Clean Eating Grocery Shopping List For Beginners

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When you’re learning how to eat clean, you may not know how to shop for clean foods. This clean eating shopping list for beginners will help you!

Keep in mind that this clean eating grocery list, or list of non-processed foods, is based on the foods that are available in my area, so you may need to adjust it a bit for what’s available in yours. But it should give you a good starting point either way. Most of these are basic ingredients found in any grocery store. Pantry staples, produce, meats and more. As you learn to shop this way, your clean eating grocery list will expand, and that’s as it should be!

A grocery cart full of fresh produce.

The truth is, this could also be seen as a simple clean eating food list. A list to give you ideas and a jumping off point. You don’t have to buy everything on this list to eat clean. In fact, your clean eating food list should be an ever growing and changing list that will accommodate your lifestyle specifically.

This is a great “clean eating for beginners” list, but it’s not the “be-all, end-all” of lists. This clean eating for beginners food list should simply inspire you at the store.  Let’s get started!

Need More Information On Clean Eating?

The cover of this Clean Eating 101 eBook displayed on a black iPad.

Get all my Clean Eating 101 information in one handy download. You’ll get everything from shopping lists (like the one below) to tips for getting started, help reading nutrition labels properly and helpful hints for getting prepared and motivated. It’s all here! Check it out.

Need A Meal Plan To Get You Started?

If you need a little extra structure to help get you going, I’ve got a meal plan for beginners you might find helpful! It comes with the plan, recipes, and shopping list. It even gives you nutrition data for each recipe! Check it out!

The cover of this Intro To Clean Eating Meal Plan, displayed on a black iPad.

Clean Eating Shopping Tips

  1. Know that manufacturers do change their ingredients from time to time. It’s been my experience that if the label changes, the ingredients usually do too. And usually not for the better. So keep an eye out for ingredient changes. Knowing how to eat clean means being observant. If you make it a habit to read the ingredient lists on a regular basis, you’ll never be caught by surprise.
  2. If you run across any brands of food that are clean that are not listed here, please share them in a comment below. If we help each other, we will all succeed.

Eat Clean With Groceries From These Stores

Click each link below to get a clean eating grocery shopping list for each store.

Clean Eating Shopping List For Beginners

Here is my clean eating grocery list to help get you started.

Breads

  • Ezekiel brand breads – Most often found in the freezer section. This brand of bread has several types to choose from, but read ingredients as not all are clean. They have tortillas as well.
  • Alvarado Street Bakery brand breads – They have wonderful breads, rolls, hamburger buns and hot dog buns and all of them are clean.
  • Trader Joe’s brand whole grain breads – The two in particular that I know are clean are the Sprouted Multi-Grain bread and the California Protein bread.

Crackers

Tortillas

This one is tough. It may take you a while to find a clean version. The only clean tortilla left in my area is sold by Trader Joe’s. They are hard to find but worth it. Typically, the only ingredients will be corn, lime, and water. Trader Joe’s also carries a sprouted wheat tortilla that is clean and quite good once you get used to the texture. It’s a bit stiffer than what you might be used to. The other option is to make your own.

Dairy And Non-Dairy

Dairy is a source of much confusion when you’re learning how to eat clean. So here’s a general breakdown.

  • Milk – Raw milk is the cleanest milk you can get. But since it’s hard to find, expensive and even illegal in some states, the next best thing would be organic, full-fat milk. If you choose this route, it’s best to treat your milk as a fat and carbohydrate instead of a protein. Also know that homogenization is processing of dairy. You can go low fat, but the lower in fat you go, typically the more processed the milk is.
  • Cottage cheese (for those who eat it) – Full fat is best, but you can also use low fat. (NOT fat free.) That being said, it can be very difficult to find truly clean cottage cheese and again, the lower the fat, the more processing involved.
  • Yogurt – Always opt for Greek yogurt when you can. Plain yogurt (regular or Greek) is the only way to go. You can always mix in your own fruits and dab of honey or maple syrup if you need it flavored. Full fat though, not reduce or non-fat.
  • Cheese – Most cheeses are eaten in moderation due to their high fat content. Just be sure that if you buy it, you buy the real thing. No pre-shredded cheeses either (they have anti-caking agents added). If you need it shredded, buy the block and shred it yourself. Real grated Parmesan cheese is acceptable in moderation. (Note: Kraft brand Parmesan cheese is not clean. If it can sit on a shelf or in a cupboard for months, it’s not clean.  Buy the stuff in the refrigerator section.)
  • Unsweetened almond milk – Although a quick glance at the ingredient list may leave you wondering. It’s best to make your own.
  • Unsweetened rice milk (made from brown rice, not white). Again, homemade is best.
  • Unsweetened soy milk – If you go this route, be sure to purchase the organic variety to avoid GMO’s.
  • Unsweetened coconut milk – This is NOT the stuff in the cartons. This is the stuff in the cans. Be sure to read labels here. The Thai Kitchen brand is clean and pretty widely available. Light coconut milk is perfectly fine in this case. Get it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)

