Healthy eating leads to lower health care costs and better overall health concern prevention. ChooseMyPlate.gov shares simple strategies for eating healthy on a budget.
Create a Grocery Game Plan
Making a plan before heading to the store can help you get organized, save money, and choose healthy options.
Plan Your Weekly Meals
Before making a grocery list, write down meals you want to make this week. Buying for the week means you’ll make fewer shopping trips and buy only the items you need.
Here are some basic tips for creating your menu and grocery list:
- See what you already have. Look in your freezer, cabinets, and refrigerator. Make a note of what you currently have on hand. You can save money by using these items in the upcoming week’s meals.
- Use a worksheet to plan your meals. The Create a Grocery Game Plan Worksheet is great for planning your week and figuring out what items you may need to buy.
- Create a list of recipes to try. Find new ideas for healthy and low-cost meals based on what you have on hand, foods your family enjoys, and foods that are good buys.
- Visit What's Cooking? for recipe inspiration. Search recipes by ingredient using What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl -- an interactive tool to help with healthy meal planning, cooking, and grocery shopping. Be sure to include some family favorites along with the new recipes.
- Think about your schedule. Choose meals you can easily prepare when you don’t have a lot of time. Save recipes that take longer for days off. You also can prepare meals in advance to heat and serve on your busiest days.
- Plan to use leftovers. Think about larger recipes with enough servings for multiple meals. This can reduce the number of ingredients you need to buy, and save you time preparing another meal.
Make A Grocery List
Stay organized with a grocery list to avoid buying items you don’t really need.
- Use your list of weekly meals. Create a list of foods and beverages you will need to buy to make the meals in your weekly plan. Don’t forget to include foods like fruits, vegetables, and milk that might not be part of a recipe but are basics for healthy eating.
- Organize your list. Make shopping quick and easy by organizing your list into different sections or food groups. For a free template, try the Create a Grocery Game Plan: Grocery List.
- Add foods as you go. Keep an ongoing grocery list in your kitchen or on a free mobile app, and add items as you run out. Some mobile apps allow you to sync grocery lists with others in your household.
Save More at The Store
The smartest shoppers know that saving money is more than luck. When shopping for groceries, it’s about having a game plan and making smart decisions about what to put in your cart.
- Ask for advice. Grocery stores, ethnic markets, dollar stores, retail supercenters, and wholesale clubs can offer good deals. Ask friends and family where they shop and find their best bargains!
- Eat before you shop. Grocery shopping hungry can lead to impulse buying and unhealthy food choices.
- Read the sales flyer. Sales flyers are usually released mid-week and can be found at the store’s entrance, in the newspaper, or on their website.
- Use coupons – but only for items that you know you’ll use. If you don’t need an item right away, save the coupon and see if it goes on sale. For more on couponing, check out Save More at the Grocery Store.
- Look up and down for savings. Stores often stock the priciest items at eye level. You can save big by looking at the upper and lower shelves too.
- Check for store brands. Most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands.
- Grab from the back. Stores typically stock shelves from back to front, placing the newest items behind the older ones. Reach in the back for the freshest items especially in the produce, dairy, and meat aisles.
- Ask for a rain check. If a sale item has run out, ask the store for a rain check. This allows you to pay the sale price after the item is restocked.
- Join your store’s loyalty program. Most stores offer a free loyalty program. Get special offers and discounts that non-members do not.
- Think outside the store. Farmers markets and farm stands can be great options for picking up fresh produce at a discount. Check the National Farmers Market Directory for locations near you.
If you need financial assistance you may qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that can be used like cash to buy eligibile food items from authorized retailers. Authorized retailers will display either the Quest logo or a picture of a Virginia EBT card.
A SNAP account is established for eligible households and automatic deposits are made into the account each month. To access the account, they will also receive an EBT Card, which will debit the account each time eligible food items are purchased. A secret Personal Identification Number (PIN) is required to use the card.