30 Healthy Cheap Foods to Buy That Save Money on Groceries

best cheap foods to eat healthy on a budget, affordable foods to buy

Today, we’re exploring the best cheap foods to buy when you’re on a budget. Yet, in this case, “cheap” should not be low quality. You don’t want to sacrifice long-term health for shortcuts. That’s why, the foods on this list are both low cost and high quality for your body.

Use this knowledge to fuel up on nutrients without breaking the bank.

Don’t forget to pick up the free grocery list cheat sheet of the foods mentioned in this post!

Budget-Friendly Fruits and Vegetables

A colorful array of fresh fruits and vegetables displayed on a simple wooden table, with price tags indicating their affordability

When you are trying to save money, focusing on specific fruits and vegetables can get you the most nutrients for your buck. Here’s how to shop smart.

Frozen Varieties

Frozen fruits and vegetables are a cost-effective option.

  • They’re picked at peak ripeness – their nutritional best
  • They last much longer than fresh produce, reducing waste
  • And they tend to be cheaper than their fresh counterparts

Consider stocking up on mixed berries or spinach. They can be easily added to smoothies or meals.

Root Vegetables

Root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets are not only affordable but also packed with vitamins and minerals. They have a long shelf life. So, you can buy them in bulk without worry.

With sweet potatoes, you’re getting a versatile vegetable costing around $1 per pound. And they can be roasted, mashed, or made into fries.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as kalespinach, and lettuce are nutrient powerhouses. And they’re usually more affordable than other greens. Buying them in season or opting for store brands can save you money.

Include them in salads, wraps, or quickly sauté as a side dish to increase your meal’s nutritional value.

Affordable Whole Grains

Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source. When managing a tight budget, buy affordable whole grains that stretch your dollars further while maintaining nutrition.

Brown Rice and Oats

Brown Rice: You can purchase brown rice for less than a dollar per pound in most stores. It’s a good source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. These help you feel full longer.

Oats: Similarly, oats are a cost-effective choice. Plus they are quick and easy to make. They are also high in soluble fiber, which is beneficial for your heart health.

A large container of old-fashioned oats can cost very little and serve as a hearty breakfast or ingredient in granola bars, granola, and cookies.

Quinoa and Barley

Quinoa: While quinoa is often perceived as a more expensive grain, buying in bulk can reduce the cost significantly. Quinoa offers a complete protein, which is rare for plant-based foods. And it’s also high in iron and magnesium.

Barley: Barley offers exceptional value for your money. It’s typically sold at a low cost and is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Use it in soups, stews, or as a rice alternative to bulk up meals.

grocery bags

Cost-Effective Protein Sources

Protein is crucial for tissue repair and muscle growth (or preventing muscle loss). Consider these nutrient-dense, wallet-friendly options to maintain a balanced diet.

Legumes and Pulses

Legumes like lentils and chickpeas are not just affordable, but also packed with protein.

For instance, a half-cup of cooked lentils offers around 12 grams of protein. You can get multiple servings from a single pound bag, with prices as low as $0.12 per serving. Plus, they deliver both potassium and fiber to your diet.

Canned Fish and Poultry

Canned fish such as tuna and mackerel is an excellent source of protein. And it comes ready to eat.

A single serving of tuna contains around 20 grams of protein. Poultry like canned chicken is also a convenient protein-rich option.

Eggs and Dairy

Eggs are a powerhouse of protein with roughly 6 grams per egg, and also offer essential vitamins.

Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are versatile sources that not only provide protein but also calcium. For budget-conscious choices, opt for less expensive store brands.

Healthy Fats on a Budget

Fats are important for important for nutrient absorption and brain health. Choose fat sources that offer the best nutritional value for your money. Here’s how you can include healthy fats in your diet without overspending.

Nuts, Seeds, Legumes

  • Almonds: A handful of almonds offers a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat and vitamin E. Buy in bulk to save money.
  • Flaxseeds: These are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Ground flaxseed can be more economical and allows your body to absorb more nutrients.
  • Peanut Butter: A cheaper option for healthy fats. Look for peanut butters that don’t have added sugar.

Avocado and Olives

  • Avocado: This fruit is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Purchase when in season or opt for frozen avocado for a more affordable option year-round.
  • Olives: Olives and their oil are staples of the Mediterranean diet. Look for store brands of olives or bulk sizes to get the best deal.

Canned salmon is another food that’s a great source of protein and healthy fats!

Smart Snacking Choices

When funds are limited, your snacking doesn’t have to suffer. You can still enjoy tasty and healthy snacks that are affordable.

Homemade Popcorn

Popcorn is a cost-effective snack that provides a satisfying crunch. When you pop your own kernels at home, you control the ingredients and keep unhealthy additives at bay.

A cup of air-popped popcorn contains only about 30 calories, which makes it an excellent choice if you’re watching your calorie intake. Add a pinch of sea salt or a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for added flavor.

I cook popcorn on the stovetop with coconut oil. When done, I add a little butter and salt. Not only is it a cheap, easy, and healthy snack, but it’s a major crowd-pleaser amongst friends and family!

