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The 43 Cheapest Foods You Can Buy (And Still Eat Healthily)

The 43 Cheapest Foods You Can Buy (And Still Eat Healthily)
Amy Boyington Jun 22, 2018
Want to Earn Some Extra Money?

I used to be one of those people who would complain that healthy foods made my grocery bill go through the roof. It’s true that some healthy foods are more expensive than their overly-processed, sugary, no-health-benefit counterparts.

Whole grain bread is one example. A loaf of whole grain bread usually costs at least $0.50 more than a loaf of white bread with no nutritional value. Switching your mindset is important.

Is saving $0.50 on a loaf of bread worth losing all the health benefits the whole wheat version can give you? I’d rather pay $2.50 for whole wheat bread than $2 for bread that’s packed with nothing but empty carbs and calories. $2.50 for nutritious food isn’t a lot when you think about it that way.

This article will change your thought process about how expensive healthy food can be.

I came up with 43 foods that are super inexpensive yet have loads of nutritional value (and even picky kids will like several of them!). It’s time to make over your grocery list and start heading these nutrient-rich foods to your fridge and pantry.

Fruits and Vegetables

1. Apples

Apples are one of the best foods you can eat to keep a healthy gut. They say “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” for a reason: these yummy fruits have heart-healthy benefits, tons of nutrients you need every day for a healthy diet, and keep your bowels moving in the right direction.

Buy it for: $1.30/lb.

2. Avocado

Depending on where you shop and where you live, avocados can get expensive (I’ve seen them for $1.99 each!). Stick with budget-friendly grocery stores like Aldi and you’ll typically see these nutrient-dense fruits at their lowest prices. Protein-packed avocados are especially helpful for burning fat while getting healthy fats into your diet.

Buy it for: $0.79 – $0.99/each

3. Bananas

The banana is one of the few foods we eat that’s packed with potassium, which is necessary for maintaining consistent blood pressure and keeping metabolism at the right levels. Bananas are also good sources of folate, iron, and calcium, more nutrients that are necessary for your daily diet.

Buy it for: $0.58/lb.

4. Cabbage

Check any healthy diet website and you’ll hear a lot about the importance of eating leafy greens. Cabbage is one of those greens that provides the body with tons of minerals and vitamins, like vitamin B2, fiber, and protein. There are tons of ways to eat the veggie, too, like in sandwiches, soups, or even as a wrap for a low-carb alternative to a tortilla wrap.

Buy it for: $0.50/each

5. Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe has always been a favorite fruit of mine and it’s one my parents always had on hand because it’s relatively inexpensive. A decent-sized melon should only cost about $1.50 and you can typically get at least four servings from it.

Buy it for: $0.54/lb.

6. Celery

Celery adds the perfect amount of crunch to soup, tuna salad, egg sandwiches, and other yummy lunch and dinner options. It’s also full of antioxidants that keep your system running smoothly, and it’s an excellent source of fiber. Try some celery sticks dipped in peanut butter for a filling, protein-rich snack.

Buy it for: $1.70/package

7. Corn on the Cob

There’s not much better than fresh corn on the cob as a side dish for your summer barbecue. When it’s in-season, you can find corn on the cob for super low prices. My local Walmart sometimes has it on sale for 10 for $3 (that’s $0.30/each!).

Corn is rich in fiber and even has some weight control and vision-boosting benefits.

Buy it for: As little as $0.30/each in season

8. Cucumbers

Cucumbers are one of my favorite healthy snacks. I’d rather grab a handful of cucumber slices than potato chips any day. These versatile veggies have tons of benefits for your body, including fighting inflammation, relieving pain, and keeping your digestive system functioning correctly.

Buy it for: $0.50 – $0.70/each

9. Grapefruit

Grapefruit is a low-calorie food that’s thought to be one of the best foods you can eat if you’re trying to lose weight. It’s full of fiber and made up mostly of water, which are two factors you want to look for in weight control foods. Most grapefruits are only a couple of pounds at most, so you can usually buy them for $2 or less.

Buy it for: $0.70/lb.

10. Lettuce

Iceberg lettuce doesn’t have quite the same health benefits of leafier Romaine lettuce, but it’s usually a lot less expensive and still carries its weight as a healthy food. It’s lower in fiber but has high water content to keep you hydrated, plus it’s packed with nutrients like vitamin C and potassium.

Buy it for: $1.40/each

11. Mandarin Oranges

For a grab-and-go snack that the kids will love to pack in their school lunches, pick up a bag of mandarin oranges or clementines at the grocery store. They’re easy to peel and fun to eat, but they’re also an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps get rid of harmful free radicals in the body, boost eye health, and can even make skin healthier.

Buy it for: $1.00/lb.

12. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a great addition to salads, as a topper to chicken or steak, or even as a side dish. They’re also a protein-rich food and are known for their high antioxidant content. Look for whole mushrooms instead of already-sliced ones; they’re usually a little cheaper.

Buy it for: $2.00/lb.

