I Bought a Week of Healthy Food from Trader Joe’s for Under $50

We all need to eat. I like to eat healthily, you like to eat healthily. But there’s a myth floating around that eating whole and healthy foods is too expensive for the average person.

Which, yeah, the dollars can certainly add up if you’re taking trips to Whole Foods to buy kale chips, sprouted wheat crackers, and grass-fed ghee. 

But if you’re fine with sticking to simpler foods you cook at home, eating on the cheap is not that hard to do. To prove it to you, I went to Trader Joe’s with nothing but $50 and a dream, on a mission to buy enough food for the entire week. 

 

 

How to buy a week of healthy food from Trader Joe’s for $50

 

Know your stores

 

Certain stores sell foods cheaper than others. Costco is great for bulk items, Sprouts has inexpensive meats and produce, and Trader Joes is great for specialty items. Meats at Trader Joes are expensive, which means if you’re trying to keep it cheap at TJs, you should plan on eating more plant-based meals that week.

 

Stick to the outside

 

At most traditional grocery stores, and even at Trader Joes, the fresh healthy foods are at the perimeter of the store. Those shelves in the center are the danger zone — it’s there you’ll find processed foods, sugary snacks, and generally all the expensive stuff. Base your grocery list primarily off of those perimeter foods.

 

Compare frozen to fresh

 

Don’t be afraid of frozen vegetables, especially at TJs. They can be cheaper than their fresh counterparts and reheat pretty well, especially in stir-I like buying a couple different frozen vegetable packs per week, because it cuts down on food that could potentially go bad and be wasted in my fridge.

 

Source: Travis Yewell

 

What I Bought from Trader Joe’s

This is the exact shopping list (copied from my receipt) I used when I went to Trader Joes. It’s meant to provide simple, healthy meals for an omnivore — the list is not gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, or keto. (But if you’re interested in lists like that, please let us know in the comments!)

I also know some people get quite touchy about what is and is not considered “healthy,” so here’s what it means to me: Moderation. I eat a balanced, varied diet with all food groups, cooking simple but nutritionally-dense meals at home. Don’t be aghast if you see something you might not consider a “health food,” like a potato. Yes, I eat potatoes. They are cheap and delicious and my life would be sadder without them. 

 

What’s not included on this list

 

I did not include bulk items such as olive oil, coconut oil, peanut/almond butter, herbs & spices, salad dressings, and so on. I didn’t want bulk pantry items, which don’t need to be purchased week-to-week, to cut into the weekly grocery budget. Take stock of your own pantry to determine if you need to make any additional purchases.

I also did not include protein bars, protein shakes, or other snacks, which you may or may not eat throughout the day. I feel like snacks are highly personalized, so it’s up to you what you want to snack on throughout the day, if anything.

 

The Shopping List:

  • Organic baby kale, 1 bag — $1.99
  • Organic spinach, 1 bag — $1.99
  • Onion, 1 — $0.69
  • Rainbow carrots, 1 bag — $1.99
  • Russet potatoes, 2— $0.98
  • Mushrooms, sliced, 1 package —  $1.99
  • Tomatoes on the vine —  $1.99
  • Steamed and peeled baby beets, 1 package — $2.29
  • Zucchini, 1 package — $2.99
  • Apples, 2 — $0.73
  • Bananas, 5 — $0.95
  • Chicken Italian sausage, 1 package — $4.49
  • Ground turkey, 1 package — $3.99
  • Extra firm tofu, 2 packages — $4
  • Eggs, 1 carton — $1.49
  • Greek yogurt — $1.99
  • Plum/diced tomatoes (fire-roasted optional), 1 can — $1.59
  • Chickpeas — $0.99
  • Multigrain bread — $2.49
  • Old-fashioned organic oats — $2.49
  • Organic whole wheat spaghetti (For a GF alternative, use brown rice pasta) — $1.39
  • Brown Basmati rice, 1 bag —$3.49 (You can also buy the pre-cooked frozen brown rice for $2.99. It’s highly convenient, but the uncooked rice will last you several more weeks).
  • Frozen Brussel Sprouts — $0.99
  • Frozen Green Beans — $1.99

TOTAL: $49.96

Note: Prices may vary based on the location of your Trader Joe’s store.

 

The Meals

Here’s a fairly-exhaustive list of everything I ate that week, minus a few snacks purchased elsewhere. Most of these dinners will feed multiple people and still have leftovers, or feed YOU for multiple meals! I use leftovers for most lunches because it’s way quicker and easier to get out the door in the morning if you’re just grabbing a container from the fridge.

