Need a healthy grocery list on a budget? Save money and improve your nutrition with this list of 52 dietitian-approved foods.

Black grocery cart with blurred background of supermarket.

Grocery shopping has never been more expensive. 

Food prices are higher than ever (seriously, it’s scary!)… AND the wellness industry has most of us thinking we need superfoods and expensive powders to stay healthy.

The good news? You don’t actually need fancy or expensive foods to transform your health and care for your family. But it’s not always easy to know what foods to buy and what foods to skip for a healthy grocery list on a budget!

That’s why I made this list of 57 cheap and healthy foods. As a registered dietitian, I want you to make nourishing food choices without breaking the bank. So grab a pen, save this post, and let’s help you save money on groceries!

How to make a healthy grocery list on a budget

Before we dive into the specific foods I recommend to save money on groceries, let’s talk about how to make a healthy grocery list on the cheap. 

Generally speaking, you want to focus your list on foods in these categories:

  • Fruits and vegetables: fresh, frozen, canned, or dried
  • High fiber carbs: whole grains, potatoes, and beans
  • Protein foods: meat, plant proteins, and dairy

When you include all these items on your grocery list, you’re making sure you’re getting adequate nutrition and enough variety. These are the foods that fuel your body, and keep you feeling full and satisfied.

And from there, you can add fun foods and convenience items too. Whatever works for your taste buds, your budget, and your schedule!

Now, let’s talk about some inexpensive foods for your healthy grocery list on a budget!

Graphic with a cheap and healthy grocery checklist from Real Life Nutritionist

Inexpensive fruits and vegetables

Frozen berries

Berries are an incredibly nutrient-dense food that help prevent and fight disease. They’re loaded with beneficial antioxidants like anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and resveratrol, and they’re super high in gut-healthy fiber too. When you buy berries frozen, you reduce food waste and save money.

How to use: melt frozen berries in the microwave, mix them with a spoonful of peanut butter, and pour on top of your oatmeal or greek yogurt bowls.


Pineapple is brimming with nutritional benefits and it’s one of the least expensive fruits at the grocery store. It’s loaded with vitamin C, manganese, and copper. And it contains a good dose of fiber and some disease-fighting antioxidants like flavonoids. 

How to use: slice pineapple into bite-sized pieces and store in an airtight container in the fridge for easy snacking throughout the week.


Nothing beats bananas in the inexpensive fruit department. Bananas contain natural starches and sugars that help keep you energized, and they contain a powerful dose of potassium. Green bananas contain important prebiotic fibers that support a healthy gut microbiome too.

How to use: put your banana on a plate and top with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and granola for a delicious and well-balanced snack.


Broccoli is loaded with health-promoting micronutrients, bioactive compounds, and fiber. Eating broccoli regularly can help promote healthy cells, a well-functioning gut, and might even reduce your risk of developing certain cancers. Broccoli is great for your health when you buy it fresh or frozen, so choose the option that works best for your budget and lifestyle.

How to use: add a big handful of chopped broccoli into the boiling water when making boxed mac n’ cheese for a veggie-boost.

Frozen cauliflower

Like broccoli, cauliflower is a nutrient-rich cruciferous vegetable that can help your body fight disease and inflammation. And it’s surprisingly versatile. Add frozen cauliflower to smoothies (yes, smoothies!) or use it in your favorite pasta bake for a boost of micronutrients and fiber. 

How to use: add ⅓ cup frozen cauliflower florets or rice into your favorite smoothie for a creamy texture without changing the color of your drink.

Frozen peas

A serving of peas contains lots of fiber, a little bit of protein, and a long list of micronutrients to support your health like vitamin A, vitamin K, thiamine, and folate. They’re low in calories and super filling, which can help add volume to meals and support your weight loss goals.

How to use: add a scoop of frozen peas into the pot when making rice for extra color and nutrition.

Canned corn

Corn is another overlooked veggie (or is it a grain?) with plenty of health benefits for a super low price. Most of us know that corn contains fiber, but did you know it has vitamin C, magnesium, and powerful antioxidants too? Corn can support digestion, heart health, and healthy blood sugars.

How to use: rinse canned corn and toss it into your favorite salsa for a boost of fiber.


Apples are high in fiber, super filling, and easy to fit into any budget. A medium apple contains up to 5 grams of fiber (that’s a LOT!) and a meaningful dose of polyphenols to help fight oxidative stress in the body. Leave the skin on your apple for the most nutrition possible.

