How to Buy Whole Foods When You are on a Limited Budget

How to buy and prepare healthy foods when you are on a limited budget

I often hear people say they would like to buy healthier foods, but they are on a limited budget. I think it is possible to buy wholesome foods on a budget because I do it regularly. Before I start, I should point out that when I say whole foods, I am not talking about shopping at a certain chain store. I mean wholesome, real foods in their most natural form, which is available at all grocery stores.

Budget Tips for Buying Wholesome Foods:

Skip packaged foods as much as possible. For less than the price of a can of beans you can buy a pound of dried beans, which when cooked, will produce approximately 3 cans worth of beans. Try one of these Methods for Cooking Dried Beans.

You can buy several pounds of basmati rice for the price of a box of flavored rice. Here are different methods for cooking rice.

You can make a month worth of oatmeal for less than the price of a box of individual oatmeal packets. Every time you add a premade item to your shopping list, ask yourself, “can I make this myself?” If the answer is no, google it, you may be surprised to learn how easy it is to make the item from scratch.

Shop the sales. I check out all of the sales flyers from all of the grocery stores in my area and look for the best sales on the items that I need. I also make note of any good deals on items that we want. I have favorite stores, but I am not so loyal that I will sacrifice my budget. Once I have a list of the best sales at each store, I make a plan for incorporating those stores into my schedule.

Take advantage of the sales. Often the produce that is on sale is also in season and at the peak of freshness. I buy extra of the items that freeze well when they are on sale. I flash freeze berries,  dice and freeze peppers, and freeze whole cherry tomatoes. I even  zest and juice lemons and limes before freezing them. This prevents me from ever having to buy those items at top price. Here is a list of foods that freeze well.

Get the most from your produce by buying vegetables with stems and leaves. You already know that you are paying more per pound for peeled baby carrots than an unpeeled bunch of carrots. But you aren’t just spending more, you are getting less. Carrot peels can be added to broths and carrot tops can be made into soup. Radish leaves make a delicious soup. Beet greens and kohlrabi leaves make a great addition to salads. Broccoli stems are edible; I use them in stir-fry and Broccoli Coleslaw.

Prioritize when buying organic produce. I do not buy all organic produce. I buy organic thin skinned fruits, but buy regular thick skinned fruits. I use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Cheat Sheet to help me prioritize.

Save money on non-sale items. I save even when an item is not on sale by using a Price Book. I use the information I gather to make lists of items to buy from each store. Here is my list of what I buy at Trader Joe’s.

Leave a little room in the budget to take advantage of unadvertised sales and manager markdowns. I look for Good Deals whenever I shop. There is often a spot in both the produce section and meat section for manager mark downs and there is usually a shelf somewhere in the store where you can find non-perishable and package items on clearance. However, be wary of the packaged items on clearance. Can you make it yourself for less? If it something that you usually buy packaged (like pasta), consult your price book to make sure they are a good deal. A half off sale, doesn’t mean it is a deal, if it normally sells at another store for less.

Find Coupons. Coupons are available! If a coupons says “ANY” in the description as in “any canned fruit” that means you can use it on any canned fruit product that company makes, including their organic version. Sign up to receive coupons from the following companies that publish coupons for organic products:

Sources for Organic Coupons:

When we are on a really tight budget, we become economic vegetarians. Here is a list of frugal bean, rice, and lentil recipes. Even when I have more money to devote to groceries, I minimize our meat usage and try to save on the meat we do purchase. I search for the best deals and use the Cost Per Serving Calculator to help me figure out what is the better deal between different cuts of meat. I use all of the meat that I buy. I use the leftover meat to flavor casseroles and soups and make broth from the bones.

How do you save on wholesome groceries for your family?



  1. says

    I also try and catch the deals.Especially of fruit and veggies.I a veggie at a really good price I buy more than I need at the moment and freeze til the next sale.I also pick my own blue berries every may or June.I usually end up with about 12 lb for a little over 10.00 which last me til the next season.

  2. says

    I love all these ideas that you’ve given, and I do use some of them. One of the ways we save is we get some of our produce through a produce co-op. We love it as they offer organic and regular produce (although the organic is more expensive.) Participating in a co-op or CSA where available can be a great way to save on produce (then I just supplement with a few extra produce items from the store – usually green onions, etc.)
    We also dehydrate fruit for later consumption (works great for us because my husband doesn’t like the store-bought dehydrated food (except craisins) because of the texture of it.

  3. Donna says

    Thanks for the tip on checking the numbers on organic produce! I usually try to buy organic if possible.

  4. says

    Hello! After reading this post on whole foods, I realize that I’m doing a lot more than I originally thought that I was, in the area of purchasing whole foods for my family. Thank you for this eye-opener for me! Blessings from Bama!

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