Save Money And Eat Healthily: Cheap Foods That Last For A Long Time

Healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive. Many healthy foods are inexpensive, and if you store them correctly, they’ll stay fresh for weeks and months. Think about how much money that’ll save!

Some healthy foods can provide a side dish for eight years, while others supply protein for up to two years. Even fruits and vegetables can last for months if you store them properly. If you want to save money, check out these healthy, cheap foods that’ll last for a long time.

Potatoes

Potatoes are in a brown paper bag.
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Nico Schimmelpfennig/picture alliance via Getty Images

Potatoes only cost a couple of bucks, and they last for months if you store them properly. Keep your potatoes in a mesh bag, box, or basket to give them some air. Store them at room temperature in a cool, dark place, such as a garage or a cabinet. They’ll last for two to three months that way.

To help them last longer, check on your potatoes regularly. If one has shriveled or sprouted, throw it out; otherwise, it’ll infect the rest of the potatoes. Cook them into a side dish, soup, or baked potato.

Garlic

A person stacks garlic bulbs on a scale.
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images

Although garlic powder lasts for a long time, you can buy whole garlic and keep it on hand for six months. It’ll taste fresher and provide more health benefits. However, you need to keep garlic away from the fridge. Cold and humidity cause whole garlic to sprout and mold earlier.

Keep the bulbs whole in mesh bags or woven baskets. Place them in a dim, dry, cool area. Chopped garlic will stay fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks. At some stores, you can pick up whole garlic for $2 per pound.

Dried Lentils

A woman fills red lentils into a jar.
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Jan Woitas/picture alliance via Getty Images

Lentils are a type of legume that’s smaller than a bean. A bag of dried lentils may cost anywhere from $3 to $10, but it lasts for up to three years. Unlike dried beans, lentils don’t need to be soaked or cleaned before you cook them. Simply rinse and sort them before tossing them in a pot.

Put dried lentils in an airtight container in your cabinet. After you cook them, they stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week. Lentils cook in about twenty to thirty minutes and make a filling soup or side dish.

Cabbage

Farmers sort through a box of cabbage.
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Zucchi Uwe/picture alliance via Getty Images

Cabbage has one of the longest shelf lives of any leafy green. If you store it correctly, it’ll stay fresh for two months. Store your cabbage in the crisper, either alone or inside a loose plastic bag. Don’t wash the cabbage before storing it; that will create more moisture, which encourages more mold.

Once you cut a head of cabbage, it’ll go bad within a couple of days. Place the remainder in a plastic bag with a small amount of water. You’ll have plenty of leafy greens for less than a dollar.

Rice

A man holds a handful of rice grains.
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Rice has an impressive shelf life. If you buy dried rice and store it properly, it can last for eight years. Even brown rice, the more expensive variety, only sells for a couple of bucks. Brown rice has healthier benefits for the heart and cholesterol levels.

Rice lasts the longest in oxygen-free containers at cool temperatures, around 40°F or below. To store it at room temperature, include oxygen absorbers that can keep rice fresh for up to ten years. After cooking, it’ll last for up to six days in the fridge.

Peanut Butter

A waitress hands a customer peanut butter toast with banana.
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If left unopened, peanut butter can last up to two years. After you open the jar, it’ll stay fresh for three months. Peanut butter provides a healthy dose of protein for less than $5. In most circumstances, it’ll remain fresh in a cabinet at room temperature.

If your peanut butter jar needs to last for more than three months, or if your home is humid, you may want to keep it in the fridge. It’ll last longer. Also, place your jar upside-down to mix the oil with the butter.

Apples

A boy eats an apple.
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Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Unlike other fruits, apples can last up to two months if you store them correctly. Although many people keep apples on the counter, they last far longer in the fridge. If you toss them into the crisper, they can stay fresh for up to six weeks.

Some types of apples last longer than others. According to registered dietitian Maggie Michalcyzk, Ambrosia, Mutsu, and Granny Smith apples are perfect for long-term storage. Depending on the variety, you can buy a pound of apples for less than $2.

Whey Protein

Canisters of whey protein are on display.
EMPICS Sport – PA Images via Getty Images
EMPICS Sport – PA Images via Getty Images

When some people see a $20 container of whey protein, they may think that it’s expensive. But every two-pound container provides 20 to 25 servings, making it cheaper than meat. Whey is a protein byproduct that can flavor shakes, oatmeal, smoothies, and yogurt.

Most whey proteins can last for up to two years. If they contain no additives, they’ll stay fresh for 19 months. Keep your whey powder away from heat and cold; store it in a dry, cool place. Many already come in airtight containers that work perfectly in the pantry.

Frozen Vegetables

Organic frozen broccoli lies in a freezer.
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Frozen vegetables could save your meals if you run out of fresh veggies. If they’re kept at a consistent temperature, they’ll last up to ten months in the freezer. To keep them fresh, transfer the veggies to a ziplock bag and squeeze the air out of it.

Contrary to popular belief, frozen vegetables may have more nutrients than fresh ones. Since they’re frozen at peak ripeness, they are perfectly healthy to eat. Plus, a one-pound bag may only cost $2 at some grocery stores.

Nuts

Shelled pistachios lie on a wooden table.
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Rosario Scalia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Nuts will supply an easy source of protein for several months. However, they can spoil earlier if you don’t store them properly. Keep nuts away from high-odor foods. Also, seal them in an airtight bag or container; they’ll stay fresh if you keep the shell on. You can also freeze nuts for a year or more.

