How do you eat a nutritious diet while keeping your grocery bill low? The good news is that cheap eats aren’t necessarily unhealthy.
You can cut food costs by eating more meals at home and by making sure they feature some of the healthiest foods from your supermarket -- foods like whole grains, vegetables, and beans.
Luckily, many of these foods cost less than $2 per package.
A 1-pound bag of brown rice, for example, sells for about $1.75 and cooks up into about 10 side servings -- that's just 18 cents a serving. Talk about nutrition on the cheap!
Check out the list below for more examples. Prices may vary based on the store, location, and time of year.
1. Brown Rice
Great for: Side dishes, rice salads, fried rice, casseroles, soups, and stews.
What's a serving? 1/4 cup dry rice.
Price per serving: 18 cents. A 1-pound bag costs about $1.75 and contains 10 servings.
Nutrition info per serving: 170 calories, 2 grams fiber, and 4 grams protein.
2. Whole-Wheat or Multigrain Pasta
Great for: Hot and cold pasta dishes.
What's a serving? 2 ounces of dried pasta. A serving for most people translates into about 2 ounces of dried pasta, which means you get about 7 servings in the typical box or bag of dried pasta.
Price per serving? About 24 cents. You can get a 13- to 16-ounce box or bag of store-brand dried pasta for about $1.69.
Nutrition info per serving: About 200 calories, 7 grams protein, and 6 grams fiber.
3. 100% Whole-Wheat Bread
Great for: Hot and cold sandwiches, bread stuffing, bread pudding, and breakfast strata.
What's a serving? 2 slices. Labels usually list a serving as 1 slice of bread (about 28 grams per slice), but for our purposes, we'll use the amount you'd use to make a sandwich.
Price per serving: About 18 cents. You can get a 22-ounce loaf of store-brand whole-wheat bread for about $1.99 (on sale). Each loaf has about 22 slices, or 11 servings of 2 slices each.
Nutrition info per serving (2 slices): About 120 calories, 6 grams protein, and 3 grams fiber.
4. Nonfat Greek Yogurt
Great for: A quick snack, parfaits made with fruit and granola, and smoothies.
What's a serving? Most individual servings come in 6-ounce or 8-ounce containers. You can save money by buying a larger container of Greek yogurt and then taking your 6- or 8-ounce portion from it.
Price per serving: Individual servings (6- to 8-ounce containers) cost about 89 cents each and sometimes less when found on sale.
Nutrition info per serving (for a 6-ounce serving of honey vanilla): 150 calories, 0 grams fiber, and 14 grams protein.
5. Old-Fashioned Oats
Great for: Hot or cold cereal, granola, crumb toppings for desserts, and muffins.
What's a serving? 1/2 cup dry oats.
Price per serving: 13 cents. A 42-ounce container of store brand oats costs around $3.99, and each container has about 30 servings, based on a serving of 1/2-cup of dry oats.
Nutrition info per serving: 150 calories, 4 grams fiber, and 5 grams protein.
6. Frozen Vegetables
Great for: Side dishes, casseroles, and stews.
What's a serving? 1 cup.
Price per serving: Around 25 cents. Frozen vegetables come in 12-ounce to 24-ounce bags that cost anywhere from $1.75 to $2.25 and contain 6-8 cups, depending on the vegetable and the size of the bag. At one national store, you can buy a bag of frozen organic green beans for $1.79. A bag of petite peas will cost you $1.19, and a 10-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach costs $1.19.
Nutrition info per serving: A 1-cup serving of frozen mixed vegetables (classic mix) has 82 calories, 6 grams fiber, 4 grams protein, 115% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, 8% of the Daily Value for vitamin C, and 7% of the Daily Value for potassium.
7. Russet Potato
Great for: Baked potatoes, breakfast potatoes, salads, casseroles, and stews.
What's a serving? 1 medium or large baked potato.
Price per serving: About 33 cents per potato. You can buy a 5-pound bag of Russet potatoes for about $3.99, and a bag contains 11-13 potatoes.
Nutrition info per serving (one medium-size potato): 168 calories, 3 grams fiber, 5 grams protein, 20% of the Daily Value for vitamin C, 10% Daily Value for iron, and 25% Daily Value for potassium.
8. Fresh Bagged Spinach
Great for: Quick salads, egg dishes, casseroles, soups, and stews.
What's a serving? If you use it for a main-dish salad, about 4 cups makes a serving. If you sauté it and add to an omelet, or use it for a side salad, about 2 cups is a serving.
Price per serving: 66 cents for a 4-cup serving; 33 cents for a 2-cup serving. A bag (9 ounces) of washed spinach leaves sells for about $1.99.
Nutrition info per serving: 4-cup serving contains 20 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 160% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, 40% of the Daily Value for vitamin C, 8% of the Daily Value for calcium, and 40% of the Daily Value for folic acid.
9. Canned Refried Beans
Great for: Burritos, nachos, dips, enchiladas, or a quick side dish.
What's a serving? Each can has about 3.5 servings, based on 1/2-cup servings.
Price per serving: About 34 cents. You can buy a 15-ounce can of store brand vegetarian refried beans for about $1.19.
Nutrition info per serving: About 140 calories (for the vegetarian type), 7 grams protein, 6 grams fiber, 4% of the Daily Value for calcium and 10% of the Daily Value for iron.
10. Canned Tuna
Great for: Sandwiches, casseroles, several types of salads, and to serve with crackers.
Note: Due to levels of mercury detected in canned tuna (with higher levels in albacore tuna than canned light tuna), the FDA recommends that pregnant women, women who are trying to become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children limit albacore tuna to no more than 6 ounces per week. The FDA also recommends that those women not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish due to high mercury levels. In my opinion, it would probably be best for pregnant women to avoid canned tuna altogether and to choose lower-mercury seafood instead.
What's a serving? A 6-ounce can contains around 2 servings.
Price per serving: About 70 cents for chunk white albacore in water. You can buy a 6-ounce can of solid white albacore in water for about $1.99, or a 6-ounce can of chunk white albacore in water for about $1.39. The best deal is usually with chunk light in water for 85 cents per 6-ounce can.
Nutrition info per serving: About 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids (0.5 gram), 60 calories, and 13 grams of protein.
11. Canned or Jarred Marinara Sauce
Great for: Pasta dishes, pizza, casseroles, appetizers, Italian sandwiches, and stews.
What's a serving? 1/2 cup.
Price per serving: About 28 cents. You can buy a 24 or 28-ounce jar or can of marinara or pasta sauce for $1.67.
Nutrition info per serving: A serving of meatless pasta sauce has around 90 calories, 2 grams fiber, 15% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, and 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C.
12. Whole Wheat Pita Bread
Great for: Making pizzas, flatbread appetizers, and hot or cold sandwiches.
What's a serving? 1 pita pocket.
Price per serving: 30 to 55 cents. You can buy a 12-ounce package of 6 pita breads for $1.79 at Trader Joe's or $3.29 at a supermarket.
Nutrition info per serving: One pita contains 140 calories, 4 grams fiber, and 6 grams of protein.
13. Store-Brand Egg Substitute
Great for: Making quick omelets or as an ingredient in fried rice. You can also blend half egg substitute and half eggs to make quiches, frittatas, egg casseroles.
What's a serving? 1/4 cup.
Price per serving: 25 to 37 cents. You can buy a 16-ounce carton for $1.99 to $2.99 at Trader Joe's and supermarkets.
Nutrition info per serving: 30 calories, 6 grams protein, 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin B12, 6% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, and 4% of the Daily Value for vitamins D and E.
14. Frozen Edamame (Soybeans)
Great for: Snacks and appetizers or as a side dish with your meal. If the edamame are shelled (without pods), you can easily add them to fried rice, stews, casseroles, and more.
What's a serving? 1/2 cup shelled edamame.
Price per serving: 56 cents. You can buy a 16-ounce bag of organic edamame in pods at a supermarket for $2.79 or edamame in pods at Trader Joe's for $1.79.
Nutrition info per serving: 90 calories, 10 grams protein, 8 grams fiber, 10% of the Daily Value for iron, and 6% of the Daily Value for calcium.
15. Dried Lentils
Great for: Casseroles, salads, soups and stews, and more. Lentils are the most user-friendly of the beans because they cook quickly without pre-soaking. Generally you just need to cover 1 cup of lentils with 3 cups of water or broth and boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
What's a serving? 1/4 cup dried lentils.
Price per serving: 10 cents. You can buy a 16-ounce bag for $1.29. Each 16-ounce bag makes about 13 servings of lentils (if 1/4 cup dry is a serving). That small bag of lentils is deceiving because the lentils are dried, but once cooked, you will see the value.
Nutrition info per serving: 120 calories, 10 grams protein, and 11 grams fiber.
Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.