Nutrition Strategies

25 Cheap Foods that are Good for You!

Get BIG Nutrition for Less Dough

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Watching your wallet and your waistline can be tricky. Eating right is easy when money is no object, but a trip to the supermarket often yields frustration for healthy eaters on a budget (which is most of us!). Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein are on your list, but they're so much pricier than Ramen noodles, frozen pizzas and bottles of soda! 

Sure, some healthful foods are more expensive, but the same rules of smart shopping apply: Price compare, be flexible about brands and choose larger sizes to save money per serving.

To help make your next shopping trip a breeze, but we've scanned the shelves and roamed the aisles to find 25 foods that are nutritious and affordable. (Prices from Meijer.com and Kroger.com, Cincinnati area, and the U.S.D.A. Fruit and Vegetable Retail Report, June 2013. These prices will vary according to location.)

Protein
1. Canned salmon: $3.09 for 14.75 ounces (77 cents per serving)
Get your Omega-3's for less. Salmon is full of these healthy fats, which help lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks. 

2. Chicken breasts: $5.99 per 3-pound bag (49 cents per serving)
Easy-to-prepare, chicken is full of lean protein, which helps keep you fuller longer.

3. Natural peanut butter: $3.39 for 16 ounces (42 cents per serving)
Skip the sugary, processed varieties and spread the real stuff on whole-grain bread. Throw a tablespoon in smoothies or yogurt, use it as a dip for carrots and pretzels, or mix it with a bit of low-sodium soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic, then thin with water for a quick sauce.

4. Canned beans: 84 cents for 15 ounces (22 cents per serving)
Bulk up soups and stews while getting protein and fiber. Try chickpeas or black beans if you're not a fan of kidneys or pintos. Drain, rinse, and blend with lemon juice, garlic, cumin and a bit of vegetable broth for a quick dip.

5. Eggs: $1.99 for a dozen large (17 cents per serving)
Not just for breakfast, eggs are among the easiest foods to cook. If you're watching your cholesterol, scramble one egg and two egg whites. Add onion and spinach and you've got a great omelet.

6. Dried lentils: $1.35 per pound (14 cents per serving)
Full of protein and fiber, lentils cook in just 15 minutes! Throw some in soups and stews or cook with curry powder for a quick, spicy meal.

7. Almonds: $8 per pound (50 cents per serving)
Get vitamin E, fiber and protein while satisfying a crunchy craving. Nuts are rich in an amino acid that could be linked to heart benefits. Chop a few raw ones and throw them on yogurt.

Fruits
8. Frozen fruit and berries: $2.99-$5.99 per pound (75 cents-$1.50 per serving)
Throw some in the blender with milk or yogurt for a healthy treat. Frozen berries can be used in oatmeal or drained and baked into muffins and quick breads.

9. Apples: $1.39 per pound (35 cents per serving)
They might not keep the doctor away, but apples are actually full of antioxidants, which help slow the progression of age-related diseases.

10. Bananas: 48 cents per pound (12 cents per serving)
Slice one on your morning yogurt or oatmeal for some added fiber and only 100 calories or so. Snack on a potassium-rich banana to prevent cramps after a workout.

11. Grapes: $1.86 per pound (37 cents per serving)
Freeze grapes for a low-calorie dessert or snack. Grapes--especially the dark purple ones--contain plenty of antioxidants that are known to help heart health.
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About The Author

Stepfanie Romine Stepfanie Romine
A former newspaper reporter, Stepfanie now writes about nutrition, health, fitness and cooking. She is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher who enjoys running, international travel and all kinds of vegetables. See all of Stepfanie's articles.

Member Comments

  • In Vermont, these prices can pretty much be doubled. $6 for 3lbs of chicken is almost laughable! Try $16. Grapes that low maybe one week a year, otherwise $3.99/lb. - 9/9/2014 11:20:56 AM
  • Connecticut's prices are much higher than this as of August 2014. chris - 8/30/2014 5:29:50 AM
  • JICAMA19
    fruits and vegetables are on sale weekly, especially in the summer. I don't eat meat, but almonds, beans, and soy are good a source of protein. - 8/25/2014 3:56:03 PM
  • Living in Southern California, I wish our prices were that low on food. I paid $2.99 for eggs yesterday, Banana's were .79 a pound. - 8/25/2014 9:21:50 AM
  • I see these prices as very comparable to what I pay in NC. I get my best produce prices in an Aldi's store. Their other products are also reasonable and I have found them to be very good.
    Matter-of-fact, I get some things cheaper than listed here, such as bananas for .44per lb. and grapes on sale much cheaper. I always shop for bargain items and things on weekly specials.
    Cook up dried beans by the lb., measure into bags, lay them flat, and freeze. Always ready. Do the same with lentils. - 8/24/2014 8:17:40 PM
  • ALINDASUE
    I don't know where the rest of you people shop or what brands you are buying, but the prices in the article are pretty comparable to what I spend for store brand and bargain brand products at Fred Meyer (Kroger) up here in Tacoma, Washington. I've been told by friends and family living in the Midwest that our prices are quite high compared to there. Has that changed recently?

    I do have a couple of "corrections" to point out though:
    Why buy expensive canned beans when dried beans are less expensive and cook up just as well? A one pound bag of dried beans will cook up 2-3 family sized meals worth for less than the price of that one can of precooked.

    Vanilla yogurt has just as much sugar and just as many calories and carbohydrates as any of the other flavored yogurts. If you want vanilla flavor mixed with the fresh or frozen fruit that you are adding, then stir a touch of vanilla extract into your plain yogurt. - 8/24/2014 12:23:13 PM
  • Too bad the article sours us since the prices are ancient in our state of Maine.
    If only a quick look at the market would have helped the authors integrity. Pat in Maine. - 8/23/2014 11:09:02 PM
  • I haven't seen prices this low in Louisiana since the 80's. Where are they shopping? All produce is very expensive now. And chicken, eggs & milk have all gone up. There is no more cheap food. - 8/23/2014 6:38:31 PM
  • I will grant you that these are healthy choices. However, the pricing should be updated as they are over a year old according to the notation/ footnote. I would also like to know what region they used because here in LV the prices, even on sale, don't come close to those quoted...especial
    ly the berries and nuts.

    Also. I take issue with the word "cheap." Inexpensive sounds better, even though in this case that doesn't apply either. - 8/23/2014 5:04:43 PM
  • If these foods aren't part of your specific "diet plan", then why post? Spark does not follow any particular "diet". Also, prices will change with time, yet these items are still a good buy. Hard to believe all the negative comments. Personally, I'm thankful for this article. - 8/23/2014 3:19:43 PM
  • Huh? Healthy foods? SALMON, EGGS, CHICKEN, MILK????
    I don't believe that these are healthy foods... Read 'Eat to Live' by dr. Joel Fuhrman. Animal products are an important factor in getting cancer, as I understand it. - 8/23/2014 3:04:31 AM
  • JINX407
    You are not helping me. I need a list of low protein foods! I will be going away in August & Sept and want to know what I can order in restaurants. I do NOT need to lose weight, I just need low protein foods for three months. PLEASE send me a list!!!
    Thank you. - 7/14/2014 2:01:00 PM
  • CANUCKSFAN2
    Like some below me have stated, these prices need to be updated. Also do realize that you have customers from across the world and so prices vary from region to region. - 6/19/2014 1:47:58 AM
  • I can see how this is geared towards the States, unfortunately here in Malawi (Africa) a lot of the items on the list are super expensive! I wish there was a list for those living outside of the States. - 6/18/2014 4:11:18 AM
  • as others have said, the prices quoted do not reflect what I find in the NY/NJ metro area as of 7/2014 but the items listed are still valid for creating a shopping list of good buys. For my money, nothing beats frozen veggies for economical/no waste food. I just wish fruits were more reasonable. $1 an orange...who would have thought that day would come - 6/17/2014 11:26:48 PM

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