In a perfect world we would all be eating grass-fed this, free-range that, organic everything. Well, the fact that we need to label our food like this shows that we do not live in a perfect world. But eating healthy under a monetary restriction, and not hating your food is a trick that has taken years to perfect. And I will grudgingly share my secret ;)
#1 Shop at a mega-store: Costco and Superstore sell a TON of food, therefore they buy it for less and can afford to sell it to you for less. I'm all for "shopping small business", but when you consume as much food as I do, you need bang for your buck, and buying bulk, usually means value.
#2 Create a menu: This is critical. Humans are creatures of habit and we usually eat the same food. The sooner you recognize this and hit the store with a plan, the more efficient and focused your shop. You are far less likely to be swayed by another product when you know what you're looking for.
#3 Selective organics: A couple years ago I made the decision to buy organic whenever I had the choice. Consequently, my bank account gets punished twice per month (my Costco bill is roughly $1000/mo.). BUT if you find it hard to stomach paying twice as much for fruits and veggies, I still recommend spending the extra amount for organic meats. It's worth it to avoid the hormones, plus you will absolutely notice a difference in taste and meat quality.
#4 Nutritious foods are filling: Brown rice is your homeboy and yams have replaced your dog as besty. You know what aren't filling (though they are bloating)? White rice and russet potatoes. They have a fraction of the nutrients of their counterparts and cost the same, if not more. This speaks to pre-packed and processed foods as a whole. They may look cheaper, but most of them are chocked so full of salt and sugar that they just make you hungrier and you end up eating more than you would have (or should have) in the first place.
#5 Frozen food: The next best thing to fresh. Most frozen foods (no, not frozen pizzas) were just washed and then flash-frozen, preserving their nutrients. They are often cheaper than buying fresh fruits and vegetables, still taste great, and won't spoil. Sounds like win-win-win to me!
#6 Cheap cuts of meat: Don't be a snob. If you won't eat anything but breasts, flanks, and stomachs, you are going to pay through your teeth. Meats like chicken thighs, lean ground beef, and eggs, are the least expensive and still taste great. And before you say "yes, but they are high in fat", recognize that some animal fat in your diet is actually a good thing; it is the processed fats that will clog your arteries. Some knowledgeable seasoning the right cooking touch has them tasting great!
#7 Boosters: These are items that are not inexpensive, but they either enhance your meals (by taste, texture or nutrients), or fill you up because they are both nutritious and substantial. Chia seeds, raisins, and goat cheese all fit this bill.
Eating nutritiously really isn't much more (if at all) expensive than buying processed, pre-packaged "Food". Reference my smart-shopping Costco list below on how you can eat like royalty for $200/month.