13 Dietitian-Approved Swaps to Help You Save over $30 on Groceries This Week
Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where associate nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.
Inflation is sending grocery store prices to record highs across the country. Especially after the last few years, we all want our dollar go as far as possible when it comes to food. There are several ways to save money while buying food, like shopping sales, couponing and buying only what you need by utilizing the bulk section, if you have one in your local store. But even some super-simple tweaks to your grocery list can help more than you think. Here are 13 simple swaps that will help you eat healthy while saving over $30 per week ($33.08 to be exact). We calculated prices based on the cost at popular grocers, but the cost of food might vary depending on where you live.
13 Dietitian-Approved Swaps to Help You Save over $30 on Groceries This Week
1. Swap a pound of ground beef for a can of beans (saves $3.06)
One great way to save money is by swapping out meat for plant-based proteins. Beans in particular are affordable, clocking in at only $1.28 for a 16-ounce can (compared to 16 ounces of ground beef which costs around $4.34). Beans are also packed with nutrients like protein, fiber and antioxidants, and studies have found that they might help promote weight loss, lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure. Recipes like our Black Bean Tacos and Cilantro Bean Burgers with Creamy Avocado-Lime Slaw help you swap them in for ground beef without a hitch.
2. Swap fresh berries for frozen (saves $4.10)
Frozen berries are one of the foods I never leave the grocery store without. Compared to fresh berries, frozen berries last much longer and are picked at peak ripeness so you can cut down on food waste without sacrificing nutrition. Not to mention, you can get larger portions for much less. Frozen berries cost around $2.80 for 18 ounces, compared to $6.90 for fresh. Plus, frozen berries are ready to be blended with other fruits and vegetables like spinach for a nutritious meal or snack (check out our Blueberry & Spinach Smoothie recipe for details).
3. Swap fresh salmon for canned tuna (saves $2.74)
Seafood is something many of us could stand to eat more of, but it gets expensive quickly. Luckily, there are a few ways to buy more seafood while staying within your budget, one of which is choosing canned fish over fresh. For just $0.78, you get 5 ounces of tuna that is ready to eat, compared to fresh salmon which costs around $3.52 for the same portion, that also needs to be cooked before eating. Canned fish is a great addition to salads, pastas, tacos, fish cakes and more.
4. Swap store-bought stock for homemade (saves $2.82)
Did you know that you can make your own homemade stock using the veggie scraps you might have otherwise thrown away? All it costs is a little bit of time and planning ahead. This will save you on average $2.82 per 32 ounces that you would be spending on store-bought stock. To make it easy, keep a gallon freezer bag or large container in your freezer and add veggie scraps like the ends of onions, carrot peels, celery ends, mushroom stems and more. Then, once the bag or container is full, simmer it on the stovetop with water to make your stock.
5. Swap chicken for tofu (saves $2.26)
Another plant-based protein swap that can save you some serious cash is using tofu instead of poultry. One pound of firm tofu costs around $2.98, while a pound of chicken breast is closer to $5.24. Plus, tofu is delicious when it's marinated in advance and is a flavorful addition to stir-fries, noodles and grilled dishes.
6. Swap chicken breasts for chicken thighs (saves $3.40)
Though it may seem like a small change, opting for chicken thighs over chicken breast can help you save an impressive amount on your grocery bill. Chicken thighs are only $1.84 per pound compared to $5.24 for chicken breasts. That's a whopping $3.40 back (which could pay for a package of tofu or can of beans with room to spare)! When swapping in chicken thighs for breasts in a recipe, just note that the cooking times might differ slightly based on size and thickness.
7. Swap fresh vegetables for frozen (saves $1.52)
Frozen vegetables might be one of the most underrated foods to buy when you're trying to eat healthy on a budget. For instance, frozen spinach costs $0.83 for 10 ounces while fresh is $2.35 for the same amount. Plus, frozen veggies last much longer than their fresh counterparts, so you don't have to worry as much about wasting food. For any recipe that calls for cooked vegetables, frozen can typically be used in place of fresh (just make sure to drain any excess moisture once the frozen veg is thawed).
8. Swap organic produce for conventional (saves $1.16)
There is a lot of confusion around organic and conventional produce, and what is really worth your money. In some instances, organic food might have a slight edge on conventional veg, but the most important thing is getting ample produce in your diet. If you are on a budget, choosing to buy conventional foods can help you save money and reap all of the benefits of eating more vegetables. Conventional broccoli is only $1.72 per pound, over a dollar less than the price of organic (clocking in at $2.88 per pound).
9. Swap fresh tomatoes for canned (saves $1.18)
There are only about three months out of the year where I am adamant about using fresh tomatoes, and that is when I can get them fresh from my garden or the farmers' market. The rest of the year, you can find me stocking up on canned tomatoes instead. At only $0.72 per 15-oz. can, they are super affordable, shelf stable and are called for in many pasta recipes, stews, chilis and more. Fresh tomatoes are $1.90 per pound, and need to be used soon after buying. In my opinion, fresh tomatoes are much more worth the money when they're in season.
10. Swap big-name brands for store brands (saves $2.47)
Sure, we might have big-name brands that we remember fondly from our childhood, but when you're shopping on a budget, store brands typically have lower prices for a similar product. For example, Walmart's Great Value Peanut Butter costs $3.47 for 40 ounces, compared to $5.94 for Jif. While there might be some brands that are worth the extra expense to you, making exceptions for store-brand products can add up when it comes to saving money.
11. Swap premium brands like Ben & Jerry's for Breyer's (saves $3.16)
Similar to choosing a store brand, opting for less expensive brands can save you money over choosing premium brands with a higher price point. For example, a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream is $4.48 while the same amount of Breyers brand only costs $1.32. While we love Ben & Jerry's (especially here in Vermont), choosing a more affordable brand this week can help you save, while satisfying your sweet tooth.
12. Swap organic eggs for generic eggs (saves $3.01)
Eggs are one of the most affordable proteins at the grocery store, but their prices are on the rise right now. To help make it more affordable (even if they cost more than they usually would), choose store-brand generic eggs (around $1.66 for a dozen) over organic eggs (closer to $4.76).
13. Swap big-name-brand cereal for store-brand (saves $1.71)
Cereal is a nostalgic food, and many of us grew up with it on our shelves. While you might have a favorite brand, opting for store-brand can help you save money on your grocery bill this week. Walmart's Great Value Honey Nut O's cereal costs $2.27 for a box compared to $3.98 for a slightly smaller box of Honey Nut Cheerios. As with any swap, you don't have to avoid your favorite brands every time you shop, but if you don't taste a notable difference, opt for more affordable store brands.
The bottom line
We all could use a little help saving some money at the grocery store right now, and hopefully this list can provide some inspiration. If all 13 swaps are overwhelming, just focus on a few. One of the most important parts of a healthy eating pattern is ensuring that the things you buy are enjoyable for you. Even a few small tweaks can lead to big savings over time.