The grocery store can be a tricky and pricey place.
When you push your cart through the sliding doors, you may have every intention of filling it with healthy foods for your family and sticking to your budget. But somehow, what ends up in your cart might not be as healthy or wallet-friendly as planned.
Fortunately, by following a few tried and true tricks, you can come home with wholesome foods that don’t break the bank! Follow these tips to make your next grocery shopping trip a success:
- Begin with a plan. Create a grocery list in advance to help limit impulse purchases, but don’t be afraid to make smart swaps when you’re in the store! If there’s a more cost-effective option available (e.g., green beans are on sale when you’d planned for asparagus), it’s OK to alter your list to stick to your budget and your healthy eating plan.
- Be mindful of meats. Choose ‘Select’ or ‘Choice’ grade meats rather than ‘Prime’ cuts. ‘Prime’ cuts are more expensive and higher in fat, so being mindful of your meat selection can help your pocketbook and your health. If you are using meat for soups, stews or casseroles, choose tougher cuts to save even more money.
- Think plant-based protein. Items like beans, tofu, and textured vegetable protein can be used to replace meat in almost any dish and they cost less than meat. Beans and legumes are great in soups, burritos, and casseroles. Tofu works well in chilies, stir-frys, soups, or even when made into burgers. Textured vegetable protein (TVP) or textured soy protein is very inexpensive and can be used in place of some or all of the meat in a dish like lasagna, meatballs, tacos, or chili. Bonus, it’s also high in protein and low in fat! You can reap the savings as well as the health benefits by making these substitutions in your cooking.
- Buy (whole-grains) in bulk. Whole grains are important sources of nutrients such as B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and fiber and are inexpensive if you buy them in bulk. With a long shelf life, whole grains like brown rice, steel cut oats, barley, and whole wheat pasta can be stored in your pantry for weeks or months at a time. And don’t forget you can also freeze your whole grain breads! Buy more when your favorite is on sale and double bag in plastic freezer bags to avoid freezer burn.
- Look for less packaging. While it is convenient, buying individually packaged meats, chicken breasts and preformed hamburger patties can cost much more than a whole chicken or bulk packages of lean ground beef. The same goes for individually packaged snacks, like fruit cups and trail mix. Buy foods with less packaging, and set aside 20 minutes at home when unpacking groceries to portion and repackage those foods. You’ll save money, and minimize the inconvenience.
- Consider all your fruit and veggie options. Locally grown, seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables are often reasonably priced. Look for asparagus, lettuce, and peas in the spring; berries, tomatoes, and green beans in the summer; and apples, broccoli, and sweet potatoes in the fall. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are also great options, as they can be just as nutritious but cheaper than fresh versions. Choose canned and frozen fruits and veggies without added sugar, syrup, salt or creamy sauces. A bonus of canned and frozen? They have a longer shelf-life than fresh, so you’re less likely to throw away spoiled food – and the dollars you spent on it.
- Make meals with few (and common) ingredients. One of the biggest challenges to healthy cooking on a budget is that some recipes require the purchase of lots of ingredients or ingredients you might not use again. When making your grocery list, plan for meals with limited, common ingredients. Here are a few to get you started:
Sound delicious and easy? To get you started, we’ve put together the shopping list for the Light and Zesty Spinach Pasta.
- 1 can Italian-Style Diced Tomatoes
- Box of multigrain penne pasta
- Baby spinach
- Shredded 2% milk Italian three cheese blend
- Crushed red pepper flakes
Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.