Plus, these are the misconceptions you may have about food shopping on a budget.
a photo of a woman shopping at a grocery store
Credit: Getty Images

While always having fresh produce on hand may be ideal, constantly keeping your kitchen stocked with fresh ingredients may not be sustainable or affordable for your lifestyle. Fortunately, there are accessible solutions for buying nutritious foods without breaking the bank.

As registered dietitians and hosts of the Food Heaven podcast, Jessica Jones and Wendy Lopez are looking to make the nutrition space more inclusive and promote ways to have healthy eating be attainable for all budgets. Through their partnership with Take Root Organics, we sat down with Lopez and Jones to talk about their favorite "processed" foods and their tips for those trying to eat healthier while on a budget. 

Read on to find out which packaged foods they stock up on and the healthy, budget-friendly food shopping misconceptions they wish to debunk.

a photo of Wendy Lopez and Jessica Jones
Credit: Courtesy of Wendy Lopez & Jessica Jones

EatingWell: What are some of the packaged or "processed" foods you always have on hand for quick and convenient meals or snacks?

Jones: We are "all foods fit" dietitians, so that includes "processed" foods. We like to educate folks that there are different types of processed foods. There's minimally processed, and there's ultra-processed. Ultra-processed foods can tend to have higher levels of saturated fat and added sugar and salt as well as other additives and preservatives, but we really encourage people when they can to lean in on the processed foods that are going to help make their life more convenient and still add nutrition when they can.

We are huge fans of canned foods. Our client that we work with (Take Root Organics)  [has] canned tomato products that we love incorporating. We're also big fans of other canned foods as well, like canned beans. Ninety percent of the time, I will use canned beans over cooking them from scratch; it's just easier. I love pre-chopped vegetables. Whether it's for a stir-fry or if I want a small snack, I'll grab some baby carrots in a bag. One of my all-time favorites is microwaveable rice. Whether it is frozen rice or rice that's shelf-stable that you can microwave, that's something that I'll get weekly to add into different meals.

EatingWell: Do you have any tips for someone trying to eat healthier and on a budget?

Lopez: I think preserved foods are a great way to start. Canned foods—anywhere from beans to tomatoes—you can easily incorporate into your meals for flavor, and they last a really long time. A big concern that I hear amongst people that are struggling financially is that food goes bad quickly, maybe because the quality isn't great or they might not be using it as often. In that case, I would really recommend frozen foods. Any type of vegetables and fruits you can buy frozen.

I also recommend buying seasonally if you can because foods that are grown seasonally are usually priced a little bit better, especially if you're going to a farmers' market or if you're part of a CSA. That's also a great way to save some money.

EatingWell: What's a misconception you wish people didn't have about food shopping on a budget?

Jones: I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that it always has to be fresh. Whether it's podcast questions submitted or clients that I work with as a dietitian, they think that they have to buy all of these fresh foods, and a lot of times people are busy so that fresh food goes to waste. So not only do people start with limited funds, but they're having to throw away all of this fresh produce. People oftentimes don't realize that frozen and canned foods can be frozen and canned at the peak of freshness. You're still going to have that great taste, and it's also very convenient.

I also think that people need to just keep it simple. People are often trying to overhaul their whole diet overnight, and that's not necessary. Maybe it's just starting with one item that has [more] nutrition in it, or you're incorporating one more vegetable into something that you're already making. 

EatingWell: As dietitians, why is it important to you to partner with brands that sell canned or ready-to-use ingredients like Take Root Organics? 

Lopez: We're really big on making nutrition accessible and practical. I think a lot of people become intimidated when trying to cook nutritious meals because there's so much information out there. And also nutritious meals that actually taste good that align with their culture, so something as simple as canned tomato paste or tomato sauce can really transform a meal within minutes. I think it just helps take a lot of the stress out of cooking. We're not fans of food restriction or dieting, so we love that Take Root Organics is also about celebrating food and how good it can taste with quality ingredients versus focusing on what you need to take out or eliminate.

EatingWell: What does "eating well" mean to you?

Jones: For me, it's trying to eat consistently. I am the type where I will get so focused on work, or I will get very distracted in my day and I'll realize I didn't eat breakfast, or it's 2 o'clock and I need to eat lunch. That will wreak havoc on my blood sugar levels and honestly ruin my day, so for me it's trying to listen to when I'm getting those hunger signals in the same way I know when I need to go to the bathroom—I don't question that! It's taking a pause and eating a snack or eating a meal.

In general, don't let "perfect" get in the way of "good." Again, a lot of times people think eating healthy is buying everything from scratch and spending forever and a day in the kitchen on a Sunday making all of these meals. You don't have to do that; you can start with one small item that you're incorporating at a time. Really pay attention to how that makes you feel when adding vegetables into your diet, whether they're canned, fresh or frozen. Anything you notice that may improve from eating more vegetables will hopefully give you encouragement to continue doing it more in the future.

Lopez: For me, it's finding satisfaction both physically and emotionally because, in my experience, when people are trying to eat a little bit healthier, they're not really taking into account or asking themselves if they're emotionally satisfied with the food they're eating. They might not even enjoy the food that they're eating, but they're eating it in the name of health. I think it's important to find a good balance, where you're getting nourishment and all the good nutrition, but also it makes you feel good and you're celebrating and you're happy to eat something that you look forward to.

The Bottom Line

We love the advice Lopez and Jones gave about how eating healthy can be made simple with ready-to-use ingredients. Check out their podcast and their recently developed dishes with Take Root Organic's canned products, like their Weekend Skillet Lasagna and Coconut Fish Stew.