Healthy fare gets a bad rap for being too expensive, but, in reality, there are plenty of good-for-you foods that have budget-friendly price tags and a long shelf life—like these 10. Bonus: You don’t need much time or talent to turn these into meals.
1. Dried Beans and Lentils
Average Price: Under $2 for a 1-pound bag
Shelf Life: 1-2 years
Beans and lentils are a great source of protein, fiber and all kinds of vitamins—and they’re easy to prepare if you’ve got a pot, water and a sprinkling of salt. Buy them by the bag and they’re much cheaper than canned beans—and you can get about 12 servings per bag.
2. Brown Rice and Other Whole Grains
Average Price: About $2 (depending on where you purchase) for a 1-pound bag
Shelf Life: 3-6 months
Eating brown rice and other whole grains like buckwheat, quinoa and barley is a simple way to up your fiber intake and feel full on less. Like beans, you can heat grains up in a pot of water with salt. Then just add butter. If you eat it often enough, buying in bulk can save you even more.
3. Frozen Vegetables
Average Price: $1.25-$2 for a 1-pound bag
Shelf Life: 8-10 months
Opting for frozen veggies is one of the most affordable ways to consume more produce, especially during the winter months when prices tend to rise. You can prep them in the microwave or on the stove in minutes. Then just add butter and salt.
4. Peanut Butter
Average Price: $2-$3 for 16-ounce jar
Shelf Life: 6-9 months (if kept in the refrigerator)
Full of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, potassium and protein, peanut butter is a cheap, healthy (in moderation, of course) and versatile staple.
5. Canned Tuna
Average Price: $0.82 to $1.50 per 5-ounce can
Shelf Life: About 3 years
Looking for more protein and omega-3 fatty acids? Canned tuna is a good option. Just make sure you enjoy within reason to limit mercury consumption.
Average Price: $2-$3 per dozen
Shelf Life: 4 to 5 weeks
Eggs are another great, cheap source of high-quality protein that’ll last in your fridge for about a month. Scramble them with vegetables for a quick meal.
7. Whey Protein
Average Price: Around $20 for a 2-pound tub of generic brand
Shelf Life: Up to 2 years
Whey may seem an expensive ingredient, but when you consider the amount of protein packed into one container (about 20-25 servings), it’s much cheaper than meat. Specialty brands drive up the price, though, so stick to generic if you’re on a budget. Use it in shakes, sprinkle it on oatmeal or mix it into a yoghurt for a protein boost.
Average Price: Around $1.57 per pound, depending on variety
Shelf Life: 6-8 weeks (refrigerated)
Apples are surprisingly hardy fruits, making them an ideal snack to have on hand year round. Though some varieties can be pricey, they’re relatively inexpensive compared to other produce. Slice them up and eat with peanut butter for a healthy, filling snack.
Average Price: Around $0.74 per pound
Shelf Life: 4-5 weeks
Just make sure you buy whole, unpeeled carrots; baby or pre-shredded carrots can cost twice as much. You can eat these raw or cooked.
Average Price: Around $2 per pound
Shelf Life: Up to 6 months (whole bulb)
Stored as a whole head in a cool, dry place, garlic will last for up to six months—so there’s no need to worry that you won’t use it before it goes bad. It’s an easy way to add flavor to food without adding many calories.
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