Autumn 2018 Nutrition Matters
September 28, 2018 By Rosie Schwartz, RD
A shopping bag containing vegetables

If you think that healthy eating has to be expensive, think again. Using some smart shopping practices can go a long way in saving money.

As a general rule, always have a shopping list. It can help cut down on impulse buying. Basing your shopping list on seasonal ingredients and weekly specials can also help. But decide whether an item on special is worth going out of your way. If you are saving only a small amount of money, it might not be worth the extra cost in transportation.

Also consider package sizes: Larger may seem like a better buy, but in some cases, it may actually be wasteful. For example, a two-litre carton of milk may be cheaper than one litre, but if you do not use it quickly enough, the milk may spoil. Bags of milk, on the other hand, can last longer (so long as they remain unopened or are frozen).

Here are some more money-saving ideas:

Vegetables and fruit

• When buying fresh, stick to those in season. For example, berries can be very pricey when they are imported, but are more affordable and often tastier when they are in season. Consider freezing some when they are in season.

• Frozen fruit and vegetables can provide top-notch nutrition and avoid waste. But avoid sweetened, preseasoned, or sauced selections: They may cost more, and may also contain more sugar, sodium, and/or fat.

• Seasonal produce is often cheaper in bulk—so if that basket of tomatoes or apples is too much for your needs, consider splitting the cost with a friend or neighbour.

• Buy fruit of varying ripeness so they are not all ripe at the same time—a simple way to avoid spoilage.

Meat and alternatives

• Practising portion control not only offers weight control and blood sugar benefits, but it is also a terrific costsaver. Try to keep serving sizes to the recommended maximum of 100 grams—around the size of a deck of cards. When buying larger packages of meat or poultry, divide the raw food into appropriate portions, wrap well, label and date each package, and place the extra in the freezer. Freeze leftover cooked foods as well.

• Buy the less expensive meats (for beef, look for blade, chuck, flank, or round; for pork, choose butt, loin, or rib); these are less tender but will still yield tasty results if you use appropriate cooking methods (such as slow cooking or braising). When buying chicken, choose the whole bird and then cut it up at home and freeze the pieces.

• Use pulses (such as chickpeas and lentils) or dried peas and beans more often—they are an economical and nutrition-packed meat alternative. Cook them from scratch and freeze them in labelled and dated containers according to the amount you would need for a recipe. Canned options are cheaper and more convenient, but rinse them well to lower the sodium.

• Canned sardines, mackerel, white albacore tuna, and red salmon can be money-smart ways to get heart-healthy omega-3 fats (canned pink salmon and light tuna are cheaper alternatives, although they contain smaller amounts of these fats). Rinse and drain canned fish to lower the sodium content.

Milk and alternatives

• Lower-fat milk, such as skim or 1%, is cheaper and has less fat than regular milk. Skim milk powder is another money-saver; mixing skim milk powder and water with fluid milk can offer a more pleasing taste than the skim milk powder-and-water mixture on its own.

• Choose plain yogurt instead of flavoured varieties, which are usually packed with added sugar and can result in higher blood sugar levels. If the taste is not to your liking, add your own fruit and spice up the mix with options, such as a dash of vanilla extract or cinnamon and a low-calorie sweetener.

• Freezing rather than refrigerating whole-grain breads and rolls will keep them fresh tasting. Remove one or two slices at a time from the freezer as needed.

• Buy whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa, in bulk, and keep refrigerated to maintain their freshness. Choosing less processed foods can also benefit both your blood sugar and budget. For example, large flaked oats are not only cheaper than instant but they are digested more slowly, causing a slower rise in blood sugar.

• Dry goods such as pasta have a long shelf life, so buy them in large amounts when they are on sale; they will last a while (choose whole-grain pasta for better blood sugar control).

Here are three budget-savvy recipes that are also healthy and delicious.

Curried lentil dip

Purchasing prepared foods can take a toll on your food budget. Even small items, such as prepared dips, can add up over time. This homemade dip is from Choice Menus Cooking for One or Two (Collins) by Marjorie Hollands and Margaret Howard, published in cooperation with the Canadian Diabetes Association (now called Diabetes Canada). You can change the spices and flavours, if you like, and use the lentils as a base for all kinds of dips.

