I’m a Registered Dietitian and Only Spend $50 a Week on Groceries — Here’s What I Buy

updated Sep 2, 2020
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If you think that spending $50 a week on groceries for my two-person household means that all we eat is frozen pizza, allow me to prove you wrong. (For reference, the average two-person family spends around $120 per week on a low-cost plan, according to the USDA.) As a Registered Dietitian, I’m an expert in helping people plan quick and simple healthy meals and, most importantly, learning how to do so affordably. My philosophy is that eating healthy has to be sustainable when it comes to my clients’ lifestyles and budgets. 

Here are my golden strategies for getting the most bang for your buck while grocery shopping — plus, a breakdown of one of my recent grocery lists and the corresponding meal plan. Let’s take a look.

Credit: Rebecca Jaspan

1. Take inventory of what’s already in your pantry.

Start off with a pantry that’s stocked with daily essentials (that last a long time) so you don’t need to add to your weekly list. My staples include olive oil, salt, pepper, spices, old-fashioned oats, rice (white or brown), pasta, mustard, vinegar (balsamic, white wine, or rice wine), canned tomatoes, canned beans, nuts, and peanut butter. With a well-stocked pantry, you’ll be well on your way to planning easy, healthy, and inexpensive meals week after week.  

2. Plan your menu for the entire week.

Take some time before you grocery shop to plan out your week and think about what you’ll want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Browse the internet (hi, Kitchn!) for inspiration, check the weather to plan meals accordingly, or pick a theme or cuisine you feel like trying for the week. Still feeling stuck? Grab your partner or kids and do it together. The goal is to avoid making unnecessary purchases that you have no intention of using.

3. Use ingredients in multiple ways.

When thinking about what you’re eating for the week, try to find ways to use ingredients in multiple ways.  Maybe you buy cherry tomatoes for a lunch salad and then you roast the rest for pasta or as a topping for fish. Use half a bag of spinach in quesadillas and blend the rest up into a pesto. This is where you can get really creative. It’s almost like a game — how many ways can I use an ingredient this week?

4. Cook once, eat twice.

This is the best money- and time-saving trick, in my book. Choose two meals that will yield enough leftovers to either have dinner for two nights or lunch throughout the week. While you might be spending more time cooking one night, your future self will thank you.

What My $50 Grocery List Looks Like This Week

  • Yogurt, $3.79
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, $3.29
  • Sprouted 7-grain bread, $3.49
  • Whole-wheat tortillas, $2.99
  • Grape tomatoes, $2.79
  • Bananas (2), $.38
  • Kale, $3.49
  • Sweet potato, $.79
  • Avocado, $2.99
  • Peaches (3), $2.37
  • Cauliflower rice, $2.49
  • Lemon, $.39
  • Lime, $.29
  • Boneless chicken thighs, $4.49
  • Lentils, $3.29
  • Refried beans, $.99
  • Coconut milk, $1.29
  • Kale pesto, $3.79
  • Olive oil popcorn, $1.99
  • Dark chocolate peanut butter cups, $4.29

What I Used from My Pantry

  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Chickpeas
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Spices (curry powder, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon) 
  • Mustard 
  • Old-fashioned oats 

My Menu for the Week


  • Overnight oats 
  • Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and banana


  • Kale salad with roasted sweet potatoes, crispy chickpeas, avocado, and homemade dressing
  • Refried bean and cheese quesadillas with a side of sliced peaches


  • Grilled chicken thighs with tomato and avocado salsa, coconut curry lentils and cauliflower rice
  • Kale pesto pasta with roasted tomatoes 

Snacks and Dessert

  • Olive oil popcorn
  • Yogurt, nuts, sliced peaches 
  • Dark chocolate peanut butter cups 

After budgeting for the week, I even had money to spend on dessert (because what’s a day without some chocolate?). I hope these tips, grocery list, and weekly menu give you confidence that not only is eating healthfully on $50 a week attainable — it’s also easy. 

How much do you spend on groceries each week?