How to use: make apple nachos by slicing your apples, arranging them on a plate, and topping with a drizzle of nut butter and your favorite crushed nuts.


Carrots aren’t just great for your eyesight; they can also help you maintain a healthy weight, improve digestion, manage blood sugars, and reduce your risk of disease. As one of the least expensive veggies available, they’re surprisingly loaded with nutrition and health benefits.

How to use: keep peeled and sliced carrots in your fridge for an easy and nutritious grab-and-go snack, or roast them with potatoes at dinner.


Cabbage is impressive for so many reasons. First, it’s a huge vegetable and yields a LOT when you cut into it. It’s also packed with fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants that may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improve digestion, keep blood sugars stable, and reduce your risk of cancers and other diseases.

How to use: try the Baked by Melissa green goddess salad and serve as a dip with tortilla chips and other veggies.

Canned tomatoes

Tomatoes might technically be a fruit, but they’re a vegetable from a nutrition standpoint. Canned tomatoes are awesome because they preserve the micronutrients from tomatoes and stay safe to eat for years. Use canned tomatoes in rice, soups, and stews for a boost of vitamins and beneficial plant compounds.

How to use: try my favorite turkey chili recipe with canned tomatoes. 

Frozen mixed vegetables

Yes, frozen vegetables still count. And you might be surprised to learn that frozen veggies often contain similar or better nutrient value than fresh because they’re processed and stored soon after harvesting. Either way, eating vegetables is one of the most important things you can do for your health and disease risk long-term.

How to use: add a few cups of frozen vegetables to fried rice or stir fry for extra volume and fiber… no chopping needed.


Onions have health benefits too! In fact, onions are a great source of quercetin and sulfur compounds, which can help lower your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Onions also add lots of flavor with a boost of nutrition and very few calories.

How to use: add a few chopped onions to your tray of roasted vegetables for an easy side dish at dinner.


Oranges are known for their impressive vitamin C content, but they’re so much more than that. Oranges contain folate and other vitamins too, and they offer the unique antioxidants hesperidin and naringenin. Oranges have a long list of bioactive compounds that keep your cells healthy, fight infection and disease, and help your body function at its best.

How to use: toss a full orange in your purse and pair with an easy protein like greek yogurt for a balanced on-the-go snack.


Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage product that comes with a sour flavor and potential gut-health benefits. That means you’re getting all those nutritional benefits of cabbage with the added bonus of gut-friendly bacteria to help your microbiome thrive. 

How to use: add a scoop of sauerkraut to your favorite salad for an extra acidic punch.


Raisins are delicious dried grapes that offer energizing carbs, gut-friendly fiber, and calcium. Raisins contain less water than grapes, which means they’re a more concentrated source of calories and nutrition. They can help keep your heart, belly, and bones healthy.

How to use: pair ¼ cup of raisins with ¼ cup of unsalted nuts for a heart-healthy and balanced blood sugar snack.


Although zucchini is a super inexpensive vegetable, it’s a great source of nutrition too. Zucchini contains vitamin A, manganese, vitamin C, and antioxidants to support your health and lower disease risk. It has a mild taste and it’s very versatile, making it a great veggie for picky eaters and families.

How to use: add finely chopped zucchini to soups and stews for a veggie boost that no one will detect!

Green beans

Green beans are among the most underrated vegetables around. Green beans are a low calorie and affordable vegetable, and a good source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium and vitamin A. Green beans can help support a healthy heart and prevent disease. 

How to use: toss green beans with olive oil and salt, and cook in the air fryer for 8-10 minutes at 375 F for a flavor-packed, healthy side.

Frozen spinach

You might be surprised to learn that frozen spinach contains even more nutrition than fresh! It’s got fiber, folate, and iron, and it’s an easy way to add fiber and phytochemicals to any dish. You can add it to cooked meals like pasta or soups, or use it for a veggie-boost in smoothies!

How to use: defrost and drain frozen spinach before adding into a quiche or frittata.


Don’t forget about these delicious melons when you’re shopping for affordable fruits at the market. Cantaloupe is super hydrating and offers vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. It’s a great fruit to support the health of your cells and organs.

How to use: add cubed cantaloupe to your fruit salad for extra hydration and an affordable boost of health-promoting nutrients.  

Unsweetened applesauce

Applesauce isn’t just delicious, it’s packed with nutrition too. When you buy applesauce unsweetened, you’re getting all the health benefits of apples without extra added sugars. Applesauce is a great snack for kids and an awesome on-the-go fruit source for adults too.

