How to make a healthy shopping list on a budget

by | Oct 31, 2022 | Last updated Nov 1, 2022

The weekly shop can be an eventful experience. Even with packed transport, bad parkers or forgetting your bag for life (again), you’ve got 21 meals to buy (plus snacks), and must remember everything on the list… you also left at home. 

The week’s meal plan needs variety, has to please the intended audience and you want it to be healthy. Also, it can’t cost an arm and a leg. You need those for carrying the bags back. 

No wonder we find ourselves relying on convenience. But with a bit of savvy planning, you can both de-stress your weekly shop and return with bags full of healthy stuff rather than reaching for your food delivery apps.

Ready to make a lasting change?

A healthier you, wherever you are.

Get scout-level prepared

You don’t work out without stretching, or go to the office without showering, so, why go shopping without a list?

Be strategic: First, check your cupboards and your fridge for items that need using to prevent food waste. Then, sit down and plan your meals for the week incorporating them. Finally, write a list of any extra ingredients you’ll need. 

When planning, think about the content of each meal and challenge yourself to use the Noom app to your maximum advantage. How many Noom green foods can you get into each meal? And how many orange ones are sneaking their way in? All good, but moderation, as you know, is key.

A Noom-approved healthy shopping list

  1. Proteins: White fish, shellfish, molluscs, egg whites, tofu/tempeh, seitan
  2. Grains: Barley, brown rice, corn wraps, quinoa, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal bread
  3. Fruits: Apples, bananas, blueberries, cherries, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, grapefruit, grapes, mango, citrus fruits, pear, pineapple, pomegranate, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon
  4. Vegetables: Asparagus, peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, courgette, green beans, kale, lettuce, mixed greens, mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, rocket, spinach, sweet potatoes
  5. Dairy: Skimmed milk, fat-free greek yoghurt, fat-free sour cream, fat-free yoghurt
  6. Soups: Cabbage soup, miso soup, parsnip soup, spinach soup, tomato soup, vegetable soup, vegetable pho
  7. Condiments: Hot sauces, lemo & lime juice, salsa, tomato pasta sauce, vinegars (red wine, apple cider, rice)
  8. Drinks: Fresh juices (not from concentrate), homemade smoothies, herbal teas

1. Meat, poultry, and fish

While meat can be full of good stuff (like protein), subtle distinctions (like how it’s cooked) affect where they fall on the Noom traffic-light spectrum. 

So, when you’re in the meat aisle, always remember these basic principles: look for lean cuts, opt for skinless and boneless, and pick the fresh, unseasoned option over a processed version (and if you’re trying to save the pennies by opting for frozen meat, the same rules apply). Other great options include:

  • Fresh white fish
  • Lean turkey mince
  • Grass-fed beef

2. Grains, pasta, nuts, and legumes

Remember when you’re buying your bread, pasta, and rice: it’s always advisable to go for whole grain options over refined or enriched grains. Whole grains might not have the same kick as their refined cousins, but they’re less calorie-dense and will fit smoothly into your fitness plan. 

Top healthy options in this category are as follows:

  • Brown or wild rice
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Quinoa, barley, or other whole grains
  • Rolled or steel-cut oats
  • Dried or canned beans: chickpeas, black, and kidney. Choose the low- or no-salt option
  • Wholemeal or corn tortillas
  • Popcorn
  • Wholemeal bagels
  • Wholemeal or multigrain bread 
  • Wholemeal pitta bread
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts
  • Seeds: sunflower, chia, flax, pumpkin, sesame
  • Edamame 

3. Oils, sauces, dressings, and spices

Going on a health kick does not have to mean giving up on flavour. You just need to get creative with your spice rack, and those fancy oils and vinegars you got for Christmas along with those novelty socks you’ll be re-gifting this year.

When you’re choosing oils at the supermarket, keep an eye on the fat content. Oils containing healthy, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats work best. We’ve listed some below, but you can also check out this article to find out more about healthy cooking oils.

