5 Ways to Grocery Shop on a Budget

Grocery Shopping

April 26, 2022

Clinical Contributors to this story:
You don’t have to sacrifice healthy eating even when on a tight budget. Christina D'angelo, M.S, R.D., clinical dietitian at Hackensack Meridian Health, shares five tips for saving at the grocery store while still serving up healthy meals and snacks for your family.

1. Plan around sales

Planning meals and snacks ahead of time can save time and money:

  • Plan meals that include produce, lean protein foods and low-fat dairy items that are on sale and in season to save money while eating nutrient-dense foods. 
  • Check store sale flyers and available coupons on the same items for additional savings. 
  • Compare national brands and private store labels for the lowest price. 
  • Use the unit price to compare cost between different sized packages of the same product.

2. Create a shopping list

Create a master grocery list and stick to it. Prioritize vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, lean protein foods and whole grains. To keep your grocery list from growing too long, prepare meals that include similar ingredients throughout the week. Making meals from scratch when possible can help lower food cost. 

3. Look for frozen or canned alternatives

If the produce item you want isn't in season or doesn’t fit in your budget, consider purchasing it frozen or canned. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at peak freshness and can be just as nutritious as fresh foods because canning and freezing preserves many nutrients. Be sure to check the ingredients list to avoid items with added sugars or salt.

4. Buy in bulk

Consider purchasing a larger quantity of meat that is on sale and preparing enough for two or more meals. Enjoy leftovers later in the week or freeze for future use. Because meat is often the highest-dollar ingredient in a recipe, consider planning meatless meals a few nights each week, or try replacing half the meat in dishes such as chili, meatloaf or burger patties with beans, finely minced mushrooms or chopped vegetables.

Stock up on nonperishable whole grains and dried beans, peas and lentils when on sale or take advantage of the bulk bin by purchasing only the amount you need. You can prepare dried beans, peas and lentils ahead of time and then freeze so you always have protein- and fiber-rich foods on hand. Individualized portion sizes for snacks can be costly, buying in bulk and portioning at home can also save money. 

5. Reduce waste

Once you've done your shopping, make the most of your food spending by cutting down on waste. Only buy the amount of perishable foods you will use, or freeze portions to prevent waste. Plan to use highly perishable items—such as fish and seafood, salad greens, berries and fresh herbs—early in the week, and save more hearty items for later in the week. Enjoy leftovers for lunch or create new meals from leftover ingredients. Cooked meat and vegetables can be revamped as a filling for a casserole, frittata or soup.

What to Put on Your Grocery List

The next time you head to the grocery store, try adding some of these items: 

  • Colorful Veggies
    • Frozen spinach
    • Broccoli
    • Green Peppers
    • Cauliflower
    • Sweet potatoes  
    • Carrots
    • Canned tomatoes 

  • Fruits
    • Oranges 
    • Apples 
    • Grapes
    • Bananas

  • Protein 
    • Peanut butter
    • Canned tuna (low sodium if possible)
    • Dried or canned beans and lentils 
    • Vegetarian refried beans (low sodium if possible)
    • Eggs
    • Chicken in bulk (freeze portions)

  • Dairy
    • Yogurt
    • Low-fat milk 

  • Grains
    • Brown rice
    • Whole-wheat pasta
    • Whole-wheat bread
    • Whole-wheat cereals/oatmeal (in bulk) 

  • Snacks 
    • Homemade Trail mix
    • Homemade popcorn 
    • Dried fruit (no added sugar) 
    • Dark chocolate chips 

Next Steps & Resources:


The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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