Poultry

  • Eggs – These are a staple, especially egg whites. But most of the nutrition is in the yolks, so don’t leave them out too often. Try to avoid the carton egg whites.
  • Chicken & Turkey – Boneless, skinless poultry breasts are your best friends if you eat meat. But whole chickens are often the better deal and you get so much more out of them. If you can afford organic meats, it’s always a better way to go.

Beef

Once you know how to eat clean, beef can be part of your clean eating diet. However, you need to choose grass-fed and humanely raised beef. A butcher can help you select these. If you are wanting to forgo beef, try venison, bison, or buffalo. Both are very similar in flavor.

Other Meats And Fish

  • Pork – While not everyone believes pork to be a clean food, it’s actually clean if you get the good quality versions. Processed pork should be avoided like the plague. Things like ham are definitely not part of a clean eating meal plan. Skip the Canadian bacon as well. (How Canadian bacon ever got labeled as healthy is beyond me!)
  • Duck
  • Buffalo
  • Venison – This is a very lean meat and can be used in place of beef in most recipes.
  • Fish – Most fish is considered clean, just be careful of the mercury content found in most fish today. Also, please be sure you are buying sustainably. Your purchases have an impact here in a big way on the health of our oceans. Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium web site for up to date info on what fish is safe to purchase in any given season. Salmon, trout, and cod are great choices.

Produce

This is where you really want to stock up. If you are concerned about pesticides but are on a tight budget, the general rule of thumb is to purchase organics for produce that has thin skin such as peaches, nectarines, and all berries, and purchase regular items for produce that has thicker skin like bananas and oranges. Google “The Dirty Dozen” if you want to have a list of the worst pesticide-laden produce or the “Clean 15” for the best produce to purchase conventionally.

So this is where “Shop The Perimeter” really comes in. The produce section is your friend, ESPECIALLY if you’re just learning how to eat clean. Load up when you can, as you’ll want most of your eating plan to be generated from this section of the store.

Fresh Fruits

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruits
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Banana
  • Avocados
  • Berries of all kinds
  • Cherries
  • Kiwi
  • Pears
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Star fruit
  • Any other fresh fruit you enjoy

Fresh Vegetables

  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Bell Peppers in any color
  • Zucchini
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Eggplant
  • Squash of any variety
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Collard greens
  • Okra
  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Onions of any variety
  • Any other fresh veggie you enjoy

The Aisles

When you do venture into the aisles of the store, you should only be there for a few, food-related items such as:

  • Tea – particularly green tea
  • Coffee
  • Oatmeal – Just the plain kind. Nothing flavored. Opt for steel cut oats or traditional rolled oats. I personally use quick oats, but only on occasion. Most of my oatmeal recipes use steel cut or rolled oats. Quick oats are best for baking.
  • Canned items with no added sugar – There is a lot of debate as to whether or not canned items, even without added sugar, are clean due to the BPA’s in the cans. But if you do decide to purchase things like beans or tomato sauce in a can, read the ingredients! There should be no added sugar (sugar, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, etc…) in the list. Also, watch the sodium content in canned goods. It can add up quickly! There are also more BPA-free cans on the market these days. Costco is a great source for them, as is Whole Foods.
  • Dry beans and legumes – like lentils, black beans, chickpeas, etc.
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat or whole grain (like brown rice) pasta
  • Other whole grains – such as barley
  • Nuts – Again, read the ingredients here. Nuts should be the only ingredient on the package. Usually, this means you’ll be buying raw nuts. But not always. Peanuts, walnuts, cashews, and pecans are a great choices, as are pistachios and macadamia nuts.
  • Nut and Seed Butters – Make sure that nuts and maybe some salt are the only ingredients listed in the ingredient list. Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter and even hazelnut butter are great choices as long as there is no sugar added.
  • Seeds – Quinoa is a seed and it’s wonderful stuff. I use it a lot. Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, or flaxseed are all good choices.

