How to Create a Flexible Grocery List to Save Money

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Welcome back to the collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody!  I’m here to give you tips on living a healthy, happy life on a budget.

Today I am going to share with you my strategy for creating a flexible grocery store list that will allow you to make the most of the sales happening in your local market. I often find that the problem with having a strict grocery list is that you miss out on what’s fresh or on sale. Oppositely, when you only buy what’s on sale you end up with a bunch of miscellaneous items that don’t go together. My method will help solve both of those problems, while making meals that won’t break the bank.

This method will help you plan out your week so you aren’t stuck with boring work lunches or scrambling to make dinner for your family. The proportions for the actual grocery list will need to be tailored depending on how many people you are feeding. The idea is to take the concept and mold it to your needs and lifestyle.

Here are 5 tips to get you started:


#1 Have three options for breakfast – buy the one with the best price.

Go to the grocery store with three possibilities in mind – perhaps eggs, yogurt and granola, and oatmeal – and buy the one that is cheapest. Maybe your favorite granola is having a sale that week – buy that – or maybe oatmeal is more cost effective because it will last you longer. I find it is easiest to choose when I have three options and narrow it down, rather than going with no plan at all.


#2 Pick a theme.

Perhaps you are craving Mexican or Indian or Mediterranean food that week – let that choice guide your shopping. This will create parameters to help guide you, as to avoid coming home with food items you don’t need or won’t go together.


#3 Loosely structure a grocery list.

The example below will help you understand this point further, but the general idea is to create a list full of “generics” that can be tailored to your theme and sale prices. This may look like: 1 grain, 1 protein, 3 vegetables, 2 herbs, etc. (See example list below.)


#4 Consider versatility.

When selecting food, especially produce, choose foods that can be used for more than one meal, or foods that you like to eat both raw and cooked. This will provide more meal options for you as well as help save you money.


#5 Don’t forget the essentials.

Always add oils, spices, flour, herbs, and lemon to your grocery list. These things can help diversify your meals by creating marinades or dressings. They can also be customized based on the theme or what is on sale.

To illustrate just how easy this can be,  I’ve provided an example grocery list along with three meal possibilities you could make!


Grocery List

Theme: Mexican

Breakfast choices: eggs, yogurt and granola, or oatmeal

  • 1 grain
    • rice, brown rice, quinoa, etc.
  • 2 proteins
    • chicken, steak, chickpeas, eggs, etc.
  • 1 green
    • spinach, romaine, swiss chard, kale, etc.
  • 3-4 vegetables
    • red onion, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc.
  • 1 cheese
    • cotijia, goat cheese, Mexican cheese, etc.
  • 1 carb
    • tortillas, flatbread, potatoes, etc.
  • 1 fruit
    • bananas, berries, apples, grapes, etc.
  • 2 herbs
    • cilantro, mint, parsley, etc.
  • 3 lemons

Example Meals:

  • Salad with greens, chopped raw vegetables, protein, herbs, cheese, and olive oil and lemon for dressing. Served with fruit on the side.
  • Wrap with greens, cooked vegetables, protein, cheese and herbs. Served with fruit on the side.
  • Roasted sheet pan meal with vegetables and protein, topped with herbs, cheese, and lemon juice.
  • Grain bowl with protein, greens, cooked or raw vegetables, herbs, lemon and olive oil for dressing.
  • Frittata with eggs, vegetables, greens, cheese, and herbs baked.

I hope you try out this flexible grocery list concept – it will save some money, while inspiring some new work lunches or family dinners!

Follow along!


Over the next few months I’ll be covering a variety of ways to be healthy on a budget. Keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!