3 cups (750 mL) water

1 cup (250 mL) dried red lentils, rinsed and drained

3-4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil

2 tsp (10 mL) white wine vinegar

1 tsp (5 mL) curry powder

½ tsp (2 mL) dry mustard

Pinch each salt and cayenne pepper

In a saucepan, combine water, lentils, and garlic. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, or until lentils are tender (do not overcook). Drain immediately.

In a food processor or blender, combine drained lentils, garlic, oil, vinegar, curry powder, mustard, salt, and cayenne pepper until mixture is smooth. Place in covered container and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze for longer storage.

Makes 7 servings

Nutritional breakdown per serving: 16 g carbohydrate, 8 g protein, 2 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 3 g fibre, 38 mg sodium, 114 calories

Sardine Patties with Dill Yogurt Sauce

Sardines are not only economical but they are convenient to have on hand for a range of dishes. Here is a recipe adapted from Oldways and Kelly Toups.

2 cans (each 100 g/4 oz.) sardines, packed in water

1 large egg

⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) salt

½ tsp (2 mL) pepper, divided

½ cup (125 mL) whole-wheat bread crumbs

2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil

1 cup (250 mL) plain low-fat yogurt

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp (25 mL) fresh dill

1 cup (250 mL) spinach

Drain sardines, remove any bones (if not using boneless), then place sardines in a small mixing bowl and mash with a fork. Stir egg into mixture, along with salt and ¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper, and form into 6 small patties.

In a shallow bowl, mix bread crumbs with remaining pepper, and press tops and bottoms of each patty into bread crumbs. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and sauté patties for about 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Mix yogurt, lemon juice, and dill in a small bowl. Serve patties over a bed of spinach with yogurt sauce. Makes 2-3 servings as an entrée (more if using as appetizer).

Nutritional breakdown per each of 3 servings: 12 g carbohydrate, 22 g protein, 14 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 1 g fibre, 275 mg sodium, 260 calories

Mexican Bean and Vegetable Salad

Stews are definitely appealing as outdoor temperatures drop. They are also filling, especially when packed with beans and lots of vegetables. No one will miss the meat in this version, full of soluble fibre, which plays a beneficial role in blood sugar regulation.

2 tsp (10 mL) extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup (175 mL) onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups (500 mL) sliced mushrooms
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red or green pepper, diced
1 tsp (5 mL) finely chopped fresh jalapeño pepper
1 can (796 mL/28 oz.) whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juice
2 cups (500 mL) cooked red kidney beans (or 540-mL/19-oz. can, rinsed and drained)
2 tsp (10 mL) chili powder
¾ tsp (4 mL) ground cumin
¾ tsp (4 mL) dried oregano
Pinch salt
Grated light cheddar, optional, as a garnish

Heat oil in large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3-4 minutes, or until soft. Add mushrooms, green and red peppers, and jalapeño; continue to sauté another 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, kidney beans, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes to allow the flavours to blend. Remove cover for last 10 minutes of cooking time. Season to taste with salt. Top with light cheddar, if desired.

Makes 4 servings

Nutritional breakdown per serving (without cheese): 39 g carbohydrate, 15 g protein, 5 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 g fibre, 227 mg sodium, 245 calories

© Rosie Schwartz

Did You Know?

Using a meal plan—even just a basic outline—can help make shopping more efficient and cut down on food waste because it can help you see how you can use leftovers in another meal. For example, in your week’s meal plan, leftovers from a roasted chicken dinner one night could be included in quesadillas the next night. Visit “Basic Meal Planning” to learn more.

More Articles

  • 9 easy ways to get active

    9 easy ways to get active

    Fit Tip

    Simple solutions to manage your health without joining a gym

    Read more

  • Image of Dr. Diane Donat

    A time of growth


    Consider spring your opportunity to try something new.

    Read more

Keep diabetes research moving forward

Your donation will ensure research never stops – help End Diabetes Now.