30 Cheap Foods With High Nutritional Value And What To Cook With Them

During my quest to live cheaply and save money it became very clear how essential it was to give my grocery shop a serious makeover. With two growing boys to feed, I needed both quantity and quality, in the form of nutritious foods that don’t cost the earth.

Yes, you can spend oodles of money if you wish on fancy nuts, and seeds, and pre-packed designer cereals, but I don’t believe that is necessary for a healthy diet. The foods that I regard as ‘cheap staples’ like the potato, for example, are actually extremely nutritious. Some would say potatoes are in the ‘super food’ category. Who needs chia seeds?

It is possible to live cheaply on both good and bad food! Combine some cheap vegetables with high nutritional value and some lean meat like chicken and you have yourself a very healthy and cheap meal that will keep you full. Compare the price of that with a burger and fries and you will find it is similar or even cheaper.

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Tips to save even more on your food bill:

  • Always plan your meals
  • Take a list to the grocery store and stick to it
  • Never over-buy on 2 for 1 offers unless you know you will not waste the food or it freezes well.
  • Grow your own food

To help you keep your food bill affordable, I have a handy list below of 30 cheap foods with a high nutritional value, which are not only healthy, but many of them will keep you full too.

All these foods are also great candidates for meal prepping, check out this post – 5 Healthy Meal Prep Ideas For Week Nights.

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1. Quinoa

Quinoa is packed with beneficial nutrients and has a low glycemic index. Quinoa has a nutty texture and is naturally gluten-free. You can buy it in most supermarkets. I love one-pot recipes – check out this one-pot Mexican quinoa.

2. Brown rice

You can cook brown rice in the same way as white rice, but it takes a little longer. Did you know that you can cook brown rice in a crockpot?

3. Red kidney beans

Beans and pulses of which the kidney bean is one, are considered to be a superfood because they have the perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. They are also very high in fibre. The most long-lived countries in the world have a high proportion of beans in their diet.

Buying your beans dried is far cheaper than buying them canned. It takes much longer to cook dried beans but the saving is very worth the inconvenience.

Are you craving a burger? Check out this Red kidney bean burger recipe.

4. Chickpeas

Chickpeas, like kidney beans, are cheap to buy and versatile too. Use them to make things like humous, salads and casseroles. Check out this sausage casserole with chickpeas recipe.

5. Red Lentils

Red lentils are much easier to cook than chickpeas and red kidney beans because they don’t require soaking. You can add them raw into casseroles for extra bulk and nutrients. Here is my Easy Slow Cooker Chicken and Lentil Tandoori Curry.

6. Butter beans

Butter beans need to be soaked and boiled, but you can also buy them in a can if you don’t have time to prepare them. Mashed butter beans are a great low carb replacement for mashed potatoes.

Butter beans go really well with spinach. check out this super healthy butter bean spinach salad.

7. Brocolli

Brocolli can be paired with almost any dish, along with meat or any other veg. You can even eat it raw! Brocolli is perfect in vegetarian curries too. Here’s my tasty pick – Bombay potato broccoli and lentil curry.

8. Potatoes

Where would we be without the potato? The humble potato has lost its popularity a little bit of late, due to its high carbohydrate content. Those on a low-carb diet might prefer to avoid a high intake of potatoes. Potatoes are packed with nutrients on a super-food level. They are high on my list for cheap foods that fill you up.

This simple healthy tuna jacket potato recipe is perfect for lunch or a light supper.

9. Spinach

Spinach is considered enormously healthy due to its high nutrients and antioxidants. It is very easy to cook. Simply rinse, add to a covered pan and heat gently until it wilts down. Spinach is a healthy additive to any savoury recipe but I especially like it in curries. Try this spinach and red lentil dhal recipe.

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10. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are very different to regular potatoes, but you can cook them in a similar way, such as roasting, boiling and chipping.

Here is a delicious sweet potato and chickpea tofu curry to try out.

11. Squash

Fun fact: did you know that squash is actually a type of fruit? It’s regarded as a fruit because it contains seeds and grows from a flower. Squashes come in several varieties. Butternut squash is delicious and packed full of antioxidants. I often find one butternut squash lasts for several days.

I love to spice up butternut squash with some chillies. Here is my favourite soup recipe: butternut squash soup with chilli and creme fraiche. Or if you prefer something sweeter, try this one for your slow cooker – butternut squash and red pepper soup.

12. Swede

Swede is a popular winter vegetable. Mashed swede is a great alternative to mashed potato. Add some cubed swede to casseroles for added nutrients. Try this simple dish – carrot and swede mash with cream.

