Filling half your plate with vegetables and fruits can seem like a challenging task in the depths of a Canadian winter but that's not the case! All you need are some savvy shopping and kitchen skills and you can keep your family's plates half full of produce through till spring - and we're here to help!
We've partnered up with the Half Your Plate program to encourage Canadians to fill up half their plates at every meal and snack with fruits and veggies!
Our Top Tips For Filling Half Your Plate on a Budget:
1. Follow The Seasons
Buying produce out of season is always expensive. There's less of it and it's more costly to ship it. So skip the asparagus and go for the brussels sprouts. Leave the packet of fresh blackberries on the shelf and pick up a big bag of navel oranges or a pomegranate. Here's a sample of what to be on the lookout for this time of year:
- sweet potatoes
- citrus fruit
2. Shop Around
This may seem obvious but it still needs to be said. Cauliflower has been in the news non-stop recently for costing everywhere from $6-8 a head. And yet when we did a quick survey around the country we found it for as little as 2 heads for $3 and as high as $7.97 with everything in between. Canada is a big country and prices fluctuate regularly. Don't buy into hysteria or a few outrageous news reports from a particular part of the country.
Instead, do a quick circuit of the produce section when you pop into the grocery store and make note of the prices. Check your local supermarket flyers for specials. And don't forget your local green grocers - they may not advertise or participate in circulars but they often have amazing in store deals that beat out the grocery stores on certain items.
3. Buy In Bulk
If you find a good deal, buy it in bulk.
A lot of winter produce stores well if kept in cool dark places - especially squash, potatoes, carrots, turnips, apples and parsnips. You can find great storage tips on the Half Your Plate website. Bananas, grapes, pineapple and mangos (you can often find really great sales on these items if you shop around this time of year) can easily be frozen. And frozen fruit is great for tossing into a morning smoothie or adding to a dessert or muffins
Buying fresh produce in bulk is a great tip to make use of all year round - berries, beans, peas, stone fruits - all of them freeze well and are very inexpensive in season. Or you can can them. And then you have the delight of peaches in winter!
4. Avoid Food Waste
As a nation, we waste a lot of food, unnecessarily.
If you don't have the ability or the space to buy in bulk and properly store your food so it doesn't spoil then buy in smaller quantities that you can consume in a timely manner. Find out the best way to store the fruits and veggies you purchase. Proper storage can greatly increase the life of the food.
Most fruits and vegetables can be consumed in almost their entirety. Scraps and skins or even whole veggies that are pushing their "best before" date can be tossed into stews, soups and be used to make add flavour to a great chicken, beef or veggie stock, which can also be frozen.
Greens like spinach, lettuce and kale can be tossed into smoothies for an extra power kick.
For bigger items like cabbage, you can often get 2-3 meals out of them. With cabbage try using the big outer leaves to wrap cabbage rolls and using the smaller insides for slaws, salads or stir fries.
5. To Eat Organic or Not To Eat Organic
While some of us may prefer to eat organic, there's no question that it's often (but not always) more expensive than non-organic produce. Don't cut back on the amount of produce you consume because you can't afford to buy organic. You will do yourself more harm by limiting your fruit and veg intake and all the nutrients that come with them, than you will by eating non-organic produce for a short period. Wash your produce thoroughly before using.
Get creative, do a little research and shop for sales and in season and you'll be filling half your plate on budget and in no time flat!