One of the biggest barriers to eating healthy that I hear about is the belief that “healthy foods are expensive.” This myth needs to be debunked right now.
While a box of organic quinoa may cost more than a loaf of Wonder bread, this is not always the case. In fact, some of the most versatile foods, like beans and brown rice, are less expensive than many fast food and convenience foods like pizza, subs, and chips. More than the material cost, also consider the nutritional cost of foods. Fifty cents worth of beans gives you more bang for your buck nutritionally (more fiber, protein, minerals) than fifty cents worth of soda (more… sugar).
Keeping your kitchen stocked with nutrient-rich foods can make healthy eating affordable and convenient, preventing you from relying on convenience food or fast food when hunger strikes. Below is a list of 24 nutritious foods to add to your grocery list that won’t break your budget. To keep healthy eating exciting and delicious, check out the tips and recipes so you can easily incorporate these budget-friendly foods into your meals.
FRUIT & VEGETABLES
- Cost: $0.16 per serving (1 medium banana)
- Nutrition per serving: 110 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 13% Potassium, 15% Vitamin C
- Tips: Pack one for a portable snack, add slices to a peanut butter sandwich, or bake them in breads, muffins, and cakes. You can also freeze them to use for smoothies so ripe bananas don’t go to waste.
- Recipe Idea: Peanut Butter Banana Roll Ups by The Gracious Pantry
- Cost: $0.29 per serving (1 medium apple)
- Nutrition: 80 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, 5% Potassium, 8% Vitamin C
- Tips: Sprinkle apple slices with cinnamon for a quick snack or add a few slices to your salad. For dessert, you can also use them to make an apple crisp, pie, or an upside-down cake.
- Recipe Idea: Apple Pecan Arugula Salad by Minimalist Baker
- Cost: $0.33 per serving (1 medium orange)
- Nutrition: 70 calories, 7 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, 130% Vitamin C
- Tips: Grab one for a snack, add them to smoothies, or use the juice to marinate chicken for a tangy flavor.
- Recipe Idea: Orange Sesame Chicken by Fit Foodie Finds
4. FROZEN BERRIES
- Cost: $0.70 per serving (1 cup of frozen mixed berries)
- Nutrition per serving: 70 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, 45% Vitamin C
- Tips: Toss berries into yogurt, add them to cereal or oatmeal, or use them in smoothies. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries also make a great addition to muffins and other baked goods.
- Recipe Idea: Blueberry Oatmeal Anytime Bars by Imma Eat That
- Cost: $0.31 per serving (1 cup of broccoli florets)
- Nutrition per serving: 25 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, 130% Vitamin C, 50% Vitamin A
- Tips: Dip broccoli florets in ranch dressing or add them to an egg omelet. You can also easily roast them in the oven or add them to a stir-fry.
- Recipe Idea: Baked Broccoli Tots By Gimme Delicious
6. SWEET POTATOES
- Cost: $0.67 per serving (1 medium potato)
- Nutrition per serving: 110 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 370% Vitamin A, 15% Manganese
- Tips: Top a baked sweet potato with some cinnamon, brown sugar, and chopped walnuts for a nutrient-packed sweet treat. You can also have them for a savory side dish by making sweet potato fries or hash browns.
- Recipe Idea: Sweet Potato Fries by Inspired Taste
- Kitchen Hack: Pierce a sweet potato with a fork, wrap it in a damp paper towel and microwave for 4 to 5 minutes. Your potato will be cooked and tender in no time.
- Cost: $0.19 per serving (10 baby carrots)
- Nutrition per serving: 35 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 120% Vitamin A, 10% Vitamin C
- Tips: Snack on some carrots with hummus or try dipping them in peanut butter. You can also add shredded carrots to a sandwich or wrap for some extra color and crunch.
- Recipe Idea: Veggie Hummus Sandwich by Spoonful of Flavor
8. CANNED TOMATOES
- Cost: $0.17 per serving (1/2 cup of diced canned tomatoes)
- Nutrition per serving: 25 calories, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of protein, 20% Vitamin C, 10% Vitamin A
- Tips: Add diced tomatoes to stews and casseroles, use them to make a homemade pasta sauce, or top an English muffin with them with some cheese to make your own pizzas.
