Fat Loss Grocery Shopping on a Budget ($50, $75, and $100)

Achieving your goals can be hard if you're on a budget. Get a better idea on how to shop for fat loss with these grocery shopping lists & sample meal plans.

Diets rich in protein, fiber, and water are extremely effective for fat loss.

Protein1, fiber, and water2 each help you feel full and prevent excessive snacking, and high-protein diets can also improve glucose homeostasis1.

Despite these benefits, diets that combine protein, fiber, and water have a reputation for being very expensive. Animal protein, especially lean protein sources, and fresh fruit and vegetables, which have high water and fiber contents, are costly.

Production of animal products, especially beef, have very high carbon footprints3, while fresh fruit and vegetables have short shelf-lives compared to many processed foods that can last for months or years without going bad.

If some of our most nutrient-dense foods are so expensive, how can we lose fat on a budget?

And, perhaps more importantly, how can we juggle reaching our macronutrient goals, eating nutrient-dense foods, and following a diet that’s good for the planet?

In this article, we’ll review some tips for fulfilling these requirements when you do your grocery shopping, and then we’ll look at some sample meal plans.

Quick Tips for Budget-Friendly Fat-Loss Grocery Shopping

1. Buy generic when possible: Save your money for high-quality, sustainably sourced foods – not the products with the most attractive brand names or fonts. Look closely at each product for what really matters, such as nutrient content, who made it, and where it was made. Cheaper products are not always lesser quality. Be a smart consumer.

2. Buy in bulk…when it makes sense: Stock up on non-perishable items you use often, e.g. frozen fruit, vegetables, and meat. Don’t buy in bulk just to take advantage of deals, e.g. buying 10 yogurts for $10, if they might end up in the trash.

3. Look for discounted fruits and vegetables: When it comes to fresh produce, look for weekly specials at your local market. Do some research in your area to see if you have any discounted produce programs. You can even ask at your local grocery store or supermarket if they have unwanted produce that would otherwise go to waste.

Take advantage of the fact that fresh produce is perishable, and look for some that you can take off of others’ hands and do them a favor.

Shopping for Discounted Vegetables

4. Learn shortcuts: While some grocery deals come and go, there are other shortcuts that nearly always hold true. For instance, peanut butter is usually cheaper than other types of nut butter. Grains are cheap. Some fruit, like bananas and oranges, are usually cheap, while others, like berries and avocado, are expensive.

Look for sales on the pricier ones, and figure out if there are any shortcuts particular to your area. You might have local specialties that are especially cheap where you live.

5. Do what makes sense for your priorities: Your goal might be reaching certain calorie or macronutrient goals, or it might simply be eating as many high-quality foods as you can on a budget. For example, protein is expensive, so you might find that you need to sacrifice other costs or stick to cheaper protein sources, like eggs, dairy, and protein powder, to maintain a higher protein intake.

On the other hand, if you want to eat 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, you might have to cut back on other costs or switch to frozen or canned versions of some items. Depending on your priorities, you may have to make different trade-offs and look for effective substitutions.

Sample Fat Loss Meal Plans

For this analysis, we will use 2000 calories to break down our sample daily macronutrient goals, but remember that each person is different. You can also calculate your own calorie and macronutrient requirements using a bmr calculator.

The macronutrient compositions used below are examples that meet acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges (AMDRs) set forth by the Institute of Medicine (IOM): 45-65% carbohydrates, 20-35% fat, and 10-35% protein.

Here are the three daily macronutrient splits that we will be using:

  • 170g protein, 52g fat, 210g carb
  • 150g protein, 56g fat, 225g carb
  • 125g protein, 45g fat, 275g carb

Again, what works for you will depend on many factors, including age, gender, activity level, and current dietary intake. For example, the lowest of the three protein options (125g protein) is more than enough for someone weighing 153lbs4 up to 195lbs5 depending on which reference you use.

The grocery lists that are provided have options for all three macronutrient splits to illustrate all items that were used to fit a given budget. The individual daily meal plans each have slightly different grocery lists.

Let’s take a look at samples for $50, $75, and $100 weekly budgets.

$50 per week ($7.14 per day)

Carbohydrates:

  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Cream of rice (or wheat)
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrot
  • Zucchini
  • Frozen broccoli
  • Navel orange

Protein:

Fat:

  • Peanut butter
Daily meal plan: 125g protein, 45g fat, 275g carb

Daily meal plan: 125g protein, 45g fat, 275g carb

Daily meal plan: 150g protein, 56g fat, 225g carb

Daily meal plan: 150g protein, 56g fat, 225g carb

Daily meal plan: 170g protein, 52g fat, 210g carb

Daily meal plan: 170g protein, 52g fat, 210g carb

$75 per week ($10.71 per day)

Carbohydrates:

  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Cream of rice (or wheat)
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrot
  • Broccoli
  • Frozen broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Apple

Protein:

  • Liquid egg whites
  • Cottage cheese (1% fat)
  • Wild Atlantic salmon
  • Protein powder

Fat:

  • Chia seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
Daily meal plan: 125g protein, 45g fat, 275g carb

Daily meal plan: 125g protein, 45g fat, 275g carb

Daily meal plan: 150g protein, 56g fat, 225g carb

Daily meal plan: 150g protein, 56g fat, 225g carb

Daily meal plan: 170g protein, 52g fat, 210g carb

Daily meal plan: 170g protein, 52g fat, 210g carb

$100 per week ($14.28 per day)

Carbohydrates:

  • Oats
  • Whole grain bread
  • Quinoa
  • Bananas
  • Cream of rice (or wheat)
  • Sweet potato
  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • Bell pepper
  • Spinach
  • Apple
  • Blueberries
  • Honey

Protein:

  • Liquid egg whites
  • Plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • Wild cod
  • Protein powder
  • Grass-fed ground beef

Fat:

  • Avocado
  • Chia seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
Daily meal plan: 125g protein, 45g fat, 275g carb

Daily meal plan: 125g protein, 45g fat, 275g carb

Daily meal plan: 150g protein, 56g fat, 225g carb

Daily meal plan: 150g protein, 56g fat, 225g carb

Daily meal plan: 170g protein, 52g fat, 210g carb

Daily meal plan: 170g protein, 52g fat, 210g carb

Putting It All Together

Contrary to what many people believe, you can eat a macro-friendly, nutritious, sustainable diet on a budget. It just requires some planning. If you’re trying to prepare nutritious meals on a budget, remember that shelf-stable carbohydrates are usually the cheapest, while protein is often the most expensive macronutrient. Vegan and vegetarian sources of protein are not only cheaper but often better for the environment.

The prices used to create sample meal plans were taken from a chain grocery store and reflect prices for small containers of foods and for fresh produce and meat. You can save even more by buying in bulk, buying frozen or canned versions, shopping at discount stores, and looking for local specials and deals. You might even be able to help reduce food waste by getting perishable items from others for a discounted price or for free.

The problem with our food system isn’t that fast food is cheap and nutritious food is expensive—the problem is that we are programmed to reach for the fast food. If we focus instead on ways to sustain not only our bodies and minds but also the environment, we can spend less, eat healthier, and have a more positive impact on the world.