Having a well-stocked pantry of affordable healthy food is the key to creating quick, easy, and delicious meals!
If I had a nickel for every time someone has said healthy food is too expensive. The truth is, affordable healthy food is readily available. Every time I go shopping, I’m noticing more affordable options. In fact, if you take the time to compare prices, you’ll often be surprised to find that the store brand organic version is less.
A well-stocked pantry is a must. If you’ve got the basics, you can usually throw together a quick and healthy meal. And, to be clear, a healthy meal to me isn’t low carb, keto, or gluten-free. It’s REAL food. Not fake food. I do low carb (most of the time) because it’s what makes me feel good and maintain my weight, but eating real food is what’s most important to me.
Consumers are becoming smarter about eating real food, and the industry is listening.
I’ve compiled a list of staples that I personally keep on hand for quick, healthy, and affordable meals! Also, if you’re going to eat grains, choose organic. Mass-produced grains can be loaded with pesticides and other harmful things. Organic grains are grown in nutrient-rich rich soil, more nutritious, and usually only cost a few cents more, especially if you shop sales.
Running out of eggs is like running out of toilet paper in our house. It just can’t happen. Simply put, eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. In addition to iron, vitamins, and minerals, one large egg can have up to 8 grams of protein. Protein is king when it comes warding off sugar cravings, giving you energy, and keeping you feeling full. Try to incorporate it into every meal. If I’m a hurry and don’t have time to cook, I can fry two eggs in about 90 seconds. Better yet, just keep some hard-boiled eggs in your fridge for quick eggs salad – or just sprinkle on some salt and pop it in your mouth. Cage-free, pasture-raised, and organic are always a better choice, but if you can’t afford that, just get some eggs!
Dried pasta is a staple that everyone should have on hand. Pasta fills you up, it’s cheap, and the ways to prepare it are endless. My kids grew up on “white spaghetti”, which is just cooked noodles, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Sometimes I would add broccoli and call it green pasta, which is something my very Italian mother made us regularly growing up.
My easy goulash recipe will feed the whole family for less than $10!
Canned tuna and salmon can be found at every grocery store and are a great way to add protein to a dish, not to mention a ton of vitamins, essential fatty acids, and minerals. Tuna salad is cheap and healthy. Serve it on sandwiches or over a bed of lettuce. Salmon cakes are incredibly easy to make and full of flavor, texture, and nutrients!
Beans come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and tastes. Similar to rice, they can be added to many dishes, and there are endless ways to cook them. Beans are full of protein, vitamins, and minerals, so they’re not only a cheap pantry staple but a healthy one too! Try my three bean salad for a healthy lunch or snack that costs around $5 to make. My husband regularly requests this during the summer. It’s great cold or at room temperature. My black bean & orzo stuffed peppers are a meal in themselves!
I’m never without canned tomatoes. You can use them in sauce, soups, stews, casseroles – the sky is the limit. If you have canned tomatoes, you don’t need pasta sauce. Our favorite pantry meal is pasta with tuna. I saute onions and garlic in a little olive oil, add some canned tuna and tomatoes, a little broth, seasonings, and butter. Toss with pasta, and you’ve got a nutritious and filling meal right from your pantry!
Check out my tips for saving on produce for even more ways to save.
When it comes to affordable healthy food, frozen produce might just be my favorite. I have a variety of frozen veggies in my freezer at all times. From the time fresh produce is picked and it finds its way to your table, it can lose up to 45% of its nutrients. Frozen vegetables are often more nutritious because they’re flash-frozen within hours of being picked, which retains most of the nutrients. Buying frozen can save money when produce is out of season and more pricey. For example, assorted bell peppers can be pricey, but a bag of frozen bell peppers is a couple of dollars and is enough for two meals! The exception to this is if you have access to freshly picked produce, like from a farmer’s market or your own garden.
Adding to what I just said above, fresh produce can be affordable if you know how to shop for it. Stock up when it’s on sale, and freeze for future use. Just like you can buy bags of already chopped and frozen onions, you can easily do that yourself. When organic spinach goes BOGO at Publix, I buy an extra bag and throw it in the freezer. Potatoes are cheap, filling, and more nutritious than people think. Buy a bag when they’re on sale and plan some meals around them. Shop smart and save!
Rice goes with everything. Literally. Having eggs? Add some rice. Eating tacos for dinner? Add some rice. It’s a great fille and even more nutritious if you choose brown rice. I use it often to stretch soups and casseroles. Good ‘ole white rice is our favorite, and it also happens to be the cheapest. Try using broth instead of water. It adds a ton of flavor! You can also throw in some herbs to go with the type of cuisine you’re making it with.
What is your favorite affordable healthy food to keep on hand? Tell me in the comments!
You might not think of peanut butter as healthy food, but it’s surprisingly high in protein and high in nutrients. When eaten in moderation a jar of peanut butter can last a long time and costs around 24¢ per serving. I love to add it to my smoothies, and my kids favorite snack in the whole wide world are grilled pb&j sandwiches!
The price per pound on those bulk bins can give you sticker shock, but do you need a whole pound of nutritional yeast? If you only need a small amount, chances are you’ll spend less than a dollar. (I’ve shown this many times on my Instagram stories). The bulk bins have everything from grain, to spices to nuts so they might be worth checking out the next time you go shopping!
Oats aren’t just for breakfast! You can use them in granola bars, meatballs, cookies, and cakes. They’re incredibly good for you and add both fiber and nutrients to whatever you use them in. You can even add them to smoothies to make them more filling…and healthier! A little goes a long way, making them incredibly affordable. Just 1/4 cup of dried oats is enough for a filling breakfast or snack, and you’ll be doing your cholesterol a favor too. I like to top mine with toasted nut and seeds for added texture and nutrition!
Not only are popcorn kernels ridiculously cheap, but popcorn is just a satisfying, healthy snack. We make it at least three times a week, and it’s a lot easier than you might think. I add 1/4 cup to a brown paper bag, sprinkle in some salt and about a teaspoon of olive oil. Fold the top over three times, put it in the microwave, and cook it on high until you hear no popping for 3 seconds. Voilà. Quick, healthy, cheap and delish! The kids have fun helping with this too 😉
More money-saving posts you may enjoy:
- Save on Fresh Produce
- Lower Your Electric Bill
- Affordable Date Night Ideas
- How to Get Free Movie Tickets
Did you find this post helpful?
- Leave us a comment or rating below!
- Tag and hashtag us on Instagram @nashvillemade #nashvillemade
- Follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook
- Sign up here to receive our weekly roundup in your inbox.