- Recipe Idea: Chicken Fajita Casserole by Family Food on the Table
9. FROZEN VEGETABLES
- Cost: $0.27 per serving (3/4 cup of mixed vegetables)
- Nutrition per serving: 25 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein, 70% Vitamin A, 15% Vitamin C
- Tips: Defrost and roast them with some olive oil and salt, add them to soups, or mix them into rice, pasta, or a casserole.
- Recipe Idea: Roasted Vegetable Lasagna Roll Ups by Cooking Classy
10. BROWN RICE
- Cost: $0.09 per serving (1/4 cup of dry brown rice, or 3/4 cup cooked)
- Nutrition per serving: 150 calories, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, 5% Iron
- Tips: Brown rice can be added to almost anything from soups and casseroles to stir-fries and burritos. Whether you’re in the mood for a teriyaki stir-fry or spicy burrito, brown rice is a great staple for a variety of cuisines.
- Recipe Idea: Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers by The Comfort of Cooking
11. WHOLE GRAIN PASTA
- Cost: $0.24 per serving (3/4 cup of dry penne, or 3 oz cooked)
- Nutrition per serving: 200 calories, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, 15% Iron
- Tips: Choose whole wheat or whole grain pasta for the most nutritional benefits—whole grain should be listed as the first ingredient. Create a balanced meal with the pasta by adding some veggies, protein (beans, lean meat, or cheese), and healthy fats (olive oil or pesto).
- Recipe Idea: Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese by Well Plated
- Cost: $0.08 per serving (1/2 cup of old-fashioned or quick oats, dry)
- Nutrition per serving: 150 calories, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, 10% Iron
- Tips: Besides cooking them to make oatmeal, you can also add oats to a fruit-yogurt parfait, replace oats with flour in baking, or use them to make your own granola.
- Recipe Idea: Chunky Monkey Granola by Wake Up to Waffles
13. POPCORN KERNELS
- Cost: $0.09 per serving (3 to 4 cups of popped popcorn, or 3 tbsp of popcorn kernels)
- Nutrition per serving: 110 calories, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 6% Iron
- Tips: Season air-popped popcorn with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt or a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese with dried rosemary. For a sweeter alternative, add a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar on top of popcorn.
- Kitchen Hack: If you don’t have an air popper, pop kernels in a saucepan covered on the stove with some oil or microwave a serving of kernels in a paper bag with a drop of oil for a few minutes.
- Recipe Idea: Seven Tasty Popcorn Seasonings By Luvo
MEAT & LEGUMES
- Cost: $0.47 per serving (4 oz of raw chicken breast, or 3 oz cooked)
- Nutrition per serving: 130 calories, 2 grams of fat, 21 grams of protein, 5% Iron
- Tips: If you’re sick of eating chicken, then you probably haven’t discovered the endless ways to prepare it: grilled with a Jamaican jerk rub, sautéed with onions and peppers, baked with lemon and garlic, glazed with honey and balsamic vinegar… the list goes on.
- Recipe Idea: Bruschetta Parmesan Chicken by Imma Eat That
15. CANNED TUNA
- Cost: $0.45 per serving (1/4 cup of canned tuna, drained)
- Nutrition per serving: 70 calories, 0 grams of fat, 16 grams of protein, 4% Iron
- Tasty Tips: Beyond the classic tuna salad, try tuna in pasta, add it to your salad, or melt it in a panini with Swiss cheese. If you can’t stand the fishy smell, try it first when it’s cooked in a patty or a baked casserole.
- Recipe Idea: Lemon Dijon Tuna Patties by Healthfully Ever After
- Cost: $0.18 per serving (1/2 cup of canned no-salt added kidney beans, drained)
- Nutrition per serving: 110 calories, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein, 10% Iron
- Tips: Beans can be a great replacement for meats in chili, soup, and burgers. You can also add them to pasta, rice, burritos, tacos, and nachos for a vegetarian alternative to meat-based meals.
