According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian household spent $8,784 in 2016 on food expenditures, with $2,608 accounting for food purchased at restaurants.
I was shocked to discover that my family of five recently spent the nation’s monthly average in one weekend on fast food and restaurants. Something had to change in our home, because the amount of money we were spending on consumables was too substantial not to notice, or make an impact on our finances.
My husband, Daniel, and I sat down together and created a plan to help us stick to our goals and create a food budget that would work for our family, and save us money. Our plan includes the following cost saving measures:
- Never leave the house without food packed for the entire family
One of the biggest mistakes that we make as a family is leaving the house to run errands without making sure that we have packed food. If our errands run longer, or we discover we’re hungry along the way, we pick up a quick snack and spend money unnecessarily.
Now I make sure to always have some snacks that we can bring to ensure that we don’t slip up and buy food for the sake of convenience. Things like, bags of homemade granola or bars, fresh fruit like apples and bananas, and a water bottle, are all portable and simple solutions to nagging hunger.
- Keep a box of water bottles in the trunk
I often forget to pack a water bottle with me, and will quickly zip into a store to buy a drink because I’m thirsty. I know it’s a terrible habit that is expensive and bad for the environment, so I started buying a case of water and leaving in in the trunk of my van. I know it’s still not a great environmental solution, but at least I can refill the bottles a few times before recycling them, and it’s saved me in a bind many times this month.
I am also trying to be better organized and remember to pack water in a reusable bottle whenever I leave the house.
- Eat meatless meals a few times each week
One of the most expensive products Canadian families purchase is meat, which accounted for $1,163 of money spent in 2016. A can of beans is an excellent source of protein and fibre, and costs under $1.00 at many grocery stores.
Our family has been exploring many vegetarian recipes, in lieu of meat, as a way to save money and eat healthy throughout the week. Some of our favourite recipes include: chickpea burgers, tangy vegetable wraps, and baked spaghetti squash and cheese.
- Make bulk lunches and breakfasts
One of the biggest obstacles I face when cooking is lack of energy and lack of time. So often when I’m short on these two things I’ll buy a fast drive-thru meal, instead of taking the time and energy to make something at home.
As I focus on saving money, one of the greatest tools I’ve discovered is bulk and batch cooking. When I make meals in bulk I enjoy the reward of having food for days.
- Create a plan, and stick to it
If you have a plan, you’re already halfway to success, now all you have to do is stick to it. We try our best to come up with a simple meal plan that our family can stick to for the week. We make sure to account for days when we’re busy, and schedule simple and fast meals, or eat leftovers on those days.
All this said, it’s important to try to leave room for error. Just because we want to save money on food doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a reward or treat every once in awhile.
I love getting a tea in the drive-thru, and I allow myself the pleasure a few times each week. I also find when my husband works evenings it can be difficult to get dinner ready, so I schedule in a pizza night once per week. This gives me breathing space and some room to relax and not feel stifled by a plan or budget.
Now that we’ve created our money saving plan we are noticing a huge difference, and feel so much better knowing that we are spending our money wisely and fuelling our bodies with healthy foods.
How do you save money on groceries?