By Carol Harrison, RD.
Gone are the days of meandering the aisles without a list and dropping into a store to pick up a few extra items. Today, it’s all about having a smart grocery shopping strategy to get what you need to make balanced, budget-wise meals safely and that means fewer trips and less time in stores. Here are some tips that can help.
Plan ahead to spend less time shopping
Keep healthy and safe. Spend less time in stores.
- Be open to online. With faster checkouts and less impulsive buys, you’ll likely save time as well as money.
- Shop at home first. To avoid a long list and buying food you don’t need, check what you have on hand in your pantry and freezer. Create your shopping list based on the additional items you need to make meals. Scan the flyers to build meals around what’s on sale that week.
TIP: Get into the habit of writing out your list according to the store layout. Shopping during off peak hours (early or late in the day) will also curb your time in stores.
Shop for fruits and veggies that can last 1-2 weeks.
Limiting the number of shopping trips is easier when you include some longer lasting produce items.
- Choose long lasting veggies and fruits. Canadian produce like potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, rutabaga, cabbage, carrots, Brussel sprouts, beets, apples, pears and kale are budget-wise and highly nutritious.
- Include some frozen or canned fruits and veggies. There are so many more frozen options these days compared to years past and they are just as nutritious as fresh. Stored properly (air-tight), they will keep for 8 months in the freezer. Canned peas, peaches and tomatoes are nutritious options too. Look for “Product of Canada” to know you are getting locally produced food.
TIP: Freeze your milk. Avoid that trip to the store just to pick up milk. Buy extra and freeze it for up to 6 weeks. If butter is on sale you can freeze that too! (3 months unsalted, or 1 year salted). Firm cheese can also be frozen for up to 6 months. It will become crumbly when frozen so not great for slicing but fine for cooking: say, mac and cheese or frittata.
Eat well and save
With more eating at home and less eating out, you may have noticed a spike in your grocery bill. Here’s how you can shop to get the most nutritional value for your food dollar.
- Shop for long lasting nourishing basics. Some of the best buys are oats, cream of wheat, brown rice, barley, whole grain pasta, dried peas, beans and lentils, bulghur, whole wheat couscous, whole grain flour, canned tomatoes. Nuts, seeds and nut butters may seem costly but they are highly nutritious so you don’t need to eat a lot. Go online to compare dry goods prices at your local bulk store to your regular grocery store.
- Shop local, support our farmers. Buy Canadian foods when they are in season for the best taste and price. If you have a freezer, buy extra and freeze to enjoy in the coming months.
- Check the store specials. Plan your weekly meals around what’s on special, and stock up on freezer friendly items. Just don’t forget what’s in your freezer!
TIP: Wondering if you should buy organic? Organic and conventional produce are both safe and nutritious options. Check out this pesticide calculator tool, to see just how safe conventional produce is. Hint: You’d have to eat more than your weight in potatoes before seeing any harmful effects.