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cheapest healthy foods

Cheapest Healthy Foods

This list of cheapest healthy foods is perfect for when you want to eat healthy without spending a ton of money or when you are broke but still want to eat as healthily as possible. With this list of 47 of the cheapest healthy foods you can buy, you will be able to stretch your grocery budget to help make ends meet and make sure you have healthy food on the table for your family.

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47 of the Cheapest Healthy Foods

In this article about the cheapest healthy foods, I list many of my own favorite least-expensive healthy grocery items.

Unfortunately, it is really easy to bust your monthly budget at the grocery store, especially when you are trying to eat healthy! But you don’t have to go broke just because you want to eat better! And that is because you really can save a ton of money on groceries if you choose to or have to, even when you are trying to make healthy food choices.

Here are some of the cheapest healthy foods you can buy. They are perfect for when you are trying to eat healthy without spending a ton of money!

 

1. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of the cheapest grocery staples you can buy for your pantry, and it is also very good for your heart. You can make oatmeal the traditional way over the stove or in the microwave, with fresh or frozen fruit to sweeten it. Or you can add a little honey or sugar or brown sugar, or use your favorite no-calorie or low-calorie sweetener of choice. Yes, no-calorie sweeteners cost more than sugar, but because you don’t have to use as much of it (because they are sweeter than sugar), I have found that my no-calorie sweetener of choice lasts a long time. So it really isn’t all that expensive.

I also like to make overnight oatmeal and these super easy 2-ingredient banana oatmeal cookies. Another thing I like to do that is even easier than the two-ingredient cookies are to simply mash up a banana with one-half to one cup of oatmeal for a filling, tasty, nutritious, low-calorie breakfast.

 

2. Cream of wheat

This is another one of our family favorite staples for breakfast. It is not quite as cheap as oatmeal, but it is still very inexpensive if you buy it in the box. You can flavor it with fresh fruit like bananas or a few berries or even with a little brown sugar or honey (or even an artificial, calorie-free sweetener of choice).  Yum!

 

3. Eggs

Another staple on the cheapest healthy foods list is eggs. At a price (where we live) of only about 10 cents per egg, you can have a hearty breakfast (or whatever meal) of eggs and whole wheat toast for well under $1 per serving.

And eggs are so versatile! You can scramble them, fry them, boil them, poach them, and more! Add some fresh-made or even store-bought salsa adds extra nutrients and flavor with very few calories!

 

4. Nonfat greek yogurt

Nonfat greek yogurt is another great food item when you are looking for the cheapest healthy foods! Sweeten it with your favorite fruit and berries, use it in smoothies, enjoy it with homemade healthy granola, and more!

 

5. Nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is packed with protein, and especially when you eat the nonfat or low-fat varieties, it can be a fairly healthy food to eat on a budget. If you want to sweeten it up, try it with fresh, frozen, or canned peaches or pears. (If you use canned fruit, buy the kind that is canned in its own or other fruit juices, not the syrups.)

Or another favorite way that I like to eat cottage cheese is by adding fresh chopped tomatoes. Savory or sweet, this versatile power food will please your palette without unduly lightening your wallet.

 

6. Low fat or nonfat milk

Milk is about the cheapest food you can buy in the dairy category. Where we live, you can get a gallon of regular milk for less than $2 per gallon. That’s a pretty amazing deal considering how many ways you can use milk in your meals and recipes.

 

7. Bananas

Probably because they are readily available all year round, bananas are one of the cheapest healthy foods you can buy, so they should be on your go-to list when you are trying to save money on groceries. And they are just delicious, in any case. 🙂

 

8. Apples

For what you get, apples may be the overall cheapest fruit in many grocery stores, if you choose the least expensive varieties such as red delicious and Gala. But even golden delicious, Granny Smith, and some of the others are not too expensive, either.

