Noticing that you are spending more on groceries than you used to?
Swaps for Lower Costs
Shopping for groceries is not always easy. Sometimes it can be hard to find all the ingredients you want for a recipe at a price that fits your budget. Our goal is to help you prepare low-cost meals that taste good!
Note: Anytime you swap out one ingredient for another, the nutrient value of a dish will change. This is important to keep in mind when deciding which ingredients you would like to replace for cheaper options.
- Animal proteins like chicken, beef, or pork can often be the most expensive ingredient in dishes. Beans, peas, lentils, and eggs are all lower-cost options that provide similar amounts of protein as animal proteins.
- Canned meats like chicken and canned seafood like tuna and salmon are also less expensive options.
- When buying animal protein, choose the family size option which is often less expensive per pound. What you don’t use now can be frozen for later!
- Like many foods, store-brand dairy products are cheaper than name brands. Purchasing store-brand milk, yogurt, and cheese can save money in the long run.
- For a better value, look for the larger size of plain yogurt and add fresh fruit instead of purchasing the smaller individual fruit-flavored yogurt.
Fruits and Vegetables:
- If the fresh fruits and vegetables at the store don’t fit in your budget or are out of stock, try canned or frozen versions of your favorite fresh fruits and vegetables instead. All forms of fruit and vegetables count toward your daily needs!
- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we limit foods higher in added sugars and sodium.  When purchasing canned goods to save money, look for fruit that is canned in its own juice and low-sodium or no-salt-added vegetables.
- Shop for fruits and vegetables when they are “in season”. It usually costs less and the flavor is at its peak. See this What’s in Season Chart to pick out seasonal produce.
- Consider trying store-brand grains like rice and oats rather than name brands. They are just as nutritious but less expensive.
- Grains are usually easy to substitute. If you can’t find the rice or pasta you are looking for, try a different kind. You might find out you like the new kind more, and using different shapes of pasta is a fun way to make kids more interested in trying new foods.
- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that at least half the grains you eat be whole grains.  When searching for the lowest price, remember to look for whole grains to include in your meals.
- Compare prices for oils and nuts used in recipes. Generally, you will pay less for store-brand oils and nuts than for name brands.
- Using smaller amounts of fats in recipes can make your pantry items last longer and decrease the amount of fat you eat in your diet. See our blog on Oil and Unsaturated Fat to learn more.
- Sometimes spices can raise recipe prices. When searching for a recipe to make, try to find one that calls for spices that you already have on hand. This will ensure that you don’t have to purchase a new ingredient and that you are getting your money’s worth for the spices that you already have!
- You can also buy dried herbs rather than fresh ones which will last a lot longer and are less expensive per serving.
We talked about how to save money when purchasing items from each food group above. There is so much more to learn about all these food groups. Visit our Food Talk Features Series blogs to learn more.
To learn more grocery shopping tips to help you save money on food, check out these blogs on Foodtalk.org:
- Grocery Shopping on a Budget
- Save Money at the Farmers Market
- 11 Tips for Planning a Smart Grocery Trip
- Save Money on Food
We encourage you to have an open mind when grocery shopping to avoid becoming discouraged. You never know when you will find a new ingredient that fits in with your favorite recipes. Finally, do not forget that healthy meals on a budget can taste good!
Written by Sydnee Berman, MS Candidate, and Dietetic Intern | Reviewed by Darci Bell RDN, LD and Leslie Davis MS, RD, LD, CDCES, and the Nutrition Education Team
Posted on: June 27, 2022
Be Creative Drink Water Focus on Health How to Cook Better Invite Your Kids Plan Ahead Save Money Shop Smarter Store Food Uncategorized