Condiments, Spices And Natural Sweeteners

  • Ketchup – It’s virtually impossible to find a clean ketchup. So you may want to make  clean eating ketchup at home.
  • Mustard – It’s getting harder and harder to find mustard without added sugar. OrganicVille puts out a tasty yellow mustard without added sugar. But if you can’t find regular yellow mustard that is clean, opt for mustard like Dijon or other varieties. It’s much easier to find clean versions of those.
  • Honey – The healthiest honey you can purchase is Manuka honey. I highly recommend it if it’s within your budget. Get it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)
  • Pure Maple Syrup – Not the bottled syrups you get in the breakfast cereal aisle. The real stuff. The best kind you can get is from Quebec, Canada. Get it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)
  • Molasses – Look for the unsulfured variety. Get it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)
  • Spices – Any herbs you buy should come in bulk or a bottle. Never purchase seasoning packets; they are not clean by any means. Purchase singular herbs such as basil, oregano, cinnamon,parsley and thyme. Opt for garlic and onion powder, without salt. Avoid the herb blends unless you are comfortable with reading ingredient lists. Many have added sugars, even Mrs. Dash (though some of those blends are indeed clean, some are not).
  • Salt – I know many people try to reduce their salt intake. However, salt is actually a vital mineral for our bodies, so getting good quality salt is important. I like Real Salt and purchase it often at Whole Foods. But if you don’t have a Whole Foods, you can get it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)

Flour

This is another source of much confusion for those who are just learning how to eat clean. So here’s what to look for:

  • Whole wheat flourGet it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)
  • Whole wheat pastry flour – tough to find in some areas, but great for baking. Get it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)
  • White whole wheat flour – Easier to find but not as dense as regular whole wheat flour. (It’s a different variety of wheat, but it’s still whole grain) Get it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)
  • Coconut flourGet it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)
  • Almond FlourGet it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)
  • Other flours – If you are gluten intolerant, you will want to research other flours on gluten free sites. Unfortunately, I know very little about gluten free cooking/baking, although I am starting to learn.

So there you have it. It’s not an exhaustive list of non-processed foods, but it’s a good place to start when you’re learning how to eat clean. I hope it helps!

Fats

Many clean eaters use healthy oils in their eating plan to ensure they get healthy fats every day. A few of these healthy fats are:

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Grapeseed oil

A Note On Fruit Juices

Fruit juice often has a ton of processed sugar added, and no fiber to speak of. But even when it doesn’t have added sugar, it’s still very highly concentrated in sugar, even if it’s natural sugar. 

If you must consume fruit juice, do so in moderation. Water it down a bit too if you can stand the taste. But generally speaking, it’s best not to drink your calories. Particularly if weight loss is a goal.

Clean Eating Meal Plans For Beginners

If you need some basic meal plans to get you started, then these clean eating meal plans for beginners should be helpful! Click here to see them all.

NEED SOME COACHING TO GET STARTED OR TO GET BACK ON TRACK?

These self-paced 8 lessons will guide you through getting started with clean eating. Get more info here.

Kitchen Tools That Make Clean Eating Easier

Clean Eating Grocery List For Beginners

A good blender and processor are indispensable tools for anyone who knows how to eat clean. From making smoothies to slicing veggies, these two appliances are incredibly helpful.

Better still is when you can get both tools in one, handy appliance. I’m a strong proponent of the Ninja blender system. I love the functionality of it and use mine almost daily for my Keto coffee, among other daily tasks. So when I looked up Ninja blenders, I saw this combo machine that made me want to hippity-hop down to the store for one.

