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?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


I could be wrong, but if you don't mind spending the time to soak and cook them, dried beans go even further, also dried split peas. I recently started taking advantage of green onions, which run about 25 cents/lb, take them home, clean & chop them up & store in the freezer. They're ready to add to soups, chili, casseroles, and anything you want to spice up. Navel oranges are also reasonable, right now in my area running $3-$4/8 lb. bag. Report
Save money and stay nutritionally sound by shopping, primarily, the periphery of the supermarket. That's where your produce and grains and yogurts, etc. tend to be. The more plant-based foods you eat, the better off your health and your wallet will be. Not every meal needs to include meat. Shop the "clearance" meats at your store, and pick up great bargains there to throw in the freezer (I recently got a pound of grass-fed lean ground beef for $ .99). Buy what's in season. Get yourself a great rice cooker (I have a sanyo combination slow cooker/rice cooker) to make preparation of all kinds of grains and other things super-easy and time-friendly, too. Report
We buy 22 out of the 25, regularly. Well we buy our versions, (soy milk instead of skim, red potatoes instead of sweet, and fresh spinach instead of frozen, etc)

Yum! =) Report
I buy the majority of this already and luckily my family loves it all. Thanks for the list. I shared it on my other networks. Report
txs for the list:-) Report
Most of what you had on the list, I use. I'm not fond of the canned salmon, because of the bones. I know that you can eat them, but they just gross me out. I would add Mrs. Dash, any of her various combos, as they are all salt free & the herb combinations are great. Mrs. Dash runs about $2.89 for the bottle, and a little goes a long way. I also use dried beans rather than canned most of the time, because I can control the salt content better that way. And dried beans are easy to fix, if you have a crock pot. You don't have to soak them, but I would recommend rinsing them & by using the crock pot you can season them as they cook. Report
I'm going to make this my list. Report
hi all it katie just to let you all know ihave 24 of the items listed in supermarket items im love my yogurts activa and probitics flavors .oatmeal is another favorite.as for veggies i love all them .this year our garden is much bigger choices.thanks for info it is a great way for me to feel lifted up in mind body and spirit.have a nice day GOD BLESS my sparkle friends katie herald Report
Thanks for a great list! Report
No doubt,Great list.I use almost all of these items in my diet.Thanks Report
Oh yummy! Just haven't found a way to fix spinach yet to please hubby Report
Looks like my grocery list. :) Report
GREAT list of healthy foods!!! Report
My love and I buy and eat all of these foods, save for the canned beans. We purchase dried beans, as they don't have the sodium that canned beans do.

Excellent blog post! Report
I buy almost all these foods. :)
P.S. Stepfanie, I love your blogs!! Report
An excellent list of good foods, but what about the Broccoli? And asparagus? Neither are what I would call expensive. And oh so good for you. Report
Nice! I might spend even less by buying dried beans in place of canned (save $ and save the environment if you buy in bulk and use your own container). I was thrilled to see that I pay less at the farmers' market on most of the produce - AND I get it organic/local.... I buy fresh salmon to cook one night, the leftovers go into salad for the next day, so the cost evens out. Chicken is even cheaper if you buy whole and cut it up yourself - just takes a little practice. I do use canned tomatoes for sauce, though - habit? taste? Fantastic list - I was thrilled to see it didn't include too many processed/convenience items. Report
Fresh salmon is excellent providing it is wild and from the Pacific. Unfortunately, most of the salmon served in restaurants (unless you live on the West Coast) or sold as frozen comes from the Atlantic or has been farmed, which is not so healthy because of high level of mercury. Whenever I can, I will use the wild Pacific one but it's not exactly cheap. The benefit of canned salmon is that you can get good quality wild pacific sockeye for less than 3 dollars, which will get me 2 to 3 meals. It's greatest benefit when compared to to fresh salmon is that you can eat the bones, excellent source of calcium. I always crushed them before I had them to my recipe. Report
I thought I was reading my grocery list. Another hint, if you rinse the black beans and mix them with the canned tomatoes and a little of the onion and some spice it is tasty and you stay full for hours. Spread the peanut butter on the apple and it is so tasty and no cooking or mess to clean up. Kate Report
Great article. I love canned tomatoes and plan to try the combination with milk for a creamy soup. Thanks. Report
Great article. I love canned tomatoes and plan to try the combination with milk for a creamy soup. Thanks. Report
I do alot of my shopping at the Greater Columbus (OH) Meijer stores and the produce there cannot be beat, for freshness or price! That's where I get my grapes at usually 99 cents a pound or less! Report
It's great to see an article about healthy affordable foods! Depending on where youlive and where you shop, these foods can be even cheaper! I buy boneless chicken breast whenever they are on sale for $1.99 a pound or less and put them in freezer bags with marinade and freeze them! I also buy grapes on sale, wash and dry them and put them in freezer bags and freeze! A handfull of frozen grapes= a healthy, cheap snack! Report
I buy these same items, but to save more money I use angelfoodministries.com. It is nondenominational, nationwide, accepts food stamps, cash, checks and credit cards. No income cap on using the service. Their fresh friuts and veggie box is awesome. I did side by side comparison and it saves me about 40%. Really helped when he was laid off. Report
How pleased I was to find that 22 out of 25 were already in my fridge, pantry or freezer. I would add kiwi fruit, I get them for .40 each. I have always eaten healthy food, it is the extra large portions that did me in and inactivity. We freeze our own raspberries and strawberries but I like to buy frozen blueberries, fresh this past Tuesday were $5 for 8 oz. frozen 12 oz for $2.89. Report
I never thought of the Natural Peanut Butter as being economical. Sometimes I need somebody to give me a kick to recognize something like that. About the popcorn: We don't have an air popper and I sure don't have room for one in my galley kitchen. I have my doubts that my grandma's way of making popcorn would be of the same benefit.
I also must eat multiple servings of most things on the list. But then, I try to get at least 6 servings of veggies a day. Report
I don't mean to sound snooty or anything but this list seemed a bit reduntant to me. I mean, duh, we're on a diet, what else would we eat!? If those foods were not on our list from day one then I'm sorry but something's not right. Or was the point of the article only to highlight the prices? Report
I am pleased with how many of these are on my standard grocery list! Report
This was very interesting information, going to print this! Report
Thanks for the list. some of the things on it I love but don't regularly buy but this is a great reminder to change and mix items up a bit. I always forget how filling beans are. Report
some of my favorite foods Report
Yep, looks a lot like my list too...plus I stock up on frozen veggies when they're on sale. Like others, I like salmon but have a hard time dealing with it, so the times I have to go out for dinner, I just let someone else cook it!!! Report
This looks like my regular shopping list, someone was peeking ;)