13. Onions

Onions have been used throughout generations for medicinal purposes because they’re thought to have cancer-fighting properties. They also have plenty of vitamin C, so you might even get a skin and hair boost from eating them! You’ll find a lot of onion varieties in the store, but yellow and Vidalia onions tend to be the cheapest.

Buy it for: $0.99/lb.

14. Spinach

Both fresh and frozen spinach is incredibly healthy because they’re low in calories, have some protein content, and are rich in several vitamins and minerals you need every day. Fresh (unbagged) spinach is among the cheapest since it’s usually purchased per-pound and you can buy a lot of spinach to equal one pound!

Buy it for: $2/lb.

15. Strawberries

When strawberries are in season (from about April to June), the price drops dramatically. These fresh berries are delicious in smoothies, mixed in with your oatmeal or yogurt, or as a sweet topping to whole-grain cereals or pancakes.

Buy it for: @1.50/lb. when in season

16. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes add some more fiber to your diet than white potatoes, and they’re also good potassium, manganese, and copper sources. Make a healthier version of fries at home by baking some sliced sweet potatoes drizzled with olive oil and your favorite seasonings.

Buy it for: $1.50/lb.

17. Watermelon

Watermelon is very cheap to buy during the summer months. Although it has a relatively high sugar content, it’s also mostly water and contains high levels of citrulline, which can lower blood pressure. It’s also a yummy addition for any barbecue that even picky kids will love.

Buy it for: $3 to $5 each, depending on seeded or seedless and size

18. White Potatoes

White potatoes are a reasonably low-calorie food and contain enough fiber to help your digestive tract run smoothly. Potatoes are the most popular crop to grow in the United States, so it’s safe to say that you can usually find them at low prices in just about any U.S. grocery store.

Buy it for: $3/5-lb. bag

Meat and Poultry

19. Bulk Chicken Breast

Chicken breast should be a staple in just about any healthy diet. With loads of protein and very little fat content, chicken breast can help you build muscle mass while keeping your extra fat intake low. I always buy chicken breasts in bulk packages to keep the costs down. I can sometimes find 9-lb. packages of boneless breasts at my local Aldi for about $11!

Buy it for: $1.99/lb.

20. Chicken Legs or Leg/Thigh Quarters

Chicken legs and leg/thigh quarters aren’t as popular as chicken breasts because they don’t have as much meat on them, but don’t overlook them. They also contain a lot of protein and are very versatile to cook with. Again, bulk packages of these can save money, sometimes going as low as about $0.79/lb.

Buy it for: $1.29/lb.

21. Deli-Sliced Lunch Meats

Pre-packaged lunch meats typically have extra sodium to help them last longer on the shelves. Opt for fresh meats from the deli to cut down on sodium and still get the other benefits of your favorite meats. I always buy whatever brands are on sale for about $3 to $4 a pound, but some meat, like roast beef, tends to be a bit pricier.

Buy it for: Between $3 and $8/lb., depending on the type of meat

22. Pork Chops

Bone-in pork chops can help you make budget-friendly dinners. The cheapest cuts are usually thin, so when I buy them, I often use a marinade or breading to keep them moist while cooking.

Buy it for: $4/lb.

23. Tofu

It’s not meat, but tofu is a vegetarian’s version! If you’re limiting meat in your diet, tofu can be a great alternative for getting enough protein every day. Use it in place of eggs as a breakfast scramble or chop it up and use it on your lunch salads.

Buy it for: $3.50/lb.

24. Turkey Bacon

I balked at the thought of turkey bacon a few years ago, but once I tried it, I was hooked. It’s surprisingly tasty and doesn’t soak your fingers in oil. The pork bacon alternative is still packed with protein but typically has a lower calorie and fat count.

Buy it for: $3.50/lb.

25. Whole Chicken

I make at least two whole-chicken meals a month for my family because I can buy them for less than $5. If you’re a skilled butcher, you can save money and cut it into the pieces you want to cook how you want, but I prefer to stick mine in the oven with some seasonings and olive oil and let it crisp.

Buy it for: $0.99/lb.

Dairy and Refrigerated Items

26. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese gets a bad reputation for its high sodium content, but when eaten in moderation, its protein and calcium content may outweigh the drawback. Add even more flavor with some fresh berries.

Buy it for: $3/24-oz. container

27. Eggs

If you know anything about the Keto diet, eggs are one of the most important items. One egg has about 6 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of carbs, and they pack in lots of vitamins, like vitamin B12 and D.

Buy it for: $1/dozen

28. Plain Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt with no added flavors (i.e. unnecessary sugar) is healthy for your digestive system with its probiotics, but it can also be an excellent post-workout food to help your sore muscles recover thanks to its repairing antioxidants.

Buy it for: $3/16-oz. container

29. Skim Milk

Skim milk is cheaper than higher fat milk because it technically contains less milk. If you’re watching fats in your diet, opt for skim, which still has all the vitamins you expect, like D, B6, and B12.

