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25 Healthiest Foods for Under $1

By Brooke McLay |

With New Year’s resolutions right around the corner, and the post-Christmas budget pinch ambushing our wallets, it’s time to revamp those indulgent holiday eating plans, and rethink the way we’ve been doing dinner. After reading Michael Pollan’s Food Rules book this weekend, I decided to sit down and make a list of the most healthiest and most affordable foods found in the grocery store and farmers market stands. I also pulled together 25 recipes from The Family Kitchen which feature these foods, because I believe one of the best ways to get healthy and stay in a budget is to have a recipe and a plan. Here are 25 healthy foods which can be purchased for a dollar, and 25 incredible recipes to go with each of the food picks.

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25 Healthiest Foods for Under $1


A pack of Tofu costs about a buck and is packed with healthy soy protein.
Click for the recipe from Salt and Pepper Tofu Triangles

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About Brooke McLay


Brooke McLay

Brooke McLay is a recipe developer, food writer, food photographer, and cooking show host for Babble, General Mills, and Good Cook. You can find and follow her latest whims at Cheeky Kitchen. Read bio and latest posts → Read Brooke's latest posts →

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34 thoughts on “25 Healthiest Foods for Under $1

  1. Aurora says:

    Where in the world do you find tofu for a dollar?!?

  2. Chad says:

    I used to find it that cheap in asian grocery stores

  3. Steven says:

    1. It would be nice if you actually listed where you could find some of these things for $1 or so the title claims.

    2. Make an option for view as one page. It is absolutely annoying to refresh the damn page every single time you want to move to the next item rather than just make a quick list people can browse. Increasing your page views this way is not helping anything.

  4. Saltwater says:

    Where in the world do you find tofu for a dollar, you ask?
    Why at the Dollar Store, where else?

  5. Ryan says:

    Cool food ideas, however they don’t cover the cost of the ingredients to make many of these things edible. Nobody wants to sit down for a meal of plain tofu.

  6. Suburban Sweetheart says:

    Agree with Aurora. I love this piece, but where on earth is tofu just a dollar? Certainly not at any grocery store I’ve ever seen!

  7. Wendy says:

    I agree, I have never seen tofu of any kind for a dollar.

    1. Brooke McLay says:

      Really? At Sunflower Market in Colorado, Tofu is often $1.99, and that tends to make at least 4 servings. Perhaps there are different local prices, but tofu in our neck of the woods tends to be a relatively cheap protein.

  8. J Taj Bozeman says:

    This article might make sense, except no one has a meal of JUST sardines or cauliflower or almonds or tofu.

    Plus, I have never in my life seen any of these products to be actually less than $1.

    This is why people who can’t afford eat a lot of fast food. Nowhere can you eat for less. A double cheeseburger from McDonalds would cost you at least 6 bucks to make at home.

  9. stop speculating on our necessities says:

    While I appreciate this article helping people find healthier, cheaper food and learning to cook more for themselves…

    …the sad fact is that we should not be paying these high prices at the grocery store. The high cost of our groceries as well as gas, heat, power bills which are driving everyone into poverty…are all because of Wall Street Speculating on our necessities.

    It hasn’t always been this way. Goldman Sachs created the GSCI(Goldman Sachs Commodity Index) to begin speculating on our food.

    A few deregulations and here we are!

    In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since.

    Wheat has gone from $4 to $25 on Speculation alone! Stop Goldman Sachs from ripping off the world!!

  10. Josh says:

    But how much does the food cost as prepared? Even at something like the median US wage ($16.27/hr), factoring in time to shop, prep, cook, and clean up, that $1 of whatever is going to actually cost between about $9 and $33 to consume (30 mins to 2 hrs labor). There is a difference between low-cost, healthy ingredients and a low-cost, heathy diet. One must factor in all costs when comparing different foods.

  11. Bethany says:

    No where in this article does it say “healthy MEALS for $1″…these are just good places to start, people. You can almost always make food at home for cheaper than eating out (even that gross McDonald’s burger someone was speaking of). Prices will vary for all of these items from state to state and city to city, however, you can always find ways to get food on the cheap. I’ve lived in some of the most expensive cities in the country (Boston and LA) and have always found healthy ways to eat affordable food.

    Nice article.

  12. JakeTaylor says:

    I love how the recipe for the Tortilla Soup, featuring healthy canned tomatoes, also features TWO CUPS OF CHEDDAR CHEESE! There are tons of recipes for delicious tortilla soup out there – if you’re looking for one that’s actually relatively healthy, for all that is holy, don’t use this one.

  13. Nicole says:

    At Whole Foods, the only store I can think of that carries store-brand tofu, a 12 ounce package is 1.50. That’s the cheapest I have ever seen it anywhere. And that is at least two servings, possibly three or four.

    You did mention yogurt, but I have found that one of the best deals nutrition-wise is Greek yogurt. At my local Publix there is always at least one brand that is on sale. For a main course at lunch it’s very filling and high in protein.

  14. Juicefriend says:

    I second the “view all as one page” suggestion. If this blog post is meant to help reader and enabling better lives, it’d be a lot more convincing (and effective) if the delivery mechanism wasn’t designed to benefit the blog poster and page counts at the convenience of the reader by forcing us to click through 20 or so different page loads.

