5 Healthy Foods That Are Also Good for Your Budget

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We all know what it’s like to have eyes bigger than your stomach—but what about eyes bigger than your budget?!
Seriously though, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, every grocery trip can be like a puzzle. You want to get healthy and filling food at the cheapest price possible. Well, we’re here to help with suggestions for 5 budget-friendly foods to get on your next trip to the grocery store!

“Healthy food should be a priority; you are what you eat,” says Holli Thompson (@nutrition), author and certified health professional. “Cook more, eat at home, keep it simple.”

We spoke with Thompson and Jennifer Benson (@BudgetEpicurean), health coach and Budget Epicurean blogger to find out what foods are best for an affordable, healthy lifestyle.

1. Bulk or Frozen Vegetables

Everyone knows vegetables are healthy. But for some reason, they seem to be a lot cheaper after they’ve been sliced, fried, salted and served in a McDonald’s bag. But it’s still possible to get real vegetables at reasonable prices. Benson suggested one method that’s pretty cool. Literally!

“Most people who are concerned about the high cost of ‘healthy’ eating are worried about fresh produce,” says Benson. “What they may not realize is that frozen produce can be just as healthy! Fresh produce is usually harvested at peak flavor, ripeness, and nutrition, and then flash frozen immediately, locking in all the good stuff.”

Just make sure the frozen veggie mix doesn’t have any pre-added sauces, which Benson warns “can be a sneaky source of extra sugar, calories, or sodium that you don’t need.”

But maybe your freezer is broken or you’re just really into the idea of fresh produce. You still have options! Thompson advises buying in bulk:

“Find a grocery store that offers bulk, quality organic veggies and fruits, nuts, and so on. Safeway, for example, has a collection of organics that are reasonably priced and so do Target and Walmart!”

She recommends using those veggies in a salad or stir-fry, to “add fiber and vitamins every day to your diet.”

2. Eggs

Stop worrying about what came first and start getting some affordable protein into your diet!

“Eggs are one of the cheapest sources of protein there is, with 6 grams per large egg, and they can be used in so many ways,” Benson told us. She recommends preparing them scrambled, fried, over-easy, hard-boiled, or in ramen, rice bowls, salad or tuna.

“When you just don’t want to cook anything, scrambled eggs in a coffee cup in the microwave is about as easy as it gets,” says Benson.

Thompson agrees. “Beans and lentils are high-quality proteins that are relatively inexpensive if you can digest them well, or enjoy organic proteins like farm fresh eggs.”

And speaking of beans…

3. Dried Beans

According to Benson, “Beans are another great source of cheap protein, at roughly 40 grams per cup. Dried beans are my favorite because they are super cheap ($1-2 per pound, or less on sale or in bulk) and they expand when you cook them, so you are paying a really low price per serving”

Benson suggests adding beans to chili, soups, and salads or pureeing them into hummus and dips. “Black bean and egg burritos with spinach are a staple breakfast” for Benson, and she also speaks highly of slow cookers:

“If you have a slow cooker, making dried beans couldn’t be easier. Just soak them overnight (1 cup beans to about 2 cups water), and drain in the morning. Cover with water again, and cook on low about 8 hours. Done! Then you can refrigerate or freeze for long-term access.”

And do you know what else pairs well with beans?

4. Rice

“Rice is a natural accompaniment to beans, mentioned above, but it also has a lot of kitchen flexibility. I try to use brown rice when possible because it has more heart and bowel-healthy fiber and vitamins than white rice,” Benson says.

She knows that some people will never willingly choose brown rice over white, so she offers a tip: “Try a ½ and ½ mix first, and see if you can work your way to full time.”

She also recommends taking some of those vegetables and eggs mentioned earlier to make a stir-fry. And that’s only the tip of the riceberg…

“Mix rice with beef and tomato sauce and bake into porcupine meatballs, stuff it into bell peppers, or wrap with softened cabbage leaves. You can even mix old rice with milk, honey, and cinnamon for a dessert. Really, what can’t rice do?!”

5. Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit is important. I love the apple a day rule, still,” says Thompson. “An apple is a great mid-morning snack, and an inexpensive way to add fiber and vitamins to your nutritional quotient.”

And that’s not the only a-peel-ing fruit option available. Benson makes the case for bananas:

“Bananas are one of the ultimate fruits on my grocery list because they are cheap ($1 for 6 or 8 usually), delicious, able to be used so many ways, and they last for a long time on the counter.”

Benson points out that the peel means you don’t have to worry as much about pesticides, and you can put them in oatmeal, smoothies, and, once they get a little too ripe, banana muffins and banana bread.

Eat Well, Feel Well

Eating well on a budget may seem tough. But it can actually save you money in the long-term, as Thompson explains: “Long-term health effects [from poor eating] are detrimental. You’ll also feel better eating ‘real food’ over fast food. And you’ll eat less, since fast food lacks necessary nutrients and creates cravings for more.”


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About the Contributors:

Jennifer Gruhn, is a Integrative Nutrition Health Coach (BudgetEpicurean.com) with over twelve years of experience in various scientific and health-related fields, she has a wide base of knowledge and a passion for educating, guiding, and empowering others to achieve vibrant health! Many years in research and higher education lead to an interest in nutrition and she soon became convinced that our current food system and society had lost touch with our innate sense of self and what makes and keeps us well. A strong personal family history of diabetes coupled with a skyrocketing general epidemic of diabetes and obesity in America fueled her passion for learning and exploring holistic solutions and prevention.

Holli Thompson, is the author of taward-winninging book, Discover Your Nutritional Style, Your Seasonal Plan for a Healthy, Happy, and Delicious Life, published by Sunrise River Press, and launched September, 2014 to rave reviews. She is a former VP for Chanel, turned creator of Nutritional Style™, a health and nutrition blog and consulting company. Her innovative method of identifying the three types of nutritional styles; Healthy Omnivore™, Flexible Vegetarian™, and Modern Vegan™, was established to allow women (and men) to finally experience an attainable, satisfying and always health-filled lifestyle. An inspirational speaker, and popular TV guest for several major networks, Thompson shares weekly on her own blog, HolliThompson.com, recently voted one of the top 10 Health and Wellness Blogs by Healthline.org. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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