Deciding to participate in Whole30 seemed terrifying once I realized I had to start cooking with something other than a microwave. (Costco chicken nuggets fam, where you at?) Then I was hit with the realization that I’d have to buy and prepare every single meal for the next month, without going over budget.

This was me:

To prepare for this challenge, I printed the Whole30 shopping list and took inventory of my pantry and fridge. Luckily, I had a jar of coconut oil, some spices, and half a bag of frozen broccoli...

I was (obviously) not in the habit of buying an entire week’s worth of groceries at once. It became clear that diet restriction was not my only challenge for the next 30 days.

Those 30 days have come and gone, I’ve learned how to shop healthfully on a budget, and I wanted to share my findings with you.

Define your budget


tanaymondal on Flickr

Look at your weekly food spending and decide on an amount that is comfortable. I decided to budget $35 a week. I usually came in under budget which gave me flexibility for when I needed to buy infrequent items like olive oil.

Make a “staples” shopping list

gastronomy, pizza, beer, coffee
Katie Wilson

There will be items that you buy every single week. My staples were eggs, chicken breast, spinach, broccoli, apples, and sweet potatoes. I could survive about a week using these items and still had budget wiggle room for a couple different veggies. 

Decide on which food rules matter most to you


Thad Zajdowicz on Flickr

It’s hard to validate the idea of eating completely organic when you’re a rent-paying student.

I suggest taking a moment to decide which rules matter most to you and focusing on those.

Whole30 says that organic produce is better, but not entirely necessary if you are peeling the skin off before eating. I decided to follow that idea and buy mostly organic produce. The “good” meat guidelines are more strict, so I decided to meet in the middle and opt for meats that were natural, minimally processed, and vegetarian fed.

Choose your grocery store based on produce price, quality, and variety

The Whole30 diet is veggie heavy, so finding a store focused on quality produce is important. Luckily, there are a few stores that sell affordable, quality produce. My favorite grocery store quickly became Sprouts. Their produce is always high quality and really affordable. Plus, their chicken fits my standards and never costs me more than $3 a pound. I also like Trader Joes in a pinch, but I can never leave that store without going over budget.

Don’t rely on specialty stores for the packaged stuff.

Sprouts has amazing deals on fresh food items, but their almond butter and olive oil prices were ridiculous. Your local grocery store will carry a large variety of what you need and the prices are much better.

Meal prep... Seriously

The rumors are true. My preps will never be Instagram worthy, but they keep me from going hungry and dropping $15 per (Whole30 approved) meal at Whole Foods.

Hopefully these tips have given you more confidence to go all in on Whole30. I am proud to announce that I now live in a chicken nugget free household. If you have any more Whole30 tips, please let the people know in the comments.