If eating nutritious foods could be cheap, convenient, and really good for you, wouldn’t you eat healthy?
When we eat nutritious foods, we feel good, have abundant energy, our skin radiates, and we’re generally happier people.
I went from clinically obese to fit (all on a very tight budget!). It’s possible to eat healthy, filling meals. I never went hungry since I was eating food with a ton of fiber and flavor.
Here’s a list of the healthiest foods for a tight budget (and many tips to lower your spending!).
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Dirty Dozen List (foods that you should try to buy organic)
- hot peppers
- sweet bell peppers
Foods that you don’t necessarily need to buy organic:
- sweet corn
- frozen peas
1. In Season Produce (fruits and vegetables)
In season produce will be a lot cheaper since farmers are mass producing these foods.
In season produce is also fresher, sweeter, and generally more nutritious.
Tip: Use Ibotta to save money on healthy foods at the store. Get $10 just for signing up here.
Benefits of eating vegetables & fruits:
- high in essential nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folate
- low in sodium, fat, calories
- zero cholesterol
- may reduce heart disease and stroke
- may lower blood pressure
- may lower the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss
The most affordable vegetables & fruits:
Tips for cooking with vegetables & fruits:
- add in oatmeals, smoothies, protein shakes
- make banana ice cream (3 frozen bananas + fruit of your choice)
- grill certain fruits like pineapples, apples
Months where fruit is in-season
January: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas (my fav!), and tangerines.
February: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips.
March: Artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, pineapples, radishes, rutabagas, and turnips.
April: Artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, honeydew, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, pineapples, radishes, and spring peas.
May: Apricots, artichokes, asparagus, cherries, green beans, honeydew, lettuce, mangoes, okra, pineapples, radishes, spring peas, strawberries, swiss chard, and zucchini.
June: Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, corn, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, peaches, strawberries, swiss chard, watermelon, and zucchini.
July: Apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, peaches, peppers, plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, tomatoes, watermelon, and zucchini.
August: Apples, apricots, blueberries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, peaches, peppers, plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, winter squash, and zucchini.
September: Acorn squash, apples, beets, butternut squash, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, figs, grapes, green beans, lettuce, mangoes, mushrooms, peppers, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkins, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, and tomatoes.
October: Acorn squash, apples, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, cranberries, grapes, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkins, rutabagas, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, turnips, and winter squash.
November: Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cranberries (surprised? LOL), leeks, mushrooms, oranges, parsnips, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkins, rutabagas, spinach, sweet potatoes, tangerines, turnips, and winter squash.
December: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, mushrooms, oranges, papayas, parsnips, pears, pomegranates, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, tangerines, and turnips.
Tip: Stay away from prepackaged fruit at all costs. It’s overpriced and marked up simply for the convenience of being sliced.
2. Whole Grains
Whole grains are a satisfying, filling, and cheap way to eat healthy foods and stay on a budget.
Benefits of eating whole grains:
- contains high amounts of nutrients and fiber
- supports healthy digestion
- lowers risks of heart disease, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes
- reduces chronic inflammation and cancer
The most affordable whole grains are:
- wild rice
Tips to cook with whole grains:
- opt for whole grain pasta and bread instead of white
- look for cereals made with whole grains and low or no sugar added
- add cooked wheat to soups
- made a recipe out of this handy whole grain recipe book
- replace 1/3 of flour for quick oats
- make big batches of food when cooking whole grains (ex. cooking enough quinoa or rice for a few days)
You can get 1 pound of veggie pasta for under $1.50, tomato sauce for under $3, and add mushrooms, spinach, and other vegetables to create a cheap meal that is both fillings and has a lot of nutrients.
Making pasta is one of my favorite meals to make because it takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, and only a handful of ingredients.
Benefits of eating pasta:
- keeps you fuller longer
- whole grains have many health benefits
- affordable (pasta is incredibly cheap and satisfying
- simple and easy to make
- low in sodium and fat
The most affordable pastas are:
- stick to whole grain pasta
- no need to buy gluten-free unless you have celiac disease or issues with gluten
- red lentil and chickpea pasta is great, but can be expensive $$$
Tips to cook with pasta:
- always measure noodles before cooking pasta
- add vegetables like fresh tomatoes, spinach, and onions to pasta
- always use whole grain pasta (or chickpea/red lentil pasta assortment)
- cook lasagna with whole grain pasta
Potatoes are often overlooked in the health and nutrition world when they are in fact one of the healthiest foods in the world.
They’re also in-season all year long.
Benefits of eating potatoes:
- low in sodium, fat-free
- numerous vitamins and minerals
- high in vitamin C and potassium
- a ton of fiber to keep you full and satisfied
- may help reduce constipation and inflammation
The most affordable potatoes are:
- potatoes are all affordable. sweet potatoes and
Tips for eating potatoes
Nuts can be very cheap and packed with vital nutrients that our bodies need.
Benefits of eating nuts:
- packed with “good fats”, such as monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats
- high omega-3 fatty acids
- high in fiber, vitamin E, and other nutrients
The most affordable nuts are:
- peanuts (technically a legume, but we are counting it as a nut here)
Tips for eating nuts:
- create your own peanut butter at home with this recipe
- do not buy peanut butter with high fructose corn syrup
- buy nuts in bulk at health stores
- add into smoothies, oatmeal, or eat as quick snack
- do not buy or eat nuts that are covered in chocolate, salt, etc.
Beans are cheap in the can, but even cheaper when they’re dry in a bag.
Dried beans are 1/2 cheaper than canned beans but take longer to prepare.
Benefits of eating beans:
- packed with fiber and protein
- high in potassium and other vitamins
- may reduce cancer and other diseases
- helps keep full and satisfied
The most affordable beans are:
- black beans
- garbanzo beans
- red kidney beans
- all beans are affordable and delicious ☺️
Tips for eating beans:
Related: 9 Easy Ways To Lose A Pound A Week
Bonus: Vegetable Stir Fry
Stir Fry is one of the easiest, quickest, and tastiest meals you can make at home if you’re on a budget.
If you’re in a time crunch, mix in frozen pre-cut vegetables.
My favorite vegetable stir fry recipes:
➡️ What to read next: 30 Ways To Cut Your Spending And Save Thousands Per Year
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What other foods are inexpensive and healthy?