How to Diet for Dollars (with 10 Dollar Foods to Snag!)

Whether looking to lose weight or simply limit ultra-processed foods, these budget-friendly foods will keep you healthy and wealthy!

How to Diet for Dollars (with 10 Dollar Foods to Snag!)

Many people think eating healthy comes at a high price. But this is far from the truth… 

Contrary to popular belief, many cheap healthy foods can have you dieting for dollars! So if you are wondering what food you can buy for a dollar, read on for a list of the top 10 dollar foods that can help you start dieting today. 

Disclaimer: Pricing is based on cost per serving and national average retail price. Prices may vary based on brand, location, and certifications (i.e. organic). 

10 Dollar Foods For Your Diet

There is a big myth that eating healthy is expensive. Sure, some high-quality foods can cost more than other options. However, there are many delicious dollar foods that can nourish your body while keeping your wallet healthy, too. 

The following 10 foods are versatile, inexpensive, and nutritious. Add one of them to your next meal. 

1. Nut & Seed Butters

Nut and seed butters are packed with nutrition and typically cost cents per serving. Trendy nut and seed blends may be less affordable, but plain peanut butter generally costs $5-$6 per jar. This means that the average serving (2 Tbsp) contains protein, healthy fats, and fiber for less than $0.50 per serving. 

Additionally, nut butters are versatile and can be added to smoothies, sauces, dips, and beyond. Look for varieties low in added salts, oils, and sugars. 

2. Frozen Vegetables

When it seems like fresh produce goes bad quickly, frozen vegetables are the answer. Frozen veggies are generally less expensive than fresh, and because you can use exactly what you need when you need it, there’s little to no waste. 

Other than pre-packaged medleys (i.e slaw or stir-fry), popular frozen vegetables include kale, carrots, corn, sweet potatoes and potatoes, and squash. Spinach, which costs around $1.99 per bag, or $0.31 per serving, can be thrown in anything from smoothies to pasta dishes to desserts like brownies (which expertly hide the taste). 

3. Canned Fruit

Pineapple is a dark horse among fruits and can play a role as the unexpected ingredient in oatmeal, muffins, salsas, stir-fry, and more. Packed in its own juice (as opposed to high-sugar syrups) canned chunked pineapple costs as little as $1.18 per can. That works out to less than $0.30 per serving! 

Other inexpensive and healthy canned fruit options include pumpkin (with no added sugar), tomatoes, and mandarin oranges. Remember to look on the label and make sure added salts and sugars are at a minimum. Fruit cocktails can also be a great option if they are canned in water or their own juices instead of heavy syrup. 

4. Beans

Kidney beans cost only $0.90 per pound, and pinto beans are priced at even less ($0.87 per pound). Bulk options (i.e. getting a bagful and paying by the pound at a health food store) or canned options (i.e. canned black beans) are equally great. 

Often, stores will have sales when you buy more than one can so you can save and stock up at the same time. Try to stock up on shelf-stable navy beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), and green beans. 

5. Lentils

Though small, lentils are a great source of protein, fiber, and other nutrients. An entire pound of dried lentils costs approximately $1.00, which works out to around $0.13 per serving. Lentils can make a great addition to salads, soups, and sauces while also leaving you with a feeling of fullness. 

6. Oats

Oats literally cost cents per serving. An 18-ounce can costs about $3.00, or around $0.23 per serving. Oatmeal may be an obvious meal, but oats can also be made into easy meals like overnight oats, desserts, smoothies, oat flour, and more. 

7. Eggs

Heralded as one of the most nutrient-dense foods, eggs make another inexpensive addition to the diet. Regular eggs can cost as little as $1.50 per dozen (about $0.13 per egg). Organic eggs, which are about $6 per dozen, can contain a higher level of nutrients and still only cost about $0.50 per egg. 

8. Yogurt 

A 4-6 ounce pack of yogurt costs less than a dollar on average. For about $0.50, you can get protein-packed food that is healthy and cheap. Look for regular, unsweetened yogurt for a filling breakfast or snack. 

Greek yogurt is about $0.98 per serving, which makes it slightly more expensive but still a great option. It’s also high in protein, packing X grams of protein per X!

9. Bananas

Fresh fruit like berries can be pricey. Bananas, on the other hand, average $0.49 per serving. Even organic bananas only cost around $0.70 per pound, making the organic option affordable, too! 

Bananas can be frozen before they go bad, or used fresh in pancakes, bread, banana ice cream, and more. 

10. Melons

Another affordable fruit is almost any kind of melon. This is one reason cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew melons are added to many fruit salads. 

Cantaloupes cost, on average, around $0.98 per pound and can contribute antioxidants and vitamin A to your diet. Honeydews cost even less, about $0.74 per pound, and provide antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, like vitamin C and potassium. Watermelons cost around $0.59 per pound, making them another excellent option full of nutrients.

Slice melon and enjoy on its own, or add to fruit salad or alongside cottage cheese for a nutrient-rich snack. 

The Deal on Dieting with Dollar Foods

A healthy lifestyle can come with a price. However, it isn’t the price tag that should take the most investment!

Start with the mindset that eating healthy with fruits, veggies, grains, and much more doesn’t have to be expensive. Then, take the time to find cheap, nutrient-rich options. 

Before you know it, you’ll feel healthier and so will your wallet!

References:

7 Healthy Foods That All Cost Less Than $1. Time. Published June 13, 2017. https://time.com/4855542/cheap-healthy-foods/

Bolluyt J. 28 Healthy Foods You Can Buy for Less Than $1. Showbiz CheatSheet. Published December 2017. https://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/health-foods-you-can-buy-less-than-1.html/

Canned Goods. Dollar Tree. https://www.dollartree.com/food/canned-goods

Canned Good - Accessible and Affordable. Can Manufacturers Institute. https://www.cancentral.com/foodcans/Accessible-Affordable

Cox J, Klemm S. Shop Healthy on a Budget. EatRight. Published March 2022. https://www.eatright.org/food/planning-and-prep/smart-shopping/shop-healthy-on-a-budget


Demarest AA. Here’s Why Alternative Nut Butters Are So Much More Expensive Than Peanut Butter. HuffPost. Published October 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-nut-butter-expensive_l_5da9e3a7e4b04c4d24ebe05e#:~:text=A%2016%2Dounce%20jar%20of,a%20jar%20from%20Barney%20Butter.

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