Budget-Friendly Foods: Top 5 Healthy Picks

by in Healthy Tips, March 1, 2010


These days, who’s not watching their wallets along with their waistlines? After some number crunching, we came up with top foods that give you maximum nutrition for your food buck.

1) Eggs
Instead of expensive chicken, fish or beef for dinner, why not cook up a veggie omelet or frittata (my new favorite way to cook eggs!)? An egg-cellent source of protein and the antioxidant lutein (for healthy eyes, skin, and heart), one large egg contains 75 calories and 6 grams of protein. Boil up a few and store them in the fridge for a quick grab-and-go snack. I even pack a hard-boiled egg in my five-year-old’s lunch box at least once a week. A dozen large eggs range from $2 to $3.20. If you buy them in 1.5 dozen packs or larger (bulk warehouses sell seven to eight dozen packs), you’ll pay even less per egg. If that’s too many eggs for your fridge basket, split them with a friend.

2) Oranges
Add affordable fruits to your weekly shopping list — oranges, apples, and bananas. In season now are vitamin C-rich oranges, so you’ll find them at the best price (about 50 cents each). In the fall, fill your cart up with fresh apples. You’ll find bananas at a great price year-round (I’ve recently seen them at 19 cents each). Use these bargain fruits as snacks and cereal toppers (as opposed to some of the more pricey berries and tropical fruits). Frozen bananas also make a tasty addition to healthy fruit smoothies.

3) Oats
The large canisters of plain rolled oats — not those single-serving, sugary ones — will give you the most for your dollar. One serving of oatmeal (made from a half-cup of dry oats) contains 150 calories, 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of cholesterol-friendly fiber — all that for a mere 30 cents. Dress up your oatmeal with those budget-friendly fruits listed above or mix in a tablespoon of peanut butter (another food that deserves honorable mention for being budget-friendly). Add rolled oats to your smoothie or cookies for a little extra fiber.

4) Canned Tomatoes
This time of year, fresh tomatoes will cost you a pretty penny. But you can still get plenty of the antioxidants vitamin C and lycopene from the canned varieties. The larger the can, the more you’ll save. A 48-ounce can of crushed tomatoes costs around $1.50 (that’s 5 cents per ounce!). Add crushed tomatoes to soups, stews, chili and pasta dishes. Read up on more ways to cook with canned tomatoes.

5) Non-Fat Yogurt
Full of calcium and a good protein source, this creamy treat is an easy breakfast or on-the-go snack. But the real superstars in yogurt are those healthy, live bacteria called probiotics. They help your body fight off bad bacteria and keep your digestive system in tip-top shape. Choose yogurt made with skim milk and without sugar substitutes. The generic brands cost less, especially if you find them in large 32-ounce tubs. They will save you 20% for the same amount in single-serve containers. If you’re looking to eat less sugar, choose plain yogurt and top with your favorite add-ins — raisins, chunks of fruit or a few tablespoons of granola. Helpful hint: Since yogurts have a  shelf-life of a few months, you’ll often find your favorite yogurt on sale (the stores must get them off the shelves) so check the weekly circular.

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Comments (19)

  1. As a college student, I eat oatmeal with nut butter for breakfast every morning for a cheap and healthy source of energy. Also, eggs are fantastically versatile and easy to cook in the simplest of kitchens

  2. Julie says:

    I'm happy to see these are all foods we're embracing right now.
    I do have some qualms about canned tomatoes because they use BPA in the plastic lining of the metal cans. I'm planning to plant lots of tomatoes this year in hopes I can can my own to get the benefits without the risk.
    And I love oats! This is probably gross to most people, but I like plain, uncooked rolled oats as a snack.

