Cheap Healthy Meals, Food and Recipes Using Whole Foods from Markets

People worldwide are rediscovering the benefits of buying cheap local food. It is cheaper and fresher than anything in the supermarket and it is tastier, more satisfying and more nutritious. Buying directly from local farmers and producershelps the local economy. 

In these tough economic times people everywhere are looking for good wholesome cheap meals and food. The old design principle 'Fast, Good or Cheap. - Pick Two'applies to food. Many people with little money tend to choose cheap fast foods as a way to beat the Budget Blues - choosing large fries and cheap burgers, but is this the best way to buy food on a limited budget? There is a better way by learning how to chose cheap nutritious whole foods and how to use them to prepare healthy cheap meals.

'Fast, Good or Cheap - Pick Two applies when choosing food for healthy meals. The fast is the time it takes to travel to the markets instaed of the supermarket
'Fast, Good or Cheap - Pick Two' applies when choosing food for healthy meals. The fast is the time it takes to travel to the markets instaed of the supermarket- Source: Public Domain

Good + Fast => Expensive

Choosing good quality food that is fast to prepare is generally expensive. High quality fast foods in the supermarket and quality food choices at fast food restaurants are expensive. 

Good + Cheap => Slow

Choosing cheap quality whole foods and preparing them takes time. For examples beans and lentils are great healthy foods but the needs to be cooked slowly for a long time. Brown rice is very nutritious bur takes much longer to cook than so called 'instant' rice 

Fast + Cheap => Poor Quality

Choosing cheap ready-to-go foods and meals generally mean that the food and meals are highly processed and have inferior quality. For food it is true that you generally what you pay for, and cheap foods which can be prepared quickly are generally of poor quality. There are exceptions of cause such as wheat hearts(Couscous) which can be cooked in minutes. 

In Britain there has been a tongue in cheek competition to find the world's cheapest lunch.
And the Winner is - the toast sandwich. The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has revived this mid-Victorian dish, which consists of a slice of toast surrounded by two slices of bread, which costs 12 cents, was first recommended by Victorian food writer Mrs Beeton, 50 years ago. You simply slip slice of dry toasted bread between two slices of bread and butter, and add salt and pepper to taste. The toast sandwich provides about 330 calories. But would you eat it? You can add an egg for 15 cents, insert half a can of sardines for 30 cents and even add vegetables. Porridge made with water and a pinch of salt is about as inexpensive as it comes. A 50g serving of dry oats costs about 10 cents (from a 1kg bag), and you can add fruit and milk. More examples of cheap but nutritious foods are shown in the tables below.

The general principle for healthy eating are well known:

Eat More

Eat Less

Eat Sparingly

Ways to Eat Healthy Foods that are Inexpensive

Cheap and Healthy Nutritious Foods - Cheap and Good - Not So Fast

The tables below provides examples of cheap and nutritious foods, meals and cheap, healthy, fast food choices.

Cheap Nutritious Whole Foods

Cost per serve
Protein (gm)
Brown Rice
1/4 cup dry rice
18 cents
Whole-Wheat or Multigrain Pasta
2 ounces of dried pasta
24 cents
100% Whole-Wheat Bread
2 slices
18 cents
Non-fat Greek Yogurt
6-8 once tub
80 cents
Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1/2 cup dry oats
13 cents
Frozen Vegetables
1 cup
25 cents
Russet Potato
1 medium or large baked potato.
33 cents
Fresh Bagged Spinach
2 cups
33 cents
Canned Refried Beans
1/2 cup
34 cents
Canned Tuna
6 ounce
70 cents
Can or Jar Marinara Sauce
1/2 cup
28 cents
Whole Wheat Pita Bread
1 pita pocket
45 cents
Frozen Edamame (Soybeans)
1/2 cup
56 cents
Dried Lentils
1/4 cup dried lentils
10 cents

Cheap Nutritious Meals - Use Google to Find The Recipes

Main Dish
Cost Per Serve
Ham, Swiss and Spinach Quiche
Fat: 21g (sat 10g)
Spinach Salad with Figs and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Fat: 13g (sat 5g)
Broccoli-Cheese Soup
Fat: 17g (sat 11g)
Ginger-Peanut Chicken-Salad Wraps
Fat: 6g (sat 1g)
Black Bean Burgers
Fat: 9g (sat 1g)
Chicken Thighs with Mustard-Citrus Sauce
Fat: 6g (sat 1g)
Apricot-Onion Pork Medallions
Fat: 14g (sat 4g)
Beef-and-Rice-Stuffed Peppers
Fat: 12g (sat 6g)
Thai-Marinated Broiled Flank Steak
Fat: 9g (sat 4g)
Savory Lamb Stew
Fat: 5g (sat 2g)
Taco Soup
Carbs: 35.1g; Fat: 16.5g; Fiber: 9.1g; Protein: 20.8g;
Benny's Ground Chicken and Beans
Carbs: 32.2g; Fat: 22.9g; Fiber: 10.8g; Protein: 9g;
Rainbow chicken and rice
Carbs: 19.6g; Fat: 1.2g; Fiber: 3g; Protein: 10.8g;
Black Beans and Whole Grain Brown Rice
Carbs: 46g; Fat: 2.4g; Fiber: 6.9g; Protein: 9.2g;
Mediterranean Chicken with Rosemary Orzo
Carbs: 50g; Fat: 2.8g; Fiber: 3.9g; Protein: 35.5g;
Super Tofu Stir Fry
Carbs: 48.9g; Fat: 7.3g; Fiber: 7.4g; Protein: 20.7g;
Pinto Bean Soup
Carbs: 52.8g; Fat: 7.6g; Fiber: 13g; Protein: 25.8g;
Garden Fresh Lasagna
Carbs: 30.1g; Fat: 5.3g; Fiber: 5.4g; Protein: 12.1g;
Seafood Pasta
Carbs: 26.7g; Fat: 5.3g; Fiber: 0.8g; Protein: 11.2g;
Turkey Stew
Carbs: 10.6g; Fat: 5.3g; Fiber: 1.8g; Protein: 15.8g;
Easy Southwest Chicken Chili
Carbs: 37.4g; Fat: 3.3g; Fiber: 8g; Protein: 33g;
Mediterranean Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole
Carbs: 24.1g; Fat: 5g; Fiber: 2.7g; Protein: 13.5g;
Simple Vegi Stew
Carbs: 31.7g; Fat: 4.3g; Fiber: 5.7g; Protein: 9.6g;

