Screamin’ deals in the grocery store

Is it possible to eat a nutritious, organic diet? I say yes! Organic foods are affordable on nearly every budget. Start with these fifteen great buys—nearly everything you need for a healthy diet.

Eggs. With a biological value of 100—the measure of how well a protein is used by the body—eggs are a nutritious, versatile protein source. At the higher price of $3.49 to $4.69 a dozen, you’re still only paying 29 to 39 cents per egg. Cheap, cheap.

Cabbage. You’ll find it somewhere in the range of $1 to $2—a screaming deal, especially when you consider the nutrition. Cabbage contains compounds that slow the growth of cancer cells, and keep pre-cancerous cells from developing; it may also help the body metabolize toxic forms of estrogen into safe forms. It’s a bargain at any price.

Sweet potatoes. At only $1.99 to $2.49 per pound, they’re a great buy. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber and beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent heart disease, cancer and age-related blindness. Carrots are even cheaper, at 79 to 99 cents a pound, and equally high in beta carotene.

Beans. As a cheap and nutritious source of protein, you can’t beat beans. They’re also extremely high in fiber, and in lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that protects against breast cancer in post-menopausal women, and reduces the risk of other cancers as well. In the bulk section, they average $1.39 to $1.99. And at 99 cents a pound, dried peas are the best deal in town.

Peanut butter. Priced at $3.49 a pound, peanut butter is a staple for the whole family—not just kids. Peanuts are high in monounsaturated fats, and in resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps protect against cardiovascular disease. Also look for almond butter on sale; it’s expensive for budget shopping, but stock up if you find a good buy.

Bananas. In general, organic fruit is expensive for budget buying; bananas are the exception. They’re 89 to 99 cents a pound, and are a great source of potassium, magnesium and fiber; bananas also contain fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) that nourish beneficial bacteria in your colon. Buy a bunch!

Oats. Warming and nourishing, oats are also wildly affordable, ranging in price from $1.19 to $1.39. They also contain a type of fiber called beta glucan that has dramatic cholesterol-lowering properties; barley contains the same compounds and is in the same price range. Other great grain options include buckwheat and brown rice. Combined with beans or nuts, any of these makes a complete protein and a hearty meal.

Sardines. Wild Alaskan salmon is pricey for everyday use, and tuna’s high in mercury and other toxins. The best fish bet: sardines. They’re rich in the same healthy omega-3 fats as salmon and tuna, but because they’re so small, they don’t accumulate toxins like bigger fish. And priced at only $1.79 for a 4-ounce tin, they’re a screamin’ deal.

Broccoli. At $2.49 to $2.99 a pound, it’s pricier than some of the other veggie options; but it’s so nutrient-dense we think it’s worth the extra expense. Rich in beta carotene, loaded with cancer-preventive compounds and high in fiber, it’s a bargain at any price. Peel the stem and use it, too, for maximum waste reduction.

Flax seeds. They run around $1.99 a pound, and are packed with nutrients. Flax is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and it contains lignans that benefit prostate, breast and heart health. Other good nut and seed buys include pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Organic nuts are pricier, so keep your eyes open for bargains, and stock up when you find them. Stash extras in the freezer, where they’ll keep for three months.

Chard. At $2.99 a pound chard, like broccoli, is on the pricey side, but it’s worth the cost. Chard is high in lutein, an antioxidant that protects the eyes from age-related blindness, beta carotene, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and a host of other nutrients. Kale, spinach, collards and other greens have similar profiles; check for the best buys, and use a variety.

Canned tomatoes. They’re cheaper than fresh tomatoes—usually around $1.49 a pound–and more consistent in quality during winter months. Plus, canned tomatoes are superior in some nutrients: lycopene, the signature antioxidant of the tomato, is actually made more bioavailable by processing.

Onions. Yellow and white varieties range from $1.49 to $2.29. Besides adding wonderful flavor to foods, onions are also high in compounds that may help protect against stomach cancer. Look for bags of onions, which usually end up being about 99 cents a pound. Garlic has some of the same flavor and nutritional qualities; stock up when you find it on sale, since it keeps well in a cool, dark area.

Yogurt. It’s more expensive than some of our other selections—ranging between $2.49 and $3. 69 a pound—but yogurt is the most nutritional dairy buy. It contains probiotics that are beneficial to intestinal health; eating yogurt also helps reduce abdominal fat and encourages retention of lean muscle mass. Buy the plain varieties, and in large containers, for the biggest savings, and use in moderation.

Chicken. In general, organic meat is a big expense on a small budget. But for the occasional meal, thighs are the way to go. Or go for a whole chicken; they’re a more affordable option, usually weighing in at around $3 to $4 a pound. Both are frequently on sale, so when you see them, stock up and freeze them; roast them with sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic for the most mileage.
Money Pits.

Limited finances? Skip the chips, soda and crackers. They’re too pricey for budget shopping, and are nutritionally inferior to whole foods. Other expensive buys that may not be worth the cost:

Nutrition bars
Salad dressings
Frozen dinners
Packaged meals
Salad bars
Prepared deli items
Single-serving containers
Fruit juice
Food supplement powders