How to use: add a scoop of unsweetened applesauce to your oatmeal bowl and top with your favorite nuts. 


Cucumber is a crunchy and hydrating veggie, and an affordable way to up your intake of health-promoting foods. This high-water and low-calorie vegetable can support your kidney health, digestion, and weight. And it’s an easy option to add to any meal. 

How to use: keep sliced cucumbers in your fridge and add a handful to lunches throughout the week.

Canned peaches

Canned peaches count as fruit too, and they’re a budget-friendly option you can access all year round. Canned peaches contain many of the same nutrients as fresh like fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Just look for canned peaches packed in juice instead of syrup for a lower sugar option. 

How to use: drain canned peaches and add to a yogurt bowl with plain greek yogurt, honey, and crushed walnuts. 

Frozen brussels sprouts

Frozen brussels sprouts are the hidden gems of the freezer aisle. They contain beneficial antioxidants and vitamins to prevent disease and fight infection. And they can be roasted like any other fresh veggie for a delicious, warm, vegetable side dish. 

How to use: to prevent frozen brussels sprouts from going soggy in the oven, roast them dry for about 10-15 minutes, then coat with olive oil and seasonings before returning to the oven. 


Prunes might be one of my all-time favorite fruits. They’re known to aid digestion (which they do!), but prunes also provide potassium, iron, and minerals to support bone and heart health too. And they’re surprisingly delicious!

How to use: top your favorite whole grain cracker with herbed goat cheese and sliced prunes for a sweet and salty snack. 

Inexpensive high fiber carbs


If you’re afraid to eat potatoes, don’t be! They’re one of the most nutritious and filling whole food carbohydrates to support your health goals. Potatoes contain vitamins and minerals like potassium and vitamin C to keep your cells, organs, and metabolism well-functioning and happy.

How to use: roast potatoes in a tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt, garlic powder and, onion powder, and serve with your favorite veggies and protein.

Sweet potatoes

Regular potatoes are great, but sweet potatoes are a nutrient-dense and inexpensive choice too. Sweet potatoes contain the same beneficial fiber and satiating carbohydrates, with more vitamin A. Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes contain powerful bioactive compounds to fight disease and inflammation in the body.

How to use: finely chop a sweet potato and add it to a veggie-loaded breakfast hash with onions, bell pepper, and a sprinkle of feta cheese. 


Did you know that brown and white rice are both healthy choices? While brown rice contains a little more fiber, protein, and micronutrients, the differences don’t warrant cutting white rice out of our life. Include whatever rice you love in your diet for a minimally processed, energizing carbohydrate to keep you full and help you stay consistent with food.

How to use: top a scoop of your favorite rice with two fried eggs, a half avocado, and a drizzle of chili crunch for an energizing breakfast. Or try my easy fried rice


If superfoods were real, oats would be one of them. This inexpensive pantry staple contains manganese, zinc, copper, and the unique soluble fiber, beta-glucan, with known health benefits. Eating oats regularly can protect against diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. 

How to use: cook rolled oats in milk and top with fruit and nut butter for a protein-rich, high-fiber breakfast.

Popcorn kernels

Did you expect corn to make this list twice?! This delicious whole grain makes one of my favorite high-fiber snacks as a dietitian: popcorn! Popcorn is a wonderful food for overall health and weight loss because it’s high-volume, very filling, and quite low in calories. 

How to use: heat ⅓ cup of popcorn kernels with 1 tbsp of canola oil in a large pot over medium heat. Keep the lid on and shake the pot vigorously until kernels are done popping, and sprinkle with salt before serving. 

Whole wheat pasta

I love a good chickpea or lentil pasta, but let’s not forget about the budget-friendly staple that is regular, whole wheat noodles. Whole wheat pasta usually contains more fiber and nearly as much protein as legume-based varieties, for a fraction of the price. The texture is closer to white pasta too.

How to use: serve pasta with a big scoop of zucchini noodles and top with your favorite ground turkey bolognese. 

Whole wheat bread

This high-fiber, nourishing staple is one of the cheapest and easiest options you can find at the store. Not only is whole wheat bread nutritious (it’s got fiber, b-vitamins, and protein), it’s also a delicious vehicle for other healthy toppings like my favorite chicken salad.

How to use: toast two slices of whole wheat bread and top each with a tablespoon of peanut butter, ¼ cup of fresh berries, and a drizzle of honey.

