When it comes to my family’s budget, one of our largest line items is food. Each week, I spend anywhere between $150 and $250 dollars on groceries. Although none of it goes to waste—my kids are good eaters—it drives me crazy to spend so much to eat healthy.

Although I find ways to lower our grocery bill such as by buying foods in bulk, eating less meat and more plant-based meals, and shopping sales, it seems that whole, fresh foods are usually pricier than foods in a box, can or package. Aside for a few select items, these foods are highly processed, high in sodium, and low in nutrition.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to find cheap healthy foods that are nutritious and won’t put a huge dent in your grocery bill.

Prices will vary depending on where you live and if you purchase organic, for example, but here is a solid list of 10 cheap healthy foods to add to your shopping list.

1. Frozen spinach

I prefer fresh vegetables over frozen because I think you get more bang for your buck, but frozen vegetables like spinach, can also be a good way to shave money off your grocery bill.

Frozen vegetables may actually be healthier than fresh varieties since they’re picked at their peak freshness and flash frozen.

In fact, a June 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found in some cases frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh that’s been stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Spinach is packed with nutrition and a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E, B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.

Spinach is also a good source of lutein, a carotenoid, which research suggests may improve brain health.

In fact, two studies from Abbott and the University of Illinois found children who had higher levels of lutein performed better when they were faced with tough cognitive tasks and they had higher scores on standardized tests.

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

2. Pureed pumpkin

With 22 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, and E, pureed, canned pumpkin is one of the best cheap healthy foods.

Pumpkin is also rich in lutein and beta-carotene, an antioxidant and plant pigment that gives the fruit its bright orange color.

You can add pureed pumpkin to waffles, pancakes, muffins and breads or eat it straight out of the can like my daughter does, but you’ll probably want to add some cinnamon and maybe a bit of honey. Pureed pumpkin also make a great first food for baby.

Average cost: $.52 cents per serving

Related: 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin

3. Beans

Beans are high in both protein and fiber and an excellent source of iron.

Canned beans cost more than dried beans, but either one is still very affordable.

Add beans to rice and pasta dishes, incorporate them into soups, stews and chilis or serve them as an appetizer that your kids can munch on while you’re cooking dinner.

Average cost: $.29 cents a serving (canned); $.11 cents a serving (dried)

4. Brown rice

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 50 percent of the grains we eat be made up of whole grains, which have more nutrients and fiber than white, refined grains.

Brown rice is a great whole grain option because it’s a good source of protein, fiber, selenium, and manganese.

Since all types of rice (organic included), have been found to have high levels of arsenic, rinse rice before cooking, then drain the water and rinse again and at least one more time while cooking. Another good tip is to use as much water as you would when you cook pasta. 

Average cost: $.10 cents a serving

5. Tuna fish

Fish is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids. It’s packed with protein, low in saturated fat, rich in micronutrients, and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support brain health and memory.

Although many types of fish can be expensive, canned tuna fish is by far one of the most affordable.

It’s important however, to pick the right type of tuna since mercury is a concern.

Although albacore/white tuna is OK for kids to eat, the FDA and EPA recommend you limit it to one serving a week.

Tuna, canned light (including skipjack) on the other hand, have the lowest levels of mercury and are considered the safest.

Average cost: $1.30 cents per serving

Related: What Types of Fish Are Safe for Kids?

6. Peanut butter

The quintessential kid-friendly food, peanut butter is packed with protein: two tablespoons has 8 grams—plus filling fiber and healthy fats.

When choosing peanut butter however, it’s important to read labels carefully. Many brands are made with hydrogenated oils, added sugars including high-fructose corn syrup and fillers.

Choose brands that are made with peanuts (and list it as the first ingredient) and salt, depending on your preference.

Average cost: $.21 cents per serving

7. Edamame

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame (soybeans) are also high in calcium.

Edamame is quick and easy to prepare and lend themselves to almost any meal and can be served as a snack.

You can purchase edamame fresh or frozen, but look for those that are already shelled to save time. 

Average cost: $.83 cents per serving

8. Baby carrots

Carrots are one of the best cheap healthy foods thanks to vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, iron, potassium and fiber: 1/2 cup has nearly 3 grams

Add carrots to salads, roast them as a healthy side dish, or pair them with hummus.

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

9. Canned tomatoes

Tomatoes are a good source of fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, and choline.

Tomatoes also contain lycopene, a type of carotenoid that protects the eyes from damage and keeps them healthy.

A can of whole, diced, or crushed tomatoes is always a good thing to have on hand for quick and easy dinners. Use tomatoes to make a quick pasta sauce, or add them to chili or soups.

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

Related: 8 Supermarket Shortcut Foods To Make Healthy Eating Easy

Author Details
Julie Revelant teaches parents how to raise children who are healthy, adventurous eaters. Through blog posts and videos, her goal is to shift the conversation from short-term, problem picky eating to lifelong, healthy eating and healthy futures.