Everybody's Food Budget

Canada’s food guide recommends Canadians eat a variety of foods every day. With the food guide now being available in 28 languages, including nine Indigenous languages, more people can use it to help them make healthy choices. Healthy eating is important for everyone, and with a little bit of planning, you or your family can eat delicious and nutritious meals economically. The grocery store is not the only place where you can cut costs. From creating a budget to meal planning and proper food storage, saving money begins in your home.

Follow these steps to become a smart shopper and get the best value for your food dollar.

 Know Your Budget
Before you begin to plan your menu and shopping list, you need to know how much money you have for food each week. Keep track of how much you spend on food (both on groceries and eating out), so you know where your food dollars are going. You can monitor your spending by reviewing your receipts over several months. This will help you choose recipes and snacks that fall within your budget. There are also apps, books and other resources that can help you track your expenses and contain information about budgeting.  
 Plan Your Meals and Make a Shopping List 
Menu planning is a very important step to help you stick to your budget. It also helps limit the amount of times you or your family will eat out or buy highly processed foods. Dedicate time each week to writing a menu so that it becomes a priority.

A shopping list will help you buy only the items you need and stay on budget. Before making a list, look at what you already have at home to see what needs to be eaten first and avoid buying items you don’t need. Look at store flyers, mobile apps and websites for specials and adjust your list as needed. Below are apps that link you to the most recent flyers and coupons for a variety of grocery stores. Some have extra features such as cash back and shopping tips.

Inclusion of an app is for information only and does not imply endorsement from Ottawa Public Health.

 Shop Smart
A few practical grocery shopping tips will help you stay within your budget.
  • Use your list and stick to it.
  • If possible, compare prices between grocery stores and choose the one that best fits your budget. Some stores offer price matching, so be sure to check with them.
  • Visit the reduced aisle first and buy foods in bulk when possible.
  • Limit trips to convenience stores, as they are often more expensive than grocery stores.
  • Farmers’ markets and pick-your-own farms offer the most local, fresh and often inexpensive options.

Lower cost foods are available to help you make healthy food choices. There are also resources available for Indigenous populations.

 Reduce Waste

Throwing out food that is not eaten wastes money. You can reduce food waste by storing food properly and using your leftovers. 

Storing food safely:

Learn how to wash, store and freeze foods to reduce food waste in these videos. 

Using leftovers:

Leftovers can be as simple as re-heating last night’s dinner, or they can be turned into a whole new recipe. Here are some ways to get the most out of your leftovers:

  • Store leftovers in plastic or glass air-tight containers. Label and date the containers.
  • Use only microwavable containers for heating leftovers in the microwave. Margarine or yogurt containers, for example, cannot be heated safely.

Other helpful tips for reducing waste:

  • Use vegetable peels and meat bones to make homemade stock.
  • Use fruits (such as apples or pears) that have lost their freshness in sauces.
  • Turn stale bread into breadcrumbs or croutons.
  • Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Save at least five cents per bag. 
 Cook at Home
Cooking at home saves money and can help you develop healthy eating habits. Here are some recipes for meals that are less expensive than store-bought and ready-made versions. Choose recipes that include a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and protein foods. For Indigenous populations, following a more traditional diet can make a difference to your health. Cooking at home also helps you enjoy your food and learn new skills! 

Other credible recipe sources:

Ottawa Public Health

Foodland Ontario

Half Your Plate

Health Canada


Recipe apps

The following apps are great resources for budget-friendly recipes. Inclusion of an app is for information only and does not imply endorsement from Ottawa Public Health.

  • BigOven: A recipe organizer, grocery list and menu app for home cooks.
  • Budget Bytes: Delicious recipes designed for small budgets.
  • Cookspiration: Recipes to suit your mood and schedule.

Additional information about food safety and healthy eating on a budget can be found in the resources below. Inclusion of a link is for information only and does not imply endorsement from Ottawa Public Health.

Ottawa Public Health (Eating and Nutrition)

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (Food safety)

Canadian Public Health Association (Basic Shelf Cookbook)

Health Canada (Canada’s Food Guide)

Half Your Plate (‘Produce is Affordable!’)

Healthy Families BC (Shopping Sense - A virtual grocery store tour)

Middlesex-London Health Unit (Healthy eating apps and websites)

SOS Cuisine (Meal planning, flyers and recipes)

UnlockFood (‘Food Choices When Money is Tight’) 

Contact Us