Balancing nutritional needs and budget restraints while grocery shopping can be a difficult task. But with a little insight and recipe inspiration, you can make sure each dollar delivers a nutritional punch. Here's what to look for in each grocery department to spend little, but get a lot of nutrition.
Fruits and vegetables that are sturdy or shelf stable are a great choice for saving money in the produce aisle. Tender fruits and vegetables that spoil quickly are priced higher to make up for store losses. So instead, look for vegetables like sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, hearty greens like kale or cabbage and winter squash. Fruit like apples, oranges, pears, and melons are also fairly shelf stable.
Look for large value packed meats that can be divided into smaller portions at home and frozen for later use. Whole roasts, bone-in, or skin on cuts are often priced lower and can provide more flavor in recipes. Large beef and pork roasts can be easily cooked in a slow cooker, divided, and frozen for quick meals later. Whole chickens, or even store roasted rotisserie chickens, provide a large amount of versatile meat, and the carcass can be used to make homemade broth for soups and stews. Canned salmon, tuna, and sardines are great for keeping your pantry stocked and are packed with calcium, Vitamin D, and heart healthy fats.
Eggs are an inexpensive nutritional powerhouse, have a long refrigerator life, and can be incorporated into just about any meal. Natural block-style cheese is often less expensive than sliced or pre-shredded cheeses, and you'll avoid the starchy coating that is used to prevent shredded cheese from clumping. Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein, but smaller single-portion cups are almost always more expensive than larger tubs, and often contain high amounts of sugar. Instead, opt for a large tub of plain yogurt and experiment with your own add-ins like jam, rolled oats, frozen or dried fruit, nuts, or honey. Plain yogurt can also be used in savory recipes to replace sour cream, mayonnaise, and sometimes as a replacement for oil in baked goods.
Tortillas and pita bread are often less expensive than sandwich bread, can be used for wraps, tacos, quesadillas, quick pizzas, and stuffed "pocket" style sandwiches. Fresh or frozen pizza dough can be a time and money saver, while allowing you to control the nutritional value of your pizza toppings. When buying other breads and baked goods, consider storing them in the freezer to prevent them going bad if you don't go through them quickly.
This is the area of the store where you will get the most nutrition for the smallest dollar, and balance higher priced grocery items like dairy and meat. Stock up on dry or canned beans, lentils, whole grains like rice, and whole grain pasta. Canned tomato products are also a convenient alternative to fresh tomatoes and many can be found in low-sodium varieties. These items will not spoil, provide plenty of fiber, minerals, and protein, and are an inexpensive way to bulk up meals like soups, stews, casseroles, and bowl meals.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are the star of the frozen foods department. Frozen produce provides all the nutrients of their fresh counterparts, but with added convenience (pre-chopped!) and less risk of spoilage. Frozen fruit makes a great snack, add-in for yogurt or oatmeal, or blended into a filling smoothie. Frozen vegetables, like spinach, broccoli, and corn can be easily added into pasta, soup, stew, and casseroles to add color, texture, and nutrients.Fighting Hunger in Action , Nutrition