People often think that to eat healthier, you have to spend more money. And while certain foods, like grass-fed beef, can jack up your grocery bill, some of the most nutritious foods happen to be some of the cheapest.
I’ve talked about eating healthy on a budget, but if you are really strapped for cash, you have to make every dollar count. Organic is always preferred, but even conventional options of these foods will still have good nutrition.
This list of foods contain some of the most nutrition per dollar, and the greatest bang for your buck.
How Much Does it REALLY Cost?
I went to Walmart, one of the most common and available stores within the United States and found all of these items, opting for the best quality available. Most people have a Walmart somewhat near them, and can find the same, or at least similar brands. I opted for organic when I could find it and purchased enough for one person. Obviously the size of your family and the amount you buy will determine how much your total cost will be. My total for everything came to about $28.
Of course, if there are other, cheaper stores near you, like Aldi, you may be able to find some of these food for even less than I did!
These little gems are a super affordable protein option, and are full of choline, Vitamin B, selenium and a host of other vitamins an minerals. The best option is to find a local farmer who raises pastured chickens. I buy my eggs for $3/dozen for fresh pastured eggs. But if that’s not an option, store-bought organic eggs are a solid choice.
I know I talk about liver a lot, but that’s because it really is one of the most nutritious foods out there, especially for the cost. It contains more nutrients, gram for gram, than ANY OTHER FOOD. Full of iron, B vitamins, folate, vitamin A, and even trace amounts of minerals like copper and zinc.
I’ve found pastured beef liver for $5/pound at my local farmer’s market, but most grocery stores at least carry chicken livers.
Full disclosure, I have yet to try sardines. To be honest, I’m a little afraid of them. It’s just hard to wrap my mind around eating a whole little fish.
These tiny guys have way more omega 3 fats and way less toxins than their tuna counterparts, not to mention calcium, selenium, iodine, and vitamin D. Look for varieties packed in olive oil, not soybean oil. Most cans will run you somewhere between $1-$3 depending on the brand you choose. I went with Wild Planet Wild Sardines for their sustainable practices.
I’m going to be trying these soon. (Gulp.) For real.
Any leafy green is going to be backed full of nutrients (so many, I can’t name them all), but kale holds a special place in my heart for two reasons: I find it less bitter than other greens, and it’s often the cheapest. If you don’t care for kale raw, it’s perfect to add to soups or saute with a little ghee and garlic. (Which is also a little nutrient power house!)
I’ve found prices for kale as low as $.89/bunch, and you can’t beat that. But even when prices are a little higher, it’s still a good bang for your buck
These bad boys pack a serious nutrient punch. Great for runners and pregnant or nursing moms, sweet potatoes are full or vitamin A, potassium, beta carotene, vitamin C, fiber and much more.
Sweet potatoes are super affordable, last for weeks, and provide “bulk” for meals to help stretch your dollar. I’ve found sweet potatoes as low as $.59/pound at other stores, but at Walmart they were priced at $.99/ pound.
In my opinion, dark meat is where it’s at. It’s cheaper and often tastier than the leaner breasts. Drumsticks are crazy affordable, especially since I always want quality when shopping for meat. (Sick animals will make sick humans.) Organic chicken can seriously jack up your grocery bill, so choosing affordable cuts like drumsticks helps keep cost down. I actually like to get my chicken drums at Costco where the price is cheaper. At Walmart I wasn’t able to find pastured or organic, but I found decent drumsticks that were still affordable.
Chicken, especially dark meat, is full of minerals, like iron, as well as necessary B vitamins, but what really makes these bad boys a bang for your buck, is once you’ve eaten the meat, save the bones and make a mineral-rich broth for added nutrition!
Plant-based protein is almost always cheaper than the animal kind, so if you’re trying to tighten up the purse strings while simultaneously eating more healthfully, lentils are a great option.
Full of protein, fiber, folate, magnesium, manganese, iron, and vitamin B6 (as well as many others) lentils are a great option for inexpensive protein. And if you are sensitive to legumes or too many carbohydrates, lentils are often tolerated better than big starchy beans like kidney beans. Black beans would be another great option if you don’t like lentils.
I found a small bag of lentils at Walmart for $.99 which is enough for several servings.
Berries are full of antioxidants, which help fight off cancer-causing free radicals in the body. But berries, especially organic and out of season, can really add up. One of the greatest ways to optimize the nutrition of berries and cut costs is to purchase frozen berries. They’ve been picked at the peak of freshness and flash-frozen so they are often more nutritious than fresh.
I typically like to buy giant bag of wild blueberries from Costco for around $8, and I was able to find a big bag of wild blueberries at Walmart. I opted to buy a small bag of organic mixed berries for under $3. Perfect for throwing into a smoothie or eating with plain, whole-fat yogurt.
Like most greens, broccoli is a mega nutrient bomb. Vitamins K and C, iron, potassium, folate, and plenty of fiber make up this green machine. It also has plenty of cancer-fighting antioxidants and even a decent amount of protein. Lightly steaming it provides the best health benefits, but eaten cooked or raw, this little “tree” is a nutritional gem.
Broccoli is also crazy inexpensive and fairly hardy so if you buy a lot at once, it’ll last for a week or two in your fridge. Normally I buy a couple of pounds for my family since we eat so much of it. Bonus point: it’s on the EWG’s Clean 15 list, so buy the conventional option!
I love avocados and not just because they are the basis for guacamole. Avocados are a monounsaturated fat, full of about 20 vitamins and minerals, and are so creamy and tasty.
But of course, to make it on this list, they have to be priced right! You can often find avocados for less than a buck a piece; I found them for $.89 apiece at Walmart. Another Clean 15 winner, conventional avocados are a perfect buy!
While I did get some comments from the cashier about my “unorthodox” groceries, I managed to buy quite a few nutritious foods for a decent price. Try incorporating some or all of these foods for the best bang for your buck!
Best “Bang for your Buck” Recipes
Of course you need to actually know how to cook with all these foods, so I’ve included some of my favorite recipes!
P.S. If I manage to create a sardine recipe that tastes good, I’ll keep you posted!