10 Budget-Friendly, Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips

by Anjali @ The Picky Eater on May 22, 2013

grocery cart

Shopping for healthy food on a budget is always a challenge.

Have you ever just gone about your groceries, and then ended up with a huge bill with no idea where the money went? I certainly have, and I’d often wonder why I’d sometimes end up with a huge bill, and sometimes with a budget-friendly bill. So I started taking a look at what types of purchases drove up the cost of my groceries and which ones didn’t.

What I realized was that it wasn’t about whether I was buying “healthier” foods or “junkier” foods, it was all about the types of purchases I was making and taking more of a budget-conscious approach to my shopping.

photoHealthy food doesn’t have to be out of reach with your grocery budget. You can adopt certain strategies that will make the healthier options seem totally affordable! These 10 tips will help you on your way towards budget-friendly healthy grocery shopping :)

Tip #1  | Shop the Sales: Most grocery stores have all kinds of sales going on at any given point in time. Look for the weekly specials, the produce that’s on sale, and any deals (like buy 2 get one free) throughout the store.

Tip #2  | Buy in-season: In-season produce is always cheaper. Produce that is not in season has to be shipped from across the world and that shoots up the price pretty quick. This site is a great resource to figure out what’s in season in your town (so you can get the best bang for your produce buck!) And for those of you in the Bay Area – this site is a wonderful resource as well.

Tip #3  | Try coupons: Individual stores have catalogs (usually located in the front of the store) with coupons you can use that same day! You can also find great online coupons here – which you can even search for by your area (so you get the best grocery deals near you!)

Tip #4  | Buy generic: Brand names cost way more. That’s just a rule of thumb. And most in-store/generic brands are just as good! Case in point: Whole Foods’ 365 brand which, especially when on sale, is extremely affordable.

Tip #5  | Buy frozen: Frozen produce is just as good as fresh produce, and it works perfectly if you’re looking to spend a little less, especially on out-of-season items.

Tip #6  | Buy bulk: The bulk section has become my best friend. Many grocery stores now have a bulk section where you can get everything: spices, nut butters, oils, honey, maple syrup, grains (like oatmeal and quinoa), pasta, beans, cereals, dried fruits, the list goes on. And you save a ton because you don’t pay for the “packaging” at all.

Tip #7  | Avoid the middle of the store: Most packaged foods don’t have nearly the same nutritional value as whole unprocessed foods like produce, fresh dairy, fresh meats, and whole grains. You end up paying a lot more for a lot less nutrition – so my suggestion would be to stick to the perimeter of the store and cook meals at home using tons of spices for flavor!

Tip #8  | Make a list: And stick to it! That way you aren’t distracted by any of the enticing goodies you might come across during your shopping (but that you don’t need!) 

Tip #9  | Don’t shop hungry: This relates to Tip #8 above, but basically, if you end up going to the grocery store hungry, you will buy a lot more of those “impulse” purchases, again, that you probably don’t need. Eat first, then shop.

Tip #10  | Choose meatless protein sources: Foods like beans, lentils, etc. are wonderful protein sources and are also extremely good for you! They’re also insanely cheap – especially if you buy them dry and in bulk (although canned is pretty cheap also) Switch to meatless a couple of nights a week and your health and wallet will thank you!

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Nina @ Too Hottie For That Body May 23, 2013 at 5:14 am

This is so helpful! We are definitely on a budget but refuse to eat a bunch of crap to keep ourfood budget down. Now if only I was creative in the kitchen, then I wouldn’t come home with stuff from the bulk bin and wonder what the heck to do with it :)

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater May 24, 2013 at 10:55 am

I’m so glad this is helpful for you Nina! If you ever need help figuring out what to do with your bulk bin purchases let me know! I’m happy to send over some ideas :)

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Crystal @ Simply Playful Fare May 23, 2013 at 7:56 am

I love this! The one thing that I haven’t really thought about is finding other, meatless sources of protein. What I need to be better about is staying out of the middle of the store, buying in season, and using coupons. :)

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater May 24, 2013 at 10:59 am

Thanks Crystal! Some of my favorite meatless sources of protein are: organic Greek Yogurt, organic Tempeh, beans (black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo – all kinds are great!), lentils (all kinds), and cheese in moderation :) Also – one tip to stay out of the middle of the store – shop the perimeter first with your list and see if you have anything left over! You likely won’t have much at all – and then you can just prioritize those aisles without having to go up and down most of the aisles in the middle. Hope that helps!

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NIcholas May 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

Thank you for all the wonderful tips. I’ve been guitly of shopping hungry and bought a bunch of stuff that neither went together or made any sense. I practice most of these but there’s a few that I’ll be implementing on my future shopping trips.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater May 24, 2013 at 11:00 am

Thanks Nicholas! I’m so glad that this post has been helpful for you!

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Linda May 23, 2013 at 11:39 am

We all can use some tips on saving at the grocery store. Great tips and good ideas. Thanks.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater May 24, 2013 at 11:00 am

Thanks Linda!! :)

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Tom May 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Thanks for the tips! This is totally random, but I thought of you when I saw this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqZ6y60ZVNk. It’s a singer on the Voice UK who fuses Indian and Western styles of singing! Anyways, thought you may like that. Love your blog! (And I promise the link isn’t spam, although I guess I have no way of proving it. You’ll just have to trust me!)

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater May 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Haha! Thanks so much – I could tell from your comment that you weren’t spamming me :) haha. But how did you know that I’m a HUGE fan of the Voice in the US! So obviously I loved the video – thanks for sharing it!! And I’m so glad you like my blog :) Thanks again Tom!

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Tom June 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm

You’re welcome! Glad you like the Voice! Ha ha!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater June 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

haha totally! It’s one of my favorite shows :)

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Nicole June 4, 2013 at 8:38 am

Thank you Anjali for the great tips! We have a family of five which includes two teenage boys, and it seems like I am always grocery shopping because my boys are always eating! I feel like every time I leave the grocery store with a cart full of items and get home to unload the groceries, I think, “Where’s all the food?” We spend so much on tolietries. I do look for coupons, however it always seems like you need to buy two of something to save some money.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater June 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Hi Nicole! No problem at all – I’m so glad these tips are helpful!! And yes – toiletries cost a TON. My advice for that would be to buy in bulk – like at Costco – or on Amazon where they usually have pretty good discounts. Hope that helps!!

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Mega Healthy Eating July 2, 2013 at 6:25 am

Great tips for healthy shopping on a budget Anjali we love your blog! I like to think of my favorite foods, and then find a healthy alternative….For example,instead of pizza, try making a salad with your favorite pizza ingredients. Instead of salty chips, grill some freshly sliced potato wedges for a healthier snack!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater July 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Thank you so much! :) Love your ideas for healthifying some of those treats that we all crave — making potato “chips” at home is one of my favorite quick and easy healthy swaps!

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Melanie Chisnall July 10, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Super tips! Since I stopped eating meat, I’ve discovered a whole world of lentils, chickpeas, beans, etc. Things that I thought was so disgusting. Frozen veggies are awesome because they’re no longer just boring peas and carrots, but Chinese stir-fry, etc. with so many delicious veggies and things like watercress, mini corn, etc. Love cooking with these! Thanks for the tips, I also avoid the middle of the shops and stick to the sides. :)

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater July 12, 2013 at 3:48 am

Hi Melanie! So glad you liked this post! It sounds like you and I are very similar in our eating/shopping habits :) Avoiding the middle of the shop is key!!

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Anthony Lozen September 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Oooh thank you so much for showing me this, it might just work… now to convince my mom to go shopping with me… that is where the problem lies…. but I actually might be able to switch to beans, cause they’re one of the few things I don’t hate.. plus you cant burn beans can you.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater September 5, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Of course!! So glad it’s helpful! Maybe you can convince your mom to go shopping with her by telling her you’ll cook for her with the ingredients you buy :) And yes! You can’t burn beans — they are easy to cook. My veggie chili is super easy to make and uses tons of beans too!

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Mrs Bargain Hunter October 11, 2013 at 9:46 am

Great list. I would also say look out for the bargain section, you know the one where the shops put the food that will go out of date on the same day. I have picked up meat for the third of its normal price and fruit and veg for pennies.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater October 11, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Thanks so much! And that’s a great tip as well!

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Wesley Kuhn November 29, 2013 at 3:17 am

Great post.
My Partner and i live in Australia and food is getting pretty dear hear. We follow these ten steps you layed out in this post. Every one should follow these steps if they would like to save money.

My wife even started a website where she makes the weekly shopping list,recipes and meal plan for a few of our subscribers. We have a family of 5 and get away with eating healthy and having bit of a treat every now and then on $200- $250 a week.

If we can do it, so can you…just follow these ten steps and your on your way to saving a ton of money.
Thank you for sharing Anjali.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater December 1, 2013 at 9:01 pm

That’s great! Thanks for sharing your story Wesley!

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Gal January 9, 2014 at 4:01 am

For me still, the simple advise “buy only! what you need” is the main advise. So using a shopping list on my phone like https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gal.appshoppinglist is a winner

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater January 9, 2014 at 9:42 am

That makes sense! Thanks Gal!

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Rico February 23, 2014 at 2:20 pm

As it is said above, (#8 but for me it is no. 1) making a list and sticking to it is what makes you buy what you need rather than what you want. I use an application on my phone. it is always with me and automatically sync with my family phones!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 24, 2014 at 7:11 pm

That makes sense! And yes, having an app or a list on your phone makes it really easy to stay organized! :) Great tip Rico!

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