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Grocery Shopping on a Budget Made Simple

by Timothy Gagnon

Cash is a little tight, and you’re wondering how to go grocery shopping on a budget. You might be thinking your budget limits you to bland ingredients and poor-tasting dishes. But that doesn’t have to be the case. 

As it turns out, there are plenty of cheap, delicious, and nutritious ingredients out there that you can use to create budget-friendly meals. Bear in mind, prices will likely vary depending on where you live, but the ingredients mentioned below are cheap across the board. 

For example, Greek yogurt, cheese, red meats, nuts, and other products, can be cheap in one country but two or three times more expensive in others. It seems like the market for these products depends on the local suppliers. For that reason, we won’t be discussing those location-specific ingredients. 

Protein

No meal is complete without protein, and you don’t need to drop hard cash on the fanciest meats to meet your daily protein requirements.

1 – Eggs

We know eggs aren’t the most exciting food, but when you consider the price and nutrients, they’re really hard to beat. No pun intended. A carton of eggs should last a while, and you can use them for all kinds of dishes. Consider bulk buying eggs to save money in the long run.

2 – Canned Tuna 

Canned tuna can usually be bought for around a dollar, and it’s incredibly protein-dense. There are also many types of canned tuna that can be used in a surprising amount of dishes or even quick snacks. Tuna sandwiches are perfect for a pre-workout meal. 

3 – Sardines

Canned sardines have plenty of protein too, and they cost about the same as tuna. Not many people enjoy the taste of sardines, but they can be great when money is tight. Fish is an excellent source of protein and the meat has more fatty acids than other protein sources. 

4 – Milk

Milk is another budget-friendly source of protein. The price varies slightly depending on the market but in most countries, it’s quite affordable. In some places in Europe milk is actually cheaper than the same quantity of water. 

5 – Chicken

When it comes to meat, chicken is probably the cheapest and it has lots of protein. If you have an oven, you can buy and cook an entire chicken, and then separate portions into meal boxes for the remainder of the week. Chicken thighs and drumsticks are cheap too, and you can make an easy meal with that and rice or pasta. 

Vegetables & Fruits

farmers market

A diet won’t be complete without some greens. Most vegetables and fruits are budget-friendly, but to make the most of your cash, we recommend buying the ones that are in season because they’ll be much cheaper. 

Salads are not only healthy but a great choice for people on a diet. Carrots and cabbage are always cheap too. Not to mention bananas and apples. Frozen vegetables are another option, and they taste relatively good, even after sitting in the freezer for a while. 

It might also be worth doing your vegetable and fruit shopping at the local farmers market, the quality could be better for a lower price. 

Carbs

1 – Rice 

Rice is a staple food in many countries, and it can be bought almost everywhere at budget-friendly prices. It’s also incredibly versatile. One tip for buying rice would be to visit local ethnic markets in your area, as they often have bulk discounts. A sack of rice should last for at least a month or two. 

2 – Beans

Beans are another great budget-friendly choice of carbs and fiber. You can find beans in all kinds of variations from canned, cooked, and raw. Beans are also a good source of protein and vitamins, an incredibly underrated food. 

3 – Oats

Much like beans, oats are nutritious and inexpensive too. They have lots of antioxidants, protein, and fiber. On the surface, plain oats are rather boring and tasteless, but you can create all kinds of meals from them, such as oatmeal, desserts, shakes, and more. 

4 – Pasta

Premium pasta is usually pricey but there are plenty of other options. Instant noodles would be one choice, and we have heard of plenty of entrepreneurs surviving on instant noodles while working on their business. 

But other pastas, like noodles and spaghetti, can be bought in bulk for a few dollars, which can make up quite a few of your dinners, and supply you with plenty of calories and carbs. 

Grocery Shopping on a Budget: Buying Tips

1 – Watch for Promotions

When it comes to grocery shopping on a budget, the best way to save some money is to look at the promotions, either check your local supermarket’s flyers, store notices, or even the website.

woman grocery shopping

From time to time, meats and other protein sources will be on sale, and that’s your chance to buy and store in your freezer. 

2 – Check & (Carefully!) Compare Prices

The best way to save money when grocery shopping is to closely check and compare prices. Don’t stop at the prices, make sure to look at the quantity and weight. 

For example, is it cheaper to buy six eggs or a dozen? Usually buying more at one time will save you some money in the long run but you need to calculate the price differences. 

On that note, it might be worth comparing the prices in different stores. From our experience, the best deals for vegetables, rice, and other carbs can be found in local farmers and ethnic markets. 

Membership based supermarkets like Costco that specialize in bulk, can save you money on specific household items, but might not be the best for groceries. For groceries, I recommend scouting deals from nearby supermarkets, such as Aldi, Walmart, and others. 

3 – Make a Meal Plan Before Grocery Shopping

It helps to enter the grocery store with a meal plan, so you know what ingredients to buy. While you won’t be able to make the fanciest and tastiest dishes while on a tight budget, you can still make something nutritious for three daily meals. 

We suggest writing down a quick meal plan for the upcoming week in a notebook and take it with you to the store. 

To Summarize

Grocery shopping can feel complicated, especially when you’re on a tight budget. But with a little bit of preparation, you can find plenty of nutritious ingredients that you can use to make delicious meals. Our recommendation is to prepare ahead of time and make sure your phone is handy for quick price-difference calculations. 

Being aware of prices when grocery shopping might make your shopping trip longer. But soon you’ll realize that it’s well worth the trouble, and you might even have leftover money for a treat. Good luck.

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