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The benefits of eating a plant-based diet are nearly limitless, and with more people becoming interested in eating plant-based also comes more questions. We have an entire section of One Green Planet dedicated to sharing information on topics of all kinds around plant-based nutrition to answer most of those questions for you all, but we understand that budgeting is still one of the largest concerns people have when adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Money and Healthy Meals: Let’s Talk About It

First, take heart because plant-based eating is actually much friendlier to your wallet (and the planet) than a diet rich in animal protein. However, there are definitely ways to wreck your budget while eating plant-based if you choose to fill your home with pricey products. It’s also not necessary to indulge on pricey bags of superfoods or special supplements, except if you want to, of course.

10 of The Healthiest, Most Affordable Foods Per Serving:

Luckily, 10 of the healthiest foods you can eat to fill your plate(s) with on a plant-based diet are also extremely cheap. Eating organic is always a plus, of course, but if you can’t afford organic foods at first, that’s okay. Simply focus on some of the delicious whole plant-based foods below, and fill your grocery cart and your dinner table with them as much as possible. Your wallet and your health will thank you!

1. Sweet Potatoes and Regular PotatoesPlant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Nutrition Benefits:

All potatoes are incredibly affordable per serving and they’re packed with nutrition. Potatoes are potent sources of Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6, and are rich sources of fiber. Sweet potatoes are also one of the best sources of beta-carotene you can consume and one of the most beneficial foods for your heart, brain, and digestive system. They’re also high in magnesium, are very easy to digest and are easy to prepare in so many ways.

Savings and Serving Tips:

Keep an eye out for sales on organic sweet potatoes, and when you see a good sale, stock up. Otherwise, purchase regular sweet potatoes, Yukon gold, or Russet potatoes and wash their skins really well before using. Bake up a bunch of potatoes for the week and then use them in a variety of ways so you don’t tire of one way.

To save even more, cook potatoes with simple herbs and spices instead of pricey condiments, and pair them with some of the veggies and legumes below. You’ll have an affordable, healthy, and satisfying meal in no time. These Charred Corn and Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes are a great budget-friendly to test out first!

See all of our sweet potato recipes here and all of our regular potato recipes here.

2. Romaine LettucePlant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Nutrition Benefits:

An entire head of romaine lettuce can act as the bed for two large salads or four small salads. And despite that lettuce is seen as nutritionally devoid, romaine is the exception. Romaine lettuce is a rich source of Vitamin C and a good source of fiber. It’s also filling thanks to its natural water content and can be used in so many ways aside from salad.

Savings and Serving Tips:

Organic romaine lettuce is actually very affordable; you can usually get a large bag with three heads of romaine lettuce for $3-4, which will lend you 6-8 servings. These keep well in the fridge in the crisper drawer and can be used in a variety of ways. Or, purchase romaine from the farmer’s market to save more money and stock up at large bulk buy stores if you have that option.

Romaine can serve as a healthy “wrap” instead of a regular bun or it can be used in green smoothies instead of other greens. You can also add romaine lettuce to grain bowls, use it in Fresh Veggie Spring Rolls with Peanut Satay Sauce, plant-based tacos, and much more.

See all of our salad recipes here and substitute romaine for pricier varieties of greens.

3. CarrotsPlant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Nutrition Benefits:

Who doesn’t love carrots, right? Well, it’s a good thing they’re not just tasty but also incredibly affordable too, even in organic varieties. Carrots are packed with not only Vitamin C like other veggies, but they’re also high in beta-carotene which your body uses to form Vitamin A. 

Beta-carotene protects your eyes, skin, and aids in immune system function, so carrots are a great way to give your entire body some love for just pennies per serving. They’re also great sources of potassium, magnesium, and fiber and will help keep you full longer than processed snacks such as crackers.

Savings and Serving Tips:

While baby carrots are convenient (and tasty!), they’re definitely pricier per serving size, so go for large carrots when on a tight budget. Also, buy organic carrots whenever you can since they’re not that much more than regular, conventional carrots and tend to taste much better.

