25 Cheap, Healthy, and Delicious Foods

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Watching your wallet and your waistline can be tricky, but we've scanned the shelves and roamed the aisles and found 25 foods that are nutritious and affordable. (These prices will vary according to location.) This is part of a continuing series called Habits of Healthy Eaters. (Prices from Safeway.com, March 2009, Greater Philadelphia area)

1. Canned salmon $2.89/14.75 ounces (59 cents/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 $3.49/pound (87 cents/serving) Easy-to-prepare, chicken is full of lean protein, which helps keep you fuller longer.

3. Natural peanut butter $3.39/16 ounces (42 cents/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/15 ounces (22 cents/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/dozen large (17 cents a 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 79 cents/pound (20 cents/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 $3.99/9 ounces (44 cents/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 pound (75 cents-$1.50/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 68 cents each 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 35 cents each 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 $2.99/pound (75 cents a serving) Freeze grapes for a decadent, low-calorie dessert or snack. Grapes--especially the dark purple ones--contain plenty of antioxidants that are known to help heart health.

12. Romaine lettuce or other hearty lettuce $1.99/head (66 cents/serving) Banish the iceberg and choose sturdy Romaine for your salads. It will give you more fiber and nutrients, plus a satisfying crunch.

13. Carrots $2.79/3 pounds (23 cents/serving) Mom was right. Carrots are good for your eyes, thanks to the antioxidants, including beta-carotene, in them. (That's what makes them orange!) Dip them in hummus (made from canned beans), natural peanut butter or low-fat dressings.

14. Frozen spinach $2 for 16 ounces (50 cents/serving) Thaw and drain this good-for-your green, then toss it in omelets, soups, stir-fries and pasta sauces. Spinach is full of vitamins A, C, K, plus fiber and even calcium.

15. Canned tomatoes $1 for 14.5 ounces (28 cents/serving) Choose low-sodium varieties and throw a can in pasta sauces and chili to stretch a meal. Puree a can with a cup of skim milk and season to taste for your own tomato soup. You'll get a dose of vitamins A,B and C and lycopene, an antioxidant known to prevent cancer.

16. Garlic 50 cents/head (5 cents/serving) Ditch the bottled and powdered stuff if you want to reap more of the myriad health benefits. Pungent and tasty, garlic can help lower cholesterol and blood clots, plus it can have a small effect on high blood pressure. Crush or chop it to release more of the antioxidants.

17. Sweet potatoes $1.49/pound (37 cents/serving) Aside from being sweet and delicious, these bright root vegetables are a great source of fiber and antioxidants. Bake, mash or roast them--you'll forget about those other, paler potatoes.

18. Onions 97 cents each (32 cents/serving) Like garlic, this smelly vegetable is full of health benefits. Onions have been proven to lower risks for certain cancers, and they add flavor with few calories. Try roasting them to bring out their sweetness and cut their harsh edge. (If you well up while cutting them, store onions in the fridge for a tear-free chop.)

19. Broccoli $2.49/pound (63 cents/serving) Broccoli is like a toothbrush for your insides. Full of fiber, it will provide you vitamins A and C, plus fiber and a host of antioxidants. Broccoli is a superstar in the nutrition world.

20. Whole-grain pasta $1.50/13.25 ounces (45 cents/serving) With a nutty flavor and a subtle brown color, whole-wheat pasta perks up any meal. Start with half regular, half whole-wheat pasta, then gradually add more wheat pasta for a burst of fiber and nutrients.

21. Popcorn kernels $2.39/32 ounces (30 cents/serving) Air-popped popcorn has just 30 calories and a trace of fat. Pop a few cups, spritz with olive oil or butter spray and sprinkle on your favorite seasonings for a guilt-free treat.

22. Brown rice $1.49/16 ounces (19 cents/serving) Brown rice is a great side dish, but you can also use it to help stretch your ground meat. Mix a cup of cooked rice with 8 ounces of lean ground beef next time you make meatloaf to save 45 calories and five grams of fat (and some money) per serving.

23. Oats $3.19/42 ounces (15 cents/serving) Oatmeal is a hearty breakfast, but you can also cook sturdy steel-cut oats in chicken broth for a savory side dish. Or, mix oats with ground turkey to stretch your meatballs.

24. Quarts of low- or fat-free yogurt $2.49/32 ounces (47 cents/serving) Buy large containers of plain or vanilla yogurt, then add real fruit. You'll save money and calories by not buying fancy single-serve yogurts.

25. Gallon of skim milk $3.04 (19 cents/serving) It really does a body good. Full of calcium and protein, milk can help stretch a meal. Pair an eight-ounce glass with a piece of fruit or a granola bar for a filling snack.

(Prices from Safeway.com, March 2009, Greater Philadelphia area)

How do YOU save money at the supermarket? What food should we add to our list?

