What is the best grocery list when eating healthy on a budget?

Nowadays, it can seem like it’s impossible to eat healthy. The cheapest foods in the grocery store are often bad for you, and produce realistically doesn’t provide enough calories to sustain someone entirely. In general, it seems like grocery shopping is getting more expensive while our wages stay about the same.

Eating healthy on a budget grocery list entails scanning the week’s sales, learning which foods are nutrient-dense and provide long-lasting energy, and making the most of canned goods, coupons, and meal planning. 

Thankfully, if you’re willing to dedicate some time to figure out the right ways to reduce your grocery expenses while still eating healthy, there are a number of ways one can shop smart in order to save money on healthy foods. Let’s look at the best ways you can cut down on your grocery expenses while still eating a healthy diet.

eating healthy on a budget grocery list

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Buy Canned Goods

Wait just a moment – this isn’t what you think it is. I’m not telling you to subsist on rice and canned black beans to make sure you’re eating healthily on a budget.

As it turns out, many of the healthy groceries we purchase that come in glass bottles or jars (pasta sauce, olives, even coconut milk) get upcharged due only to their packaging, and many of these types of products have at least a few alternative options that are in canned form.

For example, when purchasing marinara sauce, you may notice that at a grocery store, the cheapest 16oz marinara sauce available in a glass container was nearly $3.00. Next to it was a 16oz canned container of marinara sauce that cost $1.17. Even on Amazon, you can find canned pasta sauce like this 24oz Hunt’s Traditional Pasta Sauce for $0.92- not even a dollar.

Over time, making smart choices like this adds up big time.

Purchase Nutrient-Dense Produce to Keep You Fuller Longer

Fruits and vegetables have a reputation for being cheap but having very few calories, but not all of them are actually so low-cal. You can try and purchase produce items that provide more sustenance than, say, romaine lettuce, so that you can stay fuller for longer on cheap fruits and vegetables.

Besides just regular fruits and vegetables, dried fruits like these dried apricots are a great option too, as they pack lots of nutrients into such a small piece of food.

Nuts like these mixed nuts, which are a fruit product, also pack in an unbelievable amount of calories per serving.

Some of the most high-calorie fruit and veggie items you can buy include:

  • Bananas: around 100 calories per banana, high in potassium
  • Avocados: around 160 calories per avocado, high in healthy fats
  • Chickpeas: around 269 calories per cup of beans, high in protein
  • Sweet potatoes: around 250 calories per potato, high in fiber, Vitamin B, Vitamin C
  • Mango: around 100 calories per cup, high in fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C
  • Dried apricot: around 300 calories per cup, high in fiber, potassium
  • Mixed nuts: around 800 calories per cup, high in healthy fats

Cook Large Portions to Save for Later or Start Meal Planning

Sometimes, it can be difficult to use all the grocery items you purchase- especially if you’re buying more perishable healthy foods, like produce or tofu. One of the best ways to make sure you’re using all your food is to plan ahead.

You can make large portions of meals at each time and then refrigerate or freeze the leftovers to have for future meals. This works best with food that saves well like pasta, soup, rice and beans dishes.

You can also take up a meal planning hobby! Choose one day out of your week to prepare seven meals for yourself ahead of time. That way, they’re already there, and you can grab one conveniently.

Choosing either of these options means you’ll use more of your food, avoid convenience fast food, and fine-tune your cooking skills. Ever heard of killing three birds with one stone?

Get Organized with a Meal/Grocery Planner Notebook

Sometimes, just having a nice, aesthetically pleasing organizer is enough to get us motivated to start healthy habits.

You can find all different kinds of pre-made grocery/meal planner notebooks to buy, like this one on Amazon. Using things like these can help you remember exactly what your food plans are and make a fun activity out of an otherwise boring chore.

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If you don’t want to buy one, you can always make your own, following bullet journaling techniques! No matter how you choose to do it, this tip will help keep you on track.

Eat Natural Forms of Plant-Based Protein Instead of Processed Ones

For my vegetarian and vegan friends, I know it can be tempting to splurge on the Impossible Beef. I know your heart is begging you to grab two of those Beyond Burger patties. But we must resist.

If you’re really trying to eat healthy on a budget, there isn’t a whole lot of room for purchasing processed forms of plant-based protein. It’s not a knock on them being processed- rather, it’s the fact that they’re engineered that makes them so expensive.

Even Morning Star products, some of the cheaper plant-based protein options out there, can still be double the price of their natural source of plant-based protein counterpart.

Buying natural forms of plant-based protein can keep some of that cash in your pocket. A block of tofu can be found for as cheap as $2, and buying other natural sources of protein like tempeh or beans means you’re buying cheaper products that don’t sacrifice protein content- and they’re way better for you than their processed versions (although there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself with those every once in a while.)

Sign Up for Your Grocery Stores’ Rewards Program

For whatever reason, this seemingly obvious solution often goes overlooked for a long time. Perhaps it’s because you don’t get asked if you’d like to sign up at the register every time you check out, but as it turns out, it’s super easy to sign up and well worth the deals.

Most grocery stores have a rewards program that either allows customers to save up points that they can use towards later purchases or that gives them immediate discounts on select items. Either way, signing up for your grocery stores’ rewards program is an easy (and often free) way to get discounts with zero effort required.

In fact, most people can save around 10% on every trip to the grocery store after signing up for their local market’s program! Look into the programs available in your area, and start doing your shopping at the grocer that gives you the best deals.

Look for Coupons Before Shopping

There’s no need to become an extreme couponer to benefit from the discounts these babies can give you! Before you make your trip to the grocery store, look to see if you can find any coupons that discount healthy food items that you can bring to the store with you.

Some grocery stores print coupons you can use at their locations on the back of your receipt. There are also a number of online resources you can choose from- websites like Coupons.com offer free, printable coupons you can use at the grocery store.

With coupons, you can expect to save a lot- up to 60%, depending on the coupons you’re able to find. This seemingly obvious but easily forgettable tip is game-changing.

Have the Confidence to Get Healthy on a Budget

Getting ready to eat healthy on a budget grocery list doesn’t have to be daunting; you can take up all different kinds of new habits to make sure you’re saving on food where you need to. Whether you get organized with a grocery planner, look for cheap canned foods, or start making your food ahead of time, you’re sure to save money with these great tips. Good luck!

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eating healthy on a tight budget grocery list

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