14 ways to keep on budget with your family meals

With rising costs for food, housing, and transportation across the country, it can be hard to make ends meet, especially if you have a family. When money is tight, staying on budget is even more important to avoid accumulating debt.

“With the high costs of childcare, housing, transportation and food, taking care of a family is expensive.  Food is especially costly, but this is one expense that you can reduce by committing to saving and planning ahead.  You can stay within your budget, avoid debt and feed your family healthy food,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.

Are you juggling the costs of raising a family? Make sure that you have a solid household budget in place to keep you from spending beyond your means and accumulating more debt. To learn more, call us at or get started with our free online debt analysis .

Here are some of our best tips to cut down on your grocery budget without skimping on flavour or nutrition.

Meal planning

Perhaps the most important thing that you can do when trying to keep food costs down is to plan your meals out every week. Take time on Sunday to do an inventory of what you already have on hand. Plan recipes around what you’ve already got and what is on sale for the week. Make a list that fits into your budget and stick to it.

Plan to shop once, but don’t be afraid to try different stores. You usually get better deals that way.

Coupons and price matching

You don’t necessarily have to wait for items to be on sale in order to save. Plan to use coupons or benefit from price matching. In addition to scanning flyers for coupons and sales every week, subscribe to manufacturer/retailer mailing lists.

Go meatless

You don’t have to become a full vegetarian to save money, but simply by swapping out meat a couple of times a week, you’ll drop your grocery budget by a lot. Meat is easily the most expensive thing on your shopping list.

Big batch cooking

It’s more efficient and more cost effective to double up when you are cooking and to freeze extra food or make enough for leftovers for another meal or lunch the next day. Not only will you simplify your life when you are pressed for time, it is cheaper when you buy ingredients in bulk. Make sure to seal food tightly and label with the date so that you don’t waste.

DIY wherever you can

Convenience comes at a premium, which is most definitely true when it comes to your food. Prepackaged foods may save you time, but they cost you a lot more money. Roll up those sleeves and do all the prep work yourself and you’ll save a great deal.

Cooking from scratch is healthier and it is more cost-effective too (and it’s not as hard as you think). Another good DIY kitchen money-saving tip is to butcher your own meat (i.e. buy whole chickens and cut them into parts or larger cuts of beef and trim them down to individual sizes).

Stock your home with frugal foods

If you are serious about getting more mileage out of your grocery budget, you should think about getting more mileage out of your foods. Make a point of stocking your home with grocery items that pack lots of quality nutrition without the high price tag.

Some good choices are peanut butter, rice, oatmeal, canned beans, tuna, canned tomatoes, pasta, bread, cabbage, potatoes, bananas, onions, popcorn, eggs, Greek yogurt, quinoa, nuts, and broccoli

Shop local

Not only is buying locally, whenever/wherever you can, good for your local economy and for the environment, it is also good for your budget. Local farmers don’t have to pay the kind of transport costs that far away producers do, which means that you’ll save.

Buy less expensive cuts of meat

To save on your meat bill, consider buying less expensive cuts of meat like a blade or flank steak or chicken thighs. These flavourful meats benefit from low, slow cooking and are much cheaper than other cuts of meat.

Stay on the perimeter of the grocery store

Don’t just plan your grocery list. Plan your route around the store. Stay on the store’s perimeter, where the staples are usually located. The middle aisles do contain some necessary items but have a lot more of the impulse products.

Go no-name

Whenever you have a choice, choose the no-name brand. In many cases, you are getting the same (or very similar) product for a fraction of the cost. Train your eyes to shop wisely.

“Brand names are usually placed on shelves at eye level, so scan up and down to find the best deals,” says Schwartz.

Grocery shop in cash

Want to stick to your grocery budget? Shop in cash only. This is probably the best way to eliminate the temptation to impulse buy. Once it is gone it is gone!

Watch portion sizes

One of the biggest culprits of food waste (and wasted money) is overserving your food. It’s worth it to measure out food before you serve it. Invest in a food scale and pre-measure portions. After a while, you’ll know what an appropriate serving looks like.


Do you belong to any rewards programs? You should enrol in rewards programs that let you earn points when buying your groceries and then redeem them down the road for more savings.

Watch the scanner

Get in the habit of watching each item as they get scanned. It’s not uncommon for something to go through twice or to come up with the incorrect price. Also, ensure that any discounts are applied properly to your bill (i.e. coupons or multiple purchase buys).

If you are carrying debt, that extra cost is taking a big bite out of your household budget. Paying your debt down is going to free up your cash flow so that you can manage your household much easier. Call one of our trained credit counsellors at or check out our free online debt analysis .



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