 

If you’d like the full recipes for what dinners I cook throughout the week, you can download them here:

 

Breakfasts (alternate throughout the week):

  • Oatmeal with apple, banana, and cinnamon
  • 2 eggs and sauteed spinach on 2 slices of multigrain bread
  • These banana egg pancakes
  • Greek yogurt with apple and banana

Lunches

  • Leftovers from dinner
  • Quick buddha bowl with brown rice, roasted beets, frozen veggies, hard-boiled egg
  • Peanut/almond butter and banana sandwich, green salad with chopped carrots, tomatoes, roasted beets

Dinners:

  •  Pasta with fresh chicken sausage, tomatoes, and baby kale
  • Loaded shakshuka with ground turkey
  • Zucchini Mushroom Tofu Scramble served over brown rice
  • Roasted potato and carrot bowl with beets, wilted greens, and two poached eggs
  • Crispy tofu fried rice 
  • Spinach and baby kale end-of-week salad

 

Weekly Meal Prep 

This list requires minimal prep and is designed for those who want to cook most dinners at home during the week, then use the leftovers for the majority of their lunches. I recommend preparing a batch of brown rice at the start of the week and storing it in the fridge for quick lunch assembly and more convenient dinners. Additionally, you may want to roast your carrots and potatoes ahead of time to make healthy dinner bowls quick to put together. 

 

 

What are your tips for shopping for healthy food? What stores do you shop at the most?

  • MeaganDut

    Potatoes are nutrient-rich, filling, and cheap. I hear ya, girl! Loves this, but man…. 1.49 for eggs? 1.99 for Greek yogurt? Maybe it’s a canada thing but those are the prices of my dreams.

    • Daryl Lindsey

      That’s a bummer! TJ’s definitely has the best prices in my area for eggs and dairy products, part of the reason I love shopping there. They’re at least a dollar more at other stores.

      • Melissa Thompson

        If I really want a good deal on eggs or dairy, I go to Aldi or Kroger. They seem to have the cheapest in my area. I’d love an Aldi haul if there’s one in your area!

      • Melissa Thompson

        Oh, and also the Target here has ground turkey for cheap!

  • Interesting – I’m thinking I’m gonna have to check out my local Trader Joe’s. I buy my eggs and milk at my other local grocer because their prices are always consistent, and the meat there is cheap too, but if I can get frozen and fresh produce for better prices I’m all over that.

    I’ll have to tailor my list a bit, since there are some items here I won’t eat and more than a few my partner will refuse to touch. 🙂

    https://on-th3-cusp.blogspot.com/

  • Melody McFarland

    This is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing! This makes next’s week meal planning super easy! I would love to see more articles like this. Its way too easy to spend too much on groceries

  • Carolyn

    Please do a Vegan shopping list and meals for Teader Joe’s.

    • Daryl Lindsey

      Noted!

  • Vishakha Gupta

    I actually find that the produce at Trader Joe’s is more expensive than other stores simply because the produce doesn’t last. I’ve had a bag of apples rot in 3 days from Trader Joe’s, whereas the bag from my local whole foods lasted 2 weeks. Same goes for their organic strawberries, zucchini’s and leafy greens.

    • Karen Keating

      Where did you shop? The Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles is far more expensive than the prices you listed here…

      • Vishakha Gupta

        I think you meant to respond to the author, but I personally shop at Trader Joe’s in Palo Alto California, and the prices at my TJ’s are also considerably higher than what was listed here.

  • Susan Salinas

    Trader Joe’s is awesome although these prices are a bit on the lower side (they do vary depending on the city) Our grocery budget for a month is $300 in NYC and most times we spend less, we cook about 4-5 lunches & dinners a week and breakfast everyday (for 2 people) loved the article and will def use the shopping list and meal planning! (Just an observation, the cover picture is actually Whole Foods and not TJ)

  • Cara

    This is awesome! I have been trying to eat really healthy and my grocery bills are astronomical (and I am cooking for one!!!!). I am heading off for a vacation Friday, but as soon as I get back I will be starting to do this at Trader Joe’s! I am an omnivore/flexitarian so this list is perfect for me. Having said that I would love to see creative and inexpensive shopping for different ways of eating such as Keto, vegetarian, etc. Thank you so much! xoxo

  • Daryl I loved this post so much!! As a new homebuyer I have been cooking for myself and by boyfriend regularly and Trader Joe’s is my holy grail!!! Thank you!!

  • Ttrockwood

    Great post!! I’m in nyc and prices are our trader joe’s are a bit more than you posted here,by about 50 cents for most of the items here. Regardless it’s much cheaper than most other grocery options here.
    I’m a big fan of the canned cuban beans for a quick cheap meal with some veggies or i add canned tomatoes and some veg broth to make a soup.
    I would also love to see a vegetarian or vegan post! Lifelong vegetarian myself and trader joe’s tempeh, soyaki sauce, and the high protein tofu are all essentials for me

  • Cherrynova

    Great list! Definitely using it to get my week started off right.

  • Bridget Turner

    I love trader joes!! Try the shaved brussel sprouts with olive oil and pine nuts, fried egg on top and coconut aminos…so good! Would love low calorie options for fasting days and low carb weekly trader joes buy.

  • Claire

    I would love to see an article like this for the keto lifestyle!

  • Flo Vellenga

    In Europe we have a slightly different approach to food, but I find those articles on the every girl often inspiring. I liked this article because you cooked most dinners through the week 🙂