Want to feel energized and bust through your weight goals but can’t muster up the dough to fuel your body with award winning grub? Good news—healthy food does NOT have to cost an arm and a leg. Really. In fact, it’s quite possible to eat well and have money left over for a new pair of slim jeans and an exercise DVD. Just follow my “how to” guide for stocking your kitchen with budget-friendly (and great tasting) ingredients… both your wallet and waistline will appreciate the love.
1. Check sale ads and note product prices at particular markets in your area. Staples like pasta and rice may be cheaper at one place, while another grocery store may have better deals on produce.
2. Buy any fresh produce that is in season or on sale. The best deals are usually located at a special display towards the front of the fruit and vegetable section. Remember: All produce provides health perks, so don’t get caught up with “trendy” or “exotic” picks. Make affordable fruits like bananas, apples, and oranges your weekly staples, and save more costly options like pineapple, pomegranates, melons, and papayas for special treats. Plus, take advantage of frozen produce, which is just as nutritious as fresh.
3. Stock up. When non-perishable items like whole grain pasta, low-sodium soups, brown rice, and peanut butter are on sale, stock up on extras to keep in your cupboards or pantry.
4. Eat like a vegetarian. Plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds are much less costly than animal proteins like fish and beef.
5. Buy in larger containers. And create your own portion-controlled packs whenever possible.
6. Guzzle water. Instead of spending hard-earned cash on liquid calories, stick with water filtered from your own tap. Mix up low-cal drinks by adding fresh fruit (lemon, lime, and orange slices are my personal favorites), or herbs such as fresh mint and basil.
Below are three strategic grocery lists at various price points. Choose the version that suits your budget and hit the market. We’ve even created special, printable lists for every tier. You’ll notice that many items like oats and beans will last several weeks, while other items like meats and produce require frequent restocking. Also, feel free to add in favorite seasonings and herbs like garlic powder, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and dried or fresh basil.
No matter what your price range, you’ll be able to make healthy meals that taste delicious and won’t break the bank (or require hours in the kitchen). Each tier includes new items to be built upon the two tiers before it. Let the shopping games begin!
Everything from Strategically Thrifty, plus:
Everything from Strategically Thrifty, Upping the Edible Ante, plus:
Your super-stocked pantry means even more options to cook. Try making vanilla cinnamon French toast, curried chicken salad with sweet green peas, or any of these recipes. Download your cheat sheet here.
Note: All items and pricing are based on combined research from Fresh Direct, Netgrocer, Peapod by Stop & Shop, and Trader Joes in New York. Prices and availability will vary.