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FRAN0426 7/9/2020
Good foods to eat, but in 2020, the prices are not the same as when this article was written, wold be nice if there were tho. We do by much of the food mentioned in the article for our meals Report
KOALA_BEAR 7/3/2020
I buy most of these except dairy (allergy) & altho prices ate up in 2020, I've been buying bananas for $.053 to $0.59 per lb @ Walmart or a local produce stand. I buy my eggs by the 5 dozen box at Smart N Final or Walmart & it's mostly me eating them - hubby not too much into breakfast whereas I can eat eggs anytime. We have a 2nd fridge in garage for extras like beer, drinks, watermelon, leftovers. Also an extra freezer & cupboards which has been my pantry. I buy in bulk or on sale even for just us teo & did when I was single. Freeze bananas, berries, veggies; store in jars, whatever grains, rice, oats, barley, beans, lentils etc. Those appliances are well worth the investment - just label & date it all. Report
CECELW 6/24/2020
I love sweet potatoes. I like most of the foods on the list. I eat 2 containers of yogurt per day Report
I'm on the right path, I use 95% of these items. Report
GEORGE815 1/29/2020
thanks Report
thanks for sharing Report
Please update! (Same for NoIN lol) Report
The prices posted by the person from Canada are now much like the prices here in So. IN. The article needs to be updated. If prices were that low again I'd be buying in bulk! Report
FYI....fresh garlic can be frozen as well. So I always have some on hand. No waste. Report
Great article! Thanks! Report
Have to figure out how to save this one, lots of great tips! Report
I live in Canada, some 2018 prices are, Gallon of milk $4.50, 32 ounce yogurt $3.49,lettuce $2.99 head, salmon $3-$4.00 for 3 ounces canned, natural peanut butter $4.50 8 ounces, can beans $1.25 for 10 ounces, eggs $2.99 dozen, if on sale $1.99, apples are $1.99- $2.99 a pound, last year was .99 pound, bananas.70 cents pound, grapes $2.99- $3.99 pound. Report
Great info! This one is a keeper. Report
Good suggestions. Report
Thankfully I like almost everything on here :) Report
thanks Report
Great items for shopping list. Report
Looks a lot like my shopping list. Report
Great advice, however, it is 6 years old...In six years prices have sky-rocketted...so, yes it would be helpful to have an updated version of the article, as well as, a few other countries to compare to. Report
Would be interesting to see a 2015 version and around different countries such as Canada, US, France, Italy, Germany etc. Report
the key for me is just eating LESS Report
A lot of this looks like my own weekly grocery list, although I differ on a couple things. I will occasionally use fat-free dairy but usually prefer the heavier gauge stuff (although not necessarily whole), I haven't yet found a way to make canned salmon palatable, and frozen spinach is a horror of Lovecraftian proportions. Report
Thanks for sharing, this shopping list is interested if only I could achieved them here. Report
I usually shop at the local produce store and buy whatever is in season. I base my weekly meals around that and a little whole wheat pasta and lean protein. Report
These are some great choices to keep in mind at the grocery store. I am finding that I am spending more on healthy food choices, but I also believe that choosing healthy foods is the least expensive dieting plan I have found. Report
Thank you Stepfanie!! Great List more motivation to keep me going! :-) Report
Whenever I start thinking that healthy choices like these are too expensive, I think about how much a bag of chips or gallon of ice cream costs. Not only are they expensive, they "cost" you in more ways such as poor health. Report
I almost gave up on your list at #1 because I don't know of any great ways to use canned salmon. Perhaps a recipe search is in order? The rest of the list is all my favorites, though! How convenient :-) Report
Great list - I would also add pearled barley to the list. It's a great change up from rice or pasta and it has many of the same benefits of oatmeal. My family loves it when I prepare the barley in Chicken stock and add some sauted onions - and my son definately fits into the "picky eater" category so go ahead and try some. If you don't plan ahead you may want to get the quick cook type - not quite so healthy but still probably better than regular pasta. Note: the pearled type generally needs to simmer about 40 minutes in the cooking liquid - not sure how long the quick cook type takes. Report
Except for the salmon it's nice to know that my "cheap eats" are so healthy! Costco in my area sells a big bag of sweet potatoe "fries" and all you have to is "fry" them in the oven. Super cheap price, easy and quick, too! Report
The foods mentioned are great, healthy, low-fat and low-cost foods. Perfect for a healthy diet. The items mentioned are cheaper if you buy in bulk too. Oatmeal happens to be a staple in my diet, and I buy it in bulk for as low as $0.69 a pound, and that is a lot of meals. Report
Curious to know what the prices are now ..... data collected in 2009. Unfortunately, much has changed in the economy since then! Report
Love the tip about adding brown rice to meatloaf! Thanks for the tip. Report
I use all of these except frozen spinach - I buy fresh from the reduced cart at my local fruit market, frozen fruit and berries - I buy fresh or freeze in the summer, dried lentils - I don't care for them much, but do use dried beans. I can my own tomatoes.

