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Anne Hogan is a Graduate Student of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Tips for Budget-Friendly Grocery Shopping

Buying food that is both affordable and nutritious can be a challenge, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are ways to attain a healthy and balanced diet while reducing your grocery bill.

Budget Shopping Strategies

Plan Your Meals – Write a list of the groceries you need for the week before you go to the store, and stick to your list while shopping. Using a list reduces overspending (Ellis, 2018).

Compare Unit Prices – In other words, think about what you are paying for each unit of food (dollars per pound, dollars per gram, etc.). Unit prices can often be found on the shelf tag in the store. Hint: generic brands are usually the cheapest! (Ellis, 2018).

Look for Sales on Meat – Meat can be expensive, but stores often have sales to clear their shelves. Another option is to substitute cheaper proteins – such as beans or lentils – in place of meat (Paul, 2022).

Buy in Bulk and Freeze Leftovers – Food bought in bulk usually costs less per unit than food in small packages. Buy in bulk, cook enough for a few meals, and save the leftovers to eat another day. Many foods, especially soup, can also be frozen for long-term storage and then thawed in a microwave for a quick meal (Money Management International, 2022)

Foods to Look For

  1. Fresh Produce In-Season – Fresh produce can also be found in local farmers’ markets (Ellis, 2018).
  2. Frozen and Canned Foods – When produce is not in season, canned or frozen foods offer similar nutritional benefits and a longer shelf-life. Hint: look for “low sodium” or “no salt added” canned items! (Ellis, 2020)
  3. Whole Foods – Choose whole foods instead of highly processed foods (Ellis, 2018). Some foods to try include:
  • Eggs
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown Rice
  • Broccoli
  • Frozen Berries

For more affordable and nutritious foods, visit (Elliot, 2020)

Additional Resources

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, food insecurity has been a growing problem (Fitzpatrick et al., 2020). During this time, food pantries and other programs can help households in need. For information on local food pantries and government assistance programs, visit the following resources:

  1. Local Health Department
  2. Local Ministerial Associations
  3. Regional DHS Office
  4. Other community centers (senior centers, shelters, etc.).


Small changes to how we shop can make cooking nutritious meals easier and more affordable. By planning meals in advance, saving leftovers, and purchasing healthy, low-cost items, consumers can save a sizeable amount on their grocery bills. Finally, community and government resources are available for households in need.



Elliot, B. (2020, August 8). 29 Healthy Foods That Are Incredibly Cheap. Healthline.

Ellis, E. (2018, July 27). 10 Tips for Eating Right Affordably. Eat right: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Ellis, E. (2020, April 8). Are Canned Foods Nutritious for My Family? Eat right: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Fitzpatrick, K. M., Harris, C., Drawve, G., & Willis, D. E. (2020, October 4). Assessing food insecurity among US adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 16(1), 1-18. DOI: 10.1080/19320248.2020.1830221

Money Management International (2022). Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Food Spending.

Paul, T. (2022, June 9). Here are 5 tips for grocery shopping on a budget now that prices are going up. CNBC.

Image by Anna Shvets from Pexels.