Healthy Eating for Under $50 a Week (no for real, it's possible)

By Brittyn Howard, MS, RDN/LD, @localrootsdietitian

One of the most common excuses of not eating healthier or not taking the final step to become vegetarian, vegan, organic, etc. is the cost. According to a meta-analysis from Harvard School of Public Health in 2013, the healthiest diets only cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diets! There is a common misconception that a healthy diet costs exponentially more than an unhealthy diet, which impacts the food choices that one makes. It also makes it extremely tempting when big fast-food chains offer unhealthy but filling meals for less than a dollar.

Many people go into grocery stores without a game- or meal-plan, and end up buying 2-3 times as much as they really need or can consume in a week. By sticking to a weekly grocery template, grocery shopping can become quick and efficient and also help you save on foods you won’t or shouldn’t eat.

General Shopping Tips:

  1. Make a list before you get to the store & print it out or put it in the notes on your phone (or follow ours!)

  2. Only shop around the perimeters of the store- avoid the middle aisles (except for canned beans or veggies).

  3. Only buy what you will actually eat that week (better to underestimate and have to go back than throw produce away!)

  4. Go shopping after you eat a meal! Never go to the store hungry.

  5. If your grocery store has an app, download it! These usually have tons of digital coupons and exclusive deals.

  6. Become a couponer! Google manufacturer coupons (these can be used at any store!)

  7. Shop in the frozen section! Frozen fruits and veggies are typically cheaper and have the same (if not better) nutritional value!  

  8. Consider shopping at your local farmer’s market or asian market!

Plant-Based Shopping Guide:

Here’s how your budget will be separated each week:

Food Group -  Percentage of budget - Cost/week

Fruits & veggies - 50% -  $25

Grains & Beans/Legumes - 20% - $10

Plant-based protein & milks - 15% - $7-8

Miscellaneous (nuts, seeds, spices, utensils, etc) - 15% - $7-8

Total - 100% - $50

Here is an example of a whole food, plant-based shopping list totaling around $50: you can download this as a PDF for your fridge, pantry, or wallet HERE.

Fruits & Veggies- $25

  • 1 bag of leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, lettuce blends) - $5
  • 1 large bunch of bananas- $2
  • 1 bag of apples, oranges, or grapefruits- $4
  • 1 bag of celery or carrots- $3
  • 1 head of cauliflower or broccoli- $3
  • 2 avocadoes- $3
  • 2 sweet potatoes- $3
  • Spend any leftover on frozen fruits and veggies (great for smoothies or cooking later!)

Grains & Beans/Legumes- $10

  • Dried or canned beans- $4
  • Rice and/or quinoa- $3
  • Rolled oats or hot cereal- $3

Plant-based protein/milk- $7-8

  • 1 gallon plant-based milk- $3
  • 1 block of tofu- $3
  • Vegan protein powder (can buy all at once- which would last you a month or 2, or buy in individual small packs each week) try Bob’s Red Mill on Amazon!*

Miscellaneous $7-8

  • Bulk nuts (almonds, pecans, cashews, etc) - $3
  • Jar of nut butter or individual packs- $2-7 (one jar can last a few weeks- a month!)*
  • Chia/hemp/flax seeds in bulk section- $2-3

*Investing in bulk essentials (nut butters, protein powder, spices and herbs, etc) can sometimes cost more up-front, but will last you for a couple weeks or a month. $7-8 invested in a jar of peanut butter over 2-3 weeks only means $2-3 per week in the long run!

Use this guide to help you make the transition to a healthier, nutrient-rich diet while still being cost-efficient. Think of investing in healthy food as a premium on your health. The more you invest in your health now, the less you pay in medical bills down the road due to chronic and preventable disease. As they say, health is wealth and wealth is health!  

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