Fresh and Dried Fruit

Fruits are nature’s sweetness-packed snacks. Fresh fruits like bananas and apples are cheap, and provide essential vitamins and fiber.

If fresh fruit isn’t available, dried fruit can be a great alternative. Just be sure to check for added sugars. A small handful of raisins or dried apricots can satisfy your sweet tooth and provide a burst of energy.

A Word on Fiber

Although not a vitamin or mineral, fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system. Some nutrient-dense options include:

  • Spinach (Vitamin A, C, iron)
  • Oranges (Vitamin C)
  • Bananas (Potassium)
  • Beans (Iron, Magnesium, Fiber)

Free Printable Grocery List Cheat Sheet

free printable grocery list for best healthy cheap foods on a budget

Stay Hydrated for Cheap Too!

Hydration is as crucial as solid food intake because it affects every cellular process in your body. Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. To add variety without cost, consider:

  • adding a slice of lemon, cucumber, or berries to your water
  • drinking herbal teas

Try Strategic Grocery Shopping

When funds are limited, your approach to buying groceries can make a massive difference!

A shopping cart filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Price tags highlight affordable options. Signage promotes healthy eating on a budget

Seasonal Produce Selection

Purchasing seasonal fruits and vegetables when they’re abundant is a smart move.

For instance, apricots and avocados tend to be less expensive and at peak flavor during their natural growing season. Align your shopping list with what is in season to save and also have better-tasting meals.

Bulk Buying Benefits

Buying in bulk is particularly cost-effective for non-perishable items. Items like whole grains and nuts have a longer shelf life.

Pro Tip: Stock up on these staples when prices are lower. That way, you always have nutritious options on hand.

Related:

Utilize Coupons and Discounts

Regularly check store flyers, use a coupon app, or join a store loyalty program to find additional savings.

Try a Rotating Meal Plan

When you simplify your meal planning to include the same or similar meals each week, you simplify your grocery list too. This allows you to look for sales on the items you know you’ll need and use.

Related: What Happened When I Put My Family on a Rotating Meal Plan

Minimize Food Waste For Extra Savings

A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables spilling out of a reusable grocery bag, with a few pantry staples like rice and beans nearby

Food waste is a gigantic problem in the United States. But it’s also an opportunity for you to save!

In the United States, people waste 92 billion pounds of food annually, equal to 145 billion meals. They throw away over $473 billion worth of food annually. Shockingly, we waste 38% of all the food in America.

Feeding america

When you are watching your spending (and even when you’re not!), it’s crucial to make the most of what you buy.

Proper Storage Techniques

Keep your fruits and vegetables fresh longer by storing them correctly.

  • Store potatoes, onions, and tomatoes in a cool, dark place, but not in the fridge.
  • Apples, on the other hand, last longer when refrigerated.
  • Wrap greens in a paper towel and place them in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. The paper towel absorbs excess moisture that can lead to spoilage.
  • Store rice, beans, and lentils in airtight containers to protect them from moisture and pests.

Creative Leftover Ideas

Transform last night’s roasted chicken into a savory chicken salad for today’s lunch. If you have vegetables starting to wilt, toss them into a stir-fry or blend them into a nutritious soup.

  • Herbs: Freeze any unused herbs in ice cube trays with olive oil or water. You’ll have perfectly portioned flavor cubes for future dishes.

Pro Tip: We started incorporating a “leftover night” at my house. Our food waste reduced dramatically!

Make it Yourself for Healthier Savings

Fresh vegetables and fruits scattered on a kitchen counter. A mixing bowl and measuring cups sit next to a recipe book. A loaf of homemade bread cools on a wire rack

When funds are low, DIY cooking and baking ensures you’re producing substantial meals at a lower cost. Plus, it’s healthier too!

Preparing Meals in Advance

Meal prep is a cornerstone of budget-friendly cooking.

Start with a base like rice (which is both inexpensive and versatile). Set aside time each week to cook larger quantities that can serve as the foundation for multiple dishes. Then, store your pre-cooked rice in airtight containers in the fridge, ready for a quick meal.

Rice bowls, stir-fries, and burritos are just a few options that come to mind.

  • Sunday: Cook a large batch of rice.
  • Monday: Rice bowl with veggies.
  • Tuesday: Chicken stir-fry over rice.
  • Wednesday: Burritos with leftover rice and beans.

Planning meals around common ingredients not only saves money but also time.

Baking from Scratch

Investing in staples like flour, yeast, and basic seasonings allows you to bake bread, rolls, and even pizza dough from scratch. Baking at home can significantly reduce costs compared to buying pre-made items or going out to eat.

A pound of flour often costs less than a single loaf of bread. Additionally, creating these items yourself means no added preservatives or artificial ingredients.

  • Homemade bread: Flour, yeast, salt, and water are all you need.
  • Pizza dough: Same as bread, just roll it out thin.

With these DIY methods, you’re able to control portion sizes, nutritional content, and ultimately, your budget.

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