Shopping for healthy foods can seem difficult, especially when you are on a tight budget. Being prepared can help you choose healthy, low-cost foods and avoid unintended purchases. Use these wallet-friendly tips to eat great without breaking the bank.

  • Stick to your list – Check out deals advertised online or in weekly store circulars. See what you have at home, and then create a grocery list using sale items and your pantry items as main ingredients. A quick internet search can help you find websites that generate recipes based on the foods you already have. Most importantly, stick to your plan! Eat something before heading to the store to avoid craving-driven purchases. Shopping while hungry can lead you to splurge on high-calorie foods you didn't plan to buy.
  • Be a diligent shopper – Consult unit prices to compare items. Most often listed on the shelf price label, a unit price is the price per ounce or other standard unit of measurement. If you are unsure if the bigger or smaller box of cereal is a better value, check the unit price! Generally, the store brand, or generic, item will be a better deal.
  • Pick a variety of produce – Stretch your dollar by buying a mix of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce is less expensive when in season. You can use the Tennessee seasonality chart​ (pp. 59-61) to help you plan. Frozen or canned options may be the better deal for out of season produce. As a bonus, frozen and canned products tend to come pre-chopped and last longer. Be sure to look for produce marked "no salt added" or "no added sugar" to avoid unnecessary sodium and calories from sugar.
  • Cook in large batches – Buy foods that have long shelf lives, like dry rice, beans, and oils, when they are on sale. Use the motto, "Cook once; eat twice." Make large batches of food and freeze leftovers for quick meals later on in the week. Slow cookers are great tools to cook large portions at once. They use a moist heat cooking technique that can tenderize tougher, less expensive portions of meat. You can also slow cook protein-rich beans and lentils, which can be economical meat alternatives.
  • Minimize food waste – Don't throw money away. Challenge yourself to eat everything you buy. Freeze or get creative making soups, frittatas, or smoothies with leftover produce, meats, or herbs about to go bad. Keep perishable foods within eyesight in the refrigerator or on the counter so you don't forget to eat them.


Dining on a Dime Handout


Prepare a meal using ingredients you already have on hand.


Crustless Spinach Quiche


  1. "10 Tips for Eating Right Affordably." Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  2. "5 Ways to Stretch Your Dollar at the Grocery Store." Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  3. "7 Ways to Shop Healthy on a Budget." Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  4. "What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl." USDA Mixing Bowl.