7 tips for a cheaper, healthier grocery bill

Healthy eating and staying on a budget — many would argue these two ideas do not fit together. I beg to differ! My number one recommendation for making it feasible: keep it simple and delicious, or as I like to say, simplicious.

Healthy eating is not about counting calories or watching the clock to ensure you’ve waited x amount of hours since your last meal. It’s about listening to your body’s cues and fueling it with whole, real foods, ideally in their natural form. But this can become overwhelming and difficult once you start to roam the aisles at the grocery store. From confusing marketing claims to items packaged for convenience, it’s easy to get lost in all the options.

When you’re out grocery shopping, make a list and keep it simple. Focus on these key guiding principles:

  • Healthy fats (i.e. olive oil, avocado, plain nuts and seeds, olives, avocado oil, nut butter, sesame oil, ghee/butter)
  • Avoid “naked” carbs, or carbohydrates that you eat on their own (i.e. quinoa, bread or rice, as well as fruit and starchy vegetables like sweet potato and corn). Ideally, you want to pair carbs with protein, quality fat and vegetables. For example, quinoa with chicken, olive oil and a vegetable medley.
  • Stick to whole, real foods over highly processed goods.

Related: Food as medicine: When food is the best prescription

How to save money on groceries

Raise your hand if you have ever been blindsided by your grocery total at checkout. Me too. But there’s good news! If you’re trying to be responsible with your money, feed a growing family or put some pennies toward your next vacation, these seven rules can help.

  1. Avoid packaged and convenience items. They tend to cost more.
  2. Buy from the bulk bins. You can purchase the amount you need and avoid paying extra for additional product.
  3. Avoid purchasing individual packages. You can save quite a bit of money by portioning it out yourself.
  4. “DIY” food items like salad dressing, guacamole, marinara sauce, salsa, etc.
  5. Embrace leftovers. Save yourself time and money by creating 4-5 lunch/dinner meals each week.
  6. Check the sales ads before you head to the store.
  7. Utilize money saving apps. There are lots out there for you.

Healthy eating on a budget may require changing your perspective on what makes up a meal, and it certainly will require some practice (along with trial and error), but once you have about 15+ meals to put into rotation, you’ll be set! I’ve offered some of my favorites below.

Healthy eating is not about counting calories or watching the clock to ensure you’ve waited x amount of hours since your last meal. It’s about listening to your body’s cues and fueling it with whole, real foods, ideally in their natural form.

What a registered dietitian eats in a day

Take a look at this example of a budget-friendly menu. 

Breakfast

I like to rotate two breakfasts throughout the week to keep things interesting and include a greater variety of foods.

  • Plain Greek yogurt topped with frozen thawed berries*, pecans and cinnamon
  • Homemade egg sandwich

*Pro tip: frozen berries tend to cost less and if you heat them or let them thaw, the juices are released, which creates a fruit “syrup” and adds quite a bit of flavor to plain yogurt.

Lunch and dinner

If you make extra at dinner, you can enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day, which can easily be packed and taken to work or school. (That definitely beats spending $10 on yet another salad or sandwich from that café you’re sick of.)

Here are a few meals I like to rotate through on a regular basis:

  • Spring Roll Sauté
  • Simple baked/grilled chicken topped with pesto; Quinoa tossed with olive oil, tomato, cucumber and red onion
  • Wrap with deli turkey, spinach and honey mustard; Serve with an apple and peanut butter
  • Zucchini noodles tossed with olive oil and garlic and topped with Citrus Herb Meatballs
  • Slow cooker Mexican Stew garnished with avocado

Snacks

Choose one (or more, if needed) daily and rotate throughout the week.

  • Cheese bites
  • Carrots dipped in hummus
  • Celery with peanut butter
  • Pecan-stuffed dates (because we all need a little something sweet every now and then)

Related: 10 nutritious, portable snacks under $1

See, healthy eating on a budget isn’t rocket science — it just takes a little extra thought and planning. If you need help figuring out an eating plan that works for both your health goals and your wallet, talk to a registered dietitian.

About the author

Jessica Smosna, RD, LD

Jessica Smosna, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian at Baylor Scott & White Specialty Clinic – Westlake. She completed her undergraduate studies at Bradley University in Peoria, IL, and her dietetic internship through the University of Houston. Along with a healthy lifestyle, Jessica believes vitamins N & L (nature & laughter) are key for optimal health. She and her husband have a growing family (both in terms of babies and dogs).

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7 tips for a cheaper, healthier grocery bill