Cheap, Healthy, Fast Food Meal Choices

Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich
370 calories
4.5g fat, 1g sat. fat, 65mg cholesterol, 1,110mg sodium, 50g carbs, 3g fiber, 32g protein
Premium Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken
300 calories
10g fat, 1g sat. fat, 65mg cholesterol, 890mg sodium, 23g carbs, 5g fiber, 32g protein
Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
160 calories
2g fat, 1g sat. fat, 5mg cholesterol, 85mg sodium, 31g carbs, 1g fiber, 4g protein
Mandarin Chicken Salad
540 calories
25g fat, 3g sat. fat, 65mg cholesterol, 1,260mg sodium, 50g carbs, 5g fiber, 31g protein
Ultimate Chicken Grill
320 calories
7g fat, 1.5g sat. fat, 70mg cholesterol, 950mg sodium, 36g carbs, 2g fiber, 28g protein
Burger King
Tendergrill Chicken Garden Salad
300 calories
16g fat, 2.5g sat. fat, 70mg cholesterol, 1,050mg sodium, 13g carbs, 5g fiber, 33g protein
BK Veggie Burger
340 calories
8g fat, 1g sat. fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1,030mg sodium, 46g carbs, 7g fiber, 23g protein
Taco Bell
Fresco Style Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco
170 calories
4g fat, 1.5g sat. fat, 25mg cholesterol, 730mg sodium, 21g carbs, 3g fiber, 12g protein
Fresco Crunchy Taco
150 calories
8g fat, 2.5g sat. fat, 20mg cholesterol, 370mg sodium, 13g carbs, 3g fiber, 7g protein.
6" Oven-Roasted Chicken Breast
310 calories
5g fat, 25mg cholesterol, 830mg sodium, 5g fiber
6" Veggie Delite
230 calories
3g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 500mg sodium, 5g fiber
Martha's Vineyard Salad
466 calories
23g fat, 6g sat. fat, 61mg cholesterol, 996mg sodium, 43g carbs, 4g fiber, 22g protein
Honey BBQ Sandwich
280 calories
3.5g fat, 1g sat. fat, 60mg cholesterol, 780mg sodium, 40g carbs, 3g fiber, 22g protein
Tender Roast Sandwich
300 calories
4.5g fat, 1.5g sat. fat, 70mg cholesterol, 1,060mg sodium, 28g carbs, 2g fiber, 37g protein
Roasted Caesar Salad
250 calories
8g fat, 4.5g sat. fat, 70mg cholesterol, 1,240 mg sodium, 14g carbs, 3g fiber, 31g protein
Char grilled Chicken Sandwich
270 calories
3g fat, 1g sat. fat, 50mg cholesterol, 1,260mg sodium, 37g carbs, 4g fiber, 28g protein
Chargrilled and Fruit Salad
290 calories
8g fat, 3.5g sat. fat, 65mg cholesterol, 760mg sodium, 32g carbs, 5g fiber, 22g protein
Jack in the Box
Asian Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken Strips
160 calories
1.5g fat, 0g sat. fat, 65mg cholesterol, 380mg sodium, 18g carbs, 5g fiber, 22g protein
Chicken Fajita Pita
300 calories
9g fat, 3.5g sat. fat,60mg cholesterol, 1,090mg sodium, 33g carbs, 4g fiber, 23g protein
Carl's Jr.
Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich
360 calories
4.5g fat, 1g sat. fat, 60mg cholesterol, 1,150mg sodium, 48g carbs, 4g fiber, 34g protein
Charbroiled Chicken Salad
295 calories
8.5g fat, 3.5g sat. fat, 75mg cholesterol, 1,190mg sodium, 21g carbs, 5g fiber, 34g protein

The whole foods pyramid. Choosing whole foods avoids any processing of the food
The Whole Foods Pyramid. Choosing whole foods avoids any processing of the food - Source: Public Domain
Calculate the calories in each meal by adding up the calories in the ingredients.
Calculate the calories in each meal by adding up the calories in the ingredients. - Source: Public Domain
Choose simple whole foods such as fruit and vegetables instead of fast foods and highly processed foods
Choose simple whole foods such as fruit and vegetables instead of fast foods and highly processed foods - Source: Public Domain
Whole foods can be cost effective - comparisons for $10
Whole foods can be cost effective - comparisons for $10 - Source: Public Domain
 Frozen dinners compared with cost of whole food ingredients worth $10
Frozen dinners compared with cost of whole food ingredients worth $10" - Source: Public Domain
Another food basket work $10 for comparison
Another food basket work $10 for comparison - Source: Public Domain
Comparison of food parcels worth $20
Comparison of food parcels worth $20 - Source: Public Domain