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Pantry Staples

9 Nutritious Foods That Won’t Break the Bank

Keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket by stocking up on these affordable, nutrient-dense foods.

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Food costs are rising; we don’t need to tell you that. As much as we love a good market haul featuring a variety of healthy, new food finds, we also know how taxing this can be on your wallet. But here’s the good news: You don’t need to spend a fortune at the market to meet your nutrient needs. Certain staple foods available at almost any market can easily satisfy and satiate even the pickiest eater, delivering both nutritional and financial bang for your buck with affordable prices. 

Before you head to the store, be sure to add these nutritious foods to your list. While their packaging may not be as cool as trendy new packaged foods, they will certainly benefit your body and budget.

1. Canned Beans

Did you know when you eat beans, you’re not only consuming a plant-based protein but a vegetable as well? Now this is a duo we can get on board with! 

Not only are canned beans an affordable addition to your weekly meal plan, but they’re also easy to prepare, requiring no cooking. Simply add them to your salad or grain bowl and call it a day. You’ll get a hearty dose of filling fiber (most beans range between 4 to 8 grams per serving). 

If you’re concerned about the sodium content, simply rinse and drain your beans under cool running water. This can reduce the sodium up to 41%

Cost: $0.79 per 15-ounce can

2. Canned Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, an important antioxidant that helps kick free radicals (those bad guys that can wreak havoc on your health over time) to the curb. As much as I wish delicious summer tomatoes were in season year-round, their prices start to skyrocket once the season ends. Thankfully, canned tomatoes are literally just as flavorful, since they’re picked at their peak and canned. 

While the jury is somewhat mixed on whether canned or fresh tomatoes are supreme when it comes to nutrient availability (based on a recent literature review), this dietitian would encourage you to pop that top and enjoy tomatoes year-round for under $0.60 a can! 

Cost: $0.59 per 14.5-ounce can

3. Canned Tuna

The latest recommendations show Americans should be eating seafood twice a week for the omega-3 benefits they offer. But, when budgets are tight, swinging $15 dollars on that fresh salmon can seem out of reach. Trust me, I feel you. That’s when I rely on canned seafood, like tuna or salmon. 

Tuna is usually more affordable than canned salmon while still providing on average 230 milligrams of DHA and EPA combined in a 100-gram serving. Choose a canned light brand that is packed in water for the lowest mercury content. 

Cost: $2.20 per 5-ounce can 

4. Eggs

Although egg prices have risen in recent months, they’re still an affordable protein source that clocks 6 grams of high-quality protein in one large egg. Plus, eggs also contain 147 mg of choline on average, an important nutrient for brain health, memory, and muscle contractions that most Americans aren’t getting enough of.

Whether you stick an egg between an English muffin as you walk out the door, or mix your latest stir fry with two eggs for a quick and easy dinner, adding this kitchen staple to your weekly meal plan will surely be a game changer when dinner time comes around too. 

Cost: $0.27 per egg 

5. Lentils

If you don’t love lentils yet, you’re about to. Lentils are filled with protein and fiber; they pack about 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber in just ½ cup cooked serving! 

While lentils do require a little more labor in the kitchen versus a canned bean, the possibilities are endless. Lentil Sloppy Joes are a fun twist on a classic that boosts the nutrition while also adding more plant-based protein and fiber into your meal. Not a Joe fan? Swap lentils in place of sausage in your pasta sauce or toss them into a tortilla for a quick and convenient meal. 

Cost: $2.04 per 16-ounce bag

6. Nonfat Dry Milk Powder

If you like your protein shakes but are struggling to buy that $40 container of protein powder right now, then consider using an affordable supermarket food like nonfat dry milk powder to make your own. Add in superfoods like chia seeds and flaxseed that are readily available in most bulk bins to help keep the price down. Toss them in your smoothie and relish in the 8 grams of protein you just added to your morning meal without spending a fortune.

$11.79 per 22-ounce bag

7. Peanuts

One of the most affordable plant-based proteins on the market is the classic peanut. New research even found daily consumption of lightly salted peanuts twice a day before meals led to weight loss, lowered blood pressure, and improved fasting glucose levels. 

Rather than spending your money on the latest supplement promising to help with weight loss, consider spending just $0.34 a day to add peanuts into your meal plan and see what results you find for yourself. 

Cost: $0.17 per ounce 

8. Russet Potatoes

Contrary to popular belief, you can (and should) enjoy a variety of potatoes in your meal plan to reap their polyphenol health benefits

Not only do potatoes have more potassium than a banana, a nutrient which is recognized by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a nutrient of public health concern due to significant under-consumption – less than 3% of us are getting enough. Consider eating a potato and egg taco as post-workout fuel versus an expensive protein shake from the gym. Your body (and wallet) will thank you! 

Cost: 5-pound bag for $3.79

9. 100% Whole Wheat Pasta

As much as I love innovative lentil and high-protein pastas, they clock in on average at $5.99 or more for a 16-ounce box. Instead of opting for the traditional variety of pasta as an affordable alternative, consider looking at whole wheat options. Most pack at least 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per serving. 

If you’re not sold on the taste, then pick up a traditional white pasta and a 100% whole grain and do a 50-50 swap. This will still provide you more nutritional bang for your buck while making it something you will eat, too! 

Cost: $1.79 per 16-ounce bag 

Looking for more ways to save? Check out these other affordable foods:

Featured recipe: Spicy Peanut Tofu Noodle Salad

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