Cheap Healthy Food: It's More Than "Possible"
Who said healthy food had to be expensive? I hope this list of cheap, healthy foods will show otherwise!
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I think the first thing to realize is that processed junk food only LOOKS cheaper. A really eye-opening exercise is to look at what you're actually paying, ounce-per-ounce.
For instance, look at this example:
- A bag of potato chips is usually only about 10 OUNCES. This is 0.62 pounds. You traditionally pay about $4 for this bag in your grocery store and can easily eat it in one sitting and still be hungry.
- The average price of a 5 POUND bag of potatoes runs about $4. You're getting over 500% more potato for the same price.
- The average price of 16 ounces of carrots (1 lb) is 89 CENTS. You're getting 30% more than the potato chips for 1/4 the price.
Those carrots and potatoes will also last you much longer because they are much more fulling, and you're likely to feel much better after eating them as well.
You can do this will any list of healthy foods - the whole food version will almost always equal the same or less than the processed food.
Why is this? Simple: You're paying for the manufacturing of a product, on top of the cost of growing the ingredients. That a lot of extra markup necessary for those businesses to make enough money stay in business.
But cheap, healthy food is found all over your grocery store, and with a little meal planning you can know how to prepare it, save money, and feel great.
IMPORTANT: The word "healthy" is a subjective one, meaning it's a matter of opinion. I'm including all generally recognized whole foods on this list, but that doesn't mean they are actually going to be healthy for YOU. For instance, wheat is about the worse thing my body could consume. Beans and rice also don't make me feel well. So please take this list as a recommendation to inspire you to save money and eat better, but also listen to your body and remove anything that doesn't sit well with you.
The List of Cheap, Healthy Food
Keep in mind that food prices will ALWAYS vary from region to region, store to store, week to week, season to season. Keeping these foods inexpensive may be challenging in some instances, so look for sales whenever possible and buy IN SEASON. Choosing organic can certainly increase the cost of your foods, but they don't have to with a few tricks. However, despite any potential drawbacks, price per pound, these cheap, healthy foods will always be the better bet for your budget.
- Apples - choose organic whenever possible
- Bananas - choose organic whenever possible
- Beans - Kidney, black, pinto...dried is the best price (cook in slow cooker to save time)
- Bone Broths - Using a beef bone or chicken carcass, you can make probably the best cheap healthy food possible. Just cook them in the crockpot for 2-10 days until the bones are breaking down, strain, freeze, and use in other recipes.
- Carrots - one of the best foods to add to every meal
- Celery - Ants on a log make a great snack
- Chicken - a whole chicken is always your best bet, look for organic
- Dark, leafy greens - kale, collard, turnip, mustard...try sauteed with any meal
- Eggs - Choose organic, or better yet, know the source personally
- Garbanzos (chickpeas) - Usually canned, they are inexpensive and an easy addition to salads.
- Green Beans - frozen or fresh (avoid canned)
- Grapefruit - Almost always a better option for cheap, healthy food over other citrus fruits.
- Lentils - use instead of meat in Sloppy Joe's, mmm
- Liver - Okay, i personally am not a fan of organ meats, but if they are from a good source, they are certainly cheap healthy food.
- Meat, large cuts - the more in bulk you buy, or the less prepared it is (avoid "stew meats" and choose whole roasts) the easier this is to make a "cheap healthy food". You can also make things like stew or skillets that are light on the meat and heavy on the veggies to stretch your dollar further.
- Oatmeal - inexpensive and easy to "spruce" up, but avoid the instant or single packets and get the traditional oats in bulk.
- Oranges - seasonal prices are always best
- Rice - try in place of pasta
- Seasonal Produce - Strawberries, cantaloupe, asparagus, artichokes, grapes can all be found for great prices in their peak season. Off-season is where the prices hike.
- Squash - Summer or winter squash is both very affordable, nutrient dense and filling. Be sure your summer squash is organic, as it's most likely to be GMO.
- Sweet Potatoes - One of the best veggies, filling and filled with health. We like ours in curry dishes.
- Sunflower seeds - Grow these yourself (super easy and super cheap) and eat them as snacks or added to salads.
- Tomatoes - I recommend growing these yourself (it's easy and cheap), and if you choose canned, be sure they are BPA-free cans. Otherwise stick with only buying the in season.
All of these cheap healthy foods will be pretty boring, unless you learn how to cook them up in new and untraditional ways. Check out our Sustainable Meal Planning for the Real World for more ideas.
Some other cheap healthy foods to consider:
- Homemade - Making your own homemade butter, garlic and onion powder, or anything else you're accustomed to buying is going to turn expensive purchases into cheap, healthy food.
- Homegrown - Growing any amount of fruits, veggies, seeds, or nuts is going to save you big over the longrun.
- Backyard Farm Animals - Raising chickens as pets for eggs is super simple. And if you're ready for a big step, you can try your hand at animals for meat
- Pick-your-own - Local, pick-your-own farms often have great and very inexpensive options for local, in-season produce.
- Don't forget to get more ideas on making organic food affordable here.
Interested in Affordable, Healthy Food?
I'm extremely proud to present to you the Sustainable Baby Steps guides, helping you delve into the topic of making organic food affordable and simple with easy-to-digest, step-by-step information, inspiration, and tools to help you live green and healthy. Sweet, right?