Beans. Taylor Wolfram, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in Chicago, suggests beans as a healthy and budget-friendly meal choice. They’re especially cheap if you buy them dry and then cook them, costing around 15 cents per serving, Wolfram says, citing information from the Bean Institute.
Daniela Novotny, a registered dietitian and biomedical instructor at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, echoes similar sentiments. Beans are cheap and healthy, she says, pointing out that they’re high in protein and fiber and contain antioxidants. Plus, they contain minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc, along with vitamins such as folic acid, thiamin, niacin and B6. “Also, there are several ways to cook dried beans to make them tasty, as well as decrease the negative flatulence issue that can occur for some people after eating beans,” Novotny adds.
Don’t ignore canned beans, says Jenn LaVardera, a registered dietitian and wellness specialist in Southampton, New York. “Most cans are BPA-free at this point, and if you rinse the beans off, even sodium isn’t a big concern. Beans are loaded with fiber and protein and make a nutritious addition to a variety of dishes to bump up the nutrition and help fill you up,” she says. “A can of beans can be under a dollar and that gets you over three servings of beans.”
Meal ideas: Beans are incredibly versatile, Wolfram says. “Use them in tacos, curries, sandwiches, soups, chilis, dips such as hummus and snacks such as roasted chickpeas,” she advises.