Making healthy food choices on a limited budget is possible by including nutrients from the four food groups: protein, produce, milk, and grains. Low-cost nutritious foods include eggs, beans, tofu, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, oranges, apples, milk, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta.
It can be difficult to make healthy food choices on a very limited budget, but it can be done with a little planning. The main thing to remember is to try to include as many nutrients as possible among the four food groups of protein, produce, milk and grains. Of course, you also need to take food allergies and preferences into consideration. Food prices will also vary geographically, but in general, some low-cost nutritious foods to consider adding to your diet include:
Eggs: Eggs are an excellent source of protein and B vitamins. They are also one of the most versatile low-cost nutritious foods as they can be served on toast for a hearty breakfast or made into a veggie omelette for a cheap dinner.
Beans: Canned beans are also relatively inexpensive and may taste better than you think when served as a reheated dinner and placed on fresh mashed potatoes with a side of greens. Beans are rich in protein, fiber and iron.
Tofu: Tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you’re cooking, and most people like it in soups or stir fries. Some people like sliced tofu on top of garlic bread as a type of open sandwich. Tofu is not only high in protein, but it’s also a good source of calcium and many minerals.
Canned Salmon: If buying a large piece of fresh salmon isn’t an option, look for the canned variety on sale. In addition to protein and omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll also get calcium from canned salmon bones. It can be delicious as a dinner when made into a casserole with brown pasta or brown rice, or when made into meatballs with mashed potatoes.
Cabbage: Cabbage is high in fiber and vitamin C. It is also very versatile as it can be eaten raw or cooked. Try cutting it paper-thin and adding it to a casserole or soup for last-minute appeal.
Potatoes: Potatoes are high in B vitamins and are also filling because they are also considered starchy. Sweet potatoes may be more expensive than regular potatoes, but they’re high in beta carotene and vitamin C.
Carrots: Carrots are the highest source of beta carotene around, and they also contain vitamin C and fiber. They make a good vegetable side dish, but are also great in casseroles and stir-fries. When cut raw into sticks, they make a much loved and nutritious snack.
Oranges: Oranges prevent diseases such as scurvy and are very rich in vitamin C and fiber. Orange segments served alongside eggs and toast help make for a nutritious meal.
Apples: Apples taste great as a snack and can even be the basis of inexpensive desserts like apple crisp or baked apples. A good budget idea is to buy large boxes or bags of apples and use the riper ones for apple desserts or apple butter. Make sure you store the apples well so they don’t spoil before you can use them.
Milk: Milk as a nutrient is controversial, but it’s an important source of vitamin D. It also contains calcium, and skimmed or 1 percent versions are the healthiest choices when it comes to fat.
Whole Wheat Bread: Whole wheat offers a great source of nutrition and fiber compared to white bread which it just can’t match. If you have even a small freezer, it’s worth buying brown bread on sale and stocking up instead of buying white bread even though it’s usually cheaper.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a whole grain and is one of the most nutritious budget-friendly foods. It’s obviously great as a hot breakfast cereal, but you can also bake inexpensive oatmeal cookies and use them in dessert toppings for apple chips.
Brown Rice: Brown rice is much healthier than refined white rice. Many people find brown rice to have more flavor than white rice. You can serve seasoned rice as a side, or top it with stir-fried tofu and vegetables.
Whole wheat pasta: Whole wheat pasta can be one of the low cost nutritious foods if you look for it on sale. It’s always a better buy than the less expensive regular pasta because with regular pasta, you’re getting much less nutrition and a lack of fiber. Even kids usually like whole-wheat pasta when it’s served with their favorite spaghetti sauce.