Budget-Friendly Foods for Your Healthy Grocery List
Following a healthy diet can be challenging, especially if you need to be careful with your budget. However, there are many foods which are both healthy and easy on your wallet. If you’re not sure of what you should be getting at the grocery store, use this list of nutrient-dense foods. We’ll break down each food and let you know why you should have it on your budget grocery list.
A healthy grocery list doesn’t need to cost you a fortune, just make sure you include these ingredients and use them as a base for your meals!
What Does a Healthy Grocery List Look Like?
A healthy grocery list contains plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (that are currently in season!). A good selection on lean meats such as chicken breast, oily fish and low-fat dairy such as Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese.
Of course in the past, a healthy grocery list meant an expensive grocery shop. But if you stick to these healthy options that are low in cost – you can significantly reduce your shopping total and still get all the health benefits. So these are the must-have items to include in your next grocery shop!
Stocking Your Pantry with Budget Ingredients
If you stock your pantry with good, healthy and inexpensive ingredients, you will always have a meal on hand and a snack to grab. Cooking is always simpler and easier when you have the right ingredients on hand. For a free copy of our ‘Ultimate Essential Pantry Staples Shopping List’ – just click here. Of course not everyone will love every item on the list, you need to customise it to your taste and cooking style!
Healthy Grocery Lists are Planned Ahead Grocery Lists
There are health studies that show that people who plan their meals in advance before going grocery shopping have a healthier overall diet. Especially now during Covid where we are limited to the amount of times we go grocery shopping and many people are getting their food shopping delivered to their home (which is the best invention ever!).
So before heading to the supermarket, have a think about what healthy meals you can make for the week ahead, using the following cheap ingredients.
Broccoli is an incredibly cheap vegetable that usually costs about a dollar for a head. It’s a great choice for your shopping list since it contains a little of almost every nutrient that you need. Broccoli is especially high in Vitamin C which contributes to healthy skin and good immune function. Studies show that eating a fibre-rich diet helps to improve or promote health over time. If you have broccoli on hand, it’s easy to enjoy raw or add to casseroles, soups, or just steam and enjoy.
Broccoli is also one of the best vegetables for weight loss! Have a look at body-builders – they are aiming for very low body-fat in order to show off their muscles – and what do they eat? Broccoli and lean chicken! So eat your greens!
Broccoli can also be a freezer staple – if you are growing broccoli and want to freeze it – just blanch in a large pot of boiling water for 20 – 30 seconds, allow to cool and then place in a ziplock bag.
Fantastic recipes using Broccoli and the hero ingredient include:
Onions are a great vegetable that adds flavour to dishes without having to add salt or other spices. They tend to be fairly low in price and usually cost about a couple of dollars per kilogram. They’re a good source of antioxidants that will contribute to overall good health and are also a reasonable source of manganese, potassium, and Vitamin C. What makes them an especially good choice though is that fresh onions have a fairly long shelf life so you can buy a bag and then keep them for months.
You also have a great choice when it comes to different types of onions. Brown onions are the cheapest and most robust – they are perfect for use in stir-fries and bolognaise sauce. White onions are a lot stronger – they are good in dishes where you need that extra flavour explosion. Red onions or Spanish Onions are the best onions to use raw in salads or on sandwiches.
Remember that onions make for a delicious salsa! And if you find the flavour of onions too strong, cut them into slices and soak them in vinegar for 30 minutes, it makes them deliciously sweet!
Some yummy ways to use onions are the hero ingredient include:
- Deep-Fried Blooming Onion
- Authentic French Onion Soup (recipe by Manu)
- Slow Cooker Sausages in Onion Gravy
3. Sweet Potatoes
Similarly priced as onions, sweet potatoes are both popular and healthy. They provide an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals that come with multiple health benefits. Their primary nutrient is Vitamin A and just one potato contains your entire daily dose! They’re also rich in potassium, fiber, and other vitamins. You can enjoy sweet potatoes in a number of ways from simply baking to steaming or just adding to your current dishes. Their mild flavor also makes them popular with kids so they’re great for families. And if you haven’t tried Sweet Potato chips – you aren’t living! They are deliciously sweet!
Delicious recipes using sweet potatoes include:
- Sweet Potato and Ham Croquettes
- Sweet Potato Impossible Pie
- Baked, Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Rice and Chickpeas
4. Canned Fish
Although many of the foods on this list are vegetables, you also want a diet that contains protein. Meats can be expensive but canned fish is surprisingly affordable. Much less expensive than fresh seafood, a can of tuna is only a few dollars. Canned fish such as tuna or salmon are rich in omega-3 fats which contributes to good heart health. Fish is also a lean protein so it’s a great option for your shopping list. Consider making tuna into salads, casseroles, and enjoying in recipes.
