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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.