Watching your wallet and your waistline can be tricky, but we've scanned the shelves and roamed the aisles and found 25 foods that are nutritious and affordable. (These prices will vary according to location.) This is part of a continuing series called Habits of Healthy Eaters. (Prices from Safeway.com, March 2009, Greater Philadelphia area)
1. Canned salmon $2.89/14.75 ounces (59 cents/serving) Get your Omega-3's for less. Salmon is full of these healthy fats, which help lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks.
2. Chicken breasts $3.49/pound (87 cents/serving) Easy-to-prepare, chicken is full of lean protein, which helps keep you fuller longer.
3. Natural peanut butter $3.39/16 ounces (42 cents/serving) Skip the sugary, processed varieties and spread the real stuff on whole-grain bread. Throw a tablespoon in smoothies or yogurt, use it as a dip for carrots and pretzels, or mix it with a bit of low-sodium soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic, then thin with water for a quick sauce.
4. Canned beans 84 cents/15 ounces (22 cents/serving) Bulk up soups and stews while getting protein and fiber. Try chickpeas or black beans if you're not a fan of kidneys or pintos. Drain, rinse, and blend with lemon juice, garlic, cumin and a bit of vegetable broth for a quick dip.
5. Eggs $1.99/dozen large (17 cents a serving) Not just for breakfast, eggs are among the easiest foods to cook. If you're watching your cholesterol, scramble one egg and two egg whites. Add onion and spinach and you've got a great omelet.
6. Dried lentils 79 cents/pound (20 cents/serving) Full of protein and fiber, lentils cook in just 15 minutes! Throw some in soups and stews or cook with curry powder for a quick, spicy meal.
7. Almonds $3.99/9 ounces (44 cents/serving) Get vitamin E, fiber and protein while satisfying a crunchy craving. Nuts are rich in an amino acid that could be linked to heart benefits. Chop a few raw ones and throw them on yogurt.
8. Frozen fruit and berries $2.99-$5.99 pound (75 cents-$1.50/serving) Throw some in the blender with milk or yogurt for a healthy treat. Frozen berries can be used in oatmeal or drained and baked into muffins and quick breads.
10. Bananas 35 cents each Slice one on your morning yogurt or oatmeal for some added fiber and only 100 calories or so. Snack on a potassium-rich banana to prevent cramps after a workout.
11. Grapes $2.99/pound (75 cents a serving) Freeze grapes for a decadent, low-calorie dessert or snack. Grapes--especially the dark purple ones--contain plenty of antioxidants that are known to help heart health.
12. Romaine lettuce or other hearty lettuce $1.99/head (66 cents/serving) Banish the iceberg and choose sturdy Romaine for your salads. It will give you more fiber and nutrients, plus a satisfying crunch.
13. Carrots $2.79/3 pounds (23 cents/serving) Mom was right. Carrots are good for your eyes, thanks to the antioxidants, including beta-carotene, in them. (That's what makes them orange!) Dip them in hummus (made from canned beans), natural peanut butter or low-fat dressings.
15. Canned tomatoes $1 for 14.5 ounces (28 cents/serving) Choose low-sodium varieties and throw a can in pasta sauces and chili to stretch a meal. Puree a can with a cup of skim milk and season to taste for your own tomato soup. You'll get a dose of vitamins A,B and C and lycopene, an antioxidant known to prevent cancer.
16. Garlic 50 cents/head (5 cents/serving) Ditch the bottled and powdered stuff if you want to reap more of the myriad health benefits. Pungent and tasty, garlic can help lower cholesterol and blood clots, plus it can have a small effect on high blood pressure. Crush or chop it to release more of the antioxidants.
18. Onions 97 cents each (32 cents/serving) Like garlic, this smelly vegetable is full of health benefits. Onions have been proven to lower risks for certain cancers, and they add flavor with few calories. Try roasting them to bring out their sweetness and cut their harsh edge. (If you well up while cutting them, store onions in the fridge for a tear-free chop.)
19. Broccoli $2.49/pound (63 cents/serving) Broccoli is like a toothbrush for your insides. Full of fiber, it will provide you vitamins A and C, plus fiber and a host of antioxidants. Broccoli is a superstar in the nutrition world.
20. Whole-grain pasta $1.50/13.25 ounces (45 cents/serving) With a nutty flavor and a subtle brown color, whole-wheat pasta perks up any meal. Start with half regular, half whole-wheat pasta, then gradually add more wheat pasta for a burst of fiber and nutrients.
21. Popcorn kernels $2.39/32 ounces (30 cents/serving) Air-popped popcorn has just 30 calories and a trace of fat. Pop a few cups, spritz with olive oil or butter spray and sprinkle on your favorite seasonings for a guilt-free treat.
23. Oats $3.19/42 ounces (15 cents/serving) Oatmeal is a hearty breakfast, but you can also cook sturdy steel-cut oats in chicken broth for a savory side dish. Or, mix oats with ground turkey to stretch your meatballs.
24. Quarts of low- or fat-free yogurt $2.49/32 ounces (47 cents/serving) Buy large containers of plain or vanilla yogurt, then add real fruit. You'll save money and calories by not buying fancy single-serve yogurts.
25. Gallon of skim milk $3.04 (19 cents/serving) It really does a body good. Full of calcium and protein, milk can help stretch a meal. Pair an eight-ounce glass with a piece of fruit or a granola bar for a filling snack.
(Prices from Safeway.com, March 2009, Greater Philadelphia area)
How do YOU save money at the supermarket? What food should we add to our list?
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