What about canned tuna? Report
Soup bases are also reasonably priced and can be added to multiple dishes. I enjoy the option of using bread ends to add to stuffed shrimp, dressings, and toasted for healthy croutons (whole grain/whole wheat bread ends). Report
As lots of advices told us to use white eggs, I always wonder what people do with the yellow egg/yolks. Just throw them?

I love bananas, we can do anything with them and they are quite abundant here and delicious! Report
I like this list. It is all food that I eat, so it won't be hard to do. I like the idea of buying quart yogurt rather than small packages ( you pay for the packaging). If you buy fruit in season that is a double bonus. I like brown rice but you have to choose wisely, not all brands are created equally. Report
I think it's telling how many people say these prices are high. Some of it I think would be location - obviously Philadelphia is more expensive than anywhere in Utah, Ohio, Michigan...

It's scary that we balk at these prices and they are probably the regular price you'd pay without coupons or sales. Makes me wonder how many of us think of the sale price as the normal cost of the item. "It goes on sale all the time, why buy full price?"
Well, why should *I* have to shop at the store's convenience? Why can't it just be the sale price all the time? or split the difference? I should be able to buy chicken when I want to eat chicken. Not when the store dictates it's chicken week.

I had to get on the bandwagon and check - in southern CA right now blsl breasts are $4.99/lb yikes! or $2.99 on sale if you buy 4 lbs. This is my point - if I don't choose to use my freezer to hold chicken inventory (um this is why we have stores), I'm paying a 40% surcharge? why? I only have a household of 2, I don't need 4 lbs of chicken. I just don't think it's fair to jack up the normal prices so you have to "shop right" or get screwed.

Also, there's not going to be an article on "Meijers". It's a regional chain. Visit a coast people. Seriously. Report
love all the food on here. what about chicken broth? Report
Great article! This is a really useful list.
But, it's also important to remember the external costs of the food we eat -think about who's picking those bananas and what their grocery budget must be. Some things are worth buying fair-trade. Report
I eat every thing on this list and I get them way cheaper than that .I shop at Aldi's and right now I pay 1.49 for a gallon of milk and .69c for a dozen eggs. With what I save there I can really get quality peanut butter. Report
These prices aren't too bad, about the same or maybe even a little bit less than prices around Toronto where I live. I think whole wheat bread should be on the list. You can get a 650ish gram loaf of whole wheat bread (by Wonder or Dempsters) for about $2.50. It would go well into a sandwich with the salmon, chicken breast, egg, peanut butter... Report
I live in NY State and I know our taxes are through the roof....but I buy many of these same food items and pay a lot less.......but I wait for them to go on sale and then buy.I would never pay the prices you are quoting! Report
for lunch meat I get the whole "cooked" chicken breast or ham from the meat dept. and take it over to the deli to have them slice it. It saves on price per lbs, and you know its a real chicken breast. Report
I live on Long Island, and prices on things here are usually higher than the national average, but our prices are lower on just about everything on this list I guess I should be grateful. And this is when they are not on sale. I always stock up on things like chicken breast when it goes on sale and freeze it in meal size portions because prices have gone up so much in the last year or two. With my weight problem and my hubby's diabetes and high cholesterol, chicken and fresh produce have become our staples. My biggest savings comes in the summer when I have been able to literally stop buying all salad produce because I can grow it all. I do this in container gardening because being disabled I am unable to manage a regular garden. Over the last few years I have invested in many large containers. And I do not allow any friends or family to dispose of any kind of container that is suitable for planting in. If I can drill a hole in it for drainage and it will hold soil and stand up to the weather, I will grow something in it. Now that I have more than enough planters, my investment in seeds, soil (I reuse a lot of it by composting), and some plants is usually around $100 - $125 for the season. What I end up with is several hundred dollars worth of lettuces (romaine and spring mix), carrots, cukes, 5 types of peppers, (bell & hot), 3 types of tomatoes, radishes, herbs of all sorts, strwberries, and even some zucchini. I don't buy any of this produce from early July til late sept early Oct depending on the weather. And I know it is all super fresh and completely organic. Report
I have found in my area some of these prices posted are a little high so the savings on my end are even greater. Report
Really helpful info, gives me direction on what I can eat to achieve my goals. Report
Great list. I am not a fan of fish especially salmon but i do buy sole or tilapia (inexpensive) and put it frozen in the fridge covered with lemon juice and cracked black pepper. Quick and easy to throw in the oven at night and doesn't taste fishy. We also make a lot of hummas(from canned chickpeas) there are some great recipes out there and everyone in the family loves it. Report
I like the spinach idea - order it in omeletettes when eating out but will add to scrambled egs with my other veggies. Salmon in salad is good too. Many canned foods have too much sodium though. Just started more frozen veggies to economize. Report
I love Salmon patties but everytime my mother makes them I alwas get the one with the bones. Report