Trying to eat more healthy foods on a budget? Check out these 15 foods that give you the most nutritional bang for your buck! This is a big list of great ideas!
Psst! Looking for more ideas? Check out these healthy freezer-friendly snack ideas, frugal and healthy snack ideas for kids, and these healthy breakfast ideas for busy mornings.
Guest post from Mary of Healthy Christian Home:
“That’ll be $157.12, please,” said the cashier as I stood, bewildered.
I thought, “Wait – I’m at ALDI! Surely the total can’t be that high??”
A quick survey of my shopping cart led me to realize that gourmet cheeses and unnecessary “healthy” snack foods contributed toward my hefty grocery bill.
As a family of real foodies who support our local farm and buy high quality foods on a tight budget, grocery shopping is a struggle.
How can we eat the most healthy, nutrient-dense foods without spending all of our hard-earned dollars?
When you ask a typical family why they eat junk food, the most common answer is “Because it’s cheaper.” While many junk foods are inexpensive (I’m looking at you, ramen noodles), it’s totally possible to purchase healthy foods on a budget!
With this in mind, I went on a mission to find the top 15 foods to give you the most nutritional bang for your buck.
Each of these foods will help your family stay healthy without emptying your wallet. Over time, they might even save you money on supplements/doctor’s bills because of how they improve your health. Plus, there are creative shopping/cooking ideas to help you incorporate them into a budget.
Are you ready to get the most nutrition per penny? Let’s dive in!
15 Healthy Foods to Buy on a Budget:
Everyone loves yogurt (especially kids), and it boasts high amounts of calcium and B vitamins. The best kind of yogurt to get is plain, unsweetened whole milk yogurt (you can add your own healthy sweeteners like honey or ripe fruits).
$ Tip: If your family eats a lot of yogurt, it’s easy to make yourself! There are lots of tutorials online for making your own yogurt in the crock pot or Instant Pot to save even more money.
2. Ground beef
Ground beef is an economical source of protein that is essential for building muscle. It’s also a great source of zinc & selenium and provides 41% DV of vitamin B12 and 18% DV of iron per serving.
$ Tip: While grass fed ground beef is the healthiest, it can be expensive. But if you have an ALDI near you, you can find it for $5.29 a pound! Other grocery stores typically charge around $7.50 per pound, so this is a great deal.
Or, contact a local farm and ask them about pricing for buying a cow or half a cow. You can often get better deals on quality meat this way, and store it in the deep freezer to use all year long.
Butter-lovers, rejoice — this one makes my list of healthy foods on a budget!
Many studies have now confirmed that healthy fats like butter are necessary for brain and organ function and do not increase your risk of heart disease (source). In fact, butter is a great source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
And never, ever buy a tub of margarine (made of rancid polyunsaturated vegetable oils) as a replacement for butter. It has no nutritional value whatsoever!
$ Tip: Stock up on butter when it’s on sale – it freezes well. During the holidays, butter is steeply discounted for baking season.
Psst! Try this Homemade Whipped Honey Butter for a special treat!
4. Brown Rice
Did you know that lots of people are magnesium deficient, and that homemade cooked brown rice is an amazing source of magnesium and B vitamins? You can also make fluffy brown rice that’s not sticky with a bit of practice.
Cooking Tip: Soaking your rice overnight before cooking eliminates anti-nutrients like phytic acid and unlocks all the vitamins and minerals within the grain. Learn more about traditional diet principles and why it’s important to soak grains before consuming to get the most nutrition.
At around $2 a dozen, eggs are the perfect healthy food when you’re on a budget — and they’re SO versatile! You can’t go wrong with eggs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! They are extremely nutritious, with lots of selenium, vitamin D, B vitamins, folate, and vitamin A. There’s a lot of nutrition in just one boiled egg!
Cooking Tip: Here are 3 tricks for making the fluffiest scrambled eggs.
6. Beans & Legumes
Beans are one of the cheapest overlooked superfoods! Pinto, black, kidney, navy, great northern… there are so many yummy varieties. Beans are loaded with folate, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, and iron.
$ Tip: Purchase dried beans instead of canned, since dried beans are MUCH cheaper. Canned beans also have added salt/preservatives that are best avoided. Make sure to soak beans overnight before cooking for maximum nutrition.
7. Seasonal Fruits
Eating fruits in season never crossed my mind until recently. In the past, I bought whatever fruit I craved without realizing why sometimes my favorites didn’t taste so good. It’s because I wasn’t eating them in season!
Eating out-of-season fruits means they have to be shipped from long distances to your store, making them less flavorful and more expensive.
When you buy in-season fruits, they’re often local and have higher amounts of vitamins and minerals too. Plus, they taste SO much better! Summer blackberries and winter citrus, anyone?
$ Tip: A rule of thumb — whichever fruits are on sale are usually in season. Triple-win for your tastebuds, nutrition, and wallet!
8. Whole chicken
Chicken is a wonderful source of protein that’s also rich in tryptophan, a stress-relieving mineral.
$ Tip: To get the most bang for your buck, buy a whole chicken and cook it in the crockpot or Instant Pot! Then, use the bones + veggies to make stock and these homemade bouillon cubes!
Psst! Need more inspiration? Check out how to get three meals out of one chicken!
9. Organ meats
Believe it or not, organ meats are one of the best healthy foods you can buy on a budget!
Traditional cultures knew that organ meats are some of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. For example, a serving of beef liver contains over 3000% DV of vitamin B12, plus a bunch of other nutrients!
Cooking tip: Don’t throw away the organs inside your whole chicken! Add them to the pot while you make broth. Other sneaky ways to add them to your family’s diet is to grind and add to meatballs, meatloaf, or chili. They’ll never know!
Cheap, starchy potatoes are the most versatile veggie, rich in vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B6. Eat the skins for additional nutrients!
For approximately $2 a pound, oatmeal is a healthy and cheap breakfast. Reap the benefits of iron, magnesium, & B vitamins!
Cooking Tip: Cover your oats with water and soak overnight before cooking for better digestion & increased nutrition.
12. Canned wild salmon
Fish is an important part of a balanced diet, especially for Omega-3s. But wild caught fish is expensive. So try canned instead – you can usually find wild caught at a low price. Buy canned salmon with bones, which adds a great dose of calcium!
13. Canned tomatoes
One of the best sources of lycopene for heart health, plus vitamins C and K, canned tomatoes are a cheap base for so many meals and sauces. They also retain much of their nutrition when canned. I always have them in my pantry!
We love buying a large 5 pound bag of carrots (only 68 cents a pound!) and adding them to smoothies and soups. They are rich in vitamin A!
15. Whole Milk
At just over $2 a gallon, milk is a wonderful source of nutrition as long as you tolerate it well. Make sure to get whole milk, not 2% or skim. (Healthy fats are important, remember?)
If you have a bit more wiggle room in your budget, try some raw dairy from a local farm which contains enzymes and probiotics (these are eliminated during the pasteurization process). Just visit the farm first to make sure they have sanitary farming practices.
$ Tip: Don’t bother with most store-bought organic milks, since many are UHT (ultra-high temperature) pasteurized. This kills almost all of the enzymes and probiotics in the milk. You’re better off with regular store-bought whole milk if you’re on a budget.
I hope this list helped you find some new healthy foods on a budget!
What are your favorite nutrient-dense, healthy foods on a budget?
Mary is a minister’s wife, mom of two boys, and former missionary to Scotland. She’s also the creator of Healthy Christian Home, where she points to God’s spiritual and physical nourishment through the natural world He has created. In her free time, you can find her with a cup of hot tea and a stack of books — or watching a new BBC series.