Canadian Sheryl Rothert’s new book, Found: Health, Wealth and Time in a Grocery Bag, helps us make the most of our food dollars.
With food prices soaring, it makes sense to put some thought, time and effort into how we’re spending our money at the grocery store. Luckily, B.C.-based educator and financial literacy advocate Sheryl Rothert is here to help. In her new book, she details her strategy for getting maximum benefits out of minimum bucks by buying once, eating twice. Here, she shares her secrets.
1/ Know the Guide
If you follow Canada’s Food Guide, you’ll get the best nutrition for your body—you’ll eat the foods you need, in the proportions you need. Fill half your plate with veggies, one quarter with meat or protein and one quarter with grains. This will—honestly— result in you spending less at the grocery store.
2/ Build a Monthly Master Plan
Planning meals ahead of time can ensure eating healthy, saving money, and gaining time. If you leave every day’s meals up to chance, you’re more likely to consume the wrong foods, too much of them, and spend too much money. On the other hand, with a monthly meal plan, you can build dishes based on deals offered at your local store; allowing you, for example, to incorporate less expensive cuts of meat that need slower cooking. Don’t make your plan in a rush; sit down with your calendar, when you know you’ll have a couple of hours with your cookbooks, magazine clippings, etc. Working four weeks ahead means a one-time investment each month. If you can, shop once for meats, frozen and canned items. Each week, you may want to make a short trip to pick up dairy and produce. If you need to divide up your monthly grocery spending into two or four parts, it’s still most efficient to make a monthly plan and grocery list. For each week, you can have necessary groceries highlighted, so you know exactly what you need to buy.
3/ Respect Your Grocery List
Stick to your master plan—and pay with cash. With cash, you’re more likely to stay within your budget. Credit cards make it easier to buy whatever catches your eye in the aisles and you can end up paying a bill that’s easily $20 or $50 more than you intended to spend.
4/ Store Smart
My plan is based on using leftovers to supplement freshly made recipes. I freeze a lot, and the most helpful items I have are three large, heavyduty plastic storage containers. The top container is used for frozen vegetables, the middle for the first half of the month’s supply of meat and the bottom container for the second half. Halfway through the month, the bottom bin comes up to the middle. I also have a tray on top of the first container for frozen desserts and leftovers. Once you’ve shopped, put fridge items away first, then repackage your meat for the freezer; divide it into batches according to when it will be used in the month and place in the appropriate freezer container. Once your dish is made, let it cool, then store in the freezer in appropriate containers, labelled for its second— and third—uses. To ensure that frozen food is ready to use when you need to prepare the recipe, take it out of the freezer two or three days before you need it; mark these days on your calendar.
5/ Organize Your Information
Depending on when you are doing your grocery shopping—once per month, twice per month, or weekly, that one time you sat down to assemble your list for the month produced a list that you can keep handy in your purse, car or phone. Having your list handy means it’s simpler for you to stick to, thus saving money and ensuring you’re eating healthy meals. Consult your list when you’re prepping for next month. As you shop, keep your receipts with the list to consult for price knowledge of foods you regularly purchase. Keep coupons with the list, too, as you accumulate them through the month—another source of savings!
6/ Cook Outside the Oven
Electric frying pans, slow cookers, pressure cookers—plan to use them when you’re doing your monthly meal plan so you can take advantage of saved time and less energy spent than if you use the oven all the time. Keep them handy; just like with healthy food, if it’s nearby, it’ll get used.
7/ Love Your Leftovers
Along with the money you’ll save by using leftovers, you’ll also save time, since your food is pretty much prepared. If you want, split your month’s worth of leftovers over two months —then you only have to plan half a month of new meals. This is great in busy months or in the summer when it’s just too hot to cook. Remember to label your leftovers with dates and ideas for when and how to use them. Then sit back and enjoy the benefits!