The number one place where people overspend in their budget is on food! While food is a necessity, spending a ton of money on it doesn’t have to be. Coming up with a budget grocery list can be a challenge, absolutely, but with some pre-planning, it’s completely possible.
My goal is to make healthy meals for my family at the lowest price point I can.
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Cheap Healthy Grocery List
Two things before we jump into making our cheap healthy grocery list:
First, I tried using pricing from stores I think many of my readers use or have access to– my apologies to my readers outside the US!
Second, I am not a nutrition expert. While I do my fair share of research to make sure I’m making good choices for my family, any questions or concerns you have should be addressed to a medical professional.
With all that being said, let’s get to it.
How to Maximize your Savings at the Grocery Store
Before we talk about making a cheap grocery list to stock your pantry with, I wanted to make a quick pit stop to encourage you to plan your meals.
Going to the grocery store, even when you are buying food on the cheap can still lead you to overspend.
It is one thing to buy something in bulk knowing you have a plan to use it all, versus just buying something when it’s on sale.
Please do yourself a favor and make yourself a meal plan (a budget meal plan is completely possible with the right ingredients, but a meal plan can save you money!) keeping in mind the kinds of foods you can buy and checking what’s on sale so you can stretch your dollar.
Cheap Food to Buy When You are Broke
Cheap food doesn’t have to mean low nutritional value. Some great inexpensive healthy options are whole grains, vegetables, and beans!
One of my absolute favorite–must-have staples is brown rice. I purchased a 25lb bag of brown rice this week from Costco for $14.29.
Serving size: 1/4 cup dry rice. (note: 1 cup of dry rice is about 2.5 cups cooked)
Price per serving: about 6 cents. A 25-pound bag contains 250 servings.
Rice is super filling, making it a great option for meals. I love using it in casseroles, soups, side dishes– so many options!
Whole Wheat Pasta
I am in lurv with pasta. It’s my comfort food. And depending on what’s on sale (more on that later) you can come up with some great inexpensive recipes– both hot and cold dishes.
A box of whole wheat spaghetti is currently $1.48 at Walmart.
Serving size: 2 ozs of dried pasta.
Price per serving: About 21 cents. Usually 7-8 servings per box.
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole wheat bread is another super versatile healthier food option you can add into your budget grocery list. The brand I buy is about $1.89 per loaf and I can get about 10 sandwiches out of it.
Or if you really want to stretch it, you can make open-face sandwiches, avocado toast, french toast for breakfast, eggs-in-a hole (a favorite in my house) and more!
Oatmeal, much like brown rice, is very filling and you can spice it up a hundred different ways and it only takes about 5 minutes to make!
I purchased a bag of Oatmeal from Costco for $5.99 for a 4.5 lb bag.
Serving size: 1/3 cup dry oats
Price per serving: about 12 cents. There are about 51 servings in the bag I purchased. 1/3 cup of uncooked oats yields about 1 cup of cooked oatmeal.
We love oatmeal with brown sugar, with cinnamon, with fruit, or chopped nuts. Lots of variety!
Are you ready for me to blow your mind?!?!
Did you know you can substitute lentils for ground beef?? Did you know that?
Yeah, this was a recent discovery for me as well. My family is not vegetarian, however, from a cost savings perspective, we’ve tried to incorporate one or two days of meatless meals.
Sheela, from The Kitchn, has a great recipe for how to substitute lentils for ground beef.
Lentils, surprisingly, have a pretty similar texture and with some spices– bada bing, bada boom– ground beef-ish dish that’s delish!
Lentils also are great for soups, stews, and casseroles as well.
I can buy a 16 oz bag from Walmart for $1.54.
Serving size: 1/4 cup dried.
Price per serving: about 12 cents.
Bagged Fresh Spinach
The best vegetable in the history of ever– spinach! It’s not only a super good for you veggie, it’s also really yummy and you can make it and incorporate it into tons and tons of recipes.
My kids even eat spinach salads. I find the taste of spinach to be really very mild.
I bought 1lb of Spinach from Walmart for $5.25.
Depending on how you plan on eating it; as a salad, in a casserole, sauteed side, eggs, etc. will depend on how much you use.
Serving size: depends on the use
Price per serving: anywhere from 30 cents-50 cents.
