Cheap, Filling Meal Ideas Based on Cost Per Calorie

Healthy eating may be more accessible than some think. Research from Harvard reveals healthier diets cost $1.50 per day more than unhealthy diets. To create a nutritious, filling, and cost-effective diet, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the most calorie-dense foods at the cheapest price.

Filling breakfasts


Rolled oats make a nutritious, filling and cheap breakfast which costs $0.09 per 100 calories. Make oatmeal with fruit, like apples ($0.28 per cup), bananas ($0.21 per cup) or pears ($0.42 per cup). A cup of cooked oats with a cup of sliced banana makes around a 300 calorie breakfast for $0.30. Buy seasonally (like berries in the summer and pears in the fall) to bring the cost down further. Alternatively, eggs amount to $0.19 per 100 calories and are a suitable breakfast option occasionally, but should be avoided if you’re concerned about cholesterol.

Healthy lunch ideas

Put together a sandwich with wheat bread (about 190 calories and $0.36 for two slices), grilled chicken breast (250 calories for roughly $1.25) and romaine lettuce (a few cents) and you have lunch for 440 calories at $1.50. Alternatively, make a bean salad with olive oil, dried herbs and lemon juice (about $0.10 altogether), a cup of spinach (about $0.50), and beans — beans are one of the cheapest foods per portion size. White, pinto and navy beans, range from $0.05 to $0.09 per 100 calories, which means you can eat a lot of fiber, protein, and antioxidant rich beans without spending a lot.

Dinner and dessert

A tasty, healthy dinner doesn’t have to cost more than one or two dollars. A salmon fillet or turkey breast for example cost $2 per 300-calories, eat with steamed potatoes ($0.19 per cup) and carrots ($0.25 per cup). Or make a meal with corn tortilla chips (very cheap, roughly $0.25 per serving), beans ($0.05), cheese ($0.10), lettuce and onion (a few cents) — at $0.40 for 300 calories. Eskimo ice cream is an unusual, yet tasty dessert using berries, vegetable shortening and sugar — roughly $0.25 per 300 calorie serving. Freeze bananas and blend them to make banana ice cream — a creamy, healthy and cheaper alternative to ice cream ( $0.08 per scoop).

Don’t forget about snacks! Half a peanut butter sandwich costs no more than roughly $0.50 for 200 calories. Oranges cost $0.34 per cup for 85 calories. Keeping meals simple and affordable may be easier than expected and can greatly reduce healthcare costs associated with poor diets later down the line.

Submitted by:
Jane Lloyd
Freelance Writer