How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

By: Jacqueline Gilpin

In our current economy, shopping smart at the grocery store is essential. With a little bit of planning, there are ways to make healthy eating convenient and more affordable. There is an art to buying groceries that will fuel you nutritiously for a lower cost. Here are 5 RD-approved grocery hacks that dietitians live by.

Vary Your Protein Sources

Protein is one of the most essential macronutrients – it is the building block of muscles, enzymes, and a variety of important body functions.

However, high-quality meats and seafood often come at a higher cost. While animal protein provides essential nutrients like vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, and Iron, swapping in vegetarian/plant-based protein sources is a great way to enjoy high-protein meals with a variety of healthy micronutrients at a lower price point. Some alternative protein sources we love are:

  1. Lentils- Per 1 cup, lentils boast an impressive profile of 20 grams of protein. Plus lentils are packed with  heart-healthy fiber and essential vitamins.
  2. Beans- Beans range from 15-25 grams of protein per cup (depending on the specific bean) are rich sources of   fiber, magnesium, potassium, and iron.[1] Edamame is one of the lowest carb, highest fiber beans – I recommend Edamame if you are a lower carbohydrate nutrition plan.
  3. Tempeh- Derived from soybeans, tempeh is a low-carb protein source, with 20 grams of protein per serving. Additionally, tempeh contains gut-healthy probiotics from the fermenation process.
  4. Greek yogurt-  1 cup of greek yogurt offers 17 grams of protein and is high in gut-nourishing probiotics, vitamin b-12, and calcium.[2] Pair greek yogurt w/ raspberries and chia seeds for an NSN-approved snack.
  5. Eggs- Per 1 serving (2 whole eggs), eggs contain 12 grams of protein and are high in essential nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin b-12, folate.

Selectively Shop Organic

Organic foods are treated with less pesticides and herbicides. However, shopping strictly organic is often not accessible, nor is it necessary to eat a healthy, balanced diet. If you want to avoid pesticides in the most economical way, select organic foods from the “dirty dozen” and non organic foods from the “clean 15.” Pesticide burden varies from different types of foods based on their intrinsic resilience to external environment and growing conditions. According to the studies of the Environmental Working Group (EWG)[3], the 2022 “dirty dozen” list contains:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Bell and hot peppers
  8. Cherries
  9. Peaches
  10. Pears
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

The “clean 15” contains:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Asparagus
  8. Honeydew melon
  9. Kiwi
  10. Cabbage
  11. Mushrooms
  12. Cantaloupes
  13. Mangoes
  14. Watermelon
  15. Sweet Potatoes


Stock the Freezer

Frozen fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood are nutritious, cost-friendly options. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often less expensive than fresh produce and will last far longer. Additionally, buying frozen meats and seafood allow greater flexibility in cooking time, and can stay fresh for longer than unfrozen, uncooked protein. Less food waste = more money saved!

Dietitain Pro tip: if you make a fresh soup, sauce, broth, meat/seafood, or have fresh fruit/vegetables that you think will go bad before you can eat them, freeze them to extend their shelf life!

Eat Complete Meals vs Grazing

Eating consistent, complete meals will help you avoid snacking/grazing throughout the day. When you fill your plate with protein, healthy fats, and fiber, you’ll feel more energized, regulate your blood sugar and prevent hunger in between meals. Thus, you will be less likely to spend $ on snacks and mindless eating. Balanced meals vs grazing will also help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.

Shop Around

Not all grocery stores sell their products at the same price. Finding a cheaper grocery store in your area can be an easy way to get the same nutrition at a significantly lower cost. In the northeast area, we love…

  1. Trader Joe’s
  2. Market Basket
  3. Walmart
  4. Costco
  5. Amazon Fresh


We hope these grocery store tips and tricks will inspire you to eat nutrient-dense meals while also saving $. Be sure to tag @newburystreetnutrition on Instagram in your next grocery haul!




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