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How I Save Money at the Grocery Store While Eating Clean

Updated: May 30

There was a time that I shopped based on health alone. Those were heady times, running amok in the aisles of my local health food and grocery stores. Now, with the economy on tilt, I’ve had to make some changes.   


These days, like so many other people, I’m watching my pennies in every way. I can do without a lot of things. The one place I don’t want to skimp, however, is clean eating. I love to eat, and the healthier, the better. 


Clean eating is simple. It’s using foods as close to their natural state as possible. Clean eating isn’t only for vegetarians. It is for anyone that wants to eat healthier. 


Is healthy eating and saving money important to you? Then, I’m happy to share how I manage clean eating on a budget. 


Start with a clean-eating shopping list:   


A list keeps me on budget. So does leaving my husband at home while I shop. Items that aren’t on my list don’t magically appear in my cart. But I digress. 


My grocery list starts during the week before I’m due to go shopping. As things get used, I add them to the list. 


I then create a menu each week. It is based on a couple of things. One is sales items. The other is special requests from those eating what’s on the menu. 


The next step is going through the pantry and fridge to see if I have any of the ingredients already on hand. I love checking items off before I even head to the store.  


My final list includes the store that has my items for the least amount and what the price is. Doing this keeps me from wandering the aisles. I know what I’m getting and where it is. Not only am I saving money, but I’m also saving time. 


Coupon clipping in the 21st century: 


Do you remember coupon clipping. You probably watched your mom do it You may even have done it yourself. I remember collecting those pieces of paper.  What a challenge it was to use them before the expiration date.   


I’m much happier with the digital age of coupon clipping. Most grocery stores have savings clubs. Some have a membership card; others use your phone number. Join the clubs and enjoy the discounts.   


Each week, you can easily go online and click the coupons for items you use. No more worrying about forgetting the coupons at home. They’re already attached to your membership. 


Stick with organic options for the “dirty dozen”: 


It would be wonderful to still be able to buy only organic items. When times get tough, those are some of the first things on the budget chopping block. 


I go back to organic basics when the economy isn’t doing well. I shop produce based on the “dirty dozen.”  It’s a list of fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amounts of pesticides. Those are the items I will only buy organic. 


Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shares an updated list. Here it is for 2024: 

  1. Strawberries 

  2. Spinach 

  3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens 

  4. Grapes 

  5. Peaches 

  6. Pears 

  7. Nectarines 

  8. Apples 

  9. Bell and hot peppers 

  10. Cherries 

  11. Blueberries 

  12. Green beans 


Budget-friendly options: 


There are lots of clean food options to fit your budget. It’s all about price shopping. There are always canned and frozen options. If you like as much fresh produce as possible, there are some that are affordable year-round. 


Tasting Table put together a list of the year-round cheapest fruits and vegetables. The list includes carrots, potatoes, and oranges. To find out what else is on the list, click “Here.”   


Shopping in season is another great way to keep costs low. It can also give your body a broader range of nutrition through variety. 


In my house, we took meat off the table. It was the most expensive item every week. There are many other foods that will give you the protein you need to stay healthy.   


We are bean eaters, making protein substitutions easy. I know there are lots of people who are not. Try seeds like quinoa, hemp, pumpkin, and chia. Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are another way to go. Try increasing your grains. Oats, brown rice, and wild rice are easy and filling choices. 


You can still satisfy a sweet tooth: 


Being on a budget doesn’t have to suck all the pleasure out of life. I still get a desire for sweet treats. There’s no point fighting it. Chances are, like me, you’ll give in. It will probably be something you’ll feel bad about later. 


Instead of regrets and going off budget, try some of these low-cost, clean-eating snacks. You can do dark chocolate-covered fruit. Plain or vanilla yogurt with fruit or granola is yummy, too.   

We’re big on throwing together trail mixes We load them up with dried fruits and nuts Then, we throw in some chocolate gems They’re candy-coated milk chocolates by Unreal


We have a rule, though: do not pick out the chocolate candies. It’s in there just to get a little taste of something that feels like a treat. When you pair it with all those healthier ingredients, it’s not bad for you. 


Avoid Waste: 


The one thing that will always aggravate me is throwing away food. It negates the good things you did to stock your kitchen.  


We avoid wasting food a couple ways. Most importantly, we stick to the menu for the week. We do budget for meals out. Even when saving money, the head cook deserves a night off. 


When I cook, I make enough for more than one meal. It can be eaten again that week for lunch or dinner.  It can also go in the freezer to become part of another week’s menu. 


Now it’s time to go shopping: 


Even during economic lows, there are plenty of ways to stick with healthy eating. Take a little time before heading out to the store. Make your list. Check it against what’s in the pantry and what’s on sale.   


Creating a weekly menu ahead of time will help you stay organized and on budget. Don’t skimp on the important things like the “dirty dozen” and satisfying a sweet tooth. 


The economy will turn around again at some point. Until then, you can still take good care of yourself and your family without breaking the bank.   


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