10 of the Most Cost-Effective Healthy Foods You Can Buy

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10 of the Most Cost-Effective Healthy Foods You Can Buy

Eating healthy on a budget can sometimes seem pretty impossible—especially when wellness types would have you believe that $12 juices and manuka honey sourced from the center of the earth are the only acceptable food sources out there. Newsflash: They certainly aren’t, and healthy eating absolutely doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can find affordable, nutritient-packed food at almost any grocery store, provided you know exactly what you’re looking for.

Before you get shopping, there are a few budget-friendly tricks you should have up your sleeve. For one, definitely get to know your local grocery store a bit: Find out when they have sales and when they restock products by signing up for a club card or a newsletter. You’ll also want to keep your eyes peeled for seasonal produce, as those foods will tend to be cheaper than their out-of-season counterparts.

These 10 foods, however, will be cheap, cheap, cheap no matter what time of the year you’re shopping for them. In fact, every single one of them will cost you less than a dollar per serving. We’ve sourced the price information from Stop And Shop’s delivery service, Peapod, but it’s safe to say that those prices likely won’t change too much from supermarket to supermarket.

1. Lentils
Oh hey, lentils. Kara Lydon, R.D., L.D.N., R.Y.T., author of Nourish Your Namaste and The Foodie Dietitian Blog, loves this superfood because it’s a great plant-based protein that can last in your pantry for up to a year. Bonus: it’s also full of fiber and incredibly versatile. Add it to soups and salads, or turn it into dips and vegetarian burgers. A full 16 oz. bag will cost you just $1.39.

2. Canned Beans
This is another pantry staple that we love. A single can of almost any kind of bean will often cost you less than $0.80. Like lentils, beans are a great source of protein and fiber, and they’re also high in iron. But seriously, they are so, so cheap. How can you resist?

3. Canned Fish
If there’s anything that canned fish proves, it’s that protein really does not have to break the bank. Tuna and salmon are the two types of canned fish you’re most likely to find at your local supermarket, and a single can of each will cost you anywhere from $1 to $4, depending on what brand you choose, and when products are on sale. You can use canned fish in myriad recipes. I like to add this ingredient to salads, pastas, and sandwiches.

4. Eggs
“Eggs are a perfect budget- and waist-friendly food,” says Ilana Muhlstein, R.D., and we agree. Eggs can be cooked in practically a million different ways, and the cheapest carton will cost you only $1.79. She also explains that “even if you splurge for a $4 carton of omega 3- rich organic eggs, the still come out to just $0.33 an egg.” So if you want to get a little fancy, you still won’t be spending a ton.

5. Tofu
Another affordable plant-based protein, tofu is a favorite of budget-shoppers everywhere. One pack of tofu will usually cost about $3 or less. It’s also high in iron and the fact that it takes on the flavor of other ingredients makes it easy to add to many recipes.

6. Bananas
When it comes to fruit, things do tend to get a little pricey. (That’s why it’s important to shop in season whenever possible!) However, bananas are reliably pretty cheap. On average, a single banana will cost you about $0.40 per banana, but this price can drop to as low as or lower than $0.20 a banana depending on where you shop. I like to get mine at Trader Joe’s where they only cost $0.19. That’s not a joke!

7. Dried Cranberries
Not all dried fruits are cheap. But dried cranberries (and raisins, for that matter) are totally affordable. One bag costs about $3.50. Add them to oatmeal, salads, or even eat them by themselves.

8. Oatmeal
Keep a container of oatmeal in your pantry, and you’ll never want for breakfast. Oats are packed with fiber and have a little protein to boot. A tin will cost you about $2.59.

9. Whole Wheat Pasta
Pasta, how we love thee. Whole wheat pasta is generally the superior health choice because it’s loaded with complex carbohydrates and fiber, and it has a bit more protein than white flour pastas. Bonus: A box will cost you about $1.39.

10. Brown Rice
Like whole wheat pasta, brown rice is clutch. When stored properly, it can last in your pantry for a long time. It’s also high in fiber, and has a bit of protein. And it’s a great ingredient to prep ahead and use in meals throughout your week. A full bag will cost you about $3.

About the Author


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17 responses to “10 of the Most Cost-Effective Healthy Foods You Can Buy”

  1. Avatar Xter says:

    Proofreading is your friend.

  2. Avatar Claire says:

    Canned anything has way to much sodium and bananas have way to much sugar. General rule of thumb, shop on the outside isles of the grocery store.

  3. Avatar Pat says:

    Other than canned fish, eggs and oatmeal… Everything else is full packed with carb.

  4. Avatar Deana says:

    Kiwi is cheap too, usually 2 or 3 for a buck at my store. It’s also packed with potassium and has only 50 calories per large fruit.
    Watch the pasta and beans, they tend to be high in starch and carbs and can add up quick when you are tracking your calorie intake. They also turn into sugar when digested and turn into fat when not burned off completely. You’d get better nutrition out of a cheap jar of peanut butter with sliced apples or bananas.

    • Avatar Deadpool_9 says:

      Beans have a lot of fiber and protein as well, where apples and bananas are primarily carbs, with some fiber and very little protein. Also, that cheap jar of peanut butter will add up calories much faster as it is primarily fat, which is must easier to store as fat than carbs.
      Peanut butter = 190 calories for 1oz.
      Beans (black or pinto) = 130 calories for 4oz.

  5. Avatar Judy says:

    Organic quinoa 12oz $5.20 a box, usually lasts me all week. It makes about 8 cups in the rice cooker = 1cup at $0.65.

  6. Avatar Deadpool_9 says:

    Here in Alabama, Aldi carries skim milk for $0.98 per gallon and eggs for $0.49 a dozen. Plus their canned beans, fruit, etc. are always super cheap.

  7. Avatar davedave12 says:

    no vegetable has all of the amino acids that meat has. However, rice and beans together do have all the amino acids — so many recipes with rice and beans how did they know this hundreds of years ago? —Shameless plug, Trade Joe steamed lentils — taste great cold in salad, mix with steamed vegetables and rice to make complete meal , i like a little in my scrambled eggs

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