Canned Tuna or Chicken
While canned tuna will not win you any popularity contests at the office– it will save you money and its a great source of protein!
At Walmart, I purchased 4 x 5oz cans of tuna for $3.22 and 4 x 12.5oz cans of chicken for $7.48.
Serving Size: The tuna cans (because they are less than half the size) I treat as a single serving. The chicken, I treat as 2 servings.
Price per serving: Tuna: .81 cents. Chicken: .94 cents
Frozen Vegetables and Fruit
While I love fresh produce, when I’m trying to stretch a dollar, there are often deals to be had on frozen!
The other side benefit is when there are deals on them you can stock up without having to do tons of prep work.
Have you ever bought bushels of vegetables at a Farmer’s Market only to have to figure out how to store them?!
I’m asking for a friend.
I love making breakfast smoothies with frozen fruit I’ve gotten on sale– pro tip, you can also use up some of your fresh spinach by throwing it in there for an extra healthy something!
Serving size: 1 cup
Price per serving: about .25 cents. Since I’m covering both fruits and vegetables– it obviously depends so I’m taking an average.
Eggs are a great source of protein and you can eat them a bunch of different ways. Fried, poached, boiled, deviled, as an omelet, egg salad, on salads, and more!
At Costco, I purchased 18 for $3.19.
Serving size: 1 egg
Price per serving: about .18 cents
Other money saving choices for your budget grocery list!
In no particular order, here are some of my other favorites to throw into my grocery list rotation!
Chicken and ground beef are typically my go-to options for cheaper meat options. I definitely shop the circulars to see who has the best deals and tend to stock up when I find a great deal!
Remember when I mentioned before about buying on sale?? Well, if you aren’t familiar with Flipp, I highly recommend you check it out. You can put in your zip code and it will show you the sale circulars for the stores in your area.
Can you say time saver!!
Grapes, bananas, watermelon, apples, and kiwi tend to be on the cheaper end of the fruits. Always check to see what’s in season. Sometimes you can get great deals on fruit just because it tends to be in season!
I will admit to stocking up quite a bit on certain canned vegetables: canned tomatoes especially!
Carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes and white potatoes are all good options as well.
I highly, highly recommend you stick to tea and water at home. Sodas, juices, sports drinks, etc are all empty calories and such a simple way to really save some money!
To clarify: when I say water, I’m not talking bottled. Either invest in a water filtering pitcher (if you must) or drink straight from the tap!
Not much you can do in the way of toilet paper– just make sure you are comparing unit pricing to make sure you are getting the best price.
Paper towels, plates, and disposable silverware. While convenient, really add up over time. Consider good reusable options.
Yes, there is an initial investment, but the overall savings (not to mention the “go-green” benefits) really add up.
I keep a small basket in my kitchen just for these towels and throw them in the wash together. Super simple!
Budget Meals You Can Make on the Cheap!
While there are tons and tons of meals you can make, I thought I would include a sample of a potential meal plan for one day so you can really see the savings and why it’s so worth it to put the work in!
Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs + toast.
Cost: Bread= 9 cents. Eggs= 18 cents.
Total Cost: $ .27 cents
Lunch: Chicken salad sandwich with fruit on the side.
Cost: Canned Chicken: 1.88 + 2 slices of bread= 18 cents + sliced banana:. 25 cents
(I estimated the banana from the bunch I bought this morning based on weight from the bunch)
Total Cost: $2.31
Dinner: Grilled Chicken + brown rice + spinach salad.
Cost: Chicken breast (half lb of chicken @ $4.99/lb) $2.49 + brown rice: $.6 cents + Spinach salad: $.50 cents (2 cups of spinach).
Total Cost: $3.60
Total Cost for the Day: $6.18.
So for the cost of a fast food meal, you could have fed yourself breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Gets you right in the wallet– doesn’t it?
Hurts me every time I think about it.
Yes, I didn’t include the cost of the olive oil I would have cooked the chicken in, or the vinegar and oil I would have sprinkled on the salad, but I wanted to give you a quick look at how you can come up with your list of ingredients and put together meals while looking at the cost per meal to maximize your savings.
You wanna see something eye-opening. Check how much it costs you to make your own pizza versus pizza delivery.
Alright, ya’ll! Let me know if you have any go-to meal saving recipes or tips! I am always on the hunt to save extra money and level up my meal planning!