Category Archives: food and cooking

10 ways to save money on groceries

One of the most common things I hear as a dietitian (right up there with “Tell me what I should eat to be healthy” and “I bet you’re super healthy, aren’t you?”) is “It’s too expensive to eat healthily”.

This one kills me because it’s so untrue!

I mean, yes it will be pricey if you’re spending your money on $12 bags of goji berries and $20 packages of maca powder, but you don’t need these foods to be healthy. Good old whole foods work just fine.

And these foods can absolutely be cheaper than the alternatives (ie. takeout or processed foods), especially when you’re armed with the right tips and advice. As a grocery store dietitian I’m right in the middle of the action, so today I want to share with you some of my best unique tips to save money on groceries:

Shopping on a budget? Read this post to find out 10 ways to save money on groceries and still eat healthily!

1. Buy bouillon cubes instead of buying liquid stock. For less than the price of one carton of liquid stock, you can get several cubes that can make around 3 cups of stock each. Also, they come in salt free, vegan, and organic varieties!

2. Beans are a fairly inexpensive protein, but if you prefer to buy the kind in BPA-free cans, they can be triple the cost! A cheaper option would be to buy dried beans instead of canned. If you don’t know how to cook dried beans, this is a really helpful guide to show you how!

Shopping on a budget? Read this post to find out 10 ways to save money on groceries and still eat healthily!

3. Buy whole heads instead of lettuce or bunches of greens instead of the pre-chopped kinds – you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck! Wash and chop them up as soon as you get home to save yourself from having to do it later.

4. Ditch the bottled salad dressings. Make your own instead from ingredients that you already have at home like oil, vinegars, and herbs. Check out this Food Network collection of 50 homemade salad dressing recipes!

Shopping on a budget? Read this post to find out 10 ways to save money on groceries and still eat healthily!

5. If it’s a product you use a lot, buy the bigger size. That’s almost always a better deal than buying the smaller size. To be sure, you can check the price tag on the shelf – it usually tells you the price per 100 g (in a smaller font underneath the price) so that it makes comparing the cost of two different products easier.

6. Opt for the items that are less convenient, for example: plain meat versus pre-marinated meat, unprepared shrimp versus deveined and shelled shrimp, blocks of cheese versus individually wrapped cheese strings, whole carrots versus baby carrots, a 1 kg bag of oats versus a package of single serving oatmeal sachets, a tub of Greek yogurt versus a pack of single serving containers. Companies almost always charge for added convenience!

7. Buy frozen herb cubes instead of fresh herbs. Or grow your own herbs in the summers – the price of one herb plant is about the same as buying a bunch at the grocery store. But the plant will last you all summer and into the fall, unlike a bunch of herbs.

8. Become an oatmeal lover! One serving of plain oats from a 1 kg package is about $0.09 per serving, whereas one serving of Cheerios from a Family Size box is about $0.33 per serving.

Shopping on a budget? Read this post to find out 10 ways to save money on groceries and still eat healthily!

9. Make friends with cheap vegetables, like cabbage and carrots. A head of cabbage is usually around $1.99 or even cheaper when it is in season, and it will last you for ages (like seriously, ages). Likewise carrots can be extremely cheap when you buy them in the 3 lb bags. Also, cool tidbit: Some grocery stores will soon be offering “ugly” produce (misshapen fruits and veggies that are still totally edible) for a discount.

10. Buy your grains, spices, dried fruit, and flours from the bulk foods section in your grocery store. It’s amazing how much more expensive these products are when they’re packaged compared to in bulk! This is also a great way to ensure your products are fresher, since you can buy smaller amounts that you will actually use in a reasonable amount of time.

This wraps up my ten tips for this post, but now I’d like to hear yours!

What is your best tip to save money on groceries?

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An evening at Dish Cooking Studio

JZ and I had freaky linked brainwaves for our Christmas gifts to each other: I got him Maple Leaf tickets for the game on January 9th, and he got me a cooking class in Toronto on January 8th. Our unintentionally perfectly timed gifts gave us the perfect excuse to spend a 3 day getaway in Toronto!

Dish Cooking Studio

We kicked it off with the cooking class at Dish Cooking Studio, which is just a 5 minute walk from the Dupont subway stop. After arriving we were greeted with a complimentary glass of cranberry juice, prosecco, and pomegranate arils –  always a good way to start a night of cooking! We had time to sip our drinks while socializing with some of the other participants (there were 14 of us total) before gathering to start the class. We got a brief introduction (along with some fried olives with cured sausage and tomato bruschetta to snack on) before breaking out into teams to work on each of the four courses.

