High food prices inspire Montreal families to get creative with grocery shopping

Some Montrealers who are changing the way they buy and cook food for their families as food prices soar share their cost-cutting tips with CBC Daybreak's Shari Okeke.

3 Montreal families share their strategies for coping with rising food prices

New items are finding their way into Sheila Dunwoodie's grocery cart. 'I've been experimenting with cooking with vegetables that go a long way in terms of bang for your buck. [Cabbage] has been a hit so far, so I'm doing deconstructed cabbage rolls this week,' she said. (Shari Okeke)

Rising food prices are forcing many people to think differently about what they buy and cook for their families. 

CBC Daybreak asked three Montreal families what they are doing to stretch their grocery dollars.

Daybreak's Shari Okeke speaks with Sheila Dunwoodie and Anneliese Papaurelis to find out how local people are changing their cooking up to avoid a high grocery bill.

Check for specials and coupons online

Sheila Dunwoodie, a part-time teacher and mother of four, has started using flyers and tracking down specials at various stores.

She used to shop mainly at Maxi and Costco.

Now she uses an app called Flipp which allows her to access flyers from a wide variety of stores in her area on her smart phone. 

"If there are coupons in the flyer it highlights them automatically for you so you don't have to root through them. I've never shopped using flyers before," Dunwoodie said.

"Now I realize it's in my best interest, and it's the only way at this point that I can afford to keep cooking and feeding my family the way I want to," she added.

Think outside the box

Anneliese Papaurelis buys ground beef on special and freezes it until she needs it. This week she's using half to make shepherd's pie and half to cook for her dog. 'I can make a four-week supply [of wet dog food] for about $20,' she said. (Shari Okeke)

Anneliesse Papaurelis and her fiancé have a blended family, and together they're raising three daughters.

Twice a month they buy a large box of fresh fruits and vegetables from The Good Food Box for $18.
The program is open to everyone and provides a different mix of fresh food that members can pick up every two weeks.

Papaurelis also consults the flyers from a wide variety of stores every week, to track down the best prices.

Anneliese Papaurelis laid out the contents of one large box of fresh fruits and vegetables recently purchased from The Good Food Box for $18. (Anneliese Papaurelis)

Reduce waste

'We have close to 10 vegetables in here,' said Annaliese Papaurelis, who diced all her leftover vegetables, including broccoli stems, to make shepherd's pie this week. (Shari Okeke)

Papaurelis is saving money by dramatically reducing food waste.

She makes sure to use all the fresh food from the Good Food Box within two weeks, before picking up the next box. 

This week that meant throwing all the leftover vegetables into her shepherd's pie – including broccoli stems that she peeled.

Sneak in those pulses

Papaurelis has started adding red lentils to her shepherd's pie and other recipes because "it stretches the meat, and nobody really notices," she said.

"I've been buying my lentils at Aubut, which is another new thing I've started this year," said Papaurelis. "It's a restaurant supply store."

"I buy huge bags of pulses: We'll have red kidney beans and black lentils and red lentils at a really economical price," she said.

Give leftovers new life

Anneliese Papaurelis freezes small amounts of leftover stews in what she calls 'pucks' - single-serving containers. 'When one of the kids is hungry, they'll come in, grab a puck, throw it on corn chips or rice and then they have a lunch,' she said. (Shari Okeke)

Papaurelis also suggests:

  • Throw leftover cooked vegetables into shepherd's pie or other recipes.
  • Put leftover pot roast into the freezer in its sauce, then later chop it up to make fajitas. You can use the sauce to flavour a lentil stew.
  • When you have tiny amounts of leftover vegetables, put them into a lunch container and freeze them. Another day, add leftover rice or quinoa, then a third day, add some leftover meat. Eventually, you will have built a meal!

Cook once, eat (at least) twice

Anneliese Papaurelis and her fiancé Joel Aufgang dig into her shepherd's pie, made with ground beef on sale, red lentils and 10 different vegetables - many of them leftovers.

Papaurelis always makes enough for more than one meal for her family of five.

She made enough shepherd's pie to fill two pans, while she cooked up three huge containers of food for her dog.

Cut back on beef

Minerva Ferrel, a mother of three, was born in Mexico City but never liked beans. She recently cut beef out of her diet and discovered a deliciously simple, healthy and affordable black bean soup recipe which she makes regularly for her family. (Shari Okeke)

Minerva Ferrel and her husband stopped eating beef for health and environmental reasons, and the recent hike in food prices has persuaded her to stick with that plan.

Their three children still eat beef, but Ferrel is encouraging them to try alternatives.

She prefers to adjust what she buys instead of running around to various stores trying to find the best specials.

"I'm going to take out the most expensive item [from our grocery cart] and replace it with something else," she said.

Minerva Ferrel's black bean soup recipe calls for just a few fresh ingredients. (Shari Okeke)

"That brought me back to my roots, and I began cooking more with beans," Ferrel added.

One small bag of black beans from the supermarket is more than enough to make black bean soup, plus she plans to make two more recipes: molletes and enfrijoladas, which both require refried beans, she said.

"This is not expensive at all because [for] $1.50 you can make three meals," Ferrel said. 
Minerva Ferrel's black bean soup topped with cheese and cilantro now makes a regular appearance on her family's menu. (Shari Okeke)


Shari Okeke is writer/broadcaster for Daybreak on CBC Radio, and creator of Mic Drop, an award-winning CBC original podcast.


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