Although nuts are a bit more expensive than other foods on the list, they’re worth the investment. Nuts will stay fresh for three months in the pantry and six months in the refrigerator. If they go stale, bake them for ten minutes at 350 degrees.

Onions

Two women store purple onions in a basket.
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If you spend a couple of bucks on onions, you’ll have fresh vegetables for up to two months. For the longest shelf life, don’t place onions in the fridge. They easily absorb moisture, and then they sprout. Store onions in a dry, dark place with plenty of ventilation.

Don’t seal onions in plastic bags. Instead, pack them in an open basket or mesh bag. After you peel or chop an onion, keep in the fridge for up to ten days. Cooked onions only last three to five days.

Eggs

A customer checks eggs at a supermarket.
Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images
Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images

If you throw away your eggs after the expiration date has passed, you may be wasting perfectly good food. Cartons can last four to five weeks after the expiration date if they’re stored correctly. You can also freeze your eggs for a year. Push the carton to the back of the fridge so that the temperature won’t fluctuate whenever you open the door.

For three dollars, you can buy a dozen sources of healthy protein. If you worry whether your eggs are fresh, test them. Fill a bowl with water. If the eggs sink, they’re safe to eat. If they float, they’ve gone bad.

Carrots

Carrots and parsnips sit in a row over a black texture background.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

For less than a dollar, you can buy raw carrots that keep for up to four weeks. But you’ll have to store them correctly. Before you throw them in the fridge, cut off the green tops. Those absorb most of the water, which causes the carrots to wilt prematurely.

Next, store your carrots in an open container or bag with a small amount of water. This will keep them hydrated, and they’ll last longer. Don’t lock your carrots in an airtight bag, since it may spread mold.

Canned And Dried Beans

A plastic fork digs into a can of kidney beans.
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Canned beans will maintain their quality for up to five years. At a dollar a can, that’s a solid deal. Just ensure that the can doesn’t get damaged in the pantry. If you use half a can, rinse the rest and store those in an airtight container. They’ll last for up to four days.

Dried beans will stay fresh for up to three years, but they must be prepared in a certain way. You’ll have to soak the beans overnight or boil them for around four hours. Buying canned beans saves time and money.

Oatmeal

A woman enjoys a bowl of oatmeal.
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images

As long as oatmeal is sealed correctly, it’ll stay fresh for up to two years. Like all grains, oatmeal should be kept in an airtight container without moisture. If you have bran, it can go in the fridge. Otherwise, raw oats will stay fresh in the pantry for years.

For the healthiest choice, buy unflavored raw oats. These are gluten-friendly, lower cholesterol, and are anti-cancer, according to the Journal of Food Science and Technology. A large package of raw oats costs less than $10.

Canned Tuna

A grocery store employee stacks tuna cans.
Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images
Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

For an easy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, buy some canned tuna. While properly stored, a $1 can of tuna will stay fresh for up to five years. Canned tuna is easy to store; simply stick it into a cool, dry cupboard.

Before you buy, check the can for any damage. Don’t stack heavy containers on top of the tuna, or else it may break open the can. If you don’t want rust, keep the cans dry. Other than that, you have a convenient source of healthy protein, even if it is a bit high in salt.

Cheese

Cheese is stacked.
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Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Cheese can remain fresh for a long time, depending on the type you get. Hard cheeses last for up to four months in the fridge, while soft and semisoft cheeses only keep for two weeks or so. You can maximize its shelf life by storing them properly.

Never use plastic wrap. Instead, wrap the cheese loosely in cheese paper, parchment, or wax paper. If you can, keep soft cheeses in their original container. Store the cheese in a vegetable drawer, and replace the wrapping every time you use it.

Dried Seaweed

Roasted seaweed is served on a wooden board with chopsticks.
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Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Since dried seaweed naturally contains salt, it will stay fresh for two years. A packet only costs around $2, and it’s a nutritious source of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Seal it in its original container or a ziplock bag for the longest shelf life.

Dried seaweed is an easy flavor component. Crumble it onto salad, rice, and popcorn as a healthy spice. If you want to rehydrate it, simply soak it in warm water until it expands. Some packets will hold up to 50 sheets, which will feed you for a long time.

Pickled Vegetables

Jars contain pickles.
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Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

In the pantry or fridge, pickled vegetables can be eaten for up to two years beyond their expiration date. Pickled vegetables are the same as fresh vegetables with added antioxidants and probiotics. As long as the jar isn’t damaged, it’ll maintain the same shelf life after you open it.

Pickles only cost around $5, but if you want to save money, you can pickle foods yourself. Combine one cup of distilled white vinegar with two tablespoons of salt, sugar, and spices. Pour the mixture over your vegetable of choice and seal it in a jar.

Dried Fruit

Boxes of various dried fruits are stacked in rows.
Reza/Getty Images
Reza/Getty Images

If you want a healthy, sweet dessert, buy dried fruit. A $4 bag will remain fresh for up to six months in the pantry. Place the fruit in a plastic bag in a cool, dry place. Metal jars and rims will react with sulfur and discolor the fruit.

Although dried fruit contains some added sugar, it provides more fiber and antioxidants than fresh fruit. If you don’t over-consume dried fruit, it’s perfectly healthy. Toss some into a nut mix, yogurt, or cereal for better taste and nutrients.