According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), a family of four with two school-age children could easily spend $800-$1200 a month at the grocery store. With a few simple changes in buying habits, that same family of four could chop $300-$500 a month from that bill, without sacrificing nutrition. Learn how to eat healthy on a budget.

Getting Started: 

Eat Healthy on a Budget

  • Take inventory of what you already have hidden in the back of the freezer or pantry for forgotten canned food and frozen meats and vegetables. This way you don’t duplicate your purchases.
  • Organize your pantry and refrigerator so that perishable items with the shortest use by date are closest to the front. Don’t buy more than you will actually use by the expiration date.
  • Decide ahead of time what meals you are going to plan for the week and make a list of ingredients. People who only go to the grocery store 1-2 times per week spend 54% less than those who make frequent trips. The list should help you get what you need so you don’t have to go back.
  • Check to see if any of the items you need are on sale or have special offers through coupons or special discounts. Don’t cut coupons for items you would not normally buy.
  • Planning a meal – When planning your meals, consider going meatless for one or two meals. Substituting beans for meat will save you calories as well as dollars.
  • Omit the less healthy treats and snacks from your list. Not only does it cost more, but the hydrogenated oils, saturated fats, sugar and sodium contained in many of these items can also cost you later down the road.
  • Plan your grocery store trip so you are not shopping when you are hungry. Impulse buys can really jack up the cost.
  • Look high and low for the less expensive or generic brands on grocery store shelves. They are often very similar to the more expensive but identical products that are placed at eye level.

What to Buy: 

Eat healthy on a budget grocery List

  • Meat
    • Consider buying meat in bulk. Ounce for ounce, large packages of meat tend to cost much less than small packages. If you find a good meat special buy an extra package or two, cook what you need and freeze the rest.
  • Poultry
    • This is another item you should consider buying in bulk. Occasionally a whole chicken is cheaper than buying a pound of chicken breasts. Roast the chicken and remove the skin before eating it. You can use the rest for soups and sandwiches.
  • Fish
    • Some fish can be expensive, so be on the lookout for deals on the fresh varieties. Opt for plain rather than breaded or marinated.
  • Beans and Lentils
    • Beans are a cheap and nutritious source of protein. Canned beans may seem cheap, but you can get a whole lot more value for your dollar when you buy dried beans and cook them yourself. Use them in burritos, add them to salads and pasta dishes, or slow cook them and serve with vegetables and rice for a completely balanced meal.
  • Dairy
    • Check out the ultra-pasteurized milk; it has a longer expiration date and won’t spoil as fast. Pre-sliced and pre-shredded cheese is more expensive than block cheese. Buy reduced-fat cheeses over milder ones. You won’t have to use as much, and your supply will last longer.
  • Fruits and Vegetables
    • Fresh produce can be expensive but if you are cutting back on processed snacks and non-essential packaged goods, you can afford some fresh fruits and veggies. Snacking on chopped carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli rather than salty fat-filled chips is much better for you. Buying the whole fruit or vegetable rather than pre-cut will be more cost-effective. Try to buy them in season. Stock up on frozen fruits and veggies when not in season.
  • Canned and packaged goods
    • Store brands are cheaper than named brands. Choose the lowest sodium possible, water packaged meat or tuna, and water-packed or in its own juice fruit. Canned tomatoes are a great bargain as they can be used in so many recipes. Purchase whole grain rice and pasta in large packages instead of smaller boxes for a lower unit price. Consider the savings of slow-cooked oats versus instant.
  • Condiments
    • Condiments add flavor and interest to your dishes. Buy as large a bottle as you can use for that lower unit price. Keep a variety of dried herbs, spices, low sodium marinades, vinegars and soy sauces, along with low sodium stock cubes in your pantry.

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