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The Ultimate Cheap & Healthy Grocery to Help You Save Money

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The Ultimate Cheap & Healthy Grocery to Help You Save Money

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Healthy and affordable food options include frozen, fresh, and canned goods. 
  • You can save money by looking through grocery store flyers and buying promotional items. 
  • Consider working with a registered dietitian to learn more ways to build a healthy diet while staying within your budget.

A 2023 report from Australia found the cost of healthy foods (vegetables, lean proteins, etc.) has increased by almost 18%.

US data suggests that 2024 food prices will continue to rise despite already being at historical all-time highs. 

With rising food costs, it’s the perfect time to learn how to feed yourself and your loved ones while sticking to a budget.

You can push your dollar in several ways, and the most helpful place to start is to cook more food at home. 

In this article, you’ll learn how to build a healthy grocery list (that includes plenty of delicious foods) while following a budget. 

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Eating Healthy on a Budget 

The recent American nutrition guidelines define a healthy diet as nutrient-dense foods that celebrate your culture and accommodate your financial and dietary preferences. 

Although your nutrition requirements change throughout each life stage, general healthy eating patterns should carry over.

Behaviors linked to a healthy diet include: 

  • Enjoying all types of vegetables
  • Eating fruits, primarily whole. 
  • Consuming grains, ideally whole grains, 50% of the time. 
  • Picking lower-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheeses. 
  • Choosing various protein-rich foods, including plant-based options like beans and lentils. 
  • Including oils from plant-based sources like olive oil and fats from nuts and fish. 

Additional considerations include limiting your intake of saturated fats, added sugars, sodium, and alcoholic beverages.

You don’t need to avoid these foods to be healthy, but they should be consumed in moderation. 

Cheap Foods That Are Nutritious and Delicious

Making nutritious and delicious meals is easy when you keep a well-stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry.

And by well-stocked, we don’t mean overflowing with food—instead, we suggest carefully selecting food choices you love that will be eaten instead of thrown out.

This makes a big difference in your nutrition and spending habits. 

Remember, you don’t need fancy ingredients to be healthy, but readily available staples will make cooking smoother and decrease the chances for unplanned dining out (which can be expensive.) 

Vegetables 

Vegetables offer fiber, antioxidants, and essential minerals and vitamins.

Eating at least one green and one orange or red vegetable daily can be helpful to maximize your nutritional intake.

The bright colors house many nutrients and will satisfy several vitamin requirements. 

Nowadays, many vegetables are available frozen, canned, or fresh.

Frozen options are the most economical because their shelf life is the longest.

They’re still rich in nutrition, but the texture will be softer than fresh options. 

  • Broccoli tastes excellent with dip or can be roasted, steamed, or added to a stir fry. 
  • Carrots are highly versatile and often go on sale. 
  • Spinach is perfect for smoothies, salads, or pasta dishes. 
  • Cabbage “steaks” are popular (thick cross-section) and can be roasted. You can also grate raw cabbage for coleslaw. 
  • Sweet Potatoes can be mashed, boiled, or popped into the air-fryer for a crispy texture. 
  • Canned tomatoes often go on sale and are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. Add them to soups and rice dishes, or make pasta sauce. 
  • Corn (frozen or canned).   
  • Onions add immense flavor to food and are highly versatile. 

On average, these vegetables are all less than two dollars a pound (or can) and are great budget-friendly foods. 

Fruits 

Like vegetables, fruits are also rich in fiber, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients.

They’re naturally sweet and add great flavor to dishes and snacks.

You might get better savings when buying fruits in season, so check out local farmer’s markets when shopping. 

  • Bananas are easy to digest and are rich in potassium. 
  • Apples are a staple, come in hundreds of varieties, and can be sour or sweet. 
  • Oranges contain fiber and calcium.  
  • Frozen berries have a significantly longer shelf life than delicate fresh fruits. Add them to yogurts and cereals, or use them for baking.

These fruits cost less than two dollars a pound, except for the frozen berries, which cost an average of three dollars and sixty cents.

Sometimes, you can find great deals on “old” fruits, which you could freeze at home and add to smoothies. 

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Protein Sources 

  • Eggs are a staple and frequently go on sale. 
  • Canned tuna or salmon is more affordable than fresh filets and can be used in hot and cold dishes. 
  • Chicken breast tends to be an affordable cut of meat. Bone-in chicken thighs are sometimes even cheaper. 
  • Pork chops are inexpensive and very easy to prepare. They go well with apples and other sweet foods, like sweet potatoes. 
  • Dehydrated lentils (and all beans) are rich in protein and other essential nutrients. 
  • Tofu is made from soy and is a nutritious and versatile plant-based option. 

Like most dietary staples, protein sources often go on sale, and they’re worth buying in bulk if you have the freezer space (or pantry space for canned items). 

Whole Grains 

  • Brown rice has slightly more nutrients than white rice and is considered a whole grain.
  • Barley is affordable and can be added to soups or stews. You can also try barley flakes for a morning porridge. 
  • Whole wheat bread, cereals, and crackers.  
  • Oats are versatile and great for eating warm or using in baking. 
  • Air-popped popcorn is a whole grain and filling snack—season at home with olive oil, garlic powder, and chili seasoning. 

These grains cost two to four dollars per pound but vary per state.

You can buy smaller volumes at bulk food stores to try new grains (without committing to large kilo-sized bags).

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Dairy and Calcium-Rich Foods 

  • Greek yogurt is rich in protein and calcium and is a convenient snack choice. 
  • Cottage cheese is also rich in protein and can be used on toast or to make dip.
  • Milk is a staple item for many families and frequently goes on sale. You can buy a few cartons and freeze them. 

Other Healthy and Affordable Options 

  • Canned beans are nutrient-dense, affordable, and can last for years on your shelf. Always drain and rinse your beans thoroughly before cooking to remove excess salt.  
  • Canned fruits in water are another great addition to your menu, especially if you only need a small amount out of season, like pineapple. 
  • Peanut butter is satiating and can be used as a cooking ingredient to enhance the creamy texture of soups and stir-fries. 

Generally, nut butter might be more affordable than whole nuts.

If you love the flavor, try experimenting with different varieties (almond, sunflower, cashew, etc.) to continue reaping the healthful benefits of nuts and seeds.

This includes better cardiovascular health, blood sugar control, and reduced cancer risk. 

Tips for Cutting Down Grocery Costs

Leafing through flyers is a great way to build a budget-friendly grocery list. You can buy discounted items and create your weekly menu.

Other helpful tips include: 

  • Repurposing leftovers and food scraps. 
  • Shopping at several stores because retailers may have different promotions. 
  • Using points (if the store has a loyalty program). 
  • Choosing generic options instead of brand names. 
  • Buying seasonally. 
  • Purchasing wholesale items may be more cost-effective for larger families. You’ll have to do a cost analysis to determine if it’s worthwhile.  
  • Couponing. 

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Takeaway

Becoming a savvy shopper is easy when you prepare in advance.

Before heading to the store, build a grocery list, including promotional items, and consider stocking up your freezer or pantry if you find great deals. 

Try visiting several grocery stores and food markets to complete your shopping.

Although this can take more time, you’ll be exposed to more sales and can be more selective with your purchases. 

When making food at home, save the scraps and challenge yourself to create something new from last night’s leftovers.

Some extremely forgiving meals in this department include soups, stews, sandwiches, or mixed salads. 

How a Dietitian Can Help

A registered dietitian is a nutrition expert and licensed health care professional.

They can translate health information into beneficial daily practices you can follow to stay healthy. 

You may not know what to expect if you’ve never met with a dietitian.

Here are questions to ask: 

  • How can I start planning meals? 
  • How do I repurpose leftovers? 
  • Are frozen vegetables as healthy as fresh? 
  • How do I cook beans and lentils? 

Find a dietitian near you through Nourish and build a budget-friendly grocery list. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the healthiest and cheapest food to eat?

There are several healthy and affordable foods to eat.

Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables are a great place to start because they offer antioxidants and other vital nutrients. 

You can balance the meal by including lean protein such as chicken or lentils and add a comforting starch such as baked sweet potato. 

If you need more meal ideas, consider booking an appointment with a registered dietitian.

How do I make a cheap and healthy grocery list?

Look through flyers of your local grocery store and see what’s on sale.

Then, build your grocery list using these items. 

You may get further discounts by applying coupons or redeeming points (if a loyalty program exists).

What are cheap healthy foods that are filling?

Filling foods are rich in fiber, protein, or satiating fats. Here are some examples: 

  • Nut butter on whole-grain toast. 
  • Lentil salad with olive oil dressing. 
  • Kidney bean stew with cabbage, carrot, and diced tomato. 
  • Boiled eggs on whole grain crackers. 
  • Greek yogurt with frozen berries.

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