 

9. Oranges

Oranges are another great fruit when you are wanting to eat the cheapest healthy foods. They are somewhat seasonal, so you will pay more for them in the winter generally than you do in the summer, but the prices year round are pretty good. And these awesome little fruits are packed with vitamin C as well as fiber and potassium. If you love orange juice, save money by making your own, fresh squeezed! (And you will avoid the extra sugar and other additives that way, as well!)

 

10. Cantaloupe

Though not as cheap as the fruits listed above, cantaloupe is still a great choice when you are looking for cheap healthy foods to eat. It is a good source of vitamin C, folate, fiber, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals. Cantaloupe is awesome to cut up for a simple fruit salad, or chop it up and eat it plain or with your favorite low-fat or nonfat yogurt.

11. Kiwi

This sweet, delicious fruit is another budget-friendly option—particularly during the summer months when they are in season. At our local grocery store we can usually get three or four for a dollar during the summer. Kiwis have tons of vitamin C and fiber, and they are great alone or sliced up in a fruit salad.

 

 12. Watermelon

You can find watermelon for a great price—when they are in season! When they are not, stick to fruits that are so that you don’t spend an arm and a leg on them. Check local fruit stands and farmers’ markers to find great deals during the summer. This powerful fruit is a great source of vitamin C and is delicious in fruit salads or all on its own.

 

13. Frozen berries

When your favorite berries are not in season (and honestly, even sometimes when they are), you will get more bang for your buck by buying them frozen. Especially if you get mixed frozen fruit with strawberries, you will spend less per serving than you will on berries bought out of season. And frozen berries lose little if any nutritional value, so they are a great option when you are looking to buy cheap, healthy foods.

 

14. Grapes

Grapes are another one of the cheapest fruits available. When they are in season during the summer months, they can be a steal of a deal on sale. They are great in fruit salads, straight off the vine, or frozen as a sweet, healthy treat! We also love them in chicken pasta salad and chicken salad sandwiches.

 

15. Spinach

Spinach isn’t generally the cheapest vegetable you can buy, but it is a great way to (relatively) inexpensively increase the nutritional value of other inexpensive dishes such as egg omelets, meat sandwiches, salads, stir fry dishes, pasta dishes, quesadillas, and more.

And you can often buy frozen bagged spinach for even less than fresh spinach (unless it’s on sale or in season), at about 10 cents per ounce for a generic brand at my local grocery store.

 

16. Peppers

Green peppers are another good option when you want to eat the cheapest healthy foods—at least when they are in season, that is. They are a great source for vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, and folic acid.

When peppers are not in season, if they are too expensive, look at cabbage, spinach, and the other vegetables included in this list for cheaper options. Green bell peppers are generally your cheapest option, then red, and then yellow and orange. Sometimes the bagged peppers that are sold as a variety pack are a better deal than buying the different peppers individually would be, so be sure to comparison shop!

 

17. Frozen vegetables

Frozen vegetables can be an economical option, as well, particularly when other favorite vegetables are not in season. And despite what you may have heard, from what I have read, vegetables lose little if any nutritional value when frozen.

Frozen vegetables are great in casseroles, soups and stews, omelets, and more. To know when frozen vegetables are a better deal, do a rough comparison of serving sizes.

 

18. Garlic

Garlic is an awesome flavor enhancer that also has healthful vitamins and minerals. At 50 cents or less per bulb, it is not the cheapest healthy food around, but because it is so packed with flavor, a little goes a long way. 🙂 In addition to having various vitamins and minerals, I have read that garlic can help fight the common cold and other illnesses and also help reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

 

19. Canned pumpkin

Pumpkin doesn’t have to be reserved just for the fall. 🙂 You can buy canned pumpkin year round to enjoy in soups, muffins, and curries. The antioxidants in pumpkin make it a healthy choice,  and at less than a dollar for the 15-ounce can, it’s another good choice for a cheap, healthy food.

 

20. Kale

Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around, so it really is a great value. It is packed with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and K, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium, At our local grocery store you can find it for around $1 to $1.50 per bunch.

