Eating a nutritious diet when money and time are tight can be a real challenge. No matter how skilled someone is at budgeting, planning and coupon collecting, at the end of the day there often isn’t enough money to access food that is needed to eat a nutritionally adequate diet. This can lead to some tough decisions being made at the grocery store in order to avoid hunger for the shoppers and their families. Often, as a result, this means foregoing healthier alternatives for less healthy but cheap and filling foods.


Over 10 years of research in Nova Scotia has made it clear that for people living on a limited income, simply making better choices in their personal spending is not the solution to ending hunger.* The Food Action Research Centre (FoodARC) in Halifax engages partners from across our province to collaborate and work towards creating the conditions necessary for policy and social change related to food security – access to sufficient, healthy food in a way that maintains dignity – in NS.


Keeping all this in mind, here are a few tips to eating a healthful diet while keeping costs low:


Be Prepared

  • Create a weekly meal plan based on ingredients or leftovers you already have and on foods that are on sale.

  • Compare store brand prices to name brand. Buying store brand items rather than the name brand generally saves money and the nutritional value and taste is often the same.

  • Make a grocery list and stick to it at the store. The list will help you commit to buying only what you need.


Pool Your Resources

  • If you live in a rural area, trips to the grocery store can be costly and time consuming. Why not plan to travel in one car and shop with friends?

  • Try buying items in bulk and sharing between friends. Buying in bulk reduces packaging and saves resources.

  • Cook some recipes in large batches. This can reduce waste and help to save time on future meal prep. Consider making a double batch and freezing half for another meal.


Go Vegetarian!

  • Cook meatless meals for one or more meals every week, eating vegetarian can cut down on costs and be a great way to increase variety in your diet. Plant-based proteins like lentils, chickpeas and tofu are nutritious and are less expensive than meat.


Grow Your Own Food

  • Grow some of your own food to reduce food costs. Gardening also increases physical activity and reduces stress levels. You can start small and simply by growing tomatoes or greens on your balcony – every little bit helps.

  • Community gardens and kitchen programs are a great way to increase fresh produce consumption and learn new tips for cooking with fruits and vegetables. Gardening can bring people together and create opportunities for community action around food.

  • Ask at your local community centre about a community garden in your area or get a group together and plant a garden in a friends’ backyard!


For more information on food security visit:



* Report on 2012 NS Participatory Food Costing,

Healthy Eating on a Budget!

by Marika Heinrichs, Research Assistant & Chris Stothart, RD

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© 2018 by The Dietitians Network of Nova Scotia.