If you're looking for articles featuring inspiration or the latest in health and weight loss news, look no further.

How to Shop for Healthy Foods on a Budget
  • Email Email
  • Print Print

How to Shop for Healthy Foods on a Budget

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away." 

Not so much. Especially now that conventional farmers in the United States alone use over 1 billion pounds of pesticides each year (that’s more than 3 pounds of pesticides per person)!

In fact, if you are eating conventional produce on the Environmental Group's (EWG) Dirty Dozen list, you may as well be saying “an apple a day can lead to diphenylamine poisoning.”

"80% of apples tested contained diphenylamine, a pesticide banned in Europe"

Common side effects of diphenylamine poisoning include bladder injuries, eczema, hypertension, and dermatitis. 

Anything that is toxic to the body overwhelms the liver, and an overwhelmed liver becomes clogged, which makes losing weight difficult. Pesticide residues not only clog the liver but also build up on the intestinal wall, inhibiting the absorption and digestion of nutrients from the food you eat.

So why do so many of us still choose conventional over organic?

The expense.

Organic food costs more for several reasons. On average, organic farmers have lower yields and higher production costs than conventional farmers because they don't use herbicides; some crops are weeded by hand, which is labor-intensive.

Not to mention, organic farmers don't receive the many agricultural subsidies and other perks available to conventional farmers.

Organic farming allows foods to grow in nature as they were intended.

The good news is, you don't have to buy everything organic.

And for the foods you should be buying organic, there are several ways to cut costs even further.

These are the steps you need to take to get not only healthy groceries, but foods that will bring down inflammation, boost your metabolism, and shed fat.

1. Create your meal plans and shopping lists.

This is so important because not only will you have everything you need to eat healthy all week, but you won’t buy anything extra that ends up rotting away in your fridge.

Let’s break that down a little further. Ever go to the grocery store and you buy a bunch of stuff but never end up using half of it? You end up wasting money.

So, if you have your meals and shopping lists laid out, you get exactly what you need each week and nothing more. If In fact, you may be able to buy mostly organic and still end up spending less when you consistently plan your meals.  

You’re also going to be saving money by not filling up your cart with expensive, processed foods when you create your own meal plans and shopping lists. Whole foods cost less, bottom line.

2. Don’t throw all of your inorganic food in the trash. Start by buying organic poultry, meat, and eggs.

The antibiotics and growth hormones in conventionally raised meat and meat byproducts can seriously alter how our bodies were meant to function, and even lead to antibiotic resistance.

Yep, even if we aren’t eating the hormones and antibiotics directly, you’re still ingesting anything that was fed to those animals.

Here’s what to look for on the label:

Beef: Grass-fed, organic if possible

Poultry: Pasture-raised, organic if possible

Eggs: Pasture-raised, organic if possible

Your next best choice is free-range, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free poultry, meat and eggs. So, even if the animals weren’t fed organic feed, at least they weren’t given any antibiotics and hormones.

3. Next, get familiar withEWG's 2018 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

What’s the Clean Fifteen? – Conventional produce in the EWG’s 2018 Guide to Pesticides in Produce report with the least likelihood to contain pesticides.

These are the fruits and veggies that are generally safer to buy in conventional form.

What’s the Dirty Dozen?Conventional produce in the EWG’s 2018 Guide to Pesticides in Produce fruits and vegetables contaminated the most with pesticides herbicides and fungicides.

And these are the fruits and veggies you want to avoid in conventional form.

And if you haven’t already guessed, apples rank #4 on the Dirty Dozen list.

I’ll pass on the diphenylamine poisoning, thank you!

Another rule of thumb:

Conventional produce that contains a thick skin or shell (such as watermelon, butternut squash, and avocados) is usually “safer” than conventional produce without much of a covering (such as apples, grapes, and strawberries).

Any sort of thick covering limits direct contact to pesticides.

However, most conventional produce still isn’t 100% immune to the chemicals used in the soil they were grown in.

De-coding produce stickers.

Organic produce: a 5-digit code that starts with a ‘9’ means the item is organic

Conventional produce: a 4-digit code that starts with a ‘3’ or ‘4’ means the item is conventional.

GMO: a 5-digit code that starts with an ‘8’ means the item is genetically modified.

Where to get organic on the cheap.

Your local Farmer’s Market.

How could this not be #1? Farmer’s Markets are a great resource within most communities. The produce is local, the farmers are friendly, and the quality is outstanding.

Many farmers don’t use synthetic pesticides for their crops. And since crops are grown locally, they don’t have to be transported far distances, which means prices are generally cheaper and your food won’t lose valuable nutrients during shipping.

Online retailers.

Companies like Butcher Box and Organic Prairie deliver meat and poultry directly to your door, and it’s almost always under retail value! This is especially helpful if you don’t live near any grocery stores with variety and high-quality pasture-raised poultry and grass-fed beef.

Pair some online shopping discounts with a weekly meal plan, and you’ll spend even less on meat and poultry – yes, even the high-quality stuff.

Your local grocery store (Trader Joe’s is my absolute favorite!)

Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store where you’ll find produce, seafood, the eggs and dairy, and meats. This is where you should spend 90% of your time.

Why? Perishable foods are unprocessed, whole foods, and therefore, have the most nutrients and minerals. One of the keys to achieving success with Beyond Diet is consuming delicious foods in their whole food forms. Whole foods nutritionally sustain you so that you lose weight and stay healthy at the same time.

Here are a few things I get for myself and my family at Trader Joe’s...

