Tuesday Topic: Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Some people love grocery shopping, and others hate it. Normally, I absolutely love it. I could spend hours in the grocery store comparing items, inspecting produce, checkin’ out the new ice cream flavors… but unfortunately this type of approach is detrimental to my wallet. And since I’m strapped for cash as an intern this year, I’ve had to get serious about my approach to grocery shopping.

Eating healthy on a budget is totally doable. Although it’s not entirely fun to be stuck on such a tight budget, you can survive, and I thought I would share my approach.

1. Develop a strategy that you can stick to

It’s important to look at the big picture before you can get down to the details.

This is what works best for me –  make one trip to CostCo (wholesale) at the first of the month, and one trip per week to Publix (grocery).

I spend 1/3rd of my monthly budget right away at CostCo, but these are things to last me through the month. Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, greek yogurt, marinara sauce, salsa, oatmeal, peanut butter, frozen produce (broccoli, berries, mixed veg, etc), and frozen meats (chicken breast, lean ground beef and sausage). Then I divide my remaining 2/3rds budget by 4 weeks, and I use my weekly trips to Publix to fill in the gaps.

2. Plan your meals (and yes this requires some thought)

If you have a basic idea of what you’ll be eating for the main meals of the week, you’ll be better prepared when actually going to the store.

Before I even start a list, I plan out our dinners for the week. I look at the basics of what we have from CostCo and create ideas for 5-6 days per week. Not a full 7 days because sometimes there are leftovers, sometimes we go out and sometimes I just want a big fat smoothie so I’ll make Andrew a grilled cheese.

3. Satisfy your inner Type-A and make lists

Never step foot in a grocery store unless you know exactly what you’re getting.

In order to make trips to the store productive, I make lists. My monthly list for CostCo is generally the same since we eat similarly from month-to-month, but my lists for Publix vary each week. On my lists are items that I need to complete our meals from my plan, and items we run out of. Breakfast items, such as eggs and milk, are usually on the list as well.

4. Hands inside the cart at all times!

Don’t buy it if it’s not on your list. Ok maybe it’s something you just forgot to add, but for the most part this rule applies. Put the Cheez-its down and back away slowly.

5. Perimeter shop

I mentioned this in my Food Philosophy, but try to stick with whole food items. Most of these kinds of foods can be found on the outer perimeter of the store. Once you venture into the middle, a lot of it is processed, competitively priced and just not real (and you risk getting sucked into buying something not on your list, breaking rule #4).

6. Don’t be afraid of frozen

Frozen produce is an incredibly easy way to save money. Dollar by dollar it may cost the same as fresh but the fact is, you won’t have to risk throwing out something that has gone bad. There have also actually been studies that show frozen fruits and vegetables may in fact have higher nutrient content since they are frozen at peak freshness.


Grocery shopping on a budget doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality or health. If you take the time to plan and strategize, I promise you can save money and still eat healthy. I avoid Whole Foods like the plague and look forward to the day when I can shop there without turning my nose up at the prices, but in the mean time I will happily abide by my budget.

What are some ways you save money at the grocery store?


18 thoughts on “Tuesday Topic: Grocery Shopping on a Budget

  1. Love it! I follow a lot of these same rules when I shop! I always try to stay stocked with rice/quinoa, beans, oatmeal, and chicken…Anything else I buy, I prefer to have a specific plan for, meal-wise.

    I usually go shopping on Sundays, because that’s when I have the most time to prepare food for the week. On Sunday, I’ll make a big batch of quinoa, pasta salad, or veggie burgers…Anything that will last me 2-3 lunches! Thanks for all the tips!

  2. These are great tips!! Purchasing 1/3 of your groceries at a place like Costco is seriously genius genius genius. I hate grocery shopping. While I never make lists, I’m legitimately a robot walking through the store because I know exactly what I want and never stray. While this speeds things up, it makes for some boring meals!

  3. Okay so I follow the stay on the perimeter rule but other than that… I need to really take these tips seriously. I am SO bad at this. I know, I know it is part of our profession and I can totally tell someone else how to do it but.. I lack the ability. I am one of those people who plans meals and then craves something exactly opposite and goes to the store for more ingredients. Annoying! Or I just eat boiled eggs and sliced turkey meat…. hmmm. Okay, taking the tips… need to budget… so poor right now… who makes people pay for an internship anyway?

    • Hah I’ve only been at this whole budget thing for a couple months… honestly I used to be the same way but one day I was like “alright, Em, get serious about this or you’re going to run out of money and have to live off of ramen noodles for a year”.

  4. Hell to the yeah! I was on a meal planning binge for a while planning meals for two people for about $25 bucks a week. So that’s about $12.50 a week for one person. I can handle that. I get even cheaper when I eat alone! Totally doable is an understatement and I cringe when I hear people say that eating healthy is “too expensive.” I love all your tips and the most important is def keeping your hands in the cart!! I am notorious for buying things that are NOT on my list!

    • Nice!! I know it’s so disheartening when I hear people say that, I just want to be like “no!! no it’s not! maybe it takes a little more thought and consideration but definitely not more money”. A bag of Doritos is like 3 bucks, a bag of lettuce is 2 bucks! Cmon

  5. I love Publix BOGO! Every week I look up the sales ads to see what they have BOGO and we stock up. I’m starting to meal plan more now because if I go in without a plan, I come out with the most random stuff. I should never be allowed to grocery shop alone!

  6. Pingback: WIAW: It’s always the same… | Have Your Cake and…

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