Grocery Tips

WOW!!!!  Learned so much this week at our workshop that I know we will be able to eat well for less!  Our guest speaker, Sarah, Levesque-Walker, gave us lots of ideas on eating sustainably on a shoestring budget.

Below are the notes I took on ideas from Sarah and from the whole group.  Please comment or add suggestions.  I will be creating pages on many of these ideas and filing them under Envelopes above!

Thanks Sarah and the gang!


–          Take inventory of what you already have in your home.

–          Menu Plan:  Plan snacks,  breakfast, lunch and dinners for the week based on what you already have!

–          Create a shopping list based on your menu.

–          Eat at home before you go shopping.  A hungry person buys more food!  Also, don’t eat the high fat food-to-go at the       entrance;  it stimulates the appetite and is there to make you spend more money!

–          Estimate the Bill before you go! Try to guess how much you will spend.  Make sure you have a little left over for when you run out of fresh food later in the week (like milk).

Healthy Frugal Eating

–          Healthy food reduces the cost of being sick (being off work, paying for medication)

–          Beans are cheaper than meat!

–          Dried beans are cheaper and have more nutrients than canned beans.

–          Soak beans overnight and then cook for a couple of hours in a crockpot or a few minutes in a pressure cooker.

–          Millet is cheaper than quinoa

–          Eating with the seasons is cheaper than trying to maintain the same diet all year.  Winter vegetables are usually root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, beets, onions, garlic, turnips…)

Free Food

–          Grow food in the window In winter, plant a beet or a turnip in a small pot in a sunny window.  The vegetable will start to sprout.  You can cut the sprouts and put them in soups, stews or salads to boost the nutritions for free!  Warning:  don’t plant a store-bought vegetable in the ground because it may transfer soil disease.

–          Forage:  In summer, learn to identify and harvest food that is growing wild in the parks!  If you see a fruit tree on someone’s property, ask them if you can pick the fruit and share the pickings with the owner.   I will expand on this before the spring and put up announcements on foraging workshops in Ottawa!

–          Join Hidden Harvest identifies fruit trees on private property and asks the owners for permission to harvest the fruit.  Volunteer! 25% goes to pickers; 25% goes to Hidden Harvest; 25% goes to the owner of the tree; 25% goes to the food bank!

–          Grow food outdoors!  There are lots of community gardens out there. Many are free to join.  Contact the Community Gardening Network to find a garden close to your home.  It is amazing how much food you can grow in one small space.  We will have more posts and links on what and how to grow in a few weeks.

Reducing Food Waste

–          Planning is the biggest solution to food waste.   When you plan, you have a better chance of eating up all the food you have bought!  If you pay $1 for apples and end up throwing them out, you have just wasted a dollar.  Do this 1000 times over the year and you have wasted $1000!!!

–          Freeze leftover meals in single servings for lunches or those days when you are too tired to cook; this eliminates the need for eating out impulsively.

–          Compost broth:  Take all the shavings from fruits and veggies.  Rather than putting them directly into the compost, either freeze them until you have enough or immediately put them in a pot with some herbs and spices to a make a broth.  Strain the solids, keep the broth instead of buying cans of broth or bouillon cubes.  Your homemade broth has more nutrients and no chemicals.  Freeze the broth in ice cube trays or mason jars so it is available when you need it!

–          Soup Night.  Pick the same night each week (before grocery day) to use up all the leftovers.  Soups are a great way to do this!


Buying Tips

Stick to a list!  See planning.  Then, only take your grocery wallet with you!  Leave the bank cards behind!

Fruit and veggies:  you may get more variety more cheaply by not sourcing your produce at the grocery store.

–          Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way to buy your veggies from a local farmer.  Delivery is usually once a week.  Some deliver to your home, others to a location where you pick up the food.  Just Food has a link to all the CSA’s in Ottawa.

–          The Good Food Box has very affordable prices on a monthly box of food.  Lots of drop off places.

Small Grocery Stores, Good Deals:

–          Robert Rivard

–          Kowloon  Grocery  on Somerset between  and  Booth and Bronson has good deals on veggies and tofu.

–          Shiraz Grocery, just east of Somerset has fresh, inexpensive nuts and Middle Eastern foods.

–          The Lebanese Bakery, beside Shiraz at 605 Somerset St W, has wonderful pita that is inexpensive and chemical-free!  The only problem is that it is soooo good, we can never seem to get the package home unopened by us!

–          Ethnic shops like Mid East Food Centre at 101 Belfast Road have bags of spices, beans and grains much cheaper than grocery stores.

–          Whalesbone on Bay may give you free fish heads for broth!

Major Grocery Stores

Food Basics has good prices, but the produce might not be the best.

Downtown stores (Hartmans’ Loblaws, Metro) are significantly more expensive than stores further out.  If you do one large shop at a Super Store each month for dry goods, you can have your order delivered for about $8.  You will save more than the delivery fee!  Just be careful not to impulse shop while you are there. J

Locate the deals:

Meat:  in the mornings,  at one end of the meat cooler.  Will the meat you are buying stretch into leftovers or a couple of completely different meals?  A whole chicken can be butchered to stretch the meat and make broth with the carcass. If you don’t use it right away, just freeze it!

Deli Meats:  Pre-packaged are more expensive and usually have more sodium and nitrates.    You can also take your own container to the deli counter.

Sale Items at the end of the aisles.

The Deal Trolley:  Likely in a corner somewhere you will find a trolley with produce and dented cans reduced for quick sale.

Processed = Expensive!  A frozen individual pasta dinner that costs $2 ready-made can be made for 15 cents!  Learn to cook!  Learn to make cookies rather than buying them;  you will eat fewer and save money.

Food Coops are cheaper than grocery chains:

Ontario Natural Food Coop

SandyHill Food Coop

Coupons We find that coupons are mainly for processed foods;  Making food from scratch is still more economical than using coupons.  Also, if there is a sale on, it is likely just as good as a coupon.  We are not saying NOT to use them… just see if they are truly saving you money.

The Single Person

The single person has challenges of space and rate of consumption.  There is no point in buying a large bag of potatoes if half will sprout before you can eat them up!  Also,  you need space to store food.

Share a bulk buy with friends.  This takes organization and a good relationship with your friends or neighbours.

Buy veggies at Kowloon where you can get small bundles of veggies for a dollar!

I will be looking for more ideas for the single person soon.  If you have any, please comment below!

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