Healthy food gets a bad rap for being expensive, but it doesn’t have to break your budget. These are all staples that I keep on hand for quick, healthy, and affordable meals!
Dried pasta is a staple that everyone should have on hand. If you prefer to eat healthier pasta, whole wheat is only a few cents more and is even better for you. Pasta fills you up, it’s cheap and the ways to make it are endless. My kids grew up on “white spaghetti”, which is just cooked noodles, olive oil, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.
My easy goulash recipe will feed the whole family for less than $10!
Rice goes with everything. Literally. Having eggs? Add some rice. Eating tacos for dinner? Add some rice. It’s a great filler! I use it often to stretch soups and casseroles. Good ‘ole white rice is our favorite, and it also happens to be the cheapest. Try using broth instead of water. It adds a ton of flavor! You can also throw in some herbs to go with the type of cuisine you’re making it with.
Beans come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and tastes. Similar to rice, they can be added to many dishes, and there are endless ways to cook them. Beans are full of protein, vitamins, and minerals, so they’re not only a cheap pantry staple but a healthy one too! Try my three bean salad for a healthy lunch or snack that costs around $5 to make. My husband regularly requests this during the summer. It’s great cold or at room temperature. My black bean & orzo stuffed peppers are a meal in themselves!
Oats aren’t just for breakfast! You can use them in granola bars, meatballs, cookies, and cakes. They’re incredibly good for you and add both fiber and nutrients to whatever you use them in. You can even add them to smoothies to make them more filling…and healthier!
Produce isn’t on most people’s healthy food list because they feel it’s too expensive, but that’s not always the case. You can usually find bags of apples, onions, carrots, and potatoes for around $2, and they’ll last you a while. Try adding chopped fruit to oatmeal, cereal or smoothies for a more filling, healthy meal. Diced veggies are a delicious way to stretch eggs, soups and pasta dishes.
Check out my tips for saving on produce for even more ways to save.
Canned tuna and salmon can be found at every grocery store and are a great way to add lean protein to a dish. Tuna salad is cheap and healthy. Serve it on sandwiches or over a bed of lettuce. Salmon cakes are incredibly easy to make and full of flavor, texture, and nutrients!
I love the frozen mixes of onion, celery and bell peppers. For around $1.50 a bag, they not only save money but tons of time too! Between the time fresh produce is picked and it finds its way to your table, it can lose up to 45% of its nutrients. In many cases, frozen vegetables are more nutritious because they’re flash frozen within hours of being picked, which retains most of the nutrients. In addition to being a better value (most of the time), frozen veggies require no peeling or chopping, and can be used in all kinds of dishes!
You might not thin of peanut butter as a halthy fod, but it is surprisingly high in protein and high in nutrients! Spend the few extra dollars on an all-natural variety, and your body will thank you. When eaten in moderation a jar of peanut butter can last a long time and costs around 24¢ per serving. I love to add it to my smoothies, and my kids favorite snack in the whole wide world are grilled pb&j sandwiches!
I know, I know. The prices per pound on those bulk bins are shocking, but they can save you some money, especially if you only need a small amount. I recently needed turmeric for a recipe. Turmeric is not something I usually use, so I didn’t need a whole jar and didn’t want to spend the $5+ it would cost me. Instead, I went straight to the bulk bins and bought exactly two teaspoons for $0.59, which is what the recipe called for. The bulk bins have everything from grain, to spices to nuts, so they might be worth checking out the next time you go shopping!
Ok, this is a personal favorite. Not only are popcorn kernels ridiculously cheap, but popcorn is just a satisfying, healthy snack. We make it at least three times a week, and it’s a lot easier than you might think. I add 1/4 cup to a brown paper bag, sprinkle in some salt and about a teaspoon of olive oil. Fold the top over three times, put it in the microwave, and cook it on high until you hear no popping for 3 seconds. Voilà. Quick, healthy, cheap and delish! The kids have fun helping with this too 😉