Ultimate Grocery Guide: Budget-Friendly

Danielle Omar, RD
by Danielle Omar, RD
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Ultimate Grocery Guide: Budget-Friendly

If eating healthier and cooking at home is your goal this year, learning how to navigate the grocery store is your first order of business! As a budget grocery shopper myself, I’ve mastered the art of eating well without spending an arm and a leg on food.

Yes, sometimes this means going to several different grocery stores to get the best price. I don’t mind — over time, the savings really adds up. Knowing which items I’m OK spending a little more on (like organic, pastured or free-range eggs) motivates me to find a deal somewhere else to balance it out. I know that I can eat healthy no matter what my food budget is, and you can, too!

Whether you have a strict food budget or are just trying to spend less this year, there’s no reason your grocery bill has to break the bank! You can make delicious, nutritious meals at home while keeping your food costs down.

THE STRATEGY

Meal planning is king when it comes to budget shopping. A cardinal rule for my clients is to never buy food you don’t have a plan for. This prevents the end-of-the-week garbage toss of all that fresh produce you bought and had no clue what to do with.

To keep food costs down, focus on fresh, in-season produce when meal planning. Stick to your grocery list and avoid buying convenience foods. By that I mean prechopped, pre-sliced and pre-cleaned foods. These are much more expensive than the ones you have to peel and slice yourself. This goes not just for produce, but for meat and poultry, too!

To get started, use this Ultimate Budget-Friendly Grocery Guide to build a pantry stocked with foundational foods you should always have on hand. These foods are inexpensive, nutritious and can be used in many different types of recipes and eating styles.

ULTIMATE GROCERY GUIDE

VEGETABLES
Baby spinach
Beets
Beets
Broccoli, whole
Cabbage, whole
Carrots, whole
Cauliflower, whole
Celery
Garlic
Lettuce, whole
Mushrooms, whole
Onions
Parsley
Sweet potatoes

FRUIT
Apples
Bananas
Grapefruit
Kiwi
Oranges

MEAT AND POULTRY 
Bone-in chicken drumsticks
Bone-in chicken thighs
Bone-in pork chops
Ground beef
Ground turkey
Whole chicken

FISH AND SEAFOOD
Canned clams
Canned salmon
Cod
Sardines
Tilapia

GRAINS
Barley
Brown rice
Oatmeal
Quinoa
Whole-wheat bread
Whole-wheat pasta

FROZEN FOOD
Berries
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cauliflower rice
Chopped spinach
Corn
Edamame
Fish and seafood
Green beans
Mixed peppers
Mixed vegetables

PANTRY STAPLES
Baking powder
Baking soda
Canned beans
Canned tomatoes
Chia seed
Ground flaxseed
Cooking stock
Dried beans and lentils
Olive oil
Peanut butter
Peanuts
Popcorn
Pumpkin seeds
Whole-wheat flour
Yeast

DAIRY AND DAIRY ALTERNATIVES
Butter
Cottage cheese
Eggs
Milk
Nut and seed milks (almond, soy, coconut and other nut or seed-based milks)
String cheese
Tofu
Yogurt

BUDGET-FRIENDLY SHOPPING STRATEGIES

  • Meal prepping is a great way to save money and time in the kitchen. Plan your meals ahead of time, and only buy what you’ve planned for.
  • Check unit pricing when choosing between brands and bulk food items.
  • Avoid highly processed foods and packaged snacks, as they are less nutritious per ounce. Invest in your health with nutrient-dense foods.
  • Visit stores like Aldi, Walmart, and Trader Joe’s for inexpensive produce and bargains on frozen food.
  • Buy whole produce instead of pre-chopped or bagged produce; compare prices for the best value.
  • Meat and poultry are cheaper when purchased in bulk and with less processing. Consider purchasing whole cuts and then repackaging in smaller amounts that you can freeze and use later.
  • Look for BOGO sales down the frozen food aisle and stock up for future meals.
  • Choose plant-based meals made with less expensive ingredients to stretch your grocery budget.

SAMPLE BUDGET-FRIENDLY MEAL PLAN

Here’s a budget-friendly meal plan using recipes from the MyFitnessPal recipe collection.

Breakfast: Make-ahead oatmeal jars are a great way to stretch your food budget. Not into oatmeal? Check out these 11 budget-friendly ideas.

Lunch: This stir-fried cauliflower “rice” bowl is nutrient-rich and the perfect use for frozen veggies. Here are a few more budget-friendly ideas under 400 calories.

Snack: Snacks don’t have to break the bank. Here are six satisfying snacks for less than $1.

Dinner: This Greek chicken sheet pan dinner is super tasty and easy on the wallet. No matter what type of diet you follow, you can always find budget-friendly options!

THE BOTTOM LINE

Grocery costs have gone up in the past year, but you don’t have to break the bank to eat healthily. With a few tweaks, you can stick to your budget and nourish your body, too. Choose recipes that use lower-cost ingredients, plan out your meals, make your list, and stick to it. Your budget (and your body) will thank you!

Ready to take the next step? Unlock MyFitnessPal Premium to access custom goal settings, quick-log recipes, and guided plans from a registered dietitian. Premium users are 65% more likely to reach their weight loss goals!

About the Author

Danielle Omar, RD
Danielle Omar, RD

Danielle is an integrative dietitian, culinary nutritionist, author and consultant, frequently lending her love of creating to high-profile food and nutrition media outlets. She’s a regularly featured blogger and founder of foodconfidence.comwhere she inspires men and women on their journey to become their healthiest self. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

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