We followed Albertsons registered dietitian Diane Peck to the supermarket, where she offered tips for stocking a healthful kitchen on a budget.
Shopping rules No. 1 and 2: Never shop when you're hungry, she says, and plan your meals for the week before you head to the store.
"Even if it's just a few minutes to sit down and think about what you'll have for the week, it keeps you from buying what you don't need," she says. "It's not easy, but it's not impossible."
Sales and coupons are helpful, but don't buy a more expensive product simply because it's marked down, she says. Compare unit prices by dividing the cost by the number of ounces or servings.
And focus on shopping the perimeters of the store, where foods are less processed and less expensive.
"The perimeter is also where you find a lot of sale items," she says. "It's where things are fresh and seasonal."
Buy and cook larger portions and freeze what you can't eat. Soups, stews and casseroles go a long way and can be frozen into individual servings.
"They're easy to make and include all your meat, vegetables and grains in one," Peck says.
On your next shopping trip, pick and choose from each of these basic categories -- proteins, dairy, grains and produce.
Whole chicken, lean hamburger meat, canned or fresh tuna and salmon, beans, all-natural peanut butter, eggs and canned ready-to-eat soups (split pea, lentil or barley)
Skim milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, nonfat dry milk or skim evaporated milk
Whole-wheat bread, cereal, quick-cooking rolled oats, instant brown rice, Triscuits, angel-hair pasta and whole-wheat tortillas
Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, frozen fruit juice, fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, frozen berries and bottled tomato pasta sauce
Margarine, canola oil, minced garlic, spice mixes, your favorite salad dressing
Specialty cheeses (Havarti or smoked Gouda), fancy pasta (cheese tortellini), frozen cooked shrimp, bourbon salmon or marinated meat, fancy marinades or salad dressings, artisan bread
Strawberry shortcake, gingersnaps or graham crackers
Sample five-day menu plan
Build your list around your meals before you head to the supermarket, Peck says. The ingredients on this five-day menu for one came in at $60.16 and had leftover snacks and staples, such as peanut butter, for the next week.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins, orange juice (100 percent juice), skim milk
Lunch: Egg-salad sandwich, cheese cubes, raw carrots, banana
Dinner: Poached salmon, instant brown rice, steamed broccoli
TUESDAYBreakfast: Fruit smoothie (frozen fruit with milk or yogurt), toast
Lunch: Leftover salmon (and mayonnaise) salad, grapes, milk
Dinner: Spaghetti with hamburger, salad
Breakfast: Scrambled egg and cheese in a tortilla, orange, milk
Lunch: Peanut butter sandwich, banana, yogurt
Dinner: Grilled chicken breast, steamed carrots, spinach salad, grapes
THURSDAYBreakfast: Cold cereal with milk, banana
Lunch: Leftover spaghetti, orange
Dinner: Quesadillas (with beans, spinach, mushrooms, cheese), frozen berries and yogurt
FRIDAYBreakfast: Peanut butter on toast, orange juice
Lunch: Leftover chicken-spinach tortilla wraps, milk
Dinner: Taco soup (leftover hamburger, tomatoes, tortillas, beans), fruit smoothie