Dish Cooking Studio

JZ and I volunteered to do the dessert course – individual apple and nutmeg crostatas with vanilla whipped cream – with another couple. I was a bit disappointed to find out that the pastry dough had already been pre-made for us, however it made sense to do that since pastry dough is best when it rests for a few hours in the fridge. So we rolled out the dough, while our partners worked on preparing the filling, then we all assembled the final product. It was a fairly easy dessert and one that I already have experience making at home – in hindsight I wish I’d worked on the pasta or the main course. However, I did learn one thing. Remember when I made pastry rolls and had trouble with my trial using all butter? It turns out my oven temperature was probably just too low, causing the butter to seep out of the pastry. I’m glad I learned that!

Dish Cooking Studio

After finishing our dessert, we had time to watch some of the other teams work on their courses, but they were mostly done their parts by this point too. So shortly after we all sat down together to enjoy the fruits of our labour. I think I enjoyed this part the most – and not just because it involved eating! I actually had a really great time talking with all the other participants and bonding over our shared meal.

Dish Cooking Studio

We started with the minestrone with Parmesan croutons. The minestrone was filled with celery, carrots, potatoes, spinach, and chickpeas in a tomato based broth. It was hearty, but also really healthy. I’m glad we received copies of the recipes because I definitely will make this soup at home!

Dish Cooking Studio

The next course was handmade pasta carbonara with prosciutto and fresh oregano. Looking back, I wish I had volunteered to work on this course because I don’t have much experience making pasta from scratch. It’s something I really want to work on though because dried boxed pasta is really no comparison for the fresh stuff.

Dish Cooking Studio

The main course was bone-in pork chops with gorgonzola cream sauce, sauteed black kale, and grilled polenta. The components were all rather simple, but what really made it special was that cream sauce. It tied everything together and added a fantastic richness to the course.

Dish Cooking Studio

Finally came our dessert. Our apple crostatas were a big hit with everyone!

Dish Cooking Studio

Overall I had a wonderful time at this class, although JZ and I were both a bit disappointed when we found out we would only be making one of the courses instead of all four. Logistically it makes sense though, since we’d probably be there til the wee hours of the morning if we had made all four courses! I also found this class was more geared towards people who have little cooking experience, as  I was already familiar with many of the techniques and dishes we made. Regardless, I really enjoyed it for the social aspect. It was a night of fun in the kitchen, good food, and great conversation – and you can never go wrong with that!

Have you ever done a cooking class like this?

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Vegan Supper Club #6

This week Tracey and I had our sixth vegan supper club. This will actually be our last one, at least for the time being. Because Tracey and her boyfriend are leaving next month for an open ended trip to South America!

I bet they’re going to have an amazing adventure – but I don’t know if I could put myself in their shoes. I’ve never been one for getting out of my comfort zone. I mean, the idea of going to a new country, not having a set return date, leaving behind most of your material possessions, friends and family… it’s a huge change! I admire Tracey and her boyfriend for doing it, and hey, maybe I’ll do something similar one day. But for now my idea of adventure is experimenting in the kitchen.

And I think that’s okay too. Life’s adventures can be big or small – both can be exciting! I think as long as we’re always growing and trying new things, that’s what I personally think is important.

Vegan supper club 6

So our mini adventure in the kitchen this week was a holiday themed vegan meal. Our entree was this nut, quinoa, and millet loaf, which is a recipe from Kelly Child, who is the cofounder of the vegan bakery Kelly’s Bake Shoppe here in Burlington. She has a blog where she posts great recipes, and I remembered seeing this one and wanting it make it a few years ago. We fudged the proportions a bit because we didn’t have 6 cups of squash, but it still turned out fantastic. It tastes very hearty so it’s perfect for a holiday vegan entree – even more so when paired with this vegan gravy.

Nut, quinoa, and millet loaf

To go with our entree, we roasted up some sweet potatoes in coconut oil and made this recipe for cranberry orange Brussels sprouts that we topped with toasted pine nuts instead of walnuts. We added a touch of maple syrup to bring out the sweetness, which is a great pairing for the bitterness of the sprouts!

Orange cranberry Brussels sprouts

For dessert we made these gingerbread cookies, which were more like a cross between a muffin and a cookie in the best way possible. They were super soft and chewy! Also, they’re pretty low in sugar making them good for a healthier holiday treat or just an everyday snack.

Soft gingerbread cookies

So now that Tracey is leaving I guess I have to find a new way to have adventures in the kitchen… like trying my hand at making pastry. You can read about that mishap in Tuesday’s post!

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Filed under food and cooking