Video Transcript – Cooking on a Budget

Hello and welcome to this Cooking on a Budget webinar presented by Student Financial Services. My name is Sarah Brennan, and I am a Financial Aid Counsellor at the University of Guelph. I will take you through this webinar today.

Today we will start with a definition of financial literacy. Then we will discuss ways you can cut costs when it comes to your grocery or food budget. We will provide some examples of how convenience buying can cost you.

The best definition of financial literacy comes from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. This agency was established in 2001 by the Canadian government to help keep consumers of financial services safe and educated. 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of Financial Literacy Month. The FCAC is an excellent source of financial literacy information and resources. FCAC defines financial literacy as having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions. They further break the definition down into more detail with knowledge referring to a person’s understanding of financial matters, skills are the ability to apply that knowledge, and confidence is the sense of self-assurance you will want when making important decisions. Responsible financial decisions are the product of these three aspects coming together when it’s time for you to make choices that will work for you. Financial Literacy can help you make smarter, more informed financial decisions; will allow you to stay on top of your financial obligations; will allow you to avoid negative repercussions and penalties; will help you prepare for your future; help you navigate what can be complex or confusing financial systems; and allow you to discover helpful resources that can benefit you, not just as a student but continuously throughout your life. The focus on this presentation today will be keeping your food and grocery costs down. 

In our other webinar, we shared these tips for cutting costs that are applicable to many types of purchases. We want to repeat these here because they are also applicable to spending on food. Separate your needs from your wants by being honest with yourself about whether a purchase is truly needed. Your needs are the things that are absolutely required for living, and while food is considered a need, there may be items that you could purchase that would be classified as a want. 

Shop off brand. You pay for the name attached to a product. You can often find a similar quality food product for less by purchasing the store brand.

Check flyers for sales on items you need; there are apps to help you with this, such as Flipp or Reebee. Many stores also have dollar sales which can add up to big savings. Price match to take advantage of many different stores’ sales.

Bring reusable bags – many places now charge you when you need to use their bags.

Avoid convenience foods – you will pay more for items that are convenient in some way.

And buy in bulk. We will provide some examples of these last two points in more detail.

Buying in bulk means buying a larger quantity of an item that usually comes with savings. Try to determine the cost per unit of any item you are buying. Some price tags will identity the unit cost for you but if it doesn’t, you can easily calculate it by putting the price into a calculator and dividing by the quantity or size of item you are purchasing. When you are buying in bulk, pay attention to expiry dates and ensure you will able to use all of the product before it expires. Any money you save on buying in bulk will be a loss if the product expires before you can use it. Buying in bulk is often an environmentally friendlier option since overall packaging can be less than buying multiple smaller quantities of an item. Bulk buying can also lead to savings in other categories – for example, you will save time and money by needing to make less trips to the store, which can also mean less opportunity for impulse buying. 

We will now take you through a few quick examples of bulk savings and how convenience can cost you when it comes to food purchases. In these examples we are not endorsing any product or stores. Items or brands are provided for examples only. The lessons gauged from these examples can easily be translated to many aspects of life with any type of product you may use or prefer.

Our example of buying in bulk and the savings you can achieve is a box of cereal. A 390g box costs $4. This equals $1.03 per 100g of product. You will notice that the advertisement provides the calculation for you. A larger box of 585g costs $5.47, which further reduces the cost per 100g to 94 cents. Pay attention to any 2-for-1 deals but make sure you are still comparing cost per unit as 2-for-1 deals do not guarantee additional savings. In this example, you can purchase 2 boxes for $6; however, this is actually the most expensive option with each box costing $1.17 per 100g of product. 

We also explained how convenience will cost you. We will take you through some examples using different types of meals. If you purchase a bagel with cream cheese from a popular chain restaurant for 8 days in a row, it would cost you $20. Instead, if you were to purchase the products yourself and make the bagel at home, you would spend less than $5 for the same quantity of food. 

Here is another example of how much you could save by making a meal at home as opposed to purchasing take out. In this example, you could cut your costs by more than half by purchasing the items yourself. Instead of spending $8.50 on a salad, you could make the same at home for $3.49.

This next example highlights another example of additional costs of convenience. Here, we see a pizza purchase using a popular delivery service. This type of service can come with added costs of a tip and delivery fee. Here we see a total cost of approximately $21. By purchasing a similar product to make at home, you could buy 7 times the amount of food for the same price.

As a last example, this shows the cost of a chicken nugget meal with fries and a soft drink. This meal would cost almost $11 dollars. By purchasing all the items yourself and making the same meal at home, that $11 could instead stretch to 6 meals instead of 1.

In the examples provided there is still an element of convenience. After all, the food is still prepared in some way; however, you are saving money by not having someone else cook and package the food for you. To cut costs further try to find food that is not pre-prepared or otherwise manufactured whenever possible. For example, the bag of fries we used in the previous example cost $2.47. For less money, you could buy a 10-pound bag of potatoes which could be used in a wider variety of ways for many different meals. Pre-prepped foods can also cost you. For example, for $4.97 you could buy a bag of shredded cheese which contains 320g of product. For that same price, you could buy 500g of the same product. The only difference being that you would need to shred it yourself. 

We have shown with these examples that home-made dishes are cheaper than buying prepared food from restaurants or fast food chains. You can further reduce your costs by cooking with whole ingredients instead of prepared food. You can batch cook and freeze meals for the future. 

Shop the staples – a lot of staple foods are low-cost items such as potatoes, pasta and rice and can be used in many ways for many different types of dishes. You can also find alternative lower cost items for typically more expensive items. For example, protein in the form of meat could be swapped for other protein sources such as beans.

Use coupons – some stores provide coupons in the store either in the aisles or inside the front doors.

Scan the shelves – most popular sizes of items are typically found at eye level but other options which may offer a better value can be found above or below eye level. 

Shop using a list – this will help you avoid adding items that you probably don’t need but may want only because you’ve seen it. 

Lastly, never shop when you are hungry as you will be more likely to buy items based on how you currently feel instead of what you really need.

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