The ultimate healthy food shopping guide

Multiple times a week I’m asked about what I eat or what I cook.

I guess since I’m not following any specific diet plan, people wonder what the heck I’m actually doing to lose weight.

Since “everything” is not a sufficient answer for most people, I figured it was time to get down to the dirty details of my diet.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat a mostly vegetarian diet at home. I didn’t plan for it to happen that way, but a can of beans is cheaper than a package of chicken or piece of salmon. I also feel better eating less meat. I don’t hesitate to order it out, however. Sushi is too freaking delicious. Vegetarian cooking for me is now habit and convenience more than anything else.

When I first moved out on my own two years ago, I realized that cooking would be a necessity for financial and health reasons. I was honestly really overwhelmed in the beginning. I would go to the grocery store, walk out $80 poorer and have no clue what to do with the food. Half of it would end up in the garbage because it had gone bad. For shame.

Slowly, and through following bloggers that post their daily eats, I began to formulate what meals could look like and I began to plan.

Now I have food shopping down to a science. I keep a grocery list in my iPhone that I continually update throughout the week when I think of something I want, see a recipe I’m salivating over or realize I’m out of something. This has been a huge help because it means I’m not scrambling to remember what I need when I’m at the store.

I try to limit my spending to $50 per week on groceries. Even though it’s just me, It’s not always easy and I sometimes have to put back items I really want. I also go to multiple grocery stores to get the cheapest prices. I get a lot of good deals for grains and nuts at the bulk bins at Whole Foods, but most of my food  shopping is done at Trader Joe’s or regular supermarkets. It’s work running around to different locations, but it’s worth it to save money.

I had no idea exactly how much time and money would go into making a kitchen for myself that I could work with. It took probably a year to build up to where I have most things that I need on hand at all times. Even if I don’t have a particular meal in mind, I can usually throw together something healthy with what’s on my shelves.

This list is by no means inclusive of everything, but it shows my necessities and food I simply cannot make it through the week without.

Dairy/non-dairy alternatives:

  • Almond milk
  • Chobani or Fage non-fat plain Greek yogurt. I go through one of those big containers every week! I eat it as everything from a snack to using it as a dressing or cooking with it. OBSESSED with Greek yogurt.
  • Cheese…if I think I can handle the temptation of having cheese in my apartment, haha. I typically get either feta, goat cheese or sharp cheddar. Also, do yourself a favor, get cheese with all the fat. It’s so much more delicious.

In the pantry:

  • Almonds, either dry roasted or raw. I love salted almonds, but they were too addicting! Same goes for walnuts and peanuts, love ’em…but I was eating too many.
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Kashi 7 grain whole grain puffs cereal
  • Peanut Butter & Co crunchy peanut butter (in LOVE with this brand)
  • Canned tomatoes with no added salt
  • Whole Foods brand fat free pasta sauce
  • Low sodium vegetable broth
  • Olive/grape seed/flax oil
  • Quaker old fashioned rolled oats
  • Trader Joe’s 94% fat free popcorn
  • Whole wheat pasta or quinoa


  • Bananas. Must have bananas.
  • The fresh fruit I eat changes based on whatever is seasonal. Right now I’m eating a lot of apples, oranges and grapes but during the summer it was all about fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, nectarines – I LOVE fruit. Honestly, I keep a lot around because fruit is my go-to snack.
  • Frozen fruit. Not only are the bags useful for icing ankles at knees, but the frozen fruit works great in smoothies. I also keep a stash of frozen bananas for banana-related emergencies, which happen more than you might think.


  • Leafy greens: either kale or collard greens or spinach
  • Bagged lettuce
  • zucchini
  • tomatoes
  • mushrooms
  • carrots
  • broccoli
  • onions
  • white/sweet potatoes (are these vegetables?? whatever)


  • Veggie burgers. I’m currently in love with Dr. Praeger’s Bombay veggie burgers and Morning Star spicy black bean veggie burgers.
  • Frozen meals. Here’s the thing: frozen meals get a bad reputation. BUT, there are some ones that have a decent ingredient list (ie. NOT lean cuisine). Yes, they are more expensive than actually cooking, but they are less expensive than going out for dinner. I keep two or three on hand for nights when I really have no time/energy to cook, which maybe happens once a week. In the long run, spending a bit more on healthy frozen meals saves me money and calories.
  • Ezekiel bread. I really like the cinnamon raisin and Genesis sprouted grain and seed.

Other must-haves that didn’t group together well:

  • Ketchup + mustard
  • Liquid egg whites
  • Lemon juice
  • Jarred garlic/ginger
  • Spices: salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, cumin and chili powder are a few of my favorites.
  • Salsa
  • Hummus. I’m on a homemade hummus kick right now, but also like Trader Joe’s varieties and Sabra

That’s it! With those staples items, I can make a variety of different meals throughout the week that suit my budget, time constraints and health needs.

Did I leave anything out? What are some of your food must-haves?


3 thoughts on “The ultimate healthy food shopping guide

  1. Great list! I think it really shows that you are committed to clean eating, because even though you are frugal (putting items back even though you want them to limit your spending), you are willing to pay the extra money for QUALITY products (by choosing healthier options for your frozen dinners). 🙂

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