The mom of two prioritizes nutritious foods even in a high-cost-of-living city that challenges her budget.

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Lisa Moskovitz
Credit: Courtesy of Lisa Moskovitz

Lisa Moskovitz is a registered dietician and the CEO of NY Nutrition Group, a large group practice in New York City. She lives in the city with her husband and twin toddler-aged boys. 

Moskovitz tries to keep the family's grocery budget under $200 per week. But, in the notoriously expensive city, "It doesn't always work that way," she admits. "Considering we live in NYC, expenses are constantly through the roof and only get higher as our kids get older. Of course, food is a priority in our budget, so it is important that we allocate enough income so that we don't ever have to worry."

Here's how the nutrition professional keeps her family pantry stocked with healthy foods while being conscious of a budget in a high cost-of-living area.

She Has a Money-Smart Shopping Strategy

Although Moskovitz lives in an expensive city, she knows how to shop the stores that won't break the bank.

"NYC grocery stores are anything but affordable," she says. "Fortunately, we live a few blocks from Trader Joe's — a life saver." She tries to shop there at least two to three times per month, but is sometimes stymied by the "neverending wrap-around-the-block line."

In that case, she shops at the local neighborhood Fairway, or orders online through Instacart or Thrive market. "I also find that meal kits can save me time and money too," she says. 

When it comes to minding the budget, Moskovitz sees advantages to shopping online and in person, so she does both with intention.

"Shopping in person is often easier and more preferable so you can see what you're getting, she says. For instance, doing so allows her to check out each piece of produce carefully.

"The saying 'one bad apple spoils the bunch' is not just a metaphor. It stems from the fact that when there is one moldy or spoiled fruit or veggie it can quickly spoil every other food it's stored next to," she says. "Always search for, and discard, rotting foods to preserve the others. This will help prevent wasting food and your hard-earned money."

However, buying online allows shoppers to compare prices and find the competition at a glance, she says — and that's a big advantage.

"There are tons of websites that offer budget-friendly healthy food items so you can keep your kitchen cabinet and wallet full at the same time," she says. 

She Buys Just Enough — and Not Too Much

When grocery shopping in person, Moskovitz always goes into the store with a plan for using each item in her cart, making a grocery list and/or a meal plan.

"Buying groceries without an idea of what you're going to do with them is the quickest way to create food waste," she says. "No matter what you spend, you want to maximize your grocery shopping trip by writing out a plan or printing out recipes so you ensure no item goes unused. Make sure you figure out what types of meals you intend to make throughout the week so you actually use the food you purchase."

She only buys what she needs for what she plans to eat — even if a bulk buy might almost seem too good to pass up.

"It may seem smart to buy everything in bulk, but if that includes perishable foods like fresh produce or meats, it can backfire on you," she says. "Only buy shelf-stable items in bulk and still make sure you will consume it before the expiration date. Even shelf-stable items can go bad."

In the event that she ends up with leftovers, she freezes them liberally, significantly extending the expiration date.

"Even if you don't eat it right away, it can be incredibly useful to defrost leftovers on busier weeks when you don't have time to shop or cook," she says.

She Identifies Her Splurges and Saves

Although Moskovitz tries to stick to a budget, she allows herself worthy splurges.

"My splurge or treat whenever I go shopping is a kombucha," she says. "They are about $3 to $4 for one bottle, and it adds up super fast, but I thoroughly enjoy the flavor, taste, and could always use more probiotics."

She also prefers to buy organic despite the added cost.

"Because I have young kids, I really prefer to buy organic when possible," she says. "This does add dollar signs, but it is important for my kids."

On the flip side, she also called chickpea and veggie pasta "a staple in my house," and its many appealing qualities make it a solid value, she says.

"It is incredibly easy, versatile, and also nutritious," she says. "Plus, I know my picky-eater kids will always eat it no matter what."

Same goes for eggs. She uses them in "so many different ways," such as in omelets, homemade muffins, meatballs, stir fry, soups, and more.

"They're such an easy, affordable, and ultra-nutritious protein source," Moskovitz says.

Lisa Moskovitz's Sample Grocery List

Produce:

  • spinach
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini
  • mushrooms
  • apples
  • bananas
  • berries
  • avocado

Dairy:

  • cheese
  • milk ("Tons of it because my kids each drink about 16 to 20 ounces per day!")
  • yogurt
  • creamer
  • eggs

Frozen:

  • berries
  • peas
  • spinach
  • broccoli

Grains:

  • pasta
  • quinoa
  • bread 
  • cereal

Shelf-stable:

  • olive oil
  • almond butter
  • chocolate

Yes, some of these ingredients add up — especially some of the nutrient-dense ones. But it's well worth it, Moskovitz says.

"Food can be pricey, especially when you're trying to eat healthy. There are plenty of ways to cut costs, but investing in your health should not be one of them," she says. "Make sure to prioritize and budget for food so that you are able to properly fuel and nourish your body."