Rising food costs are a growing reality, putting a further pinch on household budgets. With some planning, you thankfully don’t have to skimp on the nutritional value being packed in your family lunch boxes this fall. Sunnybrook registered dietitian Jill Zweig offers up some approaches that go a long way without breaking the bank.
Shop savvy and stock up
When items go on sale, consider buying a few extra. This is especially good for staple items with a longer shelf life, like pasta sauces, soups and canned tuna.
Check “that” shelf
Most grocery stores will have discount shelves for various items that can save you at least half off the original price. Bread and pre-made pizza crusts that are near expiry can be kept in the freezer and used as needed. For fresh produce that is near expiry, many items can be used to add extra nutritional value to dishes that are cooked, like soups and stews.
Consider purchasing large value sizes for items like dried pasta, rice, oatmeal and beans. Cost-per-serving, you’ll save a lot of money cooking these items yourself rather than opting for to the smaller ready-to-eat versions. Buying these items in bulk will also spare a significant amount of packaging waste.
Most grocery stores offer paper or e-flyers to let you compare item costs each week. There are also a number of Apps available to help you comparison shop on specific items, saving you time and gas money. It’s helpful to keep a running list of what you need to stock up on. Always having staples on hand will give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to meal planning.
Freeze, dry or can it
Seasonal or discounted produce can retain a lot of nutritional value in other forms. Consider opting for these varieties, or stocking up for future use of seasonal items, by extending their shelf life.
Try to map out your meals around what’s seasonal or discounted each week. Taking the time to bulk cook on the weekend will ensure there is enough to reach for during the week. Larger portions can always be labelled and frozen for future use.
When it comes to leftovers, foods like chicken, turkey, tuna and beans can be used in endless recipes if you don’t want to eat the same thing all week. Consider adding them to fresh salads, wraps, omelets or a base like quinoa or pasta along with your favorite vegetables. Many of these prepared items will keep in the fridge for several days.
For more information on packing healthy lunches and notes on food safety, Zweig recommends this site: