6 healthy meal planning tips on a budget  

lady grocery shopping

If you’ve felt some sticker shock recently while picking up your groceries, you’re not alone. With inflation going strong, shopping for food has been getting painful. But while you might not be able to do much about the sky-high prices of your pantry favorites, there are strategies you can use to make your dollar go further. Here’s some tips from a nutritionist to help you get started. 

1. Buy in bulk 

No, you probably don’t need 4 tubs of mayo, but hear me out: Buying in bulk can be a great way to trim costs for your most used items. Oftentimes, the price per unit of a bulk item is lower than the smaller package you usually find on the shelf, so they’re a great way to stretch your budget. But here’s the catch: Only go big if it’s a product you’ll actually use to avoid wasting food. Long-lasting items like pasta or canned foods and things you can freeze—like fresh meat—are also good candidates for a bulk buy.  

2. Plan ahead 

We’ve all been there: You swing by the store to pick up a few things for the week and end up throwing random foods in your cart that you hope form some kind of cohesive meal. This can quickly run up your grocery bill—and make you more likely to choose less nutritious options. My recommendation: Sit down each week and create a meal plan, then create a shopping list from that plan. When you get to the store, do your best to stick to the list. 

This take a little time up front, but a plan can keep you on track for your budget and nutrition goals. Also, fewer trips to the grocery store reduces your chances of scooping up impulse buys. 

3. Go meatless 

It’s no secret that meat prices have soared in recent years. While you certainly don’t have to go full vegetarian, adding some non-meat protein to your diet from beans, lentils or tofu can definitely save you some cheddar. Most of the time, these foods cost less per pound than chicken, beef or pork. And they’re not just high in protein; legumes like beans and lentils are full of fiber, iron, magnesium and folate.1 Now that’s something to toot your horn about! 

4. Don’t be afraid of store brands 

Look, I’m as much of a brand loyalist as anyone when it comes to some of my favorites (looking at you, Oreos!), but generic and store-brand items are often a lot more affordable than their big-name counterparts. And often you’ll find the quality is just as good. Who knows? You might learn that you like “Cream-Os” after all! So don’t be afraid to try them. The savings you’ll get from switching a few items to generic brands will quickly add up! 

5. Don’t forget the leftovers! 

With all this shopping, prepping and meal planning, you’re bound to have some leftovers. But don’t just throw them out. Each year, Americans discard around 42 billion pounds of food—which is a huge waste of both food and money!2 Try to find ways to make use of anything you don’t eat immediately. This can be a planned leftover night or a rework of one day’s meal into another recipe – like using extra pasta sauce for a homemade pizza. 

6. Shop the sales and use rewards 

Check if your favorite grocery store has an app, a rewards program or a partnership with a coupon site, as they’ll often have special promotions and discounts. And try to plan meals around sales to help stretch your dollar. Some stores post their sales in advance, so if you’re savvy, you can maximize your savings by building meals around those discounted foods.  

About Laura 

Laura is a Nutritionist and an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Ball State University and a Master of Science in Health Sciences with a public health concentration from Indiana State University.  She is a competitive distance runner who loves to support individuals in achieving their goals.  

Laura is just one of the many experts at Persona who are here to accelerate your wellness journey. If you have questions about nutrition or your personalized program, reach out now or book a free appointment with Laura or another of our amazing nutritionists.  

This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.  

References:

  1. All about beans nutrition, health benefits, preparation and use in menus. NDSU Agriculture and Extension. 
  2. Food waste in america | feeding america.

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