All healthy, cheap, and easy foods to prepare. Report
Nice article and a good list.

I never buy canned fish, though, as the foil packs taste better and I think that economy is better served by buying food that satisfies and is palatable. It's a waste to me to buy something I would not eat or feed to anyone in my house.

Also some whole foods have prices markets on bulk items and frozen items that are much less expensive actually than the prices listed here, so I'd add that it's pretty inexpensive to buy all kinds of different grains in bulk, not just oatmeal. Also if available, whole oats are preferable in my opinion, although hard to find.

The only canned thing I'd ever buy in the vegetable line would be canned pumpkin (no sugar). It is very cheap, low cal and healthy and can be used in a variety of ways.
I can't believe anyone would pick the bones out of canned salmon. They're my favorite part, and have been since I was just a kid!!! And think of the calcium! This is an excellent list! Report
This is a wonderful article. My family eats most of these items. Also saw something about pomigranite juice. Our new fruit drink in my house....thanks for the information Report
We are eating all of the above foods pretty regularly, & we're getting good nutrition while saving $$. I am making nonfat yogurt at home these days, which brings down the price even further. I would add ALL dried legumes (not just lentils), raisins, walnut pieces, & fresh papaya.

I buy grapes only during the summer, though. In Chicago (my hometown), winter grapes come from Chile--it's not sustainable to bring fresh foods so very far, plus there are pesticide issues. Report
This is fantastic information!!! Report
When I make sandwiches using canned salmon, I mix the salmon with some finely chopped tomato instead of mayonnaise for moisture and sometimes add finely sliced cucumber on top for a nice crunchy sandwich. I use whole grain flax bread (no "butter"). Report
Yes, fresh salmon is usually better quality and tastier in most people's onion. Canned salmons makes great salmon cakes, and you can add it to salads and pasta dishes. The list was "affordable" food, otherwise fresh salmon would certainly be on the list! :) Report
I do need to start adding canned salmon back to my list. the fresh is not really in budget any longer.

as for bones - do not pick them out. they are full of calcium and it won't choke you, they are very soft. Report
Looks good to me. Report
Canned salmon is great for salmon patties (instead of burgers) or tossed into pasta with veggies. You don't have to pick out the bones--they are soft and provide calcium and a little crunch. Yes, canned salmon tastes completely different than fresh or frozen, but it is one of my "emergency" staples for when I haven't planned ahead. My kids love it.
Great list--we stay stocked on just about everything except lentils. I've seen enough suggestions about lentils on Spark lately I guess I'll try them out!
Oh, also you can make salmon patties. They're easy and taste good and cheap, too! Report
You can eat the bones from canned salmon. They are actually good for you! Report
Canned Salmon is so gross, I almost gagged trying to get it down. I went to Winn Dixie (in Southern States) and got a bag of individually wrapped frozen ones. Can't remember the price, but have been too scared to cook them after the canned incident. I've had great grilled Salmon at Chili's Restaurant, so someday I'll attempt it.

Just my two cents...:-) Report
I wouldn't actually recommend canned salmon. Picking out the bones is time consuming and annoying. I don't feel like I get much for my money. And it didn't taste nearly as good as fresh, either. Report
Now that I shop and cook at home I notice my grocery cart has nothing but produce and lean meats. A big improvement from my past bad habits. And I have to say my wallet is happier too. Report
I'm really enjoying fresh salmon but does canned salmon taste any good? I have to drown tuna in mayo to make it palatable so I general evade canned meat. Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.