Frugal Food Shopping

Updated in July 2015 by the Manitoba Association of Home Economists

Are you feeling the pinch at the grocery store due to current food prices? The prices of some basic healthy foods have increased a lot lately. This has led Canadian families to look for frugal foods that are also tasty and healthy.

This article was originally from 2008 and a Statistics Canada report shows that from April 2007 to April 2008 prices for bread and cereal products including pasta and rice have shown the greatest increases. Dairy prices, and egg prices also showed an increase. Prices of some foods did decrease, but overall in Canada there was an increase in food prices over that year. A 2015 report shows bread prices increasing 3% since 2011 and the price of eggs increasing 15% over that same time period.

Here are some frugal food ideas to help you cut your food costs:

  • Plan meals ahead and use a shopping list at the grocery store. This limits impulse buying and ensures you buy only what you need. Be flexible with your plan so that you can use foods that may be on sale.
  • Consider how “prepared” foods are when you buy them. The more work that is done for you, usually the higher the cost. Shredded cheese, washed and cut-up vegetables and vegetables with sauces are examples of products that may cost more for their convenience. Involve your family with making meals to help with tasks like shredding and washing.
  • Individual portions of foods such as yogurts and puddings may be more expensive than buying the bigger containers.
  • Eat vegetables and fruit that are in season. Also freeze them for use in the coming months. At the grocery store, frozen or canned vegetables and fruit may be cheaper when fresh ones are not in season. Choose ones without added sugar, fats and sauces and with no, or reduced, salt.
  • Enjoy your local farmer’s market. Foods can be less costly because you are buying right from the farmer.
  • Think about growing a small garden or check into local community gardens where you share the cost and labour to grow your own fresh produce.
  • See if there is a “Good Food Box” program in or near your community. These programs sell nutritious foods at a lower cost than most grocery stores.
  • Even though the price of eggs has gone up, eggs are still a low cost source of protein. They are also quick and easy to prepare.
  • Legumes like dried peas, beans or lentils are low cost foods. Include meatless meals in your weekly menus.
  • Canada’s Food Guide serving of meat is 2 1/2 oz (75 g). Many people eat more than this size. Because meat is cut into small pieces and combined with other foods in stir-fries, stews and soups, smaller meat portions are less noticeable.
  • Low cost cuts of meat can be tenderized by cooking them in a slow cooker or marinating them
  • Buy a whole chicken. Remove the skin and cut it up yourself. This is cheaper than buying individual pieces.

These ideas will not only cut the costs at the grocery store but will also help you provide for the healthiest foods for you and your family.


Originator: Danielle Campbell, R.D., Saskatoon Health Region

Editing buddy: Terry Ann Keenan, R.D., Saskatoon Health Region


Statistics Canada Website:

Coles, Terri, “Trim the Grocery Bill, Not Nutrition”,,

Gillis, Charlie, “Why Your Grocery Bill is About to Hurt”, Macleans, February 27, 2008,

Henneman, Alice, MS, R.D., and Bartos, MS. , “Save Some Green by Going Green with Your Grocery Shopping”, University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension.

Saskatchewan Pulse Growers,

Springer, “Eating Less Meat And Junk Food Could Cut Fossil Energy Fuel Use Almost In Half”, ScienceDaily, July 24, 2008,