Clean Eating on a Budget: Coach Mitch Johnson

Clean Eating on a Budget - CrossFit Fringe - Columbia MO

Editor’s note: In addition to our Outlier Nutrition series, we’re happy to bring you another series that looks at how we all approach meal planning, prepping, and eating differently. Because nutrition isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor, we hope our stories will inspire you to evaluate your own nutrition and make it work for you! Here is our first post in the series from Coach Mitch Johnson!

Trying to eat clean on a budget or lower your grocery bill without sacrificing the quality of your diet?

Clean eating on a budget doesn’t have to be hard, and with a little work can be simple as well as convenient for those with busy lifestyles. I am definitely one of those people, and my secret involves just two simple steps to get started:

1.) Evaluate your typical weekly purchases and know how much things cost.
2.) Find the stores that offer them at the most affordable prices.

Once you know the regular and average sale prices of the foods you buy most, it’s easy to know when you come across a good price. Typically I find my best prices at a few of the same places, which makes shopping a breeze.

Sam’s Club, or warehouse/wholesale grocery shopping

If you haven’t already, splurge on a Sam’s Club membership; it’s only $45 per year. Sam’s Club offers a wide variety of high-quality meats, seafood, eggs, bacon, dairy, at ridiculously affordable prices. The best part is that they offer the SAME prices every week, so no need to waste time clipping coupons, browsing the sales ads, or being surprised by changing prices week-to-week. Let’s take a look at some numbers though. A typical weekday for me looks like this:

Breakfast: 4 eggs, 4 slices bacon, 1 greek yogurt
Lunch: 6 oz. chicken breast, 1 cup white rice, 4 oz. sweet potato, fruit
Dinner: 6-8oz. ground beef/turkey, mixed veggies or stir fry

There are obviously some other things I’ll add in (protein shakes, more fruit, on-the-go bars) but for this comparison, I will only include the base of what I would buy at Sam’s Club vs. Hyvee/Lucky’s.

Sam’s Club
Fresh boneless chicken breast $1.88/lb.
Farmland Bacon $2.99/lb.
Oikos Greek yogurt 12 pack for $8
90% lean ground beef $2.99/lb.
Jennie-O ground turkey $2.49/lb.
Eggs 18 pack $2.50

Lucky’s/Hyvee non-sale prices
Fresh boneless chicken breast $4-5/lb.
Bacon $5/lb.
Oikos Greek yogurt $1 each
90% lean ground beef $5-6/lb.
Jennie-O ground turkey $3.50/lb.
Eggs 18 pack $3.50

So let’s say in 1 week I roughly eat 42 oz chicken, 56 oz ground beef/turkey, 7 greek yogurts, 2lb. bacon, 28 eggs.

Weekly cost at Sam’s for this: $29
Weekly cost at Hyvee for this: $53

That’s close to $50 a month cheaper for a couple to shop at Sam’s, which pays for the membership! I can say that you will not be disappointed with the quality of meat and food at Sam’s club either. The catch is that it is bulk shopping. So you have to prepare by BRINGING A LIST and not succumbing to impulse buys. You may also need to freeze and thaw some of what you buy for the following week. There are a lot of other good options there like salmon, spinach, frozen veggies, etc., all for a good price.


Yes, I did mean to type Aldi. I’m not going to go into great numerical detail about Aldi because I could literally go on for paragraphs about the numbers and options that are available! Aldi is a hidden treasure and has really stepped their game up. Some of my favorites:

  • Their produce selection is fresh, varied and CHEAP!
  • They also have a ton of weekly regular specials like canned vegetables, hummus, almond milk, and whole grain bread at a fraction of the cost of competitors
  • Affordable essential staples like and other essentials like rice and quinoa
  • An impressive selection organic and gluten-free items

For the most part they stock the same items every week, but you’ll also see some unique items come and go. I’ve personally never sampled their meat before (looks kinda sketchy), but I’m thinking coach KCMO lived off of it in 2012, so feel free to ask him for his review. If you’re a first-timer be sure to bring your own bags because they don’t bag or provide them for you, and also a quarter for your cart (genius system).

I’ll still occasionally stop into Hy-Vee of Lucky’s when I see a really good deal or just haven’t found what I was looking for, but honestly, the Sam’s/Aldi combo allows Britta and I to eat clean, quality food, that easily fits our budget and is convenient. And I’m a graduate student, so if our budget makes this work, it will most likely work for you too!

Clean Eating on a Budget - CrossFit Fringe - Columbia MO