 

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21. Potatoes

Regular russet potatoes are a good source of nutrients, and they are super cheap! (Make sure to eat the skins to get the most nutrition!) At our local grocery store we can often buy them for a dollar for a 10-pound bag, and regularly for $2 to $3 for the 10-pound bag.

You can cook several potatoes in the microwave in about 15 to 20 minutes for a quick and very cheap meal. I like to make them a little healthier by topping them with salsa (or salsa mixed with a little bit of ranch) instead of sour cream, ranch, cheese, and other more expensive and more caloric options.

You can also slice up potatoes and season them and fry them up (with a little of your favorite healthy oil), or make homemade fries. And of course mashed potatoes are cheap (and delicious :)). Go easy on the butter!

22. Sweet potatoes

Personally, I really like making baked sweet potatoes as an even healthier alternative to regular baked potatoes. Because they are so naturally sweet, I don’t even think you have to top them with anything. But if you choose to, you can add a little cinnamon and honey or sugar for an even sweeter treat.

Or go savory by topping your sweet potato with things like cheddar cheese and broccoli, ground turkey and black beans, salsa and eggs, guacamole and cheese, or turkey bacon and cheese!

 

23. Carrots

Your list of cheapest healthy foods to buy and keep on hand should always include carrots. The cheapest way to buy carrots generally is  full sized, in bulk, but if you find baby carrots for a good price, then they are a great option, as well.

 

24. Canned tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes can fluctuate in price pretty wildly throughout the year, so for meals where it makes sense to use them, canned tomatoes can sometimes be a less-expensive alternative.

 

25. Squash

In the fall when it is in season, you can sometimes buy squash at amazing prices! (If you have neighbors who grow them and give them to you, then that’s an even better deal!) After the later summer and fall, winter squash can be another economical and healthy option.

 

26. Zucchini

Similar to squash, you can sometimes get amazing deals on zucchini during the fall when it is in season. (And again, you might even be able to score a lot of it for free from family and neighbors happy to share!) Zucchini is high in antioxidants and may reduce blood sugar levels and improve heart health. Fry it up with your favorite oil, make a tasty zucchini lasagna, or make healthy zucchini muffins or breads.

 

27. Cabbage

Cabbage is quite inexpensive; in our area, you can buy it for less than 80 cents a pound, so it is another great choice when you are looking for the cheapest healthy foods. It is a good source of vitamins B, C, and K. Chop it up for an inexpensive addition to your favorite green salad!

 

 

28. Onions

Onions are another vegetable that you can get for a pretty good price most of the time. In our area, yellow onions are generally the cheapest variety, though white are not generally much more expensive. And because of the awesome way that they enhance the flavor of many dishes, onions are a great staple to keep on hand all the time.

 

29. Broccoli

You can also generally get broccoli for a pretty good price. Often the crowns are more expensive, but occasionally they are the better deal because you are not paying for the stalk. (However, we slice up the stalk and include it in some of our dishes. If you can do that, then that makes the whole broccoli heads even more affordable.)

Broccoli is a great sources of vitamin C and vitamin K, and it is a good source of folic acid, potassium, and fiber. We can generally buy broccoli crowns at our local store for $1.50 per pound or less (at least when they are in season).

During the winter months, you may be able to buy frozen broccoli for a better price than fresh, so be sure to price compare. As with everything you buy, the generic or store brand will generally be cheaper than name brands.

 

30. Salsa

Not only does salsa taste delicious, but it is really good for you! And salsa is particularly helpful if you are getting low on fresh produce before your next scheduled trip to the grocery store. It is a great item to keep on hand all of the time because it lasts longer (once opened) than most fresh vegetables, too. And it is a great staple to keep in the pantry because it is shelf stable.

 Salsa is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. 

 

31. Green salad

Green salads can be another cheap and healthy food. You will usually get a better price if you buy the ingredients for an inexpensive salad yourself rather than buying premade salads. However, sometimes the premade salads are on sale for a great price.