Let’s start with the items I prefer to be organic, when possible:

  • Sugar snap peas – such a satisfying and crunchy snack. Can’t live without them!
  • Apples – always, always get organic apples. My kids love them!
  • Tri-colored carrots – carrots aren’t on the Dirty Dozen list, but I still prefer to get them organic because they don’t have a thick skin or “covering.” It’s worth the low organic price at Trader Joe’s.
  • Blueberries – blueberries are PACKED with nutrition and antioxidants, which you get way less of when you choose conventional. Plus, the organic berries at Trader Joe’s are some of the cheapest I’ve been able to find.
  • Asparagus – again, not on the Dirty Dozen list, but I still prefer organic over conventional for nutritional purposes.
  • Beets – organic beets taste phenomenal when juiced. My favorite is combining beet, ginger, and turmeric juice on a hot spring or summer day.
  • Cucumbers – we can really never get enough cucumbers so I grow them in my organic garden in addition to purchasing them at Trader Joe’s. My kids love them and they are very alkaline.
  • Frozen riced cauliflower – Trader Joe’s cauliflower rice is incredibly cheap. I end up getting about 3-4 bags at a time to use in a quick stir fry with coconut oil and serve it with wild salmon and a side salad.

  • Organic raw honey – okay this can be on the slightly more expensive side, but a little bit will last you a very long time. Raw honey is also packed with more nutrition!
  • Organic brown rice quinoa spaghetti – ingredients: organic brown rice, organic quinoa flour, water – that’s it! So great for my kids so they can still have spaghetti (and you can, too!)

  • Almond flour – this can be very expensive, but Trader Joe’s offers it at a great price!
  • Organic coconut milk – all canned foods at trader joes are BPA-free! And you can’t beat that price. Note: BPA is the chemical on inside linings of some cans.
  • Applegate Organics Uncured Beef Hot Dogs – I know, hot dogs are processed, but I have 2 kids and I want them to have things that their friends have so I find the best alternative.This brand of hot dogs is pasture-raised, grass-fed, with no added nitrates and nitrites.

  • Lemons – Even though lemons have a thick skin, I still choose organic because of the low price at Trader Joe’s AND I make cleansing lemon water every single morning. If I’m going to drink something every day, I’ll try to get the organic option.

Okay and these are the items I will still purchase at Trader Joe’s even if they aren’t organic! Yep, you read that correctly. Like I said, not everything has to be organic.

  • Spaghetti squash – Spaghetti squash is one of those foods I mentioned with a “thick skin.” And I completely trust the squash at Trader Joe’s.
  • Raw almond butter – not organic but it is raw, which is way more important. Trader Joe’s has the best price for almond butter, and this item just contains raw almonds! No added preservatives or oil.

  • Avocados – I will sometimes get organic avocados, but seeing as they are #1 on the Clean Fifteen list AND contain a thick skin to protect them from pesticides, I get the bags of inorganic avocados instead.
  • Cantaloupe – Also on the Clean Fifteen list with a thick covering! Conventional cantaloupe is okay in my book.
  • Fresh fennel – sure, it’s not organic, but if the only option is conventional and I want to eat fennel, I’m going to buy it.

See, even nutritionists aren’t perfect. It’s about making progress, not driving yourself crazy trying to be perfect 100% of the time.

Bottom Line.

You must weigh the extra cost in the short term with the long-term health benefits of sparing your body from all the chemicals. Consider our society's current state of health: The more chemicals and toxins we are exposed to, the worse our health becomes.

And remember, not everything has to be organic or perfect. That’s not the goal here. If anything, focus on planning your meals and shopping lists because this will have the biggest impact when it comes to improving your health and losing weight.

After a few weeks, start prioritizing when to buy organic (again, start with organic poultry, meat, and eggs, and avoid the Dirty Dozen produce)!

If you need help creating meal plans and shopping lists each week, let a LiveSmart membership take care of the meal planning and shopping lists for you!

Meal plans...

Every. Single. Month.

Not only will you immediately start saving money on healthy groceries with a LiveSmart membership, you’ll save time in the kitchen, make strides towards your health goals, and get the latest videos and articles in health each and every month.

Start saving money on healthy groceries with LiveSmart, today »


Catherine Lawless
Thank you for all the great points on product buying you really are a blessing
Marie Sterlace
I would like to start again, I cannot find quick start guides and other guides so I may see recipes and shopping lists for first few weeks
Coach Chrissy
Migdalia - Yes, raw beets would be too hard to add to a smoothie.
Coach Chrissy

Rosemary - Just do the best you can with what's available for you. Buy local, purchase items online, and you can still find a descent amount of organic food at Walmart!

Audrey Barnette
Earth Fare in my city is great for shopping organically
Kristi H
I love Trader Joe's too! Another benefit is that ALL of their products are non-GMO!!
Linda Redondo
Great info! I will follow your suggestions!
Thank you!! Everything I receive through Beyond Diet has been so helpful and informative! And I appreciate the simple graphs & charts offered. Its often so much easier to (for me) to glance at a picture list than to stop and read. I am a true fan and believer of Beyond Diet and its message!!
Migdalia Rodri
Hi...I have a question..I want to put beets in my I have to cook the beets first???
Marcella Cave
I have gone Paleo and shop at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Sprouts. Sprouts frequently has great deals on their organic grass fed beef!
Rosemary Jones
I am going to try, my problem is we have no Trader Joe’s where I live and the closes one is 100 miles away?? I have been a member since 2013 and I love beyond diet. Wall Mart is taken over our town so what are my options? God Bless You, Rosemary
Jill Coward
Costco is closer & they have so many organic, grassfed & wild products. Surprised you haven’t mentioned them...?
Sounds great! Can't wait to get started!