Dietitian-Approved Ways to Save Money on Groceries

Grocery costs have soared by double digits over the past year, meaning that many shoppers are having to make do with less. The good news is that cutting grocery costs does not automatically mean sacrificing nutrition or flavor.

Try these dietitian-tested tips for shopping smarter, to help you save money and improve your health in the process.

Replace Cooking Wine or Broth With Water

Can budget-minded shoppers substitute water for pricy broths, stocks and cooking wines? Yes!

The difference in flavor is not always discernable, and in some cases, opting for water instead of stock or broth can be a great way to let ingredients shine (and reduce sodium intake in the process).

In his 2020 cookbook “Quick & Simple,” culinary icon Jacques Pepin intentionally uses water in his chunky vegetable soup because it “retains the flavors of the vegetables better than chicken stock would.” When developing recipes, we find that replacing broth (even low-sodium varieties) with water is one of the most surefire ways to reduce sodium to an appropriate level without taking a big hit in the flavor department.

[READ: Ways to Keep Veggies Fresh Longer.]

Build Meals Around Affordable Staple Foods

As you pay closer attention to food costs, you’ll find that certain ingredients are incredibly undervalued. Take the humble cabbage. One medium head of cabbage will last upwards of three weeks in the crisper drawer uncut (and tightly wrapped) and yields upwards of 8 cups of shredded cabbage — enough to be enjoyed for weeks.

Use it in tostadas, braise and serve as a side, or ferment it into a pickled slaw. Even at the overpriced urban grocery store in Oldway’s Boston neighborhood, an organic head of cabbage will only set you back about $3. (At many other stores around the country, the price is much less than that). Carrots, bananas and spinach are also examples of produce picks that offer great nutritional bang for your buck.

[READ: How to Stretch Meat Recipes.]

Shop Your Pantry for Substitutions

As you build out your grocery list, shop your pantry and freezer first for possible substitutions. Do you really need to buy pine nuts for a pesto if you already have walnuts and almonds at home? They’re a perfectly delicious substitute.

Do you need to buy Arborio rice for risotto if you already have short-grain brown rice or farro on hand? Get creative! Rolled oats can be substituted for breadcrumbs in meatball recipes. Whole grain pita can serve as a quick and easy flatbread pizza crust. You just might find that you enjoy your customized pantry recipe even better than the original.


If you’re making a bean salad that calls for 1 cup of black beans and 1 cup of pinto beans, you’ll have to buy two different cans, and will end up with leftovers of each.

To simplify this recipe (and save yourself money), just buy 1 can of beans and use the whole can. The amounts might not be quite the same, but many savory recipes (such as grain salads, casseroles, sauces and soups) are quite adaptable. Similarly, if you’re making a sheet pan recipe that calls for 1 cup of chopped broccoli and 1 cup of chopped cauliflower, feel free to pick just one or the other. That way, you can buy the vegetable by the head or by the package without paying for excess that the recipe doesn’t call for.

[See: Top Plant-Based Proteins.]

Swap in Legumes for Meat

Much ink has been spilled on the overlap between foods that are better for you and better for the planet. But the reality is that many plant-based ingredients can be better for your budget as well. Take protein foods. Swapping in legumes (like beans) for meat increases fiber and plant protein, reduces saturated fat and cholesterol, and saves money to boot.

Stuff your quesadilla with black beans instead of chicken. Top your pasta with chickpeas instead of meatballs. Stuff your casseroles (like Greek moussaka) with lentils in place of lamb. Thicken your stews with peanut butter in place of meat. An entire world of flavor awaits you.

[See: Ways Alcohol Affects the Aging Process.]

Prioritize Food Over Beverages

Beverages like beer, wine and fruit juice are a “nice to have,” not a “need to have.”

If you’re drinking (or exceeding) the recommended maximum of one alcoholic drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men, now is the perfect opportunity to cut back and moderate your intake. While the occasional glass of wine has been linked with cardiovascular benefits, less really is more when it coms to alcohol and health. Likewise, shifting more of your grocery budget to food items (like vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruits) rather than beverages (like soda, juice, flavored waters and sports drinks) can help get you in the habit of enjoying water with most meals, as well as free up some of your grocery budget for the essential food groups.

More from U.S. News

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11 Cheap Plant-Based Meals

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