Money-Saving Hack: A Healthy Grocery List on a Budget
You don’t have to choose between a healthy budget and a healthy body.
December 2, 2022
When you’re trying to trim your spending on your weekly grocery shop, it can feel like you must choose between a serious hit on your bank account and giving your body what it needs. Fortunately, making a healthy grocery list on a budget is possible — but it requires some thought and preparation.
You might not be eating steak and fresh berries every day, but healthy doesn’t always equal expensive. We’ll run through our top recommendations for your next shopping trip and some extra tips to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.
11 top items for a healthy grocery list on a budget
The cost of living has become more expensive recently, but replacing some of your pricier favorites with affordable alternatives can ensure you still eat well.
Consider these 11 items if you want to make a healthy grocery list on a budget.
1. Brown rice
When it comes to healthy meals, whole grains are a must. Brown rice is a better source of fiber and nutrients than white rice since it retains its original vitamins and minerals, but it’s only slightly more expensive.
Combined with the next item on our list, it can be used for some filling, but very cheap, meals.
The legume family includes lentils, beans and chickpeas; they’re pretty much the quintessential budget-friendly and healthy food staple. You can buy enough for multiple servings for just a dollar or two, yet they’re a great plant-based source of protein and other minerals.
Buy them already prepared in cans for quick meals, or opt for the dried version if you want to save even more money.
While legumes may have a reputation for being “boring,” they’re a staple for many Latin American dishes. Create a delicious Brazilian stew with black beans, or turn them into refried beans and eat them with tacos.
It’s still possible to have a healthy breakfast when trying to eat on a budget. It doesn’t get much better than oats. Just cook them up with milk and your topping of choice for a meal full of protein and fiber.
There’s no need for the controversial avocado toast or a fancy açaí bowl.
Few foods are more versatile than the humble potato. Mashed, boiled, french fried or baked, potatoes possibilities are endless.
Sweet potatoes, slightly less affordable than their white counterparts, are sometimes seen as healthier thanks to their lower glycemic index (meaning they don’t spike your blood sugar as much).
Spinach is the vegetable that has it all. It’s full of vitamins A and C, iron and fiber. It’s easy to throw into just about any meal. Best of all, you can buy large quantities without having to part with too much of your hard-earned cash.
6. Frozen berries
Berries, like blueberries and raspberries, are arguably some of the most nutritious fruits around thanks to their antioxidants and countless other nutrients. If you buy them fresh, they can cost a fortune, but opting for frozen berries is often a more affordable alternative. Treating yourself to morning smoothies or a sweet snack doesn’t have to cost you.
7. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are a well-known “superfood.” Like berries, they contain antioxidants and a host of other minerals. While some other superfoods might be notoriously expensive, chia seeds are one of the more budget-friendly options.
Many of the yogurts you’ll find in the supermarket are filled with added sugars, but opting for a more natural version leaves you with just good, nutritious food. Yogurt is full of probiotics — which help to look after your gut — plus a lot of calcium.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, consider Greek yogurt. It contains more protein and less sugar.
We can’t all afford to eat meat and fish every day, but if you want something that contains pretty much every nutrient you need and is filling enough to satiate you, consider eggs instead. It costs less than $3 to buy a dozen, and you only need to use a couple per serving.
As with potatoes, they’re incredibly versatile — eat them scrambled, poached, fried, in an omelet or in whatever way you can imagine.
10. Frozen chicken
If we tried to name all the staple meals that contain chicken, we’d be here all day. Chicken is low in saturated fat, yet high in protein.
While it’s a classic, chicken can be pricey — especially expensive cuts like the breast. Frozen chicken is a more budget-friendly option.
11. Canned tuna
Fish might not be everyone’s favorite, but it’s one of the most nutritious foods around. It’s full of healthy fats thanks to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (which are tough to find in most foods and help protect the heart).
Unfortunately, fish tends to come with a high price tag that makes it out of reach for many. Canned tuna is a saving grace — and as a bonus, you don’t need to be a pro chef to add it to your meals.
Tips for affordable, healthy grocery shopping
Even if you buy nothing but the items listed above on your next shopping trip, you could still spend more money than necessary by failing to plan appropriately. Here are some of the best tactics to achieve affordable, healthy eating.
Buy in bulk
When you buy a large packet of food, most retailers give you a discount. This might not be a viable option for items like fresh fruit or vegetables, but it’s a great way to buy pantry staples such as nuts, seeds and canned goods.
Try meal planning
Some people struggle to stay within their grocery budget simply due to a lack of preparation. If you run to the store every night for individual ingredients, you may end up spending far more than if you’d carefully planned your weekly shopping trip. This allows you to take advantage of bulk buys, purchase ingredients you can use in multiple meals and ensure nothing goes to waste.
Don’t always buy fresh
When we’re trying to shop healthy, most of us head straight for the fresh produce section. However, frozen veggies and fruits may be more nutritious since items are frozen immediately instead of being stored and transported for days. You can buy practically all vegetables this way — from zucchini to mushrooms — and frozen meat can also be a good choice.
Canned food sometimes loses nutritional value if it’s processed first, but don’t rule it out. Canned fish is better than eating no fish at all, and canned fruit is better than chocolate.
Consider less popular cuts of meat
Meat may seem expensive, but that’s partly because most people want chicken breast, diced beef, steak and other popular cuts. If you’re prepared to go outside of your comfort zone by trying more budget-friendly options, your grocery bill will reflect the difference. Full pieces of meat (i.e., a whole chicken) and bonier or fattier cuts are economical options.
Be mindful of where you shop
It’s not just what you buy; it’s also where you buy it. Grocery stores like Aldi are known for being kind to your grocery budget, whereas Whole Foods is known for being expensive. Compare prices in your area to find budget-friendly stores.
You can also look at weekly ads and clip coupons to find the best deals on the items you need.
There’s no need to compromise
They say that you can’t have it all, but you can have health and affordability. Take time to carefully plan out your meals and create a healthy grocery list on a budget, and you’re unlikely to feel like you’re compromising when it’s time to eat.
If you’re feeling the pinch, working on your grocery spending is just the start. Subscribe to Tally's† newsletter for a range of personal finance tips, from simple budgeting advice to guidance on tackling debt.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 to $300.