How to Do Your Weekly Grocery Shop With $50 or Less

There’s a common mindset that eating healthier equals a more expensive grocery shop, but that’s definitely not the case. It is possible to eat a healthy balanced diet even on a tight food budget.

In the 2017 SMILES Trial study, participants who were prescribed a Mediterranean Diet (one of the worlds healthiest diets) spent $26 less per week on groceries compared to those who followed a typical Western-style diet. While everyone’s budget, appetite and weekly quantity of food is going to be different, we have some tips to help you do your weekly grocery shop with $50.

How to save money on groceries, according to a dietitian

1. Take stock of what you already have available at home 

Planning is key to sticking to your budget and this step is essential! Have a look through your freezer and pantry to see what you’ve already got that could be used as part of your meals. Think of it as a mystery box challenge. 

Find the tins sitting at the back of the pantry that never seem to get used and get creative with ways you can incorporate those into some dishes. You’ll find you need to buy a lot less from the grocery store if you are making use of what you’ve already got - and as a bonus you’ll be wasting less food, too.

2. Research recipes

Do a little bit of research first on what you might like to cook with the foods you have available at home, or with cheap ingredients that can be pulled together into a tasty meal. For example, a can of lentils can be used to make a hearty spaghetti Bolognese, or budget-friendly rolled oats can be turned into a delicious homemade toasted muesli or baked oats for a week’s worth of breakfasts.

3. Write a meal plan

Before going grocery shopping, writing up your weekly meal plan is so helpful for sticking to a food budget. Build your meal plan around using up ingredients you already have at home and the budget friendly recipes you’ve researched. Get creative with using the same ingredients across multiple meals. Planning out the meals for the week means you will know exactly what to buy and are more likely to stick to that plan rather than ordering takeaway when you’re not feeling motivated to come up with dinner ideas every night.    

4. Write a grocery list 

Most importantly for your budget, write out a grocery list before going shopping. Keep the list with you when you shop to help prevent extra items making their way into your shop. This way you’ll go to the shop with an exact plan of what you need and can stick to your budget a lot easier. 

5. Compare prices online 

You might be in a habit of going to the grocery store that’s closest to you, but it does pay to shop around first and suss out the store with the best deals. Compare prices of the products you need online before going shopping. If there is a delivery fee for online shopping, this may not fit into your weekly food budget, but you can still compare the prices between stores and check out which store has specials on the items you are looking for. It is a little bit of extra effort but does help to stick to your budget!

6. Go meat-free more often

This doesn’t mean you have to cut meat out of your diet completely, but plant-based diets that have smaller amounts of meat can work out to be cheaper across the week compared to a diet with higher meat intake. Try swapping half the meat in recipes for lentils to make the meal stretch further, such as lentil Bolognese, and make a theme of ‘meat-free Mondays’ to try a new meat-free recipe each week. Make sure to include high protein sources in your meat-free meals, such as beans, chickpeas and lentils. 

7. Make use of the freezer 

Instead of throwing foods out at the end of the week that have spoiled or gone a little stale, make use of freezing certain foods to help them stay fresh and edible for longer. If you are shopping for one, getting through a large loaf of bread might not be feasible within two days, so freezing the main portion of the loaf will help to prevent it going stale.

The same goes for leftover meals – if you don’t get through your leftovers, freeze them for a lunch or dinner at a later date. This will also save you from turning to takeaway options when tired at the end of the day if you know that you have a meal ready to go in the freezer. Frozen vegetables and fruit are also an economical option to use in meals, and are just as healthy as their fresh varieties.

Dietitian-approved budget-friendly meals

With our tips you might feel more confident sticking to your weekly budget, so we’ve also put together a list of budget friendly recipe ideas:

Breakfast

Rolled oats are a healthy budget staple and can be so versatile for cheap breakfast options. Try blending rolled oats into a fruit smoothie, use for porridge or overnight oats, or try a recipe for baked oats. 

Lunch

Use lunches as an opportunity to meal prep so you can reduce the chances of spending money on buying meals out. Budget-friendly, healthy meals that keep well when meal prepped include risottos, vegetable curries with rice and vegetarian burrito bowls. 

Dinners

For dinner, slow cooked meals, casseroles and soups can be a great way to stick to the budget. Choose cheap cuts of meat, and replace half with lentils to make the recipe stretch further. Shepherd’s pie with lentils and vegetables, spaghetti Bolognese or minestrone are great options. 

Explore more content like this in our series, Ask a Dietitian

Health & Performance Collective is the brainchild of Sydney Dietitians Jessica Spendlove and Chloe McLeod. They use their 20 years of combined knowledge and skills as dietitians to work with motivated people to live and perform at their best.

OK, but what about foods that are actually worth the price tag? Here, a dietitian reveals the 5 health foods you should consider splurging on.

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