One of the best ways to reduce your food bills is to cut back on packaged and processed foods and substitute in more fresh and healthier foods. Packaged and processed foods typically contain more sugar and sodium. They're also quite a bit more expensive. Here's a list of 17 healthy foods that can be had for less than a dollar per serving. I've included the prices from my local supermarket in Portland, Oregon. Actual prices can vary quite a bit based on geography and growing season.
Rice - Rice is the most consumed staple in the world with nearly half of the developing worlds caloric intake coming from rice. The processing of rice removes much of its nutritional value. Brown rice retains the most nutritional value and white rice loses the most. Many rice producers enrich white rice with vitamins to add back in some of the nutritional value lost in the processing of rice. When you go to the supermarket many rice products will say "enriched" on the packaging. Even after enrichment whole brown rice is still more nutritional.
Cost: Rice can be stored up to two years so it makes a good deal of economic sense to buy in bulk. If you buy 20 pounds or more you can find rice for less than 50 cents per pound. It is one of the most economical foods on the planet with a 100 calories of cooked rice costing roughly 3-4 cents.
Oatmeal - My grandma swore by the health benefits of oatmeal. She had a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every morning and lived well into her nineties. Oatmeal is rich in dietary fiber and has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.
Cost: My local Winco has old fashioned oatmeal for 42 cents a pound. I typically have a cup of oatmeal with some cinnamon mixed in for breakfast costing roughly 20 cents.
Potatoes - As long as potatoes are prepared without loading them up with butter or sour cream they can be an extremely nutritious low calorie staple that's high in fiber and other vitamins.
Cost: There are several types of potatoes but you can typically find most types of potatoes for between 40 and 60 cents per pound.
Eggs - A great source of affordable low calorie protein. One egg contains just over 5 grams of protein.
Cost: 20 cents or less per egg with a typical breakfast containing two eggs.
Popcorn - Popcorn is high in dietary fiber and low in calories and fat as long as you don't load it up with salt and butter. According to Wikipedia popcorn became a popular snack food during the Great Depression. It's easy to see why, popcorn is one of the most inexpensive snack foods around especially if you pop your own popcorn.
Cost: Loose kernels cost around 75 cents per pound. A typically microwave packet contains 2.8 ounces of dry popcorn kernels which comes out to roughly 13 cents if you pop it yourself.
Apples - An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples are loaded with dietary fiber and antioxidants. Nearly all apples are under a dollar per apple in the supermarkets produce sections.
Cost: Apples like all fruits are considerably cheaper during peak harvest seasons. Jonagold and Golden Delicious apples run between 70-80 cents per pound, Red Delicious typically run around 90 cents per pound and Fuji apples $1.20 per pound.
Watermelon - Watermelon is a great summertime thirst quencher. It's very filling and low in calories due to the amount of water it holds. It's also packed with a number of antioxidants and vitamins. It also contains amino acids such as citrulline and arginine which promote cardiovascular health.
Cost: You can typically find watermelon for around 40 cents a pound, and cheaper during growing season.
Garbanzo Beans - As with most beans garbanzo beans also known as chickpeas are rich in dietary fiber and are a great source of protein. A cup of garbanzo beans contains more than a quarter of daily recommended protein. Studies have also shown that garbanzo beans lower LDL, the bad cholesterol.
Cost: You can pick up garbanzo beans for a $1 per pound.
Pinto Beans - Like garbanzo beans, pinto beans are packed with dietary fiber that helps reduce the bad cholesterol and is a great source of protein. Pinto beans are among the most affordable beans available.
Cost: 77 cents per pound.
Bananas - Sort of like natures candy bar bananas are a delicious creamy fruit which is rich in potassium and delivers a burst of energy.
Cost: 40-60 cents per pound.
Kiwis –Packed with vitamin C, this sweet tasting low calorie fruit makes an excellent out of the ordinary snack.
Cost: You can often find kiwis on sale three for a dollar.
Cantaloupe – Cantaloupe is rich in Vitamin A and C, and potassium. This sweet, cool fruit is also low in calories. Like most fruit Cantaloupe prices vary greatly throughout the year.
Cost: In-season you can find it for low as 19 cents per pound and out-of-season it can run you up to 60 cents per pound.
Carrots - Have garnered a reputation for improving eyesight because of the beta-carotene they contain. Carrots are low in calories and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. They are easy to pack and make a great healthy snack.
Cost: Carrots typically cost 50 cents per pound for the large variety and $1.25 per pound for baby carrots.
Lentils - Lentils are a protein powerhouse, one cup of cooked lentils contains more than a third of recommended daily value of protein. Lentils like most legumes are also packed with cholesterol lowering dietary fiber.
Cost: 90 cents per pound.
Grapefruit – Is a fruit so low in calories it even has a diet named after it. Grapefruit is packed with Vitamin C and extremely low in calories. It has a tart taste which helps to quench people's hunger.
Cost: 50 cents per pound.
Nuts – Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are packed with monounsaturated fats which are considered healthy fats. Several studies have shown that nut consumption lowers your risk of heart disease. Nuts make a great snack that’s easy to pack up and take anywhere.
Cost: Almonds $2.98 pound, Walnuts $2.88 a pound.
Water - Water is one of the key building blocks of health. Replacing soft drinks and high calorie, sugary drinks is one of the best things you can do for your health. Drinking plenty of water also cuts down on hunger and food consumption.
Cost: Practically free.
Check out our Food & Dining Out category for more ways to save on groceries. Here are some additional food money saving tips: