How a Nutritionist Spends $50 at Walmart

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
by Trinh Le, MPH, RD
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How a Nutritionist Spends $50 at Walmart

With 5,000 plus stores and counting, Walmart is a big discount retail chain with a presence in every corner of America. Millions of shoppers go to Walmart for everything from big-screen TVs to lawn chairs, DVDs, shampoo and, of course, groceries. “Healthy” may not be the first word that pops into your mind when you think of Walmart but budget might be. With a good game plan you can walk away with a wholesome haul while saving moola!

We sent a nutritionist to Walmart with $50 to see what she came out with. Unlike specialty stores such as Trader Joe’s, Walmart is ideal for staple foods like bread, beans, fruits, veggies, herbs and spices. Here, you can stock up on kitchen basics that will get you through the week and beyond.

The total cost came out to be $51.45 for these 17 items from Walmart. Here’s her report:

WALMART AT-A-GLANCE

Walmart is considerate of the cost-conscious shopper. They list the total price and the “price-per-ounce” to help shoppers compare different items and figure out which is the best bargain. Their store brand, Great Value (GV), offers a wide selection of items at a lower price.

Here’s a cost-efficient way to get whole-grains: a loaf of “100% whole-wheat” bread. It costs less than the popular sprouted-grain breads made with nuts and seeds and is a good base for everything from avocado toast to tuna sandwiches. Honey and other sweeteners are on the ingredients list, but I don’t mind because it contributes to the bread’s softness and moisture.

Nutrition Info (1 slice): 100 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 135mg sodium, 19g total carbs, 3g fiber, 3g sugars, 5g protein

Did you know, frozen fruits and vegetables are often just as nutritious as fresh? Fresh produce often travels thousands of miles before reaching the store. Freezing said produce helps lock in valuable vitamins and minerals, which is why I stock up on these frozen broccoli florets. Surprisingly, they were a few cents cheaper per ounce compared to fresh broccoli, which still had the stalks on. A bonus: They’re more shelf-stable, too.

Nutrition Info (1 1/3 cup): 30 calories, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 20mg sodium, 4g total carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugars, 1g protein

Walmart’s GV line has many organic canned products to choose from. I bought three cans — black beans, corn, garbanzo — to mix after rinsing and draining to get rid of the extra sodium. I store this mix in the fridge and add it to cooked rice, salads and soups to bulk up my meal. Beans and whole-kernel corn are a great way to get vitamins and fiber!

A one-pound box of whole-wheat pasta is a steal at less than a buck each. Whole-wheat pasta is a great way to get whole-grains and fiber. For those who can’t tolerate gluten, try Lensi Pasta made with black bean, chickpea or lentil flour. They’re lower in carbs, and pack more protein and fiber per serving. Fair warning: It is pricier at $0.34 per ounce compared to $0.06 for whole-wheat pasta, though.

Nutrition Info (2 ounces): 210 calories, 1.5g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg sodium, 41g total carbs, 5g fiber, 2g sugars, 7g protein

Sure, it’s cheaper to buy oatmeal in bulk and DIY your own mix, but I like having flavored oatmeal packets just in case I’m having a really lazy morning. I will mix in 2–4 tablespoons of dry oatmeal with each packet before cooking because I like a heartier breakfast. Walmart’s GV version of flavored oatmeal is less expensive than the brand name version, which sells for $0.25 per ounce. Choose from apple cinnamon, maple sugar or berries and cream.

Nutrition Info (1 packet apple cinnamon): 130 calories, 1.5g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 180mg sodium, 27g total carbs, 3g fiber, 12g sugars, 3g protein

Admittedly, fresh salads can get pricey, but I like my leafy greens. My work-around is to buy a big tub of spring mix salad or large bag of baby spinach. It’s cheaper than salad kits. To curb food waste, I’ll use salad greens in smoothies if they’re not perky enough for salads.

A good dressing goes a looonng way! Kraft’s raspberry vinaigrette is just right — not too tangy with a hint of sweetness. Despite the bright color, this dressing uses no artificial colors such as red 40. At just 30 calories for two tablespoons, this is a low-calorie dressing.

Nutrition Info (2 tablespoons): 30 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 240mg sodium, 5g total carbs, 0g fiber, 5g sugar, 0g protein

They’re a splurge compared to potato chips but these baked goodies aren’t as addicting (at least not for me). I munch on them sparingly as a snack along with hummus and baby carrots. I also like to use them as croutons and crumble them over salads.

Nutrition Info (1 ounce): 130 calories, 5g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 270mg sodium, 19g total carbs, 1g fiber, 1g sugars, 3g protein

At Walmart, boneless, skinless chicken breast can be purchased for about $2 per pound making it a relatively frugal protein source of. Frozen prepared chicken breast or strips are more expensive costing about $2.50–$3 per pound. In most cases, it’s not worth it to shell out the extra cash because frozen chicken breast can be pumped with sodium and doesn’t taste quite the same as that cooked from raw.

These frozen Greek yogurt bars are my stand-in for regular ice cream, but to be honest I own both. Yasso bars are great when I want something cold and sweet but light. One bar contains about 3 teaspoons of sugar and 5 grams of protein. The chocolate bits mixed into these bars make them that much more decadent.