But between my mom and I, we have 5 blenders and 3 processors. So I couldn’t justify it but I highly recommend it. Ninja is a very user-friendly appliance and is a real workhorse. And by the way, I was not paid to say any of this. I have no contact with the Ninja company. I just really do love their appliances and really do have the blender in my kitchen. If you’re interested but can’t find one locally, you can get it on Amazon here. (affiliate link)

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317 Comments

  1. What is your buzz on fats? You recommend low/fat free milks which contain powdered(processed) milk. Also foods that naturally have fat have to go through extra processing to be lower in fat. Foods with natural fats can actually be better for our bodies as our bodies don’t have to figure out what it is and where it belongs like with the new complex trans fats and other unsaturated.

    1. graciouspantry says:

      As with most things, eating plans change. When I first started eating clean, I focused on keeping the fat content low. Now that I’m following more of a Paleo plan, you’ll see in my current recipes that the fat content is a bit higher. My recipes change as I learn more. This blog is simply a record of what I eat. Now that I’ve been doing this a while, I am fully aware that low fat and non-fat products are processed. But for many people, it’s still a balancing act of eating unprocessed, yet still keeping the fat moderate. I have recipes here that suit everyone’s needs and styles. If one recipe doesn’t work for you, simply try another. Or you can sub for full fat ingredients where my recipes say low fat. It’s up to you.

  2. graciouspantry says:

    I’m not sure I understand the question.

  3. Hi! Im new and just found your site. Thank you for all the great info. Question: I’m really into coconut oil but notice its high in saturated fat. Do you reccomened coconut oil for daily use in replace of regular oils? I want to start eating clean. I have a 15 month old so nutrition is important.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      I cook with coconut oil all the time. But that’s my preference. If you want to cook with something else, that’s fine too. Olive oil is always a heart healthy choice.

  4. HI! I am a beginner to clean eating! I just wanted to say that this is a huge help!!

    I do have a question, on fruits. For example, I live in the midwest, so fruit is always around “seasonally” or it is fresh, but they are really expensive, or not in the best shape. Are frozen fruits acceptable? As long as they don’t have any added sugars or flavors?

    Thanks!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Yes, frozen and unsweetened are perfectly fine. 🙂

  5. I am fairly new to clean eating and I still think too much sometimes and stress myself out if I should be eating it or not. I love salads but cant eat them plain or with olive oil and lemon spritzed on it, is Walden farms clean eating. When I look at ingredients it appears to me as it is,. but if not do yo have suggestions on dressings other than MAKING my own?

    BTW, love your site, it is my current bible! 🙂

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      It’s really very quick and easy to make your own. I promise. If you have the ingredients on hand, it’s 5 minutes tops for a full bottle. But you can check out the OrganicVille brand. The unsweetened ones are typically clean.

  6. Wow recipes to make a full bottle, that wouldnt be so bad…….Should on look on the website for receipes?

  7. THANK YOU, you are the best!!

  8. Hey there!

    I am looking at starting to follow a clean eating plan, but I’m still trying to understand.
    I see you say under the meats section, that pork is not good. This made me a bit worried, because one of my staple go-to meats is pork tenderloin, which is a very lean cut – is the fat of bacon the problem, or are you saying to avoid it for another reason?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      You’re right, that was confusing. I just updated what I wrote there. While some people don’t feel any pork is clean under any circumstance, I believe that as long as you have an unprocessed, lean cut, you’re doing pretty well. 10 extra points if it’s organic and pastured. 🙂

  9. hi! i’m new to eating clean and i have a few questions: what about peanut butter? is there a brand i can buy? also olive oil, can i use that to cook with?

    thanks, love the site! i see me using this A LOT in the future!!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      The Adam’s brand seems to be the most widely available. But if you have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, their store brands are clean as well. Opt for extra virgin olive oil.

  10. Mitaly Mora says:

    thank you so much for all the information! i cannot wait to spread the knowledge i just gained lol. thank you so much and im hoping this works for me since i still have yet to recover my body from pregnancy. thank you

  11. Jeff Hamlin says:

    There is a local market that sells “creamline” milk. It is non-homogenized and is low-temperature pasteurized. Much tastier and better for you than any regular store milk.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Never heard of it! I’ll have to look into it. Thanks for the heads up!