Plus don’t forget other canned fish like anchovies (which are fabulous in pasta dishes or on pizzas).
Some great recipe ideas for canned fish:
5. Frozen Berries
Fresh berries can often be very affordable when you purchase them in season but you can find frozen berries to fit your budget any time of the year. Berries are nutrition superstars and cost only a few dollars a pound. Regardless of the type of berry that you purchase, they’re rich in antioxidants which helps to prevent chronic diseases as well as certain types of cancer. They’re also rich in fibre and Vitamin C. To get the benefit of berries, add them to salads, smoothies, or make them into healthy desserts to enjoy.
Some great ways to use Frozen Berries include:
The saying about apples keeping doctors away is no joke as they are both healthy and affordable. Apples are usually just a dollar or two for a pound. They also have a long shelf life so they’re easy to keep around for cooking or healthy snacking. One medium apple contains a fair amount of fibre and Vitamins C and B. Eating them regularly may help to lower inflammation and they’re also delicious. They’re convenient to use in a number of recipes so make sure you stock apples in your fridge.
Plus did you know that you can puree apples and use the puree as a sugar substitute in baking!
Great recipes using apples include:
- Most Amazing Apple Pie Recipe in the World
- Apple and Cinnamon Muffins (pictured)
- Apple and Sour Cream Slice
Fresh eggs are a versatile protein source that most people enjoy. They’re considered to be one of the most nutritious foods on the planet and a dozen eggs is an incredibly cheap protein source as well. One medium egg contains six grams of protein and nutrients that contribute to good eye health. Furthermore, they have some of almost any vitamin and mineral that your body needs for good function. They’re one of the few sources of choline, a nutrient that contributes to cognitive function.
You can enjoy eggs on their own or include them in recipes for a quick protein source.
Recipes using eggs as the hero ingredient include:
Whether you prefer plain or greek yogurt, yogurt is a good source of many nutrients and also very affordable. You can usually find a 32-ounce container of yogurt for just two or three dollars at most grocery stores. What makes it such a good choice though? When you choose greek yogurt, a single serving has 13 grams of protein. Regular yogurt doesn’t have as much but is also a decent source. It’s also a great choice to get calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. Finally, yogurt is a good source of probiotics which contributes to good gut health. Yogurt tastes great on its own or you can add it to smoothies. It can also be made into sauces so consider stocking plain yogurt in your fridge.
Great recipes using Yoghurt include:
- Two Ingredient Greek Yoghurt Pizza Dough (pictured)
- Easy Greek Yoghurt Flatbread
- Frozen Yoghurt Bites
Dairy-Free Yoghurt Options:
If you are lactose intolerant, there is the option of coconut yoghurt – which is delicious but very very expensive! A way to get around that is to make your own coconut yoghurt at home. You can pick up yoghurt makers from Green Living Australia with Non-Dairy Yoghurt Cultures that make over 100 litres!
Similar to yogurt, you can also get a number of essential nutrients from milk. Unlike almost any other food on this list, you can get a gallon of milk for just a few dollars. It doesn’t have an extremely long shelf life so you’ll want to use it fairly quickly. However, just a single cup of milk is a good source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamin D. With many people being deficient in Vitamin D, milk provides a cheap and easy source. Consuming milk on a regular basis contributes to good bone health. This is especially important for families with growing children.
Children under two years of age should always consume full-fat milk – but after then, skim milk is recommended.
Dairy-Free Milk Alternatives
Remember there are lots of dairy-free milk substitutes now. Some taste like arse, so ensure you buy a couple and try them for taste! The healthiest dairy-free or plant-based milk is certainly Almond Milk – but the taste is lacking.
Great recipes that contain loads of milk include:
Lemons are fantastic. They can be used to flavour chicken pieces, used to set a dessert instead of gelatin, they go great squeezed over a salad as a healthy salad dressing, or just as a garnish in a nice beverage at the end of the day. Plus did you know that just a single lemon has 100% of your daily intake of Vitamin C!
I do love bananas, but I know they aren’t for everyone. They are great in smoothies, when they are frozen and whipped they make a delicious sugar free ice cream and you can even use them in baking as a sugar-substitute. Now bananas do not have a long shelf life, so when they start going black – chop them up and place them in a zip lock bag and freeze them. They freeze really well and are the sweetest and tastiest when they look a bit manky!