Nutrition Info (1 bar): 100 calories, 2g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 60mg sodium, 16g total carbs, 0g fiber, 13g sugars, 5g protein

This splurge is also a healthful investment. You get four pounds of frozen strawberries for less than $10. Frozen strawberries are a low-sugar fruit, which is why they’re perfect for protein smoothies since most protein powders already come pre-sweetened. My post-workout smoothie obsession at the moment is 1/2 scoop of vanilla protein powder, 1/2 teaspoon of matcha powder plus water, spinach and frozen berries.

Given the constraints, I’d still set aside at least $3 for fresh fruit by buying whatever is cheap and in-season. The trick is to look for fruits costing around $1.50 per pound. While it depends on the time of year, apples, bananas and oranges consistently cost less than other fruits.

Steak seasoning isn’t just for the grill — I use it as a marinade for any lean protein or chopped veggies (e.g., potatoes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts) bound for the oven. Be careful when seasoning with this mix because it already contains salt.

You can’t have pita chips without the hummus. Sabra makes a variety of flavored hummus including roasted garlic, sun-dried tomato and basil pesto, which are a few of my favorites. I’ll admit that you can make plain hummus (and certain flavors) for much less, but flavored hummus is a different story unless you already have all the necessary ingredients at home.

What’s your favorite item at Walmart? Share it in the comments below.

About the Author

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh is a registered dietitian by day, blogger at Fearless Food RD by night. She loves helping folks develop a better relationship with food, which includes lots of cooking, eating and learning about nutrition. When she’s not snapping mouthwatering shots of (mostly) healthy food, you can find Trinh HIIT-ing it at her local gym. For more, connect with her on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.

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11 responses to “How a Nutritionist Spends $50 at Walmart”

  1. Avatar becky berry says:

    Um, Trader Joe’s has all those things and they pay their employees a fair wage and offer benefits and retirement plans. I understand that not everyone has access to a TJs but don’t throw them under the bus to promote awful Walmart.

    • Avatar Angela says:

      I work at Walmart. I am paid a fair wage. I have medical, dental, and vision insurance, and a 401k. I was eligible for all benefits after one year and have been with the company three years.

      • Avatar becky berry says:

        benefits after a year?? that doesn’t seem cool. should be after a month.

        • Avatar Jennifer Cameron says:

          My guess is part time. Full time get it on the first of the month that their 89th day of continuous employment falls on. For instance if you started on May first your 89th day will fall in the end of July, your insurance and benefits would begin on July 1st. Many employers do not offer insurance for at least 3 months also they do not have to offer insurance to part time employees at all but they do.

          • Avatar becky berry says:

            i do think walmart has made a lot of progress in recent years in the treatment of its very deserving employees. it took a lot of pressure though for wages to increase, benefits to be offered, etc. i still have a hard time with the amount of communities that lost mom and pop shops (my hometown included) because walmart came in and they couldn’t compete with the prices. kind of a moot point now since amazon does the same thing and i am a hypocrite because i love amazon!:)

            i think my original point was that trader joe’s is actually quite affordable and has always been great to its employees. it offered extremely affordable organic and GMO free food waaaay before it was the cool and trendy thing to do. and it has so many awesome healthy frozen meals that have saved me when i was too tired to cook and tempted to get fast food.

            bottom line: do what you have to do to access healthier foods, even if that means walmart. and on that note, i’m heading out to the farmers market!

          • Avatar Jennifer Cameron says:

            They have a post on here on how to spend $50 at trader Joe’s too. There isn’t a trader Joe’s within 200 miles of me. Walmart is all I have.

          • Avatar Angela says:

            In my town, the mom and pop stores had very few employees and didn’t offer benefits. I know it isn’t the case in every town, but having a Walmart store has been a blessing to our little community.

        • Avatar Jennifer Cameron says:

          Oh, they also match 6% on 401k give bonuses every quarter and now offer 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and 6 weeks leave to other parent. Also offer help with fees associated with adoption. They also have resources for living which has all kinds of medical, legal, and mental health help. They also give millions to charity every year. If a town has a Walmart you can bet that they are providing for things like youth sports or programs to stop domestic violence or any other local group that needs funding. Let’s not forget the millions they donated to hurricane relief. Also, the associate in need fund. If you are down and out there is a fund that you can potentially have access to.

  2. Avatar Swingshift Worker says:

    A total waste of money the way it was spent.

  3. Avatar Wayne says:

    Frozen produce? Horrile choice. You should only eat fresh produce, and cook your own food. It is always healthier. Shame on this nutritionest. If this was my nutritionest I would fire him on the spot. Also I woyld never suggest buying produce at walmart. They get what falls off the back of the truck. Always over ripe, almost never local or even from the USA.

  4. Avatar Cortney Monaghan Zimmerman says:

    Thought this was a good article for people who eat lousy and don’t have much cash to spend. Buying fresh produce and going local is great, but not everyone has the time. Or let’s face it, we all get lazy every once in a while. So, in short, good little list.

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