Discover what to include in your grocery list and how to grocery shop on a budget.

What To Include In Your Grocery List

Fruits, legumes, vegetables, and whole grains are the most important items to include in your shopping list when following a balanced plant-based diet. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, purchase a variety and those in abundance. There are guides online, such as Your Guide to Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables, which can be helpful in learning what is in season.1

Some examples of healthy and delicious vegetables are the staples like onions, tomatoes, and potatoes. Romaine and spinach are common leafy greens in salads and other meals. Not all vegetables must be fresh when purchased because frozen or canned items may be lower in cost. However, it is important to pick the low-sodium canned options. There are numerous options for fruits, including mangos, pears, oranges, and many more. Fruit can also be canned or frozen to preserve its freshness, but make sure that these items are canned in water and do not have any additional syrups or added sugars.1 Many pre-packaged fruits, vegetables, and salad mixes can be purchased at the grocery store, but these tend to be pricier compared to buying the items individually.

Other ideas for purchasing at the grocery store are fresh herbs, whole grains, legumes, plant-based milk, and spices. Fresh herbs like cilantro and basil can add additional flavor to any plant-based meal.1 Whole grains include many different food items such as oats, corn tortillas, brown rice, etc. Plant-based milks are incredibly diverse in their selection; however, the most common types are soy, oat, or any nut milk.

Saving Money And Understanding Food Labels

Legumes are a common food item that can be purchased in bulk to save money. Some examples of legumes are chickpeas, lentils, and black beans. These items can be bought canned, but it is best to look for unsalted, low salt, or low sodium.1 Whole grains like rice, oats, and quinoa are frequently purchased in bulk. Purchasing items in bulk or family packs can help save money during your grocery trip.

Understanding food labels is crucial when following a plant-based diet. To maintain a low-fat, plant-based diet, look for items with a fat content of 3 grams or less because the daily fat consumption should be between 20-30 grams per day.1 Additionally, ingredient lists should be short and with recognizable whole foods. Reducing animal-based products is also extremely important. Casein, caseinate, and whey are all derived from cow’s milk and should not be in the food you consume.1


A supplementary tip is to choose foods with the whole grain as the carbohydrate. There are misconceptions about carbohydrates that imply they are unhealthy; however, carbohydrates are essential for good health because it is the primary fuel for our brain and muscles.1 Complex carbs have natural fiber and provide energy for our body, found in many plant-based items such as beans and fruits. Simple carbs differ because they are stripped of nutrients and fiber, only providing quick energy. This is the reasoning for why all carbs are not created equal.1

More Budget-Friendly Tips

There are many budget-friendly tips to help you shop for a plant-based diet. For example, the unit price of an item in a grocery store tells us how much the item costs per pound, ounce, quart, etc., which is useful when comparing the prices of two items. This is located separately from the retail price, which is the price that is paid for that item. You can save money by purchasing the item at the lower unit price because you get more of that food for a lower cost.

Aside from purchasing items in season, such as canned, frozen, or bulk, to save money, you can also shop on a budget by buying store brands. Also, make use of items on sale at your grocery store by stocking up on beans or any other foods with a long shelf-life.

Final Thoughts

Overall, these small tips can help you become plant-based while being on a budget. Following just a few of these steps can help you be on the right track towards starting or maintaining a plant-based lifestyle. Are there any budget-friendly tips you follow when shopping for a plant-based diet? Share these tips in the comments below!


  1. Class 4 Empowered by Food. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.


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