Wash your carrots when you get home from the store to make sure you scrub them down well, then cut into coins, slices, or strips depending on how you want to use them during the week. Keep them in the crisper drawer and they’ll last all week long, or go ahead and cook them up in several meals to enjoy throughout the week.

Carrots can be baked into fries like these Baked Carrots Fries, eaten as a healthy raw snack with hummus or salsa (or alone), and can be used in a variety of entrée meals such as Spring Vegetable Paella or Carrot Noodle Salad With Turmeric Dressing.

Want more ideas? See more carrot recipes here!

4. Spinach and KalePlant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Nutrition Benefits:

Both spinach and kale are power-packed with nutrition, and while they can be costly in some forms, they tend to be very affordable per serving whether purchased fresh or frozen. They’re also worth a place in your budget since they’re incredible sources of plant-based protein (yep, really!); antioxidants such as beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and lutein; minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and iron; fiber, and chlorophyll. In short, they’re some of the most affordable everyday superfoods you can eat!

Savings and Serving Tips:

Look for kale or spinach that is sold in individual containers, bags, and in bulk; then compare prices of each and see which ones are on sale or fit your budget best.

Rotate your use of them depending on what’s on sale or what you plan to cook that week. If you use them smoothies and not much else, go for frozen varieties. Frozen spinach and kale not only make smoothies thicker, frostier, and taste more subtle, but they are also more affordable, easy to store, won’t spoil as quickly, and can be used in all kinds of entrées. Check out these Green Monster Green Smoothies for all kinds of ideas!

You can also see all of our recipes for spinach here, all of our recipes using kale here, and more leafy green recipes here. Feel free to rotate your usage of greens depending on what’s on sale where you shop.

5. ApplesPlant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Nutrition Benefits:

Apples are a great source of Vitamin C and they’re high in a certain type of fiber that keeps you full longer, known as pectin. Per serving, apples are under a dollar which is great when you’re on a budget and don’t want to sacrifice good nutrition. One medium apple contains just over 4 grams of fiber, which is more fiber than a 1/2 cup of oatmeal and is a great source of the antioxidant quercetin.

Savings and Serving Tips:

Since apples tend to be high in pesticides, always purchase organic when you can. Generally, two pounds of apples cost between $5-$6 per bag, which lends around 10 apples depending on the apples’ weight. Look for different varieties of apples, buy in season, and find options that work best for your budget. If you can’t buy organic apples, that’s okay. Choose the best apples you can find and wash them well before eating.

Apples make great snacks, can be added to oatmeal for more nutrition, and are one of the easiest fruits to sneak into salads and wraps that lend a tasty crunch.

If you see your apples are starting to brown, don’t throw them out! Chop them up into tiny bits, and toss them in your slow cooker with a little water. Then cook them down until they get soft and tender, and blend them up to make homemade applesauce.

You can also use browned apples in desserts like a tasty Apple and Blackberry Crumble, in a breakfast dish such as Apple Raspberry Bake, or in smoothies. To use in smoothies, chop them up and freeze them in small pieces, store in baggies, and use them instead of other frozen fruit.

Check out all of our apple recipes here for more ideas and tips!

6. BananasPlant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Nutrition Benefits:

Bananas are one of Mother Nature’s best sources of several key nutrients that help to keep us all healthy. These nutrients include magnesium, Vitamin B6, and potassium which are all important for a healthy nervous system, normal blood pressure function, and optimal energy levels.

Bananas are also a great source of fiber to steady blood sugar levels and help optimize gut function. Even more, they act as a prebiotic to feed good bacteria in the gut and contribute to a healthy microbiome.

Savings and Serving Tips:

You can buy a banana for 20-30 cents each depending on where you shop. An entire bunch of bananas can cost less than $1 at some stores with organic bunches almost always costing less than $2 each. Look for bananas when they’re on sale and use them in smoothies, in your morning bowl of oatmeal, or for a quick, portable snack. Try to buy bananas that are fair-trade certified or organic if you can find them since they’re better for sustainability issues, but do the best you can. Bananas tend to be very affordable in organic and fair-trade varieties, so you’ll hardly notice a difference on your grocery bill.

