5 Food budget mistakes and how to fix them

The weak Canadian dollar is no doubt affecting the price of food all over Canada. Calgarians especially are noticing the increased price in food in our local grocery stores. To put it in perspective, the price of a few heads of cauliflower are the same price as a barrel of oil.

But there are easy ways to combat those hefty price tags. The best way to save money at the register is to create or amend your household food budget to keep costs down without sacrificing the healthy stuff!

1. Buying out-of-season produce

It’s basic supply and demand:

  • When a piece of fruit is in season, there’s a surplus of that fruit and the price goes down
  • When the same fruit is out of season, there’s less of it and the price increases

Just because a favourite fruit or veggie is in stock doesn’t mean it’s in season. Especially in Calgary, many of our fruits and vegetables are imported from across the border.

To avoid buying the off season produce, see this list of the different fruits and veggies in season each month.

7f852d8b44f603ee7418c4095496b0042. Winging it

Let’s face it, for people not using grocery lists it’s nearly impossible not to overspend or forget important items all together.

Whether they’re scribbles on the back of an old receipt or one of these fancy stationary lists pre-made with checkboxes for convenience, lists keep the mind focused on the prize: saving money while getting all the necessities for a week of healthy, nutritious meals.

For people who prefer to make digital lists, there are awesome (and free) phone apps for both iPhone and Andriod just waiting to be downloaded. Some of them, like this app, even allow multiple people see and add to lists through their own device. This is great for families or roommates.

3. Not taking inventory

Knowing what you have food-wise is the first step in making a list of what you don’t.

Most people’s idea of prepping for a grocery is shop opening the fridge, eyeballing what’s in there and running out to the store. If this is you, you likely missed that chicken stock behind the milk or the block of cheese that got pushed and forgotten in the back of the crisper.

The list doesn’t have to be an item-by-item directory of the entire pantry and fridge (we’re not all spreadsheet people when it comes to our kitchen organization) but keeping a list of the basics you have will keep you from doing double duty and buying multiples of items you already have.

This inventory tactic also helps in reducing food waste, because who wants to spend all that time and money buying groceries just to toss it after they’ve gone bad or uneaten?

Fruits and veggies in season4. The fridge and pantry are a mess

Speaking of the sneaky cheese and chicken stock, it’s a major headache to buy anything just to realize afterwards it was there all along in the back of your fridge, only now it’s covered in green fuzziness or has a funky smell.

To avoid overbuying, head to the dollar store and find some inexpensive bins and storage solutions and organize the hell out of your shelves, pantry and fridge. Use labels if you have to. Make it easy on yourself to find the items you need and use regularly to without all the effort and wasted energy.

5. Meal planning isn’t a priority

Meal planning is time consuming at first, but pays off majorly in the long run.

Before your shop, take the time to sit and write down what meals you want to have this week. You can go as far as having each day broken up into breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. This gives you an idea of the individual ingredients needed and in what quantities.

Not only are you saving money buying the exactly amount of food you need, it takes the guess work and surprise out of cooking! How many times have you looked in the fridge after a long day and been totally uninspired in the way of cooking ideas?

You can even take your meal planning to the next level and cook all your meals or pack your lunches ahead of time in one evening. This is a major time saver, money saver and a great way to practice portion control and healthy eating.

What strategies are you using?

Let us know in the comments!


  1. Shan

    Posted on January 31, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Great article!

  2. Joanne

    Posted on February 20, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Menu planning and a grocery budget is the way to go. I also looked at using more dried beans to make meals. It seems more cost effective to make rice and beans with low cost stewed chicken as a meal for a day or two..

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