Shopping Smart

Thoughts | Alex Whitwam

Let’s face it: we’re all broke to some extent. Education costs an arm and a leg these days, and after factoring in the cost of textbooks, supplies, and basic living expenses, it can be hard to find the money or the motivation to eat healthily. Assignments pile up left and right, and it’s so easy to just pop a packet of Mr. Noodles in the microwave or get takeout. In the long run, though, opting for the convenient route can end up harming both your wallet and your health.

I’ve compiled a few tips that I try to use as guiding principles when shopping for food, in the hopes that some of them will prove useful to others, and if you read (or scroll quickly) to the end, I’ve provided a recipe that could potentially serve as inspiration for your own culinary adventures.

1. Buy pantry staples in bulk.

This is fairly straightforward. Bulk Barn and other stores like it will have better deals on dried foods, powders, spices, etc, than you can get from a standard supermarket. Even if you only need a small amount of something, buying that small quantity “in bulk” can save you from having to pay the markups usually added on to smaller containers. If you go through a lot of a food where brand doesn’t really make a difference, or if you know over time you’ll end up eating a lot of something shelf-stable like rice, you can stock up all at once and save yourself time and money.

2. Compare prices per 100g.

If you can’t decide between two brands that seem identical or between two sizes of something, always check the unit price! Usually, store brand is cheaper and larger containers are cheaper per item or per weight, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, you can save money by buying two 500g jars of peanut butter over the 1kg jar; keep an eye out for these discrepancies and take advantage of them. If one of your options is on sale, you might have to calculate this yourself.

3. Keep an eye out for price differences between stores.

If you live on residence at Woodsworth, you probably mainly shop at the Metro and Galleria, since those are the closest grocery stores. There’s a lot of places where you can buy some types of food when out and about, though, and while most convenience stores and the like will have pretty steep prices, you might get lucky. Try to be on the lookout for better deals wherever you are. Sometimes, it can even be more cost-effective to take the TTC to Walmart or Loblaw’s for the express purpose of going grocery shopping, especially if you prefer to buy a lot of things at once instead of spreading your purchases out over time. Use your best judgement call.

4. Take advantage of student discounts.

Metro has 10% off Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the Shoppers on Bay and Bloor has 20% off Thursdays, Bulk Barn has 10% off Wednesdays-- there’s a lot to keep track of, but if you can try and hold off on buying whatever it is you need until the days when you’ll be able to use your TCard for a discount, you’ll save a significant amount of money. Keep in mind that at stores like Shoppers, discounts won’t be applied to items that are already on sale.

5. Don’t let price rule all of your decisions!

Yes, it’s important to save money and be budget-conscious, especially if you’re in a tight spot financially. Still, as long as you do your best to make good decisions most of the time, it’s better for your mental health to allow yourself some concessions. Maybe you really like the more expensive brand of cereal, or you have a weakness for fancy cheeses (my personal vice). If you know where to cut back on spending, you’ll find that you can free up a little of the money you’re saving to use on treats and mini-splurges. Stress is a killer-- try to do nice things for yourself every once in a while, and you’ll end up happier and healthier for it.

OCTOBER RECIPE FEATURE: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Greek Yogurt Chipotle Ranch


  • 1 lb (454g) brussels sprouts

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil

  • Salt and pepper

  • ½ cup (125g) full-fat plain Greek yogurt

  • 1 package ranch dip mix, or:

    • 1 tsp dried dill

    • ½ tsp onion powder

    • ½ tsp garlic powder

    • ¼ tsp salt

    • ¼ tsp pepper

    • 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar

  • 1 chipotle pepper, canned in adobo sauce

  • 1 tsp (5 mL) adobo sauce

  • Water, for consistency


  1. Preheat oven to 450℉ and line a large baking sheet with foil.

  2. Cut brussels sprouts in half and remove any funky-looking bits.

  3. Add oil and toss to coat.

  4. Place sprouts cut-side down on foil-lined sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in oven for 20-25 minutes.

  5. In the meantime, whisk Greek yogurt with dip mix or spices. If a blender is available, blend mixture with chipotle pepper and adobo; if not, chop the pepper very finely (it should resemble a paste) before whisking pepper and sauce into mixture.

  6. Add water to ranch to thin to desired consistency.

  7. Remove sprouts from the oven, allow them to cool, and enjoy!

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