Are high food costs making it hard to eat healthy? This guide will show you just how meal planning can help you to create a healthy grocery list on a budget and tame your grocery bills!
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How to Create a Healthy Grocery List on a Budget
With grocery prices on the rise it is getting harder to grocery shop without overspending. Whether it's that packages are shrinking or items are just out my price range, I've definitely had to make some changes to my shopping.
The most simple way to create a healthy grocery list on a budget is to meal plan first. Committing to meal planning while planning some make ahead meals and using what I have in my pantry or freezer before shopping has helped immensely.
One of my favorite budget stores to shop at is Aldi - check out my 7-day healthy Aldi meal plan for more meal inspiration!
Without a good system in place, meal planning can take a lot of time and money! Through trial and error I have found that the only thing that has worked in budgeting for meals is by simplifying our monthly and weekly meal planning system.
I have tried both monthly and weekly meal planning and for me, monthly meal planning is by far the more budget-friendly choice for me. When I go to the store less, I just spend less. Also - when I'm planning monthly I can plan for bulk purchases.
If you have never meal planned before, weekly meal plan would be a great place to start. Or, if your schedule is completely unpredictable, weekly meal planning can be helpful.
My Monthly Meal Planning System
- Take inventory of what you have. At the beginning of the month I take an inventory of everything we have in our pantry, freezer, spice cabinet and fridge to see what items I need to buy and what I can use in the following month.
- Print out a blank 30 day calendar. I use the printable PDF calendar from Time and Date. You could also use Google Sheets or Excel to organize this.
- Write out all of your commitments for the month. If I know I'm going out of town, I know not to plan meals for those days. I also know that going out of town for the weekend can shift my meal prep day to Monday.
- Make a list of family favorite dinners or other recipes . Write two to three recipes per week assuming you are going to double each recipe. I usually reserve one day a week for eating out, one for leftovers (unless I freeze them) and one day to eat at the home of friends or family.
- Gather the recipes for these items and compare them to your pantry inventory. Mark which items can be purchased in bulk.
- Create your bulk and weekly shopping list and go shopping! Freeze any meat or other freezable items that you've purchased for making later in the month.
- Make a plan for leftovers. Wrap any leftovers in freezer-safe containers and freeze to eat for a later date. Alternatively, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator to eat a day or two later.
Shop Locally, in Bulk or at Discount Stores
Shopping at farmer's markets or local farm stands is a great way to support local business and get the best prices during the season. The produce will be super fresh and less expensive than traditional grocery stores or buying out of season.
Healthy Grocery List Staples
When adding fresh produce to your grocery list, the easiest way to save money is to shop in season. These are a few other items that the cheapest healthy foods that you can add to list:
- Quinoa - a versatile, inexpensive and protein-rich grain that is great for a plant based breakfast or a quinoa power bowl.
- Oatmeal - grind into oat flour, make homemade oat milk, baked oatmeal or overnight oats.
- Tuna - cheap protein to top a salad or to make tuna salad.
- Salsa - a staple ingredient in our favorite Instant Pot Chicken Tacos.
- Greek yogurt - a less expensive source of protein for breakfast, use as a marinade for chicken or as a mayonnaise replacement in tuna salad.
- Almond milk - great for making smoothies for breakfast or snacks.
- Frozen vegetables
- Frozen fruit
While researching this I found that WebMd has a great resource of 15 Nutritious Foods for $2. The list includes items like brown rice, whole grain pasta, Greek yogurt, frozen veggies, oatmeal and more.