Boxed mac n’ cheese

Are you surprised Kraft Dinner makes the list? While this easy weeknight option isn’t super nutrient-dense on its own, it makes the perfect budget-friendly base for a more nutritious meal. Stir in leftover rotisserie chicken and steamed broccoli for a filling bowl the whole family will love. 

How to use: prepare your boxed mac n’ cheese according to package directions, then stir in leftover chopped rotisserie chicken and steamed broccoli. Top with a sprinkle of grated cheddar. 

Inexpensive protein foods

Dried red lentils

All lentils are incredible because they’re rich in protein, loaded with micronutrients, and incredibly inexpensive. The reason why I love red lentils is because they’re faster to prepare and a bit more versatile. They’re also super high in fiber and are known to support heart health, digestion, blood sugar, and more. 

How to use: add a scoop of red lentils into your favorite soup and cook until soft. Or try these red lentil muffins if you’re up to baking!

Canned chickpeas

Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are an awesome source of high fiber carbohydrates with a big boost of protein too. They’re very filling and a great source of iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium. Beans are very nutrient-dense and known to protect against disease.

How to use: blend canned chickpeas with lemon, garlic, salt, and olive oil for any easy homemade hummus.

Canned black beans

Canned beans are another inexpensive and versatile bean with plenty of filling fiber and protein. They’re also rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins and flavonoids, which help support heart health and may prevent cancer. Black beans are great for balanced blood sugar too.

How to use: mix a can of black beans into your ground beef or ground turkey for an extra boost of fiber and beneficial phytonutrients.  


There are lots of (incorrect) claims about soy being bad for your health and hormones. The truth is that minimally processed soy foods like tofu can protect your health and lower your risk of many diseases. Eating tofu has been associated with improved heart, bone, and brain health. 

How to use: shred extra firm tofu on a cheese grater and mix with your favorite BBQ sauce for a meat-free ‘pulled pork’. 


Eggs are a quick and nutrient-rich staple with protein, vitamin D, folate, and selenium. Although eggs are a cholesterol-containing food, more recent research suggests they can actually support your heart health. Eggs are a filling food that can support weight loss too.

How to use: scramble 2-3 eggs and enjoy with whole grain toast and berries for a healthy 5-minute meal.

Frozen edamame

Edamame are young soybeans and another great protein- and fiber-rich option on a budget. Edamame are usually sold frozen, and you can buy them shelled or in their pod. They’ve got lots of micronutrients and powerful phytochemicals to support bone health, hormonal health, and more.

How to use: microwave frozen, shelled edamame for up to two minutes and sprinkle with salt for a tasty well-rounded snack.

Plain yogurt

Plain yogurt is a filling and protein-rich food that can be used in sweet or savory dishes. Although greek and skyr yogurts are highest in protein, regular yogurt is rich in calcium, vitamins, and minerals too. Yogurts that contain active cultures can provide extra support for your gut health and microbiome.

How to use: add a big scoop of yogurt to smoothies or mix it with ranch powder for an easy two-ingredient vegetable dip. 

Cheddar cheese

You might not think of cheese as a health-food, but it is actually a nutrient-dense option that can support your health… when eaten in moderation. Hard cheeses like cheddar offer filling protein and fat, and they contain important micronutrients like calcium and fat-soluble vitamins.

How to use: pair a few slices of cheddar cheese with whole grain crackers and apple slices for an energizing and well-balanced snack.

Ground beef

Lean ground beef is a nutritious and inexpensive staple. It contains bioavailable protein to keep you full and support muscle growth, and it’s a good source of important minerals like iron and zinc. Opt for low fat options like 90% ground beef to support your heart health.

How to use: brown beef in a pan with seasonings of choice and drain the excess fat before adding to burrito bowls or taco soup.

Ground turkey or chicken

Poultry is a great alternative to beef if you want a lower fat option with high quality protein. Turkey and chicken contain iron, zinc, phosphorus and b-vitamins to support healthy cells and metabolism. And they’re delicious and versatile too. 

How to use: try this amazing recipe for ground chicken meatballs or use ground turkey in your favorite chili recipe instead of beef. 


Good ol’ cow’s milk is a nutrient-dense and affordable staple. Milk contains important nutrients like calcium and phosphorus to support your bone health and help maintain a healthy weight. If you’re sensitive to lactose, try lactose-free milk for comparable nutrition and taste!

How to use: use milk as your liquid in smoothies for extra nutrition and to keep you full for longer.

