Although some people believe that healthy eating is expensive, that's not always true. Plenty of nutritious foods cost under $5, or even $1, if you know where to look. Whole wheat pasta costs the same as white varieties, and steamed lentils are only a few bucks. If you want to eat healthy food while saving money, add these items to your grocery cart.
Unsweetened Oatmeal Is Inexpensive, Easy, And Healthy
Oatmeal makes for a filling, nutritious breakfast, and it doesn't have to be expensive. Trader Joe's Unsweetened Instant Oatmeal is only $3.50 for eight packets, and Quaker Instant Unsweetened Oatmeal can be as low as $2.60.
Why unsweetened? Registered dietitian Cynthia Sass explains that flavored oatmeal is too processed and has too much sugar. You want plain oatmeal for its antioxidants and fiber. Cook it in the microwave and then flavor it with honey, maple syrup, cocoa powder, jam, or berries. That's a week's worth of meals for less than $5.
Frozen Edamame Is Less Than $3
For an easy-to-make, high-protein snack, buy frozen edamame. A 12-ounce pack costs between $1.50 and $3.00, depending on the store. Boil them, steam them, microwave them, or pan-sear them, and you'll have a protein-filled snack or side dish.
But edamame is not only low in protein. It also has omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, and iron. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, soy products lower harmful LDL cholesterol and raise healthy HDL cholesterol. All of this comes from a $1.50 bag of edamame.
Canned Tomatoes Save More Money Than Fresh Ones
Canned tomatoes not only last longer than fresh ones, but they also tend to be cheaper. A can of sliced/diced tomatoes ranges from $0.49 to $0.99. Meanwhile, a pack of three large tomatoes at Walmart is $1.50. So you can get three fresh tomatoes that last for a week or a can that lasts for two to five years.
Although canned tomatoes have slightly different nutrients, they're still healthy. According to Future Fit, they have less vitamins A and K but more calcium and iron. They are also low-sodium, low in calories, and low in fat.
Cottage Cheese Has A High Amount Of Protein For A Low Cost
A one-pound container of cottage cheese is cheaper than many people think. At Vons, a container is only $2.99, while a 1.5-pound container costs $2.98 at Walmart. Each product is low-fat and offers 25 grams of protein per cup.
Cottage cheese offers more protein than Greek yogurt. Around 80% of its protein is casein, a special kind of protein that helps build muscle, according to a 2016 study in Nutrients. Add that on top of phosphorus, selenium, calcium, and vitamin B12, and you have a solid deal.
Canned Black Beans Give You 3.5 Servings For $1
Black beans are one of the cheapest sources of protein around. Depending on the brand and store, a can could be as cheap as $0.58 and as expensive as $1.29. That's less than two dollars for 3.5 servings of black beans!
Not only do black beans supply protein, but also fiber, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. Because they have high protein and fiber, they keep people fuller for longer. The only downside is the high sodium content. If you're worried about this, rinse the black beans in a strainer before cooking them.
Whole Wheat Pasta Costs The Same As White Pasta
If you want to eat healthier, swap white pasta with a whole wheat variety. This substitute will not cost you any more money. While a 16-ounce container of Barilla white spaghettis is $1.28, the same amount of whole grain penne is also $1.28. Good & Gather whole wheat pasta at Target is only $0.99.
Because whole grains have not been processed, they retain all of their natural nutrients and fiber. According to a 2020 study in Advances in Nutrition, this is much better for your heart health and your weight.
Healthy Popcorn Costs The Same As Unhealthy Varieties
A healthy popcorn bag--which is unflavored and includes a healthy cooking oil--is not expensive. Trader Joe's organic popcorn made with olive oil is only $1.99, and Orville Redenbacher's instant popcorn with avocado oil costs $3.78 at Walmart. This is about the same price (if not less) than microwave popcorn.
Popcorn is only unhealthy when it includes artificial flavors and sugar. Unsweetened popcorn is made with cooking oil that has healthy fats. According to registered dietitian Summer Yule, popcorn has low calories and high fiber that will keep you full. Flavor it with salt, lemon zest, or even bits of dark chocolate.
Kefir Costs Less Than Regular Milk
Kefir is a fermented milk with a long list of nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Although it sounds like a fancy expensive drink, it's not. A 32-ounce container of kefir only costs $2.78 at Walmart, which is 30 cents less than most milk cartons.
You can use kefir just like regular milk--drink it, pour it in cereal, bake with it, and cook with it. The difference is that kefir offers many more probiotics than yogurt, according to WebMD. You won't have to worry about digestive health with this drink.
Hummus Comes In Many Flavors For Less Than $5
A single hummus container can last for weeks, and it only costs a few bucks. A Sabra container of hummus, whether flavored or unflavored, is only around $3.39 and available at most grocery stores. Because it is made with chickpeas, hummus offers 1.2 grams of protein per tablespoon.
Hummus provides healthy fats, vitamins, and fiber. According to functional nutritionist Jen Dreisch, these nutrients can stave off heart disease, Crohn's disease, IBS, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Look for a hummus made with olive oil or avocado oil.
Pre-Steamed Lentils Are Worth The Low Price
Steamed lentils only need some heating in the microwave or stovetop, and you'll have a healthy meal in no time. A nine-ounce pack costs between $2.69 and $3.99, depending on the brand. That amounts to ten grams of protein per pack.
Lentils are also high in fiber, iron, vitamin B6, and polyphenols, a plant-based compound that lowers inflammation. If you eat lentils regularly, you'll have a lower risk of hypertension and heart disease, according to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Eat it as is or add it to soups, salads, or chili.
Corn Tortillas Cost Less And Provide More Nutrients Than Flour Tortillas
As a whole grain, corn tortillas are notably healthier than flour ones. They're also less expensive. While a pack of flour tortillas costs $2.28 (on the cheap end), corn tortillas are only $1.89. Even if we max out the prices, flour tortillas are $4.49 while corn are $2.99.
According to registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, corn tortillas offer magnesium, phosphorus, and fiber that flour ones do not. Because flour tortillas have been processed, their nutrients were replaced by sugar. Buy cheaper corn tortillas for wraps, tacos, quesadillas, or homemade chips.
Roasted Seaweed Sheets Can Be Less Than A Dollar
Sheets of roasted seaweed are one of the cheapest snacks on the market. Some packets, which provide 50 sheets each, are only $0.71. On the more expensive side, a packet might cost $1.79. Both are deals when you consider how much flavor and nutrients you're getting.
According to the Journal of Applied Phycology, seaweed supplies vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and iodine. These vitamins can prevent the onset of diabetes and thyroid disease. You can eat seaweed plain or crumble it and add it to rice, salads, eggs, or ramen.
Eggs Give You A Few Weeks' Worth Of Food For $2
Eggs are one of the most inexpensive protein sources around. Although prices tend to fluctuate, most cartons with 12 eggs sell for $1.60 to $2.67. Since eggs can last for three to five weeks, you'll get several weeks' worth of meals for under $3!
Some people believe that eggs are unhealthy because of their high cholesterol, but this is far from the truth. The American Heart Association says that eating eggs in moderation is heart-healthy. They provide essential antioxidants and vitamin D, mainly in the yolk, which your body will appreciate.
Canned Tuna Is Less Than $1
Canned tuna only costs around one dollar, sometimes even less--only $0.72. Compare this to buying salmon filets, which can cost $4.93 on the cheap end. Both types of fish offer omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation, heart disease, and arthritis, according to Medical News Today.
Because tuna tends to have a higher amount of mercury than most fish, you should eat it in moderation. Stick to albacore, bigeye, and yellowfin tuna for the healthiest options. But spending a few bucks can give you a few days' worth of snacks.
Greek Yogurt Is Cheapest By The Tub
Greek yogurt is one of the most nutritious yogurts you can buy, and it is relatively cheap. You can purchase a 32-ounce tub for only $3.47, and individual containers are only $0.99. You will save more money by purchasing a larger tub and scooping out however much yogurt you need.
Health-wise, the best option is low-fat, unflavored Greek yogurt. Fruit-filled varieties contain a high amount of sugar. Plain Greek yogurt has more protein, less fat, and a thicker consistency than regular yogurt, says registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner. Flavor it yourself with honey, cocoa powder, jam, or fruit.
Garlic Cloves Are The Cheapest, Tastiest Flavor
A tiny bit of garlic goes a long way. You can buy three bulbs of garlic for $1.50 or a pound for $3.98. If you want them already peeled, then you can purchase a bag of those for $2.78. The best part? Garlic bulbs stay fresh for three weeks.
For perspective, buying fresh garlic bulbs gives you three weeks' worth of flavor for a few bucks. Plus, whole garlic provides many health benefits. According to a 2020 study in Antioxidants, garlic can prevent diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer.
Frozen Vegetables Are A Better Deal Than Fresh Ones
If you want to save dollars by having your vegetables last longer, get frozen vegetables. The cost depends on the type and brand, but all are cheap. Bags of mixed vegetables are only $0.99 at Walmart and Target.
You can get frozen cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots at Target for $1.99. Compare this to individual bags of cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots, which would cost around $5. And if you're worried about losing nutrients, don't be. Holistic nutritionist Sabrina Rice told Insider that vegetables are frozen at peak ripeness, meaning that they might have more vitamins than fresh ones.
Frozen Berries Also Give You More Vitamins For Less
Berries are another type of frozen food that give you a lot of bang for your buck. A 16-ounce bag of mixed berries costs $1.98 at Walmart, and you can buy a whopping 48 ounces for $8.99. Since frozen berries stay fresh for four to six months, getting that for $9 is cheaper than buying $1.50 worth of berries every week.
Like frozen vegetables, frozen berries maintain their nutrients. Berries supply a high amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. You can cook them into oatmeal or toss them into smoothies.
Almond Milk Is Cheaper Than Dairy Milk
If you want a healthy plant-based milk, try almond. Most cartons are cheaper than dairy milk. Depending on the size and brand, almond milk can cost between $2.19 and $2.98. Meanwhile, dairy milk costs between $2.89 and $3.69.
Unsweetened almond milk has little sugar and calories and is reinforced with vitamins. Although almond milk has lower protein than dairy milk, it is still high in calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Drinking it also aids digestion, explains registered dietitian Amy Shapiro of Real Nutrition.
Quinoa Is Cost-Effective And Healthier Than Rice
Quinoa is a seed that is cooked and eaten as a grain. Although it is more expensive than rice, it doesn't cost that much more. A 16-ounce bag of Tri-Color Quinoa is only $2.97 at Walmart. If you want organic quinoa, you can find it for $4.59 at Albertson's.
So how is quinoa better than rice? According to Forbes, it has twice as much fiber as rice and far more protein. It also supplies many more vitamins, including iron, manganese, vitamin B2, and magnesium.