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44 Healthy Foods Under $1
Here at Greatist, we joke about how to deal with snack attacks and sudden hankerings for chocolate. But for millions of kids and adults across the U.S., cravings are hardly a laughing matter. Every day, people throughout the country deal with persistent hunger and live without access to nutritious, affordably priced eats. What’s worse, SNAP, our nation’s food stamp program, is potentially facing huge budget cuts that would directly impact the millions of families that rely on food stamps.
This year Greatist is participating in the Food Bloggers Against Hunger campaign, an initiative to help end hunger across the country. The campaign was inspired by the documentary film “A Place at the Table,” which follows three families struggling with food insecurity. We’re asking our readers to take part, too, by signing this petition asking Congress to protect federal nutrition programs for children and checking out the documentary in your city or on iTunes or Amazon.
We also want to help dispel the myth that healthy eating always means emptying our wallets. Below is a list of 44 nutritious (and delicious) foods that cost less than $1 per serving, from edamame to pumpkin to cottage cheese. So get cooking, start talking, and help raise awareness about this important issue that affects everyone living in the U.S. today.Forget that 99 cent bag of Fritos or dirty water dog. Stroll smart down the grocery aisle and choose feel-good foods that are great for the body and even better for our budget. Here's our list of 44 tasty, healthy(!) foods, all for under a buck per serving. *Prices may vary depending on location and store; we averaged price based on multiple sources.
Photo by Caitlin Covington
1. Black beans, $0.30 cents per ½ cup serving, about $1 per can
These unassuming beans pack a ton of fiber and have a solid amount of calcium, fiber, potassium, and folic acid. Pro-tip: Buy the dry beans for an even better nutritious and money deal — boiling beans at home may preserve more of their cancer-fighting antioxidants . Cook up some black bean soup, or make a healthy black-bean dip.
2. Eggs, $0.19 per egg, about $2 per dozen
When in need of some protein, eggs are a quick, delicious, fix . Scramble with veggies for a filling breakfast, add to homemade fried brown rice, or make a frittata!
3. Almonds, $0.60 for a 1oz serving (20-25 nuts), about $5 per 8oz bag
Rich in monounsaturated fat and fiber, these super-nuts could reduce the risk of diabetes and decrease body weight . (Sorry, Almond Joys don’t count.) Munch on 'em during the day, or add to a bowl of cereal or oatmeal for extra healthy fats and protein.
4. Peanuts, $0.50 for a 1oz serving (25-30 nuts), about $4 per 8oz bag
Take me out to the ball game on the cheap. Sure, peanut butter might be a dangerfood, but in their natural form, these legumes are a healthy treat. When eating in moderation, peanuts supply a dose of healthy fats and can reduce the risk of heart disease . When in any chicken and veggie dish, they add a great Asian-inspired flare!
6. Lentils, $0.12 per ½ cup serving, about $1 per pound (dry, in bulk)
With more protein per pound than beef, lentils are a filling food rich with antioxidants (and quite tasty, too) . Here are seven ways to make lentil soup, along with a killer recipe for vegetarian lentil tacos!
7. Oats, $0.13 per serving, about $1 per pound (in bulk)
Take a tip from Mr. Ed. Oats are high in fiber, low in fat, and may even help lower cholesterol . What’s not to love? Enjoy a bowl of oatmeal, substitute for flour in cookies, or even use as breadcrumbs.
8. Pinto beans, $0.30 cents per ½ cup serving, about $1 per can
The health factor of refried beans at a Mexican restaurant may be questionable, so mash them up at home. These beans are full of protein and fiber and are a delicious addition to any homemade burrito — breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
9. Tofu, $0.50 cents per 4oz serving, about $2 per pound
High in protein and low in fat, tofu is a delicious source of protein for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Plus, soy in moderation may help reduce cholesterol and the risk of breast cancer . Pan-fry tofu with veggies in the next stir-fry, or even add the silken variety to a fruit smoothie.
10. Pumpkin seeds, $0.50 per 1oz serving, about $5 per pound
Move over birds, these seeds are for us humans (and not just on Halloween)! Filled with essential vitamins and minerals, along with protein and iron, sprinkle these in a salad or roast with spices for a healthy, crunchy treat .
11. Chicken breasts, $0.75 per 4 oz serving, about $2.99 per pound
Forgo the McChicken on the dollar menu — a small fresh chicken breast is $0.25 cleaper and filled with healthy, lean protein. Grill 'em, bake 'em, or enjoy sliced in a whole-wheat wrap with veggies.
12. Canned salmon, $0.75 per serving, about $1.50 per can
No need to splurge on a salmon filet to enjoy this Omega-3-packed seafood. Grab the canned version for some protein power without dishing out the big bucks. Whip up some homemade salmon burgers or chowder with a twist.
13. Canned tuna, $0.75 cents, about $1.50 per can
Not only is tuna fish cheap, but it’s an easy way to get Omega-3’s (which could make us brilliant). Mix with Greek yogurt and chopped veggies for a healthier tuna salad.
15. Yogurt, about $1 per 6 oz cup
Skip the bagel and pick up a quick treat that’s filled with protein and calcium! Enjoy for breakfast with some granola, or as a post-workout snack. Just beware of flavors loaded with extra sugar, and remember that low-fat varieties will be lower in calories (if you're counting). Extra points for choosing superfood Greek yogurt — though it can be more expensive, so waiting for it to go on sale is a smart move!
16. Low-Fat Milk, $0.25 cents per cup, about $4 per gallon
Got milk? One calcium-filled glass can help keep teeth strong and even help keep off those excess pounds  . Add a splash to a fruit smoothie, or enjoy in a bowl of oats or cereal.
17. Cottage cheese, $0.88 per 1/2 cup serving, about $3.50 per 16 oz container
It's time to put looks aside. This clumpy, mild cheese is surprisingly high in protein, and tastes great in both sweet and savory dishes. Like yogurt and most other dairy products, cottage cheese typically comes in full-fat, low-fat, and fat-free varieties — choose whichever fits best into your diet. Try it topped with sliced pineapple and berries for a sweet protein-packed treat, or make it savory in a creamy pasta sauce.
Photo by Perry Santanachote
18. Whole-grain pasta, $0.37 cents per ½ cup serving, about $3 per box
Move over, white stuff; the whole wheat version of pasta is full of fiber, antioxidants, and protein, and may help lower risk of heart disease . Enjoy its nutty flavor with stir-fried veggies and hearty marinara sauce.
19. Brown rice, $0.18 per ¼ cup serving, about $2 per pound
Listen to our manifesto: Choose brown rice over white (especially at Chipotle). The whole-grain version is full o’ fiber and may cut the risk of diabetes .
20. Popcorn, $0.30 per ½ cup serving, about $1 per pound for plain kernels
Snack attack? Pick a low-calorie snack that’s also a good source of fiber.Pop kernels in the kitchen and add spices. Movie theater popcorn ain't got nothin’ on this!
21. Quinoa, $0.60 per ¼ cup serving, about $4 per box
It may be hard to pronounce (that’s keen-wah), but it’s easy to prepare and packs a nutritious punch. Filled with protein and fiber, this superfood also contains nine essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce on their own .
22. Grapes, $0.75 per 1 cup serving, about $1.50 per pound
These sweet little treats are high in antioxidants, which may help reduce cholesterol. They’re a perfect snack when that sweet tooth rolls in; freeze them for a fresh alternative for popsicles!
23. Apples, about $0.50 to $0.75 per apple (depending on variety)
It’ll keep the doctor away, so grab this superfood for a serving of vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Snack with almond butter or add to a sandwich.
24. Bananas, $0.20 to $0.50 per banana, about $0.60 per pound or $2 per bunch
It’s time to go bananas for… bananas. Filled with fiber and potassium, these 100-calorie “snack-packs” may even help with that hangover. Enjoy sliced with peanut butter, or impress friends with banana ice cream!
26. Cantaloupe, $0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $3 per small melon
C is for cantaloupe and vitamin C. Filled with antioxidants, cantaloupe is cheap and makes a perfect spring or summer treat! Feeling creative? Freeze chunks of this sweet fruit for an extra-special warm weather snack.
27. Watermelon, $0.30 per 1 cup serving, $5 per melon
This feisty superfood may have Viagra-like effects, but it’s also guaranteed to be filled with vitamin C — a cancer-fighting antioxidant that helps strengthen immunity and promote bone health. Slice 'em up and enjoy (or make a watermelon daquiri).
28. Pears, $0.85 each, about $1.75 per pound (depending on variety)
It’s not just an apple a day that may keep the doc away; white fleshy pears may help prevent strokes . They’re also full o’ fiber. Keep things mixed up and try the Barlett, Bosc, and Anjou varieties.
29. Oranges, $0.50 each, about $1 per pound (in family-sized pack)
Oranges aren’t just about their vitamin C. This citrus fruit is also filled with fiber, folate, and potassium. Skip the glass and go with the whole fruit to surpass the excess sugar and get a healthy dose of antioxidants.
Photo by Caitlin Covington
30. Garlic, about $0.30 per bulb
It doesn’t only put a stink to our breath. Garlic has some smarty-pants benefits, helping enhance memory . It’s also full of antioxidants to promote heart health and reduce the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s . Add to a pan of veggies or tomato sauce to spice up the flavor, or roast it in the oven for a sweeter flavor.
31. Canned pumpkin, $0.75 per ½ cup serving, about $2.50 per 15oz can
No need to go pickin’ to reap the benefits of the pumpkin patch. A pumpkin’s orange color is thanks to carotenoids, a plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties . Head to the kitchen and whip up some pumpkin pasta sauce or even pumpkin hummus.
32. Canned tomatoes (Diced), $0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $1.80 per 14.8 oz can
To really get a bang for that buck, go the canned route. Canned tomatoes are perfect for homemade sauces and stews. Tomatoes also contain exceptional amounts of the antioxidant lycopene that remains in the flesh even after cooking and canning . Just keep on the lookout for cans with no sodium added.
33. Onions, $0.18 each, about $0.59 per pound
Quit crying — onions pack a surprising nutritious punch, including a hefty dose of antioxidants . Sautée and add to an omelet, or stack on a sandwich for extra flavor.
34. Sweet potatoes, $0.50 each, about $1 per pound
The white ones may be a dangerfood, but this time around, the sweet stuff is the way to go. It tips the scale with its high levels of vitamin A , contains beta-carotene (which may help prevent cancer and protect us from the sun) and also helps keep that skin silky smooth.
35. Winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), $0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $1.50 a pound
Squash isn’t only an awesome racquet sport. It’s also a versatile veggie filled with vitamins, fiber, and potassium. Skip the bowl and roast a squash and fill with other hearty goodness!
36. Kale, $0.50 per cup (raw, chopped), about $2 per bunch
Popeye was missing out. Kale is the antioxidant king among all fruits and veggies, and contains vitamins A, C, and K, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium (phew!). Plus... kale chips.
37. Broccoli, $0.50 per ½ cup serving, $2 per bunch
Need another reason to go green? Broccoli has remarkably high levels of folate and vitamin C, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease  .
38. Beets, $0.35 each, about $1 per pound
These purple gems are filled with betalains, which may help prevent cancer and other degenerative diseases  . They are also packed with folate, fiber, and vitamins galore, making them one of the best health bargains around. Chop 'em, roast 'em, or add to a berry smoothie!
39. Spinach, $0.50 per cup (raw), about $2 per bunch
These unassuming greens are unbeleafable. They’re nutrient dense with vitamin A, K, and calcium. Try sautéing them with mushrooms or subbing for iceberg in the next lunchtime salad.
40. Carrots, $0.50 each, about $2 per pound
Those rabbits are on to something. Carrots provide a nutritious crunch with their fill of vitamin A . They’re perfect for dipping into hummus, or taste great roasted with other root veggies and a drizzle of olive oil.
41. Edamame, $0.50 per ½ cup serving, $3 per 10oz package (frozen)
This star legume is filled with target=_blank"fiber and protein and makes a great afternoon snack. Skip the chips and enjoy with a touch of salt for a quick, nutritious treat.
42. Coffee, $0.40 per 16 oz cup (brewed), about $10 per pound
Not only is it amazing for you, but brewing coffee at home can save some real dolla dolla bills. This morning pick-me-up also contains antioxidants to help protect the heart, and is a great pre-workout fuel to help increase endurance. Not thirsty? This kitchen staple doubles as the key ingredient for variety of other household chores, too!
43. Tea, $0.10 per tea bag, about $5 a box (varies based on type)
The varying health benefits of tea are a-plenty, ranging from their antioxidant powers to helping maintain a healthy weight . Skip the sugary stuff and try brewing iced tea at home, and opt for green if looking to maximize antioxidant intake.
44. Water, free. (Well, kind of.)
Head to the nearest faucet — our bodies depend on it. Water keeps us hydrated (shocking), flushes out toxins in the body, and helps when trying to lose a few pesky pounds .
Originally posted March 2012. Updated April 2013 by Shana Lebowitz.
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Comments Leave a comment
Awesome post!! Especially great since I'm a student on a budget and really want to eat healthy :) Lots of protein there that I've never considered, time to try some new stuff! :)
@DanielleBilodeau Thanks, Danielle! For me, rice and beans is an awesome (cheap) staple ...never gets boring w/ the different types of beans!
Can you tell me why the oats are in the protein category? I've never heard them to have a high protein count and was curious. I like oatmeal a lot, but need high protein breakfasts and so I'm always choosing something different. If there is protein it would allow me to have oatmeal more often!
@KateChristian Hey Kate! Oats could definitely fall under the whole grain category too, but we think that 11 grams per cup of oats earned it a spot on the protein list! (http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/breakfast-cereals/1597/2).
If you're looking for ways to make oatmeal even MORE protein-packed though, try adding a few tablespoons of powdered egg whites or a scoop of protein powder to the bowl. Using milk instead of water or adding nuts can also boost protein content a little!
@KateChristian So Delicious has released and almond milk with 5gms of protein per serving. Cows milk is for baby cows and is harmful to the body. Read a little book which you can probably get easily on Amazon called Moove Over Milk
Today i study this publish and i really satisfied after to study this publish because it is very sound advice for me. Such an outstanding perform in this publish.........
FYI per serving and food under a dollar are completely different. No one pays attention to how much it will cost when you eat but when your at the grocery store and see 5 dollars on EVERYTHING its really hard to buy. hence my theory for years eating healthy is too damn expensive and we wonder why the country is obese
This is such a great list! My only concern is that a number of the items listed here are on the #dirtydozen list of produce that should be bought organic whenever possible, i.e. apples and grapes. All the same, this is a comprehensive and well-cited list. Thanks so much!!
While this list is wonderfully economical and lower cost, and I'm totally going to keep it in my back pocket; anyone who cares about organics (all the veggies listed except the onions and garlic are pretty high on the "buy organic" list) or non-gmo (popcorn, edamame) or bpa's (dice your own tomatoes, so easy. non-bpa tuna starts at $4.50), you will pay between 2 and 3 times as much for these things. Dried beans are the bomb though, for budget eating, if you can find a place stocking a nice variety!
Thank you for the compilation!
Your introduction was misleading-- since you mentioned fritos and hot dogs, I thought the rest of the list would be about grab-and-eat foods that could replace those. The fruit, a few nuts, and a few of the dairy items are the only ones that don't require prep.