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7 Tips to Shop on a Budget

Learn how you can shop for plant foods (veggies, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds) on a budget.
May 30, 2022 | Joy McCarthy

I was grocery shopping the other day and when I got to the checkout it was $12 for 4 avocados. I know food costs have gone up (and gas prices) but this is just madness! I put them back because I just cannot justify the price.

I know we are all feeling the squeeze of soaring grocery prices on everything. In this post today, I'm gonna share how you can shop on a budget and still get what you want and need (except avocados!). Before we get to those tips, I am going to be captain obvious here and say that growing your own food is the best way to save money!

Growing your own food saves you money, is better for the environment and connects you to nature.

Joy Watering Plants

Sprouts and herbs are my two favourite foods to grow at home. Mung beans are my favourite bean (see my video) and they are incredibly power-packed and nutrient-dense with B vitamins and protein when you sprout them. Kale is very hardy (I grew a ton of it in garden boxes last summer) and I had 6 tomato plants. Green beans, snap peas and squash are all easy to grow in Ontario where I live.

I realize that gardening might not be your thing or perhaps your space limits you to a windowsill herb garden which is lovely, but you obviously need more than just herbs to eat. Here are 6 tips to shop on a budget.

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1. Shop in Bulk

The packaging alone can make up 15-20% of the cost. You’ve seen how much unnecessary plastic and cardboard some food manufacturers use? It’s criminal! In some cases, they can cost $4-5 more than a similar amount purchased in bulk.

This is why buying bulk flour, grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats), nuts and seeds are far more affordable than buying food in a package. Many bulk stores or grocery stores will allow you to bring your own containers which are better for the environment than using plastic bags.

2. Buy Supersize.

This is the only time where "supersize" is a word that relates to health. You can save money by purchasing an extra-large bag of carrots or potatoes because these are both foods that if appropriately stored without moisture can keep for a long time and you'll save a few bucks buying in bulk.

When it comes to animal foods there are many ways to save especially when it comes to the cut of meat. I almost never buy chicken breast, Instead of buying chicken breasts or thighs, buy the whole chicken and you'll save.

There are stores that sell extra-large jars of coconut oil (love those $25 jars that last several months) or nut butter (keep in the fridge once opened) and this saves you money too.

You might already know I'm a big fan of Rise Market (it's only available for those in Ontario) but they are worth checking out because you can save up to 40% off your grocery bill. Use code JOYOUS20 to save!

3. Make Your Own Food.

Granola is one such breakfast food that is drying up your wallet. I’ve seen granola brands sell for as much as $12 or $15 and you’re lucky if you get 7 days of breakfasts out of that for one person. I only have 3 people to feed (Walker, Vienna and me) but even still, more often than not I make my own granola with the best ingredients and it’s about half the cost. Try making your own granola or granola bars. Or instead of buying baked goods from your favourite health food store, create them yourself. I’ve got many wonderful baked goods in my cookbooks and on my blog.

4. Look for local "greenhouse" grown.

Foods grown in greenhouses, even if not organic, will be sprayed with fewer chemicals. I stopped buying organic strawberries and cucumber for the most part and switched to local and greenhouse-grown because they are far cheaper and I like that I'm supporting the local economy rather than organic strawberries from California or Mexico.

The best part is that you can get strawberries that are red in the middle, not starchy and white! They are far healthier and their carbon footprint is reduced! You can get a pint of greenhouse-grown strawberries for $5 or organic for $7 or $8 or more. They are usually on par price-wise with conventional strawberries grown far away. When strawberries are in season, I will often buy organic when the price is the same as a greenhouse.

5. Shop in Season.

This point doesn't really apply as much in the middle of February when nothing is growing because the ground is frozen. But remember my previous point about "greenhouse" grown.

That being said, you can still get organic apples out of season. They are called "storage apples". Apples grown in the fall can be sold well into the winter. But back to point # 5 - shop in season. If you live somewhere as I do, the growing season is spring to fall and when you buy foods that are in season, they are far cheaper. I have often found that organic food in season is cheaper than its conventional counterparts. This is especially true if you shop at farmers' markets and their fruits and veggies are growing in abundance.

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6. Find a new grocery store.

If you live in a big city as I do, there are lots of options so shop around and compare prices. I was definitely in my routine and shopped at the same local health food store for convenience. I love to support them but their prices on literally everything have increased so I've started shopping around because it's just not affordable to do my whole shop in one place.

I now grocery shop for plant foods at two different stores - my local independent health food store and a discount grocery store which is also locally owned. I also discovered a little store on Bloor Street West (for those of you who are local) called Second Nature Health Foods and while they are small, they have great prices on everything from almond flour to pasta.

7. Shop at a farmer's market

I know that markets can be hit and miss in terms of pricing but once you find a market that only charges $1 to $3 for a cucumber, it's worth saving your shopping for that weekly farmers' market visit.

It's worth mentioning that I have noticed there is a correlation between the food prices at a farmer's market and the prices of housing in the area. Let's not beat around the bush here, if you shop at a market in an affluent area, the prices of the produce may be higher.

Interestingly, I've had conversations with vendors I've met and then seen at multiple markets and some of them adjust the prices of their items by $1-2 based on the market they are at. Now of course this could be for various reasons and it's not to criticize them but merely to point this out. It could be that it's a long distance for them to drive, the cost of renting a table may be more expensive for them and so on. But if you can travel an extra 5 km to save a few bucks, it's worth it.

I hope these six simple tips help bring more healthy, fresh foods to your dinner plate and salad bowl.

Do you have other tips to shop for plant foods on a budget? Comment and share below!

Have a joyous day,

Joy

2 Comments
Trisha Jury   •   June 30, 2022

Thank you for your knowledge it’s very helpful now I’m going to check out some of your recipes. Thanks agaIn!

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   June 30, 2022

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