How to “Stretch Your Food Dollar”

By Alyssa Lee, Dietetic Intern, Farm to Fork

Stretching your food dollar means getting as many nutritious foods as possible for the least amount of money. Who wouldn’t want that? It may seem like a hard task to do, but here are some easy guidelines that can help.

Before shopping

Think ahead for the week and make a “game plan.” This means figuring out what the menu will be for the week, what ingredients you already have, and what ingredients you still need to buy. Make a list before going to the store. This will help you from tossing things you don’t need into the cart and staying within your budget. Look for coupons or sales as well to save money.

While shopping

Never shop on an empty stomach, because the hungrier you are when you are shopping, the more items that you don’t need will end up in your cart. Try store brands since they are usually cheaper and check unit prices to compare prices. Choose in season fresh fruits and vegetables since they will likely be the most nutritious, most abundant, and least expensive. (To find out what fruits and vegetables are in season, check out the “Regional and Seasonal” page of our website at Be sure to check expiration dates because the fresher the food is when you buy it, the longer it will last. Start with the perimeter of the store where fresh produce, meats, dairy, and breads are found and then head to the aisles for any other necessities; be cautious of foods that are at eye-level because they can be more expensive (this means kids eye-level too).

Best buys for cost and nutrition:


  • Buy regular oatmeal, rice, and pastas rather than instant or pre-seasoned varieties to save on money, sugar, and calories.

Vegetables & salads:

  • Frozen are good choices all year round.
  • Seasonal fresh vegetables offer the best value for your money.
  • Avoid pre-bagged salad mixes. They tend to be more expensive and spoil faster.


  • Buy fresh fruits in season, as they tend to cost less.
  • Frozen is a good choice all year round.

Low fat milk products:

  • Buy fresh, low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese in the largest size that you can use before it spoils. Larger containers generally cost less than smaller sizes.

Meats & Beans:

  • Dried beans are a good source of protein and last a long time without spoiling.
  • Buy meats on sale.
  • Buy meats in bulk and freeze portions you might not eat right away.

After shopping

Make sure to store foods right away in the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry to preserve their freshness. Make sure to use foods with earlier expiration dates first to make sure food is not being wasted.

More Tips

For more tips on how to save money on food, you can check out the following videos from Cooking Matters, also available on our website ( under “explore local efforts”) and at


Works Cited

1.)   “10 Tips for Eating Right – Affordably.” Ten Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget from the Academy. N.p., Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. <>.

2.)   “Eating Right When Money’s Tight.” Eating Right When Money’ S Tight from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. N.p., Dec. 2012. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. <>.

3.)   “Eat Right When Money’s Tight.” USDA’s Nutrition Assistant Programs. N.p., Jan. 2012. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.

4.)   “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. <>.

5.)   “Stretching Your Food Dollars.” Eat Well for Less. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. <>.


One thought on “How to “Stretch Your Food Dollar”

  1. Matthew B

    Great info. Id like to add a link on our district webpage, as this would be a great resource for our parents and community. Is that a possibility?

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