“From Trader Joe’s to Whole Foods to Walmart, these foods remain affordable.”
Eating healthy is sooo expensive!!
Or is it?
As a semi-recent college graduate trying to survive on my own in the world, I’m always looking for more ways to save money. Now I know how expensive bills can be, I don’t expect this frugal mindset to change any time soon.
One of the most costly expenses we adults face is food. I learned quickly that eating at home is the way to go – although I gratefully succumb to the convenience of takeout on occasion. While the specific region in which you live and thus available grocery stores will impact your costs, I’ve identified some cheap – yet healthy – food trends across most retailers. From Trader Joe’s to Whole Foods to Walmart, these foods remain affordable! Not only that, they are also nutrient-dense and have numerous benefits. These nine foods also cover all of the food groups! So if you’re eating healthy on a budget, these are the staples to stock up on.
Oats are well-known for their fiber. Fiber is to digestion what green is to traffic lights: it keeps everything moving. And when everything’s moving, we have less bloat and less stomach discomfort. Oats also help lower cholesterol by signaling the liver to pull LDL (“bad” cholesterol) out of the bloodstream and preventing cholesterol in the gut from entering the bloodstream. Because it’s a whole grain, oats are also broken down more slowly and provide us with lasting energy.
As if that’s not good enough, you can get a 42 oz canister of oats for as low as $3.79 – which has 30 servings! That’s about $0.13 per serving…not too shabby. Note: go for plain oats without the flavoring and massive amounts of sugar added. Get old fashioned or rolled oats – they’re less processed.
2. Brown rice
Similar to oats, brown rice has lots of fiber and provides lasting energy. It’s better for you than white rice because it’s less processed, and therefore has more vitamins and minerals. You can get a 5 lb bag of brown rice from Walmart for approximately $3.32, which at 50 servings is $0.06!
Beans are an underappreciated protein source. In a world where meat continues to dominate the majority of meals, many fail to recognize how beneficial and filling beans can be. Dried or canned (and rinsed very thoroughly), beans provide fiber, vitamins and minerals, and of course tons of protein. If you buy store-brand, you can get cans of beans for $0.99 or less. That’s way cheaper than eating meat every meal.
Now some fish are very expensive. But. If you shop the sales you can get fish that fits in your budget. Fish is a protein and great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce the chance of cardiovascular disease. One of my favorites is tilapia as it’s extremely versatile. A package of two fillets (enough for about 2 meals if you’re following the American Heart Association’s suggested 3.5 oz per serving) costs approximately $3.56. That’s $1.19 – $1.78 per meal. If you haven’t cooked fish much before, check out my healthy salmon dish – a recipe in which tilapia could easily be substituted!
High calcium and high protein are just a couple reasons to love yogurt. It’s also a good source of probiotics, which help facilitate gut health. I’ve noticed a huge decrease in my bloating after integrating probiotics into my daily routine. Depending on the type you get, yogurt can be expensive. I’d suggest going for a big container rather than the individually-portioned ones. At Walmart you can get a container of plain Greek yogurt for approximately $3.73. At 5 servings in each container, that’s about $0.75 per serving.
6. Frozen veggies
I’m all about the frozen goodies when it comes to eating healthy on a budget. It’s the worst when you go to eat something you bought at the beginning of the week, and it has since gone bad. And frozen vegetables actually can have more vitamins and minerals than fresh! Since they are usually frozen at peak ripeness, they make it to you with all their nutrients intact. You can easily find plain frozen vegetables for less than $1.00. If you’re not a big fan of veggies, I’d suggest looking at my post on changing your cravings, so you can even crave foods you currently detest! I can’t believe how I’ve turned around my food preferences with a simple psychology trick. No joke – mushrooms, tomatoes, tofu – I love them all now.
I love bananas because they’re a pre-packaged, pre-portioned snack. Nature couldn’t have made eating healthy any easier! They have vitamins and minerals (best known for their high potassium) and are more filling than other fruits. Due to their sweetness, I love to use them in healthy desserts like these ones here. And bananas are so very cheap, often found at less than $0.20 each. Since they have such a thick peel, I don’t worry purchasing organic.
Lemons are high in vitamin C and fiber and may decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. They have been linked to lowering the chance of anemia as well as preventing kidney stones. They may also be just about the most inexpensive salad dressing/spice you can buy. Lemons usually cost less than $0.50 each, making them an ideal staple to keep around.
Now it wouldn’t be Content With Coffee if I didn’t mention this one! Coffee has been known to have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation, about 2 or less cups per day. It can protect against type II diabetes, liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, and depression (no surprise there, as anyone who knows me will agree – it greatly improves my mood and overall “pleasantness”.
Of course, be careful how much sugar you add because too much would surely negate any beneficial properties coffee has bestowed upon you. If you purchase coffee for brewing at home, it can be a very cheap addition to your daily intake. For instance, I buy a package of 12 K-cups at $4.99 which equates to $0.42 per cup. Give me my coffee, and I’ll be content. 😉
So is eating healthy really possible if you’re on a budget? Yes! And it can actually be CHEAPER! Now of course these nine items don’t have to be the only foods you’re eating. But when you add in a couple of the more expensive items – almond butter, a store-bought sauce, olive oil, avocados, your favorite fruits/veggies, etc. – it can still remain affordable when your staples are so cheap. Let me know if there are any other cheap, yet nutritious foods you like to stay stocked up on for eating healthy on a budget!