25 Low-Cost Foods Packed With Nutrition


If you are on a tight food budget, it's only natural to prioritize the cost of food over nutritional value. After all, junk food is the cheapest food you can buy. But I have found that some of the most nutritious food can be surprisingly affordable.

Here is a round-up of my favorite cheap and highly nutritious foods, listed in order of lowest cost first. The entries below are all priced for four-ounce portions that are all under $1, to make it easy to compare prices. There are even some superfoods on this list. Of course, prices for these items may vary by location and season. Keep an eye out for sale prices on them in your local grocery stores, and you might be able to buy some or all of these items for even less than the prices listed here. (See also: 31 Foolproof Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill)

*All food prices were determined using HyVee's online grocery store.

1. Bananas

Bananas are highly portable, and are packed with potassium, dietary fiber, and magnesium. They make the perfect sweet treat, and they come with their own natural packaging.

Cost per 4 oz: 12 cents

2. Carrots

Carrots are delicious raw or cooked, and make a great addition to any lunch. In terms of nutrition, carrots are bursting with vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.

Cost per 4 oz: 22 cents

3. Cabbage

Cheap and nutritious, cabbage is great in a stir fry, eaten steamed, or microwaved with a little butter on top. Cabbage offers loads of vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin B6.

Cost per 4 oz: 22 cents

4. Onions

Onions pack a lot of flavor for very little money, and you don't need to use much to get the taste you need. Nutritional highlights for onions include potassium, vitamin C, and dietary fiber.

Cost per 4 oz: 25 cents

5. Mandarin oranges

Mandarin oranges are another great on-the-go snack option. For those afternoon sugar cravings, reach for one of these instead of a candy bar. They have vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium.

Cost per 4 oz: 25 cents

6. Black beans, canned

Black beans offer protein, fiber, and potassium, and they're tasty right out of the can, or cooked into chili, soups, or served on tortillas.

Cost per 4 oz: 26 cents

7. Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), canned

These are an excellent pantry staple because you can eat them cold in salads, warm in soups, or use them to make your own hummus. Chickpeas contain plenty of dietary fiber, protein, and iron.

Cost per 4 oz: 26 cents

8. Brown rice

This healthy carb is a wonderfully versatile base for meals. All you need to add is vegetables or meat. Brown rice contains protein, fiber, and magnesium.

Cost per 4 oz: 30 cents

9. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a healthy alternative to white potatoes, as they have more fiber and vitamin A, and a lower glycemic index. They are also packed with potassium. (See also: 11 Ways to Turn Leftover Sweet Potatoes and Other Starchy Foods Into Something Special)

Cost per 4 oz: 32 cents

10. Whole wheat bread

The question is not, "What can you do with whole wheat bread?" It's, "What can't you do?" The sky's the limit, really, when it comes to this healthy alternative to white bread, which offers your body plenty of iron and potassium.

Cost per 4 oz: 38 cents

11. Cauliflower

You can buy it frozen, fresh by the head, or fresh and pre-cut. It's a filling, hearty meat alternative for vegetarians, and loaded with vitamin C. If you prefer it pre-cut, look for fresh or frozen bags to go on sale.

Cost per 4 oz: 40 cents (fresh head)

12. Barley

You can use barley in stews or as a savory side dish with herbs and spices. Barley offers iron, protein, and magnesium.

Cost per 4 oz: 45 cents

13. Strawberries

Strawberries are naturally super sweet, bursting with vitamin C and potassium, and make for a great, healthy dessert.

Cost per 4 oz: 47 cents

14. Dried lentils

Toss some dried lentils in your slow cooker or Instant Pot and you can do some easy meal prep for the week ahead. You can use lentils in soups, stir fry, dips, and spreads, and they provide iron, fiber, and protein.

Cost per 4 oz: 47 cents

15. Steel cut oats

You can make your own oatmeal at home using steel cut oats that are cheap and delicious. And with tons of calcium, iron, protein, fiber, and potassium, they're also nutritious.

Cost per 4 oz: 50 cents

16. Peanut butter

Whether you like it smooth or crunchy, this spreadable goodness can be put on bread with bananas for a great sandwich packed with protein, potassium, fiber, and iron.

Cost per 4 oz: 53 cents

17. Whole grain pasta

Who doesn't love pasta? And if you opt for the whole grain version, you're also getting a healthy meal base with plenty of protein and fiber.

Cost per 4 oz: 55 cents

18. Greek yogurt

Plain Greek yogurt makes for a protein- and calcium-filled snack that you can add cinnamon or honey to in order to satisfy that sweet tooth.

Cost per 4 oz: 62 cents

19. Raisins

The dried version of grapes, raisins are generally cheaper and have a longer shelf life due to the way they've been dried and preserved. Raisins make for a great snack, or they can be added into salads and other dishes. They are also packed with potassium and vitamin B-6.

Cost per 4 oz: 74 cents

20. Peanuts

A handful of peanuts is all you need for a filling and protein-packed snack. Choose low sodium or unsalted for the healthiest option.

Cost per 4 oz: 74 cents

21. Avocados

Use avocados on sandwiches, in salads or guacamole, or just cut one in half and eat with a spoon. Avocados are delicious and filled with protein, potassium, and vitamin C.

Cost per 4 oz: 75 cents

22. Frozen blueberries

Fresh blueberries are great, but often pricey. Buy the frozen version and you've got a cheaper cereal topper or snack option that is bursting with vitamin C.

Cost per 4 oz: 75 cents

23. Spinach, bagged

The great thing about bagged greens is that they're typically already cut and washed. Use bagged spinach for salad, add it to omelettes, or steam it in the microwave. Spinach also has vitamins C, A, and K, as well as zinc and fiber.

Cost per 4 oz: 75 cents

24. Broccoli

Enjoy broccoli florets raw or microwaved, and reap the health benefits of eating this nutritious gem, which is loaded with vitamin A, B1, fiber, and potassium.

Cost per 4 oz: 83 cents

25. Mushrooms

You can add mushrooms raw to salads, or grill or sauté them for extra flavor. Mushrooms give the body iron, fiber, and lots of vitamin D.

Cost per 4 oz: 94 cents

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