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Nutrition Strategies  ›  Healthy Habits

25 Cheap Foods that are Good for You!

Get BIG Nutrition for Less Dough

-- By Stepfanie Romine, Staff Writer
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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

  • 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
  • That price for Almonds is quite honestly reflective of what we pay in the Midwest, granted this article is a bit outdated. Tonight's news showed that egg prices, beef, and other grocery items have gone up in the last month...so yes, this article's prices could use an update!! - 6/17/2014 8:30:05 PM
  • I cannot help but wonder where they are coming up with these prices. It certainly doesn't reflect Northern California, and that is the heart of almond country. I can't even get that price at a pick your own or a farm stand. - 6/17/2014 4:48:05 PM
  • EWEE22
    I can't take this article seriously with the title including the word cheap and many of the items are generally not considered even inexpensive, let alone cheap. Almonds for one are very expensive even when you get them on sale and clearance because they've expired.... still expensive. - 6/17/2014 2:14:41 PM
  • RYELEWIS
    The article should really be updated, these prices haven't been seen in this area for a very long time...they don't even reflect "sale" prices - 6/17/2014 1:35:50 PM
  • This is obviously a very old pricing list. Las Vegas prices font come close to these lows. - 6/17/2014 1:28:16 PM
  • HYEGEEK
    Garlic has 10 servings per head? Not the way I use it. I get 1 to 2 servings per head. Of course it might explain why I have so few friends. ;-) - 5/17/2014 9:22:38 AM
  • Currently I'm living in Japan and fruits and veg are sometimes DOUBLE that of meat products! Eating healthy here is VERY hard on your pocket O.o - 5/16/2014 10:51:56 PM
  • these or price do not match up Apples are outrageous. Lets face it fresh freggies are expensive. I will plant a garden this year. Please do not mention almonds or nuts period. EXPENSIVE. Dried beans and oat are inexpensive LOL! - 2/9/2014 7:55:45 PM
  • MYSTREAL
    I really wish these prices were close to where I live. A lot of the fruits and veggies are similar, but the rest are way off. On a good day I pay $20 for 3-4lbs of chicken breasts, and $5/4L of milk. Eggs run anywhere from $3-6/dozen. - 11/28/2013 1:12:10 AM
  • Very informative - 10/14/2013 11:08:40 AM
  • Most of the prices are pretty close for my area. Food prices vary by location season etc, I think the thing is to see the prices of the healthier items in relation to the not so healthy.

    I used to think that eating healthy was more expensive but I've found it's not, it just takes a lot more time, effort and planning. And can be more difficult to do for just one or two people as cheaper bulk veggies and such may go to waste before used if not careful. - 9/27/2013 10:55:41 AM