It is all over the news these days, the price of food across the grocery store aisles are on the rise. Beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and milk have all seen price increases over the past several months. The change in food prices is attributed in part to the drought affecting the western states and other agricultural events. While the change in prices can be shocking, don’t let the food prices prevent you from making healthy choices while shopping at the grocery store. The usual strategy to making healthy food choices at the grocery store is to shop the perimeter of the store. However nutrient dense foods are found throughout the grocery store and being informed and armed with a plan will help you make healthy choices.


IStock_000006814071SmallBuying fresh produce can often take up a large portion of your grocery budget. Start by comparing prices between different fresh fruits and vegetables to see what fits within your shopping budget. Seasonal produce may be cheaper than other varieties. Comparing prices is also a great time to introduce new fruits and vegetables into your diet. If fresh fruits or vegetables are too expensive for your budget, you can look for fruits and vegetables in the frozen food aisle. The frozen produce can provide almost the same nutritional value as fresh produce, just make sure the frozen produce doesn’t have any added sodium or sugars to it. 


Shopping for protein-rich foods can also be an expensive part of the grocery list. If prices for fresh beef, pork, or poultry are too expensive then compare the prices between fresh and frozen items. Frozen chicken breasts will have the same protein and similar nutrients as fresh chicken. You may also consider changing up the protein sources in your diet and buy other protein-rich foods. For example, have beans or legumes twice a week in a meal instead of meat or poultry. If you buy canned beans, be sure to drain and rinse them before cooking to reduce the amount of sodium. You can switch meat for tofu in a few meals as well to have a variety of protein sources. Vegetarian-friendly sources of protein tend to be cheaper than meat or fish choices. Changing up the proteins in your kitchen will bring variety to your diet and expand your culinary skills.


Rising prices for milk and other dairy items can cause a hitch in your stride as you stroll down the dairy aisle. Don’t panic! Think about when you use dairy items in your daily diet. Consider grabbing a carton or two of soymilk instead, just make sure that the soymilk is calcium fortified to get similar nutritional benefit. You can explore other nondairy beverages like almond milk or rice milk as well, but make sure they are fortified with vitamins and minerals.


When shopping on a budget you should also explore the bulk bin section of the grocery store, if your store has one, to find different types of grains, flours, and dry beans.  Often these products are cheaper, although some items will require more cooking time.  By taking the opportunity to explore the bulk bins you can add more variety and nutritious choices to your diet.


It is a challenge to make healthy choices at the grocery store when there are so many food products to choose from and eating healthy can seem expensive.  You may be tempted to purchase more packaged and processed foods with the rising prices for fresh, minimally processed foods. However, buying foods that help you achieve your health goals without blowing your grocery budget is achievable, it just takes a bit more time and planning. By following the tips outlined above you should feel more confident in your ability to make healthy nutritious food choices while shopping the grocery store, and stay within the food budget.