As many of you may have noticed, food prices have risen steadily over the last while, largely due to labour shortages and supply chain disruptions. Despite this increase, there is no need to panic! Being mindful of how you eat will keep you and your family in the clear, both with gut health and food costs.
Even though cutting down on your food intake may seem like the best way to save a few bucks, the toll this could take on your gut isn’t worth it. Going too long without eating can be extremely tough on the gut, causing stomach pain and even bloating. In fact, if you were to go long enough without eating, the microbes in your gut turn to consuming the protective layer of mucus that lines your intestine (specifically your colon). This is because the microbes require fibre to continue functioning and feasting normally! (1)
Furthermore, many of the extremely processed foods that offer a quick ‘meal’ are lacking in the nutrients that generally support digestive health, such as fibre and prebiotics. It is also incredibly important to keep food safety and wellness at the forefront of our mind – do not eat foods that are moldy or spoiled and respect the expiration date on the products you are consuming. (2)
A few simple things to keep in mind can keep you on the right path.
Deciding what to eat throughout the week can help cut down on food waste and give you a more clear idea of what you need from the grocery store. Looking at flyers for the week will help you find healthy foods on sale that you can plan your meals around and save money. Finding recipes online, in cookbooks, or from friends is another great way to plan meals – keeping your food costs low.
A useful and simple way to make a grocery list while keeping your dietary needs in mind is Metro’s My Health My Choices program, which allows you to find the right products for your family online or using the app on your phone!
Having a list with you while shopping helps cut down on impulse buys. Additionally, it is never a good idea to shop on an empty stomach! That can be a slippery slope leading to purchases you wouldn’t normally make. (3)
Be diligent – check out local flyers, price match whenever possible, search for coupons, use mobile apps that compare stores, and check websites for deals on food that happen to be on your list. Keep an eye out for reduced prices while you’re at the store – oftentimes, oddly-shaped or slightly bruised fruit is heavily discounted, alongside products nearing their best before dates. Not only are these products just as healthy as the displayed ‘perfect’ variety, but you’re also helping to reduce food waste in general.
When canned goods and pantry staples are on sale, stock up!
Extend the shelf life of perishable sale products. Package them carefully in smaller portions and freeze:
Buying foods in bulk can help you save. Be careful not to buy more than you need, because this can lead to waste!
While the tendency is to go for fresh fruit and vegetables, this isn’t the right idea if they aren’t in season. A few peaches can cost a fortune if not bought during the summer months. Frozen and canned vegetables are healthy options as well and often far less expensive. A common misconception is that frozen fruits and vegetables have less nutrients – that’s simply not true! Research has shown that they retain all the vitamins contained in fresh produce. Frozen fruits are commercially picked at the peak of ripeness and then individually quick frozen and packaged under a nitrogen atmosphere. Because they are picked at peak ripeness, vitamins and minerals can be up to 50% more abundant than something that is harvested and sold fresh, since produce to be sold fresh is picked before being fully ripe and mature. (4)(5)
Legumes, dried peas and lentils are a great money-saving protein choice, and they are also high in fibre, B vitamins, and iron. Canned beans just need a good rinse in cold water before being added to your favourite dishes. Dried beans do well with an overnight soak followed by a boil for an hour or two, depending on the bean.
It is important to keep in mind that your gut may need to get used to these types of proteins, as they can cause lots of gas. Start by consuming small amounts as your gut adjusts to consuming them. Alternatively, take an enzyme supplement such as Beano to help with the digestion.
Once you’ve got your basics from the store and you’ve saved a few bucks, there a few ways you can save money at home to continue offsetting rising food costs. (6)
Learning how to cut up a whole chicken can save you a boatload of money – you can even use the bones to make a hearty soup after! Even if you don’t want to use a whole chicken, you’ll save a ton of money by buying breasts, thighs, and drumsticks and cutting them up yourself, as opposed to buying pre-chopped chicken.
Look for recipes that you can double or triple – that way you can freeze leftovers for another easy meal. Easily portioned options are things like stews, soups, and chilis which can be put into individual reheatable containers before freezing.
The main event in a dish doesn’t always need to be meat (and it shouldn’t be) – that will get expensive. Make vegetables the largest portion in your meal (Canada’s Food Guide recommends veggies make up half your plate) and meat can be a smaller side portion. Not only does this save money, but your gut will be happy too!
With a slow cooker you can buy less expensive cuts of meat, because the long, slow cooking time makes them tender and very tasty. Plus, the dish cooks all day while you’re at work or busy with something else.
Balancing your gut health and food costs need not be impossible – making these simple adjustments can help you and your family stay on track, both financially and from a health perspective.
(1) Michigan Medicine. 2016. High-fiber diet keeps gut microbes from eating the colon’s lining, protects against infection, animal study shows. https://www.uofmhealth.org/news/archive/201611/high-fiber-diet-keeps-gut-microbes-eating-colon%E2%80%99s-lining
(4) Drayer, L. 2019. Why frozen fruit and veggies may be better for you than fresh. https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/30/health/frozen-fruit-vegetables-drayer-food/index.html
(5) Bouzari, A. 2015. Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25526594/