  12. Working on the transition. Any options for clean hot dogs/

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      I have seen some on rare occasion at Whole Foods. But they are about $9 for a package of regular size hot dogs. So it really depends on how much you are willing to spend. You won’t find them at regular stores.

  13. Hi there,

    I saw your comment regarding boxed coconut milk and how it’s not clean compared to the canned coconut milk… the ingredients in the carton only say “coconut milk” so how is this not clean? Just curious!

    Thanks for the clarification!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tara – If the only thing in the ingredient list is coconut milk, then it is clean. But I’ve never seen a carton that says that.

  14. Thanks for the info, this is a great site.
    What protein bars and/or shakes are approved?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Megan – You can make your own bars (I have a couple recipes here on my site). As for shakes, none are really clean. But some are better than others. I used to use Natural Factors. It was pretty good stuff.

  15. Hi,

    I’m wanting to start the clean eating. Do I just buy all the foods you listed for the beginners and then use the recipes you have posted to make the meals for each day? This is so overwhelming for me! I need your help! 🙂

    Thanks

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Taylour – Think of this list as more of a general suggestion. Your best bet is to plan your meals, and then shop for what you need. Keep your meals simple in the beginning so you don’t get overwhelmed. Chicken, salads, eggs, whole grains, etc. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how we learn. I’ve been doing this for 4 years, and I still screw things up almost weekly. Just keep going back to it and over time, it will get easier.

  16. Thank you so much for all the effort and thought you’ve put into this site. I found it through pin on pinterest and have made several trips back here. I have one question on the milk – What is wrong with the refrigerated coconut milk? My family has tried all of the milks out there and the one they like best is the unsweetened coconut milk, the refrigerated kind, but I see that you’ve made it a point to make sure that it NOT acceptable. Ugh. I thought we were on the right track, finally finding a milk substitute, but I guess not. I am VERY new to the clean eating lifestyle, so maybe I don’t quite understand all the ins and outs. I appreciate your time and effort!! Thank you in advance for your answer!!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Emily – It’s possible there is a brand out there that is clean that I do not know about. You would have to read the ingredient list to find out if it’s clean. If the ONLY thing listed in the ingredients is coconut milk, then it’s perfectly fine. If not, you may want to reconsider. Feel free to post the ingredient list here if you are unsure.

  17. Hi,

    As far as clean meants. I buy fresh turkey sausage from a local grocer. They put it in the casing themselves. Can it possibly be clean? Or is there a clean kind? Also, any idea where I can get unsweetened dark chocolate chips?? Or SOME kind of clean dark/regular chocolate chips that aren’t insanely expensive?? Thanks!!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sarah – It depends on what they put into the sausage. You’d have to ask for an ingredient list. The only chocolate chips I know of are grain sweetened by SunSpire. (www.sunspire.com)

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tab – My pleasure! 🙂

  18. Hi. I am new here. I am a junior in college and I am really trying to get back to my healthy lifestyle but its kind of difficult. I cook a lot of boxed meals because its quick and easy. Is that bad?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Ki’Yada – Well, it’s not clean. “Bad” is subjective.

  19. Thank you so much for the great info:) I think I am going to start this diet.. I’ve all ways been a little scared of it but I think I can do this. I am on a gluten free diet all ready and reading your list I see a lot of stuff that I thought I couldn’t have on it:) so yay:) wish me luck and thank you so much again

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Lacey – Gluten free is or can be totally separate. Many gluten free products are not clean. So be careful in what you choose. You may want to consult a registered dietitian to help you make the adjustment.

  20. Thanks for the great list – quick question about the poultry. Could you please explain why chicken breast is clean, but the legs are not? I often use chicken thigh in things like stir-fries.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Rachel – It’s clean, just much higher in fat. I’ve updated the post.

  21. I love the free info. However I wish it were a .pdf version available so I could print it out to take while shopping. Thank you for tips.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Maurita – Just click the green “Print Friendly” button at the bottom of the article. 🙂

  22. What about hienz simply organic ketchup… I know it has no high fructose corn syrup… ??

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Desiree – I’d have to see an ingredient list to be certain, but I’m pretty sure it still has refined sugar in it. I think it would be pretty difficult to get anything clean from a big company like that.

  23. Hi there,

    What about agave syrup? I use it almost exclusively.

    Terri

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