When you’re trying to stretch a limited food budget—especially for a whole family—it’s easy to fall back on fast food and other cheap options. But even though these ready-made meals seem like the most affordable choice, they’re not. Eating out usually costs more per serving than food prepared at home if you’re a smart shopper. Plus, of course, fast food is so unhealthy.
There’s a common perception that healthy groceries aren’t affordable if you’re on a tight food budget. And sure, a lot of fresh whole foods are more costly than packaged, processed items. But there are also plenty of options for making smart choices—from both a dietary and a budgetary standpoint.
Like, for example, the ones below.
12 Affordable Healthy Whole Foods
- Bananas are packed with vitamins, minerals (especially potassium), fiber, and other nutrients, and they’re plentiful all year long. That makes them cheap—around $2.00 for a bunch of six, or only about 33 cents per serving.
- Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes, whether canned or dehydrated, are excellent sources of plant-based protein, healthy fats, and lots of other nutrients. Many can be bought between 10 to 20 cents per serving, and there are countless ways to use them.
- Broccoli is available for about $2.50 for a standard bunch containing around 8 servings. That works out to just over 30 cents per serving for one of the world’s healthiest foods. It’s a great source of numerous vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other healthy compounds.
- Brown rice, unlike white rice, is a whole grain, which means it’s full of fiber, vitamins, and more, and it’s far more satisfying. You can buy a bag that works out to about 15 cents per serving and use it in so many healthy meals and side dishes.
- Canned tuna and salmon are under a buck per can. They’re high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The latter is hard to come by in low-cost foods. Don’t just think sandwiches; add them to salads, make seafood cakes or burgers, etc.
- Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods, containing some of pretty much every nutrient you need except vitamin C. There’s no shortage of ways to use them, and at around $2 for a dozen, they’re a fantastic bargain.
- Frozen berries are a budget-friendly alternative to fresh berries, which tend to be pricey. But blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and others are rich in so many nutrients, they’re too good to pass up. And that includes in their frozen form.
- Oats are a whole grain that offers nutritional value in a filling package. Oatmeal is an energizing breakfast, and two other entries here—bananas and frozen berries—are tasty additions. A large container gets you about 30 servings at around 15 cents each.
- Peanut butter jars go for about $3 to $6 depending on size, but they last a long time. Peanut butter is good for protein, healthy fats, various minerals, and more. It makes for a satisfying sandwich or a delicious, nutritious dip for carrots and celery—two affordable veggie snacks.
- Potatoes work out to approximately 30 cents each for Russets and other common varieties. They’re loaded with potassium, fiber, and other nutrients, and they’re a filling and popular side dish, or even a great soup or stew additive.
- Whole chickens are way more affordable than buying boneless breasts or other pre-packaged poultry parts. One chicken can feed an entire family, providing a versatile, low-fat, high-protein entree at a little over $1 per pound.
- Whole grain or multigrain pasta can be found for around $2 per box, which is enough to feed everyone in the family. While this is slightly higher than standard pasta, it’s a much healthier version that’s far more satisfying than refined grain pasta.