10 Top Tips to Plan Meals on a Budget

Who isn’t trying to pinch their pennies these days… An hour of meal planning every week could really help your wallet. Don’t listen to that little voice in your head saying you can’t find 4 hours in the month to plan nutritious meals for you and your family, it’s well worth it!

  1. Take inventory of your fridge, freezer and pantry before you sit down. It can sometimes be just like grocery shopping and you can feel the thrill of the hunt when you score some long forgotten goodies!
  1. Make your menu – easier said than done when you’re staring at a blank page. Don’t let an infinite number of recipes overwhelm you, start with what you know and realize its a work in progress. You WILL be editing and making changes on the fly throughout the week. So many items can be used for dinner then changed into next day’s lunch, inspiration may strike at any moment which will change your plan – and that’s ok!
  1. Plan your meals before you grocery shop and choose foods that are on sale for a win/win dinner – you’ll eat well and save your dollars.
  1. Occasional meals without meat are healthy and can be huge money saver – protein packed salads with eggs, tofu, and tons of leftover vegetables can take minutes to whip together, and will fill you up nicely.
  1. Grains are good! Rice, pasta, barley and quinoa delivered by Zum Zum are inexpensive and the epitome of versatile!
  1. Avoid recipes with hard to find or expensive ingredients. It takes time for an extra trip to a specialty store or can blow up your budget. Google is your friend to find acceptable substitutes – while searching you’ll learn about flavour profiles and why certain ingredients are used in the first place, which will naturally inspire your creativity in the kitchen!
  1. Recipes are SO much cheaper, heartier and tastier when the ingredients you’re using are in season.

  1. USE those leftovers! Freeze them for a later time or switch them up for a twist. Vegetable stir fry can be added to plain lettuce for a delicious meatless salad. Or enjoy the classics and keep a few boiled eggs on hand for a super quick egg salad sandwich!
  1. Make extras & freeze! When you buy a massive bag of fresh carrots or onions, cook them all up, bag meal size portions and freeze for quick dinner add-ons!
  1. Ensure the kids eat the food you’re spending money on, and stick with your family favourites to reduce waste. Simple meals like tacos, wraps, or homemade pizza are easy to customize in order to please everyone’s palates!


11 Ways to Save on Your Groceries

Healthy eating doesn’t need to be expensive, here are 11 ways to pad your wallet and avoid the temptations of take out (TLDR: it’s a bit of planning!)

  1. Build your meal plans around weekly sales to inspire variety in your diet.
  2. Learn the sale prices of items you buy often… Eventually you’ll know at a glance when a discount is actually worth stocking up on.
  1. Make a list and stick to it – hey, cliche advice can be concise!
  2. Buy Ontario fruits and vegetables in season. Stock up on the best prices during summer harvests and freeze your own fruit & veg at peak quality! Even just bulk freezing your most expensive and heavily consumed type of produce (looking at you, strawberries for smoothies) can inspire you to go all out in your bulk shops the next summer.
  1. Be assured by Penn State’s opinion on the quality of canned and frozen options: “Depending on the produce item, canning and freezing may actually preserve the nutrient value and even increase the availability of some nutrients to the body.”
  1. Shop in bulk where possible on your everyday staples (conveniently delivered by Zum Zum!)
  2. Avoid shopping when you’re hungry!
  1. Know your “forever foods” that will keep indefinitely in your pantry with proper storage. Stock up on basics like salt, pepper, sugar, rice and pasta on sale and never pay full price.
  1. Grow your own! If you can grow your own vegetables and herbs in the summer in your backyard or on your patio, you’ll not only have great tasting healthy food, you’ll gain a hobby and save your dollars!
  1. Refer to Canada’s food storage guidelines for recommendations on how long to store meat, dairy and produce in the fridge and freezer: apples can turn soft quickly when left at room temperature, best kept in the fridge. And we were recently surprised to learn that storing your tomatoes in the fridge isn’t a TOTAL criminal offense 😆
  2. Cook your own meals vs boxed meals or take out, you WILL amaze yourself with what you’re capable of! Have 10-15 trusted recipes on rotation that you can make in your sleep. And don’t ever feel defeated if you worry your meals aren’t gourmet or instagram ready! Is everyone fed?? You did great 🙂

Check out our fun and easy recipes that anyone can make, with Costco Business Centre savings delivered by Zum Zum!


Mozzarella Morsels

So, it only took me 32 years to learn the apparent common knowledge that bocconcini is NOT its own separate type of cheese. Translated from Italian, bocconcini means “morsels” or “small mouthful”, and Wikipedia describes “small mozzarella cheese balls the size of an egg.”

I just read Maclean’s local feature on fresh mozzarella. They visited the International Cheese Co. factory outlet in Toronto, where cheese marketed under the brand name Santa Lucia is made. The article from 2011 mentions their bocconcini’s win for “best mozzarella” at the seventh Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.

I have been hesitant to purchase Costco’s 1.5kg bulk tub of Santa Lucia Bocconcini Soft Cheese in fear of letting it go to waste. They’ve found my weakness though; I can’t pass up a 20% sale on fresh cheese. So I looked for a few resources that explain the best ways to freeze fresh mozzarella for use in sauces, melted on sandwiches or on pizza, etc. (Click to grab Santa Lucia Bocconcini 50g Balls or 10g Minis, on sale for $1.14/100g – compared to the grocery store at $2.19/100g, that’s 48% savings until Apr 11th!)

The freezer will change the texture from soft to crumbly – defrosted bocconcini will not be suitable in salads, but I’m partial to gooey melted cheese anyway. Slice before freezing, lay flat either on a tray or with pieces of wax paper between each slice. Defrost in the fridge 24 hours in advance, and pat dry with paper towel before melting on pizza to avoid a soggy crust. Skip defrosting and use directly from the freezer if excess moisture won’t ruin your dish.

Marinated bocconcini, so good it requires “the portion, plate it, and put it away method”: Recipe from Craving Something Healthy

Bread them & deep fry: Recipe from Mantitlement

Upgrade your pizza: Recipe from Love & Lemons

Let us know your favourite Santa Lucia Bocconcini recipes on Facebook or Instagram!


Unpopular Opinion: Tomatoes in the fridge?

I hope I don’t discredit myself in any connoisseur’s eyes by suggesting that you store your tomatoes in the fridge to extend their shelf life.

I know it’s not a subject typically open to debate – the fridge destroys the flavour of the tomato, turning it into a pointless ball of water, right?

Well… From my days as a grocery cashier I’ve learned that grocers store their excess tomatoes in a produce cooler. My fridge would be a few degrees colder than that, so I wondered what effect storing at a lower temperature would have.

Daniel Gritzer at Serious Eats has done an amazing deep dive into the subject, running blind taste tests on an impressive range of tomatoes, stored in different ways. He analyzes studies that consider how storage temperatures affect a tomato’s texture and its volatile aromatics.

Turns out, the flavour isn’t permanently neutralized by the cold environment! You simply want your tomatoes to fully ripen at room temperature on the counter first, allowing their flavour and aroma to develop. Then drastically extend your perfectly ripe tomatoes shelf life by storing them in the fridge!

Most of the flavour and aroma will return when the tomatoes once again reach room temperature. You’ll need to take them out about 30 minutes before you’re ready to eat, in order to enjoy a great deal more flavour than if you had eaten the tomatoes straight out of the fridge.

That’s a win-win: save money on a bulk buy, knowing you can extend the shelf life of your tomatoes AND enjoy the taste!