Eating healthy on a budget in Ontario

By: Josephine Naghavie

Published on: Apr 5th, 2024

Photo Courtesy: Mark Stebnicki (Pexels)

In Ontario, where the pace of life can be as diverse as its population, one common goal is finding ways to eat healthy without breaking the bank.

Many believe eating healthy is inherently expensive, creating a barrier to nutritional wellness. However, with careful planning and smart choices, it is entirely possible to enjoy a wholesome diet that supports both your health and your budget.

This guide will help bridge the gap between nutrition and budget. It offers insights and practical advice for those looking to nourish their bodies without destroying their finances.

Meal planning and meal prepping

Begin by planning meals for the week and make a shopping list based on these plans. Focus on purchasing whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains, which are rich in nutrients and can also be more affordable in bulk. This approach also discourages you from taking any detour while grocery shopping that can increase the price at the final checkout.

Meal prepping in advance can also be cost-effective as you need fewer ingredients throughout the week to make the same meal for several days. Additionally, meal prepping ensures that you are maintaining a balanced diet that includes all food groups and practicing portion control.

Seasonal and local produce

Take advantage of Ontario’s rich agriculture that offers a variety of seasonal produce that is not only fresher but also more affordable. Visit local farmers’ markets around the GTA and market stands around the city that offer produce at a lower rate.

Another way to take advantage of local produce is to join your local communities’ Facebook page. Often, members who are going out of town or bought too much produce will post on their community’s Facebook page asking if anyone would like to take some. This a perfect opportunity to secure some fresh produce while helping out your neighbours as well.

Smart protein options

While protein can be a crucial part of any diet, it does not have to be expensive. Some budget-friendly protein sources like beans, lentils, tofu, and canned fish can be added to a meal to provide more density rather than adding more meat.

Although some meat and fresh fish can come with a higher cost, many grocery stores offer discounts on items nearing expiration dates. This is an excellent option if you’re looking for a protein source and are shopping the day you plan to cook the item.

Bulk buying and whole foods

Buying in bulk can lead to significant savings, especially for whole foods like grains and legumes. Whole grains like quinoa, barley, and brown rice are not only nutritious and filling but also more affordable when purchased in bulk.

These items can also be used to prepare various meals. Some options include tacos, soups, salads, quinoa bowls, stuffed peppers, and chowder.

Reduce food waste

Food is expensive, and it’s only getting more and more pricey! Minimizing your food waste is a great tactic to spend less when you head to the grocery store. Properly storing produce and creatively utilizing leftovers can help create a whole new meal.

Some meals are designed with leftovers in mind. One example is a casserole, which is a baked dish containing protein, chopped or canned vegetables, and a starchy binder, such as flour, potato, rice, or pasta. Another is a frittata, a type of Italian omelette made with beaten eggs, vegetables, and protein. Using your vegetable scraps for homemade stocks can also stretch your food and your dollar further.

Photo Courtesy: Ella Olsson (Pexels)

Cooking at home

Preparing meals at home is generally healthier and cheaper than dining out. You know what’s going into your food, how much of it is fresh, and who is making it. Going out to eat is always a treat and can fit into your schedule if you have the budget. However, batch cooking and meal prepping can save money and time, ensuring healthy dinner options are on hand throughout the week.

Comparisons and price matching

Sometimes, shopping at only one grocery store can be difficult. A range of mobile applications can be used to compare flyers to see which stores offer grocery items and essentials at a lower price.

You can favourite the grocery stores you frequent, and the application will show you the stores’ weekly flyers. You may also choose the item you are looking for, and the app will show you which store has it at a lower price.

Another option is price matching. Price matching is when retailers match a lower advertised product price from a competing store. Usually, you show the cashier the advertised product price during check-out, and they will process the price match, but some stores may have different policies. Although some stores do not offer this service, it doesn’t hurt to double-check and ask an employee.

Why this matters

In the rush of modern life, it’s easy to overlook the importance of nutrition, especially when financial constraints are at play. Yet, the benefits of a healthy diet extend beyond physical health, impacting mental well-being, energy levels, and overall quality of life. Nutritious eating is within reach for everyone, regardless of budget.

Moving forward

Eating healthy on a budget in Ontario requires a shift in perspective from viewing healthy eating as a luxury to understanding it as an accessible choice for all. The strategies outlined here provide a nutritional wellness roadmap that respects health needs and financial limitations. The journey towards affordable, healthy eating is about more than just food; it’s about making sustainable lifestyle changes that nourish the body, the mind, and the community.

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