Skip to main content

10 Tips for Eating Right Affordably

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN

Published: July 27, 2018

Reviewed: February 13, 2020

10 Tips for Eating Right Affordably
bowdenimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

As U.S. food prices continue to rise, shoppers are challenged to find more economical ways to buy groceries and prepare healthy meals. Here are 10 tips for stretching your food dollar.

1. Plan Menus and Make a List

A sure way to overspend is by wandering aimlessly through the aisles and tossing whatever looks good into your cart. Instead, plan menus and write a shopping list that corresponds with the store aisles. Look for menu planning and recipe help on your supermarket's website. Many feature tools for planning and pricing meals.

2. Use Coupons and Rewards Cards

Did you know the Sunday inserts in your local paper have anywhere from $50 to $75 worth of coupons in them? Clipping coupons or printing them from websites can save you 10% to 15% on your grocery bill.

Also consider joining your supermarket's shopper's club or app. Not only will you enjoy price specials, but you may receive additional coupons for items you regularly purchase at checkout or by email.

3. Buy Store Brands

Many shoppers say they are economizing by buying store brand products (also known as private label). Private label brands can be anywhere from 15% to 20% less expensive than their national brand counterparts while the quality of the food may match the national brand.

4. Buy On Sale and In Bulk

Cruising the aisle for sales on shelf-stable items or products you use regularly is a great way to save money. However, buy larger quantities only if you have proper storage space and will use the food before it spoils.

5. Compare Unit Prices

Use the "unit price" (price per pound, ounce or pint) to compare national brands with store brands, or bulk and economy-sizes with single-serve or regular-size packages. Many stores show the unit price on a shelf tag.

6. Read Food Labels

Compare nutrients using the % Daily Value on the Nutrition Facts label. Five percent or less is low — try to aim low in saturated fat and sodium. Twenty percent or more is high — try to aim high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

7. Focus on Whole Foods

While processed foods such as whole-grain bread and pasta, canned fruit and tofu are affordable staples, steer clear of highly processed snack and convenience foods. Aim to fill your cart mostly with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and protein foods including beans and peanut butter.

8. Shop Seasonally

Fresh produce often costs less when it's in season. You also could visit a local farmers market or join a produce club to take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables. For produce not in season, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables (with little or no added salt or sugar) are a nutritious option.

9. Keep Foods Safe and Prevent Food Waste

Use dating information ("sell by" and "best used by") to help select the freshest foods at the market. Put cold and frozen foods in your shopping cart last and store them right away in the refrigerator and freezer. Once you're home, store foods so those with the oldest "sell by" dates will be used first.

10. Pay Attention at Checkout

Make sure prices ring up as advertised or as indicated on the shelf label, especially for sale items. Some stores will even give you the item free if they make a mistake on the price.

Even if you’re on a budget, there are ways to save money and still eat healthy!  Nutritious foods can be affordable with just a few of these tips and tricks.

Amy Kimberlain, RDN, LDN, CDCES

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson

Amy Kimberlain

Find a Nutrition Expert

Looking for credible nutrition information and recommendations? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' network of credentialed food and nutrition practitioners are ready to help!