Whether you’re a university student, a couple just starting out, or a parent trying to stretch the family budget, balancing food costs with choices that are nutritious can be a challenge.

Preparing healthy meals while spending less at the grocery store is easier if you know where to start.

Sandra Saville, Registered Dietician and president of Saville Nutrition Consulting shares her hints for filling your tummy without emptying your wallet:

1. Think ahead.

Create a weekly menu of meals that are nutritious, taste great and can do double duty as leftovers.

2. Make a list.

  • Create a shopping list from the menu and follow it.

  • Do leave some flexibility to purchase foods on sale that can be stocked up for extra savings.

  • But don’t buy so much you can’t use it by the ‘best before’ date.

3. Maximize protein, not price.

  • Protein typically adds the most to the grocery budget. Here are a few ways to get more out of it:

  • Buy less expensive cuts of meat and learn how to create tender entrées.

  • Reduce the amount of meat in stir fries and casseroles by adding more vegetables, rice and noodles.

  • Embrace meatless meals more often by adding other protein-rich foods such as beans, peas and lentils to casseroles, soups, stews, and chilli.

  • Use eggs for quiches and vegetable-packed omelettes.

4. Minimize processed foods.

The greater the amount of processing, the more cost is added to a food item. Make your own muffins and salad dressings to your own taste. Instead of pre-sliced or grated cheese, buy blocks and grate or slice as required. Most hard cheese can be frozen, so extras can be put in the freezer to maintain freshness.

5. Love those leftovers.

Create a plan for leftovers. Use them for lunch the next day or in soups, stir fries, casseroles and salads.

6. Bulk it up.

Make and freeze bulk quantities of food that can be used as a quick go-to on those busy days. Freeze bread, nuts, seeds and other foods so they stay fresh for longer compared to storing them at room temperature.

7. Waste not.

Throwing away food is also throwing away money. Make an inventory of all the food tossed out during a set period, and then incorporate strategies in your meal planning to reduce or eliminate the waste.

For more tips on meal planning, smart shopping and eating well, visit the Dieticians of Canada website.

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For more on taking control of your finances and how financial planning can help, read 6 ways to balance your financial prioritiesFinancial planning can help anyone at any life stage, and Keeping your money safe from yourself