We generally keep our salads pretty economical by making them ourselves using spinach or romaine (or similar) lettuce, tomatoes, sliced or chopped carrots, cauliflower (if it can be bought for a good price), and broccoli.

 

32. Beans

Beans may be the overall cheapest food staple there is. Especially if you buy them in a large bag and soak and prepare them yourself, you pay just a few  pennies per ounce. Pinto beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans are all good options when you are looking for healthy foods at a great price.

Dry beans do take time to prepare, but if you soak them overnight and then prepare them in a slow cooker, they really don’t take much effort at all. And of course there are tons of different kinds of beans. Pinto, black beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), great northern beans, white chili beans—we like them all at our house.

Even if you buy canned beans, you can still make a lot of inexpensive and pretty healthy meals, such as taco soup (made with lean ground beef), white chili chicken soup, or even meatless taco or simple multi-bean soup.

 

33. Canned refried beans

Though definitely not as cheap as making refried beans from scratch, canned refried beans are still a cheap, fairly healthy food. Go for low sodium, unsaturated fat options.

Refried beans are a good vegetarian source of  protein and a good source of various vitamins and antioxidants.

 

34. Edamame (soybeans)

 Edamame is a great source of fiber and protein, and they are a great snack as well as a power-packed side dish. Frozen edamame is great steamed with a little salt.

 

35. Lentils

You can also buy lentils for very cheap, and they are another great protein option when money is tight but you still want to eat healthy. There are lots of recipes (just search Google or Pinterest) for lentil soups and other dishes with lentils, such as veggie lentil stir fry.

 

36. Brown rice

Brown rice is a healthy food that is about as cheap as they come. 🙂 In my area, you can get a pound of brown rice (in the five-pound bag) for about 66 cents, and a pound of rice makes about 10 servings. So you can have a serving of brown rice for well under 10 cents!

You can make a simple breakfast rice for a cheap option for that meal, and of course there are tons of cheap dishes that you can prepare with rice for lunch and dinner meals. Rice and beans is a favorite among frugalists everywhere. 🙂

 

37. Whole wheat pasta

Pasta, even whole wheat pasta, is another fairly cheap food. You can use it in simple and relatively inexpensive main dishes such as spaghetti (especially if you make meatless spaghetti), homemade mac and cheese, pesto pasta, and so on.

 

38. Air-popped popcorn

Popcorn that you pop yourself is super cheap and also good for you! To make your own microwave popcorn, simply put it in a paper bag, fold the top of the bag over twice to seal it, and microwave for about two minutes (or until you hear a couple of seconds between kernels popping). Then carefully take out the hot bag, and simply add your favorite toppings like a little Parmesan cheese, cinnamon, brown sugar, or even taco seasoning!

No paper bag? No problem! Just put the popcorn kernels in a large microwave-safe bowl (such as a glass bowl) and put a glass plate over the top. Voila!

 

39. Quinoa

Though not as cheap as other less-expensive grains, quinoa is great for you and is fairly inexpensive considering its nutritional value. It is high in both fiber and protein and contain various essential amino acids. Quinoa is a great side dish or add-on for main dishes to give them an extra protein punch.

 

40. 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Bread can make a very inexpensive breakfast item when you make toast, but of course bread is a staple of an inexpensive lunch, as well, with the many kinds of sandwiches you can make.

Obviously, you can spend quite a bit of money on expensive artisan and craft breads, but your basic store-brand breads, even the whole wheat kind, are one of the items where you can get the most bang for your buck.

The 100% whole wheat loaves are more expensive than white bread or just partial-wheat, but it is still quite inexpensive at just around $1.50 to $2 a loaf (in our area) for the less-expensive brands.

When you are needing to buy the cheapest healthy foods you can, then skip buying whole wheat buns, and just use whole wheat bread for hamburgers and hot dogs and similar things. We regularly use bread in places of buns for these things just because I don’t like to have to keep buns on hand because sometimes they go bad before we can use them all up.