12. Rolled Oats or Oatmeal
Oats are incredibly nutritious. They can lower cholesterol levels, improve blood-sugar control and because they are so filling, they can help you lose weight. You don’t just eat rolled oats as porridge for breakfast, you can include them in smoothies, you can bread your meat in rolled oats as a substitute for breadcrumbs and use them as a ‘filler’ in just about any dish!
13. Whole Wheat Bread or Whole Grain Bread
If you can’t go without bread, there are whole wheat options that are much better for you than traditional white bread which really is just full of sugar. Go for pita pockets, English Muffins, or whole-grain flour tortillas. All delicious options especially when paired with salads or topped with tinned fish or eggs.
If you aren’t sure what items are whole-wheat, just have a look at the ingredients list on the label, whole wheat items should have ‘Whole Wheat Flour’ as the very first ingredient.
14. Dried or Canned Beans
Here in Australia is seems that we are scared of beans, but they are so damn delicious and they are full of protein! I put them in my spaghetti sauce (the kids have no idea), in my salads and casseroles. Not only are they good for you and filling, but they are also so cheap. You can save even more money by using the dried versions but then you do need to soak them.
Examples of beans you should include in your diet include:
- Kidney Beans
- Black Beans
- Navy Beans
Plus if you ever get to a Japanese restaurant – it would be criminal not to try Boiled Soybeans (Edamame) – just delicious!
15. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are not only great for you, they are a delicious snack. Especially if you are working at a computer and just need something ‘crunchy’ to snack on – you can’t go past them. They are also known as pepitas. Grab them from your local health food store.
Pumpkin Seeds are high in antioxidants, very high in magnesium, may improve your heart health and can lower your blood sugar levels!
16. Spinach or Kale
Spinach is a really easy vegetable to grow at home, but it is also pretty damn cheap to buy at the supermarket. Spinach is full of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate which is important for expectant Mums.
Baby Spinach is a bit nicer to eat and is fabulous in salads or on sandwiches as a substitute for lettuce.
Nifty recipes that use Spinach include:
17. Brown Rice
Brown rice is exactly the same as white rice however it includes the outer-hull, the bran layer and the cereal germ removed. Because it is more ‘natural’ it is also more nutritious and has more fibre. It does take longer to cook than white rice, but you can also purchase it from the Supermarket in microwave packs that only take 30 seconds or so. Brown rice can be used in just about any savoury dish as a ‘filler’. It is especially good in tomato-based dishes because it absorbs the flavour.
Brown rice has 111 calories per 100 grams.
Healthy dishes using Brown Rice include:
Strawberries are in season right now (October/November in Australia) and they are so plump, sweet and delicious! The thing is, strawberries are incredibly good for you. They lower your blood pressure, increase HDL (which is the good cholesterol) and they are packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
They also freezer very well too! Just chop up and freeze! Strawberries contain 33 calories per 100 grams – so they are great for the waistline!
Fun Fact: Strawberries naturally whiten your teeth!
Yummy family recipes using strawberries include:
Before we begin, yes I know that nuts are not always a frugal food. But when you can get them at a good price, they are very healthy for you. They are full of healthy fat (the good fat), are a good source of fibre and contain protein. The healthiest of all nut varieties is the almond. But just 28 grams of almonds contain 161 calories – so only have a few at a time. Other excellent nuts for a healthy grocery list include:
- Brazil Nuts
Full of vitamin C, sweet and delicious – use oranges in your salads, as a quick ‘grab and go’ snack. Kids love them, but when was the last time you enjoyed an orange?
If you can include the orange skin in some of your recipes, you get the added nutrients that the skin contains which will give your diet that extra boost!
Crunchy and delicious, carrots are very cheap to buy (so perfect for your budget healthy shopping list) and make for perfect snack food. Carrots contain fibre, beta carotene, vitamin K1, potassium and antioxidants. They keep their shape and texture for a long time so they are perfect for the school lunch box with a bit of hommus!
A glass of freshly juiced carrot juice is the best breakfast you could drink!
Great recipes for carrots include:
22. Peanut Butter
Oh, I couldn’t imagine a world without peanut butter. Loved by kids and adults alike, you can use it as a dip with carrot sticks, on a celery stick with a few raisans as a healthy after school snack or just grab a spoon and eat it straight from the tub.
Peanut Butter is high in fat (a 100 gram serving contains 588 calories) but it is nutrient-dense and in small doses, is good for the soul!
Some very unhealthy recipes using peanut butter include:
Putting it Together
Now that you have this shopping list, you’re ready to get started. Most of the foods on this list can be enjoyed on their own but don’t be afraid to include them in your recipes as well. Some healthy foods are surprisingly inexpensive and delicious. Try out a few of them the next time you go to the store.