Don’t let those bananas go to waste when they turn brown either. Bananas at their peak sweetness when they’re dark and ripe; they’re also much easier to digest this way. Ripe bananas will make any recipe naturally sweeter without having to use sugar, so peel, chop and freeze them in baggies or containers for smoothies, vegan ice cream, or use in baked goods like vegan banana bread.

Check out all of our banana recipes here for a variety of ways to use this fruit besides just a handy on-the-go snack!

7. Brown RicePlant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Nutrition Benefits

Brown rice is one of the most loved whole grains and there are many reasons why. Brown rice has double the fiber of white rice, has a nutty taste and pleasant texture, and is easy to pair with most any vegetable or fruit.  Brown rice is also a good source of selenium, an important trace mineral for our thyroid health and B vitamins which are important for a healthy nervous system. 

Savings and Serving Tips:

Brown rice is affordable, even in organic forms, making it well-worth a spot on your regular grocery list. It will also keep for a long time, can be used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and can even be used in snacks and desserts. Brown rice costs just cents per serving and won’t spoil quickly if stored properly in the pantry.

The best way to store brown rice is in mason jars in the fridge which will help it keep longer. Why so? Because whole grain rice tends to go rancid around the one year mark if stored in the pantry where it can get hot during summertime. Grains also tend to be susceptible to tiny pests when stored in the pantry, so keeping them in the fridge (or freezer) is the best option all the way around.

Serve brown rice as a healthy breakfast porridge, use it in plant-based tacos, meatless burgers, a casserole, add to any dinner as a healthy side, or pair it with beans in Spicy Sofritas Black Bean Bowls for a comforting beans and rice dish that the whole family will love. Brown Rice Casserole is a great dinner recipe to try out that’s budget-friendly and satisfying.

Check out all of our rice recipes here and use brown rice in any of the recipes that catch your eye!

8. Whole Grain OatsPlant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Nutrition Benefits:

The health benefits of the humble oat grain simply can not be understated. Oats are one of the most powerful foods you can put in your body that also have one of the greatest amounts of research proven to improve our health. Oats contain an array of antioxidants that improve brain health, fight disease, and lower certain risks such as cancer and Type 2 diabetes. They’re also the only grain consistently proven to lower unhealthy levels of cholesterol and can even help improve your skin.

Oats are great sources of B vitamins, magnesium, iron, protein, and even calcium too, believe it or not. And let’s be honest, oats are very budget-friendly coming in at just cents per serving. Purchase rolled and steel-cut varieties of oats since these digest slower and are easier on blood sugar levels. These varieties are also free of added sugars, oil, and preservatives found in instant oat products.

Savings and Serving Tips:

Oats don’t have to be purchased organic, although organic oats are very affordable per serving, especially if your supermarket carries a generic (store brand) variety of organic oats. If your budget won’t allow it, buy conventional oats and focus on purchasing plain whole grain oats above all else.

Serve oats for breakfast as porridge/oatmeal, use them in overnight soaked oats, or pair them with dried fruits, nuts, and seeds to make your own nutrition bars. Oats can also make a healthy replacement for flour in baked goods and are easy to add to just about any cooked entrée such as casseroles, soups, stews, or even burgers. These Veggies Cutlets with Oats and Flax and Anti-Inflammatory Overnight Oats are two great ways to try oats out in a new way if you need a few new ideas. 

See all of our oat recipes here for more ideas, tricks, and tips!

9. Beans, Peas, and Lentils (Pulses/Legumes)Plant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Nutrition Benefits:

We all know dry beans, peas, and lentils are affordable, and they’re also one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Beans, peas, and lentils are also referred to as pulses and legumes and have been proven to be one of the top food groups to regularly consume for optimal health. They provide not only fiber and protein, but also protective antioxidants such as phytochemicals that fight Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Legumes are also good sources of minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, and zinc. Legumes are also rich in B vitamins that contribute to a healthy nervous system and optimal brain function. Since they’re high in both complex carbohydrates and protein, they’ll also keep you energized, full, and satiated for hours to come.

If you have trouble with digestion and beans, peas, or lentils, simply soak them before using them and drain off the excess water before cooking.