Canned tuna

Canned tuna is a great low-calorie protein source, and a quick way to make any meal a whole lot more filling. It contains fat-soluble vitamins and iron, and some heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Choose light tuna like skipjack for less mercury, and opt for tuna packed in water instead of oil.

How to use: mix a can of tuna with mayonnaise, greek yogurt, celery, red onion, and lemon juice for a quick tuna salad sandwich or dip. 


Have you ever tried sardines? This salty tinned fish is rich in nutrients like omega-3 fats, zinc, and magnesium. Many canned sardines contain soft bones that you’re meant to eat, making them a great source of calcium too.

How to use: add a few sardines to your favorite vegetable pasta sauce, or mix them with mayo and other add-ins for a ‘tuna-like salad’ on crackers.

Peanut butter

Peanuts and peanut butter are mainly a source of healthy fats, but they do contain some protein and fiber too. Although peanut butter is calorie-dense, it’s still a filling and nutrient-dense food that’s great to include regularly… Just stay mindful of portion size if weight loss is your goal!

How to use: melt 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter and drizzle on top of greek yogurt and berries, or try the viral magic shell yogurt

Dry roasted peanuts

If you’re looking to eat more nuts for your heart health, don’t forget about peanuts! Peanuts contain health-promoting mono- and poly-unsaturated fats and plenty of important micronutrients like copper, vitamin E, and folate. And they’re the least expensive nut option at most grocery stores. 

How to use: add a handful of dry roasted, unsalted peanuts and chocolate chips to popcorn for a high fiber and heart-healthy snack. 

Canned chicken

I know, I know… canned chicken seems a little scary. But it’s an amazing, cheap source of protein to use in chicken salad, buffalo chicken dip, or quesadillas. You’re getting the same minerals and high quality protein as any other chicken, just in different packaging!

How to use: add drained canned chicken, rinsed black beans, and shredded cheese to a tortilla and heat on the stove for a quick weeknight quesadilla.

Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is having a moment right now, and for good reason. It’s high in protein, low in calories, and packed with important nutrients like calcium and selenium. Cottage cheese is a great food for weight loss and fitness goals. 

How to use: try this high protein cottage cheese queso for a flavor-packed protein dip.

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are another forgotten nutrition-powerhouse that won’t break the bank. Sunflower seeds are rich in healthy fats, fiber, and protein to help support your immunity, heart health, brain health, and more. 

How to use: sprinkle sunflower seeds on salads for an extra boost of healthy fats and fiber.

Chicken thighs

Chicken thighs are a lot cheaper than chicken breasts, and a bit more tasty too. Chicken thighs contain important nutrients like iron, niacin, and zinc. Chicken thighs contain more fat than breast, so just stay mindful of other animal fats if they’re something you consume often. 

How to use: roast chicken thighs on a tray with vegetables and chickpeas, and drizzle with your favorite sauce when it’s out of the oven.  

Paper grocery bags sitting on a hardwood floor filled with healthy foods like bananas, apples and bread.

More tips to save money on healthy foods

Using this list of 52 affordable foods can help you save money on groceries. But it’s not the only way to reduce your grocery spending!

Try these additional tips to save money on food:

  1. Plan your meals and snacks at the start of each week. This will help you spend and waste less.
  2. Make a grocery list before shopping. Avoid buying unnecessary extras by making and sticking to your list.
  3. Shop your cupboards first. Do a solid scope of your cupboards, fridge, and freezer before finalizing your plan and list. 
  4. Set a budget and stick with it. It’s easy to spend too much when you haven’t established defined limits.
  5. Stick to minimally processed foods. Whole potatoes will always be less expensive than potato chips… unfortunately.
  6. Cook at home often. If your schedule allows, cooking at home will save you money and better support your health. 
  7. Use canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. These options are just as nutritious as fresh but significantly less expensive. 
  8. Eat more plant proteins. Beans and tofu are rich in nutrients and super low price, so include some meatless meals in your week.
  9. Monitor your social commitments. Make sure you know when you’re eating out of the house so you can buy less food and prevent food waste.
  10. Double recipes and use leftovers. A great way to use up the foods you buy is to cook larger portions and eat leftovers the next day.

Final thoughts

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive, even with rising food prices. 

Use this list of 52 nourishing foods to build your next healthy grocery list on a budget. And consider other tips from this article like cooking at home, shopping your cupboards, and eating more plant proteins to save extra money too.

Not only will this article save you money… If you include these nourishing foods in your diet regularly, you can feel confident knowing you’re making nutrient-dense choices to support your health goals too.