- Recipe Idea: Mushroom and White Bean Pasta by Avocado A Day Nutrition
- Cost: $0.10 per serving (1/4 cup of dried lentils, or 2/3 cup cooked)
- Nutrition per serving: 70 calories, 9 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, 3% Iron
- Tips: Unlike dried beans, dried lentils cook quickly, making them easy to prepare. Add lentils to rice, pasta, stews, and soups. You can also try them in place of meat in burgers and meatballs.
- Recipe Idea: Lentil Meatballs with Burst Tomato Pasta By Naturally Ella
NUTS & SEEDS
- Cost: $0.39 per serving (1/4 cup of almonds)
- Nutrition per serving: 160 calories, 14 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 8% Calcium
- Tips: Pack a handful of almonds for a portable snack, add sliced almonds to oatmeal or cereal, or sprinkle some chopped almonds on top of yogurt to add some crunch. You can also try them in your salad or mix them with other nuts and dried fruit to make trail mix.
- Recipe Idea: Simple Trail Mix by The Healthy Maven
- Cost: $0.41 per serving (1/4 cup of cashews)
- Nutrition per serving: 160 calories, 13 grams of fat, 1 gram of fiber, 5 grams of protein, 10% Iron
- Tips: Cashews are not only a convenient snack, but they are also a vegan’s best friend. Their savory flavor makes cashews a tasty alternative to meats in stir-fries and a creamy alternative to dairy in cheesy sauces, dips, and spreads.
- Recipe Idea: Vegetable Teriyaki Stir-Fry by Hummusapien
20. PEANUT BUTTER
- Cost: $0.19 per serving (2 tbsp of natural peanut butter)
- Nutrition per serving: 200 calories, 16 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein, 4% Iron
- Tips: Try dipping your favorite fruits and veggies in peanut butter or add a spoonful to your smoothie for a protein punch. You can also substitute it for butter in baking. When shopping at the grocery store, choose an all-natural peanut butter that has only one ingredient (peanuts)—no added sugars or hydrogenated oils.
- Recipe Idea: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies By Ambitious Kitchen
21. PUMPKIN SEEDS
- Cost: $0.63 per serving (1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds)
- Nutrition per serving: 200 calories, 18 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, 11 grams of protein, 20% Iron
Tips: Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on salad, add them to muffins or breads, or roast them for a crunchy snack.
- Recipe Idea: Pumpkin Spice Banana Muffins By Berry Nourished
22. GREEK YOGURT
- Cost: $0.74 per serving (6 oz of non-fat Greek yogurt)
- Nutrition per serving: 90 calories, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 16 grams of protein, and 22% Calcium
- Tips: Mix yogurt with some fruit and nuts or use yogurt to make your own overnight oats. Greek yogurt can also boost the protein to fruit smoothies and give a tangy flavor to veggie dips. When shopping, buy the cartons of yogurt (about 32 oz) instead of the single serving cups to save money.
- Recipe Idea: Tzatziki Greek Yogurt Dip by Once Upon A Chef
- Cost: $0.07 per serving (1 egg)
- Nutrition per serving: 70 calories, 4 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, 15% Riboflavin, 8% Vitamin B12, 8% Phosphorus
- Tips: Like chicken, eggs can be prepared so many different ways. Try a fried egg in a breakfast sandwich, hard-boiled eggs in salad, scrambled eggs in French toast, or a veggie egg frittata for brunch.
- Recipe Idea: Vegetable Tostadas by Healthy Aperture
- Cost: $0.12 per serving (1 cup of skim milk)
- Nutrition per serving: 90 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of protein, 30% Calcium, 25% Vitamin D
- Tips: When concerned about bone health, milk is one of the easiest ways to boost our intake of calcium and fortified Vitamin D. Milk is also extremely versatile—you can add it to oatmeal or cereal, pasta sauces or soups, and drinks like smoothies or hot chocolate.
- Recipe Idea: Strawberries and Cream Overnight Oats by Everyday Easy Eats
Looking for other ways to add these budget-friendly foods into your meals? Here are a few of my favorite websites to find simple, affordable, and flavorful recipes:
Happy grocery shopping, and saving!
Note: All food prices are based on the current retail price at Wegmans grocery store and nutrition information is based on the food labels of Wegmans’ products. The exact price and nutritional value of these foods will vary based on the brand purchased.