Savings and Serving Tips:

To save the most money, always buy your legumes in bulk or when they go on sale when purchasing packaged varieties. While canned beans are convenient, these will cost you more per serving, although many stores offer them at great prices so they’re still an option. If purchasing canned, look for brands that are BPA-free and organic whenever possible.

Beans, peas, and lentils can be cooked ahead of time and are easy to use in any dinner entrée. Try them in burgers, with rice, with pasta or zucchini pasta, in tacos, and on salads, in wraps, and even dessert such as Almond Flour and Black Bean Brownies.

See all of our recipes with beans, peas, and lentils for more ways to use these magical foods.

10. Flax Seeds/Flax MealPlant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Nutrition Benefits:

Flaxseed is another one of the “must-have” affordable and nutritious plant-based foods we should all be eating daily. Flax seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies can use to make all the essential fatty acids we need for a healthy brain and heart. Just one to two tablespoons of flax seeds per day is all you need!

Flax isn’t just a good source of omega-3 fatty acids either. Flax seeds are also high in fiber, magnesium, amino acids ( to form protein), and phytoestrogens that fight off harmful estrogens from the environment and toxins in our food supply. In essence, flax seeds are a great way to give your body the necessary fats it needs without costing you anything but a few cents per serving. They’re also slightly more affordable than chia seeds and will give you similar benefits.

Savings and Serving Tips:

Flax seed is affordable no matter how you purchase it in whole food form, so buy organic whenever possible. But feel free to skip flax oil, because it’s not only higher in price but also void of all the fiber found in whole flax seeds (the oil is just the fat excreted from the seeds).

Optimally, buy flax seeds whole and grind them yourself in a coffee grinder or blender to turn them into flax meal. Then store this mixture in a colored container (not glass) to preserve the healthy fats in flax which can turn rancid when exposed to too much heat, light, or air for prolonged periods. Store it in the fridge and use flax meal in some of the following ways below. Remember, flax seeds’ nutrition can’t be utilized to its full function in whole seed form; our bodies will simply excrete the seeds without absorbing flax’s nutrients.

If you purchase flax meal, look for cold-milled flax to ensure that it’s been handled properly before packaging. Finally, keep your flax in the fridge or freezer and enjoy its nutty flavor in oatmeal, smoothies, flax crackers, no-bake energy balls and bites, and anything else you can think to toss it in!

See more recipes here with flax seed and try out a few for yourself. We love these Raw Hemp Chia Seed Bars that are made with flax along with other nutrient-dense seeds.

Other Healthy Budget-Friendly Foods to Buy:Plant-Based on Pennies: 10 of the Healthiest Foods to Eat that Cost Just Under $1 Per Serving

Don’t like one of the foods above or can’t find it locally for some reason? 

Broccoli, winter squash, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, asparagus, citrus fruits, collards, chia seeds, and even berries are all nutrient-dense and affordable when they’re on sale or at some super savings stores. Simply look out for sales and stock up, or check the freezer aisle for fruits and veggies for more ways to save money on healthy foods.

And don’t let these lists limit you; consistently keep an eye out at your local grocer or farmer’s market to see what healthy foods you can find for just cents per serving.

More Healthy Eating and Budgeting Tips:

For more tips on budgeting while eating plant-based, check out this post about How to Eat a Healthy, Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet for $50 Per Week and see our guide to Weekly Plant-Based Meal Plans here!

We Also Recommend: Download the Food Monster App for More Great Recipes!

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If you enjoy articles like this and want more frozen treats recipes, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s a brilliant Food app available for both Android and iPhone. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and more find awesome recipes, cooking tips, articles, product recommendations and how-tos. The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restrictions.

The Food Monster app has over 8000+ recipes and 500 are free. To access the rest, you have to pay a subscription fee but it’s totally worth it because not only do you get instant access to 8000+ recipes, you get 10 NEW recipes every day! You can also make meal plans, add bookmarks, read feature stories, and browse recipes across hundreds of categories like diet, cuisine, meal type, occasion, ingredient, popular, seasonal, and so much more!

Lead image source: Kale and Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

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