Buy it for: $2/gallon

Pantry Items

30. Brown Rice

Get some more fiber into your diet by using brown rice in place of white rice. It’ll run a little higher than white rice in cost, but it can lower cholesterol levels and even control diabetes.

Buy it for: $3/1-lb. box

31. Canned or Packed Salmon

Canned salmon and salmon in pouches are surprisingly cheap, considering how expensive fresh salmon can be. Choose salmon packed in water for the healthiest version and you’ll benefit from its healthy fat and high protein content.

Buy it for: $1.99/can

32. Canned Tuna

Canned tuna is also ridiculously inexpensive, which is why it’s always a staple in my home. I eat it almost every day for lunch because it’s a tasty way to get my protein in for the day, whether I eat it on a wrap, in a salad, or as a dip for celery sticks. It’s one of the top foods for weight loss too.

Buy it for: $0.99/can

33. Chickpeas

Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are what make up hummus. These beans contain a good amount of vitamin K, which is necessary for keeping your blood flowing smoothly. They’re also high in protein and help control your body’s blood sugar levels.

Buy it for: $1/can

34. Coffee

Some research has shown that regular coffee drinkers may have a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease than people who don’t drink it. If that’s not reason enough to enjoy your morning cup, some studies also link coffee with a longer lifespan. Buy your coffee beans in bulk to save money!

Buy it for: $6.99/lb.

35. Lentils

Lentils are one of my favorite things to add to homemade soup and they’re incredibly cheap to buy. These little legumes are heart-healthy and can reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Buy it for: $1.50/lb.

36. Oats

Opt for steel-cut oats or any non-flavored, non-instant varieties. Perfect for a daily breakfast, you can make fiber-packed oats in a number of healthy ways, like mixing in some sugar-free sweetener and cinnamon with sugar-free syrup, so it’ll never get boring.

Buy it for: $2.50/lb.

37. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a source of healthy fat and protein and is also rich with potassium, which can help repair and soothe muscles. Eat a scoop after a workout to keep your muscles in top shape.

Buy it for: $2/16-oz. jar

38. Seeds

Sunflower, pumpkin, and hemp seeds are among the healthiest options packed with nutrition. Choose unsalted varieties and sprinkle them on salads or in granola or oatmeal. Buying already-prepared seeds is a little more expensive, but worth it if you don’t have the time to mess with de-shelling them.

Buy it for: $1.25 for about 5 oz.

39. Sugar-Free Sauces

Most sugar-free pasta sauces are no more expensive than regular sauces. I’ve used several sugar-free spaghetti sauce brands and haven’t noticed a difference in flavor.

Buy it for: $2/16-oz. jar

40. Tea

Tea has little to no caffeine and has long been heralded as one of the healthiest things you can put in your body, from antioxidants that prevent cell damage to heart-healthy benefits that can prevent heart disease. I pick up a box of 100 tea bags for a whopping $5 every few months and have a cup in the morning or evening at least 3 or 4 times a week.

Buy it for: $5/100 bags

41. Unsalted Nuts

Grab some unsalted almonds and peanuts, which are excellent sources of healthy fats and protein. They might be a little more expensive than potato chips and cookies, but they’re just as tasty and can help fight the belly bulge.

Buy it for: $4/lb.

42. Whole Grain Pasta

Whole grain pasta contains dietary fiber that regular pasta doesn’t, so the carbohydrate content is worthier of a healthy diet. It does tend to run a little more than regular pasta, but barely enough to notice the difference.

Buy it for: $1.50/16-oz. box

43. Whole Wheat Bread

Switching to whole wheat or whole grain bread can be one of the simplest ways to add more fiber to your diet and cut some unhealthy carbs. Plus, it tastes delicious with most sandwiches. Add some egg and avocado to a slice for a protein and fiber-rich breakfast.

Buy it for: $2.50/loaf

Final Thoughts

Want to know how you can save even more on these already inexpensive foods? The way I do it couldn’t be easier: I use Ibotta to get cash back on my groceries!

Ibotta has rotating cash back offers called ‘Any Item’ offers that are usually the best to use for produce. It will tell you to buy any brand of broccoli or strawberries, for example, and you can usually get $0.25 back for them. Other times, it’ll have specific brands on sale.

For other groceries, Ibotta can also help you save. I usually have a lot of offers for meat and pantry items that I frequently use, like turkey bacon, coffee, and peanut butter. I typically earn anywhere from $30 to $50 a month in cash back offers from Ibotta, making it even easier for my family and me to eat healthy on a budget.

What are your favorite low-cost healthy foods? Do you use any apps like Ibotta to save money on your groceries? We’d love to hear your thoughts – drop us a comment below!

Amy Boyington

Comments (2)

Awesome read for the grocery budget watcher…like me. I discovered a trick my grocery store does: they sell their produce at a price per pound, yet they rubber-band it in bunches. Spinach and asparagus, for example. They have it arranged in nice little bunches, “tricking” us into buying the bunch, and charging whatever per pound. Often, the bunch is more than a pound.

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