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A dietitian’s not-so-common tips for healthy eating on a budget

 
A paper in the foreground that says 5 Tips: 5 Conseils with Mistralle Brouillard out of focus in the background

Whether at the grocery store or in a restaurant, many Canadians are feeling the impact of inflation on their food budgets. Since the food we eat has a direct effect on our health, Mistralle Brouillard, a registered dietitian at The Ottawa Hospital, offers some practical tips on how to keep the nutrition on our plates high while keeping costs low.

Plan, plan, plan.

Planning out your meals—even in the most general terms—can help you both avoid buying unnecessary food and throwing away food you thought you were going to eat but didn’t.  Remember, meal planning doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to be realistic so that you are more likely to buy what you eat and eat what you buy.

Get creative (and experimental) in the kitchen.

Creativity can be your best defence against rising food costs. Try some new (and less expensive) ingredients and build a meal around them. Putting new and unexpected flavours together can add a lot of variety without a lot of cost.  Plus, your creativity will also help you make the most of your leftovers, helping to reduce food waste.

Learn the art of the swap.

Meatless meatloaf? Chickenless chicken wings?  There are so many recipes online to help you learn crafty ways to swap out more expensive ingredients for less expensive ones.  From meatloaf made of legumes and pulses to bacon bits made of coconut, there is an entire world of online food bloggers dedicated to this practice of culinary wizardry. Even swapping out a couple of your most expensive dishes can make a big difference in your food budget.

A variety of open cans of food on a wooden tray.
Canned food tends to be less expensive, longer lasting, and have the same or better nutritional value as fresh food.

Reach for canned and frozen items more often.

Fresh produce is one of the hardest hit food groups when it come to inflating food costs, and can be out of reach for some folks, even when it is in season. It’s time to push back on the “fresh is best” belief and learn why there are so many reasons to love canned and frozen.  They’re usually cheaper than fresh, they last a whole lot longer, they keep all their nutrition, and they are harvested at peak freshness, which could make them tastier than fresh produce grown out of season.   

Don’t ignore your hunger cues.

Some people may be tempted to save on food costs by skipping meals. Be careful: when you’re hungry, in almost all cases it’s better to eat something than nothing at all. Canned and frozen foods, processed foods, takeout—all foods fit in a person’s nutrition landscape. Give yourself some grace if your daily or weekly food choices don’t measure up to what you or others think they should.

With so much food advice out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, or worse, feel guilty about your food choices.  Mistralle’s advice is to do your best and to keep things simple.  At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to feed yourself and give yourself the energy you need to get on with life.   

Mistralle Brouillard
Mistralle Brouillard, a registered dietitian at The Ottawa Hospital, knows that health advice can feel overwhelming. She encourages people to take simple steps to reduce their food budget without sacrificing nutrition.

Resources

  • Pulse Canada: A collection of recipes and information about pulses (lentils, peas, chickpeas and others).
  • Foodland Ontario’s availability guide: An easy-to-use resource that will show you what produce is in season at different times of the year.
  • The Ottawa Food Bank: An organization that provides fresh and non-perishable food, as well as supplies such as diapers, toiletries, and cleaning supplies to its network of more than 100 emergency food programs across the city.
  • Good Food on the Move: An organization that strives to make fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable for Ottawa community members who face barriers to accessing fresh food.
  • Good Food Ottawa: A collection of programs and services to people in Ottawa who are struggling to afford food.
  • Ottawa Community Food Partnership: An organization that supports the shift away from a traditional food charity model by moving towards meaningful community engagement and food security.

Food inflation facts

  • Canada’s Food Price Report 2022 forecasts an overall food price increase of 5 to 7 percent for the coming year – the highest predicted increase in food prices since inception of the report 12 years ago.
  • The most significant increases are predicted for dairy items and restaurants at 6 to 8 percent, and bakery items and vegetables at 5 to 7 percent
  • The average monthly family grocery bill of $900 per month will grow to between $945 and $965 per month.
 
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This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.