How to Make a Healthy Grocery List

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Tell me if you’ve been in this situation: You want to start buying healthier food for you and your family, but you don’t know where to start. All the information out there is so confusing and contradicting: You have to eat totally clean to be healthy! Ditch all the sugar. Go gluten-free, it’s better for you. You have to get rid of all carbs- no, wait! Eat all the carbs! What does a mom have to do to make healthy meals?

If you worry about this, you’ve already made the first step toward a healthier lifestyle. There is no right or wrong answer as to how to feed your family, so don’t let anyone criticize you for your choices. I’ve outlined some steps below on how to make a healthy grocery list, which will help you set a steady foundation for your new healthy changes.


This is the single most important step in deciding to eat healthier. What is the definition of “healthy”, anyway? If you ask 100 people, you’ll get 200 answers. Instead of worrying about what others think, decide for yourself how you’ll prepare food for your family. Whether it’s cutting back on red meat, reducing refined flours and sugars, or just adding more vegetables, only you can make that decision.

For example, the main thing I changed in our lifestyle was adding more fruits and vegetables. But if you look in our pantry, you’ll see (gasp) boxed macaroni and cheese, protein/snack bars, and candy. It’s not “clean”! The more research I’ve done, the more I realize that I simply don’t believe in “clean eating”. Restricting foods, at least for me, makes me want it even more, so I’ve adopted an “everything in moderation” lifestyle, with emphasis on more fresh fruits and vegetables. People will disagree with you, but hey, it’s your life, not theirs! Reader Favorites from No Getting Off This Train!


What you don’t want to do is throw out your entire pantry and start buying nothing but organic food. That may work for some people, but for the most part, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. You’ll spend a ton of money up front, and chances are you either won’t like some of the food, or you simply can’t eat it all before it goes bad. So start small! The first couple weeks, try a few new vegetables to see if you like them. Switch out sour cream for Greek yogurt. The little things add up to big changes after awhile.


Once you decide where you start food-wise, the next step is to come up with a weekly grocery budget! I go into more detail in my post “How Much Should You Spend on Groceries?“. My family spent $60 a week for quite awhile, and just recently upped our budget to $75. This was to account for us eating more, and buying better-quality foods. Your budget will probably look different from ours, depending on your family size and dietary needs, but just having a number in mind can help tremendously.


No, seriously. Buy some treats. Just because you want to be healthier doesn’t mean you have to give up all of your favorite stuff. I like having chocolate and snack bars in the house; but if you’re like me and have self-control issues, consider keeping only a little bit at a time so you don’t go crazy.


One of the biggest mistakes I make is buying way too much fresh food and not eating it all before it goes bad. I love it when my favorite vegetables are on sale, but then I realize I can’t use all of it in my recipes and then forget about it in the fridge. Eating healthy is awesome, but it’s a waste of money if you don’t even eat it all! Consider freezing some of your cheap produce to use in recipes later; that way, you’re still getting a good price and won’t waste food.

Remember, you don’t have to be perfect. You have to do what’s best for you and your family; your grocery list may look totally different from mine, and that’s okay! We’re all trying to take small steps toward a healthier lifestyle, and that’s what matters. Below I’ve included a sample list of items that make it on my regular rotation each week; make sure to Pin it for your convenience!

What foods always make it onto your grocery list? Are there any other tips you can share? Feel free to leave a comment!

List of healthy grocery list essentials

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