How to Eat Right on a Budget


You can still get all the quality nutrition you need without breaking the bank with some expert advice from Renown’s registered dietitians. It’s all about the planning.

Editor’s Note: For National Nutrition Month we’re helping you put your best fork forward! In a story every week in March, Best Medicine will feature the advice of Renown’s registered dietitians for good nutrition and how it ties in to good health.

Smart shoppers everywhere are sticking to a financial budget for their weekly groceries. While it takes planning to get great savings, it can also be tempting to go for the often-cheaper items that are filled with extra salt, fat and sugar.

Registered dietitians at Renown Health have some ideas on how to make that shopping trip not only good for the wallet but also better for the waistline.

Nutrition on a Tight Budget

Don’t skip the veggies

It’s essential for families to eat plenty of vegetables in order to have a balanced diet that’s also nutritionally sound. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you should fill a half-plate with fruits and vegetables for each meal.

The produce aisle is once place to visit for sure. Laura Dehm, a registered dietitian with Renown, said shoppers should seek out seasonable produce when planning the week’s meals.

“If it’s in season, it’s at the peak of freshness and you are more likely to find it locally, and it also tends to be more affordable,” Dehm says.

Laura’s colleague, Alexa Bowman, said that the canned or frozen veggie and fruit aisle is just as essential. “They have similar nutritional value and can also be a whole lot cheaper,” she said. “At under a dollar a can for some, it can go a long way and offers more choices for the family.”


One thing to watch, though: sodium content, which can be high with canned or frozen food. The dietitians agreed that low-sodium canned or frozen vegetables, or fruit that is canned in its own juice and not syrup, are the best choices.

You don’t have to skip the bad stuff

It’s true: Moderation is the key with all things nutritional. All of the registered dietitians agreed that you can add goodies to the grocery list — just watch those portions when you finally get around to eating or serving them.

“Every food fits,” says Nanette McCall, a registered dietitian with Renown. “If you restrict things, then sometimes you will over-indulge when you decide not to be restrictive. It’s better to have a small amount of something. Suppose you like cookies or ice cream: a half a cup of ice cream and a couple of cookies are OK. Even potato chips — don’t eat the whole bag, just have a small serving.”

You can also mix-and-match to make things healthier. “I told one girl to mix her Goldfish (crackers) with little carrot coins,” McCall said. “That way she can get something crunchy but not just all processed carbohydrates.”

One exception to this, though, may be soda. All of the dietitians agreed that those should be avoided, with several recommending flavored waters as a better nutritional substitute.

Sales and circulars

Scouring the sales ads for grocery stores and clipping out coupons from the paper —  or doing all of those things virtually — can help save dollars at the register. But, it’s important to still watch what you are buying from a nutritional standpoint.“

Some coupons are hard to find for the healthy stuff,” says Nicole Bustamante, manager of Clinical Nutrition for Renown Health. “There are coupons that you get in the mail, though, if you join a rewards program at a supermarket. Those usually have produce included in the coupons or specials you get in those reward programs.”

But then again, those circulars also have a plethora of sodas, sweets and salty snacks. Dehm suggests having a plan going in that includes those sales or coupons. Yes, the grocery list is not dead!

“If I don’t have a list, I tend to get some erroneous things, and I might have to go back to the store later anyway to get things I missed,” she says. “With a plan, you could use those sales and coupons and what’s in season, and if it’s something you want to do you can also buy things in bulk and put those in the freezer.”

And then there’s this good advice: Don’t go to the grocery store hungry.

“You’ll end up putting stuff in your cart that you don’t want there,” Bowman says. “The less junk food you put in your cart, the less tempted you’ll be at home.”

To get an assessment on your specific dietary needs, schedule a consultation with one of Renown’s registered dietitians at Renown Health Improvement Programs. Call 775-982-5073.