Eating on the cheap when food prices soar

Many families have noticed the rising food prices in our monthly food bills. A combination of factors - climate change and the Canadian dollar being two biggies - have led to slight hysteria over $8 cauliflower (and those who are vegan, or cooking for family members with severe allergies, I totally get why the price of cauliflower is upsetting!)

We've managed to keep our food bills relatively low ($100 per week for a family of four) by using a few strategies that I've been using long before prices went soaring:

Local food

1) Grow your own food

If this sounds complicated to you, it's probably because you're making it complicated. Of course you can spend hours and hours tending to a veggie garden (as we do,) but if that seems daunting, why not start small? Choose several veggies you eat regularly, and grow those - don't even bother with seeds, and just get the seedlings from your local nursery. Throw them in the ground, don't forget the water, and then harvest! Choose veggies that are not prone to pests and require little care - kale is a great veggie to start with. Don't forget to freeze half your harvest for that summer taste in the wintertime.

2) Buy local

Go back 100 years and take a look at what cold Canadians were living on in the winter. All those easy-to-store veggies like potatoes, carrots, squash, onions and cabbage are cheap and so versatile. Of course you will miss cucumbers, but just think of how excited you will be when the first local cucumber makes an appearance in the grocery store!

3) Sacrifice variety, not taste

I hate to break it to you, but this is only going to get worse. Climate change will wreak havoc on our food systems. Eventually, buying food from other countries will be a thing of the past (except for those few millionaires or billionaires who will be able to afford to do it.) So why not take baby steps right now to get used to this future reality? And don't despair - just because you don't have a variety of fruits/veggies doesn't mean you give up great-tasting food. Learn to cook vegetables a different way, or play around with spices. Avoid buying berries from Mexico, and enjoy the frozen berries from Ontario in a smoothie. Spring and summer will come again, I promise you!

4) Budget, budget, budget 

Gourmet crackers and hand-squeezed orange juice always get me!! I'm a weakling when it comes to great, handcrafted food, but I tend to resist when I know I'm on a budget. My family has had great success with this cash budget, and it's what keeps our grocery bill under control.

5) Make your own

I hesitated to add this tip, because honestly, I've stopped making many things at home (other than dinner, of course!) My full-time job just doesn't allow me the time, and on weekends when I used to do "batch cooking," I'm now running off to teach prenatal classes or take my kids to skiing and swimming lessons. That said, I can find time at least once a month to throw on a couple dozen muffins or whip up a big soup. But I'll admit, I still reach for the packaged goods when it comes to crackers and bread. We wait for sales, and use the Flipp app to price match when possible.

I realize for some, $100/week in groceries is still very high. I know several families living on $50/week, and I do aim to reduce our bill further. More time to cook things from scratch would be wonderful, but I'm working with what I've got right now - and I suspect many of you are too! 

What does your monthly food bill look like?