How can I make healthy meals for my family while sticking to my budget?

Real Mom Problem

“I hate going grocery shopping because I try to buy healthy stuff, but it's hard not to break the bank. Any ideas for healthy foods I can look for at the store without burning a hole in my pocket?”

by mslh84 mslh84

Quick Tips

  • 1. Stock up when your store has sales on healthy foods, especially things that can be frozen so they'll last longer
  • 2. Generic brands of many staples can be just as healthy as the brand-name options
  • 3. Eat less meat. Other proteins like beans or tofu can be just as healthy and are usually less expensive
  • 4. Eat local to save money on shipping costs. Seasonal, local food is often better for you, too

Real Mom Solutions

Eating healthy doesn't have to mean spending more at the grocery store. Try these tips to maximize your food budget when you buy healthy food options.

Jane Schwartz Jane Schwartz

Our Expert Mom Says...

Over the years, I've learned lots of great tricks for eating healthily on a budget that I use myself and share with clients. Here are my favorite tips:

  • Buy in bulk when you can. Large supermarket chains (not just health food stores) will often carry bulk items like nuts, dried fruit, grains, beans, and spices for less.
  • Check out discount membership stores like Costco, which have items like whole grain cereals, tomato sauces, pasta, meats, fruits and vegetables at lower costs as well.
  • Look to generic store brands for things like brown rice, beans, and pastas, which are often just as healthy as their name brand counterparts for less.
  • Buy extra when you see something healthy on sale. This especially works well for hormone-free meats and chicken.
  • Use less animal protein overall in your meals--this is typically the most expensive item. Stretch your meat and chicken by serving it with more generous portions of whole grains and vegetables. This works great in dishes such as stews, stir fries, and pasta meals.
  • Buy seasonally (and locally) when you can. Items shipped from far away are often pricier. You will be supporting your local farmers as well.

Remember too that junk food like ice cream, chips, and cookies can be expensive. Trade these purchases for crunchy apples, avocados, and grape tomatoes.

Jane Schwartz is a mom of two and a registered dietitian and health writer based in Princeton, NJ. She is the Outpatient and Community Education dietitian at the University Medical Center at Princeton. You can find out more about her work at her website,

More Healthy Savings Tips from Moms

  • Nykkii

    Eating healthy really isn't any more expensive. You just have to shop smart. Buy frozen veggies, fruits that are on sale, and whole wheat pasta, which costs the same at Wal-mart as regular pasta. Brown rice costs the same as white. Chicken isn't expensive. Buy in bulk. Ground turkey is close to the same price as ground beef. Watch for sales.

  • Shelly13579

    Every week I check the local advertisements for what is on sale. Buy what is in season, too. Buying private label/store brands helps too; Jewel plain yogurt will be less expensive than a Dannon or Stoneyfield Farm yogurt. Keep an eye out for coupons and check online for some, too. But whatever you do...keep eating healthy!

  • s.t.e.p.h

    It takes a little planning and time, but it's not too difficult. One thing I do is waffles. I make up a batch and once they are cooled, they go into Ziploc bags and I freeze them. When someone wants one, they just pull it out of the freezer, pop it in the toaster and it's ready. I buy a lot of our meat in bulk; I look for the sales. Also, I buy frozen veggies instead of canned. Another good idea/tip: after meals, if you have leftover veggies, toss them into a bag and freeze them. Soon you'll have enough to throw together a veggie soup. There are so many ways to cut costs. Meal planning -- I used to not meal plan, and now I can't understand why I didn't do it sooner!

  • pampire

    Anything you make with ground meat, add some beans. If you have time, buy dried beans, soak them overnight and cook them in big batches. Then you can drain them and freeze them in one- to two-cup portions -- way cheaper than buying canned.

    Having at least one meatless dinner a week can help stretch the budget. Alternate rice and other grains with pastas for variety. Barley, kasha, and bulgur are cheap and tasty and pretty easy to prepare, too. I mix them with ground meats in recipes or use them instead of the meat.

    If your family likes dark meat, chicken thighs and legs are way cheaper than breasts per pound. You can simmer them with veggie scraps for soup stock and have lots of meat leftover to work into other dishes.