13. Carrots

Carrots of course are regarded as a staple veggie for many of us. But did you know how highly nutritious they are? Carrots contain carotene antioxidants which have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer. Eat them raw in salads, or steam them and eat them as a side dish. They are also great in soups. Try this one spicy carrot and parsnip soup.

cheap foods with high nutritional value - cabbage

14. Cabbages

There are loads of different kinds of cabbages. What is great about these is that they are often so cheap and so versatile. I always like to cook my cabbage in a pan with a small amount of water and a knob of butter. Cabbage goes very well with bacon or chorizo, try this one – chorizo and cabbage stew. Or for vegetarians, cabbage and leek gratin.

15. Cauliflower

This is another vegetable we almost always have on hand. Again, it is very versatile. Simply steam it as a side dish or use it to make a deliciously nutritious soup or curry. You can even mash it to make a low-carb alternative to rice. You could combine it with its cousin in a cauliflower and broccoli cheese bake, and it also makes a great curry – cauliflower and lentil curry with coconut milk.

16. Onions

Onions are a staple too. If you do any home cooking at all, I bet you have one or two onions in your store cupboard. Onions have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. I love to cook omelettes or as frittatas as home. Here is my favourite – onion and potato frittata.

17. Frozen peas

If I have nothing fresh left in the fridge, frozen peas always come to the rescue. Of course, you can buy them fresh, but it is a bit of a faff getting them out of their pods isn’t it? I do think adding peas to dishes gives them a spring/summer feel. Peas work great in risottos.

18. Canned Tomatoes

Even great quality canned tomatoes can be cheap too if you shop around. I love the brand at Lidl because they taste great and are super cheap. There are thousands of recipes to choose from that contain canned tomatoes! Here is a recipe for homemade tomato soup made with a can of tomatoes.

19. Canned tuna fish

Whenever I think of canned tuna, I think of my student days, and the cheap meals I used to make pretty much daily with tuna. I lived off the stuff. It took me a couple of years after graduating to bring myself to eat it again because I got so bored of it!

Here was my favourite student recipe for tuna – creamy tuna pasta bake.

cheap foods with high nutritional value - mackerel

20. Mackerel

Besides tuna, mackerel is one of the cheapest fish you can buy. Smoked is a great way to buy it. It has a very strong taste, and it quite overpowering. It needs to be the main ingredient, that’s why I like to have it in a salad. Try this mackerel beetroot and lentil salad.

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21. Oatmeal

Oatmeal porridge is perfect for breakfast in porridge or you can use it to make your own muesli. Oatmeal will fill you up nicely until the next meal but if you need a snack, these oatmeal flapjacks are super easy to make, and this flapjack recipe has no butter.

22. Greek yoghurt

Greek yoghurt tends to have higher protein and lower sugar content than regular yoghurt. Use it in your cooking instead of cream. It is also great to eat at breakfast time in some overnight oats.

23. Eggs

Eggs are super at filling you up. I especially like to have them at breakfast time and it takes me through until lunchtime. Eggs are a good source of protein.

cheap foods with high nutritional value - popcorn

24. Popcorn

Did you know that popcorn can be very filling? If you opt for the homemade sort (without added sugar) it is very low calorie too. You can buy a bag of popping corn very cheaply and it will make a huge amount of snacks.

25. Frozen berries

Keep frozen berries on hand for use in smoothies and pie fillings, or as a healthy pudding with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

26. Apples

Eat whole with the skin on for the best fibre content. Apples are great in crumbles and in savoury dishes too. Here’s a delicious recipe for slow-cooked pork and apple.

27. Bananas

Reach for a banana when you need a snack. I don’t know if it just me, but a banana and a glass of milk before bed helps me sleep ?.

28. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is usually low in fat and carbohydrates and high in protein. There are a variety of ways to eat cottage cheese. You could have it on toast, in a salad, or even as a mayonnaise replacement.

For lunch, why not try these cottage cheese pancakes or this Mexican egg casserole.

29. Chicken

Chicken is a good source of protein and one of the cheaper and most healthy of meats. Use chicken to make a nutritious curry or in a casserole. It is such a versatile meat. I like to keep a bag of chicken breasts in the freezer so there is no danger of it going off in the refrigerator.

30. Ground beef

This is another pretty cheap and versatile meat. Ground beef is perfect to use in meal prepping and freezes well after cooking.

This article and its contents are owned by sparklingpenny.com and was first published on 25 April 2021.

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Penny | SparklingPenny

Hi, I'm Penny. A busy mum of two boys, with the aim to enjoy life to the full.