  3. melikeittoo says:

    I thought that canned tomatoes were among the foods that most MDs recommend we DO NOT eat. I read that the lycopene causes the can to somehow breakdown, causing toxic (cancer causing) substance to be released. I love canned tomatoes and they were a staple in my diet until I read that they were bad for me. Please help end the confusion :)

  4. Darlene Buchanan says:

    We eat oatcakes almost every morning. Mix 1 cup dry oats in a bowl with a tablespoon or 2 of hot water to make a pasty but firm ball of oatmeal, then put it between 2 pieces of saran wrap and roll out thin with a rolling pin, the saran wrap will keep it from sticking,after rolling thin, take it out of the saran wrap, then put in a teflon pan and brown, they are delicious plain or with some dried cranberries or nuts mixed in the dough before rolling out, also good with cheese on top, try it, a great alternative to a soggy bowl of oatmeal, smile. enjoy.

  5. Kelly says:

    My kids love when I make them what I call pizza eggs for breakfast. I chop one small tomato and a large handful of spinach. I sprinkle them both with a little salt, pepper and dried oregano. I use a nonstick skillet on medium heat sprayed with cooking spray or small amount of olive oil. After the pan is warmed up I add the chopped tomato until softened, then the spinach until softened. Then I add 3 or 4 eggs (however many you want) that I whipped up in a bowl, to the tomato and spinach mixture. Sprinkle with a little grated parmesan and using a spatula move all the ingredients around in the pan until you have your pizza scramble eggs. It makes me feel good that my kids are starting there school day with protein and veggies.

  6. april says:

    The only objection I have is to canned tomatoes. Tomatoes are high in acid, which creates a need for a lining in the cans. This special lining contains carcinogens. I prefer the pomi brand tomatoes that come in a soymilk type of container…or fresh :)

  7. jasmine says:

    My kids love when i make them what i call ham,cheese,and bacon mixed together. What i do is get ham,cheese,egg's,and bacon and cook it all together and it's called the break burito. it's only called the break burito because you can take it with you to work and other places to it can be the on the go burito.My kids are full and focused when they go to school,it makes me feel good that my kids go to school happy and come home happy!

  8. judie says:

    Take some of that oatmeal with some raisens and nuts and a little honey and bake for about 15-20 in low heat oven and enjoy your granola. Honey processed you your local area is suppose to help with alergies. That's a two for one. You can find some good granola recipes online. Enjoy!

  9. Linda says:

    Del Monte also now puts tomatoes in jars.

  10. Pam T. says:

    This is a very inexpensive breakfast and easy to do. I cook a large pot of oatmeal or groats (my favorite) on the weekend. Eat what you want right away and let the rest cool. Divvy the remainder of the pot into single servings and add brown sugar and a bit of butter and store in the fridge. If you don't have enough bowls butter containers with lids work well, dump cereal into a bowl before putting in microwave. Each morning I have hot oatmeal with just the right amount of flavorings after only a minute or two in the microwave. I like to add milk at the last minute but you could also add it when you make the individual servings. Much cheaper than the packets and better for you too.

  11. Patty says:

    That sounds good! I can't believe I never heard of it before. Thanks.

  12. Patty says:

    Yes I quit buying them in cans because of the BPA. I grow zillions of them then I wash them, core them and freeze them until winter (or when ever I need cooked or canned tomatoes) when the fresh ones are gone. I bought a food mill to get out the skin and seeds for some recipes. It is hand turned and a really good one is about $100 if you can do it. Then you can drink it or reduce it down to make a thick sauce or paste. (I make my own catsup) Of course some recipes don't need the food mill. The frozen ones aren't the texture of fresh tomatoes but the flavor is still wonderful in cooking and no BHP

  13. Patty says:

    Another new & interesting idea I will have to try! Thanks.

  14. Patty says:

    What a great MOM! And, another good idea. I have done something similar…I just call it a scramble and did not add the pizza herbs or cheese. I frequently make a "scramble" with any assortment of left over or fresh cooked potatoes, vegies and meat and often even add in leftover tortillas and then the eggs at the last. Always delicious.

  15. jasmine says:

    I do almost the same thing!

  16. april says:

    pomi makes tomatoes in a healthier container

  17. Kristin says:

    Here is an exert of a new cook book: ""Ten things you need to eat." Chapter One:
    From the cook boo "Ten things you need to eat":
    "The amazing thing about tomatoes is, that, unlike most fruit and vegetables, they practically beg to be cooked, as they are in pizza sauce, because cooking only enhances their nutritional content."

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