Sometimes, it’s really hard to eat healthy if you’re on a budget. Trust me, I feel your pain. I’ve already set a goal of losing weight for 2018, and that comes with getting healthier foods in the house. However, that doesn’t mean it has to cost an arm and a leg!
I’ve put together a list of cheap healthy foods to help you on your next grocery shopping trip. By incorporating these staple foods into your diet, you can use them to stretch more of your expensive ingredients a little bit further.
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Rice has long been a staple in our household, and my husband practically grew up eating it at every meal. I really started to enjoy it after I became a part of his family, and while it took her awhile, my toddler has finally learned to love it, too. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve traded the white rice for brown rice whenever possible. Brown rice is an easy whole grain to add to your diet and it has a nice amount of fiber.
Cost for rice is generally quite low (less than a $1 for 1 lb.), and as a result, one bag can stretch for multiple servings.
I’ve become a huge fan of oatmeal recently, and I hate that I avoided it for so long! It used to be a food that really looked quite awful on the surface, but now that I’ve tried it, I really, really love it!
Oats are incredibly healthy and very versatile to add to a number of different recipes. They’re packed with fiber, iron, and vitamin A to name a few, and have no cholesterol.
You can get a large 16 oz. container for under $2.
Eggs are another versatile food that are full of nutrients and flavor. You can make them just about any way you want to for breakfast, or toss them in your favorite baked good recipe.
Egg prices tend to change with the seasons (or around the holidays), so keep that in mind when shopping. 1 dozen large eggs can run anywhere from .60 cents to $2 depending on your location and time of year.
Milk may not be considered a cheap healthy “food” per se to some, but for the cost, it deserves a place on the list. Most people just know that it’s packed with calcium and vitamin D, but did you know it also has high amounts of vitamin B-12, potassium, and protein? Go milk!
In my experience, the fat content tends to determine the price. I have seen a gallon of skim milk as low as $2.35 at Aldi, while whole milk stays around $2.69.
Yogurt is actually one of my favorite cheap healthy foods to buy on a budget because you have so many options! It’s seems like there’s a new flavor or version coming out every few months. My personal favorite is the Yoplait Whipped version in the chocolate flavor – omg, so yummy!!
Yogurt tends to run anywhere from $.33 up to $1 depending on the store and type of yogurt. Your cost can be even lower with coupons. 🙂
Related Reading – 10 Apps that will Significantly Trim Your Grocery Budget
I’ve yet to meet a single person that did not like pasta. It’s just impossible not to like. Pasta usually gets a bad rap because it is high in carbs, but they are complex carbs which help sustain energy. It is high in iron, folic acid, and several vitamins. Make it even healthier by purchasing a whole wheat version.
Potatoes, like pasta, seem to get a bad rap, but they really do have a lot of healthy benefits. They are low in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium, yet packed with fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, and protein.
Where people go overboard is loading them with butter, cheese, bacon, and all sorts of other unhealthy toppings (don’t get me wrong – I know this is what makes them taste good). Just keep those extras in moderation. 😉
A 5 lb. bag has an approximate cost of $3.
Make salad to your heart’s content with lettuce! At only 5 calories per 1 cup serving and packed with water, it’s also great as an ingredient for a sandwich. Lettuce is a good source of Vitamin A, fiber, and other minerals.
One head of lettuce tends to run about $1 (maybe less), and can stretch for several servings.
There aren’t many other veggies that I know of that can double as a snack food, but carrots are certainly one of my favorites! They have a good flavor (whether you eat them raw or cooked), and like everything else on this list, they’re really low cost. They’re also a great source of beta-carotene, potassium and fiber.
I typically buy the petite carrots in a bag for around $1. However, you can stretch your dollars further if you buy whole carrots, then peel/cut them yourself.
In truth, I can’t make myself eat a tomato, but my toddler loves them! It’s one of the few veggies she will eat (even though it’s technically considered a fruit). Considering that she’s becoming a little more particular with her foods, I’m thankful she’s getting all kinds of potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and lots of other minerals.
The price of tomatoes can vary a lot by store, so I usually purchase them at Aldi. A container of grape tomatoes is approximately $1.50-$1.75, and tomatoes on the vine (which usually has 4-5 medium tomatoes) runs about $2.50.
Not all chicken is created equal when it comes to price, but you can still stretch what you spend here. Boneless skinless chicken breasts tend to be the most expensive, and I rarely see them go lower than $1.79/lb. on sale. When they do, I make sure to stock up with a couple of packages because who knows when they will be that cheap again. If you want to stretch your dollars a little more, opt for a package of drumsticks, thighs, or leg quarters. For instance, I recently bought a whole package of 12 fresh chicken drumsticks for less than $4.50. If you get a bargain that good, take out what you need for your next meal when you get home, and then put the rest into freezer bags to use later.
While most recipes ask for one specific part of the chicken, you can also stretch your dollars by buying a whole chicken instead. One whole chicken will give you multiple servings, and they run about $4-5 regularly.
What I love about chicken is its versatility because it seems that there are unlimited ways to prepare it. Unless you’re battering and frying it, you’re likely getting all the good nutritional benefits. Chicken is low in calories and fat (assuming you’re eating it without the skin), high in B vitamins and protein.
Bananas are quite possibly my favorite fruit for a snack – they’re just sooooo good! And at approx. $.55 per lb, you can grab a whole bunch for not much money. Prices vary greatly from store to store, so make sure you shop around.
Bananas are great for potassium, Vitamin B & C, and they’re also high in fiber.
Green beans were a late addition to the list simply because I’ve never really paid attention to them until recently. I have never enjoyed the taste of canned or frozen green beans, so I’ve just stayed away altogether. However, I started roasting fresh green beans in the oven – (WOW! They’re so good!) – and now they’re a staple on my produce list. Simply wash them, clean/trim the ends, toss in a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes at 425 degrees. Delish!
They are extremely low in calories, fat, and cholesterol, but high in fiber and Vitamin C. A couple of small handfuls at the store has been running around $1, and unless you have a large family, one (maybe 2) handfuls is all you’ll need.
While garlic is not something I’m recommending that you eat on its own, I wanted to include it in this cheap healthy foods list because it’s great for adding flavor to tons of dishes. Garlic has almost no calories, which of course, equals no guilt. 😉
You can buy it already minced in a jar (runs about $2-$3 for a small jar) or you can buy it whole (I get a package of 3 for around $1). If you don’t use garlic that often and you don’t want to waste it, you can always buy the powdered version instead. The overall taste will probably be a little different, though.
Last but not least, I want to include frozen vegetables. Obviously, the nutritional aspects will vary depending on the veggie, but they’re really inexpensive. If I cannot buy fresh vegetables, then my second choice is frozen. Almost always, you will get a larger portion of vegetables frozen vs. canned for the same price. Best of all, they will last in your freezer for months, and they’re available whenever you’re ready to eat them.
The average stock-up price for frozen veggies is $1, so I usually grab 4 or 5 when they’re that price or less. I also come across coupons for frozen vegetables regularly, usually for the Birdseye brand, so I watch for the sales to really get a bargain.
So, there you have it – 15 cheap healthy foods you can eat on a budget (and maybe, with no guilt)! Nearly all of these are included in my weekly meal plans and grocery trips, and when possible, I try to maximize my savings further with coupons and grocery apps. In case you didn’t know, a lot of smartphone apps now include rebates for fresh, non-processed foods.
I can’t wait to hear what some of your cheap healthy foods are, so leave a comment below to let me know. 🙂