Get the spices on your side with the following:

  • Garlic
  • Fresh herbs to add flavour: parsley, basil, coriander
  • Peanut or almond butter 
  • Oils: avocado oil, coconut oil 
  • Vinegars: Apple cider, balsamic, red and white wine, rice wine 
  • Honey
  • Salsa
  • Paprika (regular and smoked) 
  • Houmous
  • Soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) 
  • Spices: turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, sage, chilli flakes, paprika, curry powder
  • Sea salt
  • Miso paste 
  • Nutmeg

4. Dairy, cheese, and eggs

Dairy, cheese, and eggs are all cornerstones of a balanced diet. But they can also be a double-edged sword. Eggs are full of protein, but they’re also high in calories. Yoghurt is great for your gut (and what’s good for your gut is good for you), but calorie-wise it can tip into the orange band. 

When you’re choosing these food items, go for fat-free and low-fat options, like these:

  • Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat Greek yoghurt
  • Free-range eggs 
  • Feta cheese
  • Grass-fed butter, unsalted and low-fat, where available

5. Dairy-free options

Of course, if you’re lactose intolerant, suffer from PCOS or are vegan/sustainability conscious (or all of the above!), there are plenty of dairy-free options on the market.

Fill your basket with:

  • Soymilk, cashew milk, almond milk, rice milk, or coconut milk 
  • Dairy-free yoghurt
  • Dairy-free cheese
  • Tofu

6. Fruit

Fruit—the natural ally of the health-conscious builder of shopping lists. 

Tinned fruit might last until the next millennium, but it often has added sugars so best to swerve it and opt for fresh if you can. Not only is it great for jazzing up your breakfast, fruits like grapes or watermelon are an unbeatable choice of snack, as their high water content will keep you feeling fuller (and hydrated). If you want to diversify, try one of those surplus fruit boxes and get experimental. Ever had a dragonfruit before? No? Well, it’s a superfood, and delicious. No fiery breath either. 

To get even more bang for your buck—buy frozen or store fresh fruit in the freezer to dramatically increase its shelf life without compromising nutritional value. If you’re looking to further reduce the cost of buying fruit out-of-season, set your freezer to work and make fruit-based ice cubes ready for those winter mocktails.

Fill your boots with these:

  • Avocados
  • Apples
  • Lemons and limes
  • Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
  • Grapes
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple
  • Melon and watermelon
  • Cherries
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Apricots
  • Cranberries

7. Vegetables

The same rules apply when you’re shopping for your veg. If you’ve got a farmer’s market near you, pop down there for fresh, in-season produce so you can support both your community and your body. 

What with vegetables being almost offensively health-friendly, your options in this category are virtually endless. Some of our favourites include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Baby spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Courgette
  • Peppers
  • Rocket
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Sweetcorn
  • Mushrooms
  • Turnips
  • Asparagus
  • Lentils
  • Green beans
  • Cauliflower
  • Beetroot
  • Tomatoes
  • Aubergines

8. Drinks

It’s very easy for conscientious eaters and health planners to be tripped up by their four-litre-per-week energy drink habit (one bottle a day adds up!). When it comes to hydration, your drink mainstay should be water but you can add some citrus fruits to for a kick of extra flavour and nutrients.

Or, sip on the following for ideal health effects:

  • Unsweetened black, green and flavoured teas
  • Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
  • Black coffee
  • Natural fruit juice (in moderation)

Ready to make a lasting change?

A healthier you, wherever you are.

Banqueting on a budget

There’s a lot to love about eating healthily—increased vitality and energy, general wellbeing, and an enhanced immune system. But it also encourages you to get creative in the kitchen, to keep your tastebuds happy on the journey to reaching those goals.

And that’s where the humble shopping list comes in; it’s the first tool in your arsenal for harnessing that gastronomical imagination. So get into the habit of planning your weekly shops so your food prep will be less of a chore and more like bringing Master Chef to your kitchen. 

Just remember: Don’t go to the supermarket hungry. We can’t be held responsible for the three-pack of hobnobs that ends up in your trolley if you do. But if you are partial to a chocolate digestive or two, check out our recommendations for the lowest calorie biscuits.