The Budget-Friendly Grocery List Essentials

by | Oct 3, 2019

The Budget-Friendly Grocery List Essentials


Aside from housing and transportation, food is probably the biggest budget-killer for most of us. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise though. After all, we need food to survive. While this is true, the lines tend to get blurred once you walk into the grocery store and start to justify everything you put in your cart. That pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and bottle of wine totally count as groceries, right?

Before you know it, you’ve walked out of the store having spent way more than you planned to. If you didn’t shop with a list, you might even have a bunch of random items that you don’t know what to make a meal with. Just a couple of days later, you’re back at the grocery store doing the same thing all over again.

When you’re on a tight budget, you definitely want to avoid this scenario. Planning your grocery shopping trip by writing a list of essentials is the best way to steer clear of impulse buying and save money on groceries. Yes, it’s tedious at times, but it can cut out the temptation of grabbing items you really don’t need. Here are some budget-friendly grocery list essentials for each meal of the day, to pick up the next time you’re out shopping.


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We’ve all been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day. With that said, putting together a cheapy grocery list can help you get a good head start without breaking the bank. These are a few items you might want to stock up on. (Note: prices are based on items listed at Vons in California.)

  • Milk (half gallon) – $2.29
  • Eggs (18-count) – $3.99
  • Greek yogurt (32 ounces) – $4.49
  • Strawberries (16 ounces) – $2.50/lb
  • Bananas – $0.79/lb

The best thing about these staple items is that you can mix and match them depending on what you’re in the mood for. You can have sliced fruit and yogurt for breakfast one day, or skip the yogurt and just have fruit, and vice versa. You’ll also have all the ingredients on hand that you need if you feel like whipping up a smoothie.

Eggs are another go-to that can be served up any way you like. Whether you prefer them boiled, scrambled, or fried, they’re a quick and easy choice to help get your day started.


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Lunch is another meal you probably want to keep quick and simple if you’re at work or on the go. Anything that easily fits into a container and requires little clean-up is probably your best bet. (And if you’ve made a tasty dinner the night before, you can always just bring leftovers with you. More on that in a second.) If you don’t have leftovers, it’s a good idea to pack a light lunch in most cases. After all, you want to avoid a food coma if you still have work to do after your break! A few lunch items to add to your grocery list might include:

  • Organic salad romaine hearts pre-packed (3-count) – $3.49
  • Cherry tomatoes (10.5 ounces) – $4.59
  • Chicken breasts – $4.49/lb

A homemade salad is the perfect lunch dish for a few reasons: it’s healthy for your body (and wallet!) and it’s super easy to put together. You can keep it as simple as you want, or add some flair with extras like boiled eggs, walnuts, shredded cheese, or sunflower seeds. If you find that just a salad doesn’t fill you up enough to last until the end of the workday, you can always pack an extra yogurt or fruit from your breakfast grocery list.


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While your breakfast and lunch might be pretty basic most days, dinner is where you can roll up your sleeves and channel your inner Top Chef. You don’t have to worry about rushing to make your meal in the morning before work, which gives you time to put some extra love into your cooking.

If you’re not big on meal prepping, you might want to consider trying it, so you have an idea of what’s for dinner before you get started. When you’ve had a long day and you don’t feel like using the mental energy to figure out what to cook, you’ll naturally be tempted to order takeout instead. Of course, that will defeat the purpose of sticking to your grocery budget and we can’t have that!

Save a few recipes on your phone or even jot them down on a notepad that you can quickly make reference to. Once your memory’s been jogged, you can easily grab the ingredients you need to make magic in the kitchen. Beforehand, here are some budget-friendly grocery items you might want to include for your meal:

  • USDA Choice Steak Top Loin – $7.97/lb
  • Pork chop loin – $5.99
  • USDA Choice Beef For Stew – $7.49
  • Long grain rice (5 lb) – $4.59
  • Box of penne pasta (16 ounces) – $1.89
  • Potatoes (1.5 lb) – $4.59
  • Organic broccoli – $2.89

Who says you have to pay big bucks to eat like royalty? For less than forty bucks you can whip up a meal you’d probably have to pay double for if you ordered it from your favorite restaurant. The best part is you can season and prepare your steak or pork chop exactly the way you want it. You can make life even easier if you leave the meat and veggies in a slow cooker while you’re away from home. You’ll have a warm meal ready and waiting instead of having to sweat over a stove after a long day.

Another quick, tasty, and filling meal that will be perfect when the weather cools down is a hearty beef stew. If you’re not a fan of broccoli or potatoes, no worries. Switch either of these out with your preferred veggies and you’ll have the perfect comfort food to warm you up. As mentioned earlier, you can enjoy the deliciousness all over again the next day if you have enough for leftovers!


Vegan Options

We didn’t forget about the vegans and vegetarians who are looking to keep their grocery budget low. Meatless products can get pretty pricey so if you’re looking for budget-friendly alternatives, items like portabella mushrooms or black beans (to make black bean burgers) can be cheaper options to go along with the rest of your meal. Here’s an idea of pricing you can expect:

  • Sliced portabella – $4.99
  • Black beans – $1.00


Saving On Groceries Can Be Fun

Sometimes it seems the only way to get the food you really want is by spending hundreds of dollars at the grocery store but hopefully you see that’s not the case by now. Of course, your food costs will vary based on your grocery budget, family size, cost of living, and other factors. However, even making just a few small tweaks and planning ahead can make a big difference in your grocery bill.

Once you get into the hang of it, you might start challenging yourself to see if you can get your grocery bill lower than the last time you took a trip to the store. And if you can get it low enough, you might even be able to toss in that pint of chocolate chip cookie dough without any guilt.

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