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10 Low Cost Healthy Foods

by Eric Mohrman


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My Story Eating Healthy for Less

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Cheap Eats

"Eating healthy costs too much." It's easy to jump to this conclusion. Fast food and processed products are some of the cheapest foods available, but they generally offer minimal nutrition and lots of sodium, calories, artificial ingredients, and other stuff you don't want. In comparison, fresh produce, quality lean meats, whole grain goods, and other healthy options run pricey.

You've undoubtedly adopted standard advice for healthy buying without bursting the budget. You shop sales, clip coupons, purchase in-season and frozen produce, buy in bulk, avoid pre-cut fruits and veggies, choose generics, skip the junk food aisles, and so on.

It's all effective, but often depends on circumstances. Knowing which nutritionally dense foods are affordable year-round at sticker price is important to thrifty grocery shopping. Below are 10 healthy foods that don't tack much onto your bill and provide multiple servings; cheap items that don't get good mileage were omitted.

Broccoli and Cauliflower

These crisp cruciferous veggies run about $1 and 50 cents per pound respectively. A standard two-pound bunch contains about eight servings. Broccoli's one of the most famous healthy foods, packed with plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Its lower-cost cousin cauliflower also brims with B vitamins, vitamins C and K, and many other healthful compounds.

Bananas

This fun fruit is plentiful all year, so it's always cheap. At around 40 cents per piece, a bunch of six can be had for $2.40. They're well-known for their potassium, but they also supply fiber, vitamin C, certain B vitamins, manganese, and more. Conveniently, they come naturally packaged for easy transport and go great in things like cereal, yogurt, ice cream, and peanut butter sandwiches.

Brown Rice

Pick up this versatile whole grain in a big bag for about 15 cents per serving. Its fiber fills you up for the long haul, unlike white rice and other refined grains that trigger quick spikes and dives in blood sugar levels, prompting hunger. You also get B vitamins, vitamin E and other antioxidants, and additional benefits. Bulk up dishes like soups and casseroles or use this grain as a foundation for all sorts of meals.

Canned Fish

Canned tuna and salmon are cost-effective sources of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential nutrients. Get them for less than $1 per serving, and opt for chunk light tuna since it's the cheaper and lower-mercury tuna type. Add tuna to green salads with Italian dressing instead of spooning on the mayo, and make salmon cakes or burgers for a satisfying, healthy meal.

Eggs

Averaging a little over $2 per dozen, you can't go wrong shelling out (get it? shelling?) for this smart buy. Eggs are loaded with high-quality protein and contain just about every essential nutrient except vitamin C. In fact, they're arguably the single most nutritious whole food, so with the low price, eggs are definitely a contender for best-value grocery item.

Legumes

If you're not a vegetarian, you just might be missing out on the possibilities of non-meat-based proteins. Canned or bulk dried beans, lentils, chickpeas, edamame, peanuts, and other family members are fiber- and protein-rich, also supplying significant quantities of various vitamins and minerals. Many can be bought for 10 to 20 cents per serving. Add them to salads, brown rice, soups, casseroles, and other dishes, and don't forget the jar of peanut butter.

Oats

Whole grains pack the fiber you need to fill up, and oats are no exception. Pick up a 42-ounce container for as little as 15 cents per serving, and you get about 30 servings. A hot bowl of oatmeal does the body and mind good. Add cinnamon and bananas or frozen berries (the affordable alternative to expensive fresh berries, of course) to bring your breakfast to life and cheaply add more nutritional value.

Potatoes

Expenditure with a sack of spuds works out to about 30 cents per potato. It's an unbeatable deal, given all the fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and other good stuff each one packs. Russet potatoes are a good pick, satisfying and suited to baking and eating straight or to using for hash browns, casseroles, stews, and other preparations.

Whole Chicken

Why buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts for well over $3 per pound when you can buy an entire chicken for less than half that? Even with the bones (perfect for making stock and soup), an entire bird is a much better deal. This lean protein is easy to roast, and chicken is so versatile you'll never run out of recipes to try.

Whole Wheat Pasta

Standard refined-grain pastas leave you hungry shortly after eating and provide very little nutritional value. Whole wheat or multigrain pastas, on the other hand, have the fiber to make the meal last. A number of these products are even fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. Swap in this substitute pantry staple, which can be bought for $2 or less per box.

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