Save Money with these 15 Cheap and Healthy Foods

If you were to look at your expenses for a typical month, food is probably one category that wouldn’t exactly be miniscule in terms of the amount spent. This makes sense, as we all need food, and we all like food.

If you look at the personal finance hierarchy of needs, which I put together inspired by Maslow’s work, you can see food as a being a base level need. Along with our needs for shelter and medical care, we most certainly need food in order to get by in life. So, it’s tough to avoid spending money on food altogether.

With that in mind, I thought it would nice to summarize a list of food choices that would be relatively inexpensive to purchase, and would help lower food expenses. This would be in lieu of other more radical ideas, such as those of a former colleague who squirreled away money by getting free food at work   :)

Anyway, here are 15 low-cost healthy food choices to help stretch your budget:

1. Water. Is water considered food? Well, whatever classification it deserves, I’ll put it at the top of this list. Drinking water instead of expensive drinks can really help you save a lot over the long term. Keep in mind that I’m talking about tap water here, not bottled water. Also, drinking water can help you avoid damaging your teeth with sugary and/or acidic beverages. As we know, it can be nice to save money on dental care.

2. Oatmeal. I’ve talked about this before, in terms of being a good way to enjoy a frugal breakfast. A serving of oatmeal made at home can cost very little maybe $0.10. A dime for a bowl isn’t bad, right? Plus, oatmeal is reported to have a number of potential health benefits.

3. Eggs. Now, personally I prefer egg whites, as I don’t care for the extra cholesterol with the yolk. Regardless, eggs provide protein and don’t cost to prepare in terms of time or money.

4. Bananas. Nice as an “on the go” snack, or as a part of breakfast, bananas are a great source of potassium and an easy way to get some fruit in your diet

5.  Spinach. Now, it may be more expensive if you go the organic route, though whether or not it is important to buy organic is up to each of us. If not, spinach can be an especially low cost source of vitamins C and K, as well as lutein, in the form of a green, leafy vegaeable.

6.  Apples. An apple a day, right? Well, that’s no guarantee to keep the doctor away, But apples are a good source of nutrition, and like bananas are easy to take on the go while costing relatively little.

7.  Broccoli. A cruciferous vegetable, broccoli is loaded with nutrition what keeping us full on very little calories. Plus, it’s a nice source of fiber.

8.  Nuts. Sure, they can be calorically dense – so be careful just how many you eat. However, nuts often have what are described as “good” fats, along with many vitamins and minerals. They can also be a good source of protein. They aren’t always cheap, but some can be very inexpensive – espcially when bought in larger quantities.

9.  Beans. These are often an excellent source of both fiber and protein, along with other nutritional benefits. Bought in larger quantities, beans can be quite inexpensive. Plus there is a good variety of choices, including among others: black, navy, lima, pinto, garbanzo, mung, red, and others.

10.  Brown Rice. A low-cost staple that is filling, and offers a better nutritional profile than traditional white rice.

11.  Greek Yogurt. In particular, I like the non-fat variety for obvious reasons: being lower in fat. But Greek yogurt is higher in protein than traditional yogurt, and creamy as well. If you get the plain non-flavored kind, you’ll also do without the added sugars!

12. Potatoes. Sure, they can be high in carbs. But they also have vitamin C, potassium, and iron. Plus, they can be really inexpensive. At a local store recently, I saw a bag of potatoes that looked like it might have had 15 or so, and it was on sale for $1.99. That’s a lot of food for a low price!

13. Pumpkin. Not your typical choice, right? Well, canned pumpkin can last a LONG time, and when used in recipes, can provide a great source of vitamin A, as well as a good source of fiber and iron.

14. Quinoa. Again, not a standard choice! However, this grain has been getting popular in recent years for good reason. It’s filling while being a really good source of protein compared to alternatives. Buying in bulk can save some money.

15. Popcorn. What? Popcorn? Well, we aren’t talking about the movie theatre variety here. Rather, if you air pop it at home, it can provide a very low cost snack that will leave you feeling little guilt but a fair amount of fiber. Sure seems like a healthier, cheaper snack than many alternatives!

My Questions for You

Aside from water, which we all consume, which of these foods do you like to incorporate as a part of a healthy, low-cost diet?

Do you have any other suggestions to share about other food that is both healthy and low-cost?



  1. says

    Bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, broccoli and Greek yogurt are always on my shopping list. Nuts, eggs, beans and rice also make the list frequently. But you’re certainly right, these are all cheap foods that can feed you for days when you’re creative.

    I would add items that aren’t courses of meals, but rather parts of recipes. Things like garlic and ginger that last awhile and help you spice up your dishes are cheap.

    (FYI, your headline says 15 cheap and healthy foods, but your body copy just before the list says 10.)

    -Christian L.

    • Squirrelers says

      Christian – you’re right about spices, and I’ve read about how some have benefits too. Also, thanks for the correction, I made the edit as a result.

  2. says

    I use everything but Quinoa and popcorn. I never like Oatmeal as a cooked cereal, so I use Wheatena. It is probably a little bit more expensive, but worth it for me.

    • Squirrelers says

      krantcents – no oatmeal? Well, I guess it’s not for everyone. For some reason I just really like oatmeal!

    • Squirrelers says

      Crystal – I too need to add more veggies. Today mine consisted of leafy greens in a salad at lunch, and dinner -well, that included veggies in the chinese food I ate. I didn’t follow my advice today, but had someone I know in the hospital so circumstances were unique.

  3. says

    Great list. My biggest change recently was to add more rice to my diet. I got a rice cooker and found many cheap, delicious things I can make. Fried rice (has eggs) and Costa Rican gallo pinto were two recent favorite finds.

    • Squirrelers says

      Eric – if getting rice, brown rice is supposed to a good choice. Wild rice, while actually a different grain, is supposed to be nutritious as well.

    • Squirrelers says

      Marie – freshly picked blueberries just seem to taste more full of flavor to me. Good stuff!

  4. says

    My family loves oatmeal with bananas for breakfast. Pumpkin soup and egg drop soups as well as vegetable omelet are not to be missed in our weekly menu. To save further on food expenses, I have a mini-herb garden at home, where I have basil, lettuce, tomatoes, and bell pepper, among others.

  5. Tanya Stevens says

    Oat meal, apples, brown rice, beans and broccoli. I can’t miss those on my shopping list. :-)

  6. says

    Beans, beans, good for your heart…
    The more you eat.. the more you … have less cravings for other food.

    I am huge fan of all kinds of beans.. They are delicious and full of protein goodness.

    Great list!

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