For many Albertans, putting a meal on the table, let alone a healthy one, can be a struggle with the rising cost of living.
“One in 10 Albertans who are food insecure, the main barrier to healthy eating in their home is a lack of finances,” said Emily Mardell, a registered dietitian.
“It has grown way more universal and I think people because it is inescapable, more and more people are talking about it,” she said.
But there is a way to eat healthy on a budget.
PLAN MENU AHEAD OF TIME
Mardell said it starts with pre-planning.
“So that you’re only buying what you need, so that you’re using the resources or the inventory of what you have on hand, you’re not buying non-essential items and you’re reducing food waste as well,” said Mardell.
BUY ITEMS WHEN IN SEASON
Buying things in season is also helpful.
“At least that way there’s an abundance, it’s usually more of a local fair and that way you’re able to stretch your food dollars a little bit more,” she said.
EXPLORE THE FROZEN FOOD SECTION
Mardell said people should also be less judgy of the frozen fruit and vegetable section of their local supermarkets.
“If you think about it, it’s frozen at peak freshness, so really for some things that may have had to commute or travel from other regions for a long period of time, or they have more holding time, that freezer option may in fact be a healthier option,” Mardell said.
She said frozen versus fresh can also be cheaper and save you time in the kitchen, as do some canned items.
“Canned peaches for example have six times the amount of folate as fresh peaches. So sometimes just looking beneath the surface you find out that something might be more nutritious than you even thought,” she said.
SWITCH MEAT FOR LESS EXPENSIVE PROTEINS
As for proteins, if meat prices are out of reach, Mardell suggests cooking with plant-proteins.
“When you combine a whole grain and a pulse, like a bean, pea, lentil or a chickpea, you create a complete protein so it can be a very, very simple combo but at the end of the day the nutrition is complete.”
“They’re awesome because they’re high in fibre, they’re high in protein, they’re high in iron, all those sorts of things and they’re really, pennies. Something like a can of beans maybe like a dollar or two dollars depending on the size,” she said.
LEARN TO COOK
Cooking from scratch can also go a long way.
“This way you’re able to use what’s in your pantry, what’s in your freezer, what’s wilting in your fridge, if you will,” she said. “You can make a really large pot of soup for $3 or $4 versus a small can for somewhere close to the same.”
SURF GROCERY FLYERS FOR DEALS
Mardell said planning your menu or stocking up if possible on things that go on sale can also extend your food budget.
“Just a savings of five to 10 per cent can really go a long way when you’re talking about having to make breakfast or pack a school lunch, it really helps.”
PLAN FOR LEFTOVERS
And if you can, make more than you need.
“Anytime you can cook once, eat twice you’re able to repurpose what you have into something new,” Mardell said. “So maybe it’s roast chicken that you make a stock or a soup from, maybe it’s quesadillas for lunch the next day.”
Leftovers that could also go into the freezer for another day or be shared with a neighbour in need.
“Because what we think of as budgeting from a privileged standpoint versus what someone else thinks of as budgeting may be completely different.”