 

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41. Chicken

When money is tight or when you just want to be able to buy the most economical foods, chicken is definitely your friend. Much of the meat that we buy is chicken because it is generally less expensive than beef and pork and other kinds of meat.

We can often get skinless, boneless chicken breasts for a $1 a pound, and so I tend to stock up when it is at that price until the next time it goes on sale. Occasionally we can even get ground chicken for a great price, and it is excellent for dishes like tacos and enchiladas in place of ground beef.

 

42. Pork

Pork is another good option when you are looking for cheap healthy foods because it is a relatively inexpensive source of fairly low-fat protein. At our local grocer you can buy a pound of pork regularly for between $2.50 and $4 a pound, depending on the cut.

 

43. Ground turkey

Sometimes ground turkey is on sale for a better price than ground beef, and since it is also a healthier option than ground beef, when it is, we will sometimes buy several pounds of it and freeze it to use in various dishes where we would normally use ground beef.

Ground turkey is great in tacos, enchiladas, spaghetti, casseroles, for turkey burgers, and more.

 

44. Lean ground beef 

 Though not as good for you as chicken or ground turkey, lean ground beef is not a bad option. And it is less expensive than many of the other types of meat of similar nutritional value. Of course, the leaner it is, the more expensive it generally is, so we usually wait to buy ground beef until it is on sale and then stock up and fill our freezer so that we can wait until the next time that it goes on sale.

 

45. Peanuts

Peanuts can be a pretty cost effective and fairly healthy food, particularly when you buy then unsalted in the shell. Peanuts are a good source of healthy fats that can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

 

46. Peanut butter

When looking for the cheapest healthy foods you can buy, peanut butter is a good value because it is high in protein and is really inexpensive per serving compared to other high-proteins foods and particularly compared to meat.

The non-sugar, all natural peanut butter does cost significantly more than regular peanut butter (about twice as much), but you can make a ton of sandwiches from one large jar of peanut butter! And at 15 cents per ounce even for the non-sugar variety, it is still an awesome deal!

In the 36 ounce jar, that is about 72 tablespoons of peanut butter, and if you eat the standard serving size suggested, that is 36 sandwiches that you can make from a jar that costs (in our area) a little over $5. So for about 15 cents for the peanut butter and another 20 cents for the two slices of bread (if you get the less-expensive, whole wheat bread) and another 20 cents or less for a sliced-up banana, you are spending only about 50 cents for a tasty, healthy peanut butter and banana sandwich. Eat an inexpensive apple with it, and you have a light lunch for well under a buck.

 

47. Tuna fish

Tuna has definitely gotten more expensive over the last 10 or 15 years, but it is still more economical than most meats. Tuna salad sandwiches are more expensive than peanut butter sandwiches, for example, but a simple tuna salad sandwich is still very inexpensive—especially if the alternative is going out to eat for your work lunch. 🙁

 

Related articles:

42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5!
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31 Budget-Friendly Cheap and Easy Dinner Recipes
59 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
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How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save a Ton of Money!

 

 

Conclusion

When compiling a list of the cheapest healthy foods, there really are a lot of options for making tasty, healthy, and inexpensive meals using the items listed above. With this list of 47 of the cheapest healthy foods, you can save a ton of money on your monthly grocery budget!

I really am a big advocate of keeping your grocery costs down, even when money isn’t tight, so that you can use the money for things (such as getting out of debt, investing for retirement, saving for kids’ college,  and becoming totally financially free) that have longer-lasting value than a meal that is consumed in 30 minutes or less and that you can then barely even remember the taste of. 🙂

Want more inspiration for how to save on your grocery budget? You can find more than 70 ideas for saving money on groceries (without having to use coupons!) here.

 

What items would you include on your list of cheapest healthy foods? What else do you do to save money on groceries and to eat healthy on a budget? Leave a comment below and let me know! I would love to know your thoughts!

 

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