Basic grocery list for healthy meal planning

You’ve Decided to Eat Healthier – Now What? How do you know what basic groceries you’ll need to prepare healthy meals and stick to your nutrition goals?

Grocery shopping can be overwhelming — according to the Food Marketing Institute, the average supermarket has nearly 30,000 items to choose from.

So we asked nutrition experts to explain the best ways to bring a basic grocery list of healthy staples you always have on hand in your kitchen.

How to Make a Basic Grocery List

Woman making shopping list

“It’s always good to go to the grocery store with a basic grocery list in hand — it can help prevent impulse buys and keep you on budget,” says Krista Maguire, RD, CSSD and Beachbody’s nutrition manager.

The good news?

Once you take the time to create a good basic grocery list, it only takes a few minutes to figure out what you need on a future shopping trip.

“I find the best way to create a healthy grocery list is to plan your meals for the week,” adds Maguire. “If you know what to eat, you’ll know exactly what to buy.”

Use the basic grocery list below as your baseline, then add whatever additional ingredients you need for any healthy recipes you plan to try this week.

Most recipes make multiple servings, so if you’re alone, plan to use leftovers as meal prep.

For example, say you want to make spaghetti with spinach and ground turkey: “You’ll probably buy a box of pasta, a package of ground turkey, a jar of pasta sauce, and a bunch of spinach,” says Maleh Staton, RD.

This will give enough food to cover your 4 to 6 meals for the week.

Creating a basic grocery list on a budget

Woman shopping for vegetables

Is it expensive to eat healthy – or is it? Healthy eating has a reputation for being a wallet buster, but if you plan ahead, you can eat well on a budget.

“If you’re on a budget, you can choose less expensive recipes and foods,” says Maguire. “For example, choosing chicken over steak should save some money or eggs over fish.”

Bulk foods are generally more affordable than pre-packaged foods, so Maguire recommends buying pantry staples like grains, beans, nuts and spices in bulk.

And don’t pay for the convenience of pre-cut fruits, vegetables and salad mixes.

“Sticking with whole foods instead of packaged items is a great way to lighten the total grocery bill,” says Maguire.

It may take some extra time to prepare your meal, but your wallet will thank you.

The best staples to add to your basic grocery list

Peach slices in a bowl

There are some healthy foods that you should always have on hand, so they’re there when you need a snack or a last-minute healthy meal.

“You can do a lot with chicken breast, ground turkey, eggs and organic tofu,” says Maguire.

“Also, [stock up on] A variety of canned beans — like garbanzo beans for making hummus, or black beans for tossing into a breakfast taco or over a salad or into a mixed grain and veggie bowl, she adds.

And make sure you always have the ingredients you need to make the healthy treats you (and your taste buds) love.

“Some of the staples I always find myself buying include oatmeal, bananas, almond milk, almond butter, walnuts, eggs, avocado, and sprouted bread,” says Maguire.

Here are the healthy staples you need.

For refrigerators and freezers:

  • Fresh fruit (“It’s nice to have some on-the-go snacks like bananas or apples,” says Maguire.)
  • frozen fruit
  • fresh vegetables
  • Frozen vegetables (“My freezer staples include frozen cauliflower, frozen kale, and broccoli,” says Staton.)
  • Protein of choice (chicken, fish, steak, organic tempeh, organic tofu, canned tuna or salmon)
  • Milk or unsweetened dairy milk substitutes
  • unsweetened plain Greek yogurt
  • Eggs (ideally local or pasture-raised eggs)

For the pantry:

A bowl of chickpeas

  • Non-frozen fruits and vegetables (sweet potatoes, avocados, tomatoes)
  • Dry whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice)
  • Canned beans (garbanzo, pinto, black)
  • dry pasta
  • Bread (sprout or whole grain)
  • Nut butter
  • Condiments (olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salad dressing, salsa)
  • Natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup)
  • Snacks (air-popped popcorn, whole grain crackers, dried fruit, nuts)

For the spice rack:

spice jar

Spices can really enhance the flavor of healthy foods without adding calories or sugar.

“I like to use basil in Asian or Italian dishes and cilantro, curry and cumin in Mexican or Indian dishes,” says Staton.

Keep these handy:

  • Sea salt
  • pepper
  • mint
  • cilantro
  • curry
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Chili powder
  • cinnamon
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary

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