  15. Less says:

    List of 25 things, presented as one item per click?
    Already not thrilled with the site’s obvious page view manipulation.

    First two things are tofu and sardines?
    Seen enough. Done. Won’t willingly come back to this site.

    Why comment rather than just abandon?
    Perhaps a site owner or designer is interested enough to read and try to understand their customers.

  16. Jessica says:

    Hahahaha you think anyone who actually buys groceries will believe a thing you say. No. You know why because no place I go sells tofu etc for a buck. Liar.

  17. tawna says:

    canned tomatoes, are you kidding me??!?!??! BPA..hello..

  18. Megan says:

    the water page has a picture of some other drink. really?

  19. Donella Weiss says:

    While I agree that most of these choices are healthy, canned tomatoes, tuna, and tinned sardines can often be high in sodium.
    I must admit, I now carry a list of these and other healthy foods with me in my journeys out for food shopping. Grocery outlet, Dollar store, and Fresh and Easy discount areas often have tofu, and it can be frozen. Making my own nut butters , using honey to sweeten, has been a big budget help.

  20. Julie says:

    Canned tomatoes are not as healthy as one would think. Those cans are lined with BPA.

  21. Anna says:

    Yeah, the ‘water’ is made with coconut water… which is most definitely more than $1.00

  22. Debbie says:

    All you americans complaining about the price of that grub. Yeah, your minimum wage is $16 dollars, our, here in England its £6.50. A loaf of bread is, if you want the best stuff, £1.50, gas is £1.40 per litre, which is enormous. I know you pay for health care, and detists, but everything is dirt cheap there. WE EVEN PAY TO BREATH FOR GODS SAKE!!!!!
    Now stop your moaning about wether tofu is a dollar or not.
    It silly prices over here, £5-£6 a block which feeds 3-4 people. Nooo

    Btw, Eglish all have bad teeth because out sentist are butcher, nasty people who have attitude and try and pull teeth without any pain relief.

    1. Nikki M says:

      Debbie, get your facts straight. The minimum wage in the US is $7.50/hr. If yours is £6.50/hr, that makes it about $10/hr. What is your point again?

    2. Theresa says:

      Where in the United States is minimum wage $16? I certainly don’t make that much, and I make several dollars over minimum wage in my state.

    3. Elyse says:

      Debbie… I work as a childminder at least 60 hrs week and sometimes I make as little as $3 per hr and never more than 8; where did you get the idea that anyone here in the states makes minimum wage of $16?

  23. R. Powell says:

    While I believe the list is very valuable as an guide to economic decisions in the grocery store, your photos depict not a single item on the list in its natural state. The banana is a healthy cost-efficient choice, but it looses both the food value and the economic benefits when dipped in chocolate, wax-based artificially colored and flavored sprinkles, and additional toppings. One of the issues many American eaters have with food is expectation that additional processing somehow adds value. Raw carrots are acceptable, but honey and butter glazed steamed and sautéed carrots are preferable. So again, while the intention to educate is admirable, the impulse to entertain is not a benefit here.

  24. Mui Tahigua says:

    This list is all well and good, but one can’t help notice, and nothing you listed is photographed in the state you describe. Everything looks so delicious because it’s included as part of recipes full of other things that are really not so cheap, and not so good for you. For that reason. I say GARBAGE to this article.


  26. Victoria says:

    Babble & Other economic blind-spots plagued websites:

    It is in your interest to note that many people including I boycott your and other websites’ information when we either need to refresh a webpage or go to another webpage to find the information.

    Our TIME is limited. Additionally, many people for income reason need to try to make do with less than optimal speed internet connections (because communications corporations like Telus, Shaw, etc. choose to spend their extra money being seen to contribute to Charities rather than being seen to be economic justice minded or fair minded corporate citizens who offer income based low rates for people who already are not making ends meet even before their ISP / communications utilities bills), and with old hardware and/or software that limits their internet speed.

  27. Vera says:

    None of the foods listed cost less than a dollar. Spinach, almonds? Seriously.

  28. Gwynhwyfar says:

    Regardless of price, many of the items on this list are grown in questionable ways and have been genetically modified, which is BAD. Legumes, like chickpeas, peanuts, lentils and especially soy beans, are sprayed with pesticide AND herbicide (to kill weeds, but not the genetically engineered beans!) and absorb these. Will I pay less to get poisoned? NO! Dairy is not the greatest option for many people and lots of these have sugar in them. Gluten is rampant here and almost ALL these foods cause inflammation, leading to diseases like asthma and arthritis.

    Grains like whole wheat and corn (yes, it’s a grain) are also not well-tolerated by the basic human gut. Try more veggies, roots, nuts, seeds and meat. Just eat less of it and you’ll feel much healthier. Try the Paleo Diet or JJ Virgin’s elimination diet.

    Spinach and almonds? Not cheap but much better for you than soybeans and milk. Those two diets above have taken away my arthritis and almost eliminated my asthma!

  29. Wimpy says:

    Can’t buy peanut butter for under a buck.

  30. Brooke McLay says:

    GREAT link! THANK YOU! I’m headinf over to check it out right now!

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