Healthy Eating on a Budget

Here are some ways to save money on healthy foods. 

1. Plan ahead

Start with a plan and pick food from each of the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide.

  • Look at grocery store flyers to see what is on sale each week.
  • Plan meals based on Canada’s Food Guide for the whole week before you go to the store.
  • Check what foods you already have.
  • Make a list of what you need.

2. Shop wisely

Here are some tips for saving money while grocery shopping:

  • Shop at full-size grocery stores, not small corner stores.
  • Buy vegetables and fruit at a farmers market or farm stand.
  • Do not shop when you are hungry.
  • Shop when you are rested.
  • Shop alone, if possible.
  • Buy foods on your shopping list first.
  • If you have money left over, use it to stock up on sale items.
  • Look on the upper and lower shelves for better prices.
  • Carefully check prices on the end-of-the-aisle displays to see if they are truly sale items.
  • Try no-name and store brand products.
  • Buy foods in bulk. Bulk foods allow you to buy as much or as little as you need.
  • Use coupons for items you need to purchase.
  • Compare prices on large and small packages for the best buy per serving.
  • Use unit pricing information on the shelf, if available, for comparison shopping.
  • Check the best before dates and make sure that you can use the product in time.
  • Check your receipt. Make sure the price charged for each item is right.

3. Eat well

For better health and a healthy body weight, purchase fewer foods and beverages that are high in calories, fat, sugar or salt (sodium).

Spend less money on cakes, pastries, chocolate, candies, cookies, granola bars, doughnuts, muffins, ice cream, frozen desserts, french fries, potato chips, nachos, salty snacks, fruit flavoured drinks, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks and sweetened hot or cold drinks.

Choosing healthy foods at the grocery store

Vegetables and fruit

  • Pick a variety of colours of vegetables and fruit for a variety of nutrients.
  • Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.
  • Choose vegetables and fruit made with little or no added fat, sugar or salt.
  • Have vegetables and fruit more often than juice.
Best buys More expensive choices
Locally grown and seasonal fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Fresh produce sold out of season (for example, apples in summer, lettuce in winter)
  • Organic vegetables and fruit
Potatoes, apples and carrots in bags Potatoes and apples in self-selected bins
Whole vegetables and fruit Cut-up, pre-peeled, washed or reach to serve vegetables and fruit
Frozen or canned vegetables and fruit especially no name brands Fresh produce out-of-season
Canned or frozen 100% juice
  • Fresh juice
  • Juice in individual containers

Milk and alternatives

  • Drink skim, 1% or 2% milk every day.
  • Select lower fat milk alternatives.
Best buys More expensive choices
Milk, 4 litres in bags or jugs Milk in cartons
White skim, 1%, 2% milk
  • Milk that is fine filtered
  • Milk with added calcium, omega 3 fatty acids or flavour
  • Whole milk
Large blocks of cheese
  • Small blocks of cheese
  • Shredded cheese
  • Processed cheese slices
  • Deli cheese
Aged cheese
Large tubs of yogurt Small individual containers of yogurt
Milk and pudding mix to make at home Individual containers of pre-made pudding

Grain products

  • Breads, cereals, pasta and rice do not cost a lot but they have lots of nutrients and energy.
  • Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day.
  • Choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar or salt.
Best buys More expensive choices
Whole grain, whole wheat or enriched breads
  • Artisan bread
  • Cheese bread
Store brand breads

Name brand bread

  • Enriched or whole grain pasta or noodles
  • Single grains such as barley
Flavoured mixes in a package
Plain brown or converted rice Instant rice and boxed flavoured mixes
Bulk hot cereals such as oatmeal and cream of wheat Single serving packages
Cold cereals in family-size boxes and bags Single serving variety packages

Meat and alternatives

  • Have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often.
  • Eat at least two servings of fish each week.
  • Select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt
Best buys More expensive choices
  • Dried or canned beans, peas, and lentils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Peanut butter
  • Meat
  • Fresh fish
  • Poultry

Canned light tuna, pink salmon, mackerel, and sardine fillets

Fresh fish, white tuna, sockeye salmon

Frozen fish

Fresh fish

  • Lean ground beef
  • Stewing beef
  • Simmering steaks
  • Marinating steaks
  • Pot roasts
  • Pre-formed ground beef patties
  • Cooked meatballs
  • Premium grilling steaks and roasts

Pork shoulder butt roasts or chops, back ribs and shoulder picnic roasts

Pork tenderloin, loin chops and roasts

Chicken legs and thighs

Boneless and skinless chicken breasts and pieces

  • Utility grade chicken
  • Frozen turkey
  • Grade A roasting chicken
  • Fresh turkey

Talk to a Registered Dietitian at EatRight Ontario by calling 1-877-510-5102 Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm or submit a question at www.eatrightontario.ca