9 Tips for Healthy and AFFORDABLE Grocery Shopping

uper cheap apples

One of the most common complaints we hear from people is that it’s too expensive to eat healthfully. This is factually false!

The truth: You’ll need to spend more time and effort to eat healthfully on a low budget. If you have time and are willing to cook, eating healthy can be cheaper than eating junk food. If you don’t have time, just think about the time spent watching TV, Facebook, and playing on your iPhone. Surely you can find time for health. Here’s our advice on shopping healthfully.

Tip #1 Prepare a shopping list and stick with it

Supermarkets are finely oiled marketing machines that rely on your impulse purchases to make a profit. If you come prepared with a list, there is a better chance to withstand the temptation


Tip #2 Predefine a junk food limit

You can’t buy only healthy foods, that’s understandable. Decide that you will buy only 3 junk food items per store visit. When you reach the checkout counter and see more than 3 unhealthy items in your cart, remove all but three.


Tip #3 Spend more time in the produce section

This is a no brainer. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be a big part of your shopping expenditure. Despite a very large variety, most people stick to a very small number of favorites. Make a decision to buy a new produce item each week and find a recipe for it. There are many great ways to prepare relatively cheap vegetables and roots such as cabbage, cauliflower, and beets. Lastly, don’t be tempted with all the packaged stuff in the produce section such as salad dressing, pre-cut salads, croutons, etc…


Tip #4 Try frozen or canned fruits and vegetables

The price of fresh produce often fluctuates based on season and availability of locally harvested goods. Sometimes a pint of fresh strawberries will be just too expensive. This is an opportunity for frozen foods. Frozen vegetables and fruit are actually just as nutrient dense as their fresh counterparts.

Unlike fresh fruit, they are picked at peak ripeness. Then they are flash frozen, a process that retains almost all the nutrients, sometimes even more than a fresh fruit waiting for you on a supermarket shelf.


Tip #5 Buy bulk whole foods

The bulk section will give you the best bang for your buck. Items such as oats, brown rice, legumes, nuts, and seeds are cheaper than smaller, branded and bagged items. They usually don’t have any added ingredients that could make them less healthy (such as salt added to nuts).


Tip #6 If it doesn’t make it home, you’re not going to eat it

We’ve all had those moments. You’re craving something to eat, and you raid the pantry for a big bag of chips, or the freezer for a quart of ice cream. But what if they weren’t there?  Not buying these junk foods, means you won’t be eating them. This simple, proven technique also saves you a lot of money.


Tip #7 Do not enter: the beverage aisle

A family of 4 can save $500 a year simply by switching from soft drinks to tap water. If you don’t like water, here’s a list of 10 easy tips to get you drinking more of it. Learn to love water!


Tip #8 Eat less meat

Nobody said we have to eat meat 3 times a day, or even every day.  For some people, this may sound sacrilegious. Studies show that eating large amounts of red meat and / or processed meat  increases the risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. Instead, look at cheap and healthy sources of protein such as beans, lentils, eggs, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Also, serving of meat is only 3 ounces. That’s the size of a deck of cards. Try to think of meat as the topping, not the main part of a dish.


Tip #9 Learn just ONE recipe each week

You don’t need to be an expert chef or making anything fancy. If you choose just one recipe to prepare every week, within a year you will have a repertoire of 50 from which to choose. Do this the old fashioned way. Use a notebook or index cards to keep everything organized. Add the ingredients to your shopping list (see tip #1), and you’re on your way!

You may have noticed that we did not mention coupons at all. Sadly, most coupons are for the worst types of food available. If you do find coupons for healthy foods, by all means, go for it!

How do you stay healthy on a low budget?

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  • onelittlerocket

    Great ideas! In tip #4, you didn’t talk about canned goods, although it’s in the title. Canned veggies are gross. There is a concern about bpa in canned goods, so it may be better just to stick to frozen fruits and veggies when fresh isn’t available.

    • http://ehkitchen.net/ Alyssa B

      I agree, canned veggies are usually gross. I can’t choke them down on their own, but I find they’re good to toss into a soup or casserole when you’re pressed for time and on a budget.

  • Sandra

    Organic frozen fruits & veggies are still expensive.

    • Kevin

      I will add, Buying Grass fed Beef more $$, Wild Salmon $$, Gluten Free $$, Wheat Free $$.. Its a simple case of supply and demand. Move over boys and gals there is a new market on the horizon, if however more people demanded NO GMO, Grass Fed, Wild etc.. then the prices would have to come down.. So while I sort of agree to the topic, I believe it is way more expensive to eat “Healthy” Also Hemi what about the new research in Dr. Perlmutters book, I would think twice about putting “cheap and healthy sources of protein ” “Whole Grains” to the list.

  • http://ehkitchen.net/ Alyssa B

    My best tip is to make snacks at home instead of buying them. You can whip up things like granola bars, mini muffins, energy bites, fruit leather, crackers, kale chips, roasted chickpeas, corn tortilla chips and salsa, or even just mix your own trail mix on the weekend and have healthy, affordable snacks all week. You can make them even cheaper when you use things from bulk bins, like tip #5 suggests.

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  • Dave Evans

    Article is unreadable on an Android with 3 foodycate spam-bubbles floating all over the screen. Makes fooducate useless.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Sorry to hear that Dave. What Android device, OS, and browser are you using? We’ll try to fix.

      • Dave Evans

        3 different phones
        2 OSs

        Pervasive

  • Torrie

    Buy produce that is in season! This usually means it is cheaper. make meal plans for the week, so when you shop you know what you need and you don’t have food that goes bad because you’re not sure what to do with it.

  • Aya

    Im going to give this a try. I am such a bad shopper especially if i dont go in the morning :)

  • SuperMom101

    Great tips! I’d also suggest to be sure to read your labels to keep out the “cheap” ingredients (high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils) from your shopping carts. If I can’t make it in my kitchen, find it in my cabinet, or pronounce one of the ingredients – it doesn’t go in my cart.

    Love the idea about trying one new produce per week. True story: last night I made brussels sprouts – haven’t had them in years. They were frozen so I gently thawed and threw in the oven with a tad of olive oil to finish cooking. As I was eating them, our fourteen year old kept asking me what they were and the first two times I pretended not to hear. When I offered him one – he must of had 10. Looks like I’ll be making brussels sprouts again soon.

    Best health to all…

  • Shelby

    Although most coupons are for junk food, I have emailed several companies that offer organic and clean food and have asked them for coupons and they have emailed them to me! Always worth a try to save money:)

  • Ayamagali

    Buying organic can be pricey. I sometimes can’t afford it, but I figure a conventional apple is still healthier than a candy bar, and cheaper!

  • Sunita

    Great Tips. One measure that I do follow is to avoid shopping on an empty stomach. Prefer to go after a good meal so I’m not tempted to pick up junk.