Nutrition Strategies

25 Cheap Foods that are Good for You!

Get BIG Nutrition for Less Dough

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 and, Cincinnati area, and the U.S.D.A. Fruit and Vegetable Retail Report, June 2013. These prices will vary according to location.)

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.

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

    Yeah this is not evenly remotely helpful for Canadians- eggs close to 3 bucks a dozen and a pack of four chicken breasts runs over 20-25 dollars. - 11/15/2015 11:18:11 PM
  • How much do Doritos cost per pound? ($4 a pound) Or snicker bars? ($5 a pound) Or McD's chicken nuggets ($13 a ponnd). Even if you double the prices in his article, it is still much cheaper to eat healthy. - 11/3/2015 7:27:10 PM
  • I think prices have gone up since this was written! I know eggs cost more than that, and so does the chicken breasts we buy! - 8/28/2015 8:30:22 PM
    Fast, fresh, local all these words apply to getting the lowest cost for healthier foods. I love canned beans and they can taste as fresh as the dried ones that take hours to cook. - 8/28/2015 9:36:40 AM
    Fast, fresh, local all these words apply to getting the lowest cost for healthier foods. I love canned beans and they can taste as fresh as the dried ones that take hours to cook. - 8/28/2015 9:36:40 AM
  • JIMINYC, how I miss HEB, especially the Central Market. I would love to have one here in MS.
    One way I save is to watch when meats are being put on sale right before the expiration date. I buy family packs of chicken legs, thighs, and breasts, open them and divide them up into single meal freezer bags. It's a great way to have something on hand that's easy to defrost and cook.
    Prices are always changing, and I think we all have to be very flexible in shopping and menu planning. - 8/27/2015 10:05:22 AM
  • The point is these healthy foods are cheapER. However, in Texas many of these prices can be had today, some for less. Also check Amazon some of their prices for food are good. My local HEB food store has canned salmon 14.75 oz. for $2.62. Black beans as low as 72 cents. Eggs are higher now and some of the other items but really the exact price is not the point of the story. - 8/27/2015 9:16:04 AM
  • While I agree that these prices are off, did anyone bother to read the last comment that the prices were from only 2 stores and they are from 2013. So of course the food cost have escalated. So give the editor a break and focus on the food. - 8/27/2015 7:58:50 AM
    I have this conversation (every time I'm at my doctor's office) about the price of healthy foods. She doesn't get it either....lining her fridge with healthy foods is easier for her pocketbook than mine. These prices quoted here? Wow! Please don't stoop to adding insult to accurate and suggest ways that you're going to lobby to help LOWER healthy foods costs! - 8/27/2015 7:32:53 AM
  • Prices weren't this low when I worked at a discount grocery store five years ago. - 7/10/2015 9:24:19 PM
  • Obviously this is an older blog and grocery prices cannot be expected to remain static. That being said, the types of food listed are probably still fairly relative in price. I did find it interesting to follow the link given for USDA National Retail Report - Fruits and Vegetable. It gives a lot of information about CURRENT prices and also some comparisons with last year. Page 3 starts the section that compares last year and this year and takes 'simple weighted' averages. After you get thru that, page 12 starts regional comparisons for Northeast, Southeast and Midwest, then starting page 23 you get South Central, Southwest and Northwest. The site has some links at the top of the page - could probably find more current reports there. - 3/2/2015 1:29:41 PM
    I don't know where you shop, but the prices in California are way-y-y-y-y higher than the ones you cited. - 2/28/2015 1:24:28 PM
  • CEECEE417
    I only buy wild salmon, grass fed organic beef and organic chicken. After looking at the "dirty dozen" list of foods with the most pesticides, I try and buy organic, when on sale..... apples, celery, carrots, grapes, spinach, salad, kale, potatoes,, etc.. Prices here in Connecticut are very high even for foods that are not organic, unfortunately. If I don't buy organic produce, I soak everything in a white vinegar and water solution and then rinse with cold water before eating / serving. - 2/28/2015 1:16:18 PM
  • Have most of these in my pantry. remember frozen are almost as good as fresh. Just don't cook them to death,
    As far as someone mentioned iceberg lettuce, don't bother, very little nutritional value.
    Go for romaine.
    many of items with lower prices you can find in bulk store areas, or wholesale box stores. The larger quantities , better price.
    yesterday, Winco, large pork roast in the bag, #1.18 lb. medium size quanty , $1.98, small portion. #2.79. - 2/28/2015 11:04:31 AM
  • Good choices. I am not sure why you don't like iceberg lettuce I don't mind it - it is cheaper to buy a head of lettuce (any lettuce) and a tomatoe or other fixings than it is to buy one of those bagged "salads" and probably better for you. - 2/27/2015 9:33:42 PM

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