The biggest misconception in the health world is that a healthy diet is too expensive. Many people believe that unhealthy foods like fast food, fruit juices, cakes, or pizza are simply cheaper and more convenient. The illusion that it’s not possible to eat healthy and save money is completely incorrect — and in terms of your wallet and health, it will end up costing your health in the future.
In fact, the average healthy diet costs only about $1.50 more per day than an unhealthy one. Considering a healthy diet can end up saving your life, the price difference is a small price to pay. This is also an average number, and you can easily decrease it depending on your budget.
We get it. There aren’t many people going around shouting that romaine lettuce is cheaper than a fast-food combo meal. However, a healthy diet can be just as easy if you know how to budget and manage it properly.
The only problem is that a lot of people don’t. In today’s society, where advertisements are plagued with unhealthy brand-name foods, it’s hard to fault anyone for not knowing how to budget and plan a healthy diet.
Let’s be clear: we’re not saying you should never eat these foods. A pizza or burger every once in a while won’t hurt you. Making a habit and over-indulging in junk food, however, can end up seriously harming your health. That’s why it is essential that you learn how to manage and budget your diet to cater to your health needs.
From lettuce and cucumbers to organic chicken breasts to lentils and beans, there are so many cheap hidden treasures that you can discover at your local grocery store to evolve your healthy diet. Meal prepping and scouring the grocery store for healthy foods can even be pretty fun. Trying new things is all a big part of being human, and it’s just a bonus that a new nutritious diet will leave you feeling energized and healthy.
Below, you’ll find a comprehensive list of healthy, inexpensive foods and meals. Able is here to help you eat healthy on a budget and have you finally kicking unhealthy eating to the curb.
The first step in clearing up this misconception about eating healthy on a budget is listing which foods won’t break the bank.
If we were to sit here and list every individual healthy food that is cheap and inexpensive, this article would be hundreds of pages long. That’s why we have come up with a simple list by category and included our personal favorites and recommendations.
Remember, these are the average prices based on multiple stores, and they may fluctuate depending on where you’re located and which store you’re shopping at.
There is a ridiculous amount of cheap fruits, vegetables, meats, and other healthy foods that you can buy, and some you can even keep in the freezer. Here are our favorites.
Bananas are simply amazing. They’re loaded with vitamins and fibers that can help with weight loss and improve your immune and digestive systems. Bananas are also quick and easy and can be taken anywhere at any time. Bananas are typically priced at around $0.60 per pound, making them one of the cheapest and most affordable fruits around.
In terms of taste, berries are easily our personal favorite out of all fruits, and there are plenty to choose from as you work on your grocery list. Berries are packed with nutrients and vitamins to help support your immune system. Berries are typically priced around $2-3 a pound, making them another cheap and healthy fruit. Berries pair well with oats and yogurt for a quick and easy meal or snack.
Moving on to vegetables, broccoli has some of the best health benefits out of them all. Admittedly, the taste leaves a lot to be desired for some people, but you can easily work in a side of steamed, lightly salted broccoli during your meals or dip raw broccoli into some light ranch. Broccoli is also one of the cheapest vegetables, with an average of roughly $1.20-.60 per head. Throw some broccoli in stir-fry meals or use it with dip as a healthy snack!
Baked, roasted, sweet, skinned, whatever! Potatoes and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. The best part about potatoes is their versatility. There are many different ways to prepare potatoes to fit your food preferences. Potatoes are easy to prepare and taste great with roasts, steak, or soups and stews. Depending on the type of potato, prices can range anywhere from $0.90 to $2 per pound.
No matter your diet, everyone needs good, healthy protein. Pork has a whole lot of it and then some. Don’t forget the vitamins and other nutrients pork provides as well. At a reasonable price of $3-6 per pound, pork is also one of the less expensive cuts of lean meat.
They are actually many similarities between pork and chicken breast, including the price. The only real difference is the taste, and slightly the texture. Depending on your preferences and what dish you’re trying to make, chicken breasts are a tasty, quality product that fit into tons of healthy meals like chicken and brown rice, chicken lettuce wraps, and more!
Eggs are truly one of a kind. Considering their size and price (around $2 per dozen at most and as cheap as 25c per dozen at the cheapest), the protein, vitamins, and nutrients they contain are unlike any other, and they’re incredibly affordable. Eggs are a great option for breakfast and go well with many other recipes.
Now that you know some of the best and cheapest healthy foods and ingredients you can buy, let's look at how you can plan your meals throughout the week.
Meal prepping has gained tons of popularity lately. Meal prepping is exactly how it sounds; preparing and planning your meals week by week. This will help you save time and money while ensuring that you’re sticking to your healthy lifestyle.
Let’s run through an example.
Normally when you meal prep, you’ll want to start on a Sunday before starting a new week. You can go to the grocery store with a plan in mind of what you’re going to eat each day until the following Sunday, and this plan can help reduce impulse buying. The best part is that meal prepping is catered specifically to you and your likes and dislikes.
On Monday, you can plan on having eggs with avocado for breakfast, a fruit or vegetable smoothie for lunch with peaches and oranges, and a chicken breast with herbs and a side of potatoes or spinach for dinner. This is just an example of what meal prepping would look like, as you can obviously customize your routine based on what does and doesn’t work for you.
Knowing what you’re going to eat and when throughout the week will help you continue to eat healthily and dissuade you from stopping for fast food, ordering a pizza, or any other unhealthy meal that you can be tempted with. The meals are already bought and sometimes prepared for you throughout the week. You don’t want to waste the food or the money, so ordering anything unhealthy is out of the question.
You might be wondering how you can keep track of everything and might want more tips and suggestions for cheap and inexpensive healthy foods. If you want to learn more, we encourage you to try the Able app.
Able is an app that offers 1-1 health coaching, a calorie budget, calorie counting, and activity tracking. If you’re meal prepping, we can help you keep track of everything you eat.
From food tracking to staying active, Able is here to help you navigate it all. You’ll be one step closer to eating healthy (while staying on budget!).
Eating healthy vs. unhealthy diet costs about $1.50 more per day | Harvard Health
Meal Prep: A Helpful Healthy Eating Strategy | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health