have cut down your "meat" budget, you can spend what you have saved on fruits and vegetables. Even though we know the importance of these foods, we don't eat enough of them, in all socio-economic sectors, and we generally eat "too much" meat. 

When it comes to vegetables, you can save money by buying local vegetables that are in season. It's a healthier choice! To know what is available in your region, consult a seasonal fruit and vegetable calendar. For more variety, you can also consume vegetable proteins: legumes, tofu, seitan, etc. 

➡️ Plan ahead of time! 

This is the secret to avoiding food waste. It will also save you from having to go to the grocery store every couple of days because you have forgotten something or just need to pick something up. 
If you have time, you can make a list of meals and a list of grocery items you will need, then do your best to stick to the list! 

You can also plan to cook in batches. You haven't heard of that? It's a very organized approach to cooking. You plan your meals for the week (or for a few days at a time) and then spend time cooking them all at once, for example during a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. You can bring together all the elements you will need for your meals during the week. For example, you can cook pasta or rice and vegetables, you can peel carrots, prepare your sauces, etc. This way, you just have to put your meals together when you're ready to eat. You will avoid wasting food and you'll also save a lot of time! 

➡️ Eat economical foods and switch things up! 

To avoid getting bored, you can cook in all kinds of different ways!
On the menu? Eggs (hard boiled, scrambled, etc.), legumes (hummus, veggie chili, soup, etc.), canned fish, milk, yogurt, and farmer's cheese (in sauces, cakes, etc.). These are just a few examples. 

And don't waste your food! You can use the skins of vegetables to make chips, or the liquid from canned chick pease to make meringue - it actually works, promise! 

➡️ Save your foods properly

Be aware of the "best if used by" dates. You can also freeze foods to save them longer.

How to eat well on a budget

An overview of best before dates and best if used by dates

When a label mentions "best before" this indicates the last date the product should ideally be consumed. 
It is important to pay attention to these dates so as not to get sick! These dates are most often used for salted food, fresh meats, dairy products, and prepared refrigerated foods, etc. 

Remember, these dates do not only concern sealed foods (conserved in recommended methods). 

You should always consider how the food looks, the colour and smell: is the package inflated, have a bad odour or a strange colour? This may signify that the product has expired already. 

If a label mentions "best if used by" this indicates the date until which the food is in optimal condition. This means that after this date, the look of the food may change; but the product will still be safe for consumption. This date is often given for products like coffee, cookies, jams & jellies, some juices and sauces, etc. 

Are there any foods that don't expire?
Yes! Salt, sugar, chocolate, vinegar and honey can all be safely conserved indefinitely is packaged correctly. 

For more info and to learn how to conserve food products properly, consult a food conservation guide. 

What to eat if you do a lot of sports...

Prevention is always the best remedy: "eat a balanced diet with varied foods of different colours," says Nicole. To eat the best way possible on a budget, you can keep these tips in mind and adapt your eating habits accordingly. 

It is possible to eat well without busting your budget! You have to make a few adjustments, but they will become a way of life soon enough. 
Try our tips, continue to eat a balanced diet, choose foods you enjoy and take care of yourself! 

How to eat well on a budget


Sports writer and journalist

I am passionate about running, but I am also always ready to try a new sport! 
My objective? To give you sound advice and share my passion for sports through my content. 


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