USDA – Thrifty Food Plan


Is it possible to afford to eat healthy on a budget? The short answer is yes, but it does take a budget and knowing where to look. Groceries are expensive and inflation certainly is not helping. However, for those that qualify or know where to look there are resources available to them. 


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) is a resource provided by the government to help low-income families and individuals that qualify. It is based on household size, income, and assets. It provides monthly benefits for families and individuals to buy food. SNAP allows the purchase of food and seeds. Household items are not covered. Though the amount of the benefits can change, it can still be a huge help to families in need. 

Read more about SNAP here.

Thrifty Food Plan

The Thrifty Food Plan was designed by the USDA. The USDA has four food plans based on income that can be a guide for families to stick to a healthy diet on various budgets. The Thrifty Food Plan is the lowest cost of these four. The image above shows how the budget for the plan is laid out. With the main focus on sources of protein and vegetables, these can be canned, fresh, or frozen. With the price of meat going up more cost-effective protein sources are beans, eggs, yogurt, canned tuna, seeds, lentils, and peanut butter. The Thrifty Food Plan can be a useful tool to help you build a grocery list to fit your budget.

Read more about the Thrifty Food Plan here.

Farmers Market

Farmers markets are a great place to get fresh fruits, vegetables, and other homegrown and homemade items at a good price. By shopping locally at a farmers market one is also supporting their community and local farmers. A recent study “found that price is not a barrier [when shopping at a farmers market]. Among the survey sample, almost 60% of farmers market shoppers in low-income neighborhoods believed their market had better prices than the grocery store.” Many farmers markets now accept SNAP benefits as well.

Learn more about the Fairmont Farmers Market here. 

Local Food Bank

Local food banks receive donations from the community and/or national sources to give to families and individuals in need. Food banks can be a lifeline for families and individuals who are struggling. The majority of items one will receive from a food bank are shelf-stable food items. Some food banks do provide clothes and gifts for children during the holiday season. Most do not require proof of income but are based on self-attested needs. 

Find a local food bank here. 

Budget and More

One other way to stick to a healthy diet on a budget is to look at the price per unit when comparing items. One item may have a cheaper price on the shelf but when you compare cost per unit, an item that gives you more servings for the price would be a better buy. Also consider canned and frozen fruits, vegetables, and proteins. They also have nutritional value, but can be more budget-friendly. If you are able to buy in bulk, you may also be able to save more money in the long run. Also, never forget the savings just by purchasing store brands and shopping with a list that you actually stick to. 

It can be a struggle to eat a healthy diet even without the impact of inflation. Knowing where you can go for resources as well as making a realistic budget can help. Take a look at our budgeting toolkit for more resources on how to budget realistically. 

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