The merits associated with eating nutritious foods are endless, however, some people may struggle to find foods that fit their budget. This list of the best cheap healthy foods can ensure a healthy diet is within the realm of any budget, regardless of whether you’re a broke college student, a family with kids and mounting bills to pay, or simply someone who is endeavouring to cut costs and save money.
Did you know? Poor diet is linked to one in five deaths
Eating healthy foods is often attributed to a rising grocery bill, which may elucidate the growing levels of obsesity and ill health. Consequently, people may think that eating healthy foods may be unattainable for their limited budget; but the truth of the matter is that eating a poor diet generally ultimately leads to a life of worsening health conditions. This entails increasing doctor visits and bills, medication expenses and workplace absenteeism amongst an array of other factors that are all attributable to a demising diet. This doesn’t have to be the faith for everyone though, as we are about to find out.
Of all the 3 macronutrients, protein generally tends to be the most expensive, followed by fats and carbohydrates. Fortunately, the amount of protein, such as meat and fish, that constitutes a portion tends to be equated to the size of a matchbox. However, for those looking to gain muscle or lose fat, that quantity of protein will likely be larger.
When choosing protein from meat and fish, the choice of cut that you select will determine the price. Always opt for the leanest cuts of meat as possible; this might warrant routing through meat packs to find a leaner cut. Also, be cautious of cheaper meats as they may contain large trimmings of fat. If you’re purchasing your meat from a butcher, ask them to cut the fat off before weighing it.
Meat: Some meats tend to be less expensive than other cuts due to the requirement to cook the meat for longer. Watch out for processed meats which may be cheaper, but are pumped with preservatives and fillers, e.g. sausages. Purchasing poultry whole, e.g. whole chicken, is much cheaper than individually cut meat, e.g. chicken breasts.
- Beef: Chuck, beef mince, blade, brisket
- Chicken: Chicken breast, chicken thigh, whole chicken
- Lamb: Lamb breast, lamb chops, lamb shoulder
- Offal: Calves liver
- Pork: Pork chops, gigots, ham
- Turkey: Turkey breast, turkey mince, whole turkey
Prices can range from 73c / 100g for mince meat.
Fish: Similar principles apply to fish as do to meat. There are some types of fish which tend to be budget-friendly. Unfortunately, for the lobster fans on a budget, you may have to hold out for a special occasion as it won’t make the list for now! Canned fish is one of the cheapest forms of fish, and indeed protein, that you can buy. If you consider canned tuna in particular, it’s also very lean, holds an excellent shelf life and contains approximately 24g + protein per 112g can drained.
- Canned salmon
- Canned tuna
- Salmon (wild-caught as opposed to Atlantic farmed is preferrable)
- Salmon tails (often get thrown away by fish mongers)
- Tuna (avoid Southern Bluefin as they’re a status red on the sustainability list of fish)
Prices can range from €1.19c / 100g for canned tuna.
Protein powder: Believe it or not, protein powder is very cheap when you calculate the cost of protein per serving. You might be initially turned off the idea of spending €50 + on a bag of protein powder, I know I certainly was at the beginning before I calculated the cost per serving. If you can find a cheap, but good quality brand of protein powder that you enjoy the taste of, it will last you for ages, trust me on this one. Thankfully they have an excellent best before date too.
If you predict that you’ll consume a scoop of protein powder most days, approximately 25g per scoop, a 5kg bag of MyProtein impact whey protein would yield approximately 200 servings! That could be as cheap as 36c per serving. Additionally, supplement websites almost always have offers and discounts to entice customers to browse and buy, so if you keep an eye out or subscribe to their deals, you can bag yourself a healthy discount.
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Eggs: Eggs are a good source of protein, offering approximately 6g protein per large egg. Ensure you eat both the egg yolk and the white to reap all the nutritional benefits they have to offer. The majority of the nutrients are contained within the yolk. Eggs are also such a versatile food and there are endless lists of ways to cook them.
Prices can range from 16c per egg.
Miscellaneous: Beans are a good alternative to meat, fish and eggs, especially for vegans and vegetarian who have limited choices for protein. They are also one of the cheapest sources of protein available. Pinto beans pack a whopping 21g protein per 100g. Baked beans can provide 4.7g protein per 100g.
- Baked beans
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Greek yoghurt
Prices can range from 14c / 100g greek yoghurt.
Tip: There are often items sold on discount to eradicate items with a short expiry date or stock they want to get rid of.
Many people either fear fat and wonder is fat really bad for you? Or they neglect to include the correct types of healthy fats in their diet. In terms of portions, the density of fat can be rather high in foods, so the quantity of them that you require to satisfy your recommended daily allowance is generally small. Again you’ll find eggs on the list as the yolk is oozing with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Nuts and seeds are also a strong contender on the fats list; just be cautious of the portions as the calories are rather dense. One of the most expensive nuts available is the pine nut, so needless to say, you won’t find it on this list.
- Cheese (avoid extra-processed options, such as cheese singles)
- Cottage cheese
- Nut butter
- Nuts: cheap options include peanuts, almonds and mixed nuts
- Seeds: cheap options include pumpkin seeds and chia seeds
Tip: Purchasing nuts and seeds in bulk helps to reduce the price per portion.
Prices can range from 0.53c / 100g roasted unsalted monkey nuts.
Carbohydrates tend to be the most economical food of the macronutrients, so while they may supplement you achieving your daily calorie needs, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you can sacrifice meeting your targets or recommended daily allowances for protein and fats by substituting them with carbs. In this list below, you’ll find a combination of fruit and vegetables, along with a range of other carbohydrates with often work out at less than 20c – 50c per serving.
- Beans: e.g. baked beans, chickpeas
- Berries: opting for frozen berries is cheaper than fresh ones
- Bread: wholegrain is preferrable to white bread
- Frozen vegetables
- Sweet potato
Tip: Vegetables which come pre-prepared can often be slightly more expensive than foods that you need to prepare yourself, e.g. chopped carrots.
Prices can range from 7c / 100g oats.
Prices based on website figures displayed on 01/06/2020.
Tips to get cheaper food
- Look for foods which are on special offers, e.g. 20% discount, 2 for 1 deals.
- Food with a short expiry date are often heavily discounted; some of these can be frozen if you won’t eat them within the expiry date.
- Some supermarkets discount foods, e.g. fresh bread, in the evening as it will have to be discarded otherwise.
- Many supermarkets have a discount section for items that have been opened, damaged or are near expiry.
- Large supermarket outlets are often much cheaper than smaller stores (but don’t forget to shop local where possible to support local business).
- Discount supermarkets include Aldi, Lidl and Walmart.
- Deals can also be obtained by buying own-brand products in stores.
- Butchers and fish mongers can be just as cheap, if not cheaper than some supermarkets.
- Buying food in bulk, as opposed to single servings or smaller quantities, saves money per serving in the long run. This is often because there is less packaging required.
- Frozen fruit and vegetables are often cheaper (and more nutritious) than fresh versions, e.g. frozen mixed berries are much cheaper than fresh berries.
- Foods which have been par-cooked, chopped or diced upon purchase tend to be more expensive, e.g. diced chicken.
- Some foods e.g. diced meat, may have excess fat that can be difficult to cut off since it is already diced.
- Check the shelf label for the price per kg to compare prices between product.
- Buying foods in bulk reduces the cost per portion
- Protein is usually the most expensive of the macronutrients
- Cheaper cuts of meat are available but can take longer to cook
- Butchers & fish mongers sometimes have cheap leftover items that are still good quality, e.g. offal
- Eggs are a great all-rounder in terms of protein and fat nutrition
- Foods that are pre-prepared can often cost more
- Frozen fruit and vegetables are often cheaper than the fresh versions
I hope you enjoyed these tips and found them useful. Remember that cost shouldn’t impose a restriction on your healthy food choices; people just need to be thrifty with their purchases. Eating healthy will offset many medical expenses associated with a poor diet in the long-run.
Do you have a propensity towards purchasing less healthy foods in a bid to save money? Have you any tips for buying food cheaper? Or maybe you grow/make your own food to cut costs and eat healthier? As always, I’d love to hear your comments and feedback below.
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