Grocery shopping for two people can be tricky when trying to eat healthy on a budget. Many nutritious foods like fresh produce, fish, and lean meats tend to be more expensive. However, with some planning and budget pantry staples, you can create a healthy grocery list for two.
In this post, I'll share my best tips for an affordable and healthy grocery cart. You'll learn how to plan meals around what's in season, take advantage of sales and coupons, choose economical sources of protein, and more.
Healthy Grocery List On A Budget
Here is a list of healthy and grocery items on a budget for a family of two based on findings from the USDA Thrifty Food Plan, 2021.
- Canned tuna, mackerel, salmon
- Frozen tilapia fillets
- Frozen cod fillets
- Frozen shrimp
- Bone-in chicken thighs
- Ground turkey
- Pork loin chops
- Bone-in chicken breasts
- Beef top round steaks
- Whey protein powder
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
Affordable Vegan Proteins:
- Dried and canned beans (black, pinto, kidney, etc.)
- Textured Vegetable Protein
- Soy curls, soy chunks
- Chickpea flour
- Soy protein powder
- Nutritional yeast
- Soy milk
- White rice
- Oats (rolled, instant, steel cut)
- Whole wheat pasta
- Sweet potatoes
- Russet potatoes
- Whole grain bread
- Whole grain tortillas
- Air popped popcorn
- Corn tortillas
- Rice noodles
- 100% whole wheat couscous
- 100% whole grain cereal
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews tend to be the cheaper varieties)
- Peanut butter
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Coconut oil
- Full-fat plain Greek yogurt
- Full-fat cottage cheese
- Full-fat cheese
- Coconut milk
- Dark chocolate
- Unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut
How To Shop For Healthy Items On A Budget
As a dietitian, these are my favorite tips on how to navigate the grocery store on a budget.
Shop Seasonally and Freeze Produce
Sticking to in-season fruits and veggies provides more bang for your buck year-round. Check out seasonal food guides and plan recipes around what’s ripe and abundant during that time.
For example, squash, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and citrus fruits tend to be less expensive in the fall.
You can also save money by buying fresh produce in bulk when on sale or at its seasonal peak.
Wash, chop and flash freeze extra fruits or veggies to pull out later for smoothies, soups, sauces and more.
Freezing produce at it's peak seasonality helps retains nutrients well and prevents waste.
Batch Cook And Freeze Leftovers
When you're only grocery shopping and cooking for two, batch cooking and freezing leftovers is a great time-saving hack.
Grains like rice, legumes, quinoa, and oats freeze well when cooked. I love making a large batch and putting the leftovers into freezer safe storage containers.
When I'm ready, I just reheat in the microwave or stove top and veggies or protein for an instant meal.
Cooking extra proteins including ground turkey, chicken, or tofu can also be a great way to batch cook and freeze half for another dinner later on.
There are many other entrees including overnight oats which freeze well.
By freezing leftover cooked proteins, grains and entrees you can also help minimize waste especially in small households.
Pro tip: make sure to label your frozen meals with the name and the date of freezing and put the older items towards the front of the freezer so that it gets used first.
Choose Economical Proteins:
Protein-rich foods like meat and fish can blow up a grocery budget quickly.
Opting for more affordable proteins like beans, lentils, eggs, canned fish and chicken can help save money.
You can also shop for proteins at wholesale clubs such as Costco and Sam's Club to by larger portions of protein and storing them in the freezer.
Pro tip: any meat protein that is bone-in or still has the skin on will be more expensive than the boneless skinless version. To save money, buy the bone-in version of the meats and remove it at home. Bone-in chicken is actually extremely juicy and is delicious in my dutch oven chicken thighs recipe.
Use Coupons and Loyalty Programs:
Checkout savings by using digital and newspaper coupons or loyalty card programs at your grocery store. Stores like Safeway, Kroger and Publix offer weekly digital coupon deals that you can load directly onto your membership card for automatic discounts at checkout.
Pro tip: Check out Ibotta, which is my favorite app that offers additional coupons and freebies on top of the discounts at the grocery store.
DIY Convenience Foods
Pre-chopped veggies, shredded cheese and salad kits can make life easier but convenience usually comes at a premium price.
Whenever possible, take 10-15 minutes when you get home to prep your own convenience foods to save almost 50% in costs.
Make your own salad dressings by simply mixing together equal parts oil and vinegar.
One of my favorite hacks is shredding an entire block of cheese in the food processor to sprinkle on tacos, salads, omelets or sandwiches for the week.
Make It At Home
Making homemade versions of store-bought items is a great way to save money. While it does take additional time, making homemade versions of your favorites is a great way to get creative in the kitchen and explore new recipes.
- Use the food processor to make nut butter, hummus, salsas, no-bake energy bars or other high protein bean dips.
- Make your own protein bagels or homemade granola.
- Make your own homemade crackers or dark chocolate Heavenly Hunks.
- Grind up rolled oats to make your own oat flour at home for gluten-free baking.
- Try making condiments such as chili oil sauce or vegan green goddess dressing.
With a little bit of meal planning and some thrifty grocery shopping tips, you can easily stick to a budget for healthy foods for two people.
What money-saving strategies do you use at the grocery store? Share your best budget grocery shopping tips in the comments!