Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Do you get discouraged when you go to the grocery store and end up spending twice as much as you usually do when purchasing “healthy” products? I’ve been there.

Many people think buying healthier food items is always expensive…think again.

Sure, if you are purchasing the high end organic products it could get pricey…but if you are looking to eat more WHOLE foods and less processed items, healthy grocery shopping is totally doable AND you can stay within budget.

And you want to know something even better? You don’t have to shop at the trendy grocery stores to get a good deal on healthy foods…of course I would LOVE to have a Whole Foods or Trader Joes to shop at weekly, but I live in the rural  foothills of North Carolina…where our “fancy” health food stores are quite expensive…

I do most of my shopping at Food Lion-I can get good produce and shop sales. If I’m feeling spunky, I sometimes venture to the local Aldi, but I’ve found that a lot of their pricing is comparable to Food Lion.

Here are some tips on how to buy healthy foods AND stay within budget.

1. Make a List

My biggest money saver tip to you! Go in the store with a planned, detailed list and do no stray from that list. When I do this, I stay within budget. When I stray from this list, I spend way more than I planned on.

2. Shop Sales!

This is my biggest saver. We already talked about making a grocery list (for more info on grocery store tips, see The Grocery Haul blog). While making my list, I head on over to my grocery store’s website, type in my store location, and a brochure of sales pops up. I am most interested in produce sales, although every now and then they will have my favorite whole-food based products listed.

3. Stock up on sale items

Anytime I see my favorite products on sale, I stock up. Usually these items are in the frozen section, so I can buy them in bulk and save money in the long run. Freezer section items can be stored for long periods of time (if you have freezer space, of course!), so I am not afraid of losing money by the items spoiling and having to throw them in the trash.

4. Dirty Dozen or Clean Fifteen

The dirty dozen is essentially a list of 12 items that is recommended you buy organic (farming without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents) while the clean fifteen are items that are deemed “okay” if not organic. I will be honest, I do not always shop organic–nor do I think you have to in order to eat a healthy diet and consume adequate nutrition. However, if I see some of these items on sale, I generally do purchase them. If I notice produce items starting to go “bad”, I will freeze them and use them in smoothies, jams, and baking. You see, you can still save money outside of the store by not throwing away the items you bought a week ago. These items can still be put to good use! See this article by Produce Retailer to see the full 2018 list of Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for more information.

5. Buy in Bulk

Things like nuts, flours, seeds, and nutritional yeast are all things I like to have stocked in my pantry…but buying them at the local grocery store in a small bag is pretty pricey.  I like to buy those items in bulk at Sams or specialty health food stores–buying in bulk seems pricey at the time, but it pays off in the long run.

6. Realize that you don’t have to buy “clean products” to be healthy

What I mean by this is–you do not need to buy the marketing schemes businesses use in order to live a better life. Many of those items coined as “healthy” don’t use the best, wholesome ingredients…and even the ones that do, they cost a lot (and rightfully so–the ingredients cost more). Just because something says gluten free does not make it healthy. However, I am here to tell you that you do not need them to eat healthy! Shop more whole foods, cook more from scratch, and read your labels. What labels to I pay most attention to when shopping for processed items? Added sugars, overall calories, and ingredients list.


What healthy grocery store hacks do you recommend?  Comment below–I’d love to hear your ideas!



Until Next Time,

Happy Chewing!
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

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