According to a forecast by the Economic Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food prices are predicted to increase by 7.5% in 2023. This means that making healthy choices may become more challenging for consumers. However, making smart but healthy choices at the grocery store can be easy and inexpensive. By focusing on each food group, consumers can aim for a variety of affordable fruits, vegetables, healthy sources of protein, fats, and whole grains. My top five recommendations for healthy foods on a budget are oats, pulses, sweet potatoes, cabbage, and carrots.

Oats are inexpensive, healthy foods that typically cost about $2 per pound. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, oats are rich in fiber and nutrients like phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium. The fiber content helps slow digestion, increase satiety, prevent blood sugar spikes after a meal, and benefit gut health, and it may help a person maintain a healthy weight. Oats are also versatile in that once they are cooked, you can top them with endless options. For example, you can add hemp seeds, nuts, and fruit to make your meal more nutrient dense.

My second recommendation is pulses, including beans, peas, and lentils. For less than $2 a pound, these are budget-friendly, healthy alternatives. They contain a lot of fiber, minerals, and vitamins, including protein, iron, potassium, and magnesium. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, pulses are one of the major food groups known to protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and digestive-related diseases.

Sweet potatoes are my next recommendation since they are relatively affordable and nutritious. For an average of $1.09 a pound, they provide a decent amount of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C, which are needed for various biochemical and physiological processes in the body, like immune system protection and improved digestive health.

Green cabbage is another budget-friendly vegetable, and it costs an average of $0.60 per pound. It is very versatile and rich in nutrients. Cabbage, like other cruciferous vegetables, contains the antioxidant sulforaphane. According to an article by Heather Alexander for the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, sulforaphane reduces inflammation, neutralizes free radicals, and may protect against various kinds of cancer due to its ability to block DNA mutations.

My last suggestion is carrots. Carrots cost less than $1 a pound. This antioxidant-rich food is great in stir-fries and soups, as well as for a healthy snack. A 2003 article by Catherine Nicolle et al. published in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that consuming carrots helps with cholesterol absorption, removing bile acids, and increasing antioxidant levels in the body.


How to Make Your Food Last Longer

Improving the shelf life of food is vital to saving money while trying to eat healthy on a budget. One of the most natural ways to preserve food is by freezing it. Adding a few packs of frozen fruits and vegetables to your list is one way to guarantee your groceries last longer. Frozen fruits and vegetables often come cheaper than their fresh counterparts. In fact, this method of preservation helps retain nutrients because these fruits and vegetables are typically frozen at their peak ripeness.

On the other hand, fresh produce needs to be stored strategically to improve its shelf life. Potatoes should be stored away from onions in a cool, dry place with proper ventilation. Cabbage should be stored in a zip-top bag or container with a lid. Winter squash is best stored whole in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Once cut, it should be stored in a sealed container until you are ready to cook it. Leafy greens should be unwashed and stored in air-tight containers or zip-top bags until ready to use. Fruits like apples, pears, berries, and oranges should be stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. 


Tips for Cutting Your Food Budget

Some actions to make your food budget less expensive are sticking to your list while shopping; eating before grocery shopping to prevent impulse purchases; meal planning; buying in bulk; cooking at home; buying whole, unprocessed foods; choosing generic versus brand-name products; buying products you often use on sale; and growing your own food, no matter how little. Joining local co-ops and shopping at farmers’ markets may also be helpful because they tend to offer locally grown foods at a discount that are often organic and fresher than store-bought produce. 


Finding Good Deals

There are many different places to shop to save money. Products from certain online grocery delivery services can cost up to 40% less than typical brick-and-mortar stores since these services often focus on eliminating food waste caused by aesthetic issues or surplus inventory. You can also save money by taking advantage of savings and loyalty programs offered by your local grocery store. Lastly, wholesale membership clubs are best for individuals with large families because they sell bulk products at bargain prices.

I often recommend clients eat a variety of foods to increase their intake of important nutrients, as long as the choice of food is wholesome. 

Omolara Funmilayo is the owner of She is a certified holistic wellness and nutrition coach. She supports busy parents by giving them the tools they need for transformation in health and wellness for themselves and their families.