One of the comments I hear all the time is that eating healthy is expensive. The answer is yes and no. I mean, if we’re talking about $10 kale smoothies and avocado toast from the hipster café down the street, well yes – most people can’t afford that every day either. However, if you look at foods in your grocery store right now (not even the fancy foodie grocers), you’ll find foods that are BOTH nutrient dense and calorically dense. This means that you can eat nutritiously even on a budget. Whaaaat? …..yep, you heard me.
My husband and I talk about this A LOT. What is his theory? Calories are calories and I just want to eat to fill up. So sometimes he chooses options that are inexpensive and calorically dense to not have to think about eating again anytime soon. Think dollar menu versus plain-ish spinach salad. Neither of these options is terribly nutrient dense. They are both relatively limited. The dollar menu may be more calorically dense and heavy on fat, sodium with fewer vitamins and minerals. However the spinach salad will leave you hungry even if you just fed your face a vitamin bomb.
For people on a limited food budget, I get it. Sometimes it’s like choosing between getting enough calories and getting enough nutrients. Well, what if I told you that you don’t have to choose? I am 100% certain that you can eat nutritionally balanced for less than $5 per day. Listed below are my favorite budget-friendly foods:
Peanut butter is a fantastic source of protein and vitamin E and costs about fifteen cents a serving. This nutritionally dense bargain is my absolute favorite. From my go-to snack of peanut butter + apples to our favorite Asian Peanut-y Noodles, it’s one of the most versatile foods out there. Shopping Tip: Buy peanut butter with no added sugar.
You know this list wouldn’t be complete without beans. Usually we always hear about dry beans, but if you don’t have time, even the canned options provide superb nutrition at a fraction of the cost of animal proteins. For example, a can of black beans at Publix cost $.69, or .19 cents per ½ cup (4oz) serving with 7 grams of protein. Meanwhile according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 4oz of cooked extra lean ground beef costs $1.42 with 28 grams of protein. That’s 2 cents per gram of protein in the black beans and 5 cents per gram of protein in the beef. It may not seem like much but when we’re talking $100 grocery bills compared to $50 grocery bills, it’s a really big deal! It adds up and of course is even more of a cost savings if you are using dry beans. Shopping Tip: Stick to the low sodium canned beans.
Rice is the long standing staple food for several cultures for a reason. It’s cheap and super nutritious. Sticking to the brown varieties maintains the B vitamins and minerals such as iron and phosphorus. It’s a low glycemic food with 5 grams of protein in 1 cup of cooked brown rice with an average of 1.8 cents per gram of protein. Shopping Tip: Buy instant brown rice to save cooking time. provides similar nutrition and cooks in less time than long grain.
Overnight oats. Cooked Oatmeal. Oats blended in veggie burgers/lentil loafs/bread. Any way you can think about consuming oats is a good option. At about ½ cent per gram of protein, it’s an exceptionally inexpensive versatile option. Oatmeal provides vitamins, fiber, and 5-6 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked. And oats are gluten free too! Shopping Tip: Head over to the bulk aisle to get the cheapest oatmeal
This may not be everyone’s favorite, but I would encourage you to try again with a different recipe (I can help you out if needed!). Tofu can be very inexpensive with a huge nutrition profile (protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper…the list keeps going). In a nutshell, research tells us the best way to improve our health (and environment) is to eat more plants and plant protein. Not sure you could eat tofu as an entrée? Mix the shelf stable tetra packs of tofu into a fruit based smoothie. Shopping Tip: Tofu is usually found in the produce section. I recommend buying the “Firm” or “Extra Firm” blocks.
If you’re looking to save a buck or two, go plant-based more often with these everyday nutrient dense foods. I hope this helped bring valuable insight into your happy healthy eating journey.
I’m so happy and honored you allowed me to be a part of your journey.
Hugs and love,