Healthy Grocery List On A Budget – Become A Grocery Store Ninja

Healthy Grocery List On A Budget – Become A Grocery Store Ninja
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.


A healthy grocery list on a budget is not as difficult a feat as you might think. I’ve become a bit of a grocery store ninja. It’s pretty fun.

Once I get to know my local store and where everything I want is kept, I can be in and out really quickly. Although it makes me crazy in the big superstores because there are so many aisles that I just never go down but still have to walk by to get to the sections I want.

As Phil and I shifted to a healthier and healthier way of eating, my grocery ninja skills have been getting better and better. Not only that, but the foods I buy are cheaper because they’re more and more whole. You can pay a lot for a bottle or a label or some processing.

Last week, I shared some tips on how to save money on a vegan diet plan. Today, I thought I’d share with you my typical grocery list. Now not all foods – even healthy, whole plant foods – are good for all people.

For example flax seeds are great for someone with cardiovascular problems but not someone with low thyroid function.

Phil and I are working to finish up a project – called Health KickStart – that will help you figure out what foods are best for you, and which ones aren’t. But even the the foods listed here are way better than what most people have on their grocery list.

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My first stop is the bulk aisle. I like to head there first so that the heavy things are at the bottom of my basket instead of on top of my bananas. Oh, and I always use a basket instead of a cart. It keeps me from buying more than I can afford – or carry home in my backpack.

I grab whatever of the following we’ve run out of, since I like to keep a wide variety on hand:

  • brown rice (short grain, long grain, basmati, whatever other varieties)
  • buckwheat (I like untoasted, but there’s also the toasted kasha)
  • millet
  • barley (I like the pot barley, it’s slightly less polished than pearl)
  • oats (we use rolled and steel cut most often, but the whole oat groats are nice too – they just take longer to cook)
  • quinoa
  • soft wheat berries
  • lentils (green, brown, red, whatever other varieties)
  • split peas (green, yellow)
  • aduki beans
  • chickpeas
  • maybe some other dried beans
  • seeds – sunflower, pumpkin, flax, sesame (all raw unsalted)
  • some type of raw unsalted nut (walnuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts)
  • flaked coconut (unsweetened)
  • raisins (making sure there’s no hydrogenated oil used)
  • herbs and spices
  • nutritional yeast
  • unrefined sucanat – not too much 😉
  • carob powder
  • spelt flour
  • popping corn (for an occasional treat)
  • banana chips (as a very occasional treat, usually for camping or road trips)

Dried beans really fit the bill for a healthy grocery list on a budget. They are so much cheaper than canned, and you avoid any added salt or chemicals in the can. The bigger beans take time to soak and then cook, but lentils and split peas cook in 30 minutes or less.

I buy very little stuff in jars or cans anymore, but there are a few things I keep in the cupboard:

  • miso (a fermented soy paste – makes a great base for salad dressings)
  • tahini (sesame seed butter – also a great base for salad dressings)
  • tamari (naturally fermented soy sauce)
  • olive oil (I use this very rarely now)
  • coconut oil (I use this more for skin moisturizer, but also a bit in cookies for Phil )
  • sesame oil (a tiny bit of the toasted kind is fantastic for flavoring an Asian sauce)
  • ume plum vinegar (a salt seasoning – try it in place of soy sauce, it’s fantastic)
  • apple cider vinegar (the naturally fermented kind, with the mother culture)
  • sea salt (I mix it with kelp powder, or use Herbamere, which is mixed with dried herbs, vegetables and kelp)

The produce section is my favorite, and in the summer I love to get fresh greens and veggies at the farmer’s market or from Phil if he has a spot to grow food. I try to get different vegetables every trip to the store, and it varies depending on what’s in season and most affordable. Here are my typical purchases:

  • tomatoes
  • avocados (not as often as I’d like cause they’re pretty pricey here in Canada)
  • lettuce
  • kale
  • chard
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • green pepper (sometimes yellow, red or orange if they’re not too expensive)
  • celery
  • carrots
  • beets
  • rutabaga
  • zucchini
  • eggplant
  • asparagus
  • onions
  • squash
  • sweet potatoes
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • fresh parsley, cilantro, basil, whatever looks good
  • apples
  • pears
  • oranges
  • grapefruit
  • bananas

In the summer, I get to widen my fruit purchases to grapes, peaches, plums, watermelon, berries, and whatever else is in season (aka fresher and cheaper than in winter)

Seaweeds can be tough to find in a regular grocery store, but I always manage to find some in the organic stores I shop in. I like to get kombu for cooking with beans to make them more digestible and nori sheets for making sushi. I also have a little bag of hijiki or wakame to use in meals sometimes.

There are some things that Phil and I have found are much cheaper to order online rather than buy in the store.

The main strategy for keeping a healthy grocery list on a budget is to keep things as whole as possible. Anything with ingredients or in a jar is going to cost more than if you make it yourself, and making your own sauces and dressings don’t take much time at all. I make them while my food is cooking, so there’s really no wasted time.

What do you think of my list? Are you a grocery store ninja? Let me know by leaving me a comment below.


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