Finding the Balance: Eating Well on a Budget

by Joan Saunders – 

Food can be many things: a celebration, an adventure, an exploration, a comfort. Unfortunately, these days, it can also be expensive. The problem is finding a balance between what you desire and what is affordable. I’m not a martyr; I don’t want to give up taste and the pure enjoyment of a good meal as I continue to scan a cautious eye over my budget.

But food is important. Cooking a meal, baking a cake or giving homemade goodies to someone tells them that you care, as you spent time and energy making something that you hope they’ll enjoy. Food fosters the opportunity for us all to slow down and connect.

The past few years have taught me a great deal about shopping, about food and about how to eat well under constraints. I used to grocery shop almost every day, as I raced through the store looking for inspiration. Often it was expensive, but convenient and quick. Now, I save money and time by following some personal guidelines in order to continue to eat healthily and well but not get overwhelmed by the costs involved.

Make a weekly meal plan and grocery list; shop once a week. This began during Covid, but I’ve kept this up and will continue to do so. I keep a list that is added to as the week goes on of the staples needed then, with my meal plan, I go through recipes and compile my grocery list. This has also resulted in less waste, which definitely saves money. Just don’t shop when you’re hungry; this can lead to regrets as your hand hovers over the Hawkins cheezies. They are my kryptonite!

Eat leftovers. I occasionally have, as part of my weekly plan, an evening when I put out all the leftovers; others can then graze the buffet. You’ve already made these fabulous meals, why not enjoy them again? I generally know when a recipe will last for more than one meal, so make that part of the schedule. Or freeze leftovers and pull them out another evening. Just don’t let them molder away in the fridge.

Eat seasonally. When a zucchini arrives on your doorstep, go for it. Experiment with stuffed zucchini, bake cookies or zucchini bread, or grate it and make fritters. Buy what’s abundant and on sale; you’ll be supporting our growers while eating fabulous, flavourful fruits and vegetables.

Make more meatless meals. I try to have about 60% of my meals vegetarian each week. Who knew I’d be excited about cauliflower tacos? However, the most important part of a meal for me, always, is taste. So, try out new recipes and write the reactions in your cookbooks. As the weather cools, soups are also a perfect way to go meatless. I have a zesty chickpea stew recipe that’s become a staple. The bonus? I stock up on tins of chickpeas when they’re on sale.

Finally, if you really want something, buy it. Just keep the budget in mind. Good food is meant to be savoured and shouldn’t involve guilt. I will splurge on some items (hello cheese!) but balance the indulgences out through other purchases. Then set the table, sit down and take the time to appreciate this healthy, satisfying meal you’ve created; that’s what food truly is all about.

Shopping Cart