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Cheap Ways to Eat Healthy | 40 Nutritious Foods Under $3

Health food is now a booming industry, so businesses are charging top dollar for organic, non-GMO, hormone-free, gluten-free, fat-free, free-range celery. You read that right. Are you tired of the industry? Are you just looking for some cheap ways to eat healthy?

Well, look no further! Because we’ve got ya covered! 

So let’s start by talking about the cheapest health foods around, all ringing in under $3! Then we’ll chat about shopping for and preparing these foods in the most economical way possible.

Cheap Ways to Eat Healthy Proteins

  • Chicken breasts. This healthy, lean protein is tasty hot off the grill and cold atop salad greens.
  • Canned salmon/tuna. An economical way to add more omega-3 to your diet! Splurge on pouches to make them more portable.
  • Eggs. Scramble them with veggies to pack a bigger nutritional punch, or throw a few hard-boiled eggs into your lunchbox to up your protein intake, all for just 10 to 25 cents each!
  • Milk. Don’t overlook a good old-fashioned glass of milk! It’s filling, great for your teeth and bones, and ranges from skim to whole-fat, to fit any diet.
  • Yogurt. Regular and Greek yogurts are both filled with protein, calcium, and probiotics. Just be sure to read labels to avoid boatloads of added sugar.
  • Cottage cheese. This protein-packed snack can be eaten alone or topped with fruit.
  • Lentils. Lentils actually contain more protein than beef! Eaten by themselves, in a soup, or as a ground beef substitute, these legumes are cheap and versatile!
  • Black beans. Black beans bring protein, fiber, and lots of important minerals to the party! Get them even cheaper by buying them dry and cooking them at home.
  • Pinto and/or refried beans. One of your favorite Mexican sides is full of protein and fiber, and can be used in soups, salads, or heart-healthy dips.
  • Garbanzo beans/chickpeas. A little homemade hummus, anyone? Or try roasting them for a crunchy snack! Buy them dry and cook them at home, and you can snag an entire pound for less than a dollar.
  • Old-fashioned oats. They’re low in fat, high in fiber and antioxidants, and can be used in oatmeal, smoothies, or even no-bake energy bites.
  • Almonds. Small and easy to pack, almonds are full of healthy fats and fiber.
  • Pumpkin seeds. Packed with essential vitamins and minerals, these seeds can be added to salads, soups, granola, or hummus, or simply roasted for a tasty snack.

Cheap Ways to Eat Healthy Whole Grains

  • Brown rice. Although we’re trying to keep carbs to a minimum in our home, sometimes you just need some rice! Brown rice is a fantastic alternative to white, and brings plenty of fiber to the table.
  • Quinoa. This yummy side comes with protein, fiber, and all nine essential amino acids.
  • Whole-wheat pasta. Give it a try! Because you may find you actually enjoy the more complex taste of whole-wheat pasta over regular. Plus, you’ll be raking in the antioxidants and fiber that your body needs.
  • Whole-wheat pita bread. I. love. sandwiches. Like, love to the point my husband sighs dramatically every time it’s my turn to choose lunch. But piles of bread can quickly negate any healthy ingredients sandwiched in between. A wonderful alternative is whole-wheat pita bread. You can buy it from the grocery store or make your own pretty easily to avoid added oils and sugars.

Cheap Ways to Eat Healthy Produce

  • Frozen veggies. Yes, this covers a wide range of veggies. The main point is that frozen is often cheaper than fresh, and steamable bags make healthy eating that much easier.
  • Fresh veggies. Carrots, celery, peppers, and broccoli can be enjoyed alone or dipped in hummus or ranch dressing. Spinach and kale make killer salads or smoothie additions. And don’t forget onions, squash, and sweet potatoes to beef up dinners!
  • Fresh fruits. Apples, oranges, bananas, and pears, are all cheap and simple enough to throw into a lunchbox. Grapes and cantaloupe are other healthy, affordable options.
  • Avocados. Yes, they deserve their own bullet! Because this superfood is filling, packed with nutrients, and rings in under a buck.
  • Frozen edamame. Pretend you’re at your favorite Asian restaurant instead of sitting at home watching reruns of Friends. They’re full of fiber and protein, and pack well for lunches and snacks on the go.
  • Jarred marinara sauce. Believe it or not, many marinara and spaghetti sauces are pretty healthy for you, containing just tomatoes and a few herbs and seasonings. Read labels to find one without added sugars or ingredients you don’t recognize.
  • Canned pumpkin. Love the flavor and antioxidants of pumpkin, but not feelin’ the work of scooping one out? Canned pumpkin is ready to roll straight into your muffins, smoothies, and more!

Shopping For and Prepping Foods Economically

Now that you know what you’re buying, let’s chat about how to shop for and prepare those ingredients more economically.

  • Don’t go grocery shopping hungry. If you are hungry, eat a small snack, like a cup of Greek yogurt or a handful of almonds, before shopping or running other errands.
  • Use free curbside services like Walmart Grocery if you’re dangerous in the grocery store. Some of us just can’t step foot in a grocery store without a bag of cookies falling into our carts. (Here’s looking at you, husband!) If you’re notorious for this behavior, order all of your healthy foods online, have it loaded directly into your trunk, and speed away before you can hear the cookies calling you from inside!
  • Snag fruits and veggies at a discount using subscription services like Imperfect Produce. I’ve been loving my subscription to Imperfect Produce, a company that collects “ugly” produce directly from farms and delivers it to my front door for about 30% less than the grocery store! Some produce is “ugly” (not the perfect shape, size, or color for grocery store sales) and some is simply farm surplus! When you customize your order every week, they let you know the exact details of the “ugliness”, so you can decide. Check it out here! 
  • Buy in bulk and portion out servings at home. I’m a sucker for pre-cubed cheeses, 100-calorie packs of nuts, and “protein packs” that combine turkey, nuts, and dried cranberries into a cute little package you can throw in your purse. While these snacks will save you time, they’re gonna cost you more money. Buying what you want in bulk, and then dicing/slicing/portioning it yourself, is a fantastic way to cut your grocery bill.

Wrap It Up

There are lots of cheap ways to eat healthy, including knowing which foods to buy, and then shopping for and prepping them economically. You don’